Typhoon Mangkhut Hits Hong Kong/mainland China; 40 reported dead in Philippines

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Typhoon Mangkhut lashes Hong Kong and mainland China; 40 reported dead in Philippines

Hong Kong (CNN)Hong Kong residents huddled indoors Sunday and strong winds sent debris flying as Typhoon Mangkhut, the world’s strongest storm this year, carved a destructive and deadly path from the Philippines toward mainland China.

The Hong Kong Observatory (HKO) raised the storm signal to T10 — the highest level possible — Sunday morning local time, with the city almost entirely shut down.
Fierce winds have already torn off roofs, smashed windows and downed trees in Hong Kong, as authorities warned of the threat of storm surges and flooding from torrential rain.
Mangkhut was recorded packing sustained winds of 173 kilometers per hour (107 miles per hour) and gusts up to 223 kilometers per hour (138 miles per hour) as the storm’s eye passed south of the territory in the early afternoon, according to the HKO.
At 4 p.m. local time, the storm was 110 kilometers (68 miles) west-southwest of Hong Kong, and heading for the surrounding Pearl River Delta, home to 120 million people, the HKO reported later Sunday. Mangkhut was expected to make landfall sometime Sunday evening in southern mainland China.
Along the coast, the gambling enclave of Macau, which was hit hard by Super Typhoon Hato last August, closed all its casinos, and all fishing boats from China’s Guangdong province have been called into port.
A shop owner is rescued by members of the fire brigade from a flooded area of Macau on Sunday.

The storm is expected to be one for Hong Kong’s record books. It’s only the 15th time in the last 60 years that a storm has been classified as T10; the last was for Super Typhoon Hato last year.

On Saturday, it plowed into the Philippines, flattening homes in small towns and villages on the northern island of Luzon. The presidential spokesperson for Rodrigo Duterte told reporters Sunday that 40 people had died.

Harry Roque said most of the deaths were due to landslides and mainly occurred in the Cordillera Administrative Region.
The official death toll complied by the Philippines disaster agency still stands at zero as it instituted a stringent criteria for associating deaths with storms following Typhoon Haiyan in 2013.

The region braces

Hong Kong’s famed Victoria Harbor was hit with a storm surge of more than 3.9 meters (12.8 feet) above chart datum Sunday. Hong Kong’s famous skyline, filled with massive buildings jutting up from the hill, was almost completely obscured as squalls roared through, however visibility has since improved.
More than 550 flights have been canceled at airports in Hong Kong, Shenzhen and Guangzhou, and more than 200 have been delayed, according to Flightaware.com. Most of Hong Kong’s public transport has been suspended.
Hong Kong authorities have been warning residents about the storm for days. On Saturday, grocery stores were packed with people stocking up on goods. Buildings across the city were either boarded up or had their windows taped in order to mitigate the damage of broken glass.
Other cities around the Pearl River Delta — which includes Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Zhuhai and Macau — are on high alert.
Guangzhou, the capital and most populous city in Guangdong province, issued its highest typhoon emergency alert, according People’s Daily, a state-run media outlet. More than 100,000 people have been evacuated. Airports in Shenzhen, a technology hub across the border from Hong Kong, and on the resort island of Hainan have canceled all flights, according to Chinese state media.

Mangkhut slams into the Philippines

Mangkhut struck the northern Philippines as a super typhoon, causing flooding and landslides on the northern island of Luzon.
It made landfall in the Philippines Saturday at 1:40 a.m. local time, packing winds of up to 270 kph (165 mph), 120 kph (75 mph) stronger than Hurricane Florence that hit North Carolina.
Known locally as Ompong, Mangkhut ripped roofs off buildings, uprooted trees, blocked roads with debris and dumped water on fields of crops.
More than 250,000 people were affected by the storm across the country, with around half of those seeking shelter in evacuation centers in the country’s north.
Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte will head to the region Sunday to see the damage and recovery operations, presidential Palace Communications Secretary Martin Andanar told CNN.
The most severe damage came in Luzon’s north, a sparsely populated region that’s considered the breadbasket of the Philippines, though areas as far away as Manila — more than 340 km (200 miles) from the eye of the storm — were hit with heavy rains that caused flooding in urban areas.
As of Saturday, the storm had caused 51 landslides in the Philippines’ north. Search crews are looking for people reported missing in the mountainous Cordillera region, Political Affairs Secretary Francis Tolentino said.
Though the storm system has moved on, extent of the damage has been difficult to assess Sunday as fierce winds were replaced by flood waters, blocking access and aid to affected areas. A vital transportation hub in the region, Tuguegarao airport in northern Luzon, was damaged in the storms, according to the Department of Transportation, forcing the cancellation of more than 100 local and international flights.
Mangkhut is expected to make another landfall late Sunday night, hitting the Chinese province of Guangdong near the cities of Yangjiang and Zhanjiang.
From there the system will continue to move westward and will rain itself out over northern Vietnam, which could lead to some flooding there early next week.

Strong earthquake reportedly buries homes in Hokkaido, Japan

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Strong earthquake reportedly buries homes in Hokkaido, Japan

Tokyo (CNN)Landslides resulting from a preliminary magnitude 6.7 earthquake early Thursday on Japan’s Hokkaido island buried a “large” number of homes at the foot of a ridge, officials said.

At least 28 people were injured in the region and 20 residents in the town of Atsuma may be unaccounted for, officials said. Twenty of those injured were in the city of Sapporo.
The earthquake was followed by multiple aftershocks, including one registered at 5.4, public broadcaster NHK reported, citing the Japan Meteorological Agency. The US Geological Survey said the earthquake registered at 6.6.
Nearly 3 million households lost power, according to the Hokkaido Electric Power Company. Officials said a main power station lost operations, affecting other sites. Independently owned power generators were assisting.
“The electric supply was stopped to Tomari nuclear plant, but it can operate without external electric supply for one week,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said.
Residents said they awoke to a powerful earthquake that lasted 30 seconds to one minute.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said 4,000 defense forces joined rescue operations, and that number could increase to a maximum of 25,000.
A woman covers her face as she takes shelter on a road following a strong earthquake in Sapporo.

Some streets were cut off by downed trees, and additional images from the broadcaster showed crumbled buildings.
Additionally, Japan Meteorological Agency officials told NHK that risks of aftershocks are substantial for as long as the next week. They warned residents about increased risks of collapse among buildings near the epicenter.

Trump’s aides stole his papers ‘to protect the country’: “Trump Is A F—ing Idiot”

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Bob Woodward: Trump’s aides stole his papers ‘to protect the country’

Woodward book reveals ‘crazytown’ White House

(CNN)WARNING: This story contains graphic language.

President Donald Trump‘s closest aides have taken extraordinary measures in the White House to try to stop what they saw as his most dangerous impulses, going so far as to swipe and hide papers from his desk so he wouldn’t sign them, according to a new book from legendary journalist Bob Woodward.
Woodward’s 448-page book, “Fear: Trump in the White House,” provides an unprecedented inside-the-room look through the eyes of the President’s inner circle. From the Oval Office to the Situation Room to the White House residence, Woodward uses confidential background interviews to illustrate how some of the President’s top advisers view him as a danger to national security and have sought to circumvent the commander in chief.

