Friday, August 16, 2019

the last book I ever read (Colson Whitehead's The Nickel Boys, excerpt two)

from The Nickel Boys: A Novel by Colson Whitehead:

Elwood received the best gift of his life on Christmas Day 1962, even if the ideas it put in his head were his undoing. Martin Luther King at Zion Hill was the only album he owned and it never left the turntable. His grandmother Harriet had a few gospel records, which she only played when the world discovered a new mean way to work on her, and Elwood wasn’t allowed to listen to the Motown groups or popular songs like that on account of their licentious nature. The rest of his presents that year were clothes—a new red sweater, socks—and he centainly wore those out, but nothing endured such good and constant use as the record. Every scratch and pop it gathered over the months was a mark of his enlightenment, tracking each time he entered into a new understanding of the reverend’s words. The crackle of truth.

They didn’t have a TV set but Dr. King’s speeches were such a vivid chronicle—containing all tha the Negro had been and all that he would be—that the record was almost as good as television. Maybe even better, grander, like the towering screen at the Davis Drive-In, which he’d been to twice. Elwood saw it all: Africans persecuted by the white sin of slavery, Negroes humiliated and kept low by segregation, and that luminous image to come, when all those places closed to his race were opened.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

the last book I ever read (Colson Whitehead's The Nickel Boys, excerpt one)

from The Nickel Boys: A Novel by Colson Whitehead:

Even in death the boys were trouble.

The secret graveyard lay on the north side of the Nickel campus, in a patchy acre of wild grass between the old work barn and the school dump. The field had been a grazing pasture when the school operated a dairy, selling milk to local customers—one of the state of Florida’s schemes to relieve the taxpayer burden of the boys’ upkeep. The developers of the office park had earmarked the field for a lunch plaza, with four water features and a concrete bandstand for the occasional event. The discovery of the bodies was an expensive complication for the real estate company awaiting the all clear from the environmental study, and for the state’s attorney, which had recently closed an investigation into the abuse stories. Now they had to start a new inquiry, establish the identities of the deceased and the manner of death, and there was no telling when the whole damned place could be razed, cleared, and neatly erased from history, which everyone agreed was long overdue.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

the last book I ever read (Working: Researching, Interviewing, Writing by Robert A. Caro, excerpt fourteen)

from Working: Researching, Interviewing, Writing by Robert A. Caro:

When I was asking him about what the three aides heard on the ride to the Capitol, Buzz at first—and second, and third, etc.—replied, Well, nothing. He didn’t say anything. So I said something like, So the ride was in complete silence? And then he finally said, “Well, I guess except for when the car passed out through the gates.” He meant the gates of the White House onto Pennsylvania Avenue to turn right and go to Capitol Hill. The pickets were there. And Buzz said, Well, they were singing “We Shall Overcome.” And they sang it as we came out, “as if,” I wrote, “to tell Lyndon Johnson to his face, ‘We’ll win without you.’” Busby and Goodwin said Johnson never looked up as they passed the pickets. But Busby knew Johnson, and he knew his expressions. So I said to Busby, Well, did he hear them? And Busby said, He heard them.

And of course the speech that Johnson gave is one of the greatest speeches, one of the greatest moments in American history. I watch it over and over. I’m thrilled every time. He said, “Their cause must be our cause too. Because it is not just Negroes, but really it is all of us who must overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice. And we shall overcome.”

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

the last book I ever read (Working: Researching, Interviewing, Writing by Robert A. Caro, excerpt thirteen)

from Working: Researching, Interviewing, Writing by Robert A. Caro:

On the trip there, you got a picture of the power of the Talmadges in Georgia, where Herman Talmadge’s father, Eugene Talmadge, had three terms as governor (he was elected to a fourth, but died before he was inaugurated). Gene Talmadge was known as “Whipping Gene” (while he hadn’t ever joined the Ku Klux Klan, he said, “I used to do a little whipping myself”). Senator Talmadge said I should fly to Atlanta and he’d someone to the Atlanta airport to pick me up. I thought he’d send some kid to drive me down. Instead he sent a top official of the state Democratic Party. This guy himself gave me a taste of the South on the way down because first of all he didn’t like being sent on that errand; in the second place, my name is Caro, so he thought I was Catholic and that was bad enough, but on the way down I made sure to say I was Jewish. So it was a long drive.

Monday, August 12, 2019

the last book I ever read (Working: Researching, Interviewing, Writing by Robert A. Caro, excerpt twelve)

from Working: Researching, Interviewing, Writing by Robert A. Caro:

As I’m writing these books, I’m always watching newsreels to try and get a feel for what happened at certain moments. And there are some unbearable moments in the newsreels of the 1960s, unbearable to me anyway, and so many of them include, I realized, “We Shall Overcome.” One you may remember is when a black church was bombed in Birmingham, and four little black girls were killed. The newsreel cameras weren’t allowed inside the church; they’re outside. Watching the film, you see the crowd outside the church, and one of the things you see is that this is quite a large crowd. It’s not only the people from the community who couldn’t fit into the church, but there are an awful lot of people from other cities and towns who came to this funeral. Not just black people. And what you see, what you hear, what you feel, is the absolute silence of this crowd. And then the pallbearers start to bring out the four little coffins. They bring them out into that silence. And then a woman—one woman—begins to sing “We Shall Overcome.” And other people join in. And, as I wrote, “over the sobs of mothers rose up the words: ‘We shall overcome some day.’” I wrote a few pages about “We Shall Overcome” in Book Two. I’m going to write a lot more about it in Book Five. The writing will have to be pretty good to capture what that song meant, but I’m going to try.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

the last book I ever read (Working: Researching, Interviewing, Writing by Robert A. Caro, excerpt eleven)

from Working: Researching, Interviewing, Writing by Robert A. Caro:

Now I’m working on the final volume of the Johnson biography. I was thinking about Winston Churchill recently, because Churchill wrote a biography of his great ancestor, Lord Marlborough, and someone once asked Churchill how it was coming along, and he said, “I’m working on the fourth of a projected three volumes.” I’m not comparing myself to Winston Churchill, of course, but in this one way we’re sort of in the same boat. I’m working on the fifth of a projected three volumes.

