May 17, 2018


“Everyone was hiring ‘Trump whisperers’ in 2017 — every single hanger-on in the Trump orbit made a fortune in 2017. -- A Republican consultant.

"I don't understand what kind of environment you're working in when that would be acceptable and then you can come to work the next day and still have a job and that's all I have to say about it," -- Meghan McCain asking how White House aide who mocked her father still has a job Opposition.

The United States is today led by insular, self-satisfied men who demand that other nations fulfill their commitments to the United States while denying that the United States has reciprocal commitments of its own. In their hands, American exceptionalism is a danger to the world. -- Peter Beinart in The Atlantic

Why have no REPUBLICAN US SENATORS stepped forward and expressed their Absolute F’ing outrage about these attacks on AMERICAN HERO JOHN MCCAIN by a WH staffer? It is despicable and the cowardice is nauseating.” — GOP strategist Steve Schmidt on Twitter


Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross says he told Chinese officials that there is no “mad cow” issue with U.S. beef, nothing that both he and President Trump both eat lots of that beef and “there are no signs of mental instability.” -- Toronto Star.

“These are soulless people working for a soulless President. The President of the United States doesn’t have a purpose higher than himself, and therefore the people who work for him do not have a higher purpose.” -- Conservative Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin

“I agreed to receive a copy of what is now referred to as ‘the dossier.’ I reviewed its contents. The allegations were disturbing, but I had no idea which if any were true. I could not independently verify any of it, and so I did what any American who cares about our nation’s security should have done." -- In his new book, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) confirms that he gave a controversial dossier about Donald Trump to former FBI chief James Comey

The so-called leaks coming out of the White House are a massive over exaggeration put out by the Fake News Media in order to make us look as bad as possible. With that being said, leakers are traitors and cowards, and we will find out who they are! -- Donald Trump on Twitter pointing out that the anonymous quotes coming out of the White House are invented “so-called leaks” by the hostile reporters of the “Fake News Media.” At the same time, he denounces the leakers as “cowards” and “traitors.”

“We have to work among ourselves in Europe to defend our European economic sovereignty. Do we want to be a vassal that obeys and jumps to attention?” -- Bruno Le Maire, the French finance minister, dismissing Trump’s warning to EU companies to start winding down their operations in Iran.

This is a violation of the Emoluments Clause. A big one. See you in court Mr. Trump -- Norm Eisen, the top ethics official under former President Obama, accusing Donald Trump of violating the Constitution's emoluments clause in response to a recent report that a major development project linked to Trump in Indonesia is expected to be supported by $500 million from the Chinese government.



1.  Andy Borowitz: Trump Orders Replica Nobel Peace Prize to Display on His Desk

Donald J. Trump has ordered a replica of the Nobel Peace Prize and is displaying it prominently on his desk in the Oval Office, the White House confirmed on Wednesday.

The replica of the Nobel medallion is mounted on what the White House described as a “tasteful black-velvet background” with an engraved plaque reading, “Donald J. Trump, 2018 Winner.”

At the daily White House briefing, the press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, said that Trump “took the initiative” to award himself the Peace Prize rather than “waiting around” for the Nobel committee, in Oslo, to bestow it on him.

“What with his successes in Syria, Iran, North Korea, and whatnot, the President already knows he’s a lock for the Nobel,” she said. “It’s just a formality at this point."


2. Majority of the Facebook ads bought by Russians were designed to inflame race-related tensions.

More than half of the Facebook ads created by the Kremlin-backed Internet Research Agency (IRA) to influence Americans during and after the last presidential election made references to race, according to a new analysis by USA Today. The news organization reviewed every one of the 3,517 IRA ads released to the public earlier this week by the House Intelligence Committee (IRA), and its reporters discovered that nearly 2,000 of the ads referred to race — accounting for some 25 million impressions from targeted Facebook users.

The IRA’s use of divisive racial ads ramped up as Election Day approached in 2016, as well as after Trump was elected. In fact, the vast majority of ads from September 2016 to May 2017 focused on race in one way or another. And while it should be noted that many IRA ads did very poorly with Facebook users, the race-related content performed better on average.

The 3,500 ads released by the House Intelligence Committee are also only a fraction of the IRA’s overall Facebook activity, as it shared around 80,000 posts on Facebook using its accounts and pages, as well.

In February, Special Counsel Robert Mueller indicted 13 Russians on charges of attempting to meddle in the 2016 election, including several people associated with the Internet Research Agency. The indictment alleged that the Russians’ efforts were often intended to help Trump defeat Clinton. All told, the IRA’s operation is estimated to have targeted as many as 126 million U.S. Facebook users between 2015 and 2017.

3. Trump Flipped an Entire Party’s Core Beliefs

Reversing one of the basic assumptions of politics, Trump has shown you can radically change a political party’s core beliefs and brand overnight. Only six years ago, the GOP’s Romney-Ryan ticket was preaching the evils of Russia, the virtue of free trade, the sin of deficits. With no debate and little resistance, Trump has flipped an entire party’s core beliefs. Turns out, voters are far more malleable than we thought — and candidates and presidents can change minds overnight. 

We always assumed party affiliation was a prerequisite for leading a political party, and some political experience a must. Trump was a liberal Democrat and he hijacked conservatism. The hunger for something different is unmistakable, partly because a big chunk of voters have had it with conventional politics and politicians. No reason another exotic Republican — or third party, or even a surprise Democrat — couldn’t do the same.

4. Bloomberg Warns of ‘Epidemic of Dishonesty’

 Americans are facing an “epidemic of dishonesty” in Washington that’s more dangerous than terrorism or communism.

That’s according to former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who warned in a commencement speech on Saturday at Texas’ Rice University that “an endless barrage of lies” and a trend toward “alternate realities” in national politics pose a dire threat to U.S. democracy.

Although he derided Donald Trump as “a con” and a “dangerous demagogue” before his election, in an interview before the speech Bloomberg refused to comment specifically on the Republican president’s troubled history with the truth. Fact checkers have determined that Trump has made hundreds of false and misleading statements since entering the Oval Office.

“This is bigger than any one person. It’s bigger than any one party,” he said in the interview.

In the speech, Bloomberg evoked the legend of the nation’s first president, George Washington, who as a boy said he could not tell a lie when asked if he cut down a cherry tree.

“How did we go from a president who could not tell a lie to politicians who cannot tell the truth?” Bloomberg asked Rice graduates and their families gathered in Houston.


5. It’s What We Don’t Know That Worries Trump Allies

One thing is true of all major political scandals: What we know in the moment is but a tiny, obscured, partial view of the full story later revealed by investigators.

What makes the Trump-Russia drama all the more remarkable. Forget all we don’t know. The known facts that even Trump’s closest friends don’t deny tell a damning tale that would sink most leaders. 

The undisputed known knowns about Trump, Russia and his associates are damning and possibly actionable. But the known unknowns of how much more Robert Mueller knows that is publicly unknown is what spooks Trump allies most.


Senator Cryin’ Chuck Schumer fought hard against the Bad Iran Deal, even going at it with President Obama, & then Voted AGAINST it! Now he says I should not have terminated the deal - but he doesn’t really believe that! Same with Comey. Thought he was terrible until I fired him! -- Donald J. Trump on Twitter


#BeBest -- Chuck Schumer on Twitter, replying with a helpful reminder of the anti-ing initiative launched earlier this week by First Lady Melania Trump, that encouraged children to “choose their words wisely and speak with respect and compassion” on social media.



"It would be very helpful for the public to witness a discussion between Mr. Giuliani and me concerning the facts of the case, etc. I am willing to participate on any network provided both sides are provided a fair shake. I am also willing to do it on 12-hrs notice." -- Michael  Avenatti tweeted Tuesday.


“I don’t debate people like him. I’m not going to give him all that time on television. What did he ever run for? What public service did he ever do? I’m going to debate him? This guy is a clown. He wants to do a debate like Billy Jean King and Bobby Riggs?”-- Rudy Giuliani



In April, the Commerce Department announced a seven-year ban on US companies selling goods and services to ZTE. That was in response to ZTE’s violation of an agreement that the US and ZTE had come to in March 2017, after the telecoms company was caught shipping materials to Iran and North Korea.-- Vanity Fair


“President Xi of China, and I, are working together to give massive Chinese phone company, ZTE, a way to get back into business, fast. Too many jobs in China lost,” -- Trump tweeted Sunday afternoon.

7. From MEDIA MATTERS (They watch Fox News so you don't have to)

Military analyst on Fox advocates for torture: "It worked on John [McCain]. That's why they call him 'Songbird John'"

Democrats on the House intelligence committee released the entire cache of Russian Facebook and Instagram ads placed on Facebook.. It’s quite the document dump -- PDF files of all 3,519 ads including targeting information with each ad. The accompanying analysis makes clear that the same Russians whom Mueller’s office indicted for attempting to aid the Trump campaign are responsible for the ads.

Fox News repeatedly claims information obtained by torture led to Osama bin Laden’s death. It didn't. The 2014 Senate torture report revealed that the US collected key intelligence on bin Laden’s location without torture.

CRTV's Mark Levin: Democrats' opposition to nominee for CIA director over her history with to torture "is why we'll get hit again."

Alex Jones likens Rep. Maxine Waters to a rabid dog.

Shep Smith reports on anti-Semitic Fox contributor Robert Jeffress, who spoke at the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem.Smith: "One of the men who gave a prayer before the ceremony in Jerusalem today says he believes all Jews are going to hell"

Fox & Friends hosts blame dead Gazans for being shot by Israeli snipers. Steve Doocy: "The Palestinians were warned they could get hurt if they approached the fence, and they did"

Video: All of Trump's in-person TV interviews in the past year have been with sycophants.

Fox's botched reporting about a deceased border patrol agent makes it into Trump's speech to police officers.

8. From the Late Shows

Weekend Update on Trump Securing Release of American Prisoners - SNL:

John Oliver - Michael Cohen's Essential Consultants:

Michael Avenatti’s Sexy Media Blitz - The Opposition w/ Jordan Klepper:

9. Late Night Jokes for Dems

Rudy Giuliani said that lately Trump has only been eating half the bun on his burgers to be healthier. And also because Trump knows that if he grabs a full bun, he’s going to owe it $130,000. -- Jimmy Fallon

We want to send our best to Melania Trump, who’s doing well after having kidney surgery. When the doctor said she could go home in a few days, she was like, “Let’s not rush it.” -- Jimmy Fallon

A new poll has found that a majority of Americans say that driverless cars will have a big impact on the elderly. Specifically, if they don’t cross the street fast enough. -- Seth Meyers

