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The Weekly Arc: May 19, 2017

Welcome to Arc’s newsletter, sent out once per week, highlighting the best and most interesting stories from around the web. The Weekly Arc is curated by Berny Belvedere. Past editions can be accessed here.

The Trump Presidency Falls Apart

After an astonishing week of revelations, Donald Trump’s presidency appears to be on the verge of collapse.

Consider what has happened just in the last 10 days:

On May 8, former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates appeared before Congress, offering testimony under oath that contradicted White House statements about Michael Flynn’s firing as national-security adviser, and which indicated Trump had waited 18 days after learning Flynn had lied to the vice president and might be subject to Russian blackmail before firing him.

On May 9, Trump abruptly fired FBI Director James Comey, who was overseeing an investigation into Russian interference in the election and possible Trump campaign collaboration on it. Trump cited a recommendation from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who criticized Comey’s handling of an investigation into Hillary Clinton as too harsh. But that rationale was nonsensical on its face, because Trump had argued Comey was too lenient.

On May 10, amid reports that Rosenstein was livid about being fingered as the motivation for Comey’s firing, the White House changed its account and said there were other factors. Meanwhile, a flood of press reports indicated that Trump had actually fired Comey because he was upset about the Russia probe, and angry that Comey had told Congress that Trump’s accusation of “wiretapping” against Barack Obama was bogus.

On May 11, The Economist published an interview with Trump in which he betrayed near illiteracy about key economic issues facing the White House and his own proposed policies on them. Later that day, the president gave an interview to NBC News’s Lester Holt in which he directly contradicted the vice president and White House spokeswoman, admitting that the Russia probe was a factor in Comey’s dismissal. Trump also said that Comey told him three times he was not under personal investigation, and had asked Trump to meet for dinner in an attempt to keep his job. Later that day, Comey associates told the press that the president had lied, that Trump had invited a reluctant Comey to the meal, and further that Trump had demanded (but not received) a pledge of personal loyalty from the FBI director.

On May 12, Trump appeared to threaten Comey, saying he “had better hope that there are no ‘tapes’” of their conversations. The administration then refused to confirm or deny the existence of recordings made in the White House, claiming (preposterously) that the president’s position was clear.

The weekend was eerily quiet.

On May 15, Politico published a story about Trump’s news consumption that indicated his staffers were routinely passing him fake news stories, both to manipulate him and out of fear that giving him real news might upset him. Politico also said Trump was unable to tell real news from fake, falling for a photoshopped Time cover before his staff intervened to tell him it was forged. Later that day, The Washington Post broke the news that during a meeting with the Russian foreign minister and ambassador, Trump had shared highly sensitive classified information obtained from an ally who had not authorized its sharing.

On May 16, The New York Times and others reported that the source of the intelligence is Israel. Later in the day, the Times was the first to report on a memo that James Comey wrote after meeting with Trump on February 14 (the day after Flynn’s firing), in which Comey quotes Trump as asking him to drop the FBI investigation into Flynn and his ties to Russia. “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” Trump reportedly told Comey. “He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”

It is difficult to assess the relative danger of each of these stories, because in any normal administration any of them could consume weeks if not months of attention as the press and politicians ferreted out each loose end. In this case, each seems to be supplanted by a new self-inflicted casualty within hours. — David A. Graham, The Atlantic

Trump’s Effect on the Republican Party

Donald Trump’s effect on the Republican Party is a topic that will eventually produce a vast literature. And we’ll get that literature soon enough; after all, the consequences of bringing Trump into the GOP fold will be more acutely felt in 2018 and 2020. But for the time being I give you three pieces to consider.

Republicans Who Are Complicit in Trump’s Abuse of Power Will Soon Have a Big Problem” by Greg Sargent (The Washington Post)

Trump May Have Already Lost the GOP Moment” by Noah Rothman (Commentary)

Can the Republican Party Be Saved?” by David Thornton (The Resurgent)

Chris Cornell Takes His Own Life

Chris Cornell, the powerful, dynamic singer whose band Soundgarden was one of the architects of grunge music, died on Wednesday night in Detroit hours after the band had performed there. He was 52.

The death was a suicide by hanging, the Wayne County medical examiner’s office said in a statement released on Thursday afternoon. It said a full autopsy had not yet been completed.

