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📝 Must Read Op-Ed and Profiles


The American information marketplace is being corrupted by many other foreign nations, including China, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. For the Middle East combatants, the United States is becoming the new Lebanon — the place where other nations go to fight their dirty proxy wars.

This assault on America is abetted by Mr. “Fake News” himself, President Trump. Since his success nearly a decade ago in fostering the canard that Barack Obama was born in Kenya, Trump has been spreading deceptive allegations and outright lies as a political tactic — all while falsely accusing his adversaries of making things up.

The scary thing is that this fog of lies is working — for the Russians, the Arab info-warriors and Trump. And it is encouraging a growing use of covert manipulation by other nations (and private parties) to shape opinion. The public, understandably, is getting dizzy in this information storm and is not sure what (if anything) can be believed.

This degradation of the information marketplace should terrify everyone, but especially journalists who depend on its coherence and credibility. For us, policing the information space starts with understanding how it is abused.


T setting up one of his defense strategies via pardons. He short circuits the legal system, and a doctrine of fairness which has been more or less adhered to by the Presidents who have a bit more integrity (exceptions of course - Nixon wanted to pardon Haldeman/Erlichman, Ford pardoned Nixon, and Clinton pardoned Marc Rich) As Ruth Marcus points out, those who were charged with crimes should pay with their time, and given some short period - 5 years to atone. Then a pardon might be considered.

WIth T - it is capricious and vindictive instincts (aimed at Comey, Fitzgerald - lawyers who proscecuted Martha Stewart and Blagojevich.) And also very much aimed at a ‘get out of jail’ card notice to Manafort, Cohen and Stone.

If, as is often said, a president’s budget proposal presents a glimpse of his heart, a president’s use of his pardon power offers a companion, and even more telling, X-ray of his soul.

Writing a budget involves making trade-offs and priorities, but these must be examined and ratified by others, elsewhere. The power to pardon is more uniquely personal, both in that pardons tend to be granted to individuals, based on the circumstances of their particular cases, and in that it is an authority that resides solely within the purview of the president.

Yet there is something particularly wrong, particularly askew, in Trump’s pardoning. Partly it is his sloppy impulsivity, without going through the ordinary process of consideration by the Justice Department or satisfying the usual criteria (a five-year waiting period after serving a sentence; “acceptance of responsibility, remorse, and atonement” for the offense).

But even more it is the disdain in which Trump holds the legal process — a disdain whose public expression in the form of pardons helps reinforce Trump’s case of a criminal-justice system that is rigged, unfair and unworthy of respect. Trump’s pardon of Arpaio for his criminal contempt for disobeying a court order to halt racial profiling underscored the president’s contempt for the judiciary


President Trump Thinks He Is a King


Here’s an excellent, in-depth look at Konstantin Kilimnik who helped Manafort tamper with witnesses and who is tied to Russian intelligence. This article was published back in March when Van der Zwaan’s sentencing documents revealed Kilimnik’s central role in Mueller’s investigation. In the Van der Zwaan filing, Kilimnik is referred to as “Person A” (just as he is in Monday’s Manafort filing). Here’s what Mueller had to say about Person A (Kilimnik) on page 4 of the Van der Zwaan filing:

Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agents assisting the Special Counsel’s Office assess that Person A has ties to a Russian intelligence service and had such ties in 2016.

So the FBI says Kilimnik had ties to Russian intelligence in 2016. There’s no reason to believe that he severed those ties – we can only assume he still has them today. That said, the Kremlin probably knows as much about Manafort’s witness tampering as Mueller does. Strange times.


Interesting that his identity doesn’t seem to have been focused upon by any in the media.

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@SEPTGUY Yes – I actually think it’s amazing that we’re not seeing headlines like “Manafort Accused of Using Russian Agent to Witness Tamper.” I feel that would be an accurate statement considering what Mueller and the FBI have laid out in court documents. Not only are we not seeing these types of headlines, but the reporting only mentions the Russian connection in the middle of the article – whereas I feel it should be in the opening sentence.

I’ll be interested to hear what Rachel Maddow has to say on this. Tonight I’m sure she’ll be focused on the primaries, but maybe she’ll weigh in tomorrow night.

Here’s a summary of Kilimnik’s Russia connections that I posted over on the Day 502 thread.