In other Trump news, according to a new article, most weeknights Donald Trump and Fox News host Sean Hannity have a bedtime phone call with each other. Just when you thought Trump couldn’t be more in love with Fox News. You just know they end every phone call like, “You hang up first, Sean.” “No, you hang up first.” “Well, you didn’t hang up either!” -- James Corden


Three American citizens were released today after being held prisoner in North Korea for as long as two years. But when they found out Donald Trump is the president, they immediately fled back to North Korea. -- Conan O’Brien

Three American hostages detained in North Korea have been set free. Melania Trump asked, “Hey, if you’re freeing hostages, can I go too?” -- Conan O’Brien

It’s pretty crazy that Stormy Daniels’ money could be traced all the way back to Vladimir Putin. In response, Putin said, “Donald can spend allowance however he wants.” -- Jimmy Fallon

President Trump tweeted today that a date and place have been set for his meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. And for their safety, they decided to have the meeting in a place where you wouldn’t expect to find either of them — in the treadmill section of an L.A. Fitness. -- Seth Meyers

When asked today if he thinks he deserves the Nobel Peace Prize, President Trump responded, “Everybody thinks so, but I would never say it.” Hey, reporters, stop asking him if he thinks he deserves stuff. -- Seth Meyers

This morning, the president went on Twitter to attack the press and in the process, he seemed to admit he believes that any negative news coverage about him is fake. He wrote, “The fake news is working overtime… 90% of the network news coverage about me is negative (fake).” Wait a second — that means Trump thinks 9 percent of news about him is positive. How is that possible? It can’t be, can it? -- James Corden

Trump went on to say that he only gets his news from credible places like “Fox & Friends,” Sean Hannity, and of course, -- James Corden

Yesterday it was revealed that Donald Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen, who made a $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels, had received half a million dollars from a Russian businessman with ties to Vladimir Putin. This story sounds like a word problem you’d see on a math test: If Michael Cohen received $500,000 from the Russians, but only gave $130,000 to Stormy Daniels, how many years does Michael spend in jail? -- James Corden

Today, Michael Cohen’s lawyers defended him, saying there was nothing illegal about the transaction. The interesting thing is that Michael Cohen is such a bad lawyer that even Michael Cohen doesn’t use Michael Cohen as a lawyer. -- James Corden

10. Europe can no longer rely on US to 'protect' it: Angela Merkel 

Europe can no longer rely on the United States to protect it, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said today, urging the bloc to take its destiny in its own hands. 

"It is no longer such that the United States simply protects us, but Europe must take its destiny in its own hands, that's the task of the future," she said, after US President Donald Trump left traditional allies scrambling by ditching the landmark Iran nuclear deal. Read more at:


11. The Michael Cohen avalanche

Michael Cohen “is potentially more perilous to President Trump than anybody else,” Axios reports.

The saga has it all: a history of shadowy business deals, ties to organized crime figures connected to Russian mafia, hush money payments to an untold number of women, payments from a U.S. company linked to a Russian oligarch — and, now, Mueller’s team is investigating how Cohen monetized his access to Trump.

Bob Mueller has known about the payments to Cohen for months.


12. White House Admits Trump’s Infrastructure Promise Isn’t Happening

Trump promised during the campaign that he would not only work with Democrats but that he would outdo Hillary Clinton’s infrastructure proposals. “Her number is a fraction of what we’re talking about. We need much more money to rebuild our infrastructure,” he announced on the Fox Business Network in 2016. “I would say at least double her numbers, and you’re going to really need a lot more than that.” After the election, Steve Bannon told Michael Wolff — who, at the time, appeared to be jostling for a role as court stenographer — that Trump’s infrastructure initiative would leave a massive imprint upon the physical and political landscape.

As it turned out, we have reprised much of the excitement of the 1930s — presidents demanding the imprisonment of journalists and members of the opposing party, Nazis holding torchlight parades — but no infrastructure bill has materialized. After months of inaction, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced today, “I don’t know that there will be one by the end of the year.” And so the once-fabled infrastructure bill has died a quiet death.

13. Steyer Runs New Ad on Stormy Daniels

Tom Steyer has a new ad highlighting President Trump’s inconsistencies of his story about adult film star Stormy Daniels. Watch it at

14. Trump frees some jailed Americans overseas — but endangers others

In one 24-hour span this week, President Donald Trump managed to do two strangely contradictory things: He won the release of three imprisoned Americans while seeking a nuclear deal with North Korea. But he also likely prolonged the captivity of several other Americans by quitting a nuclear deal with Iran.

Hours before Trump triumphantly welcomed the men released by North Korea early Thursday morning, a relative of two U.S. citizens held in Iran pleaded with Trump not to forget his family amid spiking tensions between the countries.

The contrasting dramas underscore the complex and emotionally wrenching role that prisoners and hostages can play in foreign policy decisions — a dynamic likely to haunt Trump’s presidency as it has those of all his modern predecessors. More than a dozen Americans are believed imprisoned in at least three countries on what human rights advocates call baseless charges. As president, Trump, who considers himself a master negotiator, finds himself bargaining not for real estate but for human lives.

15. Trying for House Gains, Democrats Bless Moderates and Annoy Liberals

In a string of important races across the country, national Democrats have been embracing recruits near the political center, hoping they will give the party the chance to compete in states like Utah and Kansas where a liberal Democrat might stand little chance of winning. About a dozen crucial House races this fall are likely to feature Democratic nominees who are positioned markedly closer to the middle than the national party’s activist base — more than enough to determine control of the House.

