Solarbird (solarbird) wrote,

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good morning, it's 4 april 2017

Maybe it would save time if we just tried to figure out who in the Trump administration is not working for Russia.

The big story was Carter Page, of course. "Trump campaign advisor Carter Page targeted by Russian spies," "Trump campaign adviser Carter Page met with Russian spy in 2013," and the core story, "A Former Trump Adviser Met With A Russian Spy." Buzzfeed is the one who found it and got a confirmation before the White House changed all answers to no comment. So it's pretty solid, and apparently, enough that you're seeing articles about how "Trump recycles campaign fodder to distract from Russia." I'm sure you saw the Clinton memes yesterday.

"Blackwater founder held secret Seychelles meeting to establish Trump-Putin back channel." This one's been denied - not the meeting, which happened, but what it was about. "Top Obama Adviser Sought Names of Trump Associates in Intel" - maybe so, but keep in mind: not illegal. Or, as far as anyone's been able to tell, even considered inappropriate. See also the "Dwindling Odds of Coincidence" on this whole thing.

On the other hand, not all Russians are created equal - Yahoo News reports that the "White House pulled out of meet and greet with ‘conservatives’ favorite Russian’ over suspected mob ties." Pressure must be building if they're telling the Russian mob to cheese it.

"EXCLUSIVE: Controversial Trump Aide Sebastian Gorka Backed Violent Anti-Semitic Militia" has video footage of Gorka doing exactly that. It doesn't confirm he's a member (as seems pretty fucking likely at this point) but best buds? ABSOLUTELY.

The Los Angeles Times continues its four-part condemnation of the Trump administration with Part II: "Why Trump Lies." Meanwhile, "Trump allies in short supply as DC finds out trusting him is ‘like putting your faith in a human IED’."

Turkey continues to be interesting, as per "Messy web of ties, some to Trump, in Turkish mogul's case."

In corruption news, we have this little bonbon - that whole "trust" sham got even shammier - shamwowier - with quiet changes made a little while ago. Now "Trump Can Pull Money From His Businesses Whenever He Wants — Without Ever Telling Us."

Supreme Court! "Democrats secure enough votes to block Gorsuch, setting stage for ‘nuclear option'" - some of us would say the nuke was last year, when the GOP not only refused to even give Merrick Garland a hearing, but had several members pledging never to hear any Hillary Clinton nominee, ever. And that this fight is just fallout. Which is what makes "Graham: Dem Filibuster Of Gorsuch Would Mark 'End Of Bipartisanship On Judges'" so very, very contemptible. Even if you take the GOP's definition of bipartisan - they make demands, Democrats concede these demands - it's still grotesque. Also, as per the Boston Globe: "Judge Gorsuch is more dangerous than he appears."

In environmental destruction, I'm proud to note that Washington State "AG Ferguson to Trump: Drag feet on energy efficiency, we'll drag you to court." We're getting ready to sue, so are several other states, but here we are right out in front. "The left and right agree: Fox News destroyed EPA chief Scott Pruitt over climate change" is kind of clickbaity but does demonstrate a deep incompetence. "Trump’s talking points on clean air and energy are stale and Orwellian" and "5 Great News Stories That Prove Trump's Bet on Coal is Wrong" don't have the most depth, but may be of interest. And, of course, "Trump Budget Cuts “Critical” NASA Climate Missions," since at this point pretty much all so-called conservative movements are about stopping scientific discovery at any cost.

And women, of course. "Trump Pulls Back Obama-Era Protections For Women Workers" lets systemic violators of sex discrimination laws back onto the Federal contract teat. And "Donald Trump Defunds Global Maternal Health Organization" on specious grounds. Like, just lying. Go fig.

"Sessions orders Justice Department to review all police reform agreements" is presumed to be a prelude to 'Sessions throws out police form agreements,' as we all expect.

A few miscellaneous stories: "Report: GOP split over border adjustment tax," "Connecticut bill would make weaponized drones legal for cops," and "Report: Chechnya police arrest 100 alleged gays, 3 killed." The latter two would be big stories any other year. Particularly the drones bill. But there y'are. The Connecticut police at least need to make their drone announce "JUSTICE REIGNS FROM ABOVE" before it drops its package bomb.

Finally, "Arab News discontinues Andrew Bowen’s column" just... you need to read it. Trust me.

Good luck out there.

----- 1 -----
Trump campaign advisor Carter Page targeted by Russian spies
By Brian Ross | ABC News | Apr 3, 2017, 7:56 PM ET

Two years before joining the Trump campaign as a foreign policy adviser, New York business consultant Carter Page was targeted for recruitment as an intelligence source by Russian spies promising favors for business opportunities in Russia, according to a sealed FBI complaint.

Page confirmed to ABC News that he is the individual identified as "Male-1" in a 2015 court document submitted in a case involving the Russian spies.

Page told ABC News he cooperated in the case, and felt the Feds "unmasked" him by describing him in January 2015 in a manner that would be known to energy insiders.

"I didn't want to be a spy," he said in an interview early Monday afternoon. "I'm not a spy."

According to the document, the FBI interviewed Page as part of the investigation stemming from the indictment of three Russian men identified as agents of the Russian overseas intelligence agency, the SVR. One of them, Evgeny Buryakov, was operating undercover as an executive in the New York office of a Russian development bank. The Buryakov case resurfaced in headlines last week when President Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner revealed he had met with the head of the same bank. Buryakov was sentenced to 30 months in prison as part of a plea agreement, but he was released from prison over the weekend and is awaiting deportation to Russia.