Clearly, all of T’s non-participation in the G-7 by not signing the treaty, creating Tariff disputes, calling out Trudeau as being hostile is a way to have the US disembark from whatever strategic alliances that have worked for us in the past.

What is clear is that T’s allegiance is to Russia FULL STOP.


President Trump is trying to destroy that alliance.

Is that how he thinks about it? Who knows. It’s impossible to get inside his head and divine his strategic goals, if he even has long-term goals. But put it this way: If a president of the United States were to sketch out a secret, detailed plan to break up the Atlantic alliance, that plan would bear a striking resemblance to Trump’s behavior.

It would involve outward hostility to the leaders of Canada, Britain, France, Germany and Japan. Specifically, it would involve picking fights over artificial issues — not to win big concessions for the United States, but to create conflict for the sake of it.

A secret plan to break up the West would also have the United States looking for new allies to replace the discarded ones. The most obvious would be Russia, the biggest rival within Europe to Germany, France and Britain. And just as Russia does, a United States intent on wrecking the Atlantic alliance would meddle in the domestic politics of other countries to install new governments that also rejected the old alliance.

So Trump isn’t telling the truth about trade, much as he has lied about Barack Obama’s birthplace, his own position on the Iraq War, his inauguration crowd, voter fraud, the murder rate, Mexican immigrants, the Russian investigation, the Stormy Daniels hush money and several hundred other subjects. The tariffs aren’t a case of his identifying a real problem but describing it poorly. He is threatening the Atlantic alliance over a lie.


This article from Foreign Policy makes an interesting comparison between Saddam Hussein and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. What happens if talks fail as they did with Hussein in 1998?

I thought of that episode when U.S. President Donald Trump jubilantly announced that he and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had ended a nuclear standoff, and the very real possibility of war, with an agreement to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula. Trump is one full step behind Annan, since he and his team will be returning to Washington without any kind of agreement on access for weapons inspectors. He has not even tested the willingness of this absolute dictator to allow those inspectors to swarm across his territory. And this dictator, unlike Saddam, actually has weapons of mass destruction. Experience tells us that this shotgun romance will end in tears.

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Yup. The Republican Party has totally fallen into the moral black hole that is Trump.

‘This is the new Republican Party’
The final GOP holdouts to Donald Trump whimper into oblivion.

Then there’s what’s happening every day. The party of free trade has gone protectionist. The party of spreading freedom and never negotiating with dictators is now full of praise for chumming it up with Kim Jong Un. The party of fighting deficits has blown a trillion-dollar hole in the budget.

Family values and moralizing have been replaced by porn stars and Twitter tantrums. Trump goes to war with the G-7, and the sum of the Republican reaction is a statement from John McCain and a few comments on Sunday TV from Maine Sen. Susan Collins.

There aren’t committee hearings. There aren’t bills put on the floor. There aren’t votes that force the president’s hand. It’s well into cliché that the only people who speak out against Trump are the ones who’ve already been chased out of reelection and are heading to their cushy cable and lobbying gigs.

They can criticize from the sidelines all they want, but they won’t be around or have any power once January rolls around, and Trump and his allies will fill that space.


First Lady Laura Bush

I live in a border state. I appreciate the need to enforce and protect our international boundaries, but this zero-tolerance policy is cruel. It is immoral. And it breaks my heart.

Our government should not be in the business of warehousing children in converted box stores or making plans to place them in tent cities in the desert outside of El Paso. These images are eerily reminiscent of the Japanese American internment camps of World War II, now considered to have been one of the most shameful episodes in U.S. history. We also know that this treatment inflicts trauma; interned Japanese have been two times as likely to suffer cardiovascular disease or die prematurely than those who were not interned.


A Tour of Paul Manafort’s Jail Cell

Paul Manafort’s jail cell as it appeared in 2009 when visited by Michael Vick and his brother Marcus during the filming of a reality TV series – see below for details. Michael had stayed in the cell in 2007 while awaiting sentencing. Now the very same cell is occupied by Paul Manafort. This shot of the bunk bed and chair is taken from the sink/toilet area. The window above the chair looks into the corridor. There are no windows to the outside.

The sink/toilet area which is across the cell from the bed. Michael Vick, on the right, is showing the cell to his brother, Marcus. (Important: these photos were not taken during the time Michael was incarcerated, but during a return visit.) The shower is behind the curtain. A typical meal is in the tray – it’s not specifically mentioned in the TV show, but I’m assuming that’s what it is.