The fifth book, in a way, is a coming together of everything I’ve been trying to do, because never has there been a clearer example of the enormous impact—both for good and for ill—that political power has on people’s lives than during the presidency of Lyndon Johnson. On one side, the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, Medicare, Medicaid, Head Start, a liberal immigration bill, some seventy different education bills—they’re all passed during the 1960s by President Lyndon Johnson. At the same time, Vietnam: that’s a story that comes to swallow up so much else. Vietnam is 58,000 American dead, and more than 288,000 seriously wounded Americans. Thousands have to live without a leg or an arm for the rest of their lives. And we weren’t even focused on post-traumatic stress disorder back then. Thousands—probably tens of thousands—of other men lived all their lives with PTSD. Vietnam—that’s political power too.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

the last book I ever read (Working: Researching, Interviewing, Writing by Robert A. Caro, excerpt ten)

from Working: Researching, Interviewing, Writing by Robert A. Caro:

Interviews: silence is the weapon, silence and people’s need to fill it—as long as the person isn’t you, the interviewer. Two of fiction’s greatest interviewers—Georges Simenon’s Inspector Maigret and John le Carré’s George Smiley—have little devices they use to keep themselves from talking, and let silence do its work. Maigret cleans his ever-present pipe, tapping it gently on his desk and then scraping it out until the witness breaks down and talks. Smiley takes off his eyeglasses and polishes them with the thick end of his necktie. As for myself, I have less class. When I’m waiting for the person I’m interviewing to break a silence by giving me a piece of information I want, I write “SU” (for Shut UP!) in my notebook. If anyone were ever to look through my notebooks, he would find a lot of “SUs” there.

Friday, August 9, 2019

the last book I ever read (Working: Researching, Interviewing, Writing by Robert A. Caro, excerpt nine)

from Working: Researching, Interviewing, Writing by Robert A. Caro:

Moreover, as I learned, Alice’s feelings toward Lyndon provide insight into certain aspects of his career. She fell in love with him, her sister and her best friend (and Posh Oltorf and others) told me, because, deeply idealistic herself, she was entranced by his stories, told over the dinner table and around the swimming pool at Longlea, of how hard life in the Hill Country was, and how he was getting the dams built and the electricity brought to make that life easier; she considered Lyndon an idealist, too, an idealist who knew how to get things done; “she thought,” Mary Louise told me, “he was a young man who was going to save the world.” But that concept endured only until he invited her out to the West Coast in 1942, when she became disillusioned by what I called “the contrast between Johnson’s activities and the fact that he was supposed to be in a combat zone”; Posh showed me (and gave me a copy of) a letter she had written him in later years jokingly suggesting they write a book together on the true Lyndon Johnson: “I can write a very illuminating chapter on his military career in Los Angeles, with photographs, letters from voice teachers, and photographers.” The passion eventually faded from the relationship, although perhaps not completely; Alice married Charles Marsh, but divorced him, and married, and divorced, several times after that; “she never got over Lyndon,” Alice Hopkins said. Even when he was a senator, and vice president, he would drive down to Longlea to see her. But, Posh told me, Vietnam was too much for her; she had told him, Posh said, that she had burned love letters Johnson had written her, because she was ashamed of her friendship with the man she regarded as responsible for the escalation of the war.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

the last book I ever read (Working: Researching, Interviewing, Writing by Robert A. Caro, excerpt eight)

from Working: Researching, Interviewing, Writing by Robert A. Caro:

Over coffee in the Villa Capri café, they told me about Alice, who was not at the time of the photographs actually Alice Marsh but still Alice Glass. And her sister, Mary Louise Glass, took out her wallet and showed me her photograph, which of course was a picture of the woman in the leather traveling portfolio upstairs, and told me that if I wanted to find out more about her I should go to their hometown, Marlin, and there talk particularly to Posh Oltorf, the Brown & Root lobbyist, who had been her close platonic friend.

Over the next few weeks, Ina and I drove up to that sleepy little town in the middle of nowhere several times, and heard enough to know that Alice Glass was in truth not just another bimbo, that although, as I was to write, “Alice Glass was from a country town…she was never a country girl,” that she had come to Austin as a secretary to a state legislator, that, as one legislator recalled, “Austin had never seen anything like her,” a woman a shade under six feet tall with reddish blond hair that, if she loosened it fell to her waist, creamy-white skin and features so classic that the famed photographer Arnold Genthe was to call her “the most beautiful woman” he had ever seen; that on the same night Charles Marsh met her, he left his wife and children and took her east, and that, when, on a trip to England, she saw the majestic eighteenth-century manor house called “Longlea,” he built her a replica of it on a thousand-acre estate in the Virginia Hunt Country, where she led the Hazelmere Hunt (“the only thing Texas about Alice was her riding,” a friend told me; “she could really ride”), and created a glittering salon of journalists and politicians—to which, in 1937, the new congressman from Texas was invited with Lady Bird, and soon began coming weekend after weekend. At first, her sister and her friend said, both Johnsons came, but soon, they said, “he would leave her on weekends, weekend after weekend,” and come to Longlea, where “sometimes Charles would be there, and sometimes Charles wouldn’t be there,” because Lyndon and Alice had become lovers, in an affair that lasted for years, right under the nose of a man vitally important to Lyndon’s career.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

the last book I ever read (Working: Researching, Interviewing, Writing by Robert A. Caro, excerpt seven)

from Working: Researching, Interviewing, Writing by Robert A. Caro:

While we continued talking, I leafed through it. I was caught by a paragraph near the beginning: “Reader, I don’t know if my story is to your liking, writing nonfiction is hard, I had no schooling, please excuse my spelling and grammar, but I had to write this book, to leave it to my family, when I go beyond, my time is running short, and I want to finish without adding or subtracting parts that are false, or invented by my imagination, no, everything has to be exactly the way it happened.” At another point, he had written, “I am running short of time, feel sick and tired, but…before I go beyond this world, I had to tell the truth.” He had written it, he said “exactly the way it happened” because he felt he had played a crucial role in history—“We put LB Johnson as senator for Texas, and this position opened the road to reach the Presidency”—and he wanted it to be acknowledged. And there were other lines that leapt out. After he shot the man in Durango, he fled, and for years, he wrote, “I was to become the wandering Jew,” until he met George Parr, who gave him the badge of a deputy sheriff and money and prestige, and “My life changed with the power invested in me.” But most of all what leapt out were the details of the election night; as I read I realized that he was confirming the truth of everything other officials had said on the stand—things that he had, in 1948, denied, and that, because of his denial, had remained shrouded in uncertainty for the almost four decades since; that his manuscript answered all the questions that had been unanswered: why, for example, during vote-altering done six days after the election, in addition to the two hundred extra votes for Johnson, Stevenson had been given two extra votes: he himself had not wanted to write down the names of the two hundred additional voters, Salas explained in the manuscript; “I did not want them in my handwriting,” and instead had had one of his deputy election judges, Ignacio (Nachito) Escobar, do it, and “Nachito was a jolly man, full of jokes, he said, let us give this poor man [Stevenson] a pilón [gift].” As I leafed through the manuscript, I realized that Salas’ confession—for that was what it was: a confession—solved all the mysteries that for so long had surrounded the election. “The people have a good reason not to believe what I wrote,” he said in his manuscript. “The reason is that I lied under oath.” Thanks to that manuscript, it would not be necessary for me, Robert Caro, to write, “No one will ever be sure if Lyndon Johnson stole it.” He stole it.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

the last book I ever read (Working: Researching, Interviewing, Writing by Robert A. Caro, excerpt six)

from Working: Researching, Interviewing, Writing by Robert A. Caro:

Part of the problem, I came to realize, was that they had talked to too many people like me. During Lyndon Johnson’s presidency, journalists from all over the United States, from every major magazine and newspaper and a lot of minor ones, too, had come to the Hill Country, had spent three or four days there (or even a week), and had gone home to explain this remote place to the rest of America. Hill Country people had a name for them: “portable journalists.” They basically thought I was a portable journalist too.