Many of the feuds and daily clashes have been well documented, but the picture painted by Trump’s confidants, senior staff and Cabinet officials reveal that many of them see an even more alarming situation — worse than previously known or understood. Woodward offers a devastating portrait of a dysfunctional Trump White House, detailing how senior aides — both current and former Trump administration officials — grew exasperated with the President and increasingly worried about his erratic behavior, ignorance and penchant for lying.
Chief of staff John Kelly describes Trump as an “idiot” and “unhinged,” Woodward reports. Defense Secretary James Mattis describes Trump as having the understanding of “a fifth or sixth grader.” And Trump’s former personal lawyer John Dowd describes the President as “a fucking liar,” telling Trump he would end up in an “orange jump suit” if he testified to special counsel Robert Mueller.
“He’s an idiot. It’s pointless to try to convince him of anything. He’s gone off the rails. We’re in crazytown,” Kelly is quoted as saying at a staff meeting in his office. “I don’t even know why any of us are here. This is the worst job I’ve ever had.”
CNN obtained a copy of Woodward’s book, scheduled for release September 11. The explosive revelations about Trump from those closest to him are likely to play into the November midterm election battle. The book also has stunning new details about Trump’s obsession with the Russia probe, describing for the first time confidential conversations between the President’s lawyers and Mueller. It recounts a dramatic session in the White House residence in which Trump failed a mock Mueller interview with his lawyers.
Woodward sums up the state of the Trump White House by writing that Trump was an “emotionally overwrought, mercurial and unpredictable leader.” Woodward writes that the staff’s decision to circumvent the President was “a nervous breakdown of the executive power of the most powerful country in the world.”

Circumventing the President

The book opens with a dramatic scene. Former chief economic adviser Gary Cohn saw a draft letter he considered dangerous to national security on the Oval Office desk.
The letter would have withdrawn the US from a critical trade agreement with South Korea. Trump’s aides feared the fallout could jeopardize a top-secret national security program: the ability to detect a North Korean missile launch within just seven seconds.
Woodward reports Cohn was “appalled” that Trump might sign the letter. “I stole it off his desk,” Cohn told an associate. “I wouldn’t let him see it. He’s never going to see that document. Got to protect the country.”
Cohn was not alone. Former staff secretary Rob Porter worked with Cohn and used the same tactic on multiple occasions, Woodward writes. In addition to literally stealing or hiding documents from Trump’s desk, they sought to stall and delay decisions or distract Trump from orders they thought would endanger national security.
“A third of my job was trying to react to some of the really dangerous ideas that he had and try to give him reasons to believe that maybe they weren’t such good ideas,” said Porter, who as staff secretary handled the flow of presidential papers until he quit amid domestic violence allegations. He and others acted with the acquiescence of former chief of staff Reince Priebus, Woodward reports.
Woodward describes repeated attempts to bypass Trump as “no less than an administrative coup d’état.”

The Russia obsession

Woodward’s book relies on hundreds of hours of taped interviews and dozens of sources in Trump’s inner circle, as well as documents, files, diaries and memos, including a note handwritten by Trump himself. Woodward explains that he talked with sources on “deep background,” meaning he could use all the information but not say who provided it.
His reporting comes with the credibility of a long and storied history that separates this book from previous efforts on Trump. The author and Washington Post journalist has won two Pulitzer Prizes, including one for his coverage of the Watergate scandal that led to President Richard Nixon’s resignation.
In one revelatory anecdote, Woodward describes a scene in the White House residence. Trump’s lawyer, convinced the President would perjure himself, put Trump through a test — a practice interview for the one he might have with Mueller. Trump failed, according to Dowd, but the President still insisted he should testify.
Woodward writes that Dowd saw the “full nightmare” of a potential Mueller interview, and felt Trump acted like an “aggrieved Shakespearean king.”
But Trump seemed surprised at Dowd’s reaction, Woodward writes. “You think I was struggling?” Trump asked.
Then, in an even more remarkable move, Dowd and Trump’s current personal attorney Jay Sekulow went to Mueller’s office and re-enacted the mock interview. Their goal: to argue that Trump couldn’t possibly testify because he was incapable of telling the truth.
“He just made something up. That’s his nature,” Dowd said to Mueller.
The passage is an unprecedented glimpse behind the scenes of Mueller’s secretive operation — for the first time, Mueller’s conversations with Trump’s lawyers are captured.
“I need the president’s testimony,” Mueller said. “What was his intent on Comey? … I want to see if there was corrupt intent.”
Despite Dowd’s efforts, Trump continued to insist he could testify. “I think the President of the United States cannot be seen taking the fifth,” Trump said.
Dowd’s argument was stark: “There’s no way you can get through these. … Don’t testify. It’s either that or an orange jump suit.”
What he couldn’t say to Trump, according to Woodward, was what Dowd believed to be true: “You’re a fucking liar.”

Trump’s insults and humiliation

Throughout the book, Woodward portrays the President as a man obsessed with his standing in the media and with his core supporters. Trump appears to be lonely and increasingly paranoid, often watching hours of television in the White House residence. “They’re out to get me,” Trump said of Mueller’s team.
Trump’s closest advisers described him erupting in rage and profanity, and he seemed to enjoy humiliating others.
“This guy is mentally retarded,” Trump said of Sessions. “He’s this dumb southerner,” Trump told Porter, mocking Sessions by feigning a southern accent.
Trump said that Priebus is “like a little rat. He just scurries around.”
And Trump demeaned former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani to his face, when Giuliani was the only campaign surrogate willing to defend then-candidate Trump on television after the “Access Hollywood” tape, a bombshell video where Trump described sexually assaulting women.
“Rudy, you’re a baby,” Trump told the man who is now his attorney. “I’ve never seen a worse defense of me in my life. They took your diaper off right there. You’re like a little baby that needed to be changed. When are you going to be a man?”
Trump’s predecessors are not spared either. In a conversation with Sen. Lindsey Graham, Trump called President Barack Obama a “weak dick” for not acting in Syria, Woodward reports.

National security concerns

Woodward’s book takes readers inside top-secret meetings. On July 27, 2017, Trump’s national security leaders convened a gathering at “The Tank” in the Pentagon. The goal: an intervention to try to educate the President on the importance of allies and diplomacy.
Trump’s philosophy on diplomacy was personal. “This is all about leader versus leader. Man versus man. Me versus Kim,” he said of North Korea.
His inner circle was worried about “The Big Problem,” Woodward writes: Trump’s lack of understanding that his crusade to impose tariffs could endanger global security.
But the meeting didn’t go as planned.
Trump went off on his generals. “You should be killing guys. You don’t need a strategy to kill people,” Trump said of Afghanistan.
He questioned the wisdom of keeping US troops in South Korea.
“So Mr. President,” Cohn said to Trump, “what would you need in the region to sleep well at night?”
“I wouldn’t need a fucking thing,” the President said. “And I’d sleep like a baby.”
After Trump left the Tank, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson declared: “He’s a fucking moron.”
The book provides the context for the now-infamous quote that marked the beginning of the end for Tillerson’s tenure. Tillerson tried to downplay the dispute — “I’m not going to deal with petty stuff like that,” he said at a news conference after NBC reported the remark — but he was ultimately fired via tweet.
Woodward also quotes an unnamed White House official who gave an even more dire assessment of the meeting: “It seems clear that many of the president’s senior advisers, especially those in the national security realm, are extremely concerned with his erratic nature, his relative ignorance, his inability to learn, as well as what they consider his dangerous views.”
A recurrent theme in Woodward’s book is Trump’s seeming disregard for national security concerns because of his obsession with money — trade deficits and the cost of troops overseas.
In meeting after meeting, Trump questions why the US has to pay for such a large troop presence in South Korea.
“We’re doing this in order to prevent World War III,” Mattis, the defense secretary, bluntly explained to Trump at one January 2018 meeting, which prompted Mattis to tell close associates afterward that Trump had the understanding of a “fifth or sixth grader.”
Trump still wasn’t convinced. “I think we could be so rich if we weren’t stupid,” he later said in the meeting, arguing the US was being played as “suckers,” Woodward reports.

