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Zorro's Journal
Zorro's Journal
December 12, 2019

Congressional Leaders Reach Tentative Deal to Avert Government Shutdown

Source: New York Times

Senior lawmakers announced on Thursday that they had reached a tentative bipartisan agreement on funding the government for the remainder of the fiscal year, offering a solution to avert a shutdown after weeks of haggling over money for President Trump’s border wall and other matters.

Representative Nita M. Lowey, Democrat of New York, and Senator Richard C. Shelby, Republican of Alabama, who lead the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, jointly announced what they called an “agreement in principle” on the spending measure, along with the ranking minority members of both panels.

“I feel very good that we’ll have a good product that we can vote on on Tuesday,” Ms. Lowey told reporters, putting the first vote on the legislation days before funding is set to lapse on Dec. 20.

News of the bipartisan funding agreement came as the House Judiciary Committee debated articles of impeachment against Mr. Trump, and was the latest instance of an odd dynamic that has taken hold on Capitol Hill, where a year-end burst of successful divided government has broken out amid the partisan rancor.

Read more: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/12/12/us/politics/congressional-leaders-reach-tentative-deal-to-avert-government-shutdown.html

December 12, 2019

Bel-Air's Chartwell estate sells for about $150 million, a new California price record

Some know it as “The Beverly Hillbillies” mansion, others as Chartwell. Now, it has a new name: California’s chart-topper.

The Bel-Air residence of late media mogul A. Jerrold Perenchio has sold for the highest price in California history, about $150 million. Although the exact number isn’t clear, people familiar with the deal who asked for anonymity because they were not authorized to comment told The Times the closing price was well above the $119.75-million sale of the Manor in Holmby Hills earlier this year.

Priced as high as $350 million as a pocket listing, the estate centers on a 1930s French neoclassical-style chateau of 25,000 square feet that sits on 10 acres. Also trading in the deal was the former home of President Reagan and his wife, Nancy, which sits behind the main estate.

The sale of Chartwell is just the latest for a high-end market that has seen a surge of huge deals in recent years.

Since 2016, Los Angeles has had six sales of at least $100 million or more. Of California’s seven sales of $100 million or more, only one sits outside of L.A. County: the $117.5-million deal for a massive compound in Northern California’s Woodside community in 2013.


December 12, 2019

Lindsey Graham can't stop spinning and panting and disgracing himself -- just like Trump

On Wednesday, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, kicked off a hearing about the Trump-Russia probe by bewailing government surveillance.

He sounded like a downright radical.

He likened what the FBI did to poor Russia-connected Trump adviser Carter Page in 2016 to what J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI did to Martin Luther King Jr. in the 1960s.

Sure, Lindsey.

Reminder: In 1964, J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI sent King an anonymous letter, calling him “sexually psychotic” and urging him to commit suicide.


December 12, 2019

House passes bill establishing Space Force, parental leave for federal workers

Source: Washington Post

The House passed a $738 billion defense policy bill Wednesday, establishing the Space Force and introducing parental leave for federal workers, even as liberals signaled dissatisfaction with compromises Democratic lawmakers reached by voting against the legislation.

President Trump said he would sign the bill after striking a deal with House Democrats that permits the creation of his Space Force as a sixth branch of the military, one of his top priorities at the Pentagon, in exchange for extending 12 weeks of paid parental leave to more than 2 million federal workers, a victory for Democratic lawmakers. Federal workers at the moment don’t have guaranteed access to paid family leave.

The bill passed in the House on a 377-48 vote. Those who voted against it were primarily liberal Democrats who felt the compromise version of the legislation hammered out with the Republican-led Senate offered up too many concessions, including a top-line authorization that gives $22 billion more to defense than last year, plus another $5.3 billion for disaster recovery on military installations.

Known as the National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, the annual bill sets out priorities for the Pentagon and funding targets for programs. Congressional appropriators ultimately will decide how much federal money the Pentagon receives for those priorities in budget legislation. The compromise bill, having passed in the House, will face a Senate vote slated for next week.

Read more: https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/trump-signals-intent-to-sign-738-billion-national-defense-policy-bill/2019/12/11/50e6d994-1c3e-11ea-9ddd-3e0321c180e7_story.html

December 12, 2019

Eric Holder: William Barr is unfit to be attorney general

As a former U.S. attorney general, I am reluctant to publicly criticize my successors. I respect the office and understand just how tough the job can be.

But recently, Attorney General William P. Barr has made a series of public statements and taken actions that are so plainly ideological, so nakedly partisan and so deeply inappropriate for America’s chief law enforcement official that they demand a response from someone who held the same office.

Last month, at a Federalist Society event, the attorney general delivered an ode to essentially unbridled executive power, dismissing the authority of the legislative and judicial branches — and the checks and balances at the heart of America’s constitutional order. As others have pointed out, Barr’s argument rests on a flawed view of U.S. history. To me, his attempts to vilify the president’s critics sounded more like the tactics of an unscrupulous criminal defense lawyer than a U.S. attorney general.