I said to Ina, “I’m not understanding these people and therefore I’m not understanding Lyndon Johnson. We’re going to have to move to the Hill Country and live there.” Ina said, “Why can’t you do a biography of Napoleon?” But Ina is always Ina: loyal and true. She said, as she always says: “Sure.” We rented a house on the edge of the Hill Country, where we were to live for most of the next three years.

That changed everything. As soon as we had moved there, as soon as the people of the Hill Country realized we were there to stay, their attitude towards us softened; they started to talk to me in a different way. I began to hear the details they had not included in the anecdotes they had previously told me—and they told me other anecdotes and longer stories, anecdotes and stories that no one had even mentioned to me before—stories about a Lyndon Johnson very different from the young man who had previously been portrayed: stories about a very unusual young man, a very brilliant young man, a very ambitious, unscrupulous and quite ruthless person, disliked and even despised, and, by people who knew him especially well, even beginning to be feared.

Monday, August 5, 2019

the last book I ever read (Working: Researching, Interviewing, Writing by Robert A. Caro, excerpt five)

from Working: Researching, Interviewing, Writing by Robert A. Caro:

That was the thing that made me doubt the most. When I had started, I had firmly believed that I would be done in a year, a naïve but perhaps not unnatural belief for someone whose longest previous deadline had been measured in weeks. As year followed year, and I was still not nearly done, I became convinced that I had gone terribly astray.

This feeling was fed by the people Ina and I did know. I was still in the first year of research when friends and acquaintances began to ask if I was “still doing that book.” Later I would be asked, “How long have you been working on it now?” When I said three years, or four, or five, they would quickly disguise their look of incredulity, but not quickly enough to keep me from seeing it. I came to dread that question.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

the last book I ever read (Working: Researching, Interviewing, Writing by Robert A. Caro, excerpt four)

from Working: Researching, Interviewing, Writing by Robert A. Caro:

Many other farms—twenty-one in the Dix Hills area alone (I don’t think I ever counted the ones in the Old Westbury area, but there seem to have been more than twenty-one there)—were similarly ruined by the Northern State Parkway: To those farmers, the day they heard that “the road was coming”would always be remembered as a day of tragedy. One consideration alone made the tragedy more bearable to them—their belief that it was necessary, that the route of the parkway had been determined by those ineluctable engineering considerations. But I knew, from the telegrams and letters, that it hadn’t been necessary at all. It would, in fact, have been easy to move the parkway. Besides, for men with power or the money to buy power, Robert Moses had already moved it. It was running across James Roth’s farm only because Otto Kahn hadn’t wanted it to run across his golf course, and could pay to make sure it wouldn’t, and because the Whitneys and the Morgans had power that Moses had decided to accommodate rather than challenge. “For men of wealth and influence,” I was to write, Moses “had moved it more than three miles south of its original location. But James Roth possessed neither money nor influence. And for James Roth, Robert Moses would not move the parkway south even one-tenth of a mile farther. For James Roth, Robert Moses would not move the parkway one foot.”

Saturday, August 3, 2019

the last book I ever read (Working: Researching, Interviewing, Writing by Robert A. Caro, excerpt three)

from Working: Researching, Interviewing, Writing by Robert A. Caro:

The legislative act that unified New York created a city of five boroughs, but only one of them—the Bronx—was on the mainland of the United States, so the new city was really a city of islands. It was Robert Moses, more than any legislature or any other individual, who tied those islands together with bridges, soldering together three boroughs at once with the Triborough Bridge (and then tying two of them, the Bronx and Queens, even more firmly together with the Bronx-Whitestone and Throgs Neck Bridges), spanning the Narrows to Staten Island with the mighty Verrazano, tying the distant Rockaways firmly to the rest of the metropolis with the Marine and Cross-Bray spans, uniting the West Bronx and Manhattan with the Henry Hudson. Since 1917, seven great bridges have been built to link the boroughs together. Robert Moses built every one of those bridges.

Friday, August 2, 2019

the last book I ever read (Working: Researching, Interviewing, Writing by Robert A. Caro, excerpt two)

from Working: Researching, Interviewing, Writing by Robert A. Caro:

Beyond Jones Beach, the great park Robert Moses had built when he was young, was a little private community called Oak Beach, and Moses said our first interview would be in his summer cottage there. So I drove out from the Bronx that day in 1967, over bridges he had built (the Henry Hudson and the Triborough) after generations of city officials had been unable to build them, and over expressways he had built (the Cross-Bronx and the Major Deegan and the Bruckner) by ramming them straight through the crowded neighborhoods of New York, and over parkways he had built (the Grand Central and the Cross Island and the Southern State and the Meadowbrook) when the most power forces in the state had sworn he would never build them.

When I reached Oak Beach, and turned in through wooden gates that hung ajar, the colony seemed deserted in the preseason May chill: the little cottages set among the high dunes were empty and boarded up, and the narrow, graded road through the dunes had been covered by drifting sand, so there was no sign of life. And then I came around a curve. Suddenly, in a circle of dunes below a modest house was a long, gleaming black limousine, and, beside it, a black-uniformed chauffeur and three armed and booted parkway troopers. The chauffeur was lounging against the car, but although the troopers, members of an elite two-hundred-member unit that was in effect Moses’ own private police force, were only there on an errand, they stood rigidly erect, as if they feared he might be watching them from the house above.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

the last book I ever read (Working: Researching, Interviewing, Writing by Robert A. Caro, excerpt one)

from Working: Researching, Interviewing, Writing by Robert A. Caro:

Why political power? Because poltical power shapes all of our lives. It shapes your life in little ways that you might not even think about. For example, when you’re driving up to the Triborough (now Robert F. Kennedy) Bridge in Manhattan in New York, you may notice that the bridge comes down across the East River in Queens opposite 100th Street. So why do you have to drive all the way up from 100th Street to 125th Street to cross it, and then basically drive back, which adds almost three totally unnecessary miles to every journey across the bridge?

