• ZipDialog Roundup for Friday, October 13

    Articles chosen with care. Your comments welcomed.
    Linked articles in bold purple

    ◆ Very good economic news, twice over

    Overall, a very strong report across multiple economic sectors, despite the hurricanes.

    The retail sales report is closely watched because it provides an early read on consumer activity each month. Consumer spending accounts for about 70% of the economy.

    U.S. economic growth likely slowed in the July-September quarter as the hurricanes shut down thousands of businesses, people were forced to miss work, and power was cut to millions of homes. Analysts forecast that the economy expanded at a 2% annual pace in the third quarter, down from a 3% gain in the April-June quarter.

    Yet the economy is expected to rebound in the final three months of the year as rebuilding and repair work accelerates. –USA Today

    Comment: Very good news, indeed. To keep it going, especially as interest rates rise and the job market gets tighter, the administration needs to keep reducing regulations and get a tax cut through Congress.

    Trump refuses to certify the Iran Nuclear Deal, saying it is not in America’s best interests

    He made a strong speech, which included an itemized list of Iran’s lethal attacks on Americans and its sponsorship of terror throughout the Middle East.

    The hardest immediate blow to Iran was Trump’s decision to label Iran’s Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist entity. That’s important because the Revolutionary Guard is the regime’s enforcer and controls a huge chuck of the country’s economy.

    Next up: Congress has to determine whether to impose sanctions on Iran.

    If it does, then the US effectively withdraws from the multilateral “Joint Agreement.” But who knows what Congress will do, especially with Trump’s latest personal foe, Bob Corker, as head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee?

    As expected, the other signatories to the agreement didn’t like Trump’s decision.

    No improvement in the horrific California wildfires. Death toll above 30 and expected to rise (Los Angeles Times)

    15 fires have burned over 200k acres so far.

    Trump hits Obamacare with a double whammy, ending subsidies to private insurers and urging competition across state lines

    Without subsidies, the insurers will likely stop providing policies to lower-middle-class consumers. The poorest are not affected because they are on Medicaid. The better off are not affected if they have employer healthcare plans.

    Whether insurers can operate across state lines will depend on whether state regulators allow it. Right now, they don’t.

    Conservatives are furious at Mitch McConnell and establishment Republicans for the very slow pace at which Trump appointees are approved (Daily Signal)

    Comment: The pace is extremely slow. Trump has been slow to put forward nominees in some areas. The Democrats have opposed everything, tooth and nail. And the Republicans have refused to change any rules to speed things along, giving free rein to the Democrats’ delaying tactics. Since many establishment Republicans oppose Trump, the delays may be just fine with them.

    But rank-and-file Republicans and many donors are not happy. They especially want to see judicial nominees moved along expeditiously.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

     

  • Trump Campaign worker, Carter Page, Won’t Talk to Senate Intel Committee

    Politico reports that Page will invoke his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination.

    He was a low-level aide in the Trump Campaign and never met the boss. He did, however, have connections with Russia, though he has repeatedly denied he did their bidding.

    A former naval-officer-turned-energy consultant, Page came under fire last year after reports emerged that he had met with high-level associates of Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow in 2016. While Page denied those meetings occurred, the Trump campaign distanced itself from the adviser not long after, with former officials saying that Page and Trump had never met. –Politico

    Comment:  It is unclear if his refusal is related to the Mueller investigation, but it could well be. Page, Mike Flynn, and Paul Manafort are all in the crosshairs, according to media reports.

    Anybody facing potential indictments would be advised by lawyers not to say anything.

    Page is a small fish. Presumably, Mueller’s team would want information from him, but it is not clear if he has any or knows about others approached by the Russians.

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Tuesday, October 10

    Articles chosen with care. Your comments welcomed.
    Linked articles in bold purple

    ◆ Massive Wildfires across Northern California. Blazes in Sonoma’s wine country have not been contained(New York Times)

    At least 10 dead so far, 1500 buildings destroyed.

    Comment: There are other fires in Southern California. Together, they challenge the state’s ability to respond.

     Tennessee’s centrist Republican Senator, Bob Corker, doubles down on his accusations against Trump

    The New York Times broke the news and did an in-depth interview with Corker, whose attacks on Trump are as personal as DJT’s angry tweets at Corker. The Times’ latest article is here.