The cell door. From this and the other two photos above you can get an idea of how small the cell is.

The exercise yard. Michael Vick was always alone in the yard; no other inmates were allowed with him. (This photo shows Michael (on the left) and his brother, Marcus, during a return visit.) For his entire stay, Michael basically saw his cell for 23 hrs/day and this yard for 1 hr/day. Manafort’s stay is likely to be very similar.

If you’d like to get a feel for Paul Manafort’s jail experience, you could watch “The Michael Vick Project - Episode 6” which was filmed in 2009 and aired in 2010 (available on iTunes for $1.99) – the screen captures above are from this show. The episode follows Vick as he visits the cell in Virginia’s Northern Neck Regional Jail that he occupied for two months while awaiting sentencing – it is the same cell in which Manafort is now being held. (That’s according to this NBC News article – in fact, the superintendent interviewed in the recent article is also featured in the 2010 TV show.)

I wanted to research the conditions under which Manafort is being held, not to gloat, but to help assure myself that justice is being served. It appears he is being held in decent circumstances; not tending towards “cushy” on the one hand, or “cruel and unusual punishment” on the other hand. I’m going to take the superintendent’s word that Manafort is not being given preferential treatment and is being housed in a similar way to Michael Vick.

Here are some takeaways about Vick’s jail stay combined with some facts from the NBC News article and the jail’s website. This paints a picture of what Manafort can expect:

  • Vick mentioned several times that he felt lonely and isolated during his entire stay.

  • As far as I can tell, Vick did not have a roommate and neither does Manafort (probably a good thing in jail).

  • Vick was confined to his cell 23 hours per day and was allowed 1 hour per day in the exercise yard. I’m assuming the same schedule will apply to Manafort.

  • The exercise yard is a concrete slab about the size of half a basketball court.

  • No one was allowed in the yard with Vick. He mostly shot baskets alone. To protect Manafort, he will probably be separated from other inmates as well.

  • There are a couple things that distinguish this particular “celebrity cell” from others in the facility: 1) It has a shower; this is probably for the celebrity inmate’s safety, not his comfort – other inmates use communal showers. 2) There is a window into the hallway (seen over the chair in the above photo) – I believe this is to allow guards to look in, not so much for allowing the occupant to look out.

  • The only light is artificial – there are no windows to the outside. Vick said one of the things he struggled with was “not knowing whether it was day or night, raining or sunny.”

  • The cell has a TV – as I believe other cells do, but I’m not positive. I’m not sure how much control the inmate has over the TV.

  • I believe all meals are taken in the cell since Vick said he was only allowed out to go to the exercise yard for 1 hour per day and since, in one shot, you can see a tray of food in the cell.

  • Visitors are separated from inmates by a glass wall and communicate via handsets – no physical contact is allowed (just as seen on many TV shows).

  • Visitation times are highly restricted. Inmates are allowed only one 30-minute, personal visiting session per week (some inmates are allowed two visits – not sure if Manafort is in this special category) – this is from the jail’s website.

  • According to NBC News, Manafort will have access to a tablet on which he can make “phone calls, listen to music or podcasts, read ebooks and play solitaire.” And according to the jail’s website, “video visitation” is allowed (not sure if this is via the tablet).

All in all, it sounds like a lonely life. I hope it will afford Manafort ample time to reflect on the choices he has made and on how he could improve his situation by cooperating with Mueller.

P.S. I’m posting this in the “Op-Ed and Profiles” thread – since it’s a “profile” of a jail cell!


Trump has been dismissive of American allies since he began running for president, but he’s lately gotten much more aggressive about it. Even though Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and others have tried to play down his contemptuous attitude, the rest of the world is no longer sanguine that it’s all bluster. It appears to be the case that the president of the United States really is hellbent on rupturing long-standing American alliances in ways that will benefit Russia.

As far as we know, he has yet to ask anything from the Russians in return. Even if he did, he would probably make the same kind of deal he made with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un – give up something valuable in return for some glad-handing and a televised pageant. It was reported this week that new satellite imagery indicates that North Korea is rapidly upgrading its nuclear research center. Oops.

