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.
The former president’s message at his Arizona rally was as clear as it was dishonest: He didn’t lose to Joe Biden in 2020, and he’ll spend the next year working to elect Republicans who agree.
FLORENCE, Ariz.—Tonight, deep in the Arizona desert, thousands of people chanted for Donald Trump. They had braved the wind for hours—some waited the entire day—just to get a glimpse of the defeated former president. And when he finally appeared on stage, as Lee Greenwood played from the loudspeakers, the crowd roared as though Trump were still the commander-in-chief. To many of them, he is.
“I ran twice and we won twice,” Trump told his fans. "This crowd is a massive symbol of what took place, because people are hungry for the truth. They want their country back."
Tonight’s rally was Trump’s first public event since July. On paper, the gathering was meant as his response to the anniversary of January 6, as well as an unofficial kickoff for his efforts to support Republicans in the midterm elections. But the event also served as the soft launch of Trump’s 2024 presidential campaign. Although he didn’t say the words, the former president seems poised to run in two years—”Make America Great Again Again … Again,” he joked to the crowd—and tonight, his message was as clear as it was dishonest: He didn’t lose to Joe Biden in 2020, and he’ll spend the next year working to elect Republicans who agree.
The top player in men’s tennis is yet another anti-vaccine athlete who’d rather create chaos than get a shot.
After a dramatic weeklong fight with the world’s top men’s tennis player, Australia’s immigration authorities wisely decided to revoke Novak Djokovic’s visa a second time because he flouted the country’s COVID-19 policies. Although the Australian authorities and tennis officials aren’t blameless, this is a huge, self-inflicted public-relations crisis for Djokovic that has smeared his legacy.
Climate change is a tough subject for any film, let alone a satire.
Adam McKay’s disaster satire Don’t Look Up is many things at once: a parable of our distracted society, a primal scream of a warning, and a broad comedy from the writer/director of Anchorman. Such a delicate balance has made the star-studded Netflix film a polarizing movie.
Critics, audiences, and activists have both savaged and praised the movie, and the backlash has highlighted the difficulty of conveying an urgent message with comedy. Has political satire lost its power? Or has reality become so absurd that it’s now beyond parody?
That challenge was evident in the making of Don’t Look Up. As McKay told David Sims, he wrote the story about a planet-killing comet (and our society’s inability to act collectively to stop it) as a climate-change metaphor. But after the script was done, production shut down for the pandemic and he watched the follies of a real-life disaster surpass his fictional one.
Right now, there is a hole in my living room. It was not there last week. We’ve tried to cover it up, but nothing seems to work. Rearranging the furniture somehow only makes the hole grow. The space, which once radiated a hopeful glow, now feels hollow. When I stare at this hole, I begin to feel as if a light has gone out in the world. Actually, not just one, many. And that’s because they have.
I am, of course, talking about my Christmas tree (RIP).
If you live in one of the 94 million homes or apartments that purchased or displayed a tree this holiday season, then maybe you feel the same melancholy that I do now. It’s grim out there. Two weeks ago, my street was a Griswoldian wonderland with twinkling lights silhouetting the eaves of my neighbors’ houses and robust-looking conifers standing proudly in their windows. Now my street is an evergreen graveyard with damp, sickly looking pines discarded by the side of the road, half buried in the driven slush.
I thought I was done dating. But after moving across the country, I had to start again—this time, in search of platonic love.
Thirty-seven minutes after sitting down to lunch, Francesca and I hugged goodbye in a strip-mall parking lot. We were both fairly certain, I think, that we would not be seeing each other again. The high-school classmate of a friend’s friend’s husband, she’d been such a promising friendship prospect: She was a professional violinist and fellow New Yorker who was writing her dissertation on pollen. But I was awkward, smiling too much and saying things like “That’s so funny” in lieu of actual laughter, while Francesca (not her real name) was overworked and seemed full of derision for Bozeman, Montana, the town to which I had just moved, and from which she and her husband were determined to flee.
Early cringe culture was about empathy and secondhand embarrassment. Today, being “cringe” is a serious infraction.
Take a tweet from the week after the Capitol riot in January 2021: “A Liberal insurrection would have looked very different. We would have escorted the original Broadway cast of Hamilton into the galleries. They would softly sing … as members of the GOP spewed their lies.” This was apparently intended as satire of a certain type of extremely online and cringe-inducing liberal smugness, but it came off as the thing itself and then produced more of the same. “I’ve literally been listening to the Hamilton soundtrack at work for days now,” wrote one woman. “This is EXACTLY what would’ve happened. ALL the theater kids everywhere,” wrote another.