The ‘Ernest Hemingway’ of Twitter

Trump’s tweets — and his infatuation with Twitter — are a theme throughout the book.
Woodward reveals that Trump ordered printouts of his tweets and studied them to find out which ones were most popular. “The most effective tweets were often the most shocking,” Woodward writes.
Twitter was a source of great consternation for national security leaders, who feared — and warned Trump — “Twitter could get us into a war.”
Appalled by some of his more outrageous posts, Trump’s aides tried to form a Twitter “committee” to vet the President’s tweets, but they failed to stop their boss.
Priebus, who was blindsided when Trump announced his firing on Twitter, referred to the presidential bedroom as “the devil’s workshop” and called the early morning hours and Sunday night — a time of many news-breaking tweets — “the witching hour.”
Trump, however, saw himself as a Twitter wordsmith.
“It’s a good thing,” Trump said when Twitter expanded its character count to 280, “but it’s a bit of a shame because I was the Ernest Hemingway of 140 characters.”

‘A zoo without walls’

Finally, “Fear” is filled with slights, insults and takedowns from both family and staff that speak to the chaos, infighting and drama that Trump allows to fester around him.
Both Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump are targeted by the inner circle.
There is a pointed shot at Ivanka from the President’s now-ostracized chief strategist Steve Bannon, who frequently clashed with the first daughter and her husband.
“You’re nothing but a fucking staffer!” Bannon screamed at Ivanka at a staff meeting, according to Woodward. “You walk around this place and act like you’re in charge, and you’re not. You’re on staff!”
“I’m not a staffer!” she shouted back. “I’ll never be a staffer. I’m the first daughter” — she really used the title, Woodward writes — “and I’m never going to be a staffer!”
Two of the harshest comments in the book are directed at Trump and come from his chiefs of staff.
After Trump’s Charlottesville, Virginia, controversy, in which he failed to condemn white supremacists, Cohn tried to resign but was instead dressed down by Trump and accused of “treason.”
Kelly, who is Trump’s current chief of staff, told Cohn afterward, according to notes Cohn made of the exchange: “If that was me, I would have taken that resignation letter and shoved it up his ass six different times.”
And Priebus, Trump’s first chief of staff, encapsulated the White House and the thrust of Woodward’s book by describing the administration as a place with “natural predators at the table.”
“When you put a snake and a rat and a falcon and a rabbit and a shark and a seal in a zoo without walls,” Priebus is quoted as saying, “things start getting nasty and bloody.”

Joe Biden’s McCain eulogy just explained exactly what’s wrong with American politics

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Joe Biden’s McCain eulogy just explained exactly what’s wrong with American politics

(CNN)Here’s a paragraph from Joe Biden’s eulogy of the late John McCain that you need to read:

“You know, I’m sure if my former colleagues who work with John, I’m sure there’s people who said to you, not only now, but the last 10 years, ‘Explain this guy to me,’ right? ‘Explain this guy to me.’ Because, as they looked at him, in one sense they admired him. In one sense, the way things changed so much in America, they look at him as if John came from another age, lived by a different code, an ancient, antiquated code where honor, courage, integrity, duty, were alive. That was obvious, how John lived his life. The truth is, John’s code was ageless, is ageless. When you talked earlier, Grant, you talked about values. It wasn’t about politics with John. He could disagree on substance, but the underlying values that animated everything John did, everything he was, come to a different conclusion. He’d part company with you if you lacked the basic values of decency, respect, knowing this project is bigger than yourself.”
Yes, that is, ostensibly, about McCain. But it is also an indictment of our current politics — and a road map on how we can fix what’s broken.
The prevailing “value” of modern politics is partisanship: You are good if you are on my team. You are not just bad, but morally bankrupt, if you are on the other side. You are real if you are on my team and fake if you aren’t. Anything the captain of my team says can be justified (and agreed with) because, well, they’re the captain of my team. Anything the other team’s captain says is wrong, by default, because they’re the captain of the other team. There’s no reason to listen to people on the other team. Or make friends with them. Or even be seen with them. They aren’t on my team. Why would I do that?
President Donald Trump is the walking, talking epitome of the sanctification of partisanship over all our other, real, values. (Yes, the irony is not lost on me — and should not be lost on you — that the modern patron saint of partisanship is someone who has been, literally, a Democrat, an independent and a Republican all within the last decade or so.) This is a man who has declared, repeatedly, that the mainstream media is the “enemy of the people.” A man who said his Democratic opponent in the 2016 election should be jailed. A man who has called elected officials of his own party who disagreed with him “incompetent,” “weak and ineffective” and “so bad,” among many other things. A man who, while McCain was home in Arizona fighting the brain cancer that eventually killed him, would use the story of McCain voting against health care repeal legislation to symbolize the Arizona senator’s alleged backstabbing. (“One senator decided to put the thumb down,” Trump would say in his standard stump speech. “That was not a good thing.”)
To be clear: Trump doesn’t take this if-you-aren’t-with-me-you’re-against-me view out of any sort of principles. After all, he made his living in the private sector as a deal-maker, someone who always saw compromise as possible — even in the darkest of situations. And as I noted above, Trump has been all over the map in terms of his personal politics. This is not a man wedded to a certain, unwavering view of what’s right in the world.
LIKE WHAT YOU’RE READING?

Check out the latest analysis from The Point with Chris Cillizza:

Trump has elevated pure, unstinting partisanship into a virtue because it works for him politically. The Republican base was mad as hell at its elected leaders who they believed were all too willing to compromise on core principles. And not just compromise, but compromise badly; conservatives have long believed that Democrats always got the best of Republicans when it came to the sort of last-minute deal-making that Congress made a habit of producing. Compromise as capitulation was a notion within conservative circles before Trump, but he seized the idea and turned it into gospel truth. Even being seen with a member of the opposite party has become enough to draw a Republican incumbent a primary challenge from someone in their home state, insisting that the elected official has “gone Washington” or “come down with Potomac fever” or some other claptrap like that.
Now go back up and read Biden’s words. And these words in particular (bolding is mine):
“It wasn’t about politics with John. He could disagree on substance, but the underlying values that animated everything John did, everything he was, come to a different conclusion. He’d part company with you if you lacked the basic values of decency, respect, knowing this project is bigger than yourself.”
When you read that last sentence, you understand why McCain was so openly critical of Trump, and why Trump disliked McCain in turn. McCain believed in the idea of public service as a noble — flawed, but nonetheless noble — profession. That the reason you got into politics was to find ways to do good, not for yourself but for the broader populace. That the most important lesson to always, always, always remember is that we all have a lot more in common than we have differences on. That focusing on that common humanity was at the essence of how politics should work. It wasn’t about what team you were on. It was about what good you wanted to do — and for whom.
That shared humanity — the sense that we are all, in the end, in this together — hasn’t disappeared.
It can’t disappear because it’s who we, at root, are. What’s wrong is that we just aren’t looking hard enough for it. We are too willing to allow ourselves to be manipulated by people who, for whatever reasons — political and monetary gain, mostly — have a vested interest in focusing on what divides us rather than what unites us.
I’m under no illusion that either McCain’s death (and life) or Biden’s paean to re-find what McCain represented will have any immediate effect on the body politic. It’s easier to retreat into partisan camps and surround yourself with people, TV talkers and the like who tell you that you’re right (about everything) and those who disagree with you are your enemies, villains to be vanquished.
In the end, though, I’m with Biden and McCain. Who we are might get obscured. We might forget. But those are temporary matters. In the end, our eyes will open and our minds will remember.

