February 23, 2019

Week 119

Experts in authoritarianism advise to keep a list of things
subtly changing around you, so you’ll remember.

This week the FBI thwarted a major domestic terrorism plot by a white nationalist serving as a lieutenant in the U.S. Coast Guard, who had called for the establishment of a “white homeland.” His target list included Democratic politicians and cable-TV hosts, almost all of whom were subjects of Trump’s public ire on Twitter or in words. Nonetheless, Trump continued his attacks on the media, calling them the “enemy of the people,” and repeatedly referring to them as “fake news.” When asked if his rhetoric played a role, Trump responded, “No, I don’t. I think my language is very nice.” Trump has also started in recent weeks to attack fact-checkers as fake news.

Trump ally Roger Stone found himself hauled back into court this week for posting an image of a federal judge next to a crosshairs, while other Trump supporters used words like “civil war” and “coup” on-air as the country waited for Mueller’s findings. In conjunction with his new book, former FBI director Andrew McCabe spoke to media outlets about F.B.I. investigations into Trump, the prospect of invoking the 25th Amendment, and concern that Trump is a Russian asset. In response, Trump spent the week attacking his old, familiar target.

This week stood out in the number of stories on corruption and kleptocracy — perhaps the most to date — and several that in normal times would be front page and top-of-the-hours for weeks; but instead as the chaos continued to consume a wary, anxious, and exhausted country, almost all barely got noticed. Challenges have come and more are expected to Trump’s declaration of a national emergency at the close of Week 118, but like so many other things, this unprecedented and possibly unconstitutional executive fiat garnered little attention this week amid all the breaking news.

  1. The Southern Poverty Law Center reported 2018 was the deadliest year on record for alt-right violence: at least 40 people in the U.S. and Canada were killed by individuals motivated by or attracted to far-right ideologies.
  2. The number of hate groups rose 7% in 2018 to a record high of 1,020, a 30% jump from 2014, driven by political polarization, anti-immigrant sentiment, and technologies that helped spread propaganda online.
  3. On Monday, President’s Day, a survey of nearly 200 political science scholars ranking U.S. presidents was released: Trump was ranked last. Of the Republican scholars only, Trump was ranked 40th of 44.
  4. On Saturday, Trump nominee for U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Heather Nauert withdrew from consideration. Nauert hired a foreign-born nanny 10 years ago without a proper work visa and did not pay taxes at the time.
  5. The Trump regime had not sent Nauert’s paperwork to the Senate for the confirmation process, which would have been more rigorous than the vetting for State Department spokesperson, her previous position. Nauert had little relevant experience.
  6. On Sunday, Japanese newspaper Asahi reported Japanese PM Shinzo Abe nominated Trump for the Nobel Peace Prize last fall at the request of the U.S. government. Trump bragged about the nomination in Week 118.
  7. On Sunday, NYT reported the rift between Trump and Europe was on open display at the Munich security conference in Week 118, as Europeans no longer believe Trump cares about the views or interests of U.S. allies.
  8. The fissure was also exploited by Russia and China. Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov regaled, saying, “We see new cracks forming, and old cracks deepening.”
  9. In the era of Trump, some European diplomats trust Russia and China more than the U.S. Many others say relations with the U.S. will never be the same again. Europeans are waiting for a change in the White House.
  10. On Monday, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her delegation arrived in Brussels, telling reporters they were there to reaffirm “our commitment to the transatlantic alliance, our commitment to NATO and respect for the European Union.”
  11. Pelosi also told reporters that Trump is not solely in charge: “We have Article 1, the legislative branch, the first branch of government, coequal to the other branches and we have asserted ourselves in that way.”
  12. Pelosi and her delegation met with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, and the EU’s high representative for foreign policy, Federica Mogherini.
  13. On Sunday, Trump responded to a “Saturday Night Live” skit mocking his Rose Garden press conference, tweeting: “Nothing funny about tired Saturday Night Live on Fake News NBC!”
  14. Trump also tweeted, “how do the Networks get away with these total Republican hit jobs without retribution?” adding, “Very unfair and should be looked into.” The ACLU tweeted in response: “It’s called the First Amendment.”
  15. Trump also tweeted, “This is the real Collusion!” and “THE RIGGED AND CORRUPT MEDIA IS THE ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE!”
  16. On Sunday, Stephen Miller had an adversarial interview on “Fox News Sunday” defending Trump declaring a national emergency and repeating Trump’s rhetoric, while host Chris Wallace corrected his false statements.