Then the joke became real. Last week, as part of a series of public events marking one year since the January 6 riot, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi introduced a prerecorded performance by the cast of Hamilton, singing “Dear Theodosia.” Pelosi read aloud from the song’s lyrics: “We’ll make it right for you. If we lay a strong enough foundation, we’ll pass it on to you; we’ll give the world to you.” There was no need to debate whether this was cringe (which is now an adjective, as well as a noun and verb), because cringe is a you-know-it-when-you-see-it type of thing. And these days, you can seeiteverywhere.
A long descent from a peak in cases could exact a larger toll than even Omicron’s blistering ascent.
Just weeks into its staggering ascent in the United States, Omicron appears to maybe, maybe, be taking its leave of a few big urban centers up and down the East Coast. Documented coronavirus infections seem to be leveling off, even falling, in cities such as Boston, New York, and Washington, D.C.—a possible preview of what the country’s been waiting on tenterhooks for: the beginning of the end of the Omicron wave.
The pattern fits with whatrecentmodelspredict. National case counts will hit a maximum this month, maybe a touch later. (Some think that the peak is already behind us.) It’s all a bit squishy still, but epidemiologists such as Justin Lessler of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill are “pretty confident” that the American apex is nigh. Peak could then give way to plunge, as it did in South Africa. It’s tempting, then, to imagine Omicron loosening its vice grip on the United States just as quickly as it latched on. February will be better; March, rosier still. Americans will get something like a Hot Post-Omi Spring.
Recently I met the astronomer Pascal Oesch, an assistant professor at the University of Geneva. Professor Oesch and his colleagues share the distinction of having discovered the most distant known object, a small galaxy called GNz-11. That galaxy is so far away that its light had to travel for 13 billion years to get from there to here. I asked Professor Oesch if he felt personally connected to this tiny smudge on his computer screen. Does this faint blob feel like part of nature, part of the same world of Keats and Goethe and Emerson, where “vines that round the thatch-eves run; to bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees”?
Oesch answered that he looks at such distant smudges every day. Sure, they’re part of the universe, he said. But consider the abstraction (thought I). A few exhausted photons of light from GNz-11 dropped on a photoelectric detector aboard a satellite orbiting Earth, produced a tiny electrical current that was translated into 0s and 1s, which were beamed to Earth in a radio wave. That information was then processed in data centers in New Mexico and Maryland and eventually landed on Professor Oesch’s computer screen in Geneva. These days, professional astronomers rarely look at the sky through the lens of a telescope. They sit at computer screens.
The $10 billion mission is working better than anyone could have predicted.
To the world, the new telescope that recently launched to space is one of the most ambitious scientific endeavors in history. It is the next Hubble, designed to observe nearly everything from here to the most distant edges of the cosmos, to the very first galaxies.
To Jane Rigby’s son, it’s “mama’s telescope.”
Rigby, an astrophysicist, used to bring her young son to the NASA center in Maryland to watch the James Webb Space Telescope being assembled. They would stand together on an observation deck overlooking a giant, glass-walled room and watch the technicians, dressed head-to-toe in protective garments to prevent contamination, do their work. Over the years, they saw the observatory’s 18 mirrors—tiles of a lightweight metal called beryllium, coated in brilliant gold—installed, one by one, then the science instruments bolted into place. “It took him a while to figure out that not everybody has a telescope at work,” Rigby told me. “I remember him asking my wife, ‘So where’s your telescope at work?’”
Robert Malone claims to have invented mRNA technology. Why is he trying so hard to undermine its use?
Updated at 3:00 p.m. ET on August 23, 2021
Robert Malone—a medical doctor and an infectious-disease researcher—recently suggested that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines might actually make COVID-19 infections worse. He chuckled as he imagined Anthony Fauci announcing that the vaccination campaign was all a big mistake (“Oh darn, I was wrong!”) and would need to be abandoned. When he floated that nightmare scenario during a recent podcast interview with Steve Bannon, both men seemed almost delighted at the prospect of public-health officials and pharmaceutical companies getting their comeuppance. “This is a catastrophe,” Bannon declared, beaming at his guest. “You’re hearing it from an individual who invented the mRNA [vaccine] and has dedicated his life to vaccines. He’s the opposite of an anti-vaxxer.”