We start today with news of “a near-systematic purge happening at the nation’s second-largest national security agency.” As CNN’s Jake Tapper, Evan Perez and Betsy Klein report, Trump is removing US Secret Service director Randolph “Tex” Alles, leaving even more gaps at the DHS. Tweets Daniel Drezner, “When I see senior administration officials saying, ‘There is a near-systematic purge happening at the nation’s second-largest national security agency’ I get very uncomfortable.” Joshua Holland makes the comparison to the “Night of the Long Knives…” And Julia Ioffe says, “This alert—with the word ‘purge’ being used to describe what the president would like to due to a security structure he perceives as not being tough enough—is really startling when you’ve spent the last week reading about the Stalinist Purges of the 1930s.”
Then there’s this, as Jim Roberts tweets: “NY Times reports that Trump had ‘soured’ on Secret Service chief Tex Alles well before he was fired today ... ‘even making fun of his looks, calling him Dumbo because of his ears.’” Leader of the free world, ladies and gentlemen, referring to a 35-year veteran of the Marine Corps.
In that New York Times story, More Top Homeland Security Officials Set to Leave in Trump Purge, Eileen Sullivan and Maggie Haberman list out the vacancies at DHS. The agency will now be without a [deep breath]: “permanent secretary, deputy secretary, two under secretaries, Secret Service director, Federal Emergency Management Agency director, ICE director, general counsel, citizenship and immigration services director, inspector general, chief financial officer, chief privacy officer and, once [Kevin] McAleenan moves, Customs and Border Protection commissioner.” As Andrew Freedman says, “Yikes, this entire paragraph from the NYT story on recent/upcoming departures from Dept. Homeland Security.”
At The Washington Post, Nick Miroff tweets, “Angry at his administration’s immigration failures, Trump is buzz-sawing DHS, leaving the country’s top domestic security agencies reeling and ‘decapitated.’ NEW on the widening purge.” He links to his coverage with Carol Leonnig, Toluse Olorunnipa and Josh Dawsey, Trump removes Secret Service director as purge of DHS leadership widens.
Also at The Washington Post, Seung Min Kim interviewed Chuck Grassley, who warns the White House not to oust any more top immigration officials. On Twitter, she reveals, “.@ChuckGrassley, infuriated over the prospects of more DHS ousters (particularly of those who had worked under him), tells me of Stephen Miller: ‘I think it would be hard for him to demonstrate he’s accomplished anything for the president.’” Grassley also said he was “very, very concerned” about reports that Lee Francis Cissna is next. Maggie Haberman says it’s “Really hard to overstate how unusual this public plea from @ChuckGrassley is.”
‘He just wants to separate families.’
As for immigration policy, and some more context for the Kirstjen Nielsen firing, Julia Ainsley of NBC News tells us that, according to three U.S. officials with knowledge of meetings at the White House, Trump has for months been urging the administration to reinstate the child separation policy (106,000+ shares). Of course that goes against his own executive order and court orders.
And CNN’s Tapper reports that Trump pushed to close the El Paso border, told agents not to admit migrants and to resume family separations (89,000+ shares). Tweets Dave Levinthal, “If you haven’t read this example of deep and important reporting from @jaketapper, do so now.” In fact, Robyn Curnow is “Rereading @jaketapper piece - the behind-the-scenes descriptions of meetings in the Oval Office are stunning, including the line from one official on the president, ‘He just wants to separate families.’” Z. Byron Wolf also notes the “Confluence of events on Friday, March 22: -- Trump ‘ranting and raving,’ ordered border closed at El Paso March 22, per Sr. Admin. officials to @jaketapper (later changed mind) -- Also the date Mueller ended his investigation, delivered report to DOJ.”
Meanwhile, Miriam Jordan, Annie Correal and Patricia Mazzei of The New York Times take a look at what’s happening at Trump’s private clubs in Florida, where they find a quiet effort to eliminate an undocumented work force. “‘Quiet’? Try cruel and cynical,” says Daniel Froomkin.
So, just how “full” are we? In their Upshot feature for The New York Times, Neil Irwin and Emily Badger point out, Trump Says the U.S. Is ‘Full.’ Much of the Nation Has the Opposite Problem. As Tiffany Hsu tweets, “Contradicting Trump, demographers and economists say the country isn't remotely ‘full.’ Actually, an aging population and declining birthrates are creating underpopulated cities and towns and vacant housing.” In other words, “Trumpian xenophobia choking the country to death,” says David Dobbs.
For the love of God, don’t
Before we move on, this...seems like an obvious Bad Idea? Jay Weaver and Sarah Blaskey of the Miami Herald report that feds say Yujing Zhang, the Chinese woman arrested while trying to enter Mar-a-Lago last month, had more than $8,000 in cash, as well as a “signal detector” used to reveal hidden cameras in her hotel room.
But that’s not the part of the story that’s getting everyone’s attention. They also reveal that one of the Secret Service agents put Zhang’s thumb-drive into his computer and — you’ll never believe this — it immediately began to install files. Tweets M. Alex Johnson, “Apparently, even though I am old and came to computers relatively late in life, I am more qualified to investigate cybersecurity than many Secret Service agents are. Who puts suspicious USB drives in their computers?” Barton Gellman notes, “TBF, this doesn't say explicitly that the Secret Service agent plugged the suspect thumb drive into his own, networked computer, but it sure sounds that way. Pro tip: for the love of God, don't.”