  17. Wallace called Trump’s actions a “clear violation of what the founders” envisioned in giving Congress the power of the purse, and were unprecedented. Miller tried to change the subject and dodged answering.
  18. On Sunday, Axios reported according to a senior government official involved with the spending negotiations, Trump is willing to “go to the edge on everything” — a strategy the regime believes is a winning one.
  19. Goodloe Sutton, the editor of Alabama newspaper Democrat-Reporter, called for the KKK “to night ride again” in Washington D.C. “Democrats in the Republican Party and Democrats [who] are plotting to raise taxes.”
  20. In his piece, “Klan needs to ride again,” Sutton also wrote, “We’ll get the hemp ropes out, loop them over a tall limb and hang all of them.” When asked about the lynching reference, Sutton replied “cleaning up D.C.”
  21. On Tuesday, Sutton was removed from the University of Southern Mississippi’s journalism Hall of Fame over his editorial.
  22. WAPO reported Enrique Tarrio, chairman of the Proud Boys, stood behind Trump at his televised Miami rally Monday. Although Tarrio claimed he got there early, spots behind a speaker are typically hand-picked by staff.
  23. A sixth-grader at Lawton Chiles Middle Academy in Lakeland, Florida faced misdemeanor charges after a confrontation with his teacher over his refusal to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.
  24. According to an affidavit, after the student said he thought the flag and the national anthem are “racist” against black people, the teacher told him if the U.S. is so bad he could go live somewhere else, then called the office.
  25. On Tuesday, fashion brand Burberry apologized after one of its models at London Fashion Week showcased an outfit with a hoodie that featured a noose around the neck, saying “it was insensitive and we made a mistake.”
  26. On Tuesday, NBC News reported on an alleged hate crime in Salt Lake City, Utah captured on video of a young man asking, “Are you gay, though?,” and when the other man responded, “Oh, I am,” he was punched.
  27. On Thursday, actor Jussie Smollett was charged with felony disorderly conduct for allegedly filing a false police report. In Week 116, Smollett falsely claimed he was the victim of a racist, homophobic attack.
  28. Smollett had also claimed his attackers put a rope around his neck and said “this is MAGA country.” Celebrities, journalists, and 2020 Democratic hopefuls had rallied behind him, calling out the toxic political discourse.
  29. On Thursday, Trump tweeted in reaction, “@JussieSmollett — what about MAGA and the tens of millions of people you insulted with your racist and dangerous comments!? #MAGA.”
  30. On Friday, a principal of an elementary school in Ashburn, Virginia apologized after students were told to act as runaway slaves for a gym class exercise celebrating Black History Month.
  31. On Friday, Rep. Steve King said he would seek re-election, after being stripped of his congressional committee assignments, saying he has “nothing to apologize for,” and blaming the “dishonest” media.
  32. On Friday, the Trump regime announced a new federal rule which would block organizations which provide abortion referrals from receiving federal family planning funds under Title X.
  33. The move could strip millions in funding from organizations like Planned Parenthood, and direct funds instead to anti-abortion and faith based groups. The new federal rule is expected to be challenged in court.
  34. On Sunday, in an interview with “60 Minutes,” former acting FBI director Andrew McCabe said after Trump fired then FBI director James Comey, the FBI and Justice Department were thrown into turmoil.
  35. McCabe said Trump believed Putin over U.S. intelligence officials who told him North Korea had the capability to hit the U.S. with ballistic missiles. McCabe said Trump responded, “I don’t care. I believe Putin.”
  36. McCabe claimed he and deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein were concerned about Trump’s motives, and that Trump had wanted Rosenstein to mention Russia in the Comey memo, but Rosenstein ultimately did not.
  37. McCabe claimed he pushed Rosenstein to appoint a special counsel, although Rosenstein had concerns with losing his job in doing so. McCabe said he believes he was fired over opening a case against Trump.
  38. On his firing, McCabe said “I believe I was fired because I opened a case” against Trump. McCabe was fired by former AG Jeff Sessions the day before he would have been able to collect his full pension.
  39. McCabe kept extensive contemporaneous memos describing conversations he had during the chaotic period after Comey was fired with Trump, Rosenstein, and others. The memos have been turned over to Mueller.
  40. On Monday, President’s Day, Trump tweeted, “Wow, so many lies by now disgraced acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe,” adding, “He was fired for lying, and now his story gets even more deranged.”
  41. Trump also tweeted, “He and Rod Rosenstein, who was hired by Jeff Sessions (another beauty), look like they were planning a very illegal act,” and “This was the illegal and treasonous “insurance policy” in full action!”
  42. Later on Monday, before going to play golf, Trump quoted Fox News regular Dan Bongino, tweeting, “This was an illegal coup attempt on the President of the United States,” and added: “True!”
  43. On Tuesday, Trump lashed out at McCabe, tweeting, “I never said anything bad about Andrew McCabe’s wife other than she (they)…took from a Crooked Hillary source when Clinton was under investigation by the FBI.”
  44. On Tuesday, McCabe said in an interview on the “Today” show that FBI officials briefed the bipartisan “Gang of Eight” in May 2017 that the FBI opened an investigation into Trump, and no one pushed back.
  45. On Wednesday, former congressman and Fox News contributor Trey Gowdy told Fox News that McCabe was not telling the truth that House Speaker Paul Ryan and Rep. Devin Nunes knew about the investigation.
  46. On Wednesday, AP reported soon after Comey was fired, McCabe instructed the FBI to come up with a backup plan to protect evidence in its Russia investigation in case other senior officials were dismissed.
  47. Mueller, appointed eight days after Comey was fired, participated in the discussion of preserving information on Trump associates and possible coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign.
  48. On Wednesday, Trump attacked McCabe again, quoting Fox Business host Lou Dobbs in a tweet: “Andrew McCabe gave absolutely no evidence of any threat to substantiate his ABSURD claim.”
  49. Trump also retweeted Fox New commentator Geraldo Rivera on McCabe saying, “A cabal of unelected bureaucrats-angered & upset that @realDonaldTrump fired their boss-whispered about overthrowing him.”
  50. On Monday, hundreds of activists in Washington D.C, Chicago, New York City, and dozens of other cities protested Trump’s declaration of a national emergency, calling it an abuse of power.
  51. On Monday, a coalition of 16 states, including California and New York, sued Trump over his use of a national emergency to siphon billions of dollars for his border wall, saying Congress controls spending.
  52. On Tuesday, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg returned to the Supreme Court bench, reportedly looking strong. Friends say she is walking more than a mile a day and working out with her trainer twice a week.
  53. On Tuesday, Justice Clarence Thomas called for the Supreme Court to reconsider New York Times v. Sullivan, the landmark 1964 First Amendment ruling making it hard for public officials to win libel suits.
  54. Thomas, writing only for himself as part of an opinion saying the court had correctly turned down a case of a Bill Cosby accuser, said the decision had no basis in the Constitution.
  55. On Tuesday, Trump again attacked fact checkers, tweeting, “the Washington Post is a Fact Checker only for the Democrats,” adding for Republicans, “for your all time favorite President, it is a Fake Fact Checker!”
  56. On Tuesday, Covington Catholic student Nicholas Sandmann, 16, and his parents filed a defamation lawsuit against WAPO for $250 million alleging the paper failed to verify the context of the video.
  57. The lawsuit alleged, as a result, Sandmann has faced threats, bullying, and damage to his reputation, adding “[The Post] intended to harm Nicholas because he was a white, Catholic boy wearing a MAGA hat.”
  58. The lawsuit also claimed “The Post ignored basic journalist standards because it wanted to advance its well-known and easily documented, biased agenda against” Trump by impugning his supporters.
  59. On Wednesday, Trump lent his support, tweeting that passage from the lawsuit and adding, “Covington student suing WAPO. Go get them Nick. Fake News!”
  60. On Sunday, the Guardian reported Brittany Kaiser, the former business development director for Cambridge Analytica, has been subpoenaed by Mueller in the Trump-Russia probe.
  61. Kaiser is the second Cambridge Analytica employee to be questioned by Mueller’s team, following Sam Patten, who struck a plea deal. Kaiser has also testified before the U.K. Parliament in its investigation of Leave.EU.
  62. On Monday, a report released by the U.K. Parliament concluded Facebook knew about the Cambridge Analytica data breach, and “deliberately misled” the committee’s wide-ranging investigation into disinformation.
  63. The report stated: “Companies like Facebook should not be allowed to behave like ‘digital gangsters’ in the online world, considering themselves to be ahead of and beyond the law,” and called for a range of reforms.
  64. On Monday, in a letter to NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre, Reps. Ted Lieu and Kathleen Rice expressed concern about NRA efforts to distance itself from a trip to Moscow in 2015 by high-ranking officials reported in Week 116.
  65. The NRA magazine American Rifleman March edition featured a photo of Speaker Nancy Pelosi and former Rep. Gabby Giffords, a gun control advocate who was shot in 2011, next to an article titled, “Target Practice.”
