These are very unusual times
Brian Stelter calls it “A @nytimes headline for the history books.” He links to the scoop that kicked off our weekend, from Adam Goldman, Michael Schmidt and Nicholas Fandos of The New York Times, F.B.I. Opened Inquiry Into Whether Trump Was Secretly Working on Behalf of Russia (686,000+ shares). You know, “Just some news that the FBI started investigating in spring 2017 whether the President was an actual Russian agent,” as Nicholas Thompson tweets. Or as Kara Swisher puts it, “What would happen if there was a Russian plant at the highest levels of US government and no one cared.” Adds Matthew Garrahan, “This is a stunning headline and these are very unusual times.” To say the least.
Because that’s not all. “And while you’re reading this, remember that last year Trump had a two-hour private meeting with Vladimir Putin with no record kept of what they discussed,” tweets Anthony Zurcher.
And the walls keep closing in
Well, since you brought it up, let’s move on to another weekend bombshell, this time from Greg Miller of The Washington Post, who reports that Trump has concealed details of his face-to-face encounters with Putin from senior officials in administration (168,000+ shares). Michael Birnbaum highlights, “One incredible detail from this @gregpmiller blockbuster: Trump hides what he talks about with Putin from his own advisers, so US intel agencies have to puzzle it out by spying on the Kremlin.” And that presents its own unique challenges. As Rosalind Helderman tweets, “More from @gregpmiller: US officials monitor Kremlin intercepts to try to figure out what happened in meetings between our president and Putin. Intercepts are not always widely discussed because they contain insults about Trump and Kushner. Awkward.”
More breaking news over the weekend, courtesy of Betsy Woodruff at The Daily Beast, Kremlin Blessed Russia’s NRA Operation, U.S. Intel Report Says. She tweets, “NEW: A report produced by a US intel agency, which I reviewed, assessing that Alexander Torshin read in the Kremlin and Ministry of Foreign Affairs on his outreach to the NRA.” “and look at that!” tweets Noah Shachtman.
Meanwhile, this morning CNN’s Jeremy Herb, Pamela Brown and Laura Jarrett report on transcripts that detail how the FBI debated whether Trump was ‘following directions’ of Russia. “First read of the day: And the walls keep closing in,” tweets Carmen Gentile. Daniel Drezner thinks, “Seems to be the biggest reveal here is when a U.S. Rep asks Baker flat-out whether Trump fired Comey at the behest of the Russians and Baker replied ‘I don’t know.’” The “Baker” he’s referring to is James Baker, who was FBI general counsel at the time. Tweets Cristina Maza, “Let this sink in: FBI counsel told congress that he does not know whether President Trump fired former FBI Director James Comey at the behest of the Russian government. It was discussed as a theoretical possibility.”
In a new column for The Washington Post, Max Boot outlines 18 reasons why Trump could be a Russian asset (24,000+ shares). To which Chris Bartlett replies, “Only 18…” OK, then, how about 50 Moments That Define the Trump Presidency, which Jeffrey Goldberg ranks for us over at The Atlantic. Kevin Kruse says, “This is like a box set for a big rock band, where you repeatedly get surprised by old hits you’d completely forgotten about.” Only, of course, a whole lot less enjoyable. As Ed Yong puts it, “What a century these two years have been.”
At POLITICO Magazine, Strobe Talbott, who was deputy secretary of state in the Clinton administration, writes that It’s Already Collusion (23,000+ shares), in what Blake Hounshell calls a “Blistering piece by Strobe Talbott on the latest Russia revelations.” “Strobe Talbot making this argument shows it’s going mainstream,” says Dan Friedman
This next piece begins with what Bianna Golodryga calls “Quite the opening graf from @peterbakernyt: ‘So it has come to this: The president of the United States was asked over the weekend whether he is a Russian agent. And he refused to answer.’” That’s Peter Baker’s latest in The New York Times, Trump Confronts the Prospect of a ‘Nonstop Political War’ for Survival. Amy Fiscus highlights, “‘If one-eighth of 1% of the total budget can prompt the longest government shutdown in American history, then the potential for further clashes over the remaining 99.87% seems considerable’ — a gem tucked in must-read @peterbakernyt on the past few days.”
And in an op-ed for The Washington Post, Greg Sargent writes that Trump is doing immense damage. He has a hidden helper. We’ll give you a hint: The helper’s name rhymes with Smitch SmcConnell.
‘F--ed it all up’
Axios’s Jonathan Swan brings us this story: “You just f---ed it all up”: Trump dressed down Mulvaney in front of congressional leaders, and Sjarif Goldstein says, “I’ll just be sitting here waiting not so patiently for all the op-ed pieces on how @realDonaldTrump shouldn’t have used that language like there were for @RashidaTlaib.”
For slightly tamer language, turn to ‘They screwed the whole thing up,’ in which Anne Gearan, Josh Dawsey and John Hudson of The Washington Post take us inside the attempt to derail Trump’s erratic Syria withdrawal. Tweets Aaron Blake, “John Bolton suggested Friday that media reports about Syria withdrawal discord were false and it was ‘just part of an unfolding plan.’ Turns out that unfolding plan is, in fact, a mess.”
And then there’s this, “In which the @WSJ provides your occasional reminder that when it comes to Iran, John Bolton and Mike Pompeo are batshit insane.” Daniel Drezner links to Dion Nissenbaum’s exclusive for The Wall Street Journal, White House Sought Options to Strike Iran.
Meanwhile, Geoff Ziezulewicz tweets, “An internal investigation into the 2017 Fitzgerald ship collision was never released by the Navy. I got a hold of it, here’s my first story on its findings.” That piece, for the Navy Times, is Worse than you thought: inside the secret Fitzgerald probe the Navy doesn’t want you to read. Walter Russell Mead notes, “The Chinese will be reading this appalling story of failure, incompetence and gross dereliction of duty on a US Navy ship with great attention.”
A new Washington Post-ABC poll finds Americans blame Trump and GOP much more than Democrats for shutdown (34,000+ shares). Scott Clement and Dan Balz of The Post break down the numbers. A new CNN poll also finds that a majority think Donald Trump bears most blame for shutdown (41,000+ shares), reports Jennifer Agiesta.
From Suzanne Ciechalski and Phil McCausland of NBC News, read about federal worker and diabetic Mallory Lorge, who has been forced to ration insulin because of the government shutdown (114,000+ shares).
But then there’s “Canada, the neighbour that gets you, one slice at a time.” Jacquie McNish links to Sarah Smellie’s piece for CBC, Canadian air traffic controllers send pizzas to U.S. counterparts working without pay (128,000+ shares). Tweets Steve Huff, “Wouldn't it be cool to live in a country whose most parodied trait is its citizen's niceness? Pretty sure we'll never know that feeling.”
Support! local! journalism!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Cara Lombardo of The Wall Street Journal reports that Digital First, a hedge-fund-backed media group known for buying up struggling local papers and cutting costs, is planning to make an offer for USA Today publisher Gannett. In other words, “This is terrible news; Digital First is the worst owner of newspapers in America and they will do their best to draw blood from even Gannett’s already desiccated stone,” notes Joshua Benton. Brett Kelman tweets, “Dear @Gannett: I’ve worked for you for 11 years. We do important journalism in many great communities that depend on us. Through thick and thin, I have loved this job. Please don’t sell to these hedge-fund vampires.” Brian Stelter links to the press release, MNG Enterprises Proposes to Acquire Gannett for $12.00 Per Share in Cash.
In better news, After Stephen King Tweeted at a Maine Paper for Cutting Book Reviews, It Gave Readers a ‘Scary Good’ Offer, as Sarah Mervosh writes at The New York Times. “By Sunday, The Press Herald had doubled its goal, with about 200 new subscriptions in less than 48 hours, Lisa DeSisto, chief executive of MaineToday Media, which publishes The Press Herald said.” The point? “support! local! journalism!!!!!!!!!!!!!” urges Aubrey Whelan.
Daniel Boffey of The Guardian is reporting that the EU is preparing to delay Brexit until at least July (17,000+ shares). “Yes, but do the Tories have a penalty taker who can kick Brexit into the long grass (to mix a bunch of metaphors),” wonders Michael Goldfarb. Jay Rayner thinks, “This is going to drive the arch Brexiteers utterly nuts. And frankly, after two years of abuse from accounts hiding behind pseudonyms; tweets which said nothing more persuasive than ‘get over it you lost’, I welcome their distress. #gameon.” But Lisa O'Carroll notes, “EU official to me: Article 50 ‘cannot be paused’. It can only be extended for a number of weeks for ‘technical reasons’ or cancelled. This, to me, is significant as it = EU won't tolerate UK kicking can down road ad infinitum.”
If you want to talk delays, though, this is quite the story: At the Evening Standard, Kate Proctor reports that Labour MP Tulip Siddiq, who is pregnant with her second child, will delay her Caesarean for the Brexit vote. Tweets Joe Murphy, “This is amazing - and, I think, unprecedented. MP Tulip Siddiq has DELAYED THE BIRTH by Caesarean of her son so that she can vote against May’s deal. Top exclusive by @kateproctorES, who highlights the campaign for proxy voting for mums in the Commons.”
Meanwhile, Rebels hatch bill to delay Brexit, reports The Times’ Oliver Wright. As Rupert Myers puts it, “The Brexit Death Star May be fully operational, but there is now a rebel plan for parliament to rescind Article 50.”
Louise Story links to this “Must read from @WSJ ‘From 2013 through 2017, PG&E reported more than 16,000 high-voltage line sections fell—one every three hours.” That’s from the new piece by Russell Gold, Katherine Blunt and Rebecca Smith of The Wall Street Journal, PG&E Sparked at Least 1,500 California Fires. Now the Utility Faces Collapse. Shelby Grad says it’s an “Excellent overview of PG&E disaster, and kind of makes case its inability to deal with changing climate might prove fatal.”
In ‘A 10 isn’t enough’: This UCLA gymnast’s flawless floor routine just broke the Internet, Allyson Chiu of The Washington Post tells the story of gymnast Katelyn Ohashi, and Katy Tur points out, “Her backstory makes this even better—> ‘It’s not the outcome. It’s not me standing on the podium with medals. It’s me being able to walk out with a smile on my face and truly being happy with myself.’ Amen.”
Nataliya Vasilyeva links to “Chilling reports from Chechnya where a crackdown on gay people is believed to have resumed.” From AP, Reports: 2 killed, dozens detained in gay purge in Chechnya.
Andrew Kaczynski of CNN reports that Democratic presidential hopeful Tulsi Gabbard once touted working for anti-gay group that backed conversion therapy.
AP’s Sudhin Thanawala reports that a judge in California has blocked Trump birth control coverage rules — which would allow more employers to opt out of providing women no-cost birth control — in 13 states and Washington, D.C.
Variety’s Kristopher Tapley has your round-up of the Critics’ Choice Awards: Winners and Nominees.