Public figure dislikes negative publicity
So Devin Nunes is suing the McClatchy Company, alleging ‘character assassination,’ aka, “Public figure dislikes negative publicity,” tweets Patrick LaForge. Daniel Victor has the story at The New York Times, noting that this comes “less than a month after suing Twitter for allowing its users to insult him.” Tweets Diane Brady, “After @DevinNunes doesn’t take its calls, ask for a correction, or even engage with @FresnoBee - key media source for his constituents - he now sues for defamation? After suing #Twitter for letting people make fun of him. #FirstAmendment.”
Nunes stopped by Fox News to discuss his grievances with Sean Hannity, and Gregg Re has that story and video, Nunes files $150M lawsuit against McClatchy, alleging conspiracy to derail Clinton, Russia probes. Brad Heath notes, “Fox News has now deleted the copy of the complaint it posted, but this makes it sound like Rep. Nunes is suing a newspaper for $150m for writing true things but not in the order he would have liked, which was a conspiracy to derail his Russia investigation.”
Matt Pearce read that complaint before it was deleted. His reaction: “OMG — did Nunes’ counsel do a Twitter keyword search for this reporter’s tweet and then accuse her of bolding the words on Twitter?!” And Jon Swaine offers a “👨🏻🍳👌🏼The section on Nunes alleging McClatchy covered up that this was a charity cruise sits beside a tweet from the McClatchy reporter stating that it was a charity cruise.”
Hey, let’s make tax time even worse!
Just in time for tax day, Eric Umansky offers up “Two facts: 1. H&R Block and the makers of TurboTax spent $6.6 million lobbying last year. They want to ban the IRS from offering its own free, simple tax filing service. 2. Congress is about to pass a law doing exactly that.” Justin Elliott of ProPublica reports that Congress Is About to Ban the Government From Offering Free Online Tax Filing. Thank TurboTax. Sometimes we use this word too much, but here it seems appropriate: “This is outrageous,” as David Enrich tweets. “Until this year, I used Free Fillable Forms to file my taxes because they are (as it says) free and I am cheap. Nothing about it is easy. A better alternative would be great. The government does not exist to serve TurboTax,” Libby A. Nelson reminds us.
Is this real life?
For those of us who spend too much time on Twitter, this is probably useful. It turns out, The Democratic Electorate on Twitter Is Not the Democratic Electorate in Real Life, and Nate Cohn and Kevin Quealy explain all in a new Upshot feature at The New York Times. Anthony De Rosa calls them “moderates in the streets, progressives in the tweets.” Jake Lahut says it’s “Definitely worth carving out some time to read @Nate_Cohn here.” Plus, as Peter Schorsch says, “The design in this story is gorgeous.”
How rare it is
Eric Deggans tells us, “Over past 10 days, as I've spoken at colleges in Indiana & Georgia on racial justice, media, politics, I got one question most from white people: How can I be a good ally? White NBA star Kyle Korver provides excellent answers in this amazing column.” For that, read Privileged in The Players’ Tribune, by Kyle Korver of the Utah Jazz, who writes, “What I’m realizing is, no matter how passionately I commit to being an ally, and no matter how unwavering my support is for NBA and WNBA players of color….. I’m still in this conversation from the privileged perspective of opting in to it. Which of course means that on the flip side, I could just as easily opt out of it.”
Mike Freeman says, “Been covering professional sports for 25 years and I can’t stress enough how rare it is for a white professional player to PUBLICLY speak this way.” Doug Smith agrees: “There have been so many tremendous and important stories written about the NBA this year, as every year, it's not even funny. THIS is, in my opinion, the most important and tremendous.” “Holy cow, Kyle Korver. SAY IT LOUD!!” tweets Rainbow Rowell.
From James Oaten of ABC News in Australia, “A terrifying story of virtual deceit and inexplicable malice, perpetrated by the last person anyone expected.” “Catching the Catfish” reveals how a TV heartthrob was used to lure two flight attendants into a stalker nightmare. Tweets Antoinette Lattouf, “A harrowing and tragic story told beautifully and hauntingly. Well done @james_oaten and team. This has to be among the best digital storytelling I have seen.” Adds Norman Hermant, “Just a sensational, riveting yarn from @james_oaten. A chilling cautionary tale told in incredible detail. Must read!”
About this next one, Adam Harris shares, “This was a difficult story to write. My latest on Thea Hunter, a promising, brilliant scholar (and truly remarkable writer) and what academia is doing to scholars like her.” Read his piece at The Atlantic on The Human Cost of Higher Education’s Adjunct Shift. Alana Semuels describes it as an “Absolutely heartbreaking story by @AdamHSays about the impossible life -- and death -- of an adjunct professor trying to make it in academia. She had a PhD from Columbia and, ironically, studied slavery.”
Jack Nicas and Julie Creswell of The New York Times take a look at the history behind the Boeing 737 MAX, a “patchwork plane” with 1960s design, 1990s computing power and paper manuals — oh, and without the safety features common on other jets. Tweets John Morales, “Eye opening design and redesign timeline on the #Boeing737Max. As usual, in these aircraft mishaps blame can be spread all around. But if you've come to believe that it was purely pilot-error, read this.”
“Wow. This …” Ruth Pollard links to Radheshyam Jadhav’s story for the Hindu BusinessLine, which reveals why half the women in Maharashtra’s Beed district have no wombs. As Jeanette Rodrigues explains, “Cane-cutting contractors are unwilling to hire women who menstruate, so hysterectomies have become the norm | important reporting by @rjadHinduBL.”
Proving that “You can financialize anything…” Jacqueline Thorpe links to Claire Boston’s story for Bloomberg Businessweek, College Grads Sell Stakes in Themselves to Wall Street. Aram Zucker-Scharff says, “This is a fking white collar version of sharecropping.” Or as Tannara Yelland puts it, “good morning from hell world. ‘I envision a whole new equity market for higher education in the next five years where today there’s only debt.’”