    Comment: Corker’s attacks are important for three reasons

    • First, according to NYT reporters, Corker’s criticisms are merely the public voice of what most Senate Republicans say. Steve Bannon has said the same thing: establishment Republicans hate Trump and want to sink his agenda.
    • Second, since the Democrats oppose every Trump legislative initiative, he only chance to pass legislation is to hold together a narrow Republican majority. Now, Corker and McCain seem determined to oppose Trump. Add Rand Paul, Susan Collins, and Lisa Murkowski to that grouping and you fall well short of 50 votes. (And most legislation will require 60.)
    • Third, Corker, as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is privy to the highest-levels of US intel and diplomacy. He has recently said that Trump could be leading the US into World War III.

    The husband-and-wife team indicted in the Democratic Congressional IT scandal have now turned on each other (Daily Caller)

    The indicted husband-and-wife team of former IT aides to Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz sat directly across from each other at the defendants’ table in federal court Friday in Washington, D.C., but refused to look at each other.

    Even as they are co-defendants in a U.S. case, Imran Awan’s own wife, Hina Alvi, has become the latest person to accuse him of fraud, filing papers against him in Pakistani court, according to Pakistani news channel ARY.

    Awan, his wife and two brothers — all previously on the payroll of House Democrats — became subjects of a Capitol Police investigation last year after investigators concluded they were submitting falsified invoices for equipment and had transferred “massive” data off a House server. After he was banned from the House network, Awan left a laptop with the username RepDWS in a Capitol Hill phone booth.

    Although The Washington Post has reported that investigators found that Awan and his relatives made unauthorized access to a congressional server 5,400 times, Wasserman Schultz has said concern about the matter was the stuff of the “right-wing media circus fringe.” –Daily Caller

    Comment: Whenever the defendants turn on each other, the prosecution benefits.

    What do we need to know?

    • Were the Democrats’ confidential information shared with outsiders, including foreign actors?
    • Why did Debbie Wasserman Schultz stick by her accused aide for so long? Did he have anything on her?
    • How deep and wide does this scandal go?

    Comment #2: Mainstream media has shown zero interest in this massive scandal.

    Today’s “WTF” story

    Comment: No matter how fearsome your school’s mascot, I’m betting that “Radioactive Wild Boars” is scarier.

    The University of Arkansas should really consider upgrading their Razorback symbol.

     

     

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

     

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Friday, October 6

    Articles chosen with care. Your comments welcomed.
    Linked articles in bold purple

    Leaks that Pres. Trump plans to “decertify” the Iran nuclear deal

    That action doesn’t kill the multilateral deal, but it does begin a process that could.

    When Trump makes his formal decision about Iran’s behavior, as he is required to do periodically by law, the Congress will then have to decide whether to reimpose sanctions.

    Comment: The issue is complicated because (1) the agreement is multilateral and most other signatories want to stay in, (2) Obama front-loaded nearly all the benefits for Iran, among the most incompetent negotiating moves ever, and (3) the agreement does not limit Iran’s deadly, malevolent action in other areas, including missile tests (another major shortcoming).

    Obama, Susan Rice, and John Kerry thought that Iran’s financial windfall would make them a more responsible actor.

    That magical thinking is best captured by a Yiddish phrase:

    More nasty weather headed our wayTropical Storm Nate could cause flooding in New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast (NOLA.com)

    It is expected to hit late Saturday night.

    Comment: The Mississippi Gulf Coast has no protection, but New Orleans has wetlands to the south, which ought to afford some protection. Unfortunately, those wetlands–and the protection they afford–have shrunk dramatically over the past few decades, thanks to canals cut for pipelines and ships. The water moving through those cuts has changed the local ecology and harmed the wetlands.

    Harvey Weinstein, film mogul and, according to interviews in the NYT, perpetrator of serial sexual harassment against actresses and employees

    The New York Times broke the story as an exclusive, with vivid details and on-the-record accusations (link here).

    Now, all the other news outlets are on the case.

    BuzzFeed reports that Weinstein, a major player in national Democratic politics, is relying on key Clinton and Obama aides to cope with the fallout. (link here)

    Normally, Gloria Allred appears as a plaintiff’s lawyer in the harassment cases, beginning with a huge press conference.