In the FBI court filings, spy recruiters were overheard speaking with Buryakov about “the attempted use of Male-1 as an intelligence source for Russia,” the court record says. The recruiter says he “promised Male-1 a lot” and told him he would use his “connections in Russia” to “push contracts” his way. “For now, his enthusiasm works for me,” the recruiter says of Page.

Page was never accused during the Buryakov case of having been successfully recruited or of spying.

----- 2 -----
Trump campaign adviser Carter Page met with Russian spy in 2013
Julie Pace | Associated Press | 3 April 2017

A foreign policy adviser to Donald Trump's presidential campaign met with a Russian intelligence operative in 2013 and provided him documents about the energy industry, according to court filings.

The Russian, Victor Podobnyy, was one of three men charged in connection with a Cold War-style Russian spy ring. According to the court documents, Podobnyy tried to recruit Carter Page, an energy consultant working in New York at the time, as an intelligence source. Page is referred to in the filing as "Male-1."

Page briefly served as a foreign policy adviser to Trump's campaign, though he split from the campaign before the election and the White House says the president has no relationship with him. He's among the Trump associates under scrutiny as the FBI and congressional committees investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.

When contacted Monday by The Associated Press, Page said he was not available for comment. He confirmed to BuzzFeed News, which first reported on the filings, that he was "Male-1."

Trump has vigorously denied that he or his associates were in contact with Russia during the election. He's blasted the focus on his possible Russia ties as a "ruse" and has insisted that the real story is the leaking of information to the media and allegations that he and his associates were improperly surveilled by the Obama administration.


The court filings include a transcript of Podobnyy speaking with Igor Sporyshev, who was also charged in the spy ring, about Page.

"I like that he takes on everything," Podobnyy says. "For now his enthusiasm works for me. I also promised him a lot."

Separately, The Washington Post reported Monday that the United Arab Emirates arranged a secret meeting in January between an American businessman supporting Trump and a Russian close to President Vladimir Putin as part of an apparent effort to establish a back-channel line of communication between Moscow and the incoming president.

----- 3 -----
A Former Trump Adviser Met With A Russian Spy
Carter Page told BuzzFeed News that he had been in contact with at least one Russian spy working undercover out of Moscow’s UN office in 2013.
Posted on April 03, 2017, 22:39 GMT
Ali Watkins | BuzzFeed News Reporter

NEW YORK — A former campaign adviser for Donald Trump met with and passed documents to a Russian intelligence operative in New York City in 2013.

The adviser, Carter Page, met with a Russian intelligence operative named Victor Podobnyy, who was later charged by the US government alongside two others for acting as unregistered agents of a foreign government. The charges, filed in January 2015, came after federal investigators busted a Russian spy ring that was seeking information on US sanctions as well as efforts to develop alternative energy. Page is an energy consultant.

A court filing by the US government contains a transcript of a recorded conversation in which Podobnyy speaks with one of the other men busted in the spy ring, Igor Sporyshev, about trying to recruit someone identified as “Male-1.” BuzzFeed News has confirmed that “Male-1” is Page.

The revelation of Page’s connection to Russian intelligence — which occurred more than three years before his association with Trump — is the most clearly documented contact to date between Russian intelligence and someone in Trump’s orbit. It comes as federal investigators probe whether Trump’s campaign-era associates — including Page — had any inappropriate contact with Russian officials or intelligence operatives during the course of the election. Page has volunteered to help Senate investigators in their inquiry.

----- 4 -----
Trump recycles campaign fodder to distract from Russia
Deb Riechmann and Julie Pace, Associated Press
Updated 9:32 am, Monday, April 3, 2017

WASHINGTON (AP) — After weeks on the defensive, President Donald Trump has stepped up his efforts to dispute and downplay revelations stemming from the investigations into the Kremlin's interference in last year's election and possible Russian ties to his campaign associates.

The White House has said the real story is not about Russia — it's about how Obama administration officials allegedly leaked and mishandled classified material about Americans. Trump and his aides have accused former officials of inappropriately disclosing — or "unmasking" — the names of Trump associates whose conversations were picked up by U.S. intelligences agencies.

"Such amazing reporting on unmasking and the crooked scheme against us by @foxandfriends," Trump tweeted Monday morning. 'Spied on before nomination.' The real story."

The White House has not pointed to any hard evidence to support such allegations, and instead has relied on media reports from some of the same publications Trump derides as "fake news."

The truth is buried somewhere in classified material that is illegal to disclose. Here's a look at what the White House believes is real story.

----- 5 -----
Blackwater founder held secret Seychelles meeting to establish Trump-Putin back channel
By Adam Entous, Greg Miller, Kevin Sieff and Karen DeYoung | The Washington Post April 3 at 4:29 PM

The United Arab Emirates arranged a secret meeting in January between Blackwater founder Erik Prince and a Russian close to President Vladi­mir Putin as part of an apparent effort to establish a back-channel line of communication between Moscow and President-elect Donald Trump, according to U.S., European and Arab officials.

The meeting took place around Jan. 11 — nine days before Trump’s inauguration — in the Seychelles islands in the Indian Ocean, officials said. Though the full agenda remains unclear, the UAE agreed to broker the meeting in part to explore whether Russia could be persuaded to curtail its relationship with Iran, including in Syria, a Trump administration objective that would be likely to require major concessions to Moscow on U.S. sanctions.

