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WASHINGTON DC – Woodward Delivers, But Does He Tell Us Much We Didn’t Already Know?

Though full of juicy tidbits, the journalist’s portrait of the White House as “Crazytown” is all too familiar.

Journalist Bob Woodward arrives at Trump Tower in New York City on Jan. 3, 2017. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Journalist Bob Woodward arrives at Trump Tower in New York City on Jan. 3, 2017. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images) 

If there’s one thing people have come to expect from a book by Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward, it’s some stunning new revelation about the inner workings of a U.S. administration—something that typically sets the town buzzing for days. And there are plenty of meaty—even gory—tidbits in his latest tome, Fear: Trump in the White House, according to excerpts of the book published in news reports.

There’s the time White House chief of staff John Kelly told colleagues that he thought the president was “unhinged,” according to Woodward. “He’s an idiot. It’s pointless to try to convince him of anything. He’s gone off the rails. We’re in Crazytown. I don’t even know why any of us are here. This is the worst job I’ve ever had.”

There was the moment when Defense Secretary James Mattis described Trump as having the understanding of “a fifth- or sixth-grader” on foreign policy.

And there’s the episode when the president’s former chief economic advisor Gary Cohn called him a “professional liar” and was so alarmed by something he saw on Trump’s desk—a draft letter that would have withdrawn the United States from a critical trade agreement with South Korea—that he removed it without telling the president. “I stole it off his desk,” Cohn told an associate, according to Woodward. “I wouldn’t let him see it. He’s never going to see that document. Got to protect the country.”

Trump, moreover, never stopped belittling his subordinates, according to Woodward. He called Attorney General Jeff Sessions “mentally retarded” and a “dumb Southerner.” Trump puffed up his chest to imitate former National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster and likened his former chief of staff Reince Priebus to “a little rat” who “scurries around.” He told Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross: “You’re past your prime.”

It’s gripping reading, but does it really surprise us? We already knew, after a year-and-a-half of chronic leaks in Trump’s Washington, that many in his circle didn’t think highly of him and that he returned the favor. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, before he was fired, famously declined to deny that he too thought the president was an “moron.” The very title of former aide Omarosa Manigault Newman’s recent book was Unhinged. Trump’s now-estranged advisor Steve Bannon compared Trump to an “11-year-old child,” and Republican Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, tweeted that “The White House has become an adult day care center.”

Perhaps some of the strongest rhetoric came from former FBI Director James Comey, who called Trump “morally unfit to be president,” “untethered to truth,” and “unethical.” He also compared him to a Mafia boss.

Meanwhile, numerous former aides have been quoted as saying that it was virtually a full-time job keeping Trump from doing anything rash. We already know that Kelly at one point instructed staffers that all information, whether on paper of in briefings, needs to run through him before it reaches the president. It’s titillating to hear that Priebus dubbed the presidential bedroom “the devil’s workshop” because of all the tweeting Trump does from there, but we already knew the president does that, too.

We knew as well that, given the perpetual controversy over Woodward’s deep-background sourcing, there would be the usual rollout of denials over the book’s revelations. Mattis on Tuesday issued a statement that forcefully denied Woodward’s account.

“The contemptuous words about the President attributed to me in Woodward’s book were never uttered by me or in my presence,” the defense secretary said. “While I generally enjoy reading fiction, this is a uniquely Washington brand of literature, and his anonymous sources do not lend credibility.”

In his previous books, which have been rolled out with as much anticipation as this one, Woodward has typically delivered some startling revelations that not only intrigued but also changed the conversation in Washington. And in this one as well—according to the excerpts—the veteran investigative reporter breaks startling new ground on occasion, writing for example that Trump once sought to have Bashar al-Assad assassinated after the Syrian leader used chemical weapons on civilians in 2017. “Let’s fucking kill him!” Trump said, before Mattis talked him down, according to Woodward.

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ARIZONA – Former US Senator Jon Kyl To Fill John McCain’s Arizona Senate Seat

Cindy McCain calls Mr Kyl a ‘dear friend of mine and John’s’

John McCain - 1999

Republican presidential candidate John McCain poses with an A-4 jet — similar to the one which he was piloting when he was shot down during the Vietnam War — on the deck of the USS Intrepid aircraft carrier in New York. McCain, who flew off of the Intrepid during the Vietnam War, but was not on it when he was shot down, was at the Intrepid to receive the 1999 Intrepid Freedom Award
AFP/Getty

Former US Senator Jon Kyl speaks as Senate Republican leadership hold a press conference in 2012

Former US Senator Jon Kyl speaks as Senate Republican leadership hold a press conference in 2012 ( Allison Shelley/Getty Images) )

Former Senator Jon Kyl will fill the late Senator John McCain’sseat in the US Congress, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey has said.