  66. On Monday, Roger Stone posted a photo of Judge Amy Berman Jackson with her name and what appeared to be the crosshairs of a gun sight near her head, on Instagram.
  67. Stone then deleted the post, and reposted it without the crosshairs, before deleting it again. Stone claimed to WAPO in a text message that the photo had been posted by a volunteer who runs his social media.
  68. Stone then posted a message on Instagram: “The photo has been misinterpreted and in no way did I mean to threaten the judge or disrespect the court. [It] is a random photo selected from the Internet.”
  69. Stone later claimed on InfoWars that the crosshairs was an “occult symbol” and blamed the “fake news” for targeting him. Later Monday, Stone’s attorneys formally apologized for the post in an evening court filing.
  70. On Tuesday, Judge Berman said in a filing she will hold a hearing on Thursday, and Stone must “show cause . . . as to why…his conditions of release should not be modified or revoked” in light of his posts.
  71. On Thursday, Judge Berman ruled Stone may not speak publicly about the investigation or case against him, warning if he violated the full gag order, other than raising money for his defense, he would be sent to prison.
  72. Stone had claimed to be under severe emotional and financial strain, saying, “I’m sorry that I abused your trust,” and “I’m heartfully sorry,” adding, “the “lapse of judgment was an outgrowth of the extreme stress.”
  73. When the judge pressed Stone for names of his volunteers, he mentioned Enrique Tarrio, the leader of the far-right Proud Boys group who sat behind Trump at his speech this week in Miami.
  74. A NYT analysis found Trump has publicly attacked people and groups related to federal inquiries into his campaign’s contacts with Russians nearly 1,200 times, including 361 attacks on the special counsel alone.
  75. The attacks have come through tweets, official speeches, rallies, and during news media interviews and other press events, and are part of Trump’s efforts to beat back the investigations.
  76. On Tuesday, NYT reported in addition to the public efforts to attack federal investigations, in the past two years, Trump has had numerous other previously unreported attempts to scuttle the investigations.
  77. Trump called acting attorney general Matt Whitaker and asked whether Trump ally Geoffrey Berman, U.S. attorney for the SDNY, could be put in charge of the investigation into hush money payments.
  78. Whitaker, who had privately told associates part of his role was to “jump on a grenade” for Trump, knew he could not do it because Berman had already recused himself. Shortly after, Trump soured on Whitaker.
  79. Whitaker told the House Judiciary Committee in Week 117 that Trump had never pressured him over investigations. Trump responded to the Times reporting, saying “There’s a lot of fake news out there. No, I didn’t.”
  80. In July 2017, Trump allies Reps. Matt Gaetz and Jim Jordan came up with a strategy of going on the offensive to make Mueller appear deeply unfair and politically biased, and started to investigate the investigators.
  81. The two called for a second special counsel. Rep. Nunes, chair of the House Intelligence Committee, opened investigations into highly sensitive government investigative files, including part of the Russia inquiry.
  82. In April 2018, Trump brought in Rudy Giuliani, known to be a television attack dog, as part of an aggressive public relations campaign to undermine the credibility of both Mueller and the DOJ.
  83. On Wednesday, Trump tweeted, “The Press has never been more dishonest than it is today. Stories are written that have absolutely no basis in fact,” adding, “they are totally out of control.”
  84. Trump also tweeted related to the NYT reporting, “The New York Times reporting is false. They are a true ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE!
  85. On Wednesday, NYT publisher A. G. Sulzberger said in a statement, “In demonizing the free press as the enemy… Trump is retreating from a distinctly American principle…that previous occupants of the Oval Office fiercely defended.”
  86. Sulzberger also said, “As I have repeatedly told President Trump face to face, there are mounting signs that this incendiary rhetoric is encouraging threats and violence against journalists at home and abroad.”
  87. On Wednesday, WAPO reported Christopher Paul Hasson, a Coast Guard lieutenant and white nationalist, was arrested after federal investigators found a cache of weapons and ammunition for planned terrorism.
  88. Prosecutors said Hasson was obsessed with neo-fascist and neo-Nazi views. Hasson called for establishing “a white homeland” and said, “I am dreaming of a way to kill almost every last person on the earth.”
  89. Hasson had been amassing supplies and weapons since at least 2017, and had put together a spreadsheet of targets including high-profile Democrats and cable TV hosts on CNN and MSNBC.
  90. Hasson’s list included Speaker Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rep. Maxine Waters, Sen. Kamala Harris, and Sen. Cory Booker — all of whom Trump has publicly attacked.
