The Muscovian Candidate? | America’s Partially Shut Down | Addictive Businesses


“The study of history is the best medicine for a sick mind; for in history you have a record of the infinite variety of human experience plainly set out for all to see: and in that record you can find for yourself and your country both examples and warnings: fine things to take as models, base things, rotten through and through, to avoid.” – Livy

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From Russia With Love (and Advice): In July 2016, then-candidate Donald Trump caught the attention of FBI officials when he urged Russia to find Hillary Clinton’s missing emails. While campaigning Trump had refused to criticize Russia, and repeatedly praised President Vladimir Putin. That summer the Republican party inexplicably softened its convention platform regarding the Ukraine crisis, seemingly benefiting Russia. The FBI was already conducting a counterintelligence probe into possible Russian interference in the election. Such inquiries are fact-finding missions aimed at stopping any anti-American activity or threats to national security by foreign powers. The FBI also conducts criminal investigations for the purpose of solving crimes and obtaining arrests and convictions. By the time Americans went to the polls in November 2016, the bureau was investigating four of Trump’s associates’ ties to Russia, but not the president himself.

Shortly after his inauguration in 2017, Trump asked FBI Director James Comey for a loyalty pledge, and to drop the department’s investigation of national security adviser Michael Flynn. Then in May Trump abruptly fired Comey and instructed acting deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein to draft a letter about the firing that mentioned the Russia probe. One day after expelling Comey, Trump invited Russian officials into the Oval Office, where he called the former director a crazy nut job and said: “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.” Two days after Comey’s exit Trump said on national television he’d fired the FBI director because of “this Russia thing with Trump and Russia….”

Initially the investigation of the president involved a counterintelligence inquiry into whether his actions were a threat to national security, and whether he was knowingly working for Russia, or had been unwittingly duped. The investigation took on a criminal component with Comey’s firing and Trump’s subsequent actions, the question becoming whether that behavior constituted obstruction of justice. Days after opening the inquiry special counsel Robert Mueller was appointed to take it over. The criminal and counterintelligence elements soon merged into one investigation, because if Trump had ousted the head of the FBI to interrupt or end the Russia investigation, that was a possible crime and a national security concern. Both the public and members of the administration have now learned of secret, face-to-face meetings Trump had with Vladimir Putin.

Additional reads:

– “Trump has concealed details of his face-to-face encounters with Putin from senior officials in administration” (WaPo)

– “How the big new New York Times scoop changes our understanding of the Trump-Russia probe: In May 2017, the FBI opened an investigation into whether President Trump was working on Russia’s behalf.” (Vox)

– “What if the Obstruction Was the Collusion? On the New York Times’s Latest Bombshell” (Lawfare)

– “The FBI can’t neutralize a security threat if the president is the threat:Mueller — and Congress — could pick up where counterintelligence hits its limits” (WaPo)

– “Trump: report FBI investigated him as possible Russian agent is ‘insulting’” (Guardian)

– “Key Republican to ask FBI about report of Trump counterintelligence probe” (Reuters)

– “William Barr’s confirmation hearing expected to be a battle over Mueller’s future” (WaPo)

– “‘Brought to Jesus’: the evangelical grip on the Trump administration: The influence of evangelical Christianity is likely to become an important question as Trump finds himself dependent on them for political survival” (Guardian)

– “Prosecutors Examining Ukrainians Who Flocked to Trump Inaugural” (NYT)

– “Worse Than Watergate: If the multiple charges against Trump prove out, he’ll easily displace Nixon at the top of the Crooked Modern Presidents list.” (Atlantic)

– “The Only Impeachment Guide You’ll Ever Need: As talk of the I-word heats up, here’s Politico Magazine’s soup-to-nuts answers to all your questions about the politics—and the practical realities—of removing a president.” (Politico)


Israel vs. Iran: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a rare admission Sunday when he acknowledged that Israeli forces had attacked Iranian weapons warehouses in Syria. Israeli officials had always declined to confirm involvement in specific attacks on the country. Israeli military wrapped up its six-week operation to expose and seal tunnels on the border between Israel and Lebanon. The Iranian-backed Hezbollah had dug the tunnels; the sixth and last one was sealed on Sunday. (NYT)

Gerexit: For the first time a political party has called for Germany’s exit from the EU. The German far-right party AfD voted at a party congress Sunday to campaign for the country’s exit if its demands for reforms are not met by the bloc. AfD was originally founded as a Eurosceptic party, but switched its focus to opposing Islam and immigration after rightwingers took over. Delegates were told Saturday the EU didn’t need destroying, just brought back to its sensible core, and that partners like Austria’s Freedom party and Italy’s League would “walk the path with us”. (Guardian)

