Author: jbargo

Notes from Washington for Saturday, February 24, 2018


House panel releases Democrats’ memo defending FBI surveillance of ex-Trump campaign aide

<> on March 15, 2017 in Washington, DC.
The Washington Post
By Karoun Demirjian and Rosalind S. Helderman

The House Intelligence Committee released on Saturday a redacted version of a Democrat-authored memo intended to rebut GOP allegations that federal law enforcement agencies used politically-biased information to conduct surveillance on one of the president’s former campaign aides.

In their now-public retort, Democrats charge that the GOP unfairly attempted to malign the FBI and the Justice Department for including information from the author of a now-famous dossier alleging President Trump had ties to Russian officials in an application to surveil Carter Page, one of Trump’s former campaign advisers.

(Read the Democrat’s memo)

GOP leaders had argued that Page was unfairly targeted because the information from the dossier’s author, former British spy Christopher Steele, was never presented to the surveillance court as having been paid for by Democrats.

But according to the Democrats’ memo, Page’s Russia ties had already captured the attention of federal law enforcement agencies. The FBI interviewed Page about his “Russian intelligence contacts” in March of 2016, the memo states — the same month he was named as a Trump campaign adviser, and months before Steele was hired to conduct research on Trump or first made contact with the FBI.

 


Inside the Manafort money machine: A decade of influence-peddling, lavish spending and alleged fraud

The Washington Post
By Marc Fisher

As Donald Trump crisscrossed the nation promising to drain the swamp, two of his top advisers were busy illegally building a colossal fortress of riches deep inside that swamp, according to federal prosecutors.

In a richly detailed expanded indictment filed Thursday, special counsel Robert S. Mueller III parted the curtain shielding how two longtime Washington influence merchants worked the system. The government contends that Manafort, who was Trump’s campaign chairman for five months before being fired, used people all around him, from his buddy Gates to banks, clients and the IRS, to build a life of conspicuous consumption.

Gates, who was Manafort’s deputy in their lobbying firm and on the Trump campaign, pleaded guilty Friday to conspiracy and lying to the FBI, cutting a deal with prosecutors to give them information that could help Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Manafort, meanwhile, has maintained his innocence. His spokesman, Jason Maloni, said that Manafort is “confident that he will be acquitted and violations of his constitutional rights will be remedied.”

 


Russia’s Attack on U.S. Troops

Alexei Druzhinin/AP

The Wall Street Journal
By The Editorial Board
Image courtesy of Alexei Druzhinin/AP

The truth is starting to emerge about a recent Russian attack on U.S. forces in eastern Syria, and it deserves more public attention.

Here’s what we know. Several hundred men and materiel advanced on a U.S. Special Forces base near Deir al-Zour on the night of Feb. 7-8. Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White confirmed soon afterward that the “battalion-sized unit formation” was “supported by artillery, tanks, multiple-launch rocket systems and mortars.” U.S. forces responded in self-defense “with a combination of air and artillery strikes.”

Ms. White wouldn’t confirm how many attackers were killed or who was fighting, though the U.S. had “observed” the military buildup for a week.

Now we’re learning that Russian fighters were killed in the attack, and Lebanese Hezbollah was also involved. The Kremlin has tried to cover up the deaths, but that’s getting harder as the body bags come home and Russian social media spread the word. The Foreign Ministry finally admitted Tuesday that “several dozen” Russians were killed or wounded but claimed that “Russian service members did not take part in any capacity and Russian military equipment was not used.”

 


The unending campaign of Donald Trump

The Washington Post
By Philip Rucker

If there was any doubt that his presidency is an unending campaign, Donald Trump erased it Friday when he pulled two pieces of paper from his suit jacket and recited the lyrics of a song.

Addressing the Conservative Political Action Conference, the president read “The Snake,” a parable about a tenderhearted woman who takes in an ailing snake and gives it milk, honey and a silk blanket, only to be killed by the revived creature’s poisonous bite.

Trump explained the metaphor: “You have to think of this in terms of immigration.”

On the campaign trail in 2016, Trump frequently told the tale of the snake. The crowds at his rallies loved it. Other Americans were appalled and found it racist.

On Friday, Trump made “The Snake” the focal point of a 75-minute extravaganza of a presidential address that was evidently designed to enthrall his most loyal supporters — and further alienate the rest of the nation.

The campaign was back.

In fact, it had never ended.

 


Putin’s gamble is paying off big-time

Mikhail Klimentyev/AFP/Getty Images

The Washington Post
By Max Boot
Image courtesy of Mikhail Klimentyev/AFP/Getty Images

Even by President Trump’s elevated standards of incoherence, his position on Kremlingate is a marvel of illogic. After repeatedly claiming that stories about Russia’s intervention in the 2016 election were a “hoax,” he now slams President Barack Obama for not doing more to combat this nonexistent threat.

But as contradictory as Trump’s position may be, he has a point — sort of. Obama was far too weak in dealing with the Russian assault, which ranged from stealing Democratic emails to promoting pro-Trump propaganda online.

In hindsight, those reasons do not look like good ones: Obama was placing fear of confrontation with Russia over his duty to safeguard the electoral process. In part this was because he was overly complacent, imagining that Hillary Clinton would win no matter what. But in fairness to Obama, he was handicapped by the lack of Republican cooperation.

 

Notes from Washington for Friday, February 23, 2018


Trump administration to impose ‘largest ever’ set of sanctions against North Korea

The Washington Post
By Missy Ryan

President Trump on Friday plans to announce the “largest ever” set of sanctions on North Korea as his administration intensifies efforts to starve Pyongyang of resources it can use for its nuclear program.

 


 ‘We’re going to take action’: Inside Trump’s shifting stance on gun rights

The Washington Post
By Ashley Parker and Philip Rucker

President Trump’s decision to place himself at the center of the roiling debate over the nation’s gun laws began hours after last week’s Florida high school massacre, when images of angry yet poised teenage survivors were beamed into the White House on live television.

Trump’s aides almost immediately recognized the power of their message and argued that before the president could propose any solutions, he needed to hear personally from these young adults, according to administration officials. Trump agreed.

The plans culminated six days later under the grand chandelier of the White House’s state dining room, where Trump sat face-to-face with survivors of gun violence and the relatives of victims and witnessed their angst and raw anger.

In the end, the response to the deadly mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School unfurled in classic Trump fashion: He floated policies without offering specifics. He shaped his views by surveying friends and reacting to the testimonials he saw on cable news. And he cast himself as the main protagonist in the unfolding gun drama.

 


Special counsel Mueller files new charges against Manafort, Gates

The Washington Post
By Devlin Barrett, Rosalind S. Helderman, and Spencer S. Hsu

Paul Manafort was using fraudulently obtained loans and tax-cheating tricks to prop up his personal finances as he became chairman of the Trump campaign in 2016, according to a new 32-count indictment filed against him and his business partner Thursday.

The indictment ratchets up pressure on Manafort and his deputy, Rick Gates, who were already preparing for a trial in the District that could come later this year on fraud and money-laundering charges.

The additional charges had been expected in special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s prosecution of Manafort and Gates. Manafort joined the Trump campaign in March 2016 and was campaign chairman from June to August of that year. Gates also served as a top official on Trump’s campaign.

Mueller accused the men of lying on their income-tax returns and conspiring to commit bank fraud to get loans. The indictment was filed in federal court in Virginia — a technical requirement because that was where the accused filed their tax returns.

A court filing indicates that prosecutors initially sought to combine the new charges with the preexisting indictment in federal court in Washington, but Manafort declined to agree, leading to the possibility of separate trials in neighboring jurisdictions.

 


Reagan was the Gipper. Trump is the grifter.

ReaganRonald_001

The Washington Post
By Max Boot
Image courtesy of AP

During the 2016 campaign, Donald Trump acolytes claimed that he was the second coming of Ronald Reagan — the similarity being that both men were elderly Republicans scorned by the bien pensant. Now, more than a year into the Trump presidency, some of his fans are getting cheekier. They insist that President Trump is actually better than Reagan.

The Heritage Foundation claimed that 64 percent of its ideas were implemented by Trump during his first year — better than the 49 percent for Reagan.

A perfectly plausible proposition, if you know nothing about Reagan or Trump.

 


The Big Loophole That Helped Russia Exploit Facebook: Doctored Photos

DoctoredImage_001

The Wall Street Journal
By Georgia Wells, Shelby Holliday and Deepa Seetharaman
Image courtesy of Randi Romo/The Wall Street Journal

A decade ago, at a pro-immigration march on the steps of the Capitol building in Little Rock, Ark., community organizer Randi Romo saw a woman carrying a sign that read “no human being is illegal.” She took a photograph and sent it to an activist group, which uploaded it to photo-sharing site Flickr.

Last August, the same image—digitally altered so the sign read “give me more free shit”—appeared on a Facebook page, Secured Borders, which called for the deportation of undocumented immigrants. The image was liked or shared hundreds of times, according to cached versions of the page.

This use of doctored images was a crucial and deceptively simple technique used by Russian propagandists to spread fabricated information during the 2016 election, one that exposes a loophole in tech company defenses. Facebook Inc. and Alphabet Inc. have traps to detect misinformation, but struggle—then and now—to identify falsehoods posted directly on their platforms, in particular through pictures.

 


Former Trump campaign official Rick Gates expected to plead guilty and cooperate with special counsel in probe of Russian election interference

The Washington Post
By Tom Hamburger, Spencer S. Hsu and Michael Kranish

Rick Gates, a former top official in President Trump’s campaign, is expected to plead guilty Friday to charges brought by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III in his investigation of Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and cooperate with prosecutors, according to a person familiar with the situation.

It is not clear to what charges Gates intends to plead guilty.

Gates could provide the special counsel with valuable information about the inner workings of Trump’s operation: he served as a senior figure in the campaign and had access to the White House as an outside adviser in the early months of the administration.

The news of his expected deal with prosecutors comes a day after Mueller filed a new 32-count indictment against Gates and former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, his longtime employer, ratcheting up pressure on the two men.

Gates would be the third former Trump aide to admit guilt in Mueller’s probe. It was not immediately clear what impact his plea would have on his co-defendant, Manafort.

Unlike Manafort, who resigned from his position as Trump’s campaign chairman in August 2016, Gates remained with the campaign until election day, working at one point for the Republican National Committee. He then joined the inaugural committee as deputy chairman. Once Trump took office, Gates helped launch an allied group to support the president’s agenda and was a regular visitor at the White House.

 


Trump and the GOP won’t act on gun control. So let’s kick them out.

The Washington Post
By Eugene Robinson

They won’t do anything meaningful about guns until you force them to with your votes.

This time, following the Parkland, Fla., massacre, does feel different from all the other times. But I fear the outcome will always be the same — thoughts, prayers, furrowed brows and no real action — until the Republicans who control Congress and so many state legislatures start losing elections because of their obstinacy on gun control.

They need to fear you and me more than they fear the National Rifle Association.

Notes from Washington for Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Don’t blame ‘Washington.’ Blame the GOP.

Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

The Washington Post
By Catherine Rampell
Image courtesy of Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

Dysfunctional Washington refuses to work out its differences to solve problems that matter to Americans.

So say pundits and policy activists, perhaps hoping that diffuse criticism, rather than finger-pointing, will yield a government willing to govern.

But the problem isn’t “Washington.” It isn’t “Congress,” either. The problem is elected officials from a single political party: the GOP.

 


Trump’s talking points on Russia take a turn for the desperate

The Washington Post
By Aaron Blake

President Trump has now offered a few different reactions to the indictments of 13 Russian nationals on Friday. And all of them rely upon (a) a willful misreading of the facts, and/or (b) transposing two things that sound the same but aren’t.

1) Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein suggested Trump campaign officials didn’t collude

Except that’s not what the indictments indicate. Rosenstein said, “There is no allegation in this indictment that any American had any knowledge,” but he was speaking specifically about “this indictment.” And there are all kinds of reasons to believe that, even if Trump officials were in trouble, the indictment Friday wouldn’t allude to it in any way, shape or form.

2) Rosenstein suggested that Russia didn’t change the 2016 election results.

No one would ever expect there to be such an allegation — first, because it’s immaterial to the indictments, and second, because it’s totally unknowable. Even the intelligence community has said its analysis of Russian interference wouldn’t be able or attempt to answer this question.

3) Russia started the effort in 2014 — before Trump began his campaign.

The point here is that Russia decided Trump was the best vessel for its existing effort to interfere in the election and destabilize the United States. Whether the chicken or egg came first doesn’t change anything, really.

4) Democrats used to say you couldn’t rig elections.

Except nobody is saying the 2016 vote was “rigged.” Trump often transposes interfering in an election with rigging it. The former involves trying to influence the election, while the latter involves a fraudulent effort to change vote totals — either through hacking or illegal votes.

5) The FBI was so busy with collusion that it did not act before the Parkland shooting.

The first problem with Trump’s contention is that issues such as counterintelligence are handled by a different part of the bureau. The second is that the FBI hasn’t been in charge of the Russia investigation since the special counsel was appointed in May.

Notes from Washington for Monday, February 19, 2018

Whatever Trump Is Hiding Is Hurting All of Us Now

Tom Brenner/The New York Times

The New York Times
By Thomas L. Friedman
Image courtesy of Tom Brenner/The New York Times

Our democracy is in serious danger.

President Trump is either totally compromised by the Russians or is a towering fool, or both, but either way he has shown himself unwilling or unable to defend America against a Russian campaign to divide and undermine our democracy.

That is, either Trump’s real estate empire has taken large amounts of money from shady oligarchs linked to the Kremlin — so much that they literally own him; or rumors are true that he engaged in sexual misbehavior while he was in Moscow running the Miss Universe contest, which Russian intelligence has on tape and he doesn’t want released; or Trump actually believes Russian President Vladimir Putin when he says he is innocent of intervening in our elections — over the explicit findings of Trump’s own C.I.A., N.S.A. and F.B.I. chiefs.

In sum, Trump is either hiding something so threatening to himself, or he’s criminally incompetent to be commander in chief. It is impossible yet to say which explanation for his behavior is true, but it seems highly likely that one of these scenarios explains Trump’s refusal to respond to Russia’s direct attack on our system — a quiescence that is simply unprecedented for any U.S. president in history. Russia is not our friend. It has acted in a hostile manner. And Trump keeps ignoring it all.


Trump lashes out over Russia probe in angry and error-laden tweetstorm

Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post

The Washington Post
By Josh Dawsey and Philip Rucker
Image courtesy of Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post

President Trump lashed out with fresh anger about the intensifying Russia probe over the weekend, accusing Democrats of enabling a foreign adversary to interfere in the 2016 election and attacking the FBI as well as his own national security adviser.

In a defiant and error-laden tweetstorm that was remarkable even by his own combative standards, Trump stewed aloud about the latest indictments brought by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III against Russians for their elaborate campaign to denigrate the Democratic presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, and push voters toward Trump.

The president seized on Mueller’s evidence of the expansive scope of the Russian influence efforts to claim that the indictments exonerated him and proved there was “no collusion.” But the special counsel’s investigation of possible complicity between Russia and the Trump campaign is continuing, as is the examination of whether Trump has sought to obstruct justice.

In a string of 10 Twitter messages — which began after 11 p.m. Saturday and ended around noon Sunday, and which included profanity and misspellings — Trump opened a window into his state of mind, even as Trump’s representatives at a global security conference in Germany advised jittery allies to generally ignore the president’s tweets.

 


Trump Jr. to give foreign policy speech while on ‘unofficial’ business trip to India

Punit Paranjpe/AFP/Getty Images

The Washington Post
By Annie Gowen
Image courtesy of Punit Paranjpe/AFP/Getty Images

The president’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., is making what’s been dubbed an unofficial visit to India to promote his family’s real estate projects there. But he’s also planning to deliver a foreign policy speech on Indo-Pacific relations at an event with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi

Beginning Tuesday, the junior Trump will have a full schedule of meet-and-greets with investors and leading business leaders throughout India where the Trump family has real estate projects — Mumbai, the New Delhi suburb of Gurgaon and the eastern city of Kolkata.

Indian newspapers have been running full-page, glossy advertisements hyping his arrival and the latest Trump Tower project under the headline: “Trump is here — Are you Invited?” The ads also invited home buyers to plunk down a booking fee (about $38,000) to “join Mr. Donald Trump Jr. for conversation and dinner.” Public relations executives working with the two local developers arranging the Trump dinner declined to give specifics about the event.

“Trump’s company is literally selling access to the president’s son overseas,” said Jordan Libowitz, the communications director for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a watchdog group frequently critical of the first family. “For many people wanting to impact American policy in the region, the cost of a condo is a small price to pay to lobby one of the people closest to the president, far away from watchful eyes.”

 


McConnell’s response to Russian attack is back in the spotlight

Star Tribune
In this Sept. 5, 2017, file photo, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., right, listens as President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with Congressional leaders and administration officials in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)
MSNBC
By Steve Benen

Donald Trump insisted again yesterday that Barack Obama “did nothing” about the threat posed by Russia’s attack on U.S. elections in 2016. This is an odd thing for the Republican president to say.

After all, Trump – the direct beneficiary of Moscow’s intelligence operation – has spent the better part of two years pretending Russia wasn’t responsible for the attack; he’s done nothing to punish Russia for its intervention in our elections; and he hasn’t taken steps to protect us from further attacks.

But of particular interest is the idea that Trump’s predecessor sat on his hands and let the intervention happen. There’s certainly room for debate about whether Obama could have gone further, but it’s factually wrong to say he “did nothing.” What the Democratic president did was try to generate bipartisan support for an American response to a foreign attack – which did not happen in large part because Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell didn’t want it to.

Republican strategist John Weaver, who helped run John McCain’s and John Kasich’s presidential campaigns, said over the weekend that it’s time to “revisit why [McConnell] refused to join [Obama] in warning America the Russians had attacked us.”

This comes up from time to time, because it’s an under-appreciated part of the larger controversy.

As recently as July, NBC News’ Kasie Hunt asked McConnell if he regrets the way he handled the threat at the time. The Senate GOP leader responded by dodging the question entirely.

And that’s a shame because McConnell owes the public a better answer.

Notes From Washington for Sunday, February 18, 2018

Top U.S. officials tell the world to ignore Trump’s tweets

Sebastian Widmann/Getty Images

The Washington Post
By Michael Birnbaum and Griff Witte
Image courtesy of Sebastian Widmann/Getty Images

Amid global anxiety about President Trump’s approach to global affairs, U.S. officials had a message to a gathering of Europe’s foreign policy elite this weekend: pay no attention to the man tweeting behind the curtain.

U.S. lawmakers — both Democrats and Republicans — and top national security officials in the Trump administration offered the same advice publicly and privately, often clashing with Trump’s Twitter stream: the United States remains staunchly committed to its European allies, is furious with the Kremlin about election interference and isn’t contemplating a preemptive strike on North Korea to halt its nuclear program.

But Trump himself engaged in a running counterpoint to the message, taking aim on social media at his own national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, because he “forgot” on Saturday to tell the Munich Security Conference that the results of the 2016 weren’t affected by Russian interference, a conclusion that is not supported by U.S. intelligence agencies. They say they will likely never be able to determine whether the Russian involvement swung the election toward Trump.

The determination to ignore Trump’s foreign-policy tweets has been bipartisan.

The question of whom they should believe — the president or his advisers — has befuddled European officials. German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel confessed Saturday that he didn’t know where to look to understand America.

“Is it deeds? Is it words? Is it tweets?” he asked. He said he was not sure whether he could recognize the United States.

 


Trump administration assault on bipartisan immigration plan ensured its demise

The Washington Post
By David Nakamura and Mike DeBonis

As much of the country was gripped Wednesday by horrific images from the mass shooting at a Florida high school, two dozen senior Trump administration officials worked frantically into the night to thwart what they considered a different national security threat.

The looming danger on the minds of the officials was a piece of legislation scheduled for a vote the next day in the Senate. It was designed to spare hundreds of thousands of young immigrants known as “dreamers” from deportation — but to the men and women huddled in a makeshift war room in a Department of Homeland Security facility, the measure would blow open U.S. borders to lawless intruders.

“We’re going to bury it,” one senior administration official told a reporter about 10:30 that evening.

The assault was relentless — a flurry of attacks on the bill from DHS officials and the Justice Department, and a veto threat from the White House — and hours later, the measure died on the Senate floor.

“He ended the program,” the Democratic Senate aide said of Trump. “He’s the one who repeatedly said no to bipartisan efforts to fix it.”

 


America Is Under Attack and the President Doesn’t Care

Leah Millis / Reuters

The Atlantic
By David Frum
Image courtesy of Leah Millis / Reuters

As the rest of America mourns the victims of the Parkland, Florida, massacre, President Trump took to Twitter.

Not for him the rituals of grief. He is too consumed by rage and resentment. He interrupted his holidaying schedule at Mar-a-Lago only briefly, for a visit to a hospital where some of the shooting victims were treated. He posed afterward for a grinning thumbs-up photo op. Pain at another’s heartbreak—that emotion is for losers, apparently.

Having failed at one presidential duty, to speak for the nation at times of national tragedy, Trump resumed shirking an even more supreme task: defending the nation against foreign attack.

Trump continues to insist that he and his campaign team did not collude with Russia in the 2016 election. We know that they were ready and eager to collude—that’s on the public record. (“If it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer.”) The public does not yet know whether the collision actually occurred, and if so, in what form and to what extent. But in front of our very eyes we can observe that they are leaving the door open to Russian intervention on their behalf in the next election. You might call it collusion in advance—a dereliction of duty as grave as any since President Buchanan looked the other way as Southern state governments pillaged federal arsenals on the eve of the Civil War.

 


Mr. Trump to the ‘dreamers’: Drop dead.

John Moore/Getty Images

The Washington Post
Opinion by the Editorial Board
Image courtesy of John Moore/Getty Images

President Trump has often spoken and tweeted of the soft spot in his “great heart” for “dreamers,” the hundreds of thousands of young immigrants brought to this country as children. This supposed concern has now been revealed as a con.

Offered bipartisan legislation in the Senate that would have protected 1.8 million dreamers from deportation, in return for a down payment on the $25 billion wall Mr. Trump assured voters that Mexico would finance, the president showed his cards. The deal was a “total catastrophe,” the president said, punctuating a day in which the White House mustered all its political firepower in an effort to bury the last best chance to protect an absolutely blameless cohort of young people, raised and educated as Americans.

Despite the withering scorn heaped on the bipartisan plan by Mr. Trump, with a hearty second by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), eight Republican senators backed it, giving it a total of 54 votes — six shy of the 60 required for passage. Had Mr. Trump stayed silent, or suggested he could accept a modified version, the bill may very well have passed. But he turns out to be far less interested helping the dreamers — helping anyone, really — than in maintaining his anti-immigrant political base.

If the administration is successful, as many legal experts expect, the lives, hopes and futures of nearly 2 million young immigrants will be upended. They will lose jobs and, in many cases, driver’s licenses, tuition subsidies and health insurance. They will slip into the shadows in the only country they know. This will be Mr. Trump’s legacy and the true reflection of his “great heart.”

 


After the Parkland shooting, pro-Russian bots are pushing false-flag allegations again

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The Washington Post
By Anne Applebaum
Image courtesy of Joe Raedle/Getty Images

For most Americans, the Parkland shooting was a terrible tragedy. But for social media accounts that promote the interests of Russia in the United States, it was a fantastic opportunity.

On the morning after the tragedy, the Russia-linked accounts were commenting fiercely, pushing the “crazy lone killer” explanation for the shooting and mocking advocates of gun control. According to Hamilton 68, a tracker website created by the German Marshall Fund, a lot of them linked to photos of guns and ammunition on the Instagram account of the suspected killer, plus a screenshot of a Google search for “Allahu akbar.” Others linked to a fact-checking website that debunked some statistics about gun crime. By Friday morning, some of the same accounts were also pushing something slightly different: the hashtag #falseflag. That’s a reference to the conspiracy theory, already widespread 48 hours later, that the shooting never happened, that the attack is a “false flag” operation staged by the U.S. government as a prelude to the seizure of guns.

Despite what is now overwhelming evidence of Russian involvement in the last U.S. presidential election, no one at the highest level of the U.S. government has made a significant commitment to prevent Russian involvement in the next election, or the next debate, or the next national argument, either.

 


Trump’s Furious Tweetstorm Backfires

Eric Thayer / Reuters

The Atlantic
By David A. Graham
Image courtesy of Eric Thayer / Reuters

Donald Trump didn’t have any control over the decision by Russia’s Internet Research Agency  to mount self-proclaimed “information warfare against the United States of America.” As the indictment released on Friday stated, the effort began in 2014, long before he was a declared candidate—much less a serious one—for office.

But by refusing to take information warfare seriously — in an attempt to distance himself from it and any questions it might raise about the legitimacy of his election — the president has paradoxically made the story about himself again and again.

Trump and White House consumed with turmoil amid abuse allegations

Trump and White House consumed with turmoil amid abuse allegations

The Washington Post
By Philip Rucker and Josh Dawsey
Image courtesy of CNN

The White House was engulfed in chaos Friday as officials scrambled to contain the fallout from its management of domestic violence allegations against staff secretary Rob Porter, even as President Trump lavished praise on the now-departed senior aide and suggested he may be innocent.

And amid the tumult, the man whose mission had been to enforce order in the West Wing, Chief of Staff John F. Kelly, was focused instead on a more personal goal — to save his job — as Trump seriously sounded out confidants about possible replacements.

The president is upset with his top aide — as well as with White House Communications Director Hope Hicks — for not being more transparent with him about the allegations against Porter and for their botched public relations push to defend him, according to four officials.

Kelly and his loyal deputies have been “frantically trying to stop the bleeding,” according to one West Wing staffer. ­Kelly’s efforts at damage control included instructing senior aides at a Friday morning meeting to communicate that he had taken action to remove Porter within 40 minutes of learning that abuse allegations from both of Porter’s ex-wives were credible. That account contradicts the administration’s public statements and other private accounts.

Aides described a resulting level of dysfunction not experienced behind the scenes at the White House since the early months of Trump’s presidency. Dormant ­rivalries have come alive, with suspicions swirling about some of the most senior officials and the roles they apparently played in protecting Porter.

In private conversations in recent days, Trump has sounded out advisers, both inside and outside the administration, about removing Kelly, who has been on the job for 6½ months. He has repeatedly floated the possibility of hiring House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) or Office of Management and Budget director Mick Mulvaney as chief of staff, according to people who have discussed the matter with him.

Trump spoke out on the matter for the first time Friday. After summoning reporters into the Oval Office, Trump said this was a “tough time” for Porter and “we absolutely wish him well.” The president said nothing about his ex-wives’ allegations, nor did he broadly condemn domestic violence.

By contrast, Vice President Pence, who is traveling in South Korea, strongly condemned domestic violence and vowed to personally investigate the Porter matter when he returns to Washington and “share my counsel with the president directly.”

Unwelcome Attention for John Kelly, the Man Enlisted to Bring Calm

Unwelcome Attention for John Kelly, the Man Enlisted to Bring Calm

The New York Times
By Peter Baker and Maggie Haberman
Image courtesy of CNN

Among the many people agitated this week over John F. Kelly, the White House chief of staff, was President Trump. And among the people the president called to express dissatisfaction, according to those close to him, was none other than Reince Priebus, the previous chief of staff, who also irritated Mr. Trump.

The idea that the president would confide grievances over Mr. Kelly with the person he pushed out to hire Mr. Kelly is yet another indication of how upside-down Mr. Trump’s world can be. In the West Wing, various characters fall in and out of favor with such rapidity that it is never entirely clear who has the president’s ear.

For now, it is Mr. Kelly who is in trouble. The president has little tolerance for aides who attract negative media attention that spills onto him, and in recent days Mr. Kelly has drawn a string of unwelcome headlines. He roiled negotiations over immigration legislation by declaring that some immigrants were “too lazy” to apply for legal status. And he initially defended a deputy accused by two ex-wives of physically abusing them.

All of which has again fired up the will-he-last speculation that has erupted periodically in the six months Mr. Kelly has been in office. Mr. Trump has recently asked advisers what they think of Mick Mulvaney, who currently holds twin posts as director of the White House budget office and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, as a possible chief of staff, according to two people briefed on the discussions.

Of course, predicting Mr. Trump’s actions and sorting out who is up and down in his orbit is always fraught. Mr. Priebus, for instance, denied Thursday night that Mr. Trump had discussed Mr. Kelly with him even though several other Trump advisers insisted that he did.

Either way, it has been a tough week for Mr. Kelly, to say the least.