Trump can’t seem to resist a strongman. They dazzle him with their attention and their “respect.” But even by those standards Putin seems to be a special case. Trump is now racing against the clock to deliver something tangible to the Russian president, even though the political risks are monumental to him and to the country. One has to wonder whether he’s trying to beat Mueller’s investigation or Putin’s deadline.


Yes, how is this going to play out? Seems like T wants to get 'er done w/ Putin…but we’re waiting for some huge amount of evidence against T. Irrefutable evidence.

Who will deliver I wonder…? Michael Cohen - Fed Court in NYC (we get final evidence by end of next week) or Michael Flynn - Federal Courts (in a couple of months they are to sentence him.)

It does seem like T is racing the clock here…

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The America We Thought We Knew Is Gone

That vicious little “we” excludes most of America. Those in power have cut off diplomatic relations with the country they’re meant to govern, and the party they’re meant to govern with. The point-of-no-return polarization that pundits still feebly warn against is already here. It is sad. It is true.

I started by talking about love. The country I believed in, which aspired to true equality of opportunity, and welcomed immigrants, and strove to make the American dream available to everyone, failed often. The ideal was never the reality, but at least there was an agreed-upon goal, one worth working toward in common. Even that is gone. The most vital trust that our government, as a whole, will protect the interests of the people has been violated.

So, yes: Today, I am sad. But there is power in calling things what they are. Other feelings will come.


@Pet_Proletariat The America We Thought We Knew Is Gone.

Thank you for this powerful and moving assessment of where we are today. It’s up to us to stem the tide. Onward to November!

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This doesn’t sound like a very promising title, but, really, you should watch this. It’s a 4-minute clip of a C-SPAN interview with the brilliant Malcolm Nance – a former naval officer with expertise in intelligence and counter-terrorism. He succinctly explains why it was so easy for the Kremlin to enlist Trump to promote Russian international objectives. At one point Nance lists the causes Trump has championed and it hits you, “Wow! That is a totally un-American agenda – it is perfectly aligned with Russia’s global ambitions – Trump has absolutely sold us out.”


Making America Unemployed Again


Making America Unemployed Again
Trump’s global trade war is escalating and could cost thousands of American jobs.

By Jamie Lincoln Kitman
Mr. Kitman is the New York bureau chief for Automobile magazine.

July 6, 2018

It used to be a refrain of the Republican faithful that the government shouldn’t be in the business of picking winners and losers where industry and technology are concerned.

As President Trump’s global trade war escalates, with the latest round of tariffs going into effect on Friday, his administration is doing just that. The new wrinkle is that it is no longer clear who is being set up to triumph or fail. Tariffs directed at products from one country — whether that’s steel from Canada and China or cars from Italy — are just as likely to affect American companies and hurt their workers.

That message came through loud and clear in recent days during the public comment period on the administration’s proposed tariffs on imported cars and parts. The global auto industry relies on supply chains that were built on the free movement of parts and goods. Suppliers, dealers and car manufacturers in the United States and other countries are petrified by the damage that the tariffs could do to their businesses.

General Motors, which warned that the tariffs could lead to job losses in the United States, said in its comments that the new levies could end up “isolating U.S. businesses like G.M. from the global market that helps to preserve and grow our strength here at home.”

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, a trade group for domestic and foreign automakers with operations in the United States, predicts that a 25 percent tariff on imported cars, the high end of what has been proposed, could increase the average price of a new imported vehicle by $5,800.

“Tariffs will lead to increased producer costs, increased producer costs will lead to increased vehicle costs, increased vehicle costs will lead to fewer sales and less tax receipts, fewer sales will lead to fewer jobs, and those fewer jobs will significantly impact many communities and families across the country,” the alliance warned in its June 27 comments to the Commerce Department.

One of America’s Big Three automakers, Fiat Chrysler, which operates 23 plants and employs 56,000 people in the United States, is an Italian-American company incorporated in the Netherlands with headquarters in Britain. It builds its strong-selling Jeep Renegade model in Italy, China and Brazil. The company stands to lose as much as $866 million in profit, according to one estimate, if a 25 percent tariff on cars from the European Union goes into effect.

Foreign carmakers with factories in America, including BMW and Volvo in South Carolina, Mercedes and Hyundai in Alabama, Subaru in Indiana, plus Toyota and Honda, which operate plants in several states, also stand to suffer, along with all of their suppliers. A study by the Peterson Institute found that 195,000 jobs will be lost if the tariffs are enacted and 624,000 lost if retaliatory tariffs follow.

