Mike Flynn Reportedly Offers to be Interviewed in Exchange for Immunity
Mike Flynn, President Trump’s former national-security adviser, has told the FBI and congressional investigators he is willing to be interviewed in exchange for immunity from prosecution, the Wall Street Journal reports. The Journal, which cited anonymous officials with knowledge of the matter, said Flynn has so far found no takers for his offer. More from the Journal:
It wasn’t clear if Flynn had offered to talk about specific aspects of his time working for Trump, but the fact that he was seeking immunity suggested Flynn feels he may be in legal jeopardy following his brief stint as the national security adviser, one official said.
Flynn resigned as national-security adviser last month following reports he misled Vice President Mike Pence and other Trump administration officials about the nature of his talks in December with Sergei Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to Washington. His resignation, just 23 days after Trump named him to the post, made him the shortest-serving national-security adviser in history. The FBI and intelligence committees in both the House and Senate are investigating Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election, as well as links between Trump’s top aides and Russian officials. Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman, and Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, have both volunteered to be interviewed by the House Intelligence Committee. The Journal’s report comes amid revelations Flynn was paid for speeches made to Russian companies before he joined Trump’s campaign; add to this the spectacular claim, also reported by the Journal, that he’d suggested an extrajudicial extradition to Turkey of Fethullah Gulen, the cleric whom the Turkish leadership regards an enemy; Flynn served as a lobbyist for a client representing Turkey’s interests.
Israel Approves New West Bank Settlement for First Time in Over 20 Years
Updated at 11:48 a.m. ET
Israel’s security cabinet unanimously approved Thursday a new settlement in the occupied West Bank, marking the first time the country has established a West Bank settlement in more than two decades. It is unclear when construction of the settlement, which will be located near the existing settlement of Shiloh in the northern West Bank, will begin. Haaretz, the Israeli newspaper, reports that the decision stems from a promise Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made following the eviction last month of settlers from the West Bank outpost of Amona, which the Israeli Supreme Court deemed illegal because it was built on private Palestinian land. The Israeli move will almost certainly draw criticism from Palestinians, who claim the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem as part of their future state. Though President Trump asked Netanyahu to “hold back on settlements for a little bit” during the Israeli premier’s visit last month, the White House did not condemn the move, noting in a statement that Netanyahu “made a commitment to the Amona settlers prior to President Trump laying out his expectations” and that “going forward ... the Israeli government has made clear that Israel's intent is to adopt a policy regarding settlement activity that takes President Trump's concerns into consideration.”
Ex-South Korean President Park Arrested Over Corruption Scandal
South Korea’s recently ousted president Park Geun Hye was arrested Thursday over a corruption scandal that resulted in her impeachment. Park, whose ouster last month caused her to lose her immunity from prosecution, is accused of bribery, abuse of authority, coercion, and leaking government secrets—charges the former leader denies. Park is the third South Korean leader to be arrested over criminal allegations, following former Presidents Chun Doo Hwan and Roh Tae Woo in 1995 (though both were later pardoned). State prosecutors now have up to 20 days to formally indict Park. In the meantime, South Korea considers the candidates running to be Park’s successor in an election scheduled for May 9.
U.S. State Department Employee Charged for Concealing Ties With Chinese Officials
A U.S. State Department employee has been charged with obstruction of justice and lying to the FBI over her alleged contacts with Chinese foreign intelligence agents, federal prosecutors announced Wednesday. Candace Marie Claiborne, a 60-year-old who began working at the State Department in 1999, is accused of failing to report her contacts with two Chinese agents “who provided her with thousands of dollars of gifts and benefits,” Mary B. McCord, the acting assistant attorney general for national security, said in a statement, adding Claiborne “used her position and her access to sensitive diplomatic data for personal profit.” These gifts, according to the affidavit, included an Apple iPhone and laptop computer, international travel and vacations, tuition at a Chinese fashion school, a fully furnished apartment, and cash wired to Clairborne’s bank account. Prosecutors say Claiborne confided to an unnamed co-conspirator she knew the agents were spies, and that she noted in her journal that she could “generate 20k in 1 year” by working with them. Claiborne pleaded not guilty to the charges Wednesday and, if convicted, faces up to a 20-year sentence for obstruction and a five-year sentence for making false statements to the FBI.