16. Highlights from Public Policy Polling’s newest national poll

Donald Trump has one of the worst approval ratings we’ve found for him since he took office this month, with only 39% of voters approving of the job he’s doing to 54% who disapprove. 54% of voters wish Barack Obama was still President, to only 40% who are glad that Trump is.

Trump fares poorly on several basic leadership metrics. 52% of voters characterize him as a ‘liar,’ to 41% who disagree with that description. 57% of voters still want to see his tax returns, to only 38% who are alright with him keeping them private. And just 38% think he has delivered on his core promise to ‘Make America Great Again,’ to 54% who say he has not.

Voters really like the Dream Act. 63% support it, to 24% who are opposed. It has overwhelming support from Clinton voters (79/13) and narrow support from Trump voters (43/40).

Voters really do not like the wall with Mexico. Only 35% support it, to 58% who are opposed.

Only 26% of voters overall want Robert Mueller to be fired in order to bring the Russia investigation to a close, compared to 57% of voters who are opposed to that. Among Trump voters though 49% do want Mueller fired, to only 27% against getting rid of him.

17. Mueller’s Probe is Even More Expansive Than It Seems

FBI agents working for special counsel Robert Mueller allegedly detained a lawyer with ties to Russia who is closely associated with Joseph Mifsud, the shadowy professor who claimed during the election that Russia had ‘dirt’ on Hillary Clinton.

The revelation was made in a book co-written by that lawyer, Stephan Roh, and set to be published next month. "The Faking of RUSSIA-GATE: The Papadopoulos Case" is the latest in a stream of books aiming to capitalize on the chaos of this political moment. But it sheds new light on the expansive nature of Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s election interference and possible ties between President Donald Trump’s campaign team and Moscow. It also highlights Mueller’s interest in answering one of the probe’s biggest outstanding questions: whether the campaign knew in advance that Russia planned to interfere in the election.

18. Trump Voters And Detractors Have Widely Different Views On Mueller, McCain

A focus group of six Trump voters and six Clinton voters outside of Milwaukee, Wis. on Tuesday night laid bare the deep rifts between Trump's backers and his detractors, with his voters steadfastly repeating the president's claims that the investigation is a political "witch hunt."

Perhaps the most vivid illustration of Trump's impact on partisanship, though, came not in the discussion about Mueller but in a routine word-association exercise. Asked to think of a single word or phrase to describe Arizona Sen. John McCain, who is currently gravely ill with cancer, the group's Clinton voters called the onetime POW "strong" and "a hero." But those who most vociferously supported Trump, who has famously clashed with McCain, referred to the 2008 GOP presidential nominee as "petty," "old," "a turncoat.”

19. Women sweep to victory in House primaries

Tuesday was a a good night for female candidates. In Pennsylvania, the state’s all-male congressional delegation is poised to gain several female additions, as women swept to House Democratic primary victories in a number of Democratic-leaning and contested districts.

Tuesday’s contests were dominated by crucial primaries that will play an important role in the battle for control of the House next year. Pennsylvania was ground zero in that effort: Democrats are hoping a newly redrawn congressional map and a spate of retirements will lead to a handful of pickups in November and get the party closer to the 23 seats it needs to regain control of the chamber.

20. Republicans rebuff Trump push to cut spending as party seeks to limit midterm losses

“Republican lawmakers are pushing back against President Trump’s request for Congress to cut $15 billion from programs including children’s health insurance and Ebola disaster relief, saying the vote could make them vulnerable to Democratic attacks in this year’s midterm campaign.

A vote for the spending cuts could be helpful for House Republicans facing primary challenges from the right, but other Republicans, some facing tough midterm races, are balking, raising questions about whether the House will be able to pass the administration’s spending cut request at all.

21. Russia favored Trump in 2016, Senate panel says, breaking with House GOP

The Senate Intelligence Committee has determined the U.S. intelligence community was correct in assessing Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election with the aim of helping then-candidate Donald Trump, contradicting findings House Republicans reached last month.

“We see no reason to dispute the [intelligence community’s] conclusions,” the committee’s chairman, Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), said Wednesday in a joint statement with its vice chair, Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), who added: “Our staff concluded that the ... conclusions were accurate and on point. The Russian effort was extensive, sophisticated, and ordered by President Putin himself for the purpose of helping Donald Trump and hurting Hillary Clinton.”

The Senate committee’s findings clash with the House GOP’s determination that the intelligence community did not follow its own best practices in concluding the Kremlin favored Trump in the election. The dispute — and the questions it now raises about which record of events is most accurate — could complicate the Republican Party’s messaging heading into the 2018 election season.


1. Carl Bildt: Trump’s decision to blow up the Iran deal is a massive attack on Europe

Few ideas are as holy in President Trump’s international liturgy as the concept of national sovereignty. His National Security Strategy speaks of a “beautiful vision—a world of strong, sovereign, and independent nations,” and the Trump himself is keen to repeat some form of “sovereignty” as often as he can. Sovereignty to Trump seems to mean that the United States can do whatever it wants without taking the interests of others into account. It’s the ultimate embodiment of “America first.” In reality, other actors have the right to their sovereignty, which is what the National Security Strategy proudly proclaims.