Well, the reason is political power. In 1934, Robert Moses was trying to get the Triborough Bridge built, and he couldn’t because there wasn’t enough public or political support for the project. William Randolph Hearst, the publisher of three influential newspapers in New York, owned a block of tenements on 125th Street. Before the Depression, the tenements had been profitable, but now poor people didn’t have jobs, and couldn’t pay their rent. Hearst was losing money on the buildings and he wanted the city to take them off his hands by condemning them for some project. Robert Moses saw that the project could be the Triborough Bridge, and that’s why the bridge entrance is at 125th Street. That’s a small way in which political power affects your life. But there are larger ways, too.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

the last book I ever read (The Mueller Report, excerpt thirty)

from The Mueller Report:

Because we determined not to make a traditional prosecutorial judgment, we did not draw ultimate conclusions about the President’s conduct. The evidence we obtained about the President’s actions and intent presents difficult issues that would need to be resolved if we were making a traditional prosecutorial judgement. At the same time, 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. Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, we are unable to reach that judgment. Accordingly, while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.

Monday, July 29, 2019

the last book I ever read (The Mueller Report, excerpt twenty-nine)

from The Mueller Report:

On February 13, 2018, Cohen released a statement to news organizations that stated, “In a private transaction in 2016, I used my own personal funds to facilitate a payment of $130,000 to [the woman]. Neither the Trump Organization nor the Trump campaign was a party to the transaction with [the woman], and neither reimbursed me for the payment, either directly or indirectly.” In congressional testimony on Feburary 27, 2019, Cohen testified that he had discussed what to say about the payment with the President and that the President had directed Cohen to say that the President “was not knowledgeable … of [Cohen’s] actions” in making the payment. On February 19, 2018, the day after the New York Times wrote a detailed story attributing the payment to Cohen and describing Cohen as the President’s “fixer,” Cohen received a text message from the President’s personal counsel that stated, “Client says thanks for what you do.”

On April 9, 2018, FBI agents working with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York executed search warrants on Cohen’s home, hotel room, and office. That day, the President spoke to reporters and said that he had “just heard that they broke into the office of one of my personal attorneys—a good man.” The President called the searches “a real disgrace” and said, “It’s an attack on our country, in a true sense. It’s an attack on what we all stand for.” Cohen said that after the searches he was concerned that he was “an open book,” that he did not want issues arising from the payments to women to “come out,” and that his false statements to Congress were “a big concern.”

A few days after the searches, the President called Cohen. According to Cohen, the President said he wanted to “check in” and asked if Cohen was okay, and the President encouraged Cohen to “hang in there” and “stay strong.” Cohen also recalled that following the searches he heard from individuals who were in touch with the President and relayed to Cohen the President’s support for him. Cohen recalled that [REDACTED: Personal Privacy], a friend of the President’s, reached out to say that he was with “the Boss” in Mar-a-Lago and the President had said “he loves you” and not to worry. Cohen recalled that [REDACTED: Personal Privacy] for the Trump Organization, told him, “the boss loves you.” And Cohen said that [REDACTED: Personal Privacy], a friend of the President’s, told him, “everyone knows the boss has your back.”

Sunday, July 28, 2019

the last book I ever read (The Mueller Report, excerpt twenty-eight)

from The Mueller Report:

The President began the Oval Office meeting by telling McGahn that the New York Times story did not “look good” and McGahn needed to correct it. McGahn recalled the President said, “I never said to fire Mueller. I never said ‘fire.’ This story doesn’t look good. You need to correct this. You’re the White House counsel.”

In response, McGahn acknowledged that he had not told the President directly that he planned to resign, but said that the story was otherwise accurate. The President asked McGahn, “Did I say the word ‘fire’?” McGahn responded, “What you said is, ‘Call Rod [Rosenstein], tell Rod that Mueller has conflicts and can’t be the Special Counsel.” The President responded, “I never said that.” The President said he merely wanted McGahn to raise the conficts issue with Rosenstein and leave it to him to decide what to do. McGahn told the President he did not understand the conversation that way and instead had heard, “Call Rod. There are conflicts. Mueller has to go.” The President asked McGahn whether he would “do a correction,” and McGahn said no. McGahn thought the President was testing his mettle to see how committed McGahn was to what happened. Kelly described the meeting as “a little tense.”

The President also asked McGahn in the meeting why he had told Special Counsel’s Office investigators that the President had told him to have the Special Counsel removed. McGahn responded that he had to and that his conversations with the President were not protected by attorney-client privilege. The President then asked, “What about these notes? Why do you take notes? Lawyers don’t take notes. I never had a lawyer who took notes.” McGahn responded that he keeps notes because he is a “real lawyer” and explained that notes create a record and are not a bad thing. The President said, “I’ve had a lot of great lawyers, like Roy Cohn. He did not take notes.”

Saturday, July 27, 2019

the last book I ever read (The Mueller Report, excerpt twenty-seven)

from The Mueller Report:

On January 25, 2018, the New York Times reported that in June 2017, the President had ordered McGahn to have the Department of Justice fire the Special Counsel. According to the article, “[a]mid the first wave of news media reports that Mr. Mueller was examining a possible obstruction case, the president began to argue that Mr. Mueller had three conflicts of interest that disqualified him from overseeing the investigation.” The article further reported that “[a]fter receiving the president’s order to fire Mr. Mueller, the White House counsel… refused to ask the Justice Department to dismiss the special counsel, saying he would quit instead.” The article stated that the president “ultimately backed down after the White House counsel threatened to resign rather than carry out the directive.” After the article was published, the President dismissed the story when asked about it by reporters, saying, “Fake news, folks. Fake news. A typical New York Times fake story.”

The next day, the Washington Post reported on the same event but added that McGahn had not told the President directly that he intended to resign rather than carry out the directive to have the Special Counsel terminated. In that respect, the Post story clarified the Times story, which could be read to suggest that McGahn had told the President of his intention to quit, causing the President to back down from the order to have the Special Counsel fired.