Malaysia Returns Kim Jong Nam's Body to North Korea
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak announced Thursday the return of the remains of Kim Jong Nam, the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, to North Korea in exchange for nine Malaysian nationals being held in Pyongyang. “I am pleased to announce that the nine Malaysians who had been barred from leaving North Korea have now been allowed to return to Malaysia,” Razak said in a statement. “We will now allow North Koreans to leave Malaysia.” Tensions between the two countries began over the death last month of Kim Jong Nam at Malaysia’s Kuala Lumpur International Airport—an assassination Malaysia accused North Korea of orchestrating, though the North has denied this claim. The dispute led to North Korea barring all Malaysians from leaving the country, and Malaysia soon followed in kind with its own travel ban on North Korean nationals. Though the return of Kim Jong Nam’s body to Pyongyang and the lifting of the travel bans could signal an end in diplomatic tensions between the two countries, Razak reaffirmed that Malaysia’s investigation into Kim Jong Un’s death would continue, adding: “I have instructed for all possible measures to be taken to bring those responsible for this murder to justice.”
Chinese President to Meet With Trump at Mar-a-Lago Next Week
The Chinese Foreign Ministry has confirmed that President Xi Jinping will meet with President Trump at Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s estate in Florida, next week—the first meeting between the two leaders since Trump’s election. Trump had complained about China’s trade policies during the campaign trail, and since becoming president he’s added to his litany of grievances against Beijing, citing its military policy in the South China Sea and what he sees as its lack of cooperation on North Korea. The April 6-7 meeting at Mar-a-Lago follows a visit to Beijing this month by Rex Tillerson, the U.S. secretary of state. Although this will be the first meeting between Trump and Xi, the two leaders spoke by telephone shortly after Trump’s inauguration as president. Trump had angered China by accepting a phone call from Taiwan’s leader shortly after he was elected president last November. But in his conversation with Xi in February, Trump reiterated U.S. support for the one-China policy, which states the U.S. recognizes the Chinese government in Beijing and has no formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan.
Hawaii Federal Judge Extends Order Blocking Trump's Travel Order
A U.S. federal judge in Hawaii extended his nationwide order blocking President Trump’s revised immigration order that temporarily bans the entry of visitors from six Muslim or predominantly Muslim countries and suspends the U.S. refugee program—the latest setback to the White House’s attempt to define who enters the United States. The government’s lawyers argued that Trump’s order fell within the president's power to protect national security, but urged U.S. District Court Judge Derrick Watson to restrict his order only to the ban on travelers—not the restriction on refugees. Watson wasn’t persuaded. He wrote:
National security is unquestionably of vital importance to the public interest. The same is true with respect to affording appropriate deference to the president’s constitutional and statutory responsibilities to set immigration policy and provide for the national defense. Upon careful consideration of the totality of the circumstances, however, the court reaffirms its prior finding that the balance of equities and public interest weigh in favor of maintaining the status quo.
The order comes two weeks after Watson temporarily blocked the order from going into effect, saying Trump’s executive order “violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.” In his order Wednesday, Watson repeated that idea, noting “the entirety of the Executive Order runs afoul of the Establishment Clause, where openly available data support a commonsense conclusion that a religious objective permeated the government's action.’” Trump’s revised executive order was an attempt to find a way around successful legal challenges to the previous version of the order. Here’s what I wrote about it two weeks ago:
The president’s first immigration order was blocked by a federal court in San Francisco. That executive order temporarily blocked the entry of the citizens of seven Muslim or predominantly Muslim countries. But the White House revised the order, dropping Iraq from the list of countries whose citizens were temporarily blocked. The first order also suspended the entry of refugees for 120 days and Syrian refugees indefinitely. The new order no longer blocks Syrian refugees indefinitely.
The case in Hawaii was brought by the state and Ismail Elshikh, the imam of the Muslim Association of Hawaii, whose mother-in-law’s application for an immigrant visa was being processed. Elshikh argued that the new order would ban his mother-in-law from entering the country.
Syrian Refugees Top 5 Million for the First Time, UN Says
The international community must do more to help those fleeing the civil war in Syria, as their numbers exceed 5 million for the first time, Filippo Grandi, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, said today. His remarks come a year after a meeting on Syria in which the world’s powers pledged to resettle 500,000 refugees; so far, half those places have been made available, the UN said. The Syrian civil war is in its sixth year with President Bashar al-Assad firmly in control of the country. A cease-fire brokered by Russia and Turkey is mostly holding, as Syrian forces and their allies—Russia, Iran, and Hezbollah—as well as those supporting rebel groups—Turkey, the U.S., and other allied countries—turn their attention to ISIS and al-Qaeda-affiliated groups in Syria. The humanitarian crisis created by the civil war caused a political crisis across Europe, where many of the refugees fled, but it also strained the resources of Syria’s neighbors—Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, and others—where the overwhelming majority of Syrian refugees live.