  91. Hasson compiled the spreadsheet after internet searches: “what if trump illegally impeached,” “best place in dc to see congress people,” “where in dc to congress live,” “civil war if trump impeached,” and “social democrats usa.”
  92. Hasson, who worked at Coast Guard headquarters in Washington D.C. since 2016, had been studying the 1,500-page manifesto of right-wing terrorist Anders Behring Breivik, who killed 77 people in Norway.
  93. On Thursday, Joe diGenova, a frequent Fox News guest, told Laura Ingraham on her podcast, “we are in a civil war,” adding “and as I say to my friends, I do two things — I vote and I buy guns.”
  94. After tweeting about the cases of Nick Sandmann and Jussie Smollett, Trump and the regime remained silent on Hasson and his plot to kill prominent Democrats and journalists for days.
  95. On Friday, press secretary Sarah Sanders said there was no need for Trump to tone down his rhetoric, saying he is “typically one of the first people to condemn the violence,” and the media blames him.
  96. On Friday, when asked by reporters if he thought his rhetoric played a role in Hasson’s planned attacks, he responded, “No, I don’t,” adding, “I think my language is very nice.”
  97. Trump also said “it’s a very sad thing when a thing like that happens,” but did not condemn Hasson. Trump claimed he would get a full briefing on the case later in the day, although the arrest occurred on Feb 15.
  98. Later Friday, Trump tweeted “Fake News is so bad for our Country!,” quoting a derogatory cartoon of CNN host Wolf Blitzer which called him a “DESPERATE FARCE!”
  99. On Friday, former RNC chair Michael Steele said, “Why would we be surprised that a self-proclaimed nationalist would not speak out against a self-proclaimed white nationalist?” adding: “These are his people.”
  100. On Tuesday, WAPO reported the Office of Government Ethics ruled that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross violated his ethics agreement by inaccurately reporting he sold all stock, including shares of BankUnited.
  101. In a letter, Emory Rounds, director of the OGE, wrote, “Therefore, OGE is declining to certify Secretary Ross’s 2018 financial disclosure report.” Observers called the move highly unusual.
  102. On Tuesday, Politico reported according to 800 pages of emails provided by watchdog group American Oversight, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao met at least 10 times with people referred by her husband, Senate Leader Mitch McConnell.
  103. Chao met with politicians and business leaders from Kentucky in response to requests from Senate Leader McConnell’s office. Some attendees benefited from the meetings, including receiving infrastructure grants and state funds for a highway project.
  104. On Tuesday, Politico reported House and Senate Democrats said the Trump regime tried to remove Sandra Bruce, acting Education Department inspector general, over an investigation of Secretary Betsy Devos.
  105. Bruce was asked to reconsider an investigation into DeVos reinstating the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools. When she said no, Trump named a department deputy to replace her, but later reversed.
  106. On Tuesday, deputy press secretary Lindsay Walters, the only White House spokesperson other than Sarah Sanders to work for Trump since he took office, announced she would depart in April to join a public relations firm.
  107. On Wednesday, CNN reported after Trump’s private complaints, White House officials have begun preliminary discussions about finding a replacement for Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats.
  108. Reportedly, Trump spent the holiday weekend at Mar-a-Lago venting about Coats over his Congressional testimony and his statements contradicting Trump on North Korea. Trump denied the rift to reporters.
  109. On Wednesday, when asked by reporters about the regime’s push to decriminalize homosexuality around by world led by Richard Grenell, the U.S. ambassador to Germany, Trump responded, “I don’t know.”
  110. On Wednesday, BuzzFeed reported although Trump had tweeted that he ordered FEMA cut off disaster aid to wildfire victims in California in Week 113, a FEMA spokesperson said, “We never got any such directive.”
  111. On Wednesday, Jessica Denson, a former Trump campaign staffer, filed a class action lawsuit seeking to invalidate all nondisclosure and nondisparagement agreements campaign staffers were forced to sign.
  112. On Wednesday, NYT reported according to a White House memo dated February 14, the regime is preparing to convene a climate panel as a way to question the science of climate change.
  113. The 12-member committee will include a White House adviser, William Happer, a climate denialist, and will be part of the regime’s efforts to justify rolling back Obama-era regulations to protect the environment.
  114. On Wednesday, Politico reported Bill Wehrum, Trump’s top air pollution regulator, previously worked extensively with the power industry to coordinate a strategy to take on Obama-era regulations.
  115. Politico obtained 26 pages of briefing materials distributed to a secretive group, including some of the largest coal-burning utilities in the country. Wehrum represented the group while at the firm Hunton & Williams.
