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Pope Francis prays at Knock Shrine in County Mayo, Ireland, on Sunday.
Pope Francis prays at Knock Shrine in County Mayo, Ireland, on Sunday. (AFP/Getty Images)

Let’s stipulate, as the lawyers say, that an Italian archbishop had an ideological ax to grind when he claimed that Pope Francis lifted the restrictions his predecessor had placed on a cardinal accused of sexual misconduct. Go ahead and assume for the sake of argument that Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano — a former Vatican ambassador in Washington, D.C., — was disgruntled and out for revenge.

That doesn’t mean the pope can continue to refuse to comment on it.

Vigano accused Francis of reversing a decision by Pope Benedict XVI to impose limitations on the activities of then-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the former archbishop of Washington, D.C., who according to news reports had a a 50-year history of sexual relations with male seminarians and young priests. (After a church investigation found credible an accusation that McCarrick also had abused a minor, Francis accepted his resignation from the College of Cardinals.)

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  • Trump
  • Opinion
  • The Witch Hunt
Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions said he wouldn't be "improperly influenced by political considerations."
Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions said he wouldn't be "improperly influenced by political considerations." (Mandel Ngan / AFP-Getty Images)

It’s not news that President Trump is disappointed in Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions. He long has been grumbling over the attorney general’s decision to recuse himself from matters related to the 2016 presidential campaign, a decision that eventually led to the appointment of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III to investigate Russia’s election interference and possible coordination with the Trump campaign. (Or, as Trump calls it, the “rigged witch hunt.”

But Trump’s complaints about Sessions have always extended beyond the Russia recusal. He also has seethed over the fact that the Justice Department isn’t pursuing the president’s political opponents. In November he tweeted: "Everybody is asking why the Justice Department (and FBI) isn't looking into all of the dishonesty going on with Crooked Hillary and the Dems.”

This week Trump sharpened that critique in an interview aired by Fox News  in which he complained that “I put in an attorney general that never took control of the Justice Department” — a department, he insisted, with a pro-Democratic tilt.

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  • Trump
  • Opinion
  • The Swamp
  • Election 2018
As scandals swirl around President Trump, Republican leaders stand silent.
As scandals swirl around President Trump, Republican leaders stand silent. (Alex Brandon/AFP/Getty Images)

At this point you have to wonder how far Donald Trump has to go — maybe shooting someone on Fifth Avenue? — before his fellow Republicans say, “Enough.”

Although the party establishment initially opposed Trump, with his victory the party has become him. In truth, though, elements of the party establishment didn’t have far to go to get to Trumpism. Remember that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) froze nomination hearings for President Obama’s Supreme Court choice under the specious argument that it wasn’t Obama’s seat to fill because he only had 10 months left in his term. So the nation got Justice Neil Gorsuch instead of Justice Merrick Garland.

  • Opinion
  • The Swamp
  • Election 2018
 Rep. Duncan Hunter appears in 2011.
Rep. Duncan Hunter appears in 2011. (Carolyn Kaster / Associated Press)

In a perfect world, Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Alpine) would announce on Thursday that he’s taking a leave of absence — preferably, right after he is arraigned on charges that he and his wife raided his campaign war chest for more than a quarter of a million dollars to buy personal things and then altered documents to hide the pilfering from federal elections officials.

As part of the announcement Hunter would say that, as much as it pains him, he knows that he would be too distracted by the case to be an effective member of Congress. It wouldn’t be fair to his constituents to continue. For that matter, he also would say that even though it is too late to have his name removed from the Nov. 6 ballot, he is suspending his reelection campaign.

And then, in this perfect world, the San Diego County congressional district would vote for the other guy on the ballot, no matter the political designation next to his name. After all, it is better to have a clean congressional representative from a different party than gamble on reelecting someone who may soon be a felon. Right?

  • The Witch Hunt
Donald Trump appears at the Republican National Convention in 2016.
Donald Trump appears at the Republican National Convention in 2016. (Brian van der Brug)

What a week. The president's former lawyer says he was directed to violate campaign finance law to influence the election at the behest of Donald Trump. Oh, and he says he's got some Russia stuff he thinks Robert S. Mueller III might be interested in. The president's former campaign chairman became a convicted felon. One of the first congressional representatives to publicly throw his support behind Trump has been indicted for improper use of campaign funds.

It is only Wednesday.

Here in the lamestream fake news media, this is all a big deal. But as far as Trump supporters are concerned, it's barely a blip.

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  • Trump
  • Opinion
  • The Witch Hunt
A courtroom sketch of Michael Cohen.
A courtroom sketch of Michael Cohen. (Elizabeth Williams / Associated Press)

President Trump broke his silence about his former lawyer Michael Cohen on Wednesday morning on Twitter (where else?), and he did not disappoint. 

He opened as he usually does, attacking Cohen personally:

Yawn. Not much to get excited about there. But then he tweeted this:

  • Trump
  • Opinion
  • The Witch Hunt
  • Rule of Law
  • The Swamp
The felony convictions of former Trump insiders Michael Cohen, left, and Paul Manafort have rocked the administration; more are likely.
The felony convictions of former Trump insiders Michael Cohen, left, and Paul Manafort have rocked the administration; more are likely. (Don Emmert / AFP/Getty Images)

The double-header loss for Team Trump in the federal courts Tuesday was riveting and will resonate for months no matter how hard the president tries and lies to make it seem like nothing. “Where is the collusion?” President Trump asked. Well, to start with, among him and longtime fixer Michael Cohen, the head of the company that owns the National Enquirer, a Playboy model, and an adult film star.

It’s useful at such moments to take a step back and look at both the arc that brought the nation to this juncture, and the context.

Remember, Trump the candidate picked up significant support from people so disgusted with how Washington works that they thought a modern-day P.T. Barnum would fix it. Trump was the one to “drain the swamp” because he was too rich to be bought or beholden to others (never mind the personal conflicts of interest). Which may or not be true, but it’s clear he is perfectly capable of doing the buying himself ($130,000 to keep the porn star quiet; $150,000 to bottle up news of the affair with the Playboy model) in a clear attempt to corrupt the election. How swampy.

  • Trump
  • Opinion
  • The Golden State
The California Legislature is considering a bill that would bar new pipelines for new federal off-shore oil leases.
The California Legislature is considering a bill that would bar new pipelines for new federal off-shore oil leases. (Los Angeles Times)

The Trump administration’s decision to open nearly all federal waters for oil and gas drilling left California and other states scrambling to find ways to stop expanded drilling off their coasts. One tool, California officials noted at the time, is that the California controls the first three miles of ocean, and regulates the pipelines that bring the oil to shore.

In fact, the State Lands Commission and the California Coastal Commission sent letters to the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management warning that neither body would approve new pipelines to service new wells, and would “not allow use of existing pipelines to transport oil from new leases onshore.”

Now there’s a move in the Legislature to make that refusal law. AB 1775 would bar the state from authorizing new oil and gas infrastructure within state waters and tidal areas for leases issued after the start of this year. The law would not affect efforts to “repair or maintain any pipeline or other infrastructure used to convey oil or natural gas or any other activity necessary to ensure the safe operation of infrastructure used in the exploration, development, or production of oil or natural gas.”

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  • Trump
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  • We're All Doomed
Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, shown testifying before Congress on monetary policy in February, has drawn President Trump's ire.
Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, shown testifying before Congress on monetary policy in February, has drawn President Trump's ire. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS)

Currency manipulation is when a country’s rulers have their central bank monkey with the supply of legal tender to gain an advantage over trading partners. Typically, it means increasing the supply of the domestic currency in an effort to bring down its value in comparison to foreign currencies, making the country’s exports cheaper and its imports more expensive.

In an interview Monday with Reuters, President Trump accused China and the European Union of manipulating their currencies while also urging the U.S. central bank to allow for a greater supply of U.S. dollars.

It’s bad enough that Trump speaks as much as he does about monetary policy. His predecessors largely steered clear of that topic, in part to preserve the public’s confidence in the Federal Reserve’s independence, in part to avoid the sort of accusation Trump leveled at China and the EU. They were wise to do so.

  • Trump
  • Opinion
  • The Witch Hunt
Rudolph W. Giuliani, an attorney for President Trump, speaks at a Republican campaign event in New Hampshire on Aug. 1.
Rudolph W. Giuliani, an attorney for President Trump, speaks at a Republican campaign event in New Hampshire on Aug. 1. (Charles Krupa / Associated Press)

Former New York Mayor and Trump TV lawyer Rudy Giuliani is trying to extricate himself from his mind-boggling comment Sunday on “Meet the Press” that “truth isn’t truth.” The remark came in a colloquy with Chuck Todd about whether President Trump should submit to questioning by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.

Here’s the exchange, which involved whether Trump would answer questions about whether, as former FBI Director James B. Comey has said, Trump had told him, “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting [former national security advisor Michael] Flynn go.” 

Giuliani: “I am not going to be rushed into having him testify so that he gets trapped into perjury. And when you tell me that, you know, he should testify because he’s going to tell the truth and he shouldn’t worry, well that’s so silly because it’s somebody’s version of the truth. Not the truth. He didn’t have a, a conversation  . . .