But Trump’s decision to try to blow up the nuclear deal with Iran is, in its execution, nothing less than a massive assault on the sovereignty of others — most notably that of Europe. The president has now directed maximum economic sanctions to be applied. But with few exceptions (Boeing is the one of significance), these sanctions don’t really affect American business or activities. They have already, in one way or the other, been blocked from business with Iran.

Instead, the brunt of the sanctions offensive directly affects business in Europe. For instance, in a tweet, the new U.S. ambassador to Germany was quick to give orders to German companies on how they should behave. This is nothing less than a massive assault on the sovereignty of European states and the European Union. They are deprived of their right to decide on their policies and actions by brutal dictates from a foreign — and allegedly friendly — country. This is utterly unacceptable from a European point of view, as well as a violation of the preaching of Trump himself. It relegates Europe to just abiding by and implementing policies with which it profoundly disagrees.


2. Paul Waldman: Trump drinks from the swamp

The truth is that Trump has indeed changed the culture of corruption in Washington, in two main ways.

First, he has made it significantly worse. There have been no alterations to the usual paths for the wealthy and powerful to exercise influence; instead, Trump has greased the wheels. If you're in the administration and you aren't someone who used to represent the corporations you're now regulating (and you'll return to after your stint in "public" service), then at the very least you're ideologically devoted to the principle of enhancing corporate power.

To take one vivid example of these two types: You're no doubt familiar with how scandal-plagued EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has held on to his job because Trump is pleased with his aggressive action to remove any impediment to corporations polluting as much as they please. What you may not know is that if Trump does fire him, the person who would take over is his deputy Andrew Wheeler. Wheeler's job before he became second-in-command at the agency responsible for protecting the environment? He was a coal lobbyist.

The second way Trump has changed the culture of corruption has been to make sure that he and his are the ones wetting their beaks. I'm reminded of something Adam Serwer wrote after former Washington mayor Marion Barry died: While he was widely (and correctly) viewed as a deeply corrupt figure, "Barry didn't bring corruption to D.C. He changed who benefited from it." Likewise, Trump has enabled his people to benefit from the corruption that already existed. Some of the hottest influence-peddlers in town are now not those who understand Capitol Hill or the way agencies operate, but those who have a personal connection to Trump.

And that's where all these payments to Cohen seem to come in. It's clear that there's more to this story, but it seems obvious that one way or another, these companies — and that mysterious Russian oligarch — thought they could get what they wanted from the government by going through Cohen. And they had plenty of money to spend.

All that being said, while you might not believe it, in many ways Washington is less corrupt than ever. While there's an occasional bribery scandal, the old-fashioned kind of corruption — the briefcase full of cash exchanged for a key vote — is far less common now than it was in earlier days. Disclosure laws, a larger news media sniffing around, and electronic record-keeping have combined to make it more difficult to put a congressman in your pocket the way a railroad baron used to do.

But as the saying goes, the real scandal is what's legal. Or at least that was the real scandal, until Donald Trump came to town.


3. Maureen Dowd: From Ice Cube to Black Cube

We have crossed into a surreal dimension where we are limited only by our imaginations. The American identity and American values are fungible at the moment. The guardrails are off.

Our brains are so scrambled that it’s starting to make sense that none of it makes sense.

For example, it’s dissonant that cybercop Melania strides into the Rose Garden to introduce her “Be Best” plan to help at-risk children at the same time her cyberbully husband unleashes his cruel Be Worst plot to slash the popular children’s health benefits program.

But in the Trump era, sure, why not? Everything is plausible.

Consider how the president lavished praise on Gina Haspel, the evidence-destroying torture queen, tweeting, “There is nobody even close to run the CIA!” At the same time, White House aide Kelly Sadler shrugged off qualms about Haspel from torture survivor John McCain, blithely noting, “He’s dying anyway.”

White House most foul. Everything is plausible — even the jackbooted Dick Cheney rearing his poisonous head to call for the reboot of Torture Inc.

Everything is plausible — even Rudy Giuliani continuing his punch-drunk performance by referring to Avenatti as a “pimp.”

Finally, we learned from “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” on Tuesday that Woody Harrelson and Mike Pence were pals in college.

Now, that’s implausible.


4. Bess Levin: Is China Straight-up Bribing Donald Trump?

When Donald Trump announced on Sunday night that he was riding to the rescue of Chinese electronics maker ZTE, more than a few people, including those who work for him, were shocked. For one thing, Trump has long-claimed that China “is raping us” through unfair trade practices, and stealing American jobs. For another, the U.S. and Beijing are currently locked in tense negotiations to avoid a protracted trade war, thanks to the president’s decision to slap Chinese imports with a vast array of tariffs. For yet another, just a month prior, Trump’s own Commerce Department had banned shipments of American technology to ZTE for seven years, saying that the company violated American sanctions against countries including Iran and North Korea and lied about punishing employees for doing so. As a result, ZTE halted major operating activities—an outcome you’d have expected to please the president, considering he’d just imposed aluminum and steel tariffs on “national security” grounds, and ZTE was threatening national security. So it was a bit odd to see Trump pull a complete 180, suddenly insisting that the company and its 75,000 Chinese jobs must be saved, though to be fair, tweeting “Look, China just pumped $500 million into a Trump Organization project so I had to do them a solid” might not have gone over so well.