  116. Funders of the group included Duke Energy, Southern Co., and AEP. Wehrum made $2.1 million from his partnership share in the group in his last year alone. He now has access to high-level EPA officials.
  117. A government report published this week revealed Trump’s EPA filed a Pesticide Emergency Exemption to allow various pesticides, including sulfoxaflor, on millions of acres of grain and cotton across 18 states.
  118. The Center for Biological Diversity condemned the decision, saying, “spraying 16 million acres of bee-attractive crops with a bee-killing pesticide in a time of global insect decline is beyond the pale,” saying the spray is “very highly toxic” to bees.
  119. On Tuesday, the House Oversight Committee released a report based on internal White House documents and whistleblowers’ accounts, revealing the Trump regime planned nuclear sales to Saudi Arabia.
  120. Key Trump regime players, including then NSA Michael Flynn, pushed a plan to sell nuclear power plants in the months after the inauguration, despite objections from the National Security Council.
  121. White House lawyers also opposed the plan citing concerns that the transfer of highly sensitive U.S. nuclear technology violated laws to prevent the transfer of nuclear technology that could be used for a weapons program.
  122. The report cited continued discussions as recently as last week in an Oval Office meeting with Energy Secretary Rick Perry, along with NSC and State Department officials, and a dozen nuclear industry chief executives.
  123. The report also cited one power plant manufacturer who could benefit is Westinghouse Electric, a subsidiary of Brookfield Asset Management, which provided Jared Kushner the refinancing for 666 Fifth Avenue.
  124. On Friday, Bloomberg reported Kushner Cos. is in talks with federally-owned lenders, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, to seek financing for its biggest purchase in a decade.
  125. Kushner Cos. discussed $1.15 billion of financing to purchase apartments in Maryland and Virginia. At the time Kushner took on a role in the White House, the company had roughly $500 million from the lenders.
  126. Kusher claimed to be walled off from Kushner Org. The Federal Housing Finance Agency is run by Trump appointee Joseph Otting, who formerly was the CEO of a small bank founded by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
  127. On Friday, prosecutors began presenting evidence to a closed-door grand jury in Washington D.C. on whether former interior Secretary Ryan Zinke lied to the department’s inspector general’s office last year.
  128. The case involved the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes’ effort to run a gambling facility in Connecticut. MGM Resorts International, a competitor, launched a lobbying effort to oppose the plan.
  129. The tribes allege Zinke did not grant their application due to political pressure. The department IG launched an investigation, which was later referred to the DOJ after Zinke allegedly lied to them.
  130. On Friday, Trump nominated Kelly Knight Craft, who currently serves as U.S. ambassador to Canada, as U.N. ambassador, to fill a vacancy left by Nikki Haley after Nauert dropped out earlier in the week.
  131. Craft is the wife of Kentucky billionaire coal baron Joe Craft, who donated $1 million to Trump’s inauguration. Both served on the finance committee for Trump’s inaugural, and are donors to Speaker Mitch McConnell.
  132. On Monday, NBC News reported with William Barr’s confirmation as AG, Rosenstein will likely be stepping down in three weeks. Rosenstein has defended the Mueller probe and DOJ from Trump and the GOP.
  133. On Wednesday, CNN reported AG Barr is preparing to announce as early as next week the completion of Mueller’s Russia probe, with Barr planning to submit a confidential summary to Congress soon after.
  134. The preparations are the clearest indication to date that Mueller is nearing the end of his team’s two-year investigation. It is unclear the scope of what will be sent by Barr to Congress, and what will be made public.
  135. On Friday, a senior Justice Department official said, despite reporting from multiple media outlets, the report will not be delivered next week. Instead, DOJ officials expect to receive a report from Mueller in March.
  136. On Wednesday, House Oversight Committee chair Elijah Cummings said Michael Cohen would testify before his committee February 27 on topics including Trump’s debts and payments to influence the 2016 election.
  137. The House Oversight hearings will be public and not cover matters related to Russia. Cohen will also appear in private deposition-style interviews next week with the House and Senate Intelligence Committees.
  138. On Wednesday, Bloomberg reported after the 2016 election, Deutsche Bank considered extending the maturity of about $340 million in loans to Trump to 2025, over fear he might default while in office.
  139. Members of the bank’s management board, including then Chief Executive Officer John Cryan, were concerned about the impact on the bank’s reputation if Trump defaulted while in office.
  140. The loans under consideration included $125 million for Trump National Doral Miami resort which matured in 2023, as well as a $170 million for Trump Hotel DC and a loan against a Chicago tower, both due in 2024.