Though Prince had no formal role with the Trump campaign or transition team, he presented himself as an unofficial envoy for Trump to high-ranking Emiratis involved in setting up his meeting with the Putin confidant, according to the officials, who did not identify the Russian.

Prince was an avid supporter of Trump. After the Republican convention, he contributed $250,000 to Trump’s campaign, the national party and a pro-Trump super PAC led by GOP mega-donor Rebekah Mercer, records show. He has ties to people in Trump’s circle, including Stephen K. Bannon, now serving as the president’s chief strategist and senior counselor. Prince’s sister Betsy DeVos serves as education secretary in the Trump administration. And Prince was seen in the Trump transition offices in New York in December.

U.S. officials said the FBI has been scrutinizing the Seychelles meeting as part of a broader probe of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election and alleged contacts between associates of Putin and Trump. The FBI declined to comment.

----- 6 -----
Messy web of ties, some to Trump, in Turkish mogul's case
Josh Lederman, Associated Press
Updated 5:56 am, Monday, April 3, 2017

WASHINGTON (AP) — A high-flying Turkish-Iranian businessman is busted in Miami, accused of laundering money for Iran. Turkey accuses the prominent American prosecutor of ties to a shadowy group it blames for a failed coup attempt. President Donald Trump fires the prosecutor. Then the businessman hires a former New York mayor close to Trump to help him avoid conviction.

And the case becomes a bitter distraction for two allies that are supposed to be focused on fighting the Islamic State group.

In the year since Reza Zarrab was arrested, his case has grown ever more complex and far-reaching. As Turkey presses the Trump administration to get the charges tossed, an increasingly messy web of connections has come into view, prompting questions about conflicts of interest, Turkish corruption and pro-Turkey lobbying by individuals near the center of Trump's orbit.

On Friday, federal prosecutors raised fresh concerns about a recent trip that former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani made to Turkey to consult with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan about the case. Joining Giuliani was former Attorney General Michael Mukasey.

Both were hired by Zarrab's defense. But oddly, neither is involved in pleading the case in U.S. District Court, leading prosecutors to wonder if the defense is trying to circumvent the regular judicial process by going above prosecutors' heads.

In a letter to the judge, Zarrab's attorneys said what Giuliani and Mukasey are up to "quite frankly is none of the government's business."

----- 7 -----
Trump Can Pull Money From His Businesses Whenever He Wants — Without Ever Telling Us
Previously unreported changes to President Trump’s trust stipulate that it “shall distribute net income or principal to Donald J. Trump at his request.”
by Derek Kravitz and Al Shaw
ProPublica, April 3, 2017, 8 a.m.

When President Donald Trump placed his businesses in a trust upon entering the White House, he put his sons in charge and claimed to distance himself from his sprawling empire. “I hope at the end of eight years I’ll come back and say, ‘Oh you did a good job,’” Trump said at a Jan. 11 press conference. Trump’s lawyer explained that the president “was completely isolating himself from his business interests.”

The setup has long been slammed as insufficient, far short of the full divestment that many ethics experts say is needed to avoid conflicts of interest. A small phrase buried deep in a set of recently released letters between the Trump Organization and the government shows just how little separation there actually is.

Trump can draw money from his more than 400 businesses, at any time, without disclosing it.

The previously unreported changes to a trust document, signed on Feb. 10, stipulates that it “shall distribute net income or principal to Donald J. Trump at his request” or whenever his son and longtime attorney “deem appropriate.” That can include everything from profits to the underlying assets, such as the businesses themselves.


“It’s incredibly broad language,” said Frederick J. Tansill, a family estate and trust attorney outside Washington, D.C., who reviewed the documents for ProPublica.

There is nothing requiring Trump to disclose when he takes profits from the trust, which could go directly into his bank or brokerage account. That’s because both the trust and Trump Organization are privately held. The only people who know the details of the Trump trust’s finances are its trustees, Trump’s son, Donald Jr., and Allen Weisselberg, the company’s chief financial officer. Trump's other son, Eric, has been listed as an adviser to the trust, according to this revised document.

----- 8 -----
EXCLUSIVE: Controversial Trump Aide Sebastian Gorka Backed Violent Anti-Semitic Militia
Lili Bayer | FORWARD | April 3, 2017 | BUDAPEST

As a Hungarian political leader in 2007, Sebastian Gorka, President Trump’s chief counter-terrorism adviser, publicly supported a violent racist and anti-Semitic paramilitary militia that was later banned as a threat to minorities by multiple court rulings.

In a video obtained by the Forward of an August 2007 television appearance by Gorka, the future White House senior aide explicitly affirms his party’s and his support for the black-vested Hungarian Guard (Magyar Gárda) — a group later condemned by the European Court of Human Rights for attempting to promote an “essentially racist” legal order.

Asked directly on the TV interview program if he supports the move by Jobbik, a far-right anti-Semitic party, to establish the militia, Gorka, appearing as a leader of his own newly formed party, replies immediately, “That is so.” The Guard, Gorka explains, is a response to “a big societal need.”

Hungary’s official military, he stressed, “is sick, and totally reflects the state of Hungarian society…. This country cannot defend itself.”


Both the interviewer and Gorka refer to the move to establish the paramilitary outfit as “the Fidesz-Jobbik initiative,” reflecting Gorka’s contention that Fidesz, a larger right-wing party, was quietly backing Jobbik in its effort.