SENATOR JOHN McCAIN HAS DIED: HE WAS 81

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Whenever America was in a fight during his long lifetime, John McCain was in the thick of it.

McCain, who has died at the age of 81, was a naval bomber pilot, prisoner of war, conservative maverick, giant of the Senate, twice-defeated presidential candidate and an abrasive American hero with a twinkle in his eye.
The Arizonan warrior politician, who survived plane crashes, several bouts of skin cancer and brushes with political oblivion, often seemed to be perpetually waging a race against time and his own mortality while striving to ensure that his five-and-a-half years as a Vietnam prisoner of war did not stand as the defining experience of his life.
He spent his last few months out of the public eye in his adopted home state of Arizona, reflecting on the meaning of his life and accepting visits from a stream of friends and old political combatants.
In a memoir published in May, McCain wrote that he hated to leave the world, but had no complaints.
“It’s been quite a ride. I’ve known great passions, seen amazing wonders, fought in a war, and helped make peace,” McCain wrote. “I’ve lived very well and I’ve been deprived of all comforts. I’ve been as lonely as a person can be and I’ve enjoyed the company of heroes. I’ve suffered the deepest despair and experienced the highest exultation.
“I made a small place for myself in the story of America and the history of my times.”
McCain had not been in Washington since December, leaving a vacuum in the corridors of the Senate and the television news studios he roamed for decades.
In recent months, he was not completely quiet, however, blasting President Donald Trump in a series of tweets and statements that showed that while he was ailing he had lost none of his appetite for the political fight.
The Arizona Senator repeatedly made clear that he saw Trump and his America First ideology as a departure from the values and traditions of global leadership that he saw epitomized in the United States.
CNN reported in May, that the McCains did not want Trump at his funeral. Former rivals and Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush had been asked to give eulogies, people close to both former presidents and a source close to the senator confirmed to CNN.
McCain’s two losing presidential campaigns meant he fell short of the ultimate political prize, one his story once seemed to promise after he came home from Vietnam and caught the political bug. In the end, he became a scourge of presidents rather than President himself.
At the time of his death, he was largely an anomaly in his own party — as one of the few Republicans willing to criticize Trump and a believer in the idealized “shining city on a hill” brand of conservatism exemplified by his hero Ronald Reagan that has been dislodged by the nativist and polarizing instincts of the current President. He was also a throwback to an earlier era when political leaders, without betraying their own ideology, were willing on occasion to cross partisan lines.
In a Washington career that spanned 40 years, first as a Navy Senate liaison, then as a member of the House and finally as the occupant of the Senate seat he took over from Barry Goldwater, McCain was a conservative and a foreign policy hawk. But he was not always a reliable Republican vote, and sometimes in a career that stretched into a sixth Senate term, he confounded party leaders with his maverick stands. He defied party orthodoxy to embrace campaign finance reform, and excoriated President George W. Bush’s defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, for not taking enough troops to Iraq.
After Obama ended McCain’s second White House race in 2008, the senator blasted the new President’s troop withdrawals from Iraq and Afghanistan, causing critics to carp that he had not yet reconciled the bitterness he felt in defeat. McCain had supported the invasion of Iraq carried out by the Bush administration in 2003, but admitted in his memoir “The Restless Wave” that the rationale, that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction was wrong.
“The war, with its cost in lives and treasure and security, can’t be judged as anything other than a mistake, a very serious one, and I have to accept my share of the blame for it,” he wrote.
More recently, as death approached, he became a strident critic of Trump, who had once said he didn’t consider the Arizona senator a war hero because he had been captured.
McCain questioned why Trump was solicitous of Vladimir Putin, whom he regarded as an unreformed KGB apparatchik.
In one of his final public acts, he blasted Trump’s cozy summit with the Russian President in July, blasting it as “one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory.”
“The damage inflicted by President Trump’s naiveté, egotism, false equivalence, and sympathy for autocrats is difficult to calculate. But it is clear that the summit in Helsinki was a tragic mistake,” he said in a statement.
In July 2017, McCain returned from brain surgery to the Senate floor to lambaste “bombastic loudmouths” on the television, radio and internet and plead for a return to a more civilized political age, when compromise and regular order forged bipartisan solutions.
Then, in September, in a poignant speech that seemed designed to echo down the ages after he was gone, McCain reminded his colleagues they were a check on executive power: “We are not the President’s subordinates,” he said. “We are his equals.”
In a final act of defiant independence, McCain, with a dramatic thumbs-down gesture on the Senate floor in September, cast the vote that scuttled the GOP’s effort to repeal and replace Obamacare, causing fury within his party — a move that prompted Trump, to the fury of McCain’s family to repeatedly single him out in campaign rallies.
When the President signed McCain’s last legislative triumph in August, the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act, he did not even mention the Arizona senator.

‘I wasn’t my own man anymore; I was my country’s’

