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June 23 2017 8:36 PM

Saudi Arabia and Its Gulf Allies Deliver Stiff Demands to Qatar

Four Persian Gulf countries—Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain—sent a list of 13 demands to Qatar on Friday with 10 days to comply or else continue to face the diplomatic blockade the four allies instituted on June 5. The demands reportedly include severing ties with Islamist terrorist groups, shutting down the Qatari-owned Al-Jazeera network and its affiliates, and closing the Turkish military base in Qatar. The demands were relayed to Qatar by mediating third party Kuwait.

June 23 2017 7:07 PM

Today in Conservative Media: The Left Is Still Out of Control

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A daily roundup of the biggest stories in right-wing media.

Voices in conservative media continued to criticize left-wing political rhetoric on Friday. The Federalist’s Mary Katherine Ham wrote that the events of the past week and the responses to them in the media and the Democratic Party showed that “many on the Left and in elite institutions” don’t want to understand “the other half of the country”:

Many of them are cultural bullies convinced of their righteousness, and ... they’ll kick you when you’re down after being shot on a baseball field. Why, it’s enough to drive you to hire a giant, coarse, shameless bully of your own and make him president.
When you look at it that way, it’s not at all surprising that GA-6 Republican candidate [Karen] Handel beat newcomer Jon Ossoff, who didn’t live in the district, but showed up to it with cargo planes full of cash from San Francisco. Democrats hadn’t paid attention to this district for years, so their moneyed, white-knight act was bad enough. But in the context of the shooting of Republicans that very week, the aftermath of which showed media and the Left indulging in some of their very worst tendencies, it was utterly preposterous.
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On Fox and Friends, Fox host Jeanine Pirro said that the Democratic Party had become a “party of hate and destruction.” “I think it’s anti-American,” she said. “I really do. I’m sorry. When you talk about, you know, killing the president, doing the stuff they’ve been doing, it’s disgusting.”

During the day, audio circulated of Nebraska Democratic Party official Phil Montag saying that he wished that Steve Scalise, who was seriously wounded in the June 14 congressional baseball shooting, was dead. “This motherfucker, like his whole job is like to get people, convince Republicans to fucking to kick people off fucking health care,” he said. “I hate this motherfucker. I’m fucking glad he got shot.” Montag was fired on Thursday. “[Nebraska Democratic Party chairwoman Jane] Kleeb deserves to be recommended for her clear stance against violence in political rhetoric,” PJ Media’s Tyler O’Neil wrote. “Both the Left and the Right should denounce it.” In the Washington Examiner, Becket Adams criticized Kleeb for saying that rhetoric on both sides of the aisle needed to be toned down. “After a politically-motivated assassination attempt carried out by an alleged left-wing fanatic, and after her own people have been caught celebrating and snickering over the near-massacre, Kleeb has the gall to pull the ‘both sides’ card,” he said. “We're not sure what's going on in Nebraska, but it sounds like the state’s Democratic Party is in desperate need of a leadership overhaul.”

Montag’s comments drew attention on Twitter.

So too did a joke Johnny Depp made Thursday night at the British music festival Glastonbury about assassinating Trump. “I’m not insinuating anything—by the way, this will be in the press and it will be horrible—but when was the last time an actor assassinated a president,” he asked. “I want to clarify, I am not an actor. I lie for a living. However, it has been a while, and maybe it is time.” He later apologized.

The White House released a statement asking Depp’s “colleagues” to speak out against violent rhetoric. “Those Hollywood elitists won’t speak about it, of course,” the Daily Wire’s Amanda Prestigiacomo wrote. “Depp is a leftist and apparently advocating something with which they agree.”

In other news:

Multiple outlets applauded the news that former Attorney General Loretta Lynch is the subject of a new probe by the Senate Judiciary Committee over her involvement in the Clinton email investigation. RedState’s Susan Wright called the move “well overdue”:

The investigation is bipartisan, so that’s good to hear. Democrat Senators Dianne Feinstein and Sheldon Whitehouse, along with Republican Senators Lindsey Graham and committee chairman Charles E. Grassley signed the letter to Lynch.
It’s unclear at this time whether this new probe will result in further investigation of Hillary Clinton, but if Loretta Lynch finally gets her due reward for her own corruption and abuse of her office, I will be a happy, happy Tar Heel.

Other conservatives rejoiced on Twitter:

June 23 2017 4:39 PM

Today’s Impeach-O-Meter: Oral History of Predator Edition

In the tradition of the Clintonometer and the Trump Apocalypse Watch, the Impeach-O-Meter is a wildly subjective and speculative daily estimate of the likelihood that Donald Trump leaves office before his term ends, whether by being impeached (and convicted) or by resigning under threat of same.

Republican Nevada Sen. Dean Heller came out today out as a legit, not-just-faking-it-for-appearances-before-voting-yes opponent of the Senate health care bill. Since Republicans can pass the bill without Heller's vote, and because it's a summer Friday and nothing else happened in national politics, today's Impeach-O-Meter will consist solely of an anecdote from the Hollywood Reporter's oral history of Predator about why Jean-Claude Van Damme got fired from his job as the Predator.

Hynek: I was in Joel Silver's trailer, and he had called for Jean-Claude to come see him. And he comes in the trailer and Joel starts saying, "You gotta stop kickboxing!" — because [Jean-Claude] wanted to kickbox — and he was telling him, "Look, the Predator is not a kickboxer." And Van Damme was like (Van Damme voice), "I must do that; that's how I see the Predator." And Joel said, "Well, you're fired. Get out of here." And Van Damme says, "Kiss my balls!" and walks out, and that was the end of that.
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Our meter remains unchanged.

Photo illustration by Natalie Matthews-Ramo. Photos by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images, Win McNamee/Getty Images, Chris Kleponis-Pool/Getty Images, Drew Angerer/Getty Images, and Peter Parks-Pool/Getty Images.

Photo illustration by Natalie Matthews-Ramo. Photos by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images, Win McNamee/Getty Images, Chris Kleponis-Pool/Getty Images, Drew Angerer/Getty Images, and Peter Parks-Pool/Getty Images.

June 23 2017 4:06 PM

Congressional Shooting Victim Steve Scalise Is Making "Good Progress," Out of Intensive Care

 

House majority whip Steve Scalise is making "good progress" and has been moved out of the intensive care unit where he's undergone treatment since being shot in the June 14 attack on Republican congressmen and staffers in Alexandra, Virginia, the MedStar Washington Hospital Center announced Friday:

Congressman Steve Scalise’s continued good progress allowed him to be transferred out of the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) on Thursday (June 22). He remains in fair condition as he continues an extended period of healing and rehabilitation.
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Scalise, two staffers, and two Capitol Police officers were shot at by James Hodgkinson, an Illinois native with a long criminal record who had become obsessed with the Bernie Sanders campaign, quit his job, and started stockpiling weapons at a Virginia storage unit. Scalise suffered broken bones and internal injuries when he was shot in the hip; the four individuals besides Scalise who were shot have been released from treatment. Hodgkinson was killed at the scene.

June 23 2017 3:45 PM

Sen. Dean Heller Is the First Moderate “No” on Trumpcare

Nevada Sen. Dean Heller said at a news conference Friday afternoon that if the current draft of the Republican health care bill were brought to the Senate floor, he would vote “no.” That makes him the fifth senator to say so, the other four being Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson, and Utah Sen. Mike Lee. Heller is the first, however, to oppose the current bill from a moderate policy perspective.

Heller is the most politically endangered Republican senator in 2018, by some distance. He represents one of the few swing states where Democrats have their act together. Further complicating the issue for him is Nevada’s Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval, an outspoken supporter of the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion. Sandoval introduced Heller at the press conference with remarks explaining how the Senate bill would lose Nevada hundreds of millions of dollars to cover its low-income population. Sandoval is a very popular governor.

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Heller left some wiggle room to eventually support the bill. But it didn’t sound like a simple carve-out or boost in spending to one area or another could win him over.