Gorka’s affirmation of support for the far-right militia echoed statements his party posted on its website that same month, backing the Guard’s establishment and referring to it as “the Fidesz-Jobbik initiative,” an apparent attempt by Gorka and his party to somewhat distance themselves from the controversial militia at the same time. In one such statement, a party faction indicated its awareness of the Guard leaders’ extremism, declaring bluntly, “We support the establishment of the Hungarian Guard despite the personalities involved.” Another August statement spoke more generically of “a need for guards” in discussing the new militia’s establishment.


The Guard was well known for its members’ anti-Semitism. Members often attended memorial ceremonies for World War II-era Hungarian fascists. In a 2008 speech, István Dósa, who served within the Guard as a high-ranking captain, referred to Jews as “Zionist rats” and as “locusts” while also discussing “Zionist-Bolshevik genocide” and calling Hungarian Jews “nation-destroyers.”

In his current position as deputy assistant to the president, Gorka, who immigrated to the United States and became an American citizen in 2012, serves as Trump’s chief consultant on counter-terrorism issues, and in particular on fighting jihadists. He has characterized the United States in this effort as a country “at war” and, in a recent interview, reaffirmed Trump’s call during his presidential campaign for surveillance of American Muslim communities. Neither Gorka nor the White House responded to emailed requests from the Forward for a response to the information the video reveals about Gorka’s support for the Guard.

----- 9 -----
Top Obama Adviser Sought Names of Trump Associates in Intel
April 3, 2017 10:13 AM EDT
By Eli Lake | Bloomberg

White House lawyers last month learned that the former national security adviser Susan Rice requested the identities of U.S. persons in raw intelligence reports on dozens of occasions that connect to the Donald Trump transition and campaign, according to U.S. officials familiar with the matter.

The pattern of Rice's requests was discovered in a National Security Council review of the government's policy on "unmasking" the identities of individuals in the U.S. who are not targets of electronic eavesdropping, but whose communications are collected incidentally. Normally those names are redacted from summaries of monitored conversations and appear in reports as something like "U.S. Person One."

The National Security Council's senior director for intelligence, Ezra Cohen-Watnick, was conducting the review, according to two U.S. officials who spoke with Bloomberg View on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss it publicly. In February Cohen-Watnick discovered Rice's multiple requests to unmask U.S. persons in intelligence reports that related to Trump transition activities. He brought this to the attention of the White House General Counsel's office, who reviewed more of Rice's requests and instructed him to end his own research into the unmasking policy.

The intelligence reports were summaries of monitored conversations -- primarily between foreign officials discussing the Trump transition, but also in some cases direct contact between members of the Trump team and monitored foreign officials. One U.S. official familiar with the reports said they contained valuable political information on the Trump transition such as whom the Trump team was meeting, the views of Trump associates on foreign policy matters and plans for the incoming administration.

Rice did not respond to an email seeking comment on Monday morning. Her role in requesting the identities of Trump transition officials adds an important element to the dueling investigations surrounding the Trump White House since the president's inauguration.

Both the House and Senate intelligence committees are probing any ties between Trump associates and a Russian influence operation against Hillary Clinton during the election. The chairman of the House intelligence committee, Representative Devin Nunes, is also investigating how the Obama White House kept tabs on the Trump transition after the election through unmasking the names of Trump associates incidentally collected in government eavesdropping of foreign officials.


Rice's requests to unmask the names of Trump transition officials do not vindicate Trump's own tweets from March 4 in which he accused Obama of illegally tapping Trump Tower. There remains no evidence to support that claim.

----- 10 -----
Dwindling Odds of Coincidence
Charles M. Blow | The New York Times Opinion | APRIL 3, 2017

We are still not conclusively able to connect the dots on the question of whether there was any coordination or collusion between members of Donald Trump’s campaign and the Russians who interfered in our election to benefit him, but those dots do continue to multiply at an alarming rate.

First, and we have to keep saying this because this fact keeps getting obscured in the subterfuge of deflection, misdirection and ideological finger-pointing about what has yet to be proven: It is absolutely clear that the Russians did interfere in our election. This is not a debatable issue. This is not fake news. This is not a witch hunt. This happened.

The investigations, rightly, are seeking to figure out exactly how and to what degree, and those questions obviously depend on knowing more about campaign contacts with Russian meddlers.

We continue to learn of new contacts between people in Trump’s orbit and Russians during the campaign. Last week we learned from The New York Times:

----- 11 -----
Democrats secure enough votes to block Gorsuch, setting stage for ‘nuclear option'
By Elise Viebeck and Ed O'Keefe | The New York Times | April 3, 2017 at 2:56 PM

[Some would say the 'nuclear option' was last year, when the GOP refused to consider or hold hearings on Mr. Obama's nominee for this position, and further pledged to refuse any hearings for any Clinton nominee, should she win.]

Senate Democrats secured enough votes to filibuster the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday, increasing the likelihood that Republicans will change the rules of the U.S. Senate to ensure his confirmation later this week.

Democratic opposition to Gorsuch has been building for days, and four more senators announced on Monday that they would vote against him and support a filibuster of his nomination. That gave Democrats the requisite 41 votes to put up a roadblock and compel President Trump and Senate Republicans to either withdraw Gorsuch’s nomination or change Senate procedure.

With Trump and Republicans vowing that Gorsuch will be confirmed despite any filibuster, a change in how the Senate does business — the so-called nuclear option -- is expected by Friday.

When that happens, the Senate is “headed to a world where you don’t need one person from the other side to pick a judge,” warned Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.). “And what does that mean? That means the judges are going to be more ideological, not less. It means that every Senate seat is going to be a referendum on the Supreme Court … The damage done to the Senate is going to be real.”

Graham’s comments came as the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to refer Gorsuch’s nomination to the full Senate, which is expected to begin debating the pick on Tuesday.

----- 12 -----
Graham: Dem Filibuster Of Gorsuch Would Mark 'End Of Bipartisanship On Judges'
ByMatt Shuham | Talking Points Memo | Published April 3, 2017, 11:19 AM EDT

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) warned Monday that a Democratic filibuster on Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch would mean “the end of bipartisanship on judges.”

Despite three Senate Democrats recently announcing their support for Gorsuch, there aren’t yet the 60 votes necessary for cloture on a filibuster — meaning, according to Graham, that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) would invoke the so-called “nuclear option” and eliminate the option of filibustering Supreme Court nominees altogether via a procedural vote.

“It certainly is the end of bipartisanship on judges,” if Democrats filibuster Gorsuch, Graham told reporters, in an exchange broadcast by MSNBC. “We'll have a partisan vote on every federal judge, at least at the circuit and Supreme Court level. Reaching across the aisle will be a thing of the past. You’ll get more ideological judges. And it makes every open Senate seat a referendum on the future of the Supreme Court. That’s what happens when you do it within one party.”

Asked if McConnell would invoke the nuclear option if faced with a a filibuster, Graham responded, “Oh yeah, we have no other choice."

“We’re not going to have a rule, a tradition in the Senate where they get their judges and President Trump can’t get his,” he said.

[CAN YOU FUCKING BELIEVE THIS GUY AFTER MERRICK? Seriously, how can this shitheel say these things with a straight face?]

----- 13 -----
Judge Gorsuch is more dangerous than he appears
The Boston Globe | Opinion | NANCY GERTNER
April 03, 2017

He sounds so judicial. He talks about neutrality, raising plain vanilla issues about deference to the expertise of administrative agencies. It is boring, hardly likely to engender indignation. He says his decisions are required by the law — not affected by his own background. He is Judge Neil Gorsuch and he may soon be on the Supreme Court. Don’t be fooled. His approach is not neutral, not required by the law, and far out of the mainstream. Quite apart from social issues like abortion or gay rights, his approach could gut health and safety and antidiscrimination laws.

Consider the frozen trucker. He was driving his tractor trailer when the trailer brakes froze. He pulled over and called the dispatcher. Nearly three hours later, after the heat in the truck cabin also failed, the trucker reported that he had lost sensation in his leg, and was having trouble breathing. The dispatcher gave him two options — to drag the trailer with the frozen brakes (which was why he pulled over to begin with) or to stay at peril to his life. He did neither, disconnected the rig, and left. When he learned that the repairman had arrived, he returned, reconnected the trailer and drove to his appointed destination. A week later he was fired.

----- 14 -----
The left and right agree: Fox News destroyed EPA chief Scott Pruitt over climate change
By Amy B Wang | April 3, 2017 | The Washington Post

Any expectation that Scott Pruitt, the new head of the Environmental
Protection Agency, would be able to cruise through an appearance on
“Fox News Sunday” over the weekend was dashed within about 10 seconds
of the interview.

“Good morning, Chris, how are you?” Pruitt asked host Chris Wallace.

That would be the softest question raised in the entire segment.

“Good,” Wallace replied quickly. And then, in the same breath, Wallace
began grilling Pruitt about an executive order President Trump signed
last week to dismantle President Barack Obama's Clean Power Plan, which
had required states to cut down on overall emissions and sought to
limit carbon emissions from power plants.

Wallace noted that the EPA, under Obama's administration, had set a
number of health milestones attainable by 2030 — if the Clean Power
Plan were implemented. Those included 90,000 fewer asthma
attacks, 300,000 fewer missed work and school days, and 3,600 fewer
premature deaths per year.

“Without the Clear Power Plan, how are you going to prevent those
terrible things?” Wallace asked Pruitt.

Pruitt argued that Trump was “keeping a promise to the American people
to roll back regulatory overreach.” He also noted that the Clean Power
Plan was subject to a stay by the Supreme Court; he did not mention
that he, as former Oklahoma attorney general, was one of several
Republicans who had originally filed the lawsuit against Obama's

“The president's keeping his promise to deal with that overreach,
Chris,” Pruitt said. “It doesn't mean that clean air and clear water is
not going to be the focus in the future. We're just going to do it
right within the consistency of the framework that Congress has

Wallace was not having it.

“But sir, you're giving me a regulatory answer, a political answer,”
Wallace said. “You're not giving a health answer.”


“It's one thing to dodge the question, but it's especially weak to hide
behind the success of Obama's initiative to justify erasing it all,”
Symons wrote. “Pruitt’s attempting a complicated trick here — not only
trying to sell a bottle of snake oil, but breaking the bottle during
the pitch.”

Pruitt received an equally dismal review on Breitbart, which called
Trump's new EPA chief out for having “sweated, stuttered, and
floundered” through what ultimately was “an entirely needless
concession to the enemy.”

