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Quotables
9:48 a.m.

The most notable quote of 2018 — the statement that is most emblematic of this chaotic, endless, maddening year — is Rudy Giuliani's "Truth isn't truth."

Such is the determination of Yale Law School librarian Fred Shapiro, who each December releases a 10-quote update to The Yale Book of Quotations. Shapiro's selection criteria are not concerned with whether the quotes are wise or admirable. (As NBC's Chuck Todd told Giuliani immediately after he uttered his winning line, its proper end is "to become a bad meme.") Rather, Shapiro's aim is to capture of the zeitgeist of the year — for better or worse.

Here are 2018's top three:

1. "Truth isn't truth." — Rudy Giuliani, interview on Meet the Press, Aug. 19.

2. "I liked beer. I still like beer." — Brett Kavanaugh, U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee testimony on his Supreme Court nomination, Sept. 27.

3. "While all pharmaceutical treatments have side effects, racism is not a known side effect of any Sanofi medication." — Sanofi drug company, in a tweet responding to Roseanne Barr's blaming of their product Ambien in explaining a tweet that led ABC to cancel her show, May 30. [The Yale Book of Quotations via The Associated Press]

Read the rest of the list of 10 via The Associated Press. President Trump makes an appearance, as one would expect from "a very stable genius." Bonnie Kristian

November 29, 2018

Before he started predicting his indictment by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, Jerome Corsi was probably best known as a leading proponent of the false conspiracy theory that former President Barack Obama was not born in the U.S. and was therefore ineligible to be president. He's also a vocal promoter of the conspiracy theory that Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich leaked politically damaging DNC emails released during the 2016 presidential campaign, and was murdered because of it. (Washington, D.C., police believe Rich's July 2016 murder was part of a botched robbery.)

Emails unearthed by Mueller's investigators and published Tuesday show that Corsi knew "hackers" were behind the pilfering of Democratic emails being promoted by WikiLeaks, suggesting he did not believe his own Seth Rich story, Will Sommers notes at The Daily Beast. In an Aug. 2, 2016, email to Trump adviser Roger Stone, Corsi also suggested claiming Hillary Clinton had a stroke and accurately predicted WikiLeaks' release of emails stolen from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta:

Word is friend in embassy plans 2 more dumps. One shortly after I’m back. 2nd in Oct. Impact planned to be very damaging. ... Time to let more than [Podesta] to be exposed as in bed w enemy if they are not ready to drop [Clinton]. That appears to be the game hackers are now about. Would not hurt to start suggesting HRC old, memory bad, has stroke — neither he nor she well. [Jerome Corsi to Roger Stone, via Mueller]

On MSNBC Wednesday night, Corsi told Ari Melber he's been accused of lying since he was in kindergarten but in his heart, he knows he's telling the lonely truth — or just playing "politics." He also made clear he's still a birther.

You can watch the entire befuddling interview at MSNBC. Peter Weber

November 28, 2018

During a wide-ranging interview on Tuesday, The Washington Post's Philip Rucker asked President Trump about the raft of bad economic news, noting dips in the stock market and GM's decision to close five auto plants and lay off 15,000 workers. Trump pointed to his trade deals, blamed the Federal Reserve's interest rate hikes, said he's "not blaming anybody," then offered this explanation, apparently arguing that former President Barack Obama had less challenging economic headwinds than he's weathered:

It's not clear how Obama's "rules" were different, or why inheriting a historically brutal recession, as Obama did, was better than Trump's taking office in the middle of a long economic upturn. Trump appears to be specifically complaining about the Fed's slow increase in interest rates and its balance-sheet reduction via unloading billions of dollars worth of bonds — "pay-downs" clearly doesn't refer to paying down the ballooning national debt — but it certainly isn't obvious what he's talking about.

Trump, like all of us, fares better with an editor — reading his transcribed interviews is always an adventure — but presumably he makes sense to himself. "I have a gut," he told Rucker, "and my gut tells me more sometimes than anybody else's brain can ever tell me." You can peruse the entire (annotated) interview at The Washington Post. Peter Weber

November 14, 2018

In one week, President Trump has transformed from a nonstop campaign-rally machine to a nearly invisible figure communicating mostly by tweet. Trump returned late Sunday from a 43-hour trip to Paris, where he sat out some big events and clashed with allies, and on Monday he ended his public day at 10:03 a.m., skipping the Veterans Day trip to Arlington National Cemetery every president since at least John F. Kennedy has made to lay a ceremonial wreath. On Tuesday, Trump's only public appearance was a brief showing at a Diwali ceremony, and he had Secretary of State Mike Pompeo meet with visiting King Abdullah II of Jordan.

Trump sent Vice President Mike Pence to the Asia Pacific Economic Conference (APEC) summit typically attended by presidents, potentially offending Asian leaders; canceled a trip to Colombia; and opted not to visit the U.S. troops he sent to the U.S.-Mexico border to protect a "caravan" he seems to have forgotten about. Maybe Trump is just tired, but White House officials and Trump allies say he's in a particularly sour mood amid a string of late Democratic victories in areas where he campaigned, looming investigations by House Democrats, expected indictments from Special Counsel Robert Mueller, and bad press from his France trip.

"Trump has retreated into a cocoon of bitterness and resentment," the Los Angeles Times reports, citing multiple administration sources. "Behind the scenes, they say, the president has lashed out at several aides," sketching "a picture of a brooding president 'trying to decide who to blame' for Republicans' election losses, even as he publicly and implausibly continues to claim victory."

