Christmas Carol

Written by SK Ashby

(Cartoonist - Jimmy Margulies)

In other news, the Washington Post reports that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, National Security Adviser John Bolton, and Secretary of Defense James Mattis all advised Trump against rapidly withdrawing from Syria, but he did it anyway. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph F. Dunford wasn't even in the meeting when Trump made the decision.

Meanwhile, Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker reportedly chose not to recuse himself from the special prosecutor's investigation even though ethics officials recommended that he should.

And in related news, Buzzfeed News reports that Russian officials tried to obtain confidential records about critics and people close to Hillary Clinton from the Treasury Department in 2016 through a previously unreported back channel of communication.

The extraordinary unofficial line of communication arose in the final year of the Obama administration — in the midst of what multiple US intelligence agencies have said was a secret campaign by the Kremlin to interfere in the US election. Russian agents ostensibly trying to track ISIS instead pressed their American counterparts for private financial documents on at least two dozen dissidents, academics, private investigators, and American citizens. [...]

Russia’s financial crimes agency, whose second-in-command is a former KGB officer and schoolmate of President Vladimir Putin, also asked the Americans for documents on executives from two prominent Jewish groups, the Anti-Defamation League and the National Council of Jewish Women, as well as Kremlin opponents living abroad in London and Kiev.

In an astonishing departure from protocol, documents show that at the same time the requests were being made, Treasury officials were using their government email accounts to send messages back and forth with a network of private Hotmail and Gmail accounts set up by the Russians, rather than communicating through the secure network usually used to exchange information with other countries.

This story is going to take a long time to unpack in the coming weeks and months.

Here are some other stories I didn't get to this week:

Secretary of Defense James Mattis says he's retiring at the end of February because Trump is too batshit.

Remember the Georgia gubernatorial candidate who drove around the state in a "deportation bus?" He's just been indicted for insurance fraud.

Four Republican state lawmakers in Kansas, all women, have switched parties and joined the Democrats.

The Unites States has been added to the list of most dangerous countries for journalists for the first time ever.

The Illinois state attorney general's office has found the state's catholic church has hidden the names of at least 500(!) clergy members who've been accused of sexual abusing children. The Catholic Church is a child sex trafficking ring.

The Trump campaign and NRA are already breaking campaign finance law before the campaign season even really begins.

An assistant principal at Liberty High School in Harrison County, West Virginia barged into a boys bathroom and berated a transgender teen for using a stall instead of a urinal. And they say transgender people are the real threat; look at this asshole.

Public record show Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross never fully divested from his stock even though he claimed he did. Twice. Honestly, I kind of forgot Ross exists.

Finally, an Economic Policy Institute study found that bad decisions made by elected officials are primarily responsible for stagnant wages, not market forces. No shit?

Programming note... we'll be out of commission here for the next week between Christmas and the new year. Everyone should relax as much as they can before Democrats take control of oversight in Congress and the presidential primary season begins. I'm tentatively planning to be back in action here on January 3rd.

The federal government may partially shutdown tomorrow night (mostly just the Department of Homeland Security, not essential health care services), but honestly I don't give shit. Merry Christmas!