The appointment marks an unexpected return to Capitol Hill for Mr Kyl, who retired in 2013 after serving three terms an Arizona senator. Mr Doucey said he expected the 76-year-old to “hit the ground running”, adding that now was “not the time for newcomers”.

“There is no one in Arizona more prepared to represent our state in the US Senate than Jon Kyl,” Mr Ducey said in a statement. “He understands how the Senate functions and will make an immediate and positive impact benefiting all Arizonans.”

“I’m accepting this appointment to fill the seat vacated by the passing of my dear friend because of my sense of duty to the state I love, and the institution of the Senate which I served for 18 years, and because the governor asked for my help,” Mr Kyl said at a press conference, according to AZ Central.

BOTSWANA – NEARLY 90 elephants slaughtered near Africa wildlife sanctuary, group says

Dozens of elephants killed near Botswana wildlife sanctuary

AIWA! NO!//Carcases of nearly 90 elephants have been found near a famous wildlife sanctuary in Botswana, conservationists say.

Elephants Without Borders, which is conducting an aerial survey, said the scale of poaching deaths is the largest seen in Africa

Nearly 90 elephants have been found dead near a wildlife sanctuary in Botswana, reported conservationists, as the gentle giants are increasingly being threatened by poachers.

Non-profit group Elephants Without Borders, which is conducting a national elephant census, has found the “fresh and recent” carcasses of 87 poached elephants near the Okavango Delta wildlife sanctuary, director Mike Chase told the BBC. He said he was “shocked” at the findings in Botswana, which has long been viewed as a refuge for elephants.

OPINION: ELEPHANT TROPHIES? SERIOUSLY? THIS IS WHAT WASHINGTON IS SPENDING ITS TIME ON?

“I’m shocked, I’m completely astounded,” Chase said. “The scale of elephant poaching is by far the largest I’ve seen or read anywhere in Africa to date.”

Chase added that, compared to his 2015 census, “we are recording double the number of fresh poached elephants than anywhere else in Africa.”

The government of Botswana, home to an estimated 130,000 elephants, told The Associated Press that the non-profit’s information was inaccurate, and that some of the elephant carcasses found “were not poached but rather died from natural causes and retaliatory killings as a result of human and wildlife conflicts.”

The country, with a population of more than 2 million, suffers from some human-wildlife conflict but has more space than many other countries for animals to roam. Kenya, for example, has a population 25 times larger and is almost as big as Botswana in geographical size.

Security in Botswana has often been known to quickly open fire on poaching suspects, including Namibians and Zimbabweans who were killed after illegally crossing the border.

Chase told the news station that the group was warning “of an impending problem and we thought we were prepared for it.”

After poachers wiped out large numbers of elephants in neighboring Zambia and Angola, they’re “now turning their guns to Botswana,” Chase said. “We have the world’s largest elephant population and it’s open season for poachers,” he told The AP, adding that poachers have targeted old bull elephants that presumably have the heaviest tusks.

Botswana President Mokgweetsi Masisi, who took office in April, has reportedly taken steps to reduce the use of military weapons against poachers, which some conservationists speculate could be emboldening ivory traffickers.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

USA – Democrats attack as Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings get off to chaotic start

The confirmation hearings of Trump Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh are off to a raucous start, with Democratic lawmakers calling for the hearings to be adjourned before they started.

  • Protesters chant in the background and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley struggled to maintain order.

Republican Charles Grassley of Iowa, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, struggled to maintain order.

President Donald Trump nominated Kavanaugh in July to fill the seat of retired Justice Anthony Kennedy, who often provided the decisive swing vote in numerous decisions. If confirmed, Kavanaugh could solidify the conservatives’ majority on the nine-member court.

Kavanaugh prepared for his hearing with at least six practice sessions that mimicked possible scenarios he could face in dealing with hostile members of the committee. As protesters yelled, Kavanaugh looked forward.

Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., interrupted Grassley at the start of the hearing to demand a delay until the senators had time to review a paper trail from Kavanaugh’s time in the George W. Bush White House. More than 40,000 pages of documents were released Monday night.

Sen. Corey Booker (D-NJ) speaks as US Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh attends the first day of his confirmation hearing in front of the US Senate on Capitol Hill in Washington DC, on September 4, 2018.

“What are we trying to hide? Why are we rushing?” asked Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, likened the Democrats’ demands to “mob rule.”

The Democrats’ opening gambit was planned with the help of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., NBC News reported, citing unidentified sources.