Oh, that’s right—according to multiple news outlets, the president’s total about-face on China came just 72 hours after the developer of a theme park outside Jakarta, known as MNC Lido City, with whom the Trump Organization has an agreement to license its name, signed a deal to receive $500 million in Chinese government loans, in addition to another $500 million from government banks. According to Agence France-Presse, the Trump Organization will rake in almost $3.7 million in licensing and consulting payments from Lido, along with another project in Bali. The company will also earn management fees, and be “eligible for additional unspecified incentives.” (Upon entering the White House, Trump turned over day-to-day management of the family business to his sons Donny Jr. and Eric, but chose not to divest himself financially from the company.)

Robert Weissman, president of the advocacy group Public Citizen, called the turn of events “stunning.” “They perpetually find new things to surprise me,” he said. “The idea of the president intervening in a law-enforcement matter to satisfy a foreign government is extraordinary. And it’s extraordinary because it doesn’t happen. Opening that door threatens the integrity of all corporate law enforcement. The Chinese government seems to have figured out a way to manipulate President Trump,” Weissman added. “It’s exactly why this anti-bribery clause of the Constitution is common sense.”

5. Rick Wilson: Rudy Giuliani and Donald Trump: This Will End Badly. And Probably Soon.

Like a bloated, portly fake billionaire rolling off a hooker after a hot 45 seconds of passionate sex, Donald Trump’s ardor for Rudy Giuliani seems to have cooled.

If the White House leaks are any barometer, it sounds more and more as if Donald wants Rudy to get his money off the nightstand and the hell out of his room at the No-Tell-Motel. This is what happens when you work for Trump, and Rudy is old enough, crafty enough, and knows Trump well enough to have known better.

Trump’s hiring of my old boss is a triumph of today’s Trump-right media bubble, where nothing matters but the coverage on Fox & Friends, Hannity, Sinclair stations’ nightly Two Minutes of Hate, and on the nut-site constellation that comprises conservative “news” sites. Trump didn’t hire Rudy for his skills as a litigator, or as a warrior in the high-speed low-drag social-media world of today. He was hired to break shit and make loud noises, and he’s damn good at it. Unfortunately for Rudy, that probably won’t be enough to save him from the Trump curse.

Trump has been mostly unable to hire and retain top-flight litigators because he destroys everyone around him. His record of stacking former staffers like cordwood as they are either fired, humiliated, shamed, permanently scarred, forced to cut off a finger by the Yakuza, morally compromised, or moved into the Witness Protection Program will go down in presidential history. It’s no secret that he’s a spectacular liar at all times and on all subjects, leaving his legal team constantly wary they have a client who combines a stubborn streak and a self-destructive nature with an endless capacity to lie to them about his marital, financial, and political lies.

However, like so many others who should know better, Rudy staked his legacy on one last waltz with Trump, and may soon learn why no one else wanted the job.

Trump follows a clear pattern with his employees, hangers-on, camp followers, and six-degrees-of-separation edge cases who trail him like chunks of matter kicked off some fecal comet hurling across the political firmament. The pattern is abundantly evident at this point, and it’s one Rudy should realize applies to everyone in Trump’s sphere of crapulous influence.


6. Masha Gessen: Taking Children from Their Parents Is a Form of State Terror

Hostage-taking is an instrument of terror. Capturing family members, especially children, is a tried-and-true instrument of totalitarian terror. Memoirs of Stalinist terror are full of stories of strong men and women disintegrating when their loved ones are threatened: this is the moment when a person will confess to anything. The single most searing literary document of Stalinist terror is “Requiem,” a cycle of poems written by Anna Akhmatova while her son, Lev Gumilev, was in prison. But, in the official Soviet imagination, it was the Nazis who tortured adults by torturing children. In “Seventeen Moments of Spring,” a fantastically popular miniseries about a Soviet spy in Nazi Germany, a German officer carries a newborn out into the cold of winter in an effort to compel a confession out of his mother, who is forced to listen to her baby cry.

A few hours after Putin took his fourth oath of office, in Moscow, Attorney General Jeff Sessions addressed a law-enforcement conference in Scottsdale, Arizona. He pledged to separate families that are detained crossing the Mexico-U.S. border. “If you are smuggling a child, then we will prosecute you and that child will be separated from you,” Sessions said. The Attorney General did not appear to be unveiling a new policy so much as amplifying a practice that has been adopted by the Trump Administration, which has been separating parents who are in immigration detention from their children.

The practice, and Sessions’s speech, are explicitly intended as messages to parents who may consider seeking asylum in the United States. The American government has unleashed terror on immigrants, and in doing so has naturally reached for the most effective tools.


7. George F. Will: Trump is no longer the worst person in government

The oleaginous Mike Pence, with his talent for toadyism and appetite for obsequiousness, could, Trump knew, become America’s most repulsive public figure. And Pence, who has reached this pinnacle by dethroning his benefactor, is augmenting the public stock of useful knowledge. Because his is the authentic voice of today’s lickspittle Republican Party, he clarifies this year’s elections: Vote Republican to ratify groveling as governing.

Last June, a Trump Cabinet meeting featured testimonials offered to Dear Leader by his forelock-tugging colleagues. His chief of staff, Reince Priebus, caught the spirit of the worship service by thanking Trump for the “blessing” of being allowed to serve him. The hosannas poured forth from around the table, unredeemed by even a scintilla of insincerity. Priebus was soon deprived of his blessing, as was Tom Price. Before Price’s ecstasy of public service was truncated because of his incontinent enthusiasm for charter flights, he was the secretary of health and human services who at the Cabinet meeting said, “I can’t thank you enough for the privileges you’ve given me.” The vice president chimed in but saved his best riff for a December Cabinet meeting when, as The Post’s Aaron Blake calculated, Pence praised Trump once every 12 seconds for three minutes: “I’m deeply humbled. . . . ” Judging by the number of times Pence announces himself “humbled,” he might seem proud of his humility, but that is impossible because he is conspicuously devout and pride is a sin.