John Sidney McCain III, the son and grandson of Navy admirals, entered the world on August 29, 1936, in the Panama Canal Zone, a birthplace that years later would cause a brief campaign kerfuffle over whether he was a natural born citizen and thus eligible to be elected president.
His habit of insubordination despite his military pedigree emerged at the Naval Academy, where he graduated fifth from the bottom of his class.
“My superiors didn’t hold me in very high esteem in those days. Their disapproval was measured in the hundreds of miles of extra duty I marched in my time here,” McCain told graduates at Annapolis in October of last year.
By 1967, McCain was in the Pacific and escaped death in a massive fire aboard the USS Forrestal aircraft carrier. Months later, he was shot down in his Skyhawk jet over North Vietnam and parachuted into a lake near Hanoi, breaking both arms and a leg, and was captured by communist soldiers. In captivity, McCain was tortured and beaten, an experience that left him with lifelong injuries, including severely restricted movement of his arms. He kept himself sane by tapping on a wall to communicate with a fellow prisoner in a neighboring cell. Later, he refused the offer of a preferential release, made because his father was an admiral, until his comrades could also come home, eventually returning in 1973 to a nation politically torn by the war.
His period in captivity set the course of his life.
“I fell in love with my country when I was a prisoner in someone else’s,” McCain said in his 2008 Republican National Convention speech.
“I loved it because it was not just a place, but an idea, a cause worth fighting for. I was never the same again; I wasn’t my own man anymore; I was my country’s.”
After turning to politics, McCain served in the House from 1983, won an Arizona US Senate seat in 1986 and established himself as a down-the-line conservative in the age of Ronald Reagan. But his political career almost fizzled before it began when he was among the Keating Five group of senators accused of interfering with regulators in a campaign finance case. He was cleared of wrongdoing, but the Senate Ethics Committee reprimanded him for poor judgment, an experience that led to him becoming a pioneer of campaign finance reform.
He didn’t forget his time in Vietnam.
In an act of reconciliation, McCain joined Democratic Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, a fellow decorated Vietnam War veteran, to help end the US trade embargo on its former southeast Asian enemy in a process that led to the eventual reopening of diplomatic relations.
By 2000, McCain set his sights on the White House and ran as a maverick Republican, holding court for hours in candid back-and-forth sessions with reporters on his campaign bus, dubbed the “Straight Talk Express.” In years to come, he would joke that his adoring press pack was his “base.”
After skipping Iowa over his long opposition to ethanol subsidies, McCain forged a victory over establishment favorite and then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush in New Hampshire after a string of town hall meetings with voters.
But his effort hit a brick wall in South Carolina, where the campaign turned negative and McCain’s independent streak hurt him in a state with more core conservatives and fewer independents. Bush got back on track with a primary win that set him on the road to the nomination.

The maverick of the Senate

Back in the Senate, McCain heard the call of war again, as American foreign policy was transformed after the September 11, 2001, terror attacks, and he became a forceful proponent of the US use of force overseas. He backed US interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq. When Americans tired of war, McCain warned that more troops were needed, demanding a surge in forces that Bush later adopted.
When it appeared that his hawkish views were at odds with the electorate and could damage his nascent 2008 presidential bid, McCain answered: “I would rather lose a campaign than a war.”
But, influenced by his experience of torture in Vietnam, McCain was a forceful critic of the enhanced interrogation techniques used by the CIA on terror suspects, believing they were contrary to American values and damaged the US image abroad.
It was a typical example of the Arizona senator adopting a position that appeared antithetical to his political interests or ran counter to the perceived wisdom of his party.
After the Keating Five scandal, he joined a crusade with Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin to introduce new restrictions on “soft” and corporate money in political campaigns.
Later, McCain teamed up with his great friend, late Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy on a bill that would provide a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. The measure failed, however, over building grassroots antipathy to such a move in the GOP, which would later play a major role in the Trump campaign in the 2016 election.
McCain set his sights on the White House again during Bush’s second term. By 2007, his campaign was all but broke. But he fired up the Straight Talk Express again and pulled off another famous comeback, barnstorming to victory once more in the New Hampshire primary.
This time, he also won South Carolina, and beat a fading Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani in Florida before effectively clinching the nomination with a clutch of wins on Super Tuesday.
That November, McCain came up against the historic appeal of a much younger and more eloquent rival, Obama. Mocking the Illinois senator in ads as “the biggest celebrity in the world,” McCain questioned whether his popular foe was ready to lead.
Seeking to rebrand himself in a change election, McCain stunned the political world by picking little-known Sarah Palin as his running mate. The Alaska governor delivered a spellbinding convention speech, and for several weeks it seemed as if McCain’s gamble worked.
But a series of gaffes turned Palin into a figure of ridicule and undercut McCain’s contention that his ticket, and not Obama’s, was best qualified to lead in a dangerous world. McCain, however, would not say that he regretted picking Palin.
But in his new memoir, “The Restless Wave,” and in a separate documentary, McCain said he wished he had ignored the advice of his advisers and listened to his gut and chosen Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, a Democrat-turned-independent, calling it “another mistake that I made.”
But McCain also rose above the ugliness of the campaign. On one occasion, he cut off a supporter at a town hall event who said she could not trust Obama because she thought he was an Arab, amid conspiracy theories suggesting that the Democrat had not been not born in America.
“No ma’am, he’s a decent family man, citizen, who I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues, and that’s what this campaign is all about,” McCain said.
He dealt with his defeat by throwing himself back into life in the Senate. In later years he described how it felt to lose, telling anyone who asked, “After I lost … I slept like a baby — sleep two hours, wake up and cry.”
But his relationship with Obama was tense, with the President snubbing his former foe in a health care summit in 2010 by telling him “the election’s over.”
The Arizona senator emerged as a fierce critic of Obama’s worldview, prompting Democrats to complain that McCain was the embodiment of a Republican reflex to respond to every global problem with military force, which had led America into misadventures like the war in Iraq.
McCain’s robust foreign policy views were reflected on the walls of his Senate conference room, which featured letters and photos from the likes of Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, leaders who didn’t suffer critics gladly.
Still, McCain was also a throwback, enjoying friendships with rivals across the political aisle, and indulging in the back-slapping bonhomie of the Senate, where he invariably held court to a crowd between votes.
Sometimes things got testy with his Democratic pals, including when he confronted Hillary Clinton and fellow Vietnam War veteran Kerry during hearings of the Senate Armed Services Committee while they served as secretaries of state under Obama.

‘He served his country … and, I hope we could add, honorably’

The Republicans’ recapture of the Senate in the 2014 midterm elections gave McCain a chance to rewrite the final chapter of his career.
He at last took the gavel of the Armed Services Committee, an assignment he had long coveted. His prominent position was seen as one reason he ran for re-election in 2016.
But he knew his time was limited.
“Every single day,” McCain told The New York Times in 2015, “is a day less that I am going to be able to serve in the Senate.”
Still, despite saying he was “older than dirt,” McCain made few concessions to his age. Even after turning 80, he maintained a punishing schedule of world travel, conferring with top leaders and heading to war zones in trips that left his younger congressional colleagues exhausted.
He would blitz Sunday talk shows, direct from Arizona in the dawn hours. When Trump was elected, McCain took it upon himself to reassure world leaders, visiting multiple countries in the first six months of 2017 before his diagnosis.
His sidekick, GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, told CNN the hectic pace had taken a toll.
“You know he just wore himself out traveling all around the world,” Graham said.
McCain, who was divorced from his first wife, Carol, in 1980, is survived by his wife, Cindy, and seven children, including three sons who continued the family tradition of serving in the armed forces and a daughter, Meghan, who is a presenter on ABC’s “The View.” His mother, Roberta, aged 106, is also still living.
For his military service, he was awarded the Silver Star, the Bronze Star, the Legion of Merit, a Purple Heart and the Distinguished Flying Cross.
He faced his final diagnosis with characteristic courage, telling CNN’s Jake Tapper that “every life has to end one way or another.”
Asked how he wanted to be remembered, McCain said: “He served his country, and not always right — made a lot of mistakes, made a lot of errors — but served his country, and, I hope we could add, honorably.”
McCain, who will be remembered as much for his combative nature as his political achievements, summed up the meaning of a life forged in the example of his political hero Theodore Roosevelt when he stood before the flag-draped coffin of his friend and foe, Sen. Kennedy, in 2009, his late colleague from Massachusetts, who died from the same form of brain cancer that eventually killed McCain.
“Ted and I shared the sentiment that a fight not joined was a fight not enjoyed.”

Is Trumps Day Of Reckoning About Here?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

CNN) After one day where truth and facts triumphed, America is back to its alternative realities.

