Zinke’s not out of the woods just yet
Ryan Zinke’s time in the Trump cabinet is ending, but his legal troubles are likely far from over.
When Mr. Zinke was forced to resign as interior secretary on Saturday, he joined a line of officials who have left the Trump administration under a cloud of ethics inquiries. But the investigations into Mr. Zinke’s actions are likely to continue, according to Delaney Marsco, the ethics counsel at the Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan watchdog group. And if those inquiries turn out badly for him, Mr. Zinke still faces the threat of criminal penalties that could hobble his political future.
“It’s not a Get Out of Jail Free card to just quit,” Ms. Marsco said.
Hemp’s moment has arrived
The U.S. hemp industry is expecting business to expand and investors to beckon after Congress on Wednesday passed farm legislation that included a provision to legalize and regulate the plant under the Department of Agriculture.
“This is a monumental bill for hemp farming,” said Lauren Stansbury of the Hemp Industries Association.
The bill, awaiting President Trump’s signature, opens the door to state-by-state regulation, removes hemp, which is part of the cannabis plant family, from the federal enforcement of outlaw drugs and gives hemp farmers access to banking, crop insurance and federal grants, experts said.
That could open the industry, which produces therapeutic cannabidiol (CBD), fabric, rope and even ethanol, to a wave of investment.
No one deserves this
The Sierra Nevada snow pack is set to shrink by 79 percent by the end of the century, a new study finds
Confirmed: Brian Kemp lied
Brian Kemp, the Republican candidate for governor, had a problem. As did Brian Kemp, Georgia’s secretary of state.
It was Nov. 3, a Saturday, 72 hours to Election Day. Virtually tied in the polls with Democrat Stacey Abrams, Kemp was in danger of becoming the first Georgia Republican to lose a statewide election since 2006. And, now, a new threat. The secretary of state’s office had left its voter-registration system exposed online, opening Kemp to criticism that he couldn’t secure an election that featured him in the dual roles of candidate and overseer.
But by the next day, Kemp and his aides had devised one solution for both problems, an investigation by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution shows.
They publicly accused the Democratic Party of Georgia of trying to hack into the voter database in a failed attempt to steal the election. The announcement added last-minute drama to an already contentious campaign. More important, it also pre-empted scrutiny of the secretary of state’s own missteps while initiating a highly unusual criminal investigation into his political rivals.
But no evidence supported the allegations against the Democrats at the time, and none has emerged in the six weeks since, the Journal-Constitution found. It appears unlikely that any crime occurred.
A 15-year-old environmental activist shames attendees of the United Nations COP24 conference for their inaction
You say you love your children above all else, and yet you are stealing their future in front of their very eyes.
Until you start focusing on what needs to be done rather than what is politically possible, there is no hope. We cannot solve a crisis without treating it as a crisis.
We need to keep the fossil fuels in the ground, and we need to focus on equity. And if solutions within the system are so impossible to find, maybe we should change the system itself.
The U.S. Senate blamed the Saudi crown prince for the death of Jamal Khashoggi. Saudi Arabia disagrees
Saudi Arabia early on Monday rejected “the position expressed recently by the United States Senate”, saying that the Jamal Khashoggi murder is a crime that does not reflect the policy of the kingdom, a statement by Saudi’s foreign ministry said.
“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia rejects the position expressed recently by the United States Senate, which was based upon unsubstantiated claims and allegations, and contained blatant interferences in the Kingdom’s internal affairs, undermining the Kingdom’s regional and international role”, the statement carried by Saudi Press Agency said.
New Jersey Democrats abandon redistricting plan
State legislative Democrats’ unpopular attempt to change the way New Jersey draws its legislative districts has died following weeks of intense negative feedback from both Republicans and Democrats. …
At two simultaneous public hearings Thursday, dozens of liberal activists, academics and other advocacy groups trashed the amendment, which would insert a controversial formula into the state constitution that would require at least a quarter of the 40 state legislative districts be drawn within five points of the average statewide vote over the previous decade. Even former Attorney General Eric Holder, a Democrat who founded the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, issued a statement opposing the measure.
The other particularly controversial part of the amendment would expand the state legislative redistricting commission from 11 members to 13, and let legislative leaders appoint eight of its members. Currently, the Democratic and Republican state chairs appoint 10 members while the state Supreme Court’s chief justice appoints a tie breaker. That was seen as a dig at Gov. Phil Murphy, who is allied with Democratic State Chairman John Currie and is often as odds with the Democratic faction that controls the Legislature.
A deeper look at Russia’s efforts to elect Trump, and support his presidency, using social media
A report prepared for the Senate that provides the most sweeping analysis yet of Russia’s disinformation campaign around the 2016 election found the operation used every major social media platform to deliver words, images and videos tailored to voters’ interests to help elect President Trump – and worked even harder to support him while in office. …
The report also offered some of the first detailed analyses of the role played by YouTube, a subsidiary of Google, and Instagram, owned by Facebook, in the Russian campaign, as well as anecdotes about how Russians used other social media platforms – Google+, Tumblr and Pinterest – that have gotten relatively little scrutiny. The Russian effort also used email accounts from Yahoo, Microsoft’s Hotmail service and Google’s Gmail.