When, in the same speech, Barr accused “the other side” of “the systematic shredding of norms and the undermining of the rule of law,” he exposed himself as a partisan actor, not an impartial law enforcement official. Even more troubling — and telling — was a later (and little-noticed) section of his remarks, in which Barr made the outlandish suggestion that Congress cannot entrust anyone but the president himself to execute the law.


December 12, 2019

Our country is accepting the unacceptable

The profound damage President Trump has inflicted on our liberties can be measured by widespread complacency in the face of his administration’s escalating attacks on the rule of law, our public servants and the truth itself.

As Attorney General William P. Barr was reducing the Justice Department to a legal defense and public relations firm, Trump himself (who pretends to be law enforcement’s greatest friend) was attacking the FBI in terms that authoritarians use to prepare the way for persecuting their political enemies.
“Look how they’ve hurt people,” Trump told his supporters Tuesday night in Hershey, Pa.. “They’ve destroyed the lives of people that were great people, that are still great people. Their lives have been destroyed by scum. Okay, by scum.”

Please pause here. “Scum” was the word used twice by the president of the United States about those who dedicate their lives to battling wrongdoing and lawlessness. And because he is Trump, the response involved mostly shrugs and head shaking.

When this presidency began, it was commonplace to write off fears that our political and journalistic systems would eventually “normalize” the president’s abuses. The worry was that however strong our system might have been in the past, we would come to accept behavior that had never been acceptable before.

This is exactly what has happened. When the House unveiled impeachment articles on Tuesday, a large share of the reporting and commentary was about the political risks facing Democrats for insisting on something that would once have been uncontroversial: It is a chilling threat to freedom and to democracy for the commander in chief to use his power to press a foreign government to investigate a political opponent.


December 12, 2019

My total lack of evidence proves my case!

Senate Republicans haven’t yet said how they plan to handle President Trump’s trial, but on Wednesday they gave us some clues.

Sens. Lindsey Graham (S.C.), Ted Cruz (Tex.) and others brought in the Justice Department’s inspector general, Michael Horowitz, to ask him about his report on the FBI’s 2016 probe of the Trump campaign, which delivered unwelcome news for the conspiracy crowd.

The report found serious errors, worrisome abuses and dubious policies, but it also found that investigators didn’t tap Trump’s phones, plant an informant at his campaign, entrap his advisers or execute any of the other conspiracy theories Trump and his defenders floated. To the contrary, Horowitz found no evidence of political bias and concluded that the probe had a legitimate purpose and factual, legal basis.

So Republicans settled on a creative approach: They simply disregarded Horowitz’s findings.


December 12, 2019

In new legal memo, White House budget office defends withholding aid to Ukraine

Source: Washington Post

The White House budget office asserts in a new legal memo that it withheld military aid to Ukraine as a temporary move to study whether the spending complied with U.S. policy – and not as a political effort to block Congress’s spending decisions.

The office first began discussing the aid on June 19, the day President Trump learned of the aid from an article in the Washington Examiner and questioned the wisdom of the spending. That move sent aides scrambling, according to a senior administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to share internal conversations.

The Office of Management and Budget extended the temporary hold on the aid eight times in August and September, the last time being Sept. 10. Almost immediately after that hold, the money was released, according to the new memo, which was reviewed by The Washington Post.

The memo details the White House’s latest legal rationale for freezing foreign aid to Ukraine over the summer. OMB general counsel Mark Paoletta wrote the memo to respond to a request from the U.S. Government Accountability Office, which had asked why the aid had been delayed.

Read more: https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/in-new-legal-memo-white-house-budget-office-defends-withholding-aid-to-ukraine/2019/12/11/0caa030e-1b95-11ea-826b-14ef38a0f45f_story.html

Another day, another lame excuse.
December 12, 2019

Portrait of a Lady: Stolen Klimt mystery 'solved' by gardener in Italy

Nothing was heard of Gustav Klimt's Portrait of a Lady after it was stolen nearly 23 years ago from a modern art gallery in Piacenza, northern Italy.

There seemed little prospect of the masterpiece, valued at €60m (£50m; $66m), ever being found.

That was until a worker clearing ivy from the wall of the gallery where it was stolen stumbled on a metal panel.

Behind it lay a recess, within which was a black bag containing what appeared to be the missing painting.


December 11, 2019

Trump Offers Hunter Biden Job In Energy Department Based On Oil Industry Experience

WASHINGTON—Touting his impressive record of serving on the board of a notable natural gas company, President Donald Trump offered Hunter Biden a job in the U.S. Department of Energy Monday based on his experience in the oil industry.

“Given his unparalleled background in this sector, I am pleased to have Hunter Biden joining the Energy Department as the new Deputy Secretary for the Office of International Affairs,” said Trump, explaining that Biden’s long list of contacts with major Eastern European petroleum firms would be indispensable in promoting the administration’s interests as they pursue energy contracts abroad.

“Hunter grew up in politics, so he’s primed for the job, and he came very highly recommended by several big-time energy executives. He’s a really great guy who knows how to get things done in this business. Hunter will start tomorrow, getting right to work securing the best deals possible for the American people.”

At press time, Trump nominated Hunter Biden to replace a retiring Rick Perry as energy secretary at the end of the year.


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