When Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday, some senators seemed skeptical — who wouldn’t be? — that the hard line he was laying down on policy toward Russia was shared by President Trump.
Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, the Republican chairman of the committee, told Pompeo that after Trump’s meeting with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland, “we saw an American president who appeared submissive and deferential.”
Pompeo also was questioned about what Putin and Trump discussed in their one-on-one meeting. “We don’t know what the truth is, because nobody else was in the room when it happened,” complained Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey, the panel’s ranking Democrat.
The Trump team is pushing back against an audio recording obtained by CNN of a conversation between then-candidate Donald J. Trump and his lawyer at the time, Michael Cohen, about Karen McDougal, in September 2016. The conversation is elliptical and muddled at times, but Cohen can be heard bringing Trump up to speed on his efforts to set up a corporation to acquire “all of that info regarding our friend David” — presumably a reference to David Picker, the owner of the National Enquirer, who’d bought the rights to McDougal’s life story for $150,000 the previous month.
That life story includes McDougal’s claim that she and Trump had a 10-month affair that began in 2006, not long after his wife Melania gave birth to their son. Hence Cohen’s involvement.
When the Commerce Department first floated the idea of adding a citizenship question to the 2020 Census, it couched it in altruistic terms. The most anti-immigrant administration in modern American history, and the most indifferent (to put it mildly) to racial discrimination, said the Justice Department wanted the question added to collect data it could use to better enforce the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
Facebook's battle against fake news is off to a rocky start. Days after Mark Zuckerberg was publicly flogged for saying Holocaust denialism wouldn't be removed from the platform, radio host Alex Jones created another PR nightmare for the company by using its platform to say Robert S. Mueller III is involved with pedophilia, before pantomiming shooting him "politically."
A taste of Jones’ rant:
"Everyone's so scared of Mueller. They'd let Mueller rape kids in front of people, which he did. I mean, Mueller is a monster, man. God, imagine. He's even above the pedophiles, though. The word is he doesn't have sex with kids. He just controls it all.”
It can be hard sometimes to measure the corrosive effects of President Trump’s continuous assaults on American institutions, from the media to the courts to the government he runs. Discourse has coarsened, facts are ignored and truth is relative.
To quote the band Drive-By Truckers, “We're standing on the precipice of prejudice and fear / We trust science just as long as it tells us what we want to hear / We want our truths all fair and balanced as long as our notions lie within it.”
Even when he’s trying to spin the Russia story against his political opponents, President Trump can’t bring himself to acknowledge the reality of what his BFF Vladimir Putin has been doing. En route to the Veterans of Foreign Wars’ national convention (and a fundraiser) in Kansas City, Mo., the president tweeted:
I’m very concerned that Russia will be fighting very hard to have an impact on the upcoming Election. Based on the fact that no President has been tougher on Russia than me, they will be pushing very hard for the Democrats. They definitely don’t want Trump!
I suspect that a long line of presidents would dispute Trump’s “tougher on Russia” claim, particularly Ronald Reagan. And no matter what Trump tweets today, he can’t erase the words of his Russian presidential counterpart in Helsinki last week.
When asked whether he wanted Trump to win the 2016 election, Putin replied, “Yes, I did. Yes, I did. Because he talked about bringing the U.S.-Russia relationship back to normal.” (Putin apparently ignored the second half of the question, which was whether he directed any Russian officials to help Trump prevail.)
Today is my first day back at work after more than two weeks of vacation — my time off started July 4, fittingly enough (a few weeks of independence beginning on Independence Day). The news, of course, doesn’t go on holiday when we do (nor, evidently, do President Trump’s efforts to destabilize everything he comes in contact with).
Now that I’m back, I thought I’d check in with the Gun Violence Archive to see whether gun violence took a holiday too. It didn’t, of course. Our fellow Americans continued to kill themselves and others with abandon, from toddlers shooting siblings to violent criminals killing police officers.
It doesn’t take a degree in economics to suspect that making something more expensive will put a crimp in its sales. That might not be true for a Ferrari or a Picasso, but it’s certainly the case for a commoditized item that has many potential substitutes.
Like, say, the cuts of beef coming out of U.S. factory farms. Or the chicken breasts. Or the pork chops.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the nascent trade war that President Trump has ignited with the rest of the world is already having an effect on U.S. meat producers. That’s because as the administration slaps tariffs on foreign steel, aluminum and other products, our trading partners are slapping retaliatory tariffs on our top exports, most notably agricultural goods.
Three months into his reign of error, President Trump ordered a review of more than two dozen national monuments — federal land excluded from various uses — with an eye toward reducing the amount of protected land and loosening the management plans covering what activities would be allowed where. Environmentalists (and The Times editorial board) warned that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s subsequent analysis and recommendations seemed framed more by a desire to increase exploitation of public lands than by a desire to preserve them. And now an errant release of internal emails shows the environmentalists were right.
The Washington Post reports that Interior officials, responding to Freedom of Information Act requests, mistakenly sent journalists and activists thousands of pages of internal emails that reveal government officials cherry-picked data to justify reducing the scope of some monuments while ignoring 99% of 2.7 million public comments against changing the designations. The president ultimately reduced the 1.35 million acre Bears Ears National Monument, designated by President Obama in 2016, by 85%, and the 1.7 million acre Grand-Staircase-Escalante, designated by President Clinton in 1996, by about half. Other proposals are still on the president’s desk, though there has been little indication whether he intends to act on them.
President Trump drew a red line of sorts with Iran on Twitter late Sunday night, echoing the belligerence of his early tweets about North Korea.
To Iranian President Rouhani: NEVER, EVER THREATEN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN OR YOU WILL SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE. WE ARE NO LONGER A COUNTRY THAT WILL STAND FOR YOUR DEMENTED WORDS OF VIOLENCE & DEATH. BE CAUTIOUS!
Trump was responding to a speech by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, whose remarks to Iranian diplomats on Sunday were reported (not in shoutcaps) by the Iranian government news agency. And as was the case with North Korea, Rouhani wasn’t threatening unilateral action against the United States — he was telling Trump that there would be a high price to pay if the United States messed with Iran.
Here’s the money quote from Rouhani, per Reuters: “America should know that peace with Iran is the mother of all peace, and war with Iran is the mother of all wars.”