There will be negligible legislating by the next Congress, so ballots cast this November will be most important as validations or repudiations of the harmonizing voices of Trump, Pence, Arpaio and the like. Trump is what he is, a floundering, inarticulate jumble of gnawing insecurities and not-at-all compensating vanities, which is pathetic. Pence is what he has chosen to be, which is horrifying.

8. NY Times Editorial: Trump’s Shadowy Money Trail

This week it has become clearer that questions about Mr. Trump’s finances, and those about whether his campaign cooperated with Russian hacking of the 2016 election, need to be asked in the same breath.

The golf writer James Dodson said last year that during a visit to a Trump golf course in 2013, Eric told him of his family company’s financing: “Well, we don’t rely on American banks. We have all the funding we need out of Russia.”

Around the time Donald Trump said goodbye to American banks, he said hello to Mr. Cohen, a lawyer whose résumé, one might have expected, would have screamed, “Stay away!” to a legitimate businessman.

From at least 1999, according to a recent Times report, Mr. Cohen had dealings with Russian mob figures and began finding business deals in, and with people from, Russia and the former Soviet Union. By 2007, Mr. Cohen was working for the Trump Organization as a fixer and deal maker.

Even during the 2016 campaign, Mr. Cohen pursued plans for a Trump Tower in Moscow, coordinating with Felix Sater, a felon with ties to Russian mobsters who had worked on other deals with Mr. Trump.

At the moment, Americans are lucky to have Robert Mueller, the special counsel, examining all of this. Mr. Mueller was appointed after Mr. Trump fired the F.B.I. director James Comey because of his frustrations with the Russia investigation. Mr. Mueller has been looking at Mr. Cohen’s affairs and records from the Trump Organization. And one question that Mr. Trump’s lawyers say Mr. Mueller wants to ask the president is what communication did he have with Michael D. Cohen, Felix Sater and others, including foreign nationals, about Russian real estate developments during the campaign.

Russians and cash — they’ve been a part of Mr. Trump’s life for years, and now they’re elements of the investigation into whether his campaign conspired with Moscow to corrupt American democracy. Mr. Trump’s affection toward the Russian president has led many to ask, “What does Putin have on Trump?” Maybe the ledgers will tell.


9. Jonah Shepp: Trump’s Iran-Deal Exit Has Raised the Risk of War, Even Faster Than Expected

One quality Netanyahu has in common with Trump’s national-security adviser John Bolton is a fervent desire for war with Iran, with the explicit goal of overthrowing the Islamic Republic. Neither man believes that Iran can be trusted, reasoned with, or welcomed into the international community under any circumstances as long as it remains under clerical rule, and both openly thought the Obama administration was stupid to think otherwise. Netanyahu has been threatening war with Iran continually for nearly a decade; Bolton has been advocating war for at least as long. Both men have egged Trump on to cancel the deal.

Critics of the Trump administration’s approach to Iran like to complain that it offers no alternative to the deal. This is, strictly speaking, incorrect. High-ranking officials within this administration have been crystal clear for some time about the alternative they have in mind: namely, war and regime change. Now, the neoconservative Washington Free Beacon reports that the administration is working on plans to foment revolution in Iran after it reimposes crippling sanctions, suggesting that it is looking for ways to achieve regime change without violating Trump’s isolationist campaign promises by starting another foreign military adventure.

For armchair generals like Bolton who dream of Tehran in flames, an Israel-Iran war might have some appeal as another way to achieve their objective without the pesky need of selling the American people on yet another open-ended war. In that case, however, the question the administration must answer is this: What’s their plan for if and when Netanyahu gets in over his head and says he needs our help?


10. Jonathan Chait: Trump Has Now Broken Every One of His Economic Populist Promises

Donald Trump ran for president as an economic populist. This fact has been largely forgotten, buried by the flurry of bizarre and outrageous actions, and activists on both sides have had little reason to bring it up. Conservatives have pushed the administration to forget its unorthodox gestures and follow Paul Ryan’s lead. Progressives have emphasized the racist and sexist nature of Trump’s appeal. But Trump’s ability to distance himself from his party’s economic brand formed a decisive element of his appeal. Voters actually saw Trump as more moderate than any Republican presidential candidate since 1972. And he has violated every one of his promises.

Trump repeatedly promised universal health care. Republicans as a whole had insisted since 2009 that they would replace Obamacare with something better, that did not deny anybody anything, but rather than fuzzing up this promise, like most of his party, Trump leaned heavily and explicitly into the benefits. “Everybody’s gotta be covered. This is an un-Republican thing for me to say … I am going to take care of everybody, I don’t care if it costs me votes or not. Everybody’s going to be taken care of, much better than they’re taken care of now … The government’s going to pay for it.” Instead, he never proposed an alternative to Obamacare, never compromised with Democrats on the issue, and instead sabotaged the existing program. After falling for several years, the uninsured rate is climbing again.