The authors, while reliant on data provided by technology companies, also highlighted the companies’ “belated and uncoordinated response” to the disinformation campaign and, once it was discovered, for not sharing more with investigators. The authors urged the companies in the future to provide data in “meaningful and constructive” ways.
Where Jakeline Caal lived, and why her father left
[Jakeline] received her first pair of shoes several weeks ago, when her father said they would set out together for the United States, thousands of miles from this small indigenous community in Guatemala where she spent her days plodding through mud and surrounded by coconut trees.
The 7-year-old was excited about the possibility of a new life in another country, relatives said Saturday. Maybe she would get her first toy, or learn to read and write. Instead she died in a Texas hospital two days after being taken into custody by U.S. Border Patrol agents in a remote stretch of New Mexico desert. …
Grandfather Domingo Caal said the family got by on $5 a day earned harvesting corn and beans. But it wasn’t enough. Jakelin’s father Nery Caal decided to migrate with his favorite child to earn money he could send back home.
McKinsey’s assistance with a Saudi crackdown was no outlier
For a quarter-century, the company has joined many American corporations in helping stoke China’s transition from an economic laggard to the world’s second-largest economy. But as China’s growth presents a muscular challenge to American dominance, Washington has become increasingly critical of some of Beijing’s signature policies, including the ones McKinsey has helped advance.
One of McKinsey’s state-owned clients has even helped build China’s artificial islands in the South China Sea, a major point of military tension with the United States.
It turns out that McKinsey’s role in China is just one example of its extensive — and sometimes contentious — work around the world, according to an investigation by The New York Times that included interviews with 40 current and former McKinsey employees, as well as dozens of their clients.
At a time when democracies and their basic values are increasingly under attack, the iconic American company has helped raise the stature of authoritarian and corrupt governments across the globe, sometimes in ways that counter American interests.
Jared Kushner has been taking a very mature approach in his efforts to deliver peace in the Middle East
At a conference in Qatar, Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat recounted part of the last conversation he had with Kushner, more than a year ago, after he complained about Kushner and Trump breaking their promise not to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem:
“I told him ‘look: if you do this, you will have disqualified yourself from any role in the peace process.’
He replied: ‘Don’t threaten me.’
I said ‘read my lips: you will have disqualified yourself from any role in the peace process.’
He said ‘you don’t know the changes that are happening around you in the Arab world.’
I told him, ‘the best thing for me is to be a student — so teach me.’
‘DON’T BE SARCASTIC,’ he shouted.
I said ‘I’m not being sarcastic. What do you mean by changes? Do you think Arab countries will open embassies in Tel Aviv and accept Jerusalem, with the Al-Aqsa mosque, as Israel’s capital? To them Jerusalem is a red line — all of them! Saudis, Qataris, Egyptians, Jordanians, Bahrainis. So what are you talking about?’
He said ‘this is our business, our policies.’
I said ‘if you do this, you will bring Israelis and Palestinians to brink of disaster.’
Theodore Roosevelt once said the White House is an office of international morality. And he’s right. But this White House needs giant statesmen, not real estate agents.”
So Giuliani had a lot to say on TV today…
“Over my dead body,” Giuliani said [about the prospect of Trump sitting down for an interview with Mueller] on “Fox News Sunday.” “But you know, I could be dead.”
“Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace followed up, pressing Giuliani on whether the special counsel wanted to speak with Trump. Giuliani did not respond directly and instead said he was “disgusted with the tactics they have used in this case.”
On ABC News’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos,” Giuliani was asked whether there were ongoing discussions about an interview. He replied that he was “not allowed” to say that. Giuliani added, “The agreement we had did contemplate that there’d be a period of time after the questions that we would have a discussion about whether there should be any further questions. So I’m not saying we are or we aren’t, but that’s in the agreement.”
Also on This Week, he insisted that, “I know that collusion is not a crime — it was over with by the time of the election,” and that Roger Stone coordinating with Wikileaks was also not a crime, and the only crime Trump committed was loving his family more than hush money:
“It’s not a crime, it’s not a crime, George, paying $130,000 to Stormy whatever, and paying $100,000 to the other one, it’s not a crime,” Giuliani said, pointing to the legal case involving John Edwards, a former U.S. senator and former presidential contender.
When Stephanopoulos challenged that there are major differences with the Edwards case, Giuliani argued there were grounds for comparison and said that because the payments were not solely for the purpose of influencing the election, but also to protect the president’s family from embarrassing media coverage, the payments do not meet the legal standard for illegal campaign contributions.