    But that doesn’t happen when the allegations are against a major Democrat. Actually, Gloria’s daughter, Lisa Bloom, is involved–working for Weinstein and, she says, trying to educate him that “times have changed.”

    Allred offered a half-hearted comment, saying she “would have declined” because she never represents people accused of harassment, only alleged victims. She offered no criticism of Mr. Weinstein.

    Comment: Expect gloating and finger pointing from Republicans, who are happy to gain a moment’s relief from their own scandal, an anti-abortion Congressman who is resigning after texts surfaced, urging his mistress to terminate her pregnancy.

     After Las Vegas, Republicans open to banning “bump stocks” used to convert semi-automatic rifles into fully-automatic ones (New York Times)

    The NRA seems open to some regulation, as well.

    Comment: Because passing a law would take time, many are urging the ATF to change its regulatory interpretation. That’s passing the buck–and evading what should be a Congressional and Presidential responsibility. We’ve gotten so used to passing everything by Presidential decree or bureaucratic regulations, even Republican congressmen want to avoid the normal, constitutional process for changing our laws.

    Indiana Senator Joe Donnelly (D) is facing a tough reelection in a Republican-leaning state. Now, he gotten more bad news: a non-partisan report rates him the least effective Democrat in the Senate (Indianapolis Star)

    Even when Democrats were in the majority, he accomplished almost nothing, they say.

    Comment: His prospective Republicans opponents were shocked, shock, and appalled. “Indiana needs….”

     Nobel Prizes

    • Literature: Kuzuo Ishiguro, author of “Remains of the Day”
    • Chemistry: 3 scientists who improved images of molecules
    • Physics: 3 scientists who detected gravitational waves, confirming a prediction of Einstein’s
    • Medicine: 3 scientists who discovered the genes regulating the body’s biological clock

    One of the winners in Medicine, Jeffrey Hall (emeritus, Brandeis) said that he collaborated with a Brandeis colleague, Michael Roshbash, because they shared common interests in “sports, rock and roll, beautiful substances and stuff.” He quit science ten years ago, he said at the time, because his grant funding ran out, the grant-review process was corrupt and biased, and he was fed up with academia. (story here)

    Comment: Looks like he was proven right about the bias.

    The Peace Prize will be given Friday. If they can find an innocent child or a do-gooder organization, fine. Otherwise, they should remember that they gave one to Arafat. They might want to think about what’s happening in Myanmar, either, since the country is headed by another Peace Prize winner and is now driving Rohingya Muslims out of the country.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

     

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Thursday, October 5

    Articles chosen with care. Your comments welcomed.
    Linked articles in bold purple

    ◆ We continue to learn more about Las Vegas shooting but still don’t know motive

    Las Vegas Review-Journal reports the shooter also hit aviation fuel tanks. Two bullets hit the tanks at the nearby airport, one penetrating the tank. No fire.

    The gunman also rented rooms overlooking other outdoor music festivals, including one in Chicago, but did not occupy those rooms.

    Comment: If he fired only twice at the fuel tanks, then they were not a major target. Still, the fact that one bullet penetrated the tanks and could have caused a conflagration is deeply disturbing.

    We don’t know if the fact that the gunman did not attack the other venues he scouted indicates only his methodical preparation or something about his motivation to attack one kind of concert-goer and not another. For example, one concert had rap-music stars so an attack would have immediately focused on racist motives. Perhaps he did not want such speculation. In any event, we simply don’t know the answers yet and may never know them.

    Las Vegas sheriff says the killer led a ‘secret life’ before attack and had “some help at some point” in pulling off Sunday’s massacre (Fox News)

    Mia Bloom, a prominent scholar working on terrorism, makes two important points. First, the girlfriend’s cooperation indicates she was never part of the conspiracy; in cases where the girlfriends did know, they refused to cooperate. Second, she sees no evidence of ISIS involvement at this point, only wannabe credit.

    Comment: I know Prof. Bloom and take her judgments very seriously.

     “Bump stocks” 

    Bump stocks are off-the-shelf kits to convert semi-automatic weapons, which can be purchased legally, into fully-automatic weapons, which cannot.

    Here is the New York Times useful description:

    Twelve of the rifles the gunman in the Las Vegas mass shooting had in his 32nd-floor hotel room were each modified with a “bump stock,” an attachment that enables a semiautomatic rifle to fire faster.