Mr. Cornell’s representative, Brian Bumbery, said in a statement that the death was “sudden and unexpected.” — The New York Times

Cornell’s wife, Vicky Cornell, has issued a statement.

Chris’s death is a loss that escapes words and has created an emptiness in my heart that will never be filled. As everyone who knew him commented, Chris was a devoted father and husband. He was my best friend. His world revolved around his family first and, of course, his music second. He flew home for Mother’s Day to spend time with our family. He flew out mid-day Wednesday, the day of the show, after spending time with the children. When we spoke before the show, we discussed plans for a vacation over Memorial Day and other things we wanted to do.

Vicky Cornell went on to challenge the notion that her late husband knowingly and intentionally took his own life. As Rolling Stone reports:

However, following Soundgarden’s concert Wednesday night, Vicky noticed a change in her husband’s demeanor when they talked on the phone after the show.

“When we spoke after the show, I noticed he was slurring his words; he was different. When he told me he may have taken an extra Ativan or two, I contacted security and asked that they check on him,” she continued. “What happened is inexplicable and I am hopeful that further medical reports will provide additional details. I know that he loved our children and he would not hurt them by intentionally taking his own life.”

An attorney for the Cornell family, Kirk Pasich, reiterated Vicky’s belief that an extra dosage of Ativan, an anxiety medication often employed by recovering addicts, altered Chris Cornell’s mental faculties after the Detroit show. Pasich added that the Cornell family is “disturbed at inferences that Chris knowingly and intentionally took his life.”

“Without the results of toxicology tests, we do not know what was going on with Chris — or if any substances contributed to his demise,” Pasich said. “Chris, a recovering addict, had a prescription for Ativan and may have taken more Ativan than recommended dosages. The family believes that if Chris took his life, he did not know what he was doing, and that drugs or other substances may have affected his actions.”

Pasich added that side effects of Ativan include “paranoid or suicidal thoughts, slurred speech and impaired judgment”; Vicky Cornell noted her husband’s slurred speech following the Detroit concert in her statement.

She added, “The outpouring of love and support from his fans, friends and family means so much more to us than anyone can know. Thank you for that, and for understanding how difficult this is for us.”

We’re All Just Waiting for Cavs/Warriors

With Kawhi Leonard’s involvement for the rest of the San Antonio Spurs/Golden State Warriors matchup iffy at best, there is now no doubt whatsoever that the Warriors will face the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals. It’s possible that the Spurs and Boston Celtics take one game in each of their respective series, but extremely unlikely that they take more than that, and utterly impossible that they go on to win the series itself.

So we will have a Warriors/Cavs matchup for the third straight year. Should more than make up for what has been an underwhelming playoffs thus far. Let’s hope both teams get there healthy, and we get a Finals with both squads playing the kind of basketball they’re capable of. My early prediction is Warriors in 6.

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This Week In History

May 19

1864 — Nathaniel Hawthorne (b. 1804), one of America’s most renown writers and author of The Scarlet Letter, passes away. Take the time to read a short story of his: I recommend “My Kinsman, Major Molineux.”

May 20

1806 — John Stuart Mill, one of the great philosophers and political theorists of all time, is born. I profiled utilitarianism, with which Mill is most closely associated, in this piece.

1862 — President Abraham Lincoln signs The Homestead Act into law. This act encouraged migration to the American West, making it easy to settle there and thus, to help develop that area civilizationally. Read about it here.

May 21

1744 — Alexander Pope (b. 1688), the famous English poet, passes away.

1904 — Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) forms in Paris.

May 23

1937 — John D. Rockefeller (b. 1839), arch-industrialist and possibly the richest man of all time, passes away. He lived 97 years.

1949 — The Federal Republic of [West] Germany created out of the American, British, and French occupation zones.


Capacity for nobler feelings is in most natures a very tender plant, easily killed, not only by hostile influences, but my mere want of sustenance; and in the majority of young persons it speedily dies away if the occupations to which their position in life has devoted them, and the society into which it has thrown them, are not favorable to keeping that higher capacity in exercise. Men lose their high aspirations as they lose their intellectual tastes, because they have not time or opportunity for indulging them; and they addict themselves to inferior pleasures, not because they deliberately prefer them, but because they are either the only ones to which they have access or the only ones which they are any longer capable of enjoying.

— John Stuart Mill



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