North Carolina's Lawmakers and Governor Reach a Deal to Repeal H.B. 2
Updated at 1:43 p.m.
Lawmakers in North Carolina have approved a measure to replace the “bathroom bill” and sent it to Governor Roy Cooper for his signature. Cooper is expected to sign the measure despite opposition from LGBTQ groups that say the replacement retains a key part of the original measure.
Original post at 7:10 a.m.
Lawmakers in North Carolina and the state’s governor have reached a deal to repeal H.B. 2, the state’s controversial “bathroom bill.” Among other things, H.B. 2 dictated that transgender people use the bathroom corresponding to the gender on their birth certificates. The agreement, which has already been criticized by LGBTQ groups, repeals the measure, but keeps a key part of it. Under the deal, the regulation of bathrooms is left to the state; cities and local governments can't pass their own anti-discrimination laws until December 2020, CNN reports. Lawmakers in the GOP-controlled legislature will vote on the measure today. Roy Cooper, the state’s Democratic governor, in a statement late Wednesday said “it’s not a perfect deal, but … it begins to repair our reputation.” Criticism of the bill resulted in businesses, sporting events, and other groups leaving North Carolina, as David Graham wrote in December.
Why does society treat labor pain with such reverence—and its relief with such scrutiny?
Not long after wheeling me into the room where I would eventually give birth to my eldest daughter, the nurse asked me what my plan was for pain management. I didn’t have much of an answer. I had just completed my second semester of graduate school, a feat managed largely by underpreparing for parenthood. My only birth plan was to listen to my doctors and nurses. “What do you think I should do?” I asked. The nurse walked me through my options and then suggested the common approach of at least attempting to give birth without medication. If I felt I needed pain relief, she told me, I could start with less invasive methods, such as nitrous oxide and morphine, before considering an epidural.
I followed her advice to the letter. The nitrous oxide did little to dull the pain but made me high, which I hated. The morphine, as far as I could tell, did nothing at all. The epidural, when I finally got one 19 hours in, almost immediately erased any trace of pain, and I fell asleep. It was awesome. My only regret is not getting one sooner.
Although there are many rivals for the title, this week’s FBI search at Mar-a-Lago,the apparent mishandling of classified information that led to it, and the political fallout since is close to the paradigmatic Donald Trump scandal.
The story is at once totally new and unexpected and yet entirely of a piece with everything we know and have seen from Trump. Both Trump and his most bitter opponents have noted that the search of a former president’s home is unprecedented—Trump to claim it was unjust, his critics to highlight his misdeeds—but it shares three important characteristics with previous Trump scandals. First, Trump is singularly terrible at keeping secrets. Second, Trump always says that what Democrats, especially Barack Obama, did was worse or caused it. Third, there are always more developments yet to come, and it always gets worse.
The conundrum facing America’s allies is how to cope with a great imperial power in decline that is still a great imperial power.
Updated at 10:40 a.m. ET on August 12, 2022
A peculiar cognitive dissonance seems to have taken hold in the world. The Western response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine—led and propped up by the United States—has reminded the world that the international order is, if anything, more dependent on American military, economic, and financial might now than only a few years ago. Yet everywhere you turn, there is a sense that the U.S. is in some form of terminal decline; too divided, incoherent, violent, and dysfunctional to sustain its Pax Americana. Moscow and Beijing seem to think that the great American unwinding has already begun, while in Europe, officials worry about a sudden American collapse. “Do we talk about it?” Michel Duclos, a former French ambassador to Syria who remains well connected within Europe’s diplomatic network, told me, somewhat indignantly, after I asked whether an American implosion was ever discussed at the highest levels of government. “We never stop talking about it.”
It’s been a bad week for nuclear power and nuclear weapons. The Russians are (yet again) imperiling Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, and in Florida, a former president of the United States has apparently been storing some of America’s most important secrets about nuclear weapons in his literal basement with nothing more than a few padlocks on the door.
Fan letters and snapshots are one matter, and launch codes are another—and here the details of classification might decide just how much trouble Trump is in.