“It’ll be very difficult to get me to a ‘yes,’ ” Heller said. He noted that there “isn’t anything in this bill that would lower premiums,” and that to say otherwise would be a “lie.” He said he wouldn’t vote for a bill that that "takes insurance away from tens of millions of Americans," which is sort of the bread and butter of Republican health policy. It did not sound like a lengthier phaseout of the Medicaid expansion would satisfy Heller the way it might satisfy, say, Ohio Sen. Rob Portman. He would want Obamacare's Medicaid expansion more or less preserved.

It is hard to see right now what could be done to appease him. This press conference may have been Heller laying claim to one of the two lifeboats that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell can spare in order to get to 50 votes. I don’t think this kills the bill: Heller is the single most deserving of a lifeboat of any Republican senator, given his re-election circumstances, and McConnell may well have given him the nod to go ahead with this statement. McConnell might have preferred that he temper his criticism a bit, though.

June 23 2017 12:03 PM

A White St. Louis Police Officer Reportedly Shot a Black Colleague Whom He Mistook for a Criminal

An off-duty black St. Louis police officer who joined the pursuit of individuals believed to have stolen a car ended up being shot by one of his white colleagues, reports say.

A St. Louis Post-Dispatch piece describes the Wednesday night incident but does not identify the officers involved by race. A local Fox affiliate's report says the officer who fired his gun was white and the officer who was hit is black. Neither has been identified by name. The officer who was shot was reportedly treated at a hospital for an arm wound and released Thursday.

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Both the Post-Dispatch and Fox say the off-duty officer left his house armed with his service weapon after hearing "commotion" related to the pursuit of the stolen vehicle, which crashed after its occupants reportedly fired shots at police. From the Post-Dispatch:

According to a department summary of the incident released later Thursday, two officers who encountered the armed off-duty officer ordered him to the ground. He complied. When they recognized the off-duty officer, they told him he could stand up and walk toward them.
Another officer just arriving at the scene saw the off-duty officer get up and, not knowing he was an officer, fired his weapon once at the man.

The officer who was shot is said to be an 11-year veteran of the force who is 38 years old; the officer who fired on him is said to be a 36-year-old who has been with the police department for eight years. Fox reports that the white officer told investigators he fired at his colleague because he "feared for his safety."

June 23 2017 10:58 AM

Eye-Popping WaPo Report Explains Why Obama’s Retaliation Against Putin Was So Weak

The Washington Post published a lengthy exclusive Friday morning detailing the Obama administration's response in its waning days to reports that Russia had worked to interfere in the 2016 election. From the Post:

Early last August, an envelope with extraordinary handling restrictions arrived at the White House. Sent by courier from the CIA, it carried “eyes only” instructions that its contents be shown to just four people: President Barack Obama and three senior aides.

Inside was an intelligence bombshell, a report drawn from sourcing deep inside the Russian government that detailed Russian President Vladi­mir Putin’s direct involvement in a cyber campaign to disrupt and discredit the U.S. presidential race.

But it went further. The intelligence captured Putin’s specific instructions on the operation’s audacious objectives — defeat or at least damage the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, and help elect her opponent, Donald Trump.
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The Post’s report details internal debates about how to respond to the information, which was tightly guarded with extraordinary measures. The administration ultimately decided to pursue a set of limited sanctions in December, disappointing some officials. “The punishment did not fit the crime,” former Russia ambassador Michael McFaul told the Post. A broader array of options was considered and efforts were undertaken to bolster electoral security, but the administration’s response was stymied by a number of factors. Here are a few key insights from the Post’s reporting:

Obama was wary of politicizing the scandal: As has been previously reported, President Obama and others in the administration were deeply wary of creating the impression that responses to Russia’s actions were motivated by a desire to aid Hillary Clinton’s election. The Post reports, for instance, that in September, Obama intentionally refused to place his signature on the intelligence community’s public statement about Russia’s actions. “To some, Obama’s determination to avoid politicizing the Russia issue had the opposite effect,” the Post’s Greg Miller, Ellen Nakashima, and Adam Entous write. “It meant that he allowed politics to shape his administration’s response to what some believed should have been treated purely as a national security threat.”

Republicans obstructed efforts to address the situation: The Post’s report mentions Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson’s effort to warn state officials about the vulnerability of their election systems to attack. At a House hearing Wednesday, Johnson said that the responses had “ranged from neutral to negative.” This was in part because Republican officials framed the effort as a nefarious attempt to infringe on state sovereignty. Republicans on the Hill were no more responsive. From the Post:

The Dems were, ‘Hey, we have to tell the public,’ ” recalled one participant. But Republicans resisted, arguing that to warn the public that the election was under attack would further Russia’s aim of sapping confidence in the system.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) went further, officials said, voicing skepticism that the underlying intelligence truly supported the White House’s claims. Through a spokeswoman, McConnell declined to comment, citing the secrecy of that meeting.

Key Democrats were stunned by the GOP response and exasperated that the White House seemed willing to let Republican opposition block any pre-election move.

Clinton’s likelihood of victory shaped the response: The administration assumed that a highly likely Clinton victory in November would give the new administration ample time to pursue aggressive counteraction. Trump’s election, of course, upended things:

Suddenly, Obama faced a successor who had praised WikiLeaks and prodded Moscow to steal even more Clinton emails, while dismissing the idea that Russia was any more responsible for the election assault than “somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds.”
“The White House was mortified and shocked,” said a former administration official. “From national security people there was a sense of immediate introspection, of, ‘Wow, did we mishandle this.’ ”

Trump’s victory eventually contributed to a new sense of urgency in the administration about punitive options. One of the particularly dramatic countermeasures that Obama put into development was a major cyberweapon:

The cyber operation is still in its early stages and involves deploying “implants” in Russian networks deemed “important to the adversary and that would cause them pain and discomfort if they were disrupted,” a former U.S. official said.
The implants were developed by the NSA and designed so that they could be triggered remotely as part of retaliatory cyber-strike in the face of Russian aggression, whether an attack on a power grid or interference in a future presidential race.
Officials familiar with the measures said that there was concern among some in the administration that the damage caused by the implants could be difficult to contain.

The weapon is just one of many details in the report that could have been ripped straight from a spy fiction novel. Other details are particularly filmic and merit a full reading. Amid the sanctions, Obama’s State Department shut down a pair of Russian compounds in the U.S. suspected to be centers for espionage. And the motivation behind those closures included a previously unreported confrontation between a Russian military helicopter and “a vehicle being driven by the U.S. defense attache ... on a stretch of road between Murmansk and Pechenga in northern Russia.” Overall, the report illustrates the extent to which the Obama administration, contrary to the implication of one of Trump’s recent tweets, was wracked with anxiety about how to address Russia’s actions.

June 22 2017 11:50 PM

No. 1 NBA Draft Pick Markelle Fultz Has Strengths and Weaknesses

As expected, the Philadelphia 76ers drafted University of Washington guard Markelle Fultz with the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft. Philadelphia acquired the pick from Boston, who apparently did not want the best player in the draft. To each his own, as they say.

To see what Fultz can bring to the 76ers, let’s take a look at some of his strengths and weaknesses.

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Strengths:

  • Incredible athletic ability means he will be ready for the speed of the NBA
  • Can score at will
  • Underrated defender whose size and wingspan will be invaluable on the perimeter
  • Perfect fit with Philly’s other promising young players like Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons

Weaknesses:

  • He was born on May 29, 1998, which means he never had a chance to see Titanic in theaters.
  • Ted Kaczynski has been in prison for Fultz’s entire life. Some of his older teammates may try to explain what it was like when the Unabomber was on the loose, but the rookie won’t fully grasp the gravity of that particular situation, which may affect him on the court.
  • Was a baby during the Monica Lewinsky scandal—incapable of appreciating the eerie prescience of the Dustin Hoffman–Robert De Niro comedy Wag the Dog.
  • Never had to tape-record a song he liked off the radio
  • Remember looking up a pizzeria in the yellow pages? Markelle Fultz doesn’t.
  • Missed some playing time last year due to knee soreness.
  • No VHS tapes to rewind, therefore no opportunities to learn the mechanics of kindness.