“I just watched Scott Pruitt, head of the Environmental Protection
Agency, get eaten alive by Fox News Sunday anchor Chris
Wallace,” columnist James Delingpole penned on the right-wing site.
“Not only was it an ugly and painful sight but it was also a very
dispiriting one.”

----- 15 -----
AG Ferguson to Trump: Drag feet on energy efficiency, we'll drag you to court
By Joel Connelly, Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Updated 12:39 pm, Monday, April 3, 2017

Washington and nine other states will haul the Trump Administration into court if it continues to drag its feet on new efficiency standards for a half-dozen major energy-consuming businesses and household appliances.

The states are filing a petition with the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals to review Trump's delay in standards for ceiling fans. They have also served notice with the U.S. Department of Energy of their intent to sue over delays to five other products.

In the works since 2012, the Department of Energy published a final rule just before President Obama left office. It sets new standards for ceiling fans, walk-in coolers and freezers, power supplies, portable air conditioners, commercial broilers and compressors.

But the Trump Administration immediately delayed the effective date by 60 days.

Five days before the new March 20 effective date, it put off the standards until Sept. 30, claiming new U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry "has unable to accomplish the review" during the "original postponement."

"The Trump administration has no legal right to stand in the way of these important efficiency standards: The benefits to consumers and the environment are too important to allow baseless delays," said Attorney General Bob Ferguson.

Playing wing man to Ferguson, as he has in previous legal actions against Trump, Gov. Jay Inslee added: "We will do what we have to at the state level to ensure continued progress to reduce carbon pollution."

[See also New York State: ]

----- 16 -----
Trump’s talking points on clean air and energy are stale and Orwellian
Trump’s administration is the reign of the Mayberry Ministry of Truth.
Updated by David Roberts | Vox | Apr 1, 2017

All politicians discuss their policies in terms meant to appeal to a target audience. When it’s done well and honestly, we call it powerful rhetoric. When it’s more tendentious and inelegant, we call it spin. And when it reaches a point where the language and the policy are completely at odds, we call it Orwellian, after George Orwell’s 1984 and the totalitarian Ministry of Truth it depicted. “War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.”

But Orwellian language only sounds chilling coming from a regime able to enforce obedience. Coming from a stumbling, feckless regime staffed by amateurs and ideologues, it just sounds desperate.

John J. DiIulio Jr., who worked in the George W. Bush White House on faith-based initiatives, famously referred to the Bush administration as “the reign of the Mayberry Machiavellis.”

Thus far, Trump’s administration is the reign of the Mayberry Ministry of Truth — apparatchiks delivering up-is-down talking points with little evident wit or enthusiasm. It is a reflection less of authoritarian confidence than intellectual exhaustion.

Which brings us to this week’s rollout of Trump’s new executive order on energy. It came served on a bed of talking points utterly unmoored from the substance of the policy. Let’s hit a few of the high points.

----- 17 -----
5 Great News Stories That Prove Trump's Bet on Coal is Wrong
Despite what the President says, renewables are on fire.
Karen Hao | Mother Jones | Apr. 3, 2017

President Trump loves to boast that he's going to bring back coal—he said as much again on Monday when he signed his Clean Power Plan executive order. But the economics just don't work in his favor. King Coal has tumbled from its traditional throne as renewable energy prices have plunged and cheap, cleaner natural gas has flooded the markets. From 2000 to 2016, meanwhile, wind-power generation has increased 37-fold (to more than 2,100 trillion Btus), giving rural America a boost in the process. Solar, which accounts for a smaller part of the pie (335 trillion Btus) grew even faster: by a factor of 67! And that doesn't even account for the growth in rooftop solar.

In 2016, the American solar industry provided more jobs than its coal industry did, according to a recent report from the Department of Energy. And despite Trump's coal talk, the Solar Foundation projects another 10 percent increase in solar employment this year.

----- 18 -----
Why Trump Lies
By The Times Editorial Board | The Los Angeles Times | April 3, 2017

Donald Trump did not invent the lie and is not even its master. Lies have oozed out of the White House for more than two centuries and out of politicians’ mouths — out of all people’s mouths — likely as long as there has been human speech.

But amid all those lies, told to ourselves and to one another in order to amass power, woo lovers, hurt enemies and shield ourselves against the often glaring discomfort of reality, humanity has always had an abiding respect for truth.

In the United States, born and periodically reborn out of the repeated recognition and rejection of the age-old lie that some people are meant to take dominion over others, truth is as vital a part of the civic, social and intellectual culture as justice and liberty. Our civilization is premised on the conviction that such a thing as truth exists, that it is knowable, that it is verifiable, that it exists independently of authority or popularity and that at some point — and preferably sooner rather than later — it will prevail.

Even American leaders who lie generally know the difference between their statements and the truth. Richard Nixon said “I am not a crook” but by that point must have seen that he was. Bill Clinton said “I did not have sexual relations with that woman” but knew that he did.

The insult that Donald Trump brings to the equation is an apparent disregard for fact so profound as to suggest that he may not see much practical distinction between lies, if he believes they serve him, and the truth.

His approach succeeds because of his preternaturally deft grasp of his audience. Though he is neither terribly articulate nor a seasoned politician, he has a remarkable instinct for discerning which conspiracy theories in which quasi-news source, or which of his own inner musings, will turn into ratings gold. He targets the darkness, anger and insecurity that hide in each of us and harnesses them for his own purposes. If one of his lies doesn’t work — well, then he lies about that.

