Open Thread: Apparently Writing for the WSJ Does Not Qualify One for 007 Status

To be honest, it sounds like this guy was writing fanfic after being contacted by an email scammer. But with really big weapons! Per the AP article:

The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday fired its highly regarded chief foreign affairs correspondent after evidence emerged of his involvement in prospective commercial deals — including one involving arms sales to foreign governments — with an international businessman who was one of his key sources.

The reporter, Jay Solomon, was offered a 10 percent stake in a fledgling company, Denx LLC, by Farhad Azima, an Iranian-born aviation magnate who has ferried weapons for the CIA. It was not clear whether Solomon ever received money or formally accepted a stake in the company.

“We are dismayed by the actions and poor judgment of Jay Solomon,” Wall Street Journal spokesman Steve Severinghaus wrote in a statement to The Associated Press. “While our own investigation continues, we have concluded that Mr. Solomon violated his ethical obligations as a reporter, as well as our standards.”…

“I clearly made mistakes in my reporting and entered into a world I didn’t understand.” Solomon told the AP on Wednesday. “I never entered into any business with Farhad Azima, nor did I ever intend to. But I understand why the emails and the conversations I had with Mr. Azima may look like I was involved in some seriously troubling activities. I apologize to my bosses and colleagues at the Journal, who were nothing but great to me.”

Two other Denx partners — ex-CIA employees Gary Bernsten and Scott Modell — told the AP that Solomon was involved in discussing proposed deals with Azima at the same time he continued to cultivate the businessman as a source for his stories for the Journal. Bernsten and Modell said Solomon withdrew from the venture shortly after business efforts began and that the venture never added up to much. They provided no evidence as to when Solomon withdrew.

The emails and texts reviewed by the AP — tens of thousands of pages covering more than eight years — included more than 18 months of communications involving the apparent business effort. Some messages described a need for Solomon’s Social Security number to file the company’s taxes, but there was no evidence Solomon provided it.

Denx was shuttered last year, according to Florida business registration records…

Open Thread: Texas Repubs Discover They’re the Marks

You know the old saw, If you look around the poker table and can’t tell who the mark is, it’s you ?

Texas Republicans are turning Texas blue, and they’ve picked an incredibly awkward moment to do so.

Awkward for Republicans, that is, and conservatism more generally. The electoral implications are obvious; If President Trump hadn’t won Texas, he would have lost the Electoral College. Beyond that, though, Texas Republicans were — until quite recently — the gold standard of conservative governance in the 21st century United States.

During the period now known as the “Texas Miracle,” the state was the most powerful proof of concept that conservatives had. As the second-largest state in the country, in terms of both size and population, it was a reasonable proxy for a socially, racially, and economically heterogeneous nation. Perhaps, more importantly, the state’s outsized economic growth and diversification since the beginning of the millennium, in particular, was not just notable but meaningful. Texas created jobs in every income quartile, and almost every industry; outcomes weren’t ideal, but they were improving…

But then 2014 happened. Perry decided to retire, and Dewhurst was unseated in the Republican primary by the current incumbent, Dan Patrick. Since then, Texas’ newly elected leaders have struggled to govern — and the blistering margins Republicans posted in 2014 point to the reason why. After 20 years in power, Texas Republicans had no real need to compete in the general election. The real contest was for the Republican nomination.

As a result, Texas ended up with some true buffoons in high office. Among the officials elected in 2014 was, for example, Attorney General Ken Paxton. Six months after he was sworn in as the state’s top law enforcement official, he was charged with three felonies. One of them was related to a violation that he had already admitted to, of a law he had voted to create years earlier as a member of the Texas legislature.

Making matters worse is that competent Republicans leaders are either in thrall to the party’s oddly entitled grassroots activists, like Gov. Greg Abbott, or trying to fly below their radar, like Land Commissioner George P. Bush…

Today’s Republicans are essentially parasites on the body politic, and it seems like they may be due to discover the disadvantage of the parasitic livestyle: If you bleed the host too much too fast, either they’ll find a way to expel you, or you’ll die right along with your victim. Here’s hoping Texas is able to fight back hard enough to make it the first option!

Open Sessions Session Recap Thread: “… ‘Zectif PRIVIJJ!…”

Julia Ioffe — a Russian immigrant who has some experience in such areas — thinks that Sessions may be most fearful that, during his mid-2016 stint as Trump’s “political affairs expert”, he may have gone beyond skirting-the-ethical-line to outright-violation-of-Congressional-regulation when he opened his offices and his arms to every international dignitary willing to be seen in Trump’s company. While the two men are undoubtedly soulmates, right now Sessions needs Trump a lot more than Trump needs Sessions, if Jefferson Beauregard III is to keep his cushy job abusing the rights of uppity women, people of color who don’t know their place, young free-speech drug-defending absolutists, and all the other felons unjailed during That Black Man in the White House’s tenure. Should his Repub fellows get too agitated about Sessions’ flagrant rule-breaking, of course Trump will have no qualms whatsofekkingever throwing the Malevolent Leprechaun to the media wolves…


Russiagate Open Thread: Trump’s New Trial Balloon

Well, it should improve ratings for the Attorney-General tomorrow…


Dude really thinks this is some kind of spinoff reality show, doesn’t he?