The convictions of two close associates of President Donald Trump in a mind-bending double-header drama in two cities on Tuesday were a moment of clarity in the legal morass that has thickened around the White House over the last 19 months.
Yet anyone who thought that being implicated in a crime in one of the most sensational political moments of recent history would soon temper Trump’s behavior, stop his White House peddling untruths or reshape the political terrain that sustains his presidency is being disappointed — at least for now.
Certainly, in years to come that tumultuous hour on Tuesday could turn out to be the moment when the Trump presidency began to unravel and the Teflon armor that shielded the President from scandals and outrages that would doom normal politicians was finally penetrated.
After all, months of obfuscation and attacks on Robert Mueller could not halt the legal process that’s likely to send former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and the President’s former fixer Michael Cohen to jail for years. And the real meat of the special counsel’s investigation into alleged collusion with Russia is yet to be revealed.
But in the immediate term at least, it seems nothing has changed in Washington.
The White House is back to peddling narratives that defy fact, attacking the media and lifting talking points from conservative opinion hosts. Trump is making new assaults on legal propriety. Republicans are dodging reporters in the Capitol to avoid being called to account for the President’s latest transgression. Democrats, owing to the GOP’s power monopoly in Washington, can only stir outrage and fire blanks — at least until the midterm elections.

‘What in the world are we going through?’

Trump’s defenders can still argue that although Cohen and Manafort, and the already disgraced Trump acolytes Rick Gates and Michael Flynn, have been felled by Mueller, the President has not been charged or been proved to have colluded with Russia or obstructed justice.
But his attitude on Wednesday hardly fit the profile of someone who had done nothing wrong or who is convinced the legal process should be allowed to play out to its conclusion.
He made up a legal loophole to argue that the hush money paid to women before the 2016 election who alleged they had affairs with him — payments Cohen said were made at his direction — did not break the law since it did not come from campaign funds.
“They didn’t come out of the campaign and that’s big,” Trump said in an interview with Fox News. “It’s not even a campaign violation.”
Trump is also again brazenly tearing at the boundaries of presidential decorum, dangling the possibility of a pardon before Manafort, who might just be tempted to cooperate with Mueller, now that he’s probably going to jail for most of the rest of his life.
“I feel very badly for Paul Manafort and his wonderful family. ‘Justice’ took a 12-year-old tax case, among other things, applied tremendous pressure on him and, unlike Michael Cohen, he refused to ‘break’ – make up stories in order to get a ‘deal.’ Such respect for a brave man!” Trump tweeted.
Former Watergate special prosecutor Richard Ben-Veniste bemoaned the possibility that the President might be considering a pardon for a man convicted of massive tax fraud and called on political leaders to come together to head off a moment of national peril.
“What in the world are we going through in this country?” Ben-Veniste told CNN’s Erica Hill.
At the White House, press secretary Sarah Sanders held a previously unscheduled briefing to press home the President’s counterattack.
She dismissed the notion that Trump was in legal trouble at all over Cohen’s accusation, which effectively boiled down to the sitting President of the United States being accused of a crime.
“As the President has said and we’ve stated many times, he did nothing wrong. There are no charges against him and we’ve commented on it extensively,” she said.
When asked by a reporter whether Trump’s now-discredited statement on Air Force One that he knew nothing about the payment to former porn star Stormy Daniels, she attacked the messenger:
“I think that’s a ridiculous accusation. The President, in this matter, has done nothing wrong.”
Republican lawmakers, meanwhile, are stuck in their perpetual dance, tiptoeing around Trump’s latest misadventures in fear of his Make America Great Again base. House Speaker Paul Ryan, once seen as the moral conscience of the GOP, is nowhere to be seen nor heard.
“I’m not very happy about it,” said Utah’s Sen. Orrin Hatch, who earlier this year said the current presidency could be the greatest in history, but he added Wednesday that Trump should not be blamed for his staff.
Louisiana’s Sen. John Kennedy said he didn’t see what the fuss was about in the Cohen and Manafort convictions.
“You know, I’m sorry. I don’t see any deeper meaning in this other than you have to pay your taxes and you can’t lie on a loan application,” he told reporters.
South Carolina’s Sen. Lindsey Graham, a sometime Trump golf partner, punted.
“Rather than answer a bunch of hypotheticals, I’ll do what I did in the Clinton — when Ken Starr issued his report. I read it, I’ll make a decision,” he said.
Democrats are gamely repurposing the latest Trump crisis in their almost certainly futile bid to scuttle the President’s Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, but are limited by their purgatory in the minority.
Hawaii’s Democratic Sen. Mazie Hirono nixed a meeting with Kavanaugh, to bolster Democratic calls for the nomination to be put on hold given Tuesday’s events.
But Democrats are also still wary of using the “I” word, partly to avoid giving Trump a rallying issue that could motivate his supporters in the midterm elections.
House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi told The Associated Press on Wednesday that impeachment is still “not on the table” even though some liberals believe that if Trump did conspire with Cohen in the way it appears from his court testimony, he may have already committed a high crime or misdemeanor that is the standard for House of Representatives action against a President.

A ‘reckoning’ will come

It’s become a cliché that nothing — insulting war hero Sen. John McCain, cozying up to Russian leader Vladimir Putin or elevating white supremacists — derails Trump. Tuesday’s events could become just another data point in that trend. And if the special counsel finds no evidence of collusion with Russia or obstruction of justice, Trump will be able to credibly assert that his name is clear.
But no one knows where Mueller’s probe will lead, if Trump or his campaign is guilty of collusion or obstructing justice. Presidencies can take years to unravel, as the varied experiences of Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter show.
There’s also little doubt that Tuesday’s legal stunner, and the news that White House Counsel Donald McGahn testified to Mueller for 30 hours, have seeded new dark clouds around the President that could manifest themselves in ways impossible to predict right now.
And while Democrats are currently powerless, they could cripple Trump’s presidency and make his life a misery with incessant investigations if they win the House in November
A Democratic rout would prompt Republicans to consider whether sticking with Trump and a strategy solely reliant on his base is wise in the 2020 election.
So while it may seem that Trump’s political and legal luck is holding, it may erode over time and the furor surrounding Tuesday’s convictions could be a major reason why.
Some Trump opponents are still optimistic that the President is set for a demise.
“I believe in the wisdom and the good faith of the American people,” Norm Eisen, White House ethics czar during the Obama administration, said on CNN International.
“Let’s let it unfold. He is going to meet his day of reckoning.”

Manafort Jury Seems To Have Reached Decisions On 17 Of 18 Charges

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Judge tells Manafort jury to keep deliberating after it asks about impact of not reaching verdict on one count

Alexandria, Virginia (CNN)The judge in the trial of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort urged the jury Tuesday to keep deliberating after it asked what happens if it can’t reach consensus on one of 18 counts.

