The White House wanted the U.S. Navy to move “out of sight” a warship named for the late Sen. John McCain, a war hero who became a frequent target of President Trump’s ire, ahead of the president’s visit to Japan last week, according to an email reviewed by the Wall Street Journal.
“A tarp was hung over the ship’s name ahead of the president’s trip… and sailors were directed to remove any coverings from the ship that bore its name. After the tarp was taken down, a barge was moved closer to the ship, obscuring its name. Sailors on the ship, who typically wear caps bearing its name, were given the day off during Mr. Trump’s visit.”
President Trump tweeted that he “had nothing to do with Russia helping me get elected” while slamming special counsel Robert Mueller again.
Tweeted Trump: “The Greatest Presidential Harassment in history. After spending $40,000,000 over two dark years, with unlimited access, people, resources and cooperation, highly conflicted Robert Mueller would have brought charges, if he had ANYTHING, but there were no charges to bring!”
Axios: “While it’s not the first time Trump has admitted that Russia interfered in 2016, it’s the first time Trump has stated it could have helped him win.”
“Speaker Nancy Pelosi, brushing off new comments by Robert Mueller and 2020 Democratic hopefuls, feels as strongly as ever that impeaching President Trump would be a ‘fool’s errand,’” a top ally told Axios. “Pelosi remains defiant, despite growing calls from fellow Democrats to plunge quickly into impeachment.” “Ironically, Pelosi is leading the charge against impeachment while GOP Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan is leading the charge for it.”
First Read: “As everyone continues to parse Robert Mueller’s words from Wednesday — ‘It’s time to impeach!’ ‘Trump is exonerated!’ ‘Congress needs to do its job!’ — most politicians and commentators are still missing his unequivocal message.”
“Russia clearly interfered in the 2016 presidential election.”
“The lack of urgency and attention to that interference remains, in many ways, the real scandal. That applies to a president who continues to describe that interference as a hoax… And it applies to a Congress that’s been unable to mount a united front to prevent future interference.”
“Thomas Hofeller achieved near-mythic status in the Republican Party as the Michelangelo of gerrymandering, the architect of partisan political maps that cemented the party’s dominance across the country,” the New York Times reports.
“But after he died last summer, his estranged daughter discovered hard drives in her father’s home that revealed something else: Mr. Hofeller had played a crucial role in the Trump administration’s decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census.”
“Files on those drives showed that he wrote a study in 2015 concluding that adding a citizenship question to the census would allow Republicans to draft even more extreme gerrymandered maps to stymie Democrats… The disclosures represent the most explicit evidence to date that the Trump administration added the question to the 2020 census to advance Republican Party interests.”
Jonathan Chait: “Robert Mueller’s brief, eight-minute remarks on Wednesday about his investigation left the non-conservatives who closely follow his work fairly nonplussed. Mueller was simply reiterating things he had already written in his report. Conservatives, on the other hand, erupted in outrage.”
“What so vexed the right about Mueller’s curt affirmation of his previous conclusions? The answer, as we’ll see, seems to be that they believed their own propaganda about what Mueller had (and had not) found. Presented even briefly with reality, their minds have reeled in shock.”
Bloomberg: “China, the world’s largest soybean buyer, has put purchases of American supplies on hold after the trade war between Washington and Beijing escalated.”
“State-grain buyers haven’t received any further orders to continue with the so-called goodwill buying and don’t expect that to happen given the lack of agreement in trade negotiations, said the people, who asked not to be named because the information is private.”
The Guardian: “America is the land of freedom, as any politician will be happy to tell you. What you don’t hear quite so often is that the stuff under the land is also apparently made of freedom as well. That is, at least according to a news release this week from the Department of Energy.”
“Mark W Menezes, the US undersecretary of energy, bestowed a peculiar honorific on our continent’s natural resources, dubbing it ‘freedom gas’ in a release touting the DoE’s approval of increased exports of natural gas.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel “has faced a barrage of attacks since Trump took office — over German luxury cars, defense spending, Iran, Russian gas, and doing business with China’s Huawei Technologies Co. But it was the rupture after last June’s G-7 meeting that made up her mind: Trump is not a partner that Germany can rely on,” Bloomberg reports.
