Overnight Shutdown, What Did They Know?

Short Shutdown: Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul kept Congress up all night, blocking a budget vote and causing a six-hour government shutdown. Paul delivered a long and impassioned speech condemning the hypocrisy of his own party for deepening the national deficit after complaining during the entire Obama presidency. “If they were against trillion-dollar deficits for President Obama why is it okay to be a Republican deficit of a trillion dollars?” Paul asked.

A budget bill finally passed in the wee hours and it’s on the way to President Trump for signing.

What Did They Know? And when did they know it?

Fallout continues from the resignation of White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter after the revelation that two ex-wives and a girlfriend accused him of physical and emotional abuse. The information was turned up in an FBI background check for Porter’s security clearance. The White House knew about it since last fall and maybe as early as last winter.

Two things are happening here. One is a revelation that the highest officials in the White House dismissed well-documented evidence that a staff member close to the President shouldn’t have held his job, or a security clearance. The second is that they intended to get away with it until the story broke in the press.

Porter, whose job involved handling the most secret information in the government and funneling it to the President, was still working with a temporary security clearance a year after assuming his position. It seems clear that he wasn’t going to be able to get full clearance and that Kelly had to have known. He’s the gatekeeper on security clearances.

When the story broke, Kelly issued a defense of Porter, saying in a statement, “Rob Porter is a man of true integrity and honor and I can’t say enough good things about him.” When confronted with pictures of Porter’s first wife with a black eye, Kelly amended that to say, “There is no place for domestic violence in our society. I stand by my previous comments of the Rob Porter that I have come to know.”

In other words, “I never saw him beat up a woman. He’s a good guy.”

Porter’s second wife, Jennifer Willoughby, gave a long interview to CNN’s Anderson Cooper last night in which she described her ex as a talented man who is at the same time very charming and very troubled. She said he is “not a monster,” but she said being with him was “a low grade constant terror.” She said that Porter tried to get her to downplay her story before talking to the FBI for his security check. She declined.

Porter is now dating White House Communications Director Hope Hicks, and Willoughby said she’s worried about Hicks. “If he hasn’t already been abusive with Hope, he will.”

Stock Blues: The stock market is now officially in the territory of what’s known as a “correction,” having dropped a little more than 10 percent since mid-January. The Dow Jones lost 1,032 points yesterday, just over four percent of its value.

The market has tripled since 2009, but at the same time suffered corrections in 2015 and 2016, before continuing its upward climb.

Celebrity Re-blab: Fired White House Staffer Omarosa Manigault is already dishing on the president in a preview of “Celebrity Big Brother” that aired last night. “I was haunted by tweets every single day, like what is he gonna tweet,” she said in a whispered conversation with another contestant, “Ross the Intern” from “The Tonight Show.”

Asked if everything is going to be alright, she whispered in reply, “No, it’s not going to be okay, it’s not. It’s so bad.”

Approval: With the tax bill and thriving economy, despite this week’s stock market dive, President Trump’s approval ratings have crept upwards to an average 40.7 percent, according to the FiveThirtyEight blog. But with the wind chill, it feels more like 32.

Five Ring Circus: The Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea kick off tonight with lavish opening ceremonies. Security, as always is a big concern at the Olympics. Television news has been doing mandatory stories showing commandos rappelling off the sides of buildings — terrorists beware! We have commandos who rappel off buildings!

The biggest threat so far is illness. Earlier this week about 1,200 security employees were sequestered in their rooms while they were tested for the norovirus. More than 40 security guards have been diagnosed with the illness that cases vomiting and diarrhea. Obviously Korean officials are worried about the virus spreading to the athletes.

As always, there have been construction delays, ticket sales are slow, and the $2.4 billion budget is short by $267 million. These are all obligatory features of the Olympics, like commandos jumping off buildings.

The games have several new events this year.  In the mountains, there’s big air snowboarding and freestyle skiing. On ice, it’s the first year for mass-start speed skating and mixed doubles curling, which surely will launch that sport to world popularity.

In the competitions, figure skater Mirai Nagasu will attempt to become the first American in Olympic history to land a triple axel, a 3 ½ turn aerial spin. Tonya Harding attempted a triple axel in the 1994 Olympics, but failed to land it. Among the men, there’s hope the relatively unknown Nathan Chen will win a medal. Chen is a master at jumps, which is well rewarded in the current scoring system. — Snowboarder Shaun White, “The Flying Tomato,” is looking to come back from falling in Sochi to win his third gold medal in the half pipe. He’s really great, and always entertaining.  In the women’s halfpipe, look for 17-year-old Chloe Kim from Torrance, Calif. — Hockey teams will hit the ice without players from the NHL. Most of the team owners were against taking a 17-day break from their schedule to accommodate players in the Olympics. — On the slopes, the best American woman skier ever, Lindsey Vonn, will be gunning for gold again in the speed events and Mikaela Shiffrin is a favorite in the slalom. — In short track speed skating, keep an eye on 17-year-old Maame Biney, who immigrated to the US from Ghana when she was five and learned to skate …. really fast.

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Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Page Two

Jaw Meet Floor

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The Small President

Thursday, December 15, 2016

The Cuba Diaries

Sunday, March 13, 2016

An Alphabet of Maladies

Friday, February 26, 2016

The Healthcare Confusion Act

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Freedom from Speech

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Too Big to Fire

Friday, June 19, 2015

More Probable Than Not

Thursday, May 14, 2015

It's Been Said

" 'The enemy of the people,'" was what the president of the United States called the free press in 2017 ... It is a testament to the condition of our democracy that our own president uses words infamously spoken by Josef Stalin to describe his enemies. It bears noting that so fraught with malice was the phrase 'enemy of the people,' that even Nikita Khrushchev forbade its use, telling the Soviet Communist Party that the phrase had been introduced by Stalin for the purpose of 'annihilating such individuals' who disagreed with the supreme leader."
 
Arizona republican Sen. Jeff Flake speaking on the floor today.

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