Trump promised to do a lot of un-Republican things to give resources and influence to blue-collar Americans, which would have threatened his party’s power brokers. Many of these promises were feasible if Trump actually wanted to follow through on them. Instead, the only promises he has kept are the ones that put money in the pockets of Trump and his cronies.


11. Juan Williams: Trump's dangerous lies on Iran

Martin Luther King Jr. once said there is nothing in the world more dangerous than sincere ignorance.

Well, sincere ignorance had a banner day last week when President Trump unilaterally withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal.

A CNN/ORC poll taken shortly before Trump’s decision found that a majority of Americans — 63 percent — wanted the U.S. to stay in the deal. But get this: 62 percent of Americans believed Iran had violated its terms. 

To me, the second result is the more alarming.

That poll is proof of sincere ignorance of the deal on the part of nearly two-thirds of Americans. They are under the spell of Trump’s distortions.

The president’s partisan attacks on the Democrats who negotiated the deal — President Obama and former Secretary of State John Kerry — have left people with the sense that this is nothing more than one more political fight among many.

Trump has turned national security into just another political act in the Trump reality show.


12. DER SPIEGEL Editorial: Time for Europe to Join the Resistance

Trump's renown is rooted in American hero myths. Trump says that women like Carla Bruni lust after him, something that women like Carla Bruni vehemently deny. Trump says he is exorbitantly rich, yet Trump ran himself into the ground with his casinos to the point that he was 295 million dollars in debt in 1990. He was bailed out by the banks and by his father. The greatest myth, though, has to do with Trump's alleged negotiating expertise. This too is nonsense. Trump was never proficient in the art of the deal. As a businessman, he paid far too much for substandard properties and has shown no patience as a politician. He isn't curious. His preparation is nonexistent. Strategy and tactics are both foreign to him. Trump is only proficient in destruction. And that's what he does.

He backed out of the Paris climate agreement while promising a "better deal for America." But nothing came of the promise, neither a plan nor meaningful talks. In Trump's Washington, the only thing that matters is dismantling the legacy of his predecessor, Barack Obama. Trump also promised to improve Obama's health care plan, but the details are complex and bothersome. So Trump destroyed Obamacare and has done nothing to replace it.

Now, he is playing the same game on the world stage with the Iran nuclear deal. Trump refers to it as "the worst deal ever," which is why he has now pulled the U.S. out of it. The negotiations that resulted in the deal in 2015 were a masterpiece of international diplomacy, but there are no plans in place to launch new talks.

Trump wants to bring the Iran regime to its knees with sanctions, but domestic political considerations in Tehran make it unlikely that the country will buckle. Leaders who demonstrate weakness in Iran are discarded. It seems more likely that they will close ranks. Iran-supported groups like Hezbollah are likely to pour fuel on the fire of conflicts in Yemen or Lebanon - as close as possible to Israel's border. Iran presumably won't pursue the path of extreme escalation, since such a path wouldn't be beneficial, but it will likely cease allowing observers into the country, stop providing information on its uranium enrichment activities. It will seek to conceal what the West would like to know.

And what are the benefits of Washington's radical move? There are none. Just chaos where there was once order. Just American capriciousness after decades of stability.

Clever resistance is necessary, as sad and absurd as that may sound. Resistance against America.

13. Tom Eblen: 'Tricked by the devil.' They backed Trump. Now, his foreign labor cuts may ruin them.

Eddie Devine voted for President Donald Trump because he thought he would be good for American business. Now, he says, the Trump administration’s restrictions on seasonal foreign labor may put him out of business.

“I feel like I’ve been tricked by the devil,” said Devine, owner of Harrodsburg-based Devine Creations Landscaping. “I feel so stupid.”

Devine said he believed Trump’s America-first promises. But cutting off a good supply of seasonal foreign labor when Americans won’t take those jobs is only hurting American business owners and the U.S. workers they employ, he said.

These workers aren’t immigrants, and there is no path to U.S. citizenship. When their seasonal work is done, they return home. That’s why Devine thinks the Trump administration’s stifling of guest-worker programs has more to do with racism than economics. “I think there’s a war on brown people,” he said.

But what makes him most angry is that Trump’s properties in Florida and New York have used 144 H-2B workers since 2016. “I want to know why it’s OK for him to get his workers, but supporters like me don’t get theirs,” Devine said.

14. Simon Rosenberg: Trump's Iran deal withdrawal is an arrogant rejection of the post-war system America built

President Trump’s decision this week to walk away from the Iran Deal is significant for many reasons — but perhaps most importantly, it is yet another sign that America has lost faith in, and is no longer leading, the global system it imagined and built after World War II.

In a very short time Trump has turned the American presidency from the leader of the post-WWII order into its leading troll. His decision to walk from the Iran Deal this week, a deal negotiated over many years with our closest allies, on a critical post-WWII order achievement — nuclear non-proliferation — was another powerful sign of Trump’s arrogant disdain for well-intentioned efforts by the nations of the world to prevent a return of the savagery of previous eras.

What remains most remarkable about Trump’s reckless approach to the world is that it has generated almost no debate here at home. We are at the point now in the Trump presidency in which responsible leaders of both parties have a deep and clear obligation to foster a sustained debate about the path Trump has chosen. As durable and powerful and successful as the American-led post-WWII order has been, a sustained attack on it from its putative leader could eventually — and even rapidly — bring it down. And if our leaders cannot find it within themselves to debate that, then perhaps America no longer deserves the global leadership role it so richly earned for so long.