Concur with a Canadian observer:

Russiagate Open Thread: “Reality Winner” Leaks to the Intercept

No, srsly…

Per Buzzfeed:

A federal contractor in Georgia has been charged with leaking classified material to an online news outlet, the Justice Department announced Monday.

Reality Leigh Winner, 25, was arrested by the FBI at her home on Saturday and appeared in federal court in Augusta on Monday afternoon, DOJ said in a statement.

Winner is a contractor with Pluribus International Corporation who held top secret clearance, according to the statement.

“Winner printed and improperly removed classified intelligence reporting, which contained classified national defense information from an intelligence community agency, and unlawfully retained it,” DOJ said in the statement. “Approximately a few days later, Winner unlawfully transmitted by mail the intelligence reporting to an online news outlet.”…

“Releasing classified material without authorization threatens our nation’s security and undermines public faith in government,” Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein said in a statement.

This story is developing. Please check back for updates.

Reality Leigh Winner. Because we’re living in a Pynchon novel, now.

Thursday Morning Open Thread: Patchworking

A longish read [warning: autoplay], but rich in entertainment value:

Advisers planning Trump’s first foreign trip, which begins Friday, canceled scheduled briefings on the matter to avoid having reporters milling about the West Wing. Vice President Mike Pence roared away in his motorcade.

Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s senior counselor who had been scheduled for an appearance on Fox News, abruptly canceled.

“It does seem a little chaotic over there, I gotta be honest with you,” said her would-be interviewer Tucker Carlson, a frank admission from a host who regularly defends the administration.

Into the night, the White House struggled to contain its frustration. Senior advisers told junior aides to focus on their work and compartmentalize the latest round of drama, which now the West Wing has even less control over.

The President and those around him saw again Wednesday night the limits of his own executive authority, a feeling presidents before him have bemoaned and he has witnessed multiple times in his four months in office.

One aide described the mood in two words: “Chaotically dark.”…

I think we can all agree with the following tweet:

What’s on the agenda as we buckle up for another day?


Golden oldie, newly relevant:

Open Thread: Bon Voyage!

I honestly half-expected the trip to be cancelled by now, except that Trump’s handlers probably look forward to it as a chance to get away from getting yelled at by the same reporters. (And no doubt the GOP ‘leadership’ looks forward to lecturing us about how Politics stops at the water’s edge, now that it’s not a Black guy and a Democrat wearing the ‘President’ label.) From the Washington Post, “Trump will have to navigate diplomatic land mines abroad. Here’s how he’s preparing“:

In the days leading up to Trump’s high-risk debut on the world stage — a nine-day, five-stop, four-nation tour — the Oval Office has morphed into a graduate seminar room, with a rotating roster of policy experts briefing the president.

Or that was the original plan…

Trump’s advisers say the president understands the stakes and is taking his preparation seriously. His team deliberately scaled back his public schedule in the two weeks leading up to his planned Friday departure, even though much of his time last week was eaten up by the Comey drama and talks about shaking up his West Wing staff.

Trump’s carefully choreographed trip begins in Saudi Arabia, where he will meet with Muslim partners from across the Arab world and beyond to seek alliances in combating Islamic State terrorists. From there, he heads to Israel to underscore the United States’ commitment to Israel and the Jewish people. He also will meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Trump then travels to Rome, where he is scheduled meet the pontiff and discuss religious freedom and human rights issues. Trump will attend a summit of NATO leaders in Brussels, followed by a meeting of the Group of Seven nations in Sicily.

The trip, say outside foreign policy gurus, has other benefits for Trump, as well. Unlike in the United States, it is doubtful that Trump will directly encounter protesters in Saudi Arabia, because the kingdom’s strict laws restrict public dissent; in Israel, because he enjoys a warm relationship with the government; and at the summits in Belgium and Italy, because security measures will create a wide perimeter around him most of the time…

Trump is soliciting counsel from some outsiders such as Kissinger but has largely kept his circle confined to real-world practitioners and administration insiders — a reflection of the White House’s view that input from academic experts, authors and other thought leaders is less valuable because they have not achieved practical success.

Top White House officials are sensitive to the portrayal of Trump as a know-nothing novice when it comes to foreign policy, pointing out that he has traveled the globe many times as a real estate mogul with properties on several continents…

He’s been to five-star hotels and premium golf courses on several continents, carefully surrounding himself with his usual posse of relatives, grifters, and yes-men. Yeah, the President (or the guy impersonating one) famously travels in a “security bubble”, but that’s not gonna protect him from shocks ranging from jet lag to the recalcitrance of other leaders on their home turf.

Useful tweetstorm from Loren deJong Schulman, formerly Senior Advisor to National Security Advisor Susan Rice:

(Click on any of the tweets above to see the whole chain.)

Again: Trump is not a man who does well in new situations, or when presented with new information. Sure, ‘he thrives on chaos’, but only when he’s the one creating it…