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Trump Pulls Back Obama-Era Protections For Women Workers
by Mary Emily O'Hara | NBC News | April 3, 2017

With little notice, President Donald Trump recently signed an executive order that advocates say rolls back hard-fought victories for women in the workplace.

Tuesday's "Equal Pay Day" — which highlights the wage disparity between men and women — is the perfect time to draw more attention to the president's action, activists say.

On March 27, Trump revoked the 2014 Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces order then-President Barack Obama put in place to ensure that companies with federal contracts comply with 14 labor and civil rights laws. The Fair Pay order was put in place after a 2010 Government Accountability Office investigation showed that companies with rampant violations were being awarded millions in federal contracts.

In an attempt to keep the worst violators from receiving taxpayer dollars, the Fair Pay order included two rules that impacted women workers: paycheck transparency and a ban on forced arbitration clauses for sexual harassment, sexual assault or discrimination claims.

Noreen Farrell, director of the anti-sex discrimination law firm Equal Rights Advocates, said Trump went "on the attack against workers and taxpayers."

"We have an executive order that essentially forces women to pay to keep companies in business that discrimination against them, with their own tax dollars," said Farrell. "It's an outrage."

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Donald Trump Defunds Global Maternal Health Organization
Last year the funding helped prevent an estimated 10,000 maternal deaths and 100,000 unsafe abortions.
By Laura Bassett | The Huffington Post | 3 April 2017

NEW YORK ― Days after Melania Trump presented courage awards to 13 women working for gender equity around the globe, President Donald Trump’s administration halted all U.S. grants to the United Nations Population Fund, an international humanitarian aid organization that provides reproductive health care and works to end child marriage and female genital cutting in more than 150 countries.

The State Department invoked the 1985 Kemp-Kasten Amendment, which he said will ensure that “U.S. taxpayer dollars do not fund organizations or programs that support or participate in the management of a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization.” President George W. Bush used the same policy to defund the UNFPA from 2002 to 2008, arguing that the organization’s presence in China constituted participation in the country’s “one child” coercive family planning policy.

The UNFPA does not provide or promote abortions. The organization works in China to make reproductive health program voluntary and rights-based and has advocated against the country’s one-child policy. The Trump administration did not explain exactly how it determined that the UNFPA violated any U.S. law.

“The UNFPA no longer provides any financial support to the Chinese government to support its family planning program. Not a dollar,” said Peter Yeo, vice president of public policy at the United Nations Foundation. “So I’m not quite frankly sure how you make this Kemp-Kasten determination with a straight face.”

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Sessions orders Justice Department to review all police reform agreements
By Sari Horwitz, Mark Berman and Wesley Lowery | April 3, 2017 at 9:16 PM
The Washington Post

Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered Justice Department officials to review reform agreements with troubled police forces nationwide, saying it was necessary to ensure these pacts do not work against the Trump administration’s goals of promoting officer safety and morale while fighting violent crime.

In a two-page memo released Monday, Sessions said agreements reached previously between the department’s civil rights division and local police departments — a key legacy of the Obama administration — will be subject to review by his two top deputies, throwing into question whether all of the agreements will stay in place.

The memo was released not long before the department’s civil rights lawyers asked a federal judge to postpone until at least the end of June a hearing on a sweeping police reform agreement, known as a consent decree, with the Baltimore Police Department that was announced just days before President Trump took office.

Sessions has often criticized the effectiveness of consent decrees and has vowed in recent speeches to more strongly support law enforcement.


“This is terrifying,” said Jonathan Smith, executive director of the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, who spent five years as the department’s chief of special litigation, overseeing investigations into 23 police departments such as New Orleans, Cleveland and Ferguson, Mo. “This raises the question of whether, under the current attorney general, the Department of Justice is going to walk away from its obligation to ensure that law enforcement across the country is following the Constitution.”

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Connecticut bill would make weaponized drones legal for cops
By Amanda Morris, CNN
Updated 10:23 PM ET, Fri March 31, 2017

(CNN)Connecticut police officers would have the ability to use drones equipped with lethal weapons under a bill now pending in the state House of Representatives.

The bill authorizing police use of "deadly" weaponized drones passed 34-7 in the state legislature's joint Judiciary Committee on Wednesday. It was then sent to the House floor for debate and a vote, neither of which has been scheduled.

The law was originally written to ban the use of weaponized drones after a Connecticut resident, Austin Haughwout, attached a handgun and flamethrower to his drone on separate occasions over the past two years. The state government has tried and failed to pass legislation on drones three times since then.

However, the bill includes an amendment that would allow police officers to attach weapons to drones. Committee co-chair Paul Doyle, who helped add the amendment, said law enforcement should be able to use drones, but only as a last resort.

"It's conceivable that it is a positive resolution in an emergency, aka terrorist situation," he told CNN. "If a terrorist is in the middle of an operation, in theory, the drone could kill him."

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Report: Chechnya police arrest 100 alleged gays, 3 killed
2 April 2017 | Associated Press

MOSCOW (AP) -- A respected Russian newspaper says it has uncovered information that police in the southern Russian republic of Chechnya have rounded up more than 100 men suspected of homosexuality and that at least three have been killed.

The Saturday report in Novaya Gazeta said it had confirmed the information with sources in the Chechen police and government, but gave no details.

The report was denied by Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov's spokesman, who suggested there are no homosexuals in the Muslim-majority region. Ali Karimov said, according to the state news agency RIA Novosti, "it's impossible to persecute those who are not in the republic."