“Almost 12 months on, the situation has only gotten worse. There’s a mix of anguish and frustration in Berlin and officials are asking themselves whether the relationship has already crossed the point of no return. Even if Trump loses in 2020, they say the trust that underpinned the transatlantic friendship for seven decades may be gone for good. Germany has already started building new alliances that will safeguard its interests in a world where the U.S. won’t. And some of them are not to Washington’s liking.”
“Louisiana lawmakers passed an abortion ban on a 79 – 23 vote Wednesday that would prohibit women from terminating a pregnancy once a fetal heartbeat has been detected,” NBC News reports. “Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) has indicated that he would break with his party and sign the ban if it crosses his desk.”
“The House rejected an amendment that would have provided an exception to the bill for women and girls who had been impregnated through rape or incest.”
Haaretz: “The Knesset voted Wednesday night to dissolve itself after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to form a governing coalition, sending Israel to a new election mere seven weeks after the last one.”
“At the heart of the impasse was the issue of drafting ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students: Yisrael Beiteinu’s Avigdor Lieberman, without whom Netanyahu can’t form a coalition, refused to back down on the bill’s terms, while ultra-Orthodox parties claimed they have already yielded enough ground.”
Rep. John Rose (R-TN) objected as Democrats tried for a third time to pass a disaster relief bill by voice vote, the Washington Post reports.
The legislation would provide billions of dollars in assistance to communities hard hit by hurricanes, flooding and wildfires. Approval of the measure will have to wait until next week when the full House is in session.
“Key allies who share intelligence with the United States could soon be dragged into the middle of Attorney General Bill Barr’s politically-charged Justice Department review of how the Russia investigation began,” CNN reports.
“President Trump has said he wants Barr to look into the role key intelligence partners, including the United Kingdom and Australia, played in the origins of Russia probe. He has said he could raise the issue with the British Prime Minister Theresa May during his state visit next week and suggested he may ask her about his accusation that Britain spied on his 2016 presidential campaign.”
“President Trump is preparing to threaten Mexico with new tariffs as part of an attempt to force the country to crack down on a surge of Central American migrants seeking asylum in the United States,” the Washington Post reports.
“Trump is planning to make the announcement Friday but some White House aides are trying to talk him out of it, arguing that such a threat would rattle financial markets and potentially imperil passage of the USMCA trade agreement.”
“A senior White House official, however, said there is broad support across the administration to push Mexico further and that Trump’s announcement is likely to happen Friday.”
“The White House plans to trigger a process Thursday that would allow President Trump to submit his new trade deal with Canada and Mexico to Congress within 30 days, three people briefed on the planning said, a direct challenge to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) who had warned against such a step,” the Washington Post reports.
“Pelosi directly cautioned U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer not to send the draft report until Democrats had spent more time working with the White House on the plan. By filing the report with Congress, the White House will signal to Democrats that it does not plan to allow lawmakers to delay the process and will push for a vote soon.”
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) told KQED that Facebook’s refusal to take down an altered video of her shows that the company’s executives actively contribute to online disinformation and were “willing enablers” of Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Farhad Manjoo: “I understand the fear about digital fakery. But to focus on Facebook instead of Fox News is to mistake the symptom for the disease.”
“The disease is an entrenched, well-funded, decades-in-the-making, right-wing propaganda network, one that exists to turn faintly sourced rumors into full-blown, politically convenient narratives. The propaganda network’s tentacles now infiltrate every form of media — magazines, books, talk radio, social networks — but it still finds its most profitable and effective outlet in the Murdochs’ cable empire.”
“And it is devastatingly effective: Just about every political lie that has dominated American discourse in the past two decades — the Swift Boaters and the birthers, death panels, the idea that undocumented immigrants pose an existential threat but climate change does not — depended, for its mainstream dissemination, on the Fox News machine.””
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) threatened to put a hold on Treasury Department nominees unless the administration offers fuller answers about congressional efforts to obtain President Trump’s tax returns, Politico reports.
Said Wyden: “If the Treasury Department refuses to answer our questions, I am prepared to again place a hold on department nominees as I did previously when routine requests for information went unanswered.”