    The device replaces a rifle’s standard stock, which is the part held against the shoulder. It frees the weapon to slide back and forth rapidly, harnessing the energy from the kickback shooters feel when the weapon fires. The stock “bumps” back and forth between the shooter’s shoulder and trigger finger. –NYT

    Analysis:

    • Illegal: A machine-gun (fully-automatic)
    • Legal: Semi-Automatic
    • Legal: Bump stock to convert semi- into machine-gun
    • Hence, you can legally (and easily) create a weapon that is illegal to purchase

    Why are bump-stocks legal? Because the ATF rules that bump stocks were legal under current law. The ruling came during the Obama Administration so it was not the result of White House pressure.

    Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) is leading a Congressional effort to make sales of bump-stocks illegal. His effort has bipartisan support–even pro-gun Congressmen say they are willing to have a discussion. We don’t yet know the depth of that support. (Washington Post article here.)

    Breaking news: NRA supports “regulations” on bump stocks (Washington Times)

    Unclear if they intend to support a complete ban.

    Comment: One of the most depressing things I have heard in this whole shocking affair was Kinzinger saying that the ATF should simply change its ruling because that would be faster than passing a law.

    Speed in changing this rule is very important–and may be decisive in this case.

    Still, it was depressing to hear an elected US official saying that a bureaucracy, not Congress, should act on what should be enacted by law.

    San Juan mayor, in a fight with Trump, dons ‘nasty’ shirt for TV interview (Fox News)

     

    Comment: And she picked a really tough interviewer, as you can see.

    Carmen Yulin Cruz has decided her political future is better by “going big” in her fight with Trump. It will build support for her on the island, at least initially, and divert attention from her own inept performance.

    Anybody–anybody at all–think Trump will quietly ignore this?

     

     

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

  • North Koreans Reach Out to Republicans to “Understand Trump”

    The Washington Post headline: North Korea taps GOP analysts to better understand Trump and his messages

    I wonder if this will be their followup?

    GOP, Democratic Analysts Ask North Korea for Help Understanding Trump’s Message.

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Thursday, September 28

    Articles chosen with care. Your comments welcomed.
    Linked articles in bold purple

    Republican Tax Plan: The Essential Features

    The details still need to be worked out through negotiations.

    It is a 9-page framework at this stage, more detailed than previous releases but still not a fleshed-out bill.

    Key features:

    • Lower corporate tax rates: Nominal rates cut significantly–to 20%
      • Whether actual rates for Company X or Company Y are lowered depend on whether previous deductions are eliminated.
    • Fewer personal brackets
    • Much bigger standard deduction for each individual or family
      • Big benefit to lower-income earners
    • Many fewer deductions
    • Keeps big deductions for mortgages, charity, and medical
    • Repeals the Alternative Minimum Tax,
      • Initially meant for a few rich individuals but now affects millions of taxpayers
    • Eliminates the Estate Tax (“death tax”)
    • Repeals deduction for state and local taxes (very contentious)
    • Keeps a special carve-out for hedge fund called “carried interest” (very contentious)

    ◆ The Essential Politics 

    First, the goal is growth, even if it raises projected budget deficits.

    Second, everybody is making hypocritical arguments.

    • The Democrats doubled the country’s debt over the Obama Administration. Now, they are complaining about deficits.
    • The Republicans screamed about debt and deficits during the Obama Administration. Now, most of them say deficits are less important than growth

    Third, the main political arguments are conventional and obvious for both sides.

    • Democrats: “This will only help the rich” (redistribution argument)”
    • Republicans: “Everybody wins when the economy grows faster” (growth argument)

    The New York Times weights in reliably with this analysis headline: Trump Tax Plan Benefits Wealthy, Including Trump. Most analysts agree with this regressive-distribution effect, at least in the initial proposal.

    Big Court Threat to Public Employee Unions (USA Today)

    The Supreme Court agreed Thursday to hear a challenge to the so-called “fair share” fees public employee unions collect from non-members, posing a major threat to organized labor.

    Unlike the past three times the court has considered similar cases, its five-member conservative majority appears poised to rule that workers opposed to union representation cannot be forced to pay for collective bargaining and other benefits. –USA Today

    Comment: The Republicans really want to weaken the public unions, as Scott Walker’s campaign in Wisconsin showed.