"It's like an episode of Maury," one former Trump aide told Politico. "The only thing that's missing is a paternity test." You can read more about Trump's "five days of fury" at The Washington Post and Los Angeles Times, and Politico has more on the mood in the White House. Peter Weber

November 9, 2018

There has been some argument over whether President Trump violated the Vacancies Reform Act when he appointed Matt Whitaker acting attorney general, bypassing Senate-confirmed candidates and ignoring the Justice Department's statutory line of succession. But that's beside the point, argue prominent lawyers and Constitution defenders Neal Katyal and George Conway III in a New York Times op-ed published Thursday. Trump's installation of Whitaker "is unconstitutional," they argue. "It's illegal. And it means that anything Mr. Whitaker does, or tries to do, in that position is invalid."

The constitutional issue involves Article II, Section 2, Clause 2, known as the Appointments Clause. "Under that provision, so-called principal officers of the United States must be nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate under its 'Advice and Consent' powers," explain Katyal, an acting solicitor general under former President Barack Obama, and Conway, a prominent conservative lawyer most famous for being married to White House counselor Kellyanne Conway. "A principal officer must be confirmed by the Senate" and answers only to the president. They continue:

We cannot tolerate such an evasion of the Constitution's very explicit, textually precise design. Senate confirmation exists for a simple, and good, reason. Constitutionally, Matthew Whitaker is a nobody. ... Because Mr. Whitaker has not undergone the process of Senate confirmation, there has been no mechanism for scrutinizing whether he has the character and ability to evenhandedly enforce the law in a position of such grave responsibility. The public is entitled to that assurance, especially since Mr. Whitaker's only supervisor is Mr. Trump himself, and the president is hopelessly compromised by the Mueller investigation. That is why adherence to the requirements of the Appointments Clause is so important here, and always. [The New York Times]

On CNN, Jake Tapper's panel looked at the legal arguments but took special interest in Conway's role and the concurrence of Fox News pundits. Watch below, and read the entire op-ed at The New York Times. Peter Weber

October 30, 2018

Presidential historian Michael Beschloss told The Washington Post on Monday that "almost any president of my lifetime would have canceled the campaign rally" President Trump held Saturday night, hours after a gunman murdered 11 Jewish congregants inside their Pittsburgh synagogue. "Even at a time of national crisis like this," you see Trump "dividing in order to conquer," he added. "He has shown himself completely incapable of healing our wounds." Presidential daughter Patti Davis made a similar argument in an op-ed in the Post on Sunday night.

Davis pointed to moments when her father, Ronald Reagan, and his successors Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama offered "comfort and solace to a grieving nation," and "we didn't doubt that their hearts were breaking along with ours." Trump, she added, "will never offer comfort, compassion, or empathy to a grieving nation. It's not in him. When questioned after a tragedy, he will always be glib and inappropriate. So I have a wild suggestion: Let's stop asking him. His words are only salt in our wounds."

CNN's Jake Tapper asked Davis about her op-ed Monday evening. After watching Trump's first remarks to reporters after the Pittsburgh tragedy, she said, "I thought, Why are you even asking him? You know, there's no law that says that reporters have to question the president while he's walking to the helicopter or to the plane. What if you just don't ask him at times like this, and don't give him that opportunity to literally rub salt in our wounds?"

Tapper told Davis that George Conway, Kellyanne Conway's husband, had retweeted part of her op-ed, and Davis seemed surprised, agreeing with Conway that Trump doesn't have anything inside to communicate. "At some point, we do show what is inside of us, and Donald Trump has never shown compassion, ever," she said. "He didn't just burst on the scene — he's been in the public eye for over 40 years." Peter Weber

October 25, 2018

If Democrats win control of at least one branch of Congress in November — the House is the likeliest to flip — they have expressed a strong interest in obtaining President Trump's tax returns, which the Ways and Means Committee should legally be able to do. On Wednesday, Trump ally and informal adviser Newt Gingrich said Trump isn't worried.

"I don't think he has any fear of the Democrats' ability to investigate," Gingrich told The Washington Post. "But he's been raising that fear out there on the campaign trail," noted Washington Post reporter Karen Tumulty. "Sure, that's because he wants everyone to go vote," Gingrich said. "And what about if they subpoena his tax returns?" Tumulty asked. "Then they'll be trapped into appealing to the Supreme Court, and we'll see whether or not the Kavanaugh fight was worth it," Gingrich said.

One reason Trump is believed to have chosen Justice Brett Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court, and stuck by him amid accusations of sexual assault in his teenage years, is because Kavanaugh has demonstrated an expansive view of presidential powers and protection from legal action (at least after Bill Clinton's presidency). And if you're interested in more about Gingrich's martial, zero-sum view of politics, read the profile of him by McKay Coppins in The Atlantic. Peter Weber

October 16, 2018

China's detention of religious and ethic minorities, notably Uighur Muslims, is the "largest internment of civilians in the world today," outgoing U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said Monday night. "It may be the largest since World War II," she added, labeling the arrangement "straight out of George Orwell."

"At least a million Uighurs and other Muslim minorities have been imprisoned in so-called 're-education camps' in western China," Haley reported, accusing Beijing of using torture to force them "to renounce their religion and to pledge allegiance to the Communist Party."

China on Tuesday responded with its most significant defense of the camps to date, tacitly admitting detainees are held at length against their will. Shohrat Zakir, chair of the government in the Xinjiang autonomous region where many Uighurs live, told state-run media the facilities are "humane" vocational training centers with amenities including air conditioning, sports, and movie screenings. He described them as a useful tool for opposing "terrorism and extremism."

"Today's Xinjiang is not only beautiful but also safe and stable," he said. "No matter where they are or at what time of the day, people are no longer afraid of going out, shopping, dining, and traveling." Zakir is himself an ethnic Uighur. Bonnie Kristian

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