The executive branch’s system of classification is among the weirdest aspects of the American government, and sometimes it seems as if those best equipped to understand it are people with a background in obscure religious practices—say, Roman Catholic sacramental theology—rather than journalists or lawyers. Certain officials are consecrated as having “original classification authority” (they can baptize documents as classified without reference to previous classification); some are ordained to classify but derive their authority from others. You can be defrocked for various reasons. But the authority to classify and declassify flows from one person with near-absolute power, and for four years that papal figure was Donald J. Trump. This awesome former power will protect him from prosecution, but only so much.
Why August 8 may become a new hinge point in U.S. history
If Donald Trump committed crimes on his way out of the White House, he should be subject to the same treatment as any other alleged criminal. The reason for this is simple: Ours is a government of laws, not of men, as John Adams once observed. Nobody, not even a president, is above those laws.
Because this country is tracking toward a scale of political violence not seen since the Civil War. It’s evident to anyone who spends significant time dwelling in the physical or virtual spaces of the American right. Go to a gun show. Visit a right-wing church. Check out a Trump rally. No matter the venue, the doomsday prophesying is ubiquitous—and scary. Whenever and wherever I’ve heard hypothetical scenarios of imminent conflict articulated, the premise rests on an egregious abuse of power, typically Democrats weaponizing agencies of the state to target their political opponents. I’ve always walked away from these experiences thinking to myself: If America is a powder keg, then one overreach by the government, real or perceived, could light the fuse.
A mysterious pro-abortion-rights group is claiming credit for acts of vandalism around the country, and right-wing activists and politicians are eating it up.
A mysterious pro-choice group called Jane’s Revenge has drawn attention to itself in recent months with a short series of strongly worded “communiqués” promising violence. The first of these statements was posted to a radical-leftist blogging platform in early May, shortly after a draft of the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade was leaked to the press. “We are in your city. We are in every city,” it said. “Medical imperialism will not face a passive enemy.”
Right-wing media outlets have provided ample coverage of this new threat, and anti-abortion politicians have demanded government action to address it. But the group’s practical significance remains in question. Just how meaningful is Jane’s Revenge? It has now taken credit for incidents of vandalism and property destruction in 16 cities throughout the U.S., among them the firebombings of a pro-life medical office in Buffalo, New York, and the offices of a Christian-fundamentalist lobbying group in Madison, Wisconsin. Two of its statements have emphasized: “We are not one group, but many.” But at this point nothing indicates that the authors of the anonymous blog posts have any real connection to the actions they cite. Emerson Brooking, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, told me that, for what it’s worth, the group’s “high-handed and ambitious” language reminds him of the early declarations made by the diffuse hacker collective Anonymous.
She isn’t really fighting to keep her seat in Congress. She’s fighting Donald Trump.
LARAMIE, Wyo.—Liz Cheney will probably lose her job on Tuesday, in large part due to her crusade against Donald Trump. Trump will surely taunt her as a big RINO loser, but Cheney has no plans to end her fight against him. She is already looking past her anticipated defeat here and into a future that could include—I suspect—a primary challenge to the former president in 2024.
“It’s clear that our party is really sick right now,” Cheney told me when I spoke with her last week. “The Trump forces that are trying to pull us into the abyss are really strong and really fighting.” Punching back has not been a winning formula for Cheney’s reelection bid in America’s reddest state. Her Trump-certified challenger, the election-denying HarrietHageman, is well ahead in the polls.
The Inflation Reduction Act is unmistakably partisan. Can the GOP undo it?
The Inflation Reduction Act, passed by the House of Representatives today, is about to become the first comprehensive climate legislation in U.S. history. Compared with Congress’s desultory approach to the issue in the past, the numbers are striking: The legislation will spend roughly $374 billion on decarbonization and climate resilience over the next 10 years, getting us two-thirds of the way to America’s Paris Agreement goals.
But perhaps the most important number about the package is zero. Zero Republicans in the House. Zero Republicans in the Senate. The IRA was adopted entirely along party lines, with all Democrats and not a single congressional Republican in support of the legislation.
Society has been underestimating the long-term consequences of viruses, bacterial infections, and parasites for ages.
Several months into the pandemic, a new aspect of COVID-19 started gaining attention from scientists, journalists, and health-care professionals. Instead of feeling better two weeks after contracting the virus, some people were reporting prolonged, life-disrupting symptoms such as “brain fog” and fatigue. Patients needed to fight for skeptical doctors to take them seriously. They started support groups for themselves and pushed the medical establishment to study the illness. News of “long COVID” spread widely, adding to existing fears about the coronavirus. Worse, no one could explain the cause. Two years later, headlines still treat it as an enigma, describing researchers hunting for “clues” to “unravel long COVID’s mysteries.”