The 76ers surely weighed all these factors before making their pick. Now, it’s up to the player to navigate the ups and downs of a life in the pros. Thankfully for Fultz, he will have time to develop—and catch up on Mad About You reruns. Appreciating Paul Reiser and Helen Hunt’s chemistry will prove invaluable in the modern pace-and-space NBA.

June 22 2017 7:08 PM

Democrats Calling the GOP Health Care Bill Mean Are Impotent and Pathetic

Last week, behind closed doors, Donald Trump apparently called the House health care bill mean. Unlike pretty much everything else the president has done since taking office, this description played to great popular acclaim. The word was like a wisp of a song that got caught in the country’s head—a tune by Taylor Swift, perhaps: Why did the Grand Old Party have to be so mean?

On Thursday, Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer upped the rhetorical ante, critiquing the Senate’s Better Care Reconciliation Act by dramatically scribbling an -er on a piece of poster board.

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Also on Thursday, Barack Obama wrote a Facebook post decrying the “fundamental meanness at the core of this legislation,” noting the act would snatch coverage away from 23 million Americans.

While we wait for the bill to pass and plunge whole swathes of the nation into crisis, let’s muse for a moment on this childlike descriptor. Mean. It contains the requisite letters to compose the word men, which is great if you’re racking your brain for epithets for a law that identifies womanhood as a costly preexisting condition. It rhymes with green, which is the color of the dollars that insurance and drug companies will bathe in as old people, pregnant people, and people with mental health issues lose their access to affordable health services. Mean also carries the slightly archaic connotation of miserliness or selfishness, and of shoddiness, too. I don’t need to belabor the salience of those qualities as we watch a measure scotch-taped together out of the cruel fragments of Scrooge McDuck’s id work its way through the House of Representatives.

When Trump used the word mean, it seemed at once inadequate and innocent—a plaintive plea from the mouth of a babe. The president’s moral imagination is a Chinese violin with only two strings: nice and mean. The House bill plucked the second one.

When Schumer used the comparative meaner, it seemed full of foolishness. The Democrats were so absorbed in and amused by their lame performance of outrage that they turned genuine moral indignation into kindergarten-grade insult comedy. That bill was mean. This bill is mean-ER. We’ve got your votes, amirite?

Obama’s meanness, however, felt just right, drawing attention to Republicans’ small-mindedness as well as their cruelty. The effect was similar to Hillary Clinton’s reclaiming of nasty. Sometimes it takes an adult to reveal a six-year-old’s unintentional eloquence.

June 22 2017 6:27 PM

Today's Impeach-O-Meter: Comey Better Hope There Aren't Tapes! Also, There Aren't Tapes.

In the tradition of the Clintonometer and the Trump Apocalypse Watch, the Impeach-O-Meter is a wildly subjective and speculative daily estimate of the likelihood that Donald Trump leaves office before his term ends, whether by being impeached (and convicted) or by resigning under threat of same.

Two big-deal things happened today: 1) Trump announced that he hadn't actually recorded his conversations with James Comey. 2) Republican senators introduced their version of an Obamacare replacement bill, which turns out to be even harsher in some respects than the House's version.

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Number one means that Trump almost certainly won't be able to prove his claim that Comey lied about Trump's obstruction-y comments about the FBI investigation of Michael Flynn. Number two means that the possibilty of tens of millions of Americans losing health coverage because of a bill passed on a party-line basis by Republicans just got one step closer to being a reality.

Neither event is helpful for Trump, but both were more or less expected, so we'll only raise today's likelihood by a few percentage points.

Photo illustration by Natalie Matthews-Ramo. Photos by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images, Win McNamee/Getty Images, Chris Kleponis-Pool/Getty Images, Drew Angerer/Getty Images, and Peter Parks-Pool/Getty Images.

Photo illustration by Natalie Matthews-Ramo. Photos by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images, Win McNamee/Getty Images, Chris Kleponis-Pool/Getty Images, Drew Angerer/Getty Images, and Peter Parks-Pool/Getty Images.

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