Kavanaugh was the White House staff secretary under Bush, and produced hundreds of thousands of pages of documents that Democrats have sought to gain access to. Bush’s legal team turned over more than 400,000 pages of documents ahead of Tuesday’s hearings. Trump’s claim of executive privilege blocked the release of more than 100,000 additional pages.

“This entire process has cast a cloud over Judge Kavanaugh,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., the top Democrat on panel. “We go to these hearings under protest.”

At one point, Grassley was forced to defend his integrity in the face of Democratic attacks.

“You spoke about my decency. You spoke about my decency and integrity and I think you are taking advantage of my decency and integrity,” Grassley said.

Addressing Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, who said the hearing was “unprecedented” and “not regular order,” Grassley said that “I would ask that you stop so that we can conduct this hearing the way that we have planned it.”

“Maybe it is not going exactly the way the minority would like to have it go, but we have said for a long period of time that we were going to proceed on this very day, and I think we ought to give the American people the opportunity to hear whether Brett Kavanaugh should be on the Supreme Court or not,” Grassley said.

Heading into the hearings, polling showed that Kavanaugh was unpopular among Americans, with a plurality telling Fox News in August that he should not be confirmed. An August poll conducted for CNN showed that only 37 percent of Americans supported Kavanaugh’s confirmation, making him the least popular nominee since Robert Bork, who was nominated by Ronald Reagan in 1987. Bork was rejected by the Senate, with only 42 votes in favor of his confirmation.

In a statement posted to Twitter, Grassley’s office said that Democrats had “no objection to Judge Kavanaugh’s character, jurisprudence or qualifications, so they are resorting to unprecedented, desperate delay tactics in a coordinated political strategy led by @SenSchumer.”

Democrats have raised objections to Kavanaugh’s previous rulings and statements on executive power, reproductive rights and other matters, and argued that Trump should not be permitted to name a nominee to the high court as he remains under investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller.

Despite their objections, there is no clear path for Democrats to block Kavanaugh’s confirmation. Republicans hold a narrow majority in the Senate, and some centrist Democrats up for re-election in red states are thought likely to depart from the party line.

Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Donnelly of Indiana are considered possible “yes” votes for Kavanaugh’s confirmation. The three senators all voted to confirm Trump’s last nominee to the Supreme Court, Justice Neil Gorsuch, and they are considered vulnerable in the November midterm elections.

Trump Viewed as National Security Threat by Own Staff, Claims Woodward Book

Trump quoted slamming Attorney General Jeff Sessions: ‘This guy is mentally retarded. He’s this dumb Southerner’

(CNN)On Monday afternoon, President Donald Trump tweeted this:
“Two long running, Obama era, investigations of two very popular Republican Congressmen were brought to a well publicized charge, just ahead of the Mid-Terms, by the Jeff Sessions Justice Department. Two easy wins now in doubt because there is not enough time. Good job Jeff……”

AIWA! NO!//An upcoming book by journalist Bob Woodward says U.S. President Donald Trump’s chief of staff privately called him an “idiot” and presidential aides plucked sensitive documents off Trump’s desk and thought he was often unaware of foreign policy basics.
Those are some of the explosive anecdotes in Woodward’s book on Trump’s first 18 months in office. The Washington Post on Tuesday published details from “Fear: Trump in the White House.”
Woodward quotes an exasperated Chief of Staff John Kelly doubting Trump’s mental faculties, declaring during one meeting, “We’re in Crazytown.” The book shows that both Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and Kelly privately trashed their boss as incompetent, even viewing him as a threat to national security.

Woodward also quotes Trump saying to Rudy Giuliani: “Rudy, you’re a baby,” Trump told the man who is now his personal attorney. “I’ve never seen a worse defense of me in my life. They took your diaper off right there. You’re like a little baby that needed to be changed. When are you going to be a man?”

And, Trump saying about Attorney General Jeff Sessions: “This guy is mentally retarded. He’s this dumb Southerner. … He couldn’t even be a one-person country lawyer down in Alabama.”

Trump’s former lawyer in the Russia probe, John Dowd, is also said to have doubted Trump’s ability to avoid perjuring himself should he be interviewed by special counsel Robert Mueller.

The Washington Post also published the transcript and audio of a call between Woodward and Trump last month about the book in which Trump says the only way Woodward’s book could be accurate is if he writes, “that nobody’s ever done a better job than I’m doing as president.”

The White House didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer defended Woodward on Twitter, writing. “I’ve been on the receiving end of a Bob Woodward book. There were quotes in it I didn’t like. But never once – never – did I think Woodward made it up. Anonymous sources have looser lips and may take liberties. But Woodward always plays is straight. Someone told it to him.”

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