Thursday, April 18th, 2019


Tome Raider

"I'm f*cked." According to the finally released 448-page Mueller Report, that was President Trump's initial reaction to word that a special counsel had been appointed. It may have been one of the few times the divisive president spoke for all Americans as the nation soon found itself sinking into a swirling pit of breaking news quicksand that would come to dominate our discourse, online and off, for nearly two years. We might spend just as long arguing about what the report actually means for the future of the presidency (this one, and others), and the future of American elections. In the meantime, thanks to some excellent reporting and our communal obsession, we already knew much about what we're reading in the report. A lot of the things you assumed were happening were, a lot of the things that seemed like lies were lies, and that which was called a hoax was nothing of the sort. Here are some key outtakes from America's first national book club meeting.

+ "If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the president clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state."

+ "Substantial evidence indicates that the catalyst for the president's decision to fire Comey was Comey's unwillingness to publicly state that the president was not personally under investigation."

+ "The president called McGahn at home and directed him to call the acting attorney general and say that the special counsel had conflicts of interest and must be removed. McGahn did not carry out the direction, however, deciding that he would resign rather than trigger what he regarded as a potential Saturday Night Massacre."

+ "While the investigation identified numerous links between individuals with ties to the Russian government and individuals associated with the Trump Campaign, the evidence was not sufficient to support criminal charges."

+ On the pattern of obstruction: "These actions ranged from efforts to remove the Special Counsel and to reverse the effect of the Attorney General's recusal; to the attempted use of official power to limit the scope of the investigation; to direct and indirect contacts with witnesses with the potential to influence their testimony."

+ While there was not a finding of conspiracy, the campaign "expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts."

+ On the Trump Tower meeting: "On the facts here, the government would unlikely be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the June 9 meeting participants had general knowledge that their conduct was unlawful. "

+ "The President's efforts to influence the investigation were mostly unsuccessful, but that is largely because the persons who surrounded the President declined to carry out orders or accede to his requests." (It's worth noting that most of those who declined to carry out such orders are long gone and have been replaced by those perceived to be more loyal to the president...)

+ You can read along with WaPo, the NYT, The Atlantic, and CNN.


Redaction Figure

"In an extraordinary news conference 90 minutes before he released the report of the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, Mr. Barr acted more as a defense attorney for Mr. Trump than as the leader of the Justice Department." NYT: Barr's Defense of Trump Rewards the President With the Attorney General He Wanted.

+ WaPo: William Barr just did Trump another huge favor.

+ Attorney General or Apologist General? "There is substantial evidence to show that the President was frustrated and angered by a sincere belief that the investigation was undermining his Presidency, propelled by his political opponents and fuelled by illegal leaks." The New Yorker: How William Barr Politicized the Release of the Mueller Report. Editor's note: The big outstanding question is: What About Bob? Why wasn't Bob Mueller the one to publicly release, and frame, his own report. At this point, Mueller's voice is in such hot demand he could start recording people's outgoing phone messages for like $5 million a pop...


Are We There Nyet?

Much to the joy of our adversaries, one of the key elements missing in the dialogue about the Mueller Report is that many of the indictments "provide a treasure trove of historic information about how the elections have been assaulted in the past ... More importantly, they provide an invaluable starting point for improving election security in the face of new, novel threats that will likely come." Politico: Collusion aside, Mueller found abundant evidence of Russian election plot.

+ "Trump's reaction to Mueller's investigation has been consistent since the special counsel began his inquiry nearly two years ago. The president has denied wrongdoing, played victim, and refrained from criticizing Russia's role in the election." The Atlantic: Trump Still Hasn't Condemned Russia for Meddling in the 2016 Election.


Bayonet Proceeds

"According to interviews and to documents that I obtained—federal tax forms, charity records, contracts, corporate filings, and internal communications—a small group of N.R.A. executives, contractors, and venders has extracted hundreds of millions of dollars from the nonprofit's budget, through gratuitous payments, sweetheart deals, and opaque financial arrangements. Memos created by a senior N.R.A. employee describe a workplace distinguished by secrecy, self-dealing, and greed, whose leaders have encouraged disastrous business ventures and questionable partnerships, and have marginalized those who object." An investigation into the NRA, its leaders, and its shady finances. From The New Yorker: Secrecy, Self-Dealing, and Greed at the N.R.A.


Misfortune Telling

"When Nusrat reached the rooftop four or five people, wearing burqas, surrounded her and allegedly pressured her to withdraw the case against the headmaster. When she refused, they set her on fire." A brutal story from BBC: Nusrat Jahan Rafi was doused with kerosene and set on fire at her school in Bangladesh. Less than two weeks earlier, she had filed a sexual harassment complaint against her headmaster.


Snack Counter

"The study subjects had been thin all their lives, and not because they had unusual metabolisms. They just did not care much about food. They never ate enormous amounts, never obsessed on the next meal. Now, a group of researchers in Britain may have found the reason. The people carry a genetic alteration that mutes appetite." NYT: This Genetic Mutation Makes People Feel Full — All the Time. (I've always seen feeling full as a challenge.)

+ Bon Appetit: Why I Take All My First Dates to Olive Garden.


Champion Shipping

"The century-old brand best known for basic gym attire is experiencing an unlikely revival, [being] a benefactor of three swirling style trends that converged to create a teen and millennial fashion craze: Logo apparel is in vogue; throwback gear has returned; and streetwear—the casual style derived from skateboard and sports culture—is having a moment." Bloomberg: Champion Accidentally Hit the Fashion Jackpot. (My ten year-old daughter has approved of exactly one article of clothing in my closet: My new Champion windbreaker.)

+ "The pastors were among those included on an Instagram account that recently popped up called 'PreachersNSneakers,' where men and women of God are shown wearing footwear that could cost more than a month's rent for many of their followers. Before long, each post was clogged with hundreds of comments." As Passover and Easter approach, the NYT asks this important question: Should pastors wear $5,000 sneakers? (To answer that will require some serious sole searching.) Let He Who Is Without Yeezys Cast the First Stone.


Social Rejects

"He would have to wait until March to hear from the others. When it was all over, he would edit the videos together and post all of his reactions as a kind of highlight reel — or maybe lowlight reel, depending on how it all turned out." Everything else is shared, so why not this? From WaPo: High schoolers are inviting thousands of strangers to watch as they get into college — and get rejected.


Cycle of Life

"The Seattle-raised athlete went on to become one of the most famous American cyclists in the '80s and '90s, winning six world championships and medaling in two Olympics. She appeared on cycling magazine covers, in sponsor ads and in features in Sports Illustrated and Vanity Fair. But then, in 1996, she left the team abruptly during the Olympics and the next year, retired from cycling. She re-entered the workforce. It didn't work out." What an Olympic medalist, homeless in Seattle, wants you to know.


Bottom of the News

"I wasn't worried about spending the next five days with him. I was worried about disappointing him. He'd be exploring one of the country's most famous natural monuments with a guy whose idea of roughing it is bad Wi-Fi and public toilets." Outside: The World's Least Likely Outdoor Dad. (In my family, about the closest we come to camping is when someone falls asleep on the couch watching TV.)

+ I found two identical packs of Skittles, among 468 packs with a total of 27,740 Skittles.