  141. In the four years leading up to the election, Trump borrowed $620 million from Deutsche Bank, while other banks had stopped doing business with him as a result of multiple bankruptcies.
  142. On Tuesday, Microsoft revealed it has uncovered another Russian government-affiliated operation targeting prominent think tanks that have been critical of Russia. It is the second operation identified in six months.
  143. Microsoft identified spear-phishing attacks tied to the Fancy Bear hacking group, a unit of Russian military intelligence that interfered in the 2016 U.S. election. The attacks took place in the last three months of 2018.
  144. On Wednesday, Politico reported that data from Twitter and other social media platforms, as well as interviews with experts, suggests a “sustained and ongoing” disinformation attack on Democratic presidential candidates.
  145. The attacks from foreign state actors is a mix of organized and organic. The four main targets are 2020 candidates Sens. Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders, and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke.
  146. On Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said in his annual “state of the nation” speech that there is a “deep state” in the U.S. government working against Trump.
  147. Putin also made one of his most explicit threats yet after the U.S. pulled out of the the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, saying Russia will target the U.S. if it deploys nuclear missiles in Europe.
  148. On Thursday, CNN reported the Senate Intelligence Committee wants to question Moscow-based businessman David Geovanis who has longstanding ties to Trump, and who worked for Oleg Deripaska.
  149. Geovanis helped organize a 1996 trip to Moscow for Trump related to Trump Tower Moscow. A video on that trip shows Trump, Geovanis, Howard Lorber, and Bennett LeBow meeting with Moscow’s deputy mayor.
  150. Lorber was identified in Week 116 as one of the Trump family associates who spoke with Donald Jr. from a blocked number around the time of the June 9 Trump Tower meeting.
  151. On Thursday, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan ripped the Republican National Committee for going to extraordinary lengths to shield Trump from a primary challenge, saying, “I’ve never seen anything like it.”
  152. On Thursday, the New Jersey state senate passed a bill that would keep Trump off the 2020 ballot unless he releases his tax returns. The bill is expected to pass the Assembly and be signed by Democratic governor.
  153. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 30 state assemblies have introduced similar legislation, but failed to enact it. New Jersey would become the first to pass it.
  154. On Thursday, the North Carolina election board voted unanimously to order a new election, throwing out the result in which Republican Mark Harris won by 905 votes, citing widespread ballot tampering.
  155. An email released to the public on Thursday shows that Harris requested a meeting with the operative, McCrae Dowless, in March 2017. Harris admitted he was mistaken under oath and called for a new election.
  156. Republicans led by Trump have been alleging widespread voter fraud, including an investigation in NC reported in Week 116 of noncitizens — NC district 9 is the first actual voter fraud, and led by Republicans.
  157. On Thursday, the Miami Herald reported a federal judge ruled that federal prosecutors, under then Miami U.S. Attorney Alex Acosta, broke the law by concealing a plea agreement from more than 30 victims of Jeffrey Epstein.
  158. The judge said Acosta allowed Epstein to quietly plead guilty to two state prostitution charges, rather than face federal sex trafficking laws. Epstein’s accomplices were not charged, and many have not been identified.
  159. The judge did not throw out the plea agreement, but gave federal prosecutors 15 days to confer with attorneys for the then-underage victims to come up with a settlement.
  160. On Friday, press secretary Sanders said the White House is “looking into” Secretary of Labor Acosta’s role in the Epstein case, adding, “my understanding is it is a very complicated case.”
  161. On Friday, House Democrats introduced a resolution to block Trump’s national emergency declaration. House Speaker Pelosi said the House would vote on the measure Tuesday where it is likely to pass.
  162. In the Senate, Sen. Susan Collins said she would vote to block Trump, and a handful of other may do the same over various concerns. Trump told reporters Friday, “Will I veto it? 100 percent.”
  163. On Friday, Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello told the National Governors Association that Trump refused to meet with him over hurricane relief, saying, “There is no movement. We really need action right now.”
  164. On Friday, the White House denied that Trump refused to meet with Rossello, telling The Hill, “We continue to have ongoing discussions with the governor about recovery efforts.”
  165. Rossello said FEMA “has been slow, they’ve put obstacles in Puerto Rico that they haven’t placed anywhere else in the United States,” and said he hoped to meet with Trump when governors visit the White House Monday.
  166. On Friday, Reuters reported that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has paid out $7.7 billion in trade aid to farmers so far to offset the impact of Trump’s tariffs. Trump has pledged aid of up to $12 billion.