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Trump allies in short supply as DC finds out trusting him is ‘like putting your faith in a human IED’
By Kelly McParland | Raw Story | National Post
02 Apr 2017 at 22:20 ET

When a candidate seeks office by running as a renegade opposed to both dominant parties, it shouldn’t come as a shock if he later has trouble finding friends in office. Still, it’s remarkable how quickly Donald Trump has managed to isolate himself in the White House, struggling to find allies among Republicans and Democrats alike. Rather than follow up his successful presidential bid with an effort to heal wounds and suss out supporters for his key initiatives, his 70 days in office have left him both loathed by Democrats – nothing new there – but also caught between two antagonistic wings of the party he nominally represents.

Several of the news organs Trump despises are suggesting he’s edging towards open war with the conservative Republican faction among which his biggest enthusiasts were located. While the White House may dismiss it as Fake News, the reports once again originate in Trump’s own words: specifically, another of the series of intemperate tweets that have consistently gotten him into trouble.

This time he launched an outburst at the Freedom Caucus, the powerful hardliners who were a regular thorn in the side of President Barack Obama, Democrats, moderate Republicans and the party’s entrenched ruling class. If anyone should be Trump people, you’d think, it’s the 30-40 the members of the Freedom Caucus, who make up a small minority of the 246 Republicans in the House of Representatives but have used it to produce influence well beyond their numbers. Instead, the president is threatening to help defeat those who face re-election in next year’s mid-terms.

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Trump Budget Cuts “Critical” NASA Climate Missions
Four Earth-observing satellites are targeted for elimination in the president's budget proposal
By Andrea Thompson, Climate Central | Scientific American | April 1, 2017

In his most recent weekly address, President Trump praised NASA’s “mission of exploration and discovery” and its ability to allow mankind to “look to the heavens with wonder and curiosity.” But left out of his statements was the work NASA does to peer back at our home planet and unravel its many remaining mysteries—a mission targeted for cuts in his administration’s budget outline released earlier this month.

In a budget otherwise scant on specifics, four climate-related NASA satellite missions were proposed for termination, including one already in orbit.

Those missions are aimed not only at helping scientists learn more about key parts of the climate system and how global warming is changing them, but also at practical matters such as monitoring the health of the nation’s coastal waters and providing earlier warnings of drought stress in crops.

The proposed cancellations mesh with statements made by Trump, administration officials and some members of Congress who have argued that NASA should be focused on outer space and leave the job of observing Earth to other agencies. But NASA’s unparalleled experience and expertise in developing new observational technologies and launching satellites makes it a crucial part of the Earth science enterprise, many experts say.

“I don’t see anybody else who could fill that gap,” Adam Sobel, a Columbia University climate scientist, said.

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Arab News discontinues Andrew Bowen’s column
ARAB NEWS | Published — Tuesday 4 April 2017

Arab News regrettably announces that it will discontinue publishing articles by US columnist Andrew Bowen.

The reason behind this decision is the columnist insisting that this newspaper deletes previous articles dating back prior to the recent US election where he was in favor of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

Bowen, a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, has repeatedly requested the removal of these articles stating that this is needed for him “to be cleared” for what he claims to be a possible job with the new Donald Trump administration’s State Department.

Mr. Bowen also insinuated — verbally and in writing — that he will seek the support of influential friends and contacts to help remove the articles.

Arab News possesses all correspondence relating to this matter and its position is that such a request is unprofessional journalistically, particularly given that there were no factual errors or libelous comments that require a redaction or correction.

We wish Mr. Bowen the best of luck in his job application.

Here is a link to Mr Bowen's complete Arab News archive
[ ]

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Report: GOP split over border adjustment tax
By Rebecca Shabad | CBS News | April 3, 2017

Health care reform is not the only issue dividing conservatives; President Trump’s proposed border adjustment tax is apparently causing another split within the GOP.

House Republicans have floated a plan as part of their broad tax overhaul package to impose a tax that would provide tax breaks to U.S. companies that export their products to other countries and would take away tax breaks from those that import products from abroad. The White House suggested it would be one way to pay for the proposed wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

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White House pulled out of meet and greet with ‘conservatives’ favorite Russian’ over suspected mob ties
Michael Isikoff
Chief Investigative Correspondent
Yahoo News | April 1, 2017

The White House abruptly canceled a scheduled meeting in February between President Trump and a high-level Russian central banker after a national security aide discovered the official had been named by Spanish police as a suspected “godfather” of an organized crime and money-laundering ring, according to an administration official and four other sources familiar with the event.

The event had been planned as a meet and greet with President Trump and Alexander Torshin, the deputy governor of the Bank of Russia and a close ally of President Vladimir Putin, in a waiting room at the Washington Hilton before the National Prayer Breakfast on Feb. 2. Torshin, a top official in his country’s central bank, headed a Russian delegation to the annual event and was among a small number of guests who had been invited by Prayer Breakfast leaders to meet with Trump before it began.

But while reviewing the list of guests, a White House national security aide responsible for European affairs noticed Torshin’s name and flagged him as a figure who had “baggage,” a reference to his suspected ties to organized crime, an administration official told Yahoo News. Around the same time, a former campaign adviser alerted the White House that the meeting could exacerbate the political controversy over contacts between Trump associates and the Kremlin, another source familiar with the matter said.

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