“It is your duty to agree upon a verdict if you can do so,” Judge T.S. Ellis said. He encouraged each juror to make their own decisions on each count, but if some were in the minority on a decision, they could think about what the other jurors believe.
Give “deference” to each other and “listen to each others’ arguments.”
“You’re the exclusive judges,” he added. “Take all the time which you feel is necessary.”
The jurors asked about the impact of not agreeing on all counts.
“If we cannot come to a consensus for a single count, how can we fill in the verdict sheet?” the jury wrote in a note to Ellis.
Without jurors present, Ellis also told judge told the courtroom that he will not ask the jury for a partial verdict at this time.
Manafort is charged with 18 counts of tax evasion, bank fraud and hiding foreign bank accounts in the first case brought to trial by special counsel Robert Mueller as part of the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 US election. He has pleaded not guilty to all the charges.
The trial carries major implications for the future of Mueller’s investigation. Trump has repeatedly called the probe a “witch hunt” that hasn’t found evidence of Russian collusion with his campaign, and his allies in and out of the White House say the special counsel should wrap things up.
Prosecutors say Manafort collected $65 million in foreign bank accounts from 2010 to 2014 and spent more than $15 million on luxury purchases in the same period, including high-end clothing, real estate, landscaping and other big-ticket items.
They also allege that Manafort lied to banks in order to take out more than $20 million in loans after his Ukrainian political work dried up in 2015, and they accused him of hiding the foreign bank accounts from federal authorities. Manafort received loans from the Federal Savings Bank after one of its executives sought a position in the Trump campaign and administration, according to prosecutors.
Manafort faces up to 305 years in prison if convicted on all charges.
This story is breaking and will be updated.

Trump is powerless as his legal fate spins out of his control

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Trump is powerless as his legal fate spins out of his control

(CNN)President Donald Trump may no longer control his fate, a plight that helps explain his increasingly volcanic Twitter eruptions.

Trump’s persona — in politics, business and life — relies on his self-image as the guy who calls the shots, closes deals and forces others to react to the shock moves of a master narrative weaver.
But as a legal web closes around the President, he’s in a far weaker position than he would like, a situation especially underlined by the bombshell revelations that White House counsel Donald McGahn has spent 30 hours in interviews with special counsel Robert Mueller.
Trump reacted to a media frenzy over the McGahn revelations in characteristic fashion: by launching a new Twitter assault on Mueller, taking new shots at his new nemesis John Brennan and diverting attention with newsy comments on the Federal Reserve.
But sources told CNN on Monday that the President was unsettled that he didn’t know the full extent of McGahn’s testimony and had remained agitated through the weekend, believing the latest developments made him look weak.
McGahn’s conversations with Mueller are not the only drama that is leaving Trump waiting on events, rather than dictating them.
Prosecutors and jurors over whom he has little control, the legal exposure of some of his top former associates and the surprising constraints of the most powerful job in the world and those who serve him are leaving him — for once — struggling to control his own story.
Trump is on tenterhooks, for instance, as a jury — now entering its fourth day of deliberations — weighs tax and fraud charges that could send Paul Manafort, his onetime campaign chairman, to jail for life.
New reports on Sunday that Michael Cohen is close to being charged in his own multimillion-dollar alleged fraud case ignited fresh speculation over whether the President’s former personal lawyer could do a deal with prosecutors to testify against his former top client.
Then there is his duel with Mueller himself, who may be the most inscrutable, immovable foe Trump has ever faced.
The President has often raised fears that he could try to have Mueller removed or otherwise interfere with his investigation. But the consequences of derailing a criminal probe into the conduct of his own campaign would cause a crisis of governance in Washington and could so shift the political terrain that even Republicans who have given the President a free pass could be forced to confront him.
Still, on Monday Trump was still mulling the idea of a shock move — or at least he wanted the special counsel, his own supporters and other Americans to think he might try something unthinkable.
“I’ve decided to stay out. Now, I don’t have to stay out, as you know. I can go in and I could … do whatever, I could run it if I want,” Trump told Reuters in an interview, speaking about the Mueller investigation.

Trying to get back in control

After the McGahn news detonated, Trump — as he often does when apparently caught off guard — took pains to create an impression that he was in control.
He tweeted on Sunday that he had engineered McGahn’s testimony because he had nothing to hide and rejected commentary that the White House counsel may have turned on him.
Of course, the President could be completely genuine in his comments if he has done nothing wrong. But many legal analysts saw the new details over the length and extent of McGahn’s discussions with Mueller as a serious development that could have all sorts of implications down the road.
“I think the White House should be very concerned about it,” CNN Legal Analyst Ross Garber said.
“The notion that the White House counsel — the senior lawyer for the presidency — was in cooperation with federal investigators and that the President and the chief of staff and others around the President don’t know what he said — that is troubling.”
Powerless to do much else, Trump fired off wild tweeting sprees, in deflection mode, accusing Mueller of perpetrating McCarthyism and taking new swipes at Brennan.
“He won’t sue!” Trump predicted in a tweet that branded Brennan “the worst CIA Director in our country’s history,” days after stripping him of his security clearance.
And on Monday the President tweeted: “Disgraced and discredited Bob Mueller and his whole group of Angry Democrat Thugs spent over 30 hours with the White House Councel (sic), only with my approval, for purposes of transparency. Anybody needing that much time when they know there is no Russian Collusion is just someone … looking for trouble.”
But it’s becoming clear that Trump’s immediate and ultimate destiny cannot be dictated by a tweet storm or by taking vengeance against an enemy like Brennan — a tried and trusted tactic in a political arsenal that often relies on elevating and then dismembering a foil.
Other than wielding pre-emptive pardons for former aides that could ignite a constitutional showdown or launching purges of top judicial authorities handling various cases that are drawing him into a deeper legal morass, there is not much the President can do to help himself.
That’s partly down to Mueller.
For all his increasingly poisonous insults, claims by his lawyer Rudy Giuliani that the special counsel is “panicking” and the assault by his allies in conservative media, Trump has failed to draw the tight-lipped special counsel into the kind of confrontation that favors him.
And for all Giuliani’s demands for Mueller to release his “report” and the political jockeying by Trump’s legal team over a potential interview of the President by the special counsel, the taciturn investigator appears to hold all the cards.
No one, least of all the President, can be sure exactly what Mueller knows about key issues like the firing of former FBI Director James Comey, the events that led up to the departure of indicted former national security adviser Michael Flynn or obstruction of justice allegations.
And given the tight clamp the special counsel has imposed on his probe, it is anyone’s guess whether Mueller will file a report, what it will say and when he might make his conclusions public.
While Trump’s team appears to be trying to make the probe a midterm election rallying call for his political base, it’s also unclear whether the special counsel will make any new indictments, issue a subpoena for the President’s testimony or take any other significant steps before November.
All that is a serious disadvantage for Trump’s legal and political team as it games out a possible defense.