Volvo, which recently opened a plant in South Carolina, said that jobs there depended on customers outside the United States. “Thus, half of the 4,000 direct jobs at the factory that we aim to create are related to exports, and if we cannot trade freely, those U.S. jobs may not be created at all,” Volvo said.

To be sure, this industry is quick to warn of job losses from policies it doesn’t like but is slow to reward workers when times are good. The auto industry has not gone out of its way to use its recent corporate tax breaks to benefit workers.

The prospect of tariff-induced job losses, however, is not just hypothetical. Harley-Davidson, the Wisconsin-based motorcycle maker, could be a bellwether.

Harley sales have been in decline in the United States for years. Its bikes are big, fat, noisy and technologically backward, and the company has been too slow to make the lighter, more modern motorcycles that appeal to younger, more technically sophisticated American buyers. Japanese and European motorcycle makers have excelled at this.

Yet, ironically, sales for Harley-Davidson have been steady in Europe, the company’s second-biggest market, while dropping 8.5 percent in the United States in 2017. Those European sales were helping to support hundreds of workers in the United States, along with assembly plants in Australia, Brazil, India and Thailand.

Harley’s windfall earlier this year, courtesy of the G.O.P. tax cut, did not go to bolster American production or expand American hiring or raise wages, or to develop its electric offerings more quickly. Nor did the company use it to weather a potential trade war. Instead, the windfall went to stock buybacks soon after Harley announced plans to close its Kansas City, Mo., plant, despite pleas from its union to save the factory’s 800 jobs.

The president was conspicuously silent about those job cuts, but he has gone on a Twitter tirade against Harley for its plans for additional layoffs of American workers as a result of retaliatory tariffs from the European Union. Harley says it must ship more of its production offshore in order to remain profitable.

Nothing the motorcycle maker has done — including importing many key components from abroad — is different from the business practices of any other corporation, including its competitors, which the president claims he is now trying to lure to invest in the United States. One of Harley’s rivals, the Iowa-based Polaris, is also considering moving some production to Poland in response to the retaliatory European levies.

Tariffs are like a long train of boxcars; each one is filled with unintended consequences that can knock into the next with devastating consequences. The names on the factories may be foreign, but the workers who stand to lose their jobs are right here in America.

Jamie Lincoln Kitman is the New York bureau chief for Automobile magazine.

Follow The New York Times Opinion section on Facebook and Twitter (@NYTopinion), and sign up for the Opinion Today newsletter.


Maureen Dowd is going in for another take down with her keen observation on T’s tweeting. I agree…

"As Michiko Kakutani writes in her new book, “The Death of Truth”: “Trump, of course, is a troll — both by temperament and by habit. His tweets and offhand taunts are the very essence of trolling — the lies, the scorn, the invective, the trash talk, and the rabid non sequiturs of an angry, aggrieved, isolated, and deeply self-absorbed adolescent who lives in a self-constructed bubble and gets the attention he craves from bashing his enemies and trailing clouds of outrage and dismay in his path.

Be best!

We have a president who is an addict running a country overflowing with opioid and social media addicts. (In an interview with The Times a few days ago, our tech reporter Nellie Bowles said she dealt with her smartphone addiction by graying out her screen, noting, “These phones are designed to look and work like slot machines — hit us with bright colors and little pings to activate and please,” and “we all have to figure out little hooks to pull back into the physical world.”)"


Ex Senator Bill Frist writes this Opinion

It isn’t easy to tell a president of your own party that he is wrong. But the assault on Mueller’s investigation does not help the president or his party. When Trump talks about firing the special counsel or his power to pardon himself, he makes it seem as though he has something to hide. The president must remember that only Mueller’s exoneration can lift the cloud hanging over the White House.

The special counsel’s investigation is not about Trump. It is about our national security. Every American should be rooting for Mueller’s success in determining precisely how Russia interfered in our fundamental democratic process. I had no illusions about the Soviet Union during the Cold War, and I have none about Putin now. Mueller’s most recent court filings indicate that Putin is seeking to meddle in this year’s elections. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats and FBI Director Christopher A. Wray — all Trump appointees confirmed by the Republican-led Senate — have also warned of foreign interference. We should heed these warnings and empower Mueller to see his important work through to its conclusion.

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Who is Brett Kavanaugh? Profile round-up