    The unions know it and uniformly support Democratic candidates.

    The legal argument by conservative and moderate union members is that so much of what these unions do is inherently political that the members’ free-speech rights are trampled by forcing them to pay union dues as a compulsory aspect of working at, say, a public school or Department of Motor Vehicles.

    My guess: Compulsory union fees will be ruled unconstitutional violations and national membership in public-employee unions will drop significantly, following the Wisconsin pattern.

    The biggest impact will be on K-12 school policy in the states.

    There will be a longer-term impact in other areas since weaker unions cannot stop the rise of autonomous busses or autonomous lawnmowers and floor cleaners, which will give cities and states more service for less money.

    Megyn Kelly: No thanks, say critics and potential guests, after her terrible start (Washington Post)

    Stars now shying away from interviews after Jane Fonda mess

    Megyn Kelly said on the first episode of her new NBC morning show, which aired Monday, that for years she’d “dreamed of hosting an uplifting show.”

    But just three episodes in, her celebrity guests seem to find the show anything but uplifting. Kelly’s penchant for speaking her mind, regardless of how her words might be perceived, caused two of her celebrity guests to speak out against the host after their respective appearances.

    The most recent was Jane Fonda, whom Kelly pressed to discuss her plastic surgery. –Washington Post

    Comment: One problem is that Fox viewers think she “betrayed” her network and thus her “side.”

    A second is that she was always better at hard-news interviews than soft-focus ones. But her new time slot is tailored for morning uplift, not hard news.

    Third, some media critics have said that she is the kind of woman who appeals more to male viewers than female viewers. But the morning audience is heavily female.

    NBC gave her bucket loads of cash and removed a steady program to give her a slot. They must be slashing their wrists.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

     

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Wednesday, September 27

    Articles chosen with care. Your comments welcomed.
    Linked articles in bold purple

    Roy Moore wins in Alabama Republican Primary. Trump endorsed the loser, but it is still a victory for Trumpism, right-wing populism 

    Biggest loser outside Alabama: Mitch McConnell, who convinced Trump to get involved on the losing side.

    My guess is that Trump is beside himself with fury at McConnell. The only thing keeping them from all-out war is the need to pass tax reform.

    The main newspaper/website in Alabama has a concise headline on the outcome: Roy Moore rattles GOP in win over Luther Strange. They expect a “donnybrook” in the general election.

    I have a separate post on the politics of Moore’s victory (here)

    Comment on origin of word “donnybrook”: I hadn’t seen the word in a while and wondered where it came from.  I was shocked, shocked to find it is an area of Dublin, known for . . . .

    Tax Cuts and Reforms to be unveiled on Wednesday. More on that later this week when the details are available.

    The goal is to simplify, cut rates, and stimulate growth.

     The Health Care repeal and reform has died for this year. All that talk. No action. 

    The New York Times report is here.

    Comment: The Senate Republicans are in such a knot, they can’t even hold “regular order” hearings on the latest proposal, Graham-Cassidy’s federalist proposal.

    McCain and Susan Collins put the stake in it, but several other Republicans were also “no” votes.

     Bob Corker, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, won’t run for reelection. He is a center-right Republican from Tennessee (Washington Post)

    Two Chicago police officers “take a knee” in the police station. They are reprimanded by the department–but Mayor Rahm Emanuel offers no criticism (Chicago Tribune)

     

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

     

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Wednesday, September 20

    Articles chosen with care. Your comments welcomed.
    Linked articles in bold purple

    Pres. Trump’s speech to the UN was blunt and aimed squarely at North Korea, Iran, and Venezuela 

    It combined two main elements:

    1. A traditional Republican assertion of US military strength and global engagements
    2. Trump’s own nationalist, anti-globalist agenda, praising “strong sovereign nations” (not international institutions) as the basis of global order

    The blunt language attracted a lot of attention. Conservatives (including many who don’t support Trump) were positive. Liberals cringed, longing for Obama’s soft tone, soft policies, and strategic patient.

    He called the nuclear deal with Iran “an embarrassment” and “one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the US has ever entered into.”  He spoke of Iran’s aggressive support of terror and expansion in the Middle East. He specifically spoke about the threat from “Radical Islamic Terror,” words his predecessor never used (and that Trump himself has used less often in recent months).