Not so powerful after all

As a zealous litigant during his business career, Trump was used to having lawyers ready to jump at his barked commands.
But he’s found that things are different for a president, a reality underscored by the McGahn episode.
Because McGahn serves as White House counsel, his primary duty is not limiting Trump’s legal liabilities but to the office of the presidency itself, a distinction that has left some experts wondering why the President did not invoke executive privilege to delay or limit McGahn’s testimony.
Even then, there might not have been much Trump could have done, given the realities of McGahn’s role and the fact that he is not the President’s personal attorney.
“He works for the people of the United States, and there is a very limited scope to the confidentiality of his discussions with the President, especially when they involve conduct that might be legitimately the subject of criminal investigation,” Paul Rosenzweig, a former senior counsel to Bill Clinton independent counsel Kenneth Starr, told CNN’s Brooke Baldwin.
“He simply has that obligation as a servant of the American people who works for us, in effect.”
Trump’s frustration over the constraints of his role and the obligations of those who serve him has long simmered in his relationship with Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Trump has repeatedly slammed the former Alabama senator for recusing himself from the Russia probe; in other words, protecting not the President but his duty to justice and good governance.
It may not be much longer before Trump feels the same way about McGahn.
The President is also all but powerless in another legal drama that has huge implications.
Like the rest of Washington, he was back in a waiting game as the jury in the Manafort trial in Alexandria, Virginia, slogged through a third day of deliberations Monday. Should it return a guilty verdict, it would hand a first, significant victory to Mueller’s team and deal a symbolic blow to Trump, offering new evidence to critics who say he surrounded himself with corrupt characters from his former life.
The President, despite repeated warnings from his cheerleaders on Fox News opinion shows that the Manafort trial has nothing to do with him, has shown by a string of tweets that he is watching the trial closely.
But he cannot do much more than hope that it turns out well for Manafort, though on Friday he did call the trial “very sad” and his former campaign chairman “a very good person” in comments seen by some legal experts as an effort to influence a jury that was not sequestered.
Until the jury returns its verdict, the depth of Cohen’s legal woes becomes clear and the inscrutable Mueller makes a significant move, Trump can only wait. And tweet.
He is going to have to get used to not being in control.

China ‘likely’ training pilots to target US, Pentagon report says

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

China ‘likely’ training pilots to target US, Pentagon report says

Washington (CNN)China is actively developing its fleet of long-range bombers and “likely” training its pilots for missions targeting the US, according to a new Pentagon report.

“Over the last three years, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has rapidly expanded its overwater bomber operating areas, gaining experience in critical maritime regions and likely training for strikes against US and allied targets,” the report said.
The “Annual Report on Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China” is a US government report mandated by Congress, which details Chinese military developments over the previous year.
This year’s report also claims that China is pursuing a nuclear capability on its long-range bombers, saying the Chinese air force “has been re-assigned a nuclear mission.”
“The deployment and integration of nuclear capable bombers would, for the first time, provide China with a nuclear ‘triad’ of delivery systems dispersed across land, sea, and air,” the report said.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has made no secret of his desire to modernize China’s armed forces, including weeding out widespread corruption in the ranks and updating the country’s military hardware.
As Thursday’s report notes, the PLA is undergoing “the most comprehensive restructure in its history to become a force capable of fighting joint operations.”
The United States released a new Defense Strategy at the beginning of 2018 where it proclaimed “long-term strategic competitions with China” as one of the US military’s top challenges.
According to Thursday’s report, China is working on a “stealthy, long-range strategic bomber with a nuclear delivery capability that could be operational within the next 10 years,” in addition to the bombers it already operates.
In a show of the expanding reach of Beijing’s power, the Chinese military landed nuclear-capable H-6K bombers on one of their artificial islands in the South China Sea for the first time in May.
us navy plane warned south china sea watson dnt vpx_00030107

Play Video

US Navy plane warned over South China Sea 03:02

Cold War mentality

This year’s report comes at a time of heightened tensions between the United States and China, amid an escalating trade war and disagreements over Beijing’s actions in Taiwan and the South China Sea.
Even before the new report’s release, Washington was feeling the full brunt of the Chinese military’s fury over a new $717 billion US defense bill which encourages closer cooperation with Taiwan to counter Beijing.
In a statement released on Tuesday, Chinese Ministry of Defense spokesman Wu Qian said the United States was”full of Cold War mentality.”
“A man cannot prosper without honesty, the same is true for a country,” Wu said. “We urge the US to stick to its promises to China regarding Taiwan question, and uphold the one-China policy.”
The new US report released on Thursday said China was deploying “increasingly advance military capabilities intended to coerce Taiwan” in a bid to prevent the island from declaring independence.
Despite Taiwan being self-governed for almost 70 years, the mainland Chinese government continues to view the island as an integral part of its territory.
The US report didn’t just highlight threats to the United States or its allies — there was also a broader discussion of the spread of Chinese influence around the world.
The document notes China has established its first overseas base in Djibouti and that it “will seek to establish additional military bases in countries with which it has a longstanding friendly relationship and similar strategic interests, such as Pakistan, and in which there is a precedent for hosting foreign militaries.”
China formally established its Djibouti military base in July last year, followed several months later by the country’s controversial acquisition of the Hambantota port in Sri Lanka.
Around the time of the Djbouti base opening, an editorial in the state-run Global Times stressed its importance to Beijing’s plans. “Certainly this is the People’s Liberation Army’s first overseas base and we will base troops there. It’s not a commercial resupply point… This base can support Chinese Navy to go farther, so it means a lot,” said the paper.
The Pentagon report said Chinese President Xi Jinping’s signature infrastructure policy, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), served to encourage countries to fall into line with China’s ambitions.
“China intends to use the BRI to develop strong economic ties with other countries, shape their interests to align with China’s, and deter confrontation or criticism of China’s approach to sensitive issues,” the report said.
China also continues to develop counterspace capabilities, “including kinetic-kill missiles, ground-based lasers and orbiting space robots,” the report saida time when US President Donald Trump plans to establish a Space Force by 2020 to protect US assets in space.
Beijing is also working “to expand space surveillance capabilities that can monitor objects across the globe and in space and enable counterspace actions.”

Architect of bin Laden raid issues stunning rebuke of Trump

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Architect of bin Laden raid issues stunning rebuke of Trump

Washington (CNN)Retired Adm. William McRaven, the man who oversaw the 2011 Navy SEAL raid that killed Osama bin Laden, issued a stunning rebuke of President Donald Trump’s decision to revoke the security clearance of former CIA Director John Brennan on Thursday, defending the former spy chief as “one of the finest public servants I have ever known.”

In an op-ed published by the Washington Post, McRaven, a former Navy SEAL who led US Joint Special Operations Command from 2011 to 2014, not only called Brennan “a man of unparalleled integrity,” but volunteered to have his own security clearance revoked in an act of solidarity.
“Few Americans have done more to protect this country than John. He is a man of unparalleled integrity, whose honesty and character have never been in question, except by those who don’t know him,” McRaven wrote.
“Therefore, I would consider it an honor if you would revoke my security clearance as well, so I can add my name to the list of men and women who have spoken up against your presidency,” he added.
His comments come just one day after Trump announced his decision to revoke Brennan’s security clearance, marking an unprecedented use of a president’s authority over the classification system to strike back at one of his prominent critics.
“This action is part of a broader effort by Mr. Trump to suppress freedom of speech & punish critics. It should gravely worry all Americans, including intelligence professionals, about the cost of speaking out. My principles are worth far more than clearances. I will not relent,” Brennan tweeted after the announcement.
McRaven, who resigned as chancellor of the University of Texas in Austin earlier this year, is widely respected among the tens of thousands of active and retired special operators and his message will likely resonate within that community.
“Through your actions, you have embarrassed us in the eyes of our children, humiliated us on the world stage and, worst of all, divided us as a nation,” McRaven said of Trump.
“If you think for a moment that your McCarthy-era tactics will suppress the voices of criticism, you are sadly mistaken. The criticism will continue until you become the leader we prayed you would be,” he added.