“I can produce an enormous number of witnesses that say the president was very concerned about how this was going to affect his children, his marriage, not just this one but similar – all those women came forward at that point in time, that – that tape with Billy Bush and all of that. It’s all part of the same thing. And I know what he was concerned about and I can produce 20 witnesses to tell you what he was concerned about,” Giuliani said.
And he acknowledged that Trump is a liar (and then threw in a 9/11 reference, because it’s his way):
GIULIANI: [Michael Cohen has] got to do a lot of singing to get out of the three years and he will say whatever he has to say. He’s changed his story four or five times.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So has the president.
GIULIANI: The president’s not under oath. And the president tried to do the best he can to remember what happened back at a time when he was the busiest man in the world. And I can’t – I was with him most of that time, I can’t remember a lot of the stuff that goes on there. But… But boy, if it’s — same way, if I go under oath, then I really think about it and I really say – you know, I can’t remember that. I – I was wrong about who was with me on September 11th. I always thought the Fire Commissioner was with me in the building we were trapped in. Turns out later, he tells me, I met you after. That happens when you’re in the middle of difficult events; you know that from experiencing it.
The best defense is a good (admission of) offense
The early view from Iowa (first choices among caucusgoers, 14 months out)
Guess which 2020 presidential candidate wants to figure out whether or not to run while backpacking in the wilderness…
“I want to talk to [my wife] Amy and see what she wants me to do in terms of time with kids and family in the house in El Paso … and then just interesting things that you can do,” [Beto O’Rourke] said. “Amy and I had this expectation that after the sixth of November, one way or another things would kind of die down and we could regroup and you know, catch up.
“But in some ways, things have intensified,” he said.
Over and over, he said he wants time to “regroup” after nearly two years on the road.
“I’d love to take a backpack up into the Gila Wilderness” — a vast expanse in New Mexico, a hundred miles from El Paso — “and just spend some time thinking through stuff,” he said.
More than 60 percent, and yet it still seems low
Six in 10 Americans say President Donald Trump has been untruthful about the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential campaign, while half of the country says the investigation has given them doubts about Trump’s presidency, according to a new national NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.
The survey, conducted a month after the results of November’s midterm elections, also finds more Americans wanting congressional Democrats — rather than Trump or congressional Republicans — to take the lead role in setting policy for the country.
And just 10 percent of respondents say that the president has gotten the message for a change in direction from the midterms — when the GOP lost control of the U.S. House of Representatives but kept its majority in the U.S. Senate — and that he’s making the necessary adjustments.
Nations of the world, sans U.S., graduate to next phase of the Paris climate agreement
After two weeks of bruising negotiations, officials from almost 200 countries agreed Saturday on universal, transparent rules that will govern efforts to cut emissions and curb global warming. Fierce disagreements on two other climate issues were kicked down the road for a year to help bridge a chasm of opinions on the best solutions.
The deal agreed upon at U.N. climate talks in Poland enables countries to put into action the principles in the 2015 Paris climate accord.
But to the frustration of environmental activists and some countries who were urging more ambitious climate goals, negotiators delayed decisions on two key issues until next year in an effort to get a deal on them.
A touching story of a random friendship between an immigrant cat litter chemist and a basketball superstar
When Charles Barkley’s mother, Charcey Glenn, passed away in June 2015, Barkley’s hometown of Leeds, Alabama, came to the funeral to pay respects. But there was also an unexpected guest.
Barkley’s friends couldn’t quite place him. He wasn’t a basketball player, he wasn’t a sports figure, and he wasn’t from Barkley’s hometown. Here’s what I can tell you about him: He wore striped, red polo shirts tucked into khaki shorts and got really excited about two-for-one deals. He was a commuter. He worked as a cat litter scientist in Muscatine, Iowa. In short, he was everyone’s suburban dad. More specifically, he was my dad.
“You know, it was obviously a very difficult time,” Barkley told me recently. “And the next thing I know, he shows up. Everybody’s like, ‘Who’s the Asian dude over there?’ I just started laughing. I said, ‘That’s my boy, Lin.’ They’re, like, ‘How do you know him?’ I said, ‘It’s a long story.’ “
New York City tenants are still paying for Trump family’s fraudulently acquired inheritance, two decades later
The president and his siblings have long since sold their father’s buildings and moved on with their inherited fortunes. But for tenants, the insidious effects of the scheme continue to this day.
The padded invoices have been baked into the base rent used to calculate the annual percentage increase approved by the city. The sum total of the rent overcharges cannot be calculated from available records. But as way to appreciate the scope of the impact, a onetime $10 increase in 1995 on all the 8,000 apartments involved would put the total overpaid by tenants at more than $33 million to date, an analysis of approved rent increases shows.
Mr. Leitner, a retired computer programmer, was not pleased to learn that his rent had been artificially inflated. Like other tenants interviewed by The Times, he wants that money back.
“If they passed on phony costs to tenants, they should lower our rents,” he said.