    He said nothing about “democracy promotion,” a centerpiece of George W. Bush’s foreign policy.

    His comment on Venezuela was equally blunt, saying they had turned a rich country into an impoverished failure and done so not because it misapplied socialist policies but because it applied them exactly as they were intended.

    Without using the term “axis of evil,” his speech clearly echoed those themes from Pres. Bush’s War on Terror.

    As CNN put it, “No American President has ever spoken to the world like this,” calling terrorists and some nations “evil.”

    The best comment about the speech came from

     

    Rich Lowery in the National Review Online:

    As someone said on Twitter, never before has been there so much murmuring of “holy sh**” in so many different languages.

     Two natural disasters: 

    1. Cat 5 Hurricane Maria hits Puerto Rico with 175 mph winds, the second major hurricane within a month
    2. Mexico suffers a 7.1 magnitude quake.

    Numerous casualties and fatalities from both, unfortunately.

    Comment: The best way to keep up with news about each is with your favorite breaking-news site online. The cable channels will show you the gritty aftermath but take hours to give you the hard news you can get in a few minutes reading.

    Republicans on the hill embrace big tax cuts, even if they increase the deficit (New York Times)

    Senate Republicans, abandoning a key fiscal doctrine, agreed on Tuesday to move forward on a budget that would add to the federal deficit in order to pave the way for a $1.5 trillion tax cut over the next 10 years.

    The Republican lawmakers, under mounting pressure to score a legislative win on taxes, say a tax cut of this magnitude will stimulate economic growth enough to offset any deficit impact.

    Yet critics say a deficit-financed tax cut is at odds with longstanding Republican calls for fiscal discipline, including that tax cuts not add to the ballooning federal deficit.

    Comment: Tax bills must originate in the House, which is dribbling out some information but not the key details. Those should come in the next week or so.

    Former Chicago cop, wanted for shaking down drug dealers, has been arrested in Detroit after 15 years on the run (Chicago Tribune)

    He and his gang of corrupt officers were tripped up in 2001 when they tried one ripoff while the dealer happened to be on the phone with his girlfriend. She mistakenly thought another drug dealer was the robber and called the cops. Honest cops showed up, saw what was happening, and that was the beginning of the end.

    Turkey increasingly uses its thuggish, dictatorial tactics in Western democracies. It did it again this week

    They did it in May, 2017, when Turkish security officers assaulted peaceful demonstrators in Washington, DC. (New York Times report here.)

    This week, they tried to stop a speaker at a conference in Philadelphia. The event was hosted by the Middle East Forum (MEF) for the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, known as NATO-PA.

    NATO PA organizers asked that MEF remove a speaker, Emre Çelik, from the program in response to a demand issued by the office of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. MEF removed the speaker from the program, but invited him to address the gathering anyway.

    When Çelik rose to speak, the Turkish delegation grew visibly agitated and acted quickly to shut down the event. –Middle East Forum

    Daniel Pipes, who heads the Middle East Forum, spoke plainly about the incident, which was captured on video:

    President Erdoğan’s attempt to stifle free speech at a Middle East Forum event today was despicable. We did not accept it. –Daniel Pipes

    The MEF report on the incident is here.

    Paul Manafort wants investigations of leaks, which may have come from Special Counsel Mueller’s office, which is trying to rachet up the pressure on Manafort (Reuters)

    “If true, it is a felony to reveal the existence of a FISA warrant, regardless of the fact that no charges ever emerged,” [Manafort’s spokesman said].

    “The U.S. Department of Justice’s Inspector General should immediately conduct an investigation into these leaks and to examine the motivations behind a previous administration’s effort to surveil a political opponent,” he said.

    The special counsel’s office and the FBI both declined to comment on Maloni’s statement. They also did not comment on CNN’s original report about surveillance of Manafort. –Reuters

    Comment: There are several disturbing aspects of this story, all requiring serious investigation. Manafort’s role is obviously one. So is the apparent release of secret information, the presence of a government wiretap on the manager of a political campaign, the possibility President Trump was picked up on the surveillance, and the statements by several Obama administration intelligence officials that they knew of no such surveillance. It is unclear if those officials made false statements under oath.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