  167. On Friday, Politico reported that Trump aides have privately expressed concern that he will get outfoxed by Kim Jong Un in their second summit to be held February 27 and 28.
  168. Concern has been voiced from hawkish NSA John Bolton, and by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who has expressed frustration to allies about the lack of diplomatic progress, and worry that Trump will be outmaneuvered.
  169. The regime has sought to downplay expectations. Aides are concerned that similar to the first summit, Trump will publicly declare victory, and make big concessions in exchange for empty promises of denuclearization.
  170. On Friday, Italian MPs demanded information on claims that Putin had agreed to a request from Matteo Salvini’s far-right League party to covertly finance his Euro election campaign.
  171. According to reporting made in Italy’s L’Espresso magazine, payments would be concealed behind what appeared to be a diesel fuel deal to an Italian oil company.
  172. On Friday, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was condemned by top members of Israel’s Congress, AIPAC, and AJC, for forming a deal with the far-right, racist Otzma Yehudit party.
  173. On Friday, Patriots owner and longtime Trump friend Robert Kraft was charged as part of a wide-ranging investigation into prostitution and suspected human trafficking in Jupiter, Florida.
  174. On Friday, when asked by reporters about Kraft, Trump said he was “surprised to see it,” but that Kraft “has denied it.” Trump also called it a “very sad” situation.
  175. On Friday, Bloomberg reported New York County District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. has put together a criminal case against Paul Manafort which could be filed quickly if Trump gives him a presidential pardon.
  176. Vance is reportedly ready to file an array of criminal charges including tax evasion and violations of state laws requiring companies to keep accurate books and records — without triggering double jeopardy protections.
  177. On Friday, in a court filing, Mueller’s team denied Stone’s claim that federal investigators tipped off CNN ahead of the raid, saying the indictment was ordered to be automatically unsealed upon Stone’s arrest.
  178. The filing says the indictment was posted on the office’s website shortly after the FBI raid: “public release of the indictment shortly after the defendant’s arrest was consistent with the order sealing the indictment.”
  179. Mueller’s team also refuted that deputy Andrew Weissmann’s initials were in the metadata of the indictment, saying, “metadata merely shows when the document was created, not when the document was released.”
  180. On Friday, NYT reported Cohen met with federal prosecutors in Manhattan last month and offered new information on the Trump Organization and Imaad Zuberi, a donor to the inaugural committee.
  181. Cohen, who worked for the Trump family business for a decade, provided information on insurance claims the company filed by the Trump Organization. The nature of the irregularities of the claims was unclear.
  182. Zuberi, who donated $900,000 to Trump’s inaugural committee, around the time wrote a $100,000 check to Cohen who was building a consulting business. A spokesperson for Zuberi said the check was not cashed.
  183. On Saturday, Mueller’s sentencing memo for Manafort to Judge Amy Berman Jackson, submitted to the court late Friday, was publicly released. The redacted memo was 25 pages, with over 800 pages of attachments.
  184. While the sentencing memo did not make a specific recommendation on sentencing, prosecutors noted that federal guidelines call for a sentence of 17 to 22 years in prison.
  185. Mueller’s team called Manafort a “hardened” criminal who “repeatedly and brazenly violated the law,” from “garden-variety crimes,” to “more esoteric laws” involving foreign lobbying.
  186. Manafort lied to “tax preparers, bookkeepers, banks, the Treasury Department, the Department of Justice National Security Division, the FBI, the Special Counsel’s Office, the grand jury, his own legal counsel, Members of Congress, and members of the executive branch.”
  187. Mueller’s team also noted Manafort lied to investigators after pleading guilty and agreeing to cooperate, revealing “a hardened adherence to committing crimes and lack of remorse.”
  188. On Saturday, in his annual letter to shareholders, Warren Buffet faulted Trump with taking credit when the economy does well, calling it “beyond arrogance,” and lamented the dearth of deals with Trump’s global policies.
  189. The condominium board of a building named ‘Trump Place’ on 120 Riverside Blvd. in Manhattan voted Thursday to have his name removed from the facade, the second building to do so in the past four months.

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Copyright Amy Siskind, February 23, 2019

SILVER SPRING, MD — FEBRUARY 21: In this undated handout photo provided by U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland, the collection of weapons and ammunition federal agents say they found in Christopher Paul Hasson’s Silver Spring apartment are shown in Maryland. A member of the U.S. Coast Guard, 49-year-old Hasson, was arrested on weapons and drugs violations and is accused of plotting a major terror attack against Americans.