Say Hello To My Albanian Friend: The Albanian mafia has seized control of the UK’s cocaine market. They did it by upending the business plan used for years by cocaine’s international importers. Instead of working separately from wholesalers and the gangs, these importers cut out the middle man and began negotiating directly with the Colombian cartels that control coca production. The Albanians arranged for huge shipments to arrive direct from South America, and kept their supply chains in-house. Buying directly from the cartels meant the Albanians were able to acquire product at a much lower price than if they’d continued using Dutch importers. With better margins, the Albanians were able to lower the price while increasing the purity of cocaine. (Guardian)

– “Trump says he will ‘devastate Turkey economically’ if it attacks Kurds: President tweets blunt warning over Syria troop pullout, drawing a swift response from Ankara” (Guardian)

– “‘Real risk’ of refugees freezing to death in Syria after rains destroy shelters: As temperatures fall, aid workers warn of danger to at least 11,000 people across Idlib, with storms also battering camps in Lebanon” (Guardian)

– “Man accused of shooting down UN chief: ‘Sometimes you have to do things you don’t want to…’: Exclusive research reveals that a British-trained Belgian mercenary admitted the killing of Dag Hammarskjöld in 1961” (Guardian)

– “Inside ‘The World’s Most Beautiful Bookstore’ In Argentina: When the Gran Splendid Theater in Buenos Aires was converted into a branch of the Ateneo bookstore, the stage became a cafe. It was just named ‘the world’s most beautiful bookstore’” (NPR)

– “Haitians abandon forgotten town, isolated for over a decade” (Wider Image)


America’s Partially Shut Down: A new poll by the Washington Post and ABC News shows that by a wide margin, more Americans blame President Trump and Republicans in Congress than congressional Democrats for the record-breaking government shutdown. Also, most Americans reject the president’s claim of an illegal immigration crisis on the southern border. However, support for building a wall on the border has increased over the past year. A majority of Americans still oppose the idea, but the number has declined since January 2018. (WaPo)

Additional reads:

– “Why Autocrats Love Emergencies: Crises — real and imaginary — loosen normal constitutional constraints.” (NYT)

– “Don’t Panic: The Government Shutdown Isn’t Making Food Unsafe” (NPR)

– “As Shutdown Continues, Thousands Of Federal Workers Visit D.C.-Area Pop-Up Food Banks” (NPR)

– “Trump Confronts the Prospect of a ‘Nonstop Political War’ for Survival” (NYT)

– “More Than $20 Million Crowdsourced For Border Wall Will Be Refunded” (NPR)

– “U.S. Government Shutdown Leaves Dozens of .Gov Websites Vulnerable” (Threat Post)

Tucker Carlson Divides: “Tucker Carlson’s Monologue Insults His Viewers: The Fox News host purports to side with ‘normal Americans’ over greedy elites, but fails to tell his viewers the truth.” (Atlantic) and “The Right Should Reject Tucker Carlson’s Victimhood Populism” (National Review) “Tucker Carlson has sparked the most interesting debate in conservative politics: ‘All I’m saying is don’t act like the way things are is somehow ordained by God.’” (Vox) “Tucker Carlson Versus Conservatism: The Fox News host amplifies a debate the right needs to have.” (NYT)

– “Americans Are Now More Likely To Die Of An Opioid Overdose Than On The Road: For the first time in U.S. history, a leading cause of deaths, vehicle crashes, has been surpassed in likelihood by opioid overdoses, according to a new report on preventable deaths from the National Safety Council” (NPR)


Addictive Businesses: “Juul’s Convenient Smoke Screen: Juul is trying to rehabilitate its image as one of Silicon Valley’s most problematic start-ups.” (NYT) And “Is Marijuana as safe as we think?: Permitting pot is one thing; promoting its use is another.” (New Yorker) “The Giant, Under AttackOne of America’s biggest rehab companies built an empire. But after a patient named Gary Benefield died, its enemies — investors and business rivals alike — struck hard.” (NYT)

Digital Addiction: “Research finds heavy Facebook users make impaired decisions like drug addicts”. (TechCrunch) “People older than 65 share the most fake news, a new study finds: And the finding holds true across party lines” (Verge). “German antitrust watchdog to act against Facebook: report” (Reuters) “We Should Be Able to Take Facebook to Court: A privacy violation is a real harm.” (NYT)

– “American Psychological Association links ‘masculinity ideology’ to homophobia, misogyny” (NBC)

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Yes, I want to sound marginally more intelligent: