Friday News Dump – Leak Edition and Open Thread

The Washington Post and Wall Street Journal have stories on the CIA finding that Mohammed bin Salman ordered the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. As in other apparent intelligence community leaks, two major newspapers got the information pretty much simultaneously.

The assessment is said to be of “high confidence,” which means that the CIA would bet a lot of money on it. Or as someone wisecracked on Twitter, it means “we have tapes.”

That makes things complicated for Donald Trump and John Bolton, who have been hoping everyone would forget it.


In another leak, the heroic Daniel Dale, the head of the Toronto Star’s Washington Bureau and indefatigable fact-checker of Trump’s words, tweets about Melania Trump’s trip to Toronto last year.

Do you think this had anything to do with Melania’s trashing Mira Ricardel over her trip to Africa?

Inquiring minds want to know.

That Op-Ed, Continued

While I take a measure of relief that we now appear to be closer to the beginning of the end than to the end of the beginning, I have some big concerns about that New York Times op-ed by “a senior administration official.”

My concerns are very much like David Frum’s.

Speak in your own name. Resign in a way that will count. Present the evidence that will justify an invocation of the 25th Amendment, or an impeachment, or at the very least, the first necessary step toward either outcome, a Democratic Congress after the November elections.

Clearly this is related to yesterday’s revelations from Bob Woodward’s book. The author of the op-ed may even have contributed to Woodward.

But the author is trying to preserve his/her reputation: I am being a good Republican, helping to execute good Republican policies. I am keeping the country safe from a dangerous president.

That’s a lot of responsibility to take on. The president is elected; the author has been appointed by that president and tells us that he is undermining that president. In the telling, the president is further undermined.

What did the author expect to be the next step? Donald Trump is reported to have freaked out over the Woodward revelations and have started searching for the leakers. This will turbocharge that search. James Jesus Angleton became convinced that there was a Russian mole in the CIA and practically destroyed the agency. Can the author of the op-ed protect us from a storm a couple of categories stronger?

There are a limited number of senior administration officials. We are likely to learn who wrote the op-ed much more quickly than we learned that Deep Throat was Mark Felt. How we will learn is hard to predict.


Bubble Boys

There’s some controversy about whether Giuliani’s clusterfuck interview with Hannity last night was the deliberate launch of a new legal strategy for handling the Stormy Daniels thing or a misstep by a demented dipshit who got his client into an even bigger mess. Josh Marshall reckons it was the latter:

What you have are a half dozen brainstorms cooked up by a group of old men in a room used to bending reality to their purposes when something goes wrong. That’s much more difficult on a national stage in front of intense scrutiny. That’s what happened last night. Rudy Giuliani is far, far past his prime, used to the accommodating hothouse world of Fox News cronies and cash and carry deal-making in his law firm gigs. This was as sloppy as it looked and did his client no favors.

On purpose or not — it really is hard to tell, but that is always the case with the Trump shit-storm. I think Marshall is 100% correct about the Fox News hothouse. Here’s a clip that illustrates the confines of that noxious bubble:

Partial transcript for those who can’t/won’t watch:

HANNITY (in a reverent, hushed, bewildered and horrified tone): “There’s a Politico report today basically suggesting that now Mueller would consider Ivanka Trump…a…a…a target.”

[Indignant digression about Hope Hicks, another woman in Trump’s orbit who gives the grotesque pair chivalry-boners.]

GIULIANI (incredulously): Ivanka Trump?!?!? I would, I would, I think I would get on my charger and go right into their offices with a lance if they went after Ivanka.”

HANNITY: I, uh, at this point, sir, I honestly agree with you, and I fear for the country.”

GIULIANI: “Now, I think if they DO do Ivanka, which I doubt they will, the whole country will turn on them. They’re going after his daughter?”

HANNITY: What about his son-in-law? They’ve talked about him!”

GIULIANI: “I guess, uh, Jared is a fine man. You know that. But men are, you know, disposable.” [laughs] “But a fine woman like Ivanka? Come on!”

Set aside for a moment the creepy and sexist spectacle of these two infantilizing a 30-something woman who is (preposterously!) sold as a self-made business mogul and a person who merits a White House advisory role. Giuliani and Hannity’s musings about Ivanka demonstrate what I hope is a fatal flaw in the Trump administration’s political strategy for surviving a cascade of scandals.

The approach seems predicated on the mistaken belief that the view from Fox News holds sway across the land. Would millions rise up to follow Giuliani’s lead — mounting steeds, seizing lances and charging into Mueller’s office to defend Ivanka Trump’s honor? Outside of a relative few loud-mouthed Fox rage-bots, my guess is nope.

But it’s not surprising that these morons think this way — it comes straight from the top. To the extent that he governs at all, Trump governs as if the only Americans who exist are the goobers who support him.

That fantasy may survive visits to his self-branded clubs; it may stay intact while Trump tosses chunks of red meat at carefully screened audiences at rallies, and it may seem realistic while he’s viewing highly curated Fox News content. But I don’t think it’s gonna fly when people outside the Fox News bubble get a say this November.

Speaking for myself, it would make my fucking day to see Ivanka Trump lead a perp-walk conga line — to see all of these arrogant, corrupt, know-nothing motherfuckers swept out of power. I’m not so deluded as to imagine everyone in America agrees, but I’m damn sure not alone. And my friends and I vote.

The Secret For Comedy Is….

…wait for it…

…wait for it…

…wait for it…

…wait for it…


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has decided to postpone its session on nuclear attack preparedness next week. Much attention had been drawn to the timing of the agency’s session, which was publicized just days after President Trump touted the size of his nuclear button compared with North Korea’s.

That’s via Sheila Kaplan in yesterday’s New York Times.

Scheduled for January 16, the session was to be on “Public Health Response to a Nuclear Detonation”

It was intended, as the Times reported the week before:

for doctors, government officials, emergency responders and others whom, if they survived, would be responsible for overseeing the emergency response to a nuclear attack.

And, certainly, such a meeting was well within the CDC’s purview:

“While a nuclear detonation is unlikely,” the C.D.C. wrote on its website,which included a picture of a mushroom cloud, “it would have devastating results and there would be limited time to take critical protection steps. Despite the fear surrounding such an event, planning and preparation can lessen deaths and illness.”

The agenda for the disaster session included “Preparing for the Unthinkable,” “Road Map to Radiation Preparedness” and “Using Data and Decision Aids to Drive Response Efforts.”

In the event, the agency swapped out this session for one on the flu.  CDC staffers made a decent argument for the swap:

“To date, this influenza season is notable for the sheer volume of flu that most of the United States is seeing at the same time, which can stress health systems,” the agency said. “The vast majority of this activity has been caused by influenza A H3N2, associated with severe illness in young children and people 65 years and older.”

But it’s hard to shake the sense, as Kaplan hints in her story on the switch, that der Hair Führer’s fee-fees may have been involved:

The C.D.C.’s announcement that it was holding a nuclear preparation workshop drew widespread media coverage and embarrassed the public health agency. It also gave ammunition to administration critics who believe that the president is bringing the country closer to a nuclear Armageddon.

And now, Hawaii!


And with, over to y’all. Open thread, I guess, though here’s a question to get things going:  How’s it all going to end. Fire? Or ice? (Preferably w. several fingers of good bourbon poured over it.)

Image: Jan Fyt, Mushroomsbefore 1650.

….Aaaaaannnnnnnnd, Scene!


There is nothing to add; perfection needs no sauce.

Open thread, y’all.