Friday, July 26, 2019

the last book I ever read (The Mueller Report, excerpt twenty-six)

from The Mueller Report:

McGahn recalled feeling trapped because he did not plan to follow the President’s directive but did not know what he would say the next time the President called. McGahn decided he had to resign. He called his personal lawyer and then called his chief of staff, Annie Donaldson, to inform her of his decision. He then drove to the office to pack his belongings and submit his resignation letter. Donaldson recalled that McGahn told her the President had called and demanded he contact the Department of Justice and that the President wanted him to do something that McGahn did not want to do. McGahn told Donaldson that the President had called at least twice and in one of the calls asked “have you done it?” McGahn did not tell Donaldson the specifics of the President’s request because he was consciously trying not to involve her in the investigation, but Donaldson inferred that the President’s directive was related to the Russia investigation. Donaldson prepared to resign along with McGahn.

That evening, McGahn called both Priebus and Bannon and told them that he intended to resign. McGahn recalled that, after speaking with his attorney and given the nature of the President’s request, he decided not to share details of the President’s request with other White House staff. Priebus recalled that McGahn said that the President had asked him to “do crazy shit,” but he thought McGahn did not tell him the specifics of the President’s request because McGahn was trying to protect Priebus from what he did not need to know. Priebus and Bannon both urged McGahn not to quit, and McGahn ultimately returned to work that Monday and remained in his position. He had not told the President directly that he planned to resign, and when they next saw each other the President did not ask McGahn whether he had followed through with calling Rosenstein.

Around the same time, Chris Christie recalled a telephone call with the President in which the President asked what Christie thought about the President firing the Special Counsel. Christie advised against doing so because there was no substantive basis for the President to fire the Special Counsel, and because the President would lose support from Republicans from Congress if he did so.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

the last book I ever read (The Mueller Report, excerpt twenty-five)

from The Mueller Report:

In the days following the Special Counsel’s appointment, the President repeatedly told advisors, including Priebus, Bannon, and McGahn, that Special Counsel Mueller had conflicts of interest. The President cited as conflicts that Mueller had interviewed for the FBI Director position shortly before being appointed as Special Counsel, that he had worked for a law firm that represented people affiliated with the President, and that Mueller had disputed certain fees relating to his membership in a Trump golf course in Northern Virginia. The President’s advisors pushed back on his assertion of conflicts, telling the President they did not count as true conflicts. Bannon recalled telling the President that the purported conflicts were “ridiculous” and that none of them was real or could come close to justifying precluding Mueller from serving as Special Counsel. As for Mueller’s interview for FBI Director, Bannon recalled that the White House had invited Mueller to speak to the President to offer a perspective on the institution of the FBI. Bannon said that, although the White House thought about beseeching Mueller to become Director again, he did not come in looking for the job. Bannon also told the President that the law firm position did not amount to a conflict in the legal community. And Bannon told the President that the golf course dispute did not rise to the level of a conflict and claiming one was “ridiculous and petty.” The President did not respond when Bannon pushed back on the stated conflicts of interest.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

the last book I ever read (The Mueller Report, excerpt twenty-four)

from The Mueller Report:

When Priebus and Bannon learned that the President was holding onto Sessions’s resignation letter, they became concerned that it could be used to influence the Department of Justice. Priebus told Sessions it was not good for the President to have the letter because it would function as a kind of “shock collar” that the President could use any time he wanted; Priebus said the president had “DOJ by the throat.” Priebus and Bannon told Sessions they would attempt to get the letter back from the President with a notation that he was not accepting Sessions’s resignation.

On May 19, 2017, the President left for a trip to the Middle East. Hicks recalled that on the President’s flight from Saudi Arabia to Tel Aviv, the President pulled Sessions’s resignation letter from his pocket, showed it to a group of senior advisors, and asked them what he should do about it. During the trip, Priebus asked about the resignation letter so he could return it to Sessions, but the President told him that the letter was back at the White House, somewhere in the residence. It was not until May 30, three days after the President returned from the trop, that the President returned the letter to Sessions with a notation saying, “Not accepted.”

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

the last book I ever read (The Mueller Report, excerpt twenty-three)

from The Mueller Report:

On May 17, 2017, Acting Attorney General Rosenstein appointed Robert S. Mueller, ITT as Special Counsel and authorized him to conduct the Russia investigation and matters that arose from the investigation. The President learned of the Special Counsel’s appointment from Sessions, who was with the President, Hunt, and McGahn conducting interviews for a new FBI director. Sessions stepped out of the Oval Office to take a call from Rosenstein, who told him about the Special Counsel appointment, and Sessions then returned to inform the President of the news. According to notes written by Hunt, when Sessions told the President that a Special Counsel had been appointed, the President slumped back in his chair and said, “Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my Presidency. I’m fucked.” The President became angry and lambasted the Attorney General for his decision to recuse from the investigation, stating, “How could you let this happen, Jeff?” The President said the position of Attorney General was his most important appointment and that Sessions had “let [him] down,” contrasting him to Eric Holder and Robert Kennedy. Sessions recalled that the President said to him, “you were supposed to protect me,” or words to that effect. The President returned to the consequences of the appointment and said, “Everyone tells me if you get one of these independent counsels it ruins your presidency. It takes years and years and I won’t be able to do anything. This is the worst thing that ever happened to me.”

The President then told Sessions he should resign as Attorney General. Sessions agreed to submit his resignation and left the Oval Office. Hicks saw the President shortly after Sessions departed and described the President as being extremely upset by the Special Counsel’s appointment. Hicks said that she had only seen the President like that one other time, when the Access Hollywood tape came out during the campaign.

Monday, July 22, 2019

the last book I ever read (The Mueller Report, excerpt twenty-two)

from The Mueller Report:

That same morning, on May 10, 2017, the President called McCabe. According to a memorandum McCabe wrote following the call, the President asked McCabe to come over to the White House to discuss whether the President should visit FBI headquarters and make a speech to employees. The President said he had received “hundreds” of messages from FBI employees indicating their support for terminating Comey. The President also told McCabe that Comey should not have been permitted to travel back to Washington, D.C. on the FBI’s airplane after he had been terminated and that he did nto want Comey “in the building again,” even to collect his belongings. When McCabe met with the President that afternoon, the President, without prompting, told McCabe that people in the FBI loved the President, estimated that at least 80% of the FBI had voted for him, and asked McCabe who he had voted for in the 2016 presidential election.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

the last book I ever read (The Mueller Report, excerpt twenty-one)

from The Mueller Report:

Comey was scheduled to testify before Congress on May 3, 2017. Leading up to that testimony, the President continued to tell advisors that he wanted Comey to make public that the President was not under investigation. At the hearing, Comey declined to answer questions about the scope of subjects of the Russia investigation and did not state publicly that the president was not under investigation. Two days later, on May 5, 2017, the President told close aides he was going to fire Comey, and on May 9, he did so, using his official termination letter to make public that Comey had on three occasions informed the President that he was not under investigation. The President decided to fire Comey before receiving advice or a recommendation from the Department of Justice, but he approved an initial public account of the termination that attributed it to a recommendation from the Department of Justice based on Comey’s handling of the Clinton email investigation. After Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein resisted attributing the firing to his recommendation, the President acknowledged that he intended to fire Comey regardless of the DOJ recommendation and was thinking of the Russia investigation when he made the decision. The President also told the Russian Foreign Minister, “I just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nut job. I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off. …I’m not under investigation.”

Saturday, July 20, 2019

the last book I ever read (The Mueller Report, excerpt twenty)

from The Mueller Report:

On March 3, the day after Sessions’s recusal, McGahn was called into the Oval Office. Other advisors were there, including Priebus and Bannon. The President opened the conversation by saying, “I don’t have a lawyer.” The President expressed anger at McGahn about the recusal and brought up Roy Cohn, stating that he wished Cohn was his attorney. McGahn interpreted this comment as directed at him, suggesting that Cohn would fight for the President whereas McGahn would not. The President wanted McGahn to talk to Sessions about the recusal, but McGahn told the President that DOJ ethics officials had weighed in on Sessions’s decision to recuse. The President then brought up former Attorneys General Robert Kennedy and Eric Holder and said that they had protected their presidents. The President also pushed back on the DOJ contacts policy, and said words to the effect of, “You’re telling me that Bobby and Jack didn’t talk about investigations? Or Obama didn’t tell Eric Holder who to investigate?” Bannon recalled that the President was as mad as Bannon had ever seen him and that he screamed at McGahn about how weak Sessions was. Bannon recalled telling the President that Sessions’s recusal was not a surprise and that before the inauguration they had discussed that Sessions would have to recuse from campaign-related investigations because of his work on the Trump Campaign.

Friday, July 19, 2019

the last book I ever read (The Mueller Report, excerpt nineteen)

from The Mueller Report:

After Comey’s account of the President’s request to “let[] Flynn go” became public, the President publicly disputed several aspects of the story. The President told the New York Times that he did not “shoo other people out of the room” when he talked to Comey and that he did not remember having a one-on-one conversation with Comey. The President also publicly denied that he had asked Comey to “let[] Flynn go” or otherwise communicated that Comey should drop the investigation of Flynn. In private, the President denied aspects of Comey’s account to White House advisors, but acknowledged to Priebus that he brought Flynn up in the meeting with Comey and stated that Flynn was a good guy. Despite those denials, substantial evidence corroborates Comey’s account.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

the last book I ever read (The Mueller Report, excerpt eighteen)

from The Mueller Report:

After Comey’s account of the dinner became public, the President and his advisors disputed that he had asked for Comey’s loyalty. The President also indicated that he had not invited Comey to dinner, telling a reporter that he thought Comey had “asked for the dinner” because “he wanted to stay on.” But substantial evidence corroborates Comey’s account of the dinner invitation and the request for loyalty. The President’s Daily Diary confirms that the President “extend[ed] a dinner invitation” to Comey on January 27. With respect to the substance of the dinner conversation, Comey documented the President’s request for loyalty in a memorandum he began drafting the night of the dinner; senior FBI officials recall that Comey told them about the loyalty request shortly after the dinner occurred; and Comey described the request while under oath in congressional proceedings and in a subsequent interview with investigators subject to penalties for lying under 18 U.S.C. § 1001. Comey’s memory of the details of the dinner, including that the President requested loyalty, has remained consistent throughout.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

the last book I ever read (The Mueller Report, excerpt seventeen)

from The Mueller Report:

During the 2016 campaign, the media raised questions about a possible connection between the Trump Campaign and Russia. The questions intensified after WikiLeaks released politically damaging Democratic Party emails that were reported to have been hacked by Russia. Trump responded to questions about possible connections to Russia by denying any business involvement in Russia—even though the Trump Organization had pursued a business project in Russia as late as June 2016. Trump also expressed skepticism that Russia had hacked the emails at the same time as he and other Campaign advisors privately sought information [REDACTED: Harm to Ongoing Matter] about any further planned WikiLeaks releases. After the election, when questions persisted about possible links between Russia and the Trump Campaign, the President-Elect continued to deny any connections to Russia and privately expressed concerns that reports of Russian election interference might lead the public to question the legitimacy of his election.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

the last book I ever read (The Mueller Report, excerpt sixteen)

from The Mueller Report:

Efforts to have McGahn deny that the President had ordered him to have the Special Counsel removed. In early 2018, the press reported that the President had directed McGahn to have the Special Counsel removed in June 2017 and that McGahn had threatened to resign rather than carry out the order. The President reacted to the news stories by directing White House officials to tell McGahn to dispute the story and create a record stating he had not been ordered to have the Special Counsel removed. McGahn told those officials that the media reports were accurate in stating that the President had directed McGahn to have the Special Counsel removed. The President then met with McGahn in the Oval Office and again pressured him to deny the reports. In the same meeting, the President also asked McGahn why he had told the Special Counsel about the President’s effort to remove the Special Counsel and why McGahn took notes of his conversations with the President. McGahn refused to back away from what he remembered happening and perceived the President to be testing his mettle.

Monday, July 15, 2019

the last book I ever read (The Mueller Report, excerpt fifteen)

from The Mueller Report:

Efforts to prevent public disclosure of evidence. In the summer of 2017, the President learned that media outlets were asking questions about the June 9, 2016 meeting at Trump Tower between senior campaign officials, including Donald Trump Jr., and a Russian lawyer who was said to be offering damaging information about Hillary Clinton as “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.” One several occasions, the President directed aides not to publicly disclose the emails setting up the June 9 meeting, suggesting that the emails would not leak and that the number of lawyers with access to them should be limited. Before the emails became public, the President edited a press statement for Trump Jr. by deleting a line that acknowledged that the meeting was with “an individual who [Trump Jr.] was told might have information helpful to the campaign” and instead said only that the meeting was about adoptions of Russian children. When the press asked questions about the President’s involvement in Trump Jr.’s statement, the President’s personal lawyer repeatedly denied the President had played any role.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

the last book I ever read (The Mueller Report, excerpt fourteen)

from The Mueller Report:

Efforts to curtail the Special Counsel’s investigation. Two days after directing McGahn to have the Special Counsel removed, the President made another attempt to affect the course of the Russia investigation. On June 19, 2017, the President met one-on-one in the Oval Office with his former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, a trusted advisor outside the government, and dictated a message for Lewandowski to deliver to Sessions. The message said that Sessions should publicly announce that, notwithstanding his recusal from the Russia investigation, the investigation was “very unfair” to the President, the President had done nothing wrong, and Sessions planned to meet with the Special Counsel and “let [him] move forward with investigating election meddling for future elections.” Lewandowski said he understood what the President wanted Sessions to do.

One month later, in another private meeting with Lewandowski on July 19, 2017, the President asked about the status of his message for Sessions to limit the Special Counsel investigation to future election interference. Lewandowski told the President that the message would be delivered soon. Hours after that meeting, the President publicly criticized Sessions in an interview with the New York Times, and then issued a series of tweets making it clear that Sessions’s job was in jeopardy. Lewandowski did not want to deliver the President’s message personally, so he asked senior White House official Rick Dearborn to deliver it to Sessions. Dearborn was uncomfortable with the task and did not follow through.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

the last book I ever read (The Mueller Report, excerpt thirteen)

from The Mueller Report:

The President’s termination of Comey. On May 3, 2017, Comey testified in a congressional hearing, but declined to answer questions about whether the President was personally under investigation. Within days, the President decided to terminate Comey. The President insisted that the termination letter, which was written for public release, state that Comey had informed the President that he was not under investigation. The day of the firing, the White House maintained that Comey’s termination resulted from independent recommendations from the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General that Comey should be discharged for mishandling the Hillary Clinton email investigation. But the President had decided to fire Comey before hearing from the Department of Justice. The day after firing Comey, the President told Russian officials that he had “faced great pressure because of Russia,” which had been “taken off” by Comey’s firing. The next day, the President acknowledged in a television interview that he was going to fire Comey regardless of the Department of Justice’s recommendation and that when he “decided to just do it,” he was thinking that “this thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story.” In response to a question about whether he was angry with Comey about the Russia investigation, the President said, “As far as I’m concerned, I want that thing to be absolutely done properly,” adding that firing Comey “might even lengthen out the investigation.”

Friday, July 12, 2019

the last book I ever read (The Mueller Report, excerpt twelve)

from The Mueller Report:

The Campaign’s response to reports about Russian support for Trump.During the 2016 presidential campaign, questions arose about the Russian government’s apparent support for candidate Trump. After WikiLeaks released politically damaging Democratic Party emails that were reported to have been hacked by Russia, Trump publicly expressed skepticism that Russia was responsible for the hacks at the same time that he and other Campaign officials privately sought information [REDACTED: Harm to Ongoing Matter] about any further planned WikiLeaks releases. Trump also denied having any business in or connections to Russia, even though as late as June 2016 the Trump Organization had been pursuing a licensing deal for a skyscraper to be built in Russia called Trump Tower Moscow. After the election, the President expressed concerns to advisors that reports of Russia’s election interference might lead the public to question the legitimacy of his election.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

the last book I ever read (The Mueller Report, excerpt eleven)

from The Mueller Report:

Fourth, if we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction, we would so state. Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, however, we are unable to reach that judgment. The evidence we obtained about the President’s actions and intent presents difficult issues that prevent us from conclusively determining that no criminal conduct occurred. Accordingly, while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

the last book I ever read (The Mueller Report, excerpt ten)

from The Mueller Report:

Michael Flynn agreed to be interviewed by the FBI on January 24, 2017, four days after he had officially assumed his duties as National Security Advisor to the President. During the interview, Flynn made several false statements pertaining to his communications with the Russian Ambassador.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

the last book I ever read (The Mueller Report, excerpt nine)

from The Mueller Report:

During the rollout of the sanctions, President-Elect Trump and multiple Transition Team senior officials, including McFarland, Steve Bannon, and Reince Priebus, were staying at the Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida. Flynn was on vacation in the Dominican Republic, but was in daily contact with McFarland.

The Transition Team and President-Elect Trump were concerned that these sanctions would harm the United States’s relationship with Russia. Although the details and timing of sanctions were unknown on December 28, 2016, the media began reporting that retaliatory measures from the Obama Administration against Russia were forthcoming. When asked about imposing sanctions on Russia for its alleged interference in the 2016 presidential election, President-Elect Trump told the media, “I think we ought to get on with our lives.”

Monday, July 8, 2019

the last book I ever read (The Mueller Report, excerpt eight)

from The Mueller Report:

The three men also discussed U.S policy toward Syria, and Kislyak floated the idea of having Russian generals brief the Transition Team on the topic using a secure communications line. After Flynn explained that there was no secure line in the Transition Team offices, Kushner asked Kislyak if they could communicate using secure facilities at the Russian Embassy. Kislyak quickly rejected that idea.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

the last book I ever read (The Mueller Report, excerpt seven)

from The Mueller Report:

The following day, Dmitriev sought assurance from Nader that the Seychelles meeting would be worthwhile. [REDACTED: Grand Jury] Dmitriev was not enthusiastic about the idea of meeting with Prince, and that Nader assured him that Prince wielded influence with the incoming Administration. Nader wrote to Dmitriev, “This guy [Prince] is designated by Steve [Bannon] to meet you! I know him and he is very very well connected and trusted by the New Team. His sister is now a Minister of Education.” According to Nader, Prince had led him to believe that Bannon was aware of Prince’s upcoming meeting with Dmitriev, and Prince acknowledged that it was fair for Nader to think that Prince would pass information on to the Transition Team. Bannon, however, told the Office that Prince did not tell him in advance about his meeting with Dmitriev.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

the last book I ever read (The Mueller Report, excerpt six)

from The Mueller Report:

At approximately 2:40 a.m. on November 9, 2016, news reports stated that candidate Clinton had called President-Elect Trump to concede. At [REDACTED: Investigative Technique] [REDACTED: Investigative Technique] wrote to Dmitriev, “Putin has won.”

Friday, July 5, 2019

the last book I ever read (The Mueller Report, excerpt five)

from The Mueller Report:

Manafort also twice met Kilimnik in the United States during the campaign period and conveyed campaign information. The second meeting took place on August 2, 2016, in New York City. Kilimnik requested the meeting to deliver in person a message from former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, who was then living in Russia. The message was about a peace plan for Ukraine that Manafort has since acknowledged was a “backdoor” means for Russia to control eastern Ukraine. Several months later, after the presidential election, Kilimnik wrote an email to Manafort expressing that view—which Manafort later said he shared—that the plan’s success would require U.S. support to succeed: “all that is required to start the process is a very minor ‘wink’ (or slight push) from [Donald Trump].” The email also stated that if Manafort were designated as the U.S. representative and started the process, Yanukovych would ensure his reception in Russia “at the very top level.”

Manafort communicated with Kilimnik about peace plans for Ukraine on at least four occasions after their first discussion of the topic on August 2: December 2016 (the Kilimnik email described above); January 2017; February 2017; and again in the spring of 2018. The Office reviewed numerous Manafort email and text communications, and asked President Trump about the plan in written questions. The investigation did not uncover evidence of Manafort’s passing along information about Ukrainian peace plans to the candidate or anyone else in the Campaign or the Administration. The Office was not, however, able to gain access to all of Manafort’s electronic communications (in some instances, messages were sent using encryption applications). And while Manafort denied that he spoke to members of the Trump Campaign or the new Administration about the peace plan, he lied to the Office and the grand jury about the peace plan and his meetings with Kilimnik, and his unreliability on this subject was among the reasons that the district judge found that he breached his cooperation agreement.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

the last book I ever read (The Mueller Report, excerpt four)

from The Mueller Report:

On October 3, 2016, WikiLeaks sent another direct message to Trump Jr., asking “you guys” to help disseminate a link alleging candidate Clinton had advocated using a drone to target Julian Assange. Trump Jr. responded that he already “had done so,” and asked, “what’s behind this Wednesday leak I keep reading about?” WikiLeaks did not respond.

On October 12, 2016, WikiLeaks wrote again that it was “great to see you and your dad talking about our publications. Strongly suggest your dad tweets this link if he mentions us” WikiLeaks wrote that the link would help Trump in “digging through” leaked emails and stated, “we just released Podesta emails Part 4.” Two days later, Trump Jr. publicly tweeted the link.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

the last book I ever read (The Mueller Report, excerpt three)

from The Mueller Report:

On October 7, 2016, four days after the Assange press conference [REDAXTED: Harm to Ongoing Matter], the Washington Post published an Access Hollywood video that captured comments by candidate Trump some years earlier and that was expected to adversely affect the Campaign. Less than an hour after the video’s publication, WikiLeaks released the first set of emails stolen by the GRU from the account of Clinton Campaign chairman John Podesta.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

the last book I ever read (The Mueller Report, excerpt two)

from The Mueller Report:

On July 27, 2016, Unit 26165 targeted email accounts connected to candidate Clinton’s personal office [REDACTED: Personal Privacy]. Earlier that day, candidate Trump made public statements that included the following: “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily be our press.” The “30,000 emails” were apparently a reference to emails described in media accounts as having been stored on a personal server that candidate Clinton had used while serving as Secretary of State.

Within approximately five hours of Trump’s statement, GRU officers targeted for the first time Clinton’s personal office. After candidate Trump’s remarks, Unit 26165 created and sent malicious links targeting 15 emails accounts at the domain [REDACTED: Personal Privacy] including an email account belonging to Clinton aide [REDACTED: Personal Privacy]. The investigation did not find evidence of earlier GRU attempts to compromise accounts hosted on this domain. It is unclear how the GRU was able to identify these email accounts, which were not public.

Monday, July 1, 2019

the last book I ever read (The Mueller Report, excerpt one)

from The Mueller Report:

Beginning in the summer of 2016, Assange and WikiLeaks made a number of statements about Seth Rich, a former DNC staff member who was killed in July 2016. The statements about Rich implied falsely that he had been the source of the stolen DNC emails. On August 9, 2016, the @WikiLeaks Twitter account posted: “ANNOUNCE: WikiLeaks has decided to issue a US$20k reward for information leading to conviction for the murder of DNC staffer Seth Rich.” Likewise, on August 25, 2016, Assange was asked in an interview, “Why are you so interested in Seth Rich’s killer?” and responded, “We’ve very interested in anything that might be a threat to alleged WikiLeaks sources.” The interviewer responded to Assange’s statement by commenting, “I know you don’t want to reveal your source, but it certainly sounds like you’re suggesting a man who leaked information to WikiLeaks was then murdered.” Assange replied, “If there’s someone who’s potentially connected to our publication, and that person has been murdered in suspicious circumstances, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the two are connected. But it is a very serious matter…that type of allegation is very serious, as it’s taken very seriously by us.”

After the U.S. intelligence community publicly announced its assessment that Russia was behind the hacking operation, Assange continued to deny that the Clinton materials released by WikiLeaks had come from Russian hacking. According to media reports, Assange told a U.S. congressman that the DNC hack was an “inside job,” and purported to have “physical proof that Russians did not give materials to Assange."

Sunday, June 30, 2019

the last book I ever read (Casey Cep's Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee, excerpt fifteen)

from Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee by Casey Cep:

Whatever had Lee spooked, she found a familiar way of handling that stress and all the others: the shortage of facts, the lack of an ideal protagonist, his unfamiliarity with the lives of African Americans, a certain uncomfortable moral muddiness concerning black criminality in a criminally racist society, and a related discomfort with her own deep delight in the self-serving mythologies of the southern gentry. Lee’s drinking had become something of a scandal, not an overtly public lone, but family and friends had long taken notice. The daughter of one of the driest men in Monroe County, whose oldest sister wouldn’t even consume caffeine, had grown into a woman who couldn’t say no to scotch or vodka, or failing that, to whatever happened to be on hand. When she drank too much, Lee had been known to blow raspberries at formal dinners in the presence of strangers and to return angrily to parties she’d been asked to leave to plead for just one more drink. Lee’s friends understood that alcohol had the power to turn their brilliant Jekyll into an unpredictable Hyde, and a few of them—Truman Capote, Tom Radney, and, most transgressively, one of her pastors in Monroeville—had even committed what amounted to a cardinal sin in the Church of Harper Lee, by letting slip to the press that she had a drinking problem. Radney, in particular, had offered, on the record, too candid an explanation for the delayed publication of The Reverend: “I think she’s fighting a battle between the book and a bottle of scotch. And the scotch is winning.”

Like Mockingbird, and writing more generally, drinking was an off-limits topic for Lee, and broaching it could leave those formerly close to her excommunicated, or at least estranged. Lee had drifted away from one friend in New York, Isabelle Holland, after she became an evangelist for Alcoholics Anonymous. Holland’s mother had been the last of seven generations to live in Tennessee; she sent her son to a boarding school in the old state but sent her daughter to one in the old country. Belle, as she was known, had expected to be a Henry James heroine in England but instead found no friends. When she came back to America, she moved to New York, where she became the publicity manager at Lippincott. Holland handled press for To Kill a Mockingbird and went on to write many novels of her own. Her own writing had improved in sobriety, and when she tried convincing Lee the same could be true for her, their friendship grew strained.

Lee had met another champion of Alcoholics Anonymous in Alex City. Along with bringing honor to the state of Alabama in the form of parks and postage stamps, Judge C. J. Coley, the once-sodden son of stern Presbyterian parents, had brought AA to his hometown, convening a meeