“Prosecutors in the Eastern District of Virginia unsealed a conspiracy charge against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who was arrested by British police Thursday in Ecuador’s London embassy with the permission of Ecuadoran authorities,” the Washington Post reports.
“The case accuses Assange of conspiring to commit computer intrusion for agreeing to break a password to a classified U.S. government computer when working with former U.S. Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning, formerly known as Bradley Manning, who released hundreds of thousands of diplomatic cables and war logs in 2010.”
Washington Post: “Video of the arrest showed a gray-bearded Assange being pulled by British police officers down the steps of the embassy and shoved into a waiting police van. Assange appeared to be physically resisting. His hands were bound in front of him.”
Playbook: “Assange’s arrest suggests that the arm of the Russia probe is long indeed. It also could scramble traditional political fault lines in Washington. In the Obama days, it was the left that defended the WikiLeaks enterprise, but many Democrats had soured on Assange by the 2016 campaign — and then they came to despise him. Meanwhile, some on the right like Fox News host Sean Hannity and candidate Donald Trump became his biggest fans. What will they say now?”
Daily Beast: “His dramatic expulsion from the embassy follows a year of ratcheting tension between Assange and his Ecuadorian hosts, culminating in Wikileaks publicizing a leak of hundreds of thousands of hacked emails mysteriously stolen from the inboxes of Ecuador’s president and first lady.
“It was this last move that finally set Ecuador’s government firmly against Assange, who was by then already being treated less like a political refugee than an inmate—albeit one who was free to leave at any time.”
Politico: “In addition to confronting Trump on his purge at the Department of Homeland Security and his threat to deploy auto tariffs and keep existing levies, GOP senators hope they can persuade the president to avoid nominating Ken Cuccinelli or Kris Kobach, another immigration hard-liner, to lead DHS. They also want Trump to drop plans to nominate Herman Cain to the Federal Reserve and are considering whether to challenge Stephen Moore’s nomination to the Fed.”
“It’s an unusual time in Trump’s Washington, with a Senate Republican majority that’s been at odds with the president for months now — and with GOP senators increasingly comfortable in trying to ward off what they see as Trump’s worst impulses. It’s an inflection point, with Senate Republicans weighing how hard to try to contain the president… The tensions between Trump and Senate Republicans have raged continuously for four months, an arc that intersects neatly with when Mick Mulvaney took the reins.”
Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-ND), a close Trump ally, told reporters that “if I had to vote right now, there’s no way I could vote for” Herman Cain for the Federal Reserve Board, The Hill reports.
“Cramer’s opposition makes him the fourth Republican to denounce Cain’s potential nomination, effectively ending Cain’s chance at confirmation. Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Mitt Romney (R-UT) all came out against Cain on Wednesday.”
“I know nothing about WikiLeaks. It’s not my thing.” — President Trump, quoted by The Hill.
“The Senate on Thursday voted to confirm David Bernhardt, a former lobbyist for the oil and agribusiness industries, as secretary of the interior. The confirmation of Mr. Bernhardt to his new post coincided with calls from more than a dozen Democrats and government watchdogs for formal investigations into his past conduct,” the New York Times reports.
“Senators voted 56-41, largely along party lines, in favor of Mr. Bernhardt’s confirmation.”
Washington attorney Gregory Craig, who served as White House counsel for President Barack Obama, was charged Thursday with lying to federal officials who were examining whether he should have registered as a foreign lobbyist for legal work he did for the Ukrainian government in 2012, the Washington Post reports.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) endorsed Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) for reelection on Thursday, “in a rare rebuff of partisan politics in an increasingly polarized Senate,” Politico reports.
“The moderate West Virginia senator also offered to campaign for the vulnerable Maine incumbent. It’s a boon for Collins, who Democrats likely need to beat if they hope to take the Senate majority in 2020.”
Ugh, just join the GOP already, Manchin.
“The Democratic-led Illinois Senate voted Thursday to compel President Trump to release five years’ worth of his personal income tax returns or be barred from appearing on the state’s presidential ballot next year,” WBEZreports.
“The state is joining a movement of other Democratic states that aims to force the president to open up his personal finances by releasing his tax returns, something he stubbornly has refused to do and reiterated again this week.”
Politico: “As the president faces blowback from his slow motion decapitation of the Department of Homeland Security, Trump is presenting two public faces on immigration. He is offering rhetoric that undersells the dramatic moves underway in his administration to curb illegal immigration and asylum seekers from entering the country.”
“And he is toggling between Jared Kushner, who has spent months fashioning an immigration package that can attract bipartisan support and appease the business community, and Stephen Miller, who as a Senate aide was notorious for killing legislation like that.”
USA Today: “Responding to criticism that Democrats were too focused on Trump’s temperament and personal attributes during Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, the party’s main organizing arm says it’s making a major expansion of its opposition research team that will be ‘hyper-focused’ on the impact of Trump’s policies on local communities.
“A team of several dozen staffers have compiled an archive of thousands of documents obtained through local news and Freedom of Information Act requests that will be used to spotlight promises Trump made during visits to specific communities — and to ‘put a human face’ on what’s happened since then.”
Roger Cohen: “His victory contains a warning for any Democrat still imagining that the 2020 election will bring an easy victory over Donald Trump. The Netanyahu playbook will be President Trump’s next year. Gather nationalist and religious voters in your camp, add in a strong economy, dose with fear, sprinkle with strongman appeal, inject a dash of racism and victory is yours — whatever indictments are looming.”
“It’s not that this could happen. It will happen, absent some decisive factor to upend the logic of it. Netanyahu is savvier than Trump, but they share a shrewd assessment of how to control and manipulate the politics of spectacle, as well as a fierce determination to stay out of jail. They campaign ugly.”
Stephen Collinson: “President Trump is celebrating Benjamin Netanyahu’s Israeli election victory like it’s his own — and in many ways, it is.”
Thomas Friedman: “There are two countries that I’ve been professionally, emotionally and intellectually involved with my entire journalism career — the United States and Israel. I’ve never been more worried about both, because President Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are essentially the same person, and they pose the same threat to their respective nations.”
“They are both men utterly without shame, backed by parties utterly without spine, protected by big media outlets utterly without integrity. They are both funded by a Las Vegas casino magnate, Sheldon Adelson. They are both making support for Israel a ‘Republican’’ cause — no longer a bipartisan one. And they each could shoot an innocent man in broad daylight in the middle of Fifth Avenue and their supporters would say the victim had it coming.”
“As a result, they are each free to cross red lines that their predecessors never dared to. Which is why I believe that four more years of Netanyahu, which is almost certain after Israel’s election on Tuesday, and six more years of Trump, which is a real possibility, will hasten the emergence of an America and an Israel where respect for civility, democracy, an independent judiciary and independent media are no longer examples for others to follow.”
“Rep. Mike McCaul (R-TX), one of Capitol Hill’s highest-ranking Republicans and staunchest border security advocates, is now using his influence to push back on the Trump administration’s policies to address the influx of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border,” McClatchy reports.
“The move comes as Democrats are targeting McCaul’s district for the first time in his 15 years in Congress, putting him and other Texas Republicans in the new position of seeking distance from President Trump and his more controversial policies.”
“McCaul, now the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, railed against Trump’s plans to cut foreign aid to countries in Central America as ‘reckless’ and ‘ill-advised’ at a hearing Wednesday.”
“Attorney Michael Avenatti has been charged in a 36-count federal indictment alleging he stole millions of dollars from clients, did not pay his taxes, committed bank fraud and lied in bankruptcy proceedings,”, according to the Associated Press.
“The new charges do not include the New York extortion case alleging Avenatti demanded millions to stay quiet about claims he planned to reveal about Nike paying high school players.”
Los Angeles Times: “Avenatti stole millions of dollars from five clients and used a tangled web of shell companies and bank accounts to cover up the theft, the Santa Ana grand jury alleged in an indictment that prosecutors will make public Thursday.”