* Before we get to the rest of the day’s news, here is the increasingly obligatory evening bombshell – this time from the Washington Post:
President Trump asked two of the nation’s top intelligence officials in March to help him push back against an FBI investigation into possible coordination between his campaign and the Russian government, according to current and former officials.
Trump made separate appeals to the director of national intelligence, Daniel Coats, and to Adm. Michael S. Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency, urging them to publicly deny the existence of any evidence of collusion during the 2016 election…
Trump sought the assistance of Coats and Rogers after FBI Director James B. Comey told the House Intelligence Committee on March 20 that the FBI was investigating “the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts.”
* A few weeks ago Trump said this about peace between Israelis and Palestinians:
It’s … something that I think is frankly maybe not as difficult as people have thought over the years.
* Today, in a joint press conference with Prime Minister Netanyahu, he flipped:
I’ve heard it’s one of the toughest deals of all, but I have a feeling that we’re going the get there eventually.”
* Here’s how the New York Times reported on his message today:
President Trump began a two-day visit to Israel on Monday with a blunt assessment for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: If Israel really wants peace with its Arab neighbors, the cost will be resolving the generations-old standoff with the Palestinians.
Ya think? Gotta wonder why no one ever thought of that before, don’t ya?
Sometimes I wonder whether it is more worrisome when this president knows nothing, or when he knows just enough to be dangerous.
* This also happened today:
Trump just said he never mentioned Israel in his meeting w/ Russians.
(That was not the issue—Story never alleged Trump divulged source.) pic.twitter.com/oSi8rQmQe0
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) May 22, 2017
Steve Benen summarizes:
Trump appeared to be effectively saying, alongside Netanyahu, “Sure, I divulged secrets to Russia, but don’t worry, I didn’t tell them that I received the secrets from Israel.”
Watching the clip, you can almost hear Netanyahu thinking, “Shut up, shut up, shut up, shut up….”
* Please tell me that our Secretary of Commerce isn’t this ignorant. Oh well, too late.
Wilbur Ross touts the lack of protests in Saudi Arabia during Trump’s visit (maybe it’s because protesters are jailed & sometimes beheaded?) pic.twitter.com/DQIENgtopz
— Brian Klaas (@brianklaas) May 22, 2017
* The Trump administration doesn’t want anyone challenging their attempts to feed the swamp in Washington.
The Trump administration, in a significant escalation of its clash with the government’s top ethics watchdog, has moved to block an effort to disclose any ethics waivers granted to former lobbyists who now work in the White House or federal agencies.
The latest conflict came in recent days when the White House, in a highly unusual move, sent a letter to Walter M. Shaub Jr., the head of the Office of Government Ethics, asking him to withdraw a request he had sent to every federal agency for copies of the waivers. In the letter, the administration challenged his legal authority to demand the information.
Dozens of former lobbyists and industry lawyers are working in the Trump administration, which has hired them at a much higher rate than the previous administration. Keeping the waivers confidential would make it impossible to know whether any such officials are violating federal ethics rules or have been given a pass to ignore them.
* If I told you that the good news of the day would come from the Supreme Court with an assist from Justice Clarence Thomas, you probably wouldn’t believe me. But it’s true.
The Supreme Court on Monday struck down North Carolina’s congressional map, finding that the Republican legislature unconstitutionally used race in drawing district lines that reduced the voting power of minorities.
In the 5-3 decision, with ultra-conservative Justice Clarence Thomas joining the four liberal justices in the majority, the court ruled that North Carolina unconstitutionally packed African American voters into two districts, in violation of the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause. Justice Neil Gorsuch, who joined the court in April, did not participate in the ruling.
“This decision by Justice [Elena] Kagan is a major victory for voting rights plaintiffs, who have succeeded in turning the racial gerrymandering cause of action into an effective tool to go after partisan gerrymanders in Southern states,” election law expert Rick Hasen wrote on his blog Monday morning. “That Justice Kagan got Justice Thomas not only to vote this way but to sign onto the opinion (giving it precedential value) is a really big deal.”
* Finally, over the weekend I watched the documentary “Get Me Roger Stone.” I’m not sure I can wholeheartedly suggest that spending an hour and forty minutes with that morally bankrupt human being is good for your mental health. But here’s the deal:
Get Me Roger Stone makes its most compelling argument through this retelling of its subject’s early career: that Stone, through his willingness to flout previously accepted norms of how campaigns were conducted, in the service of his own personal enrichment, helped to create Washington’s “swamp” of corruption that Trump has promised to drain.
In other words, how ironic is it that the man who has been trying to get Donald Trump to run for president for over 20 years is the guy who did more to create the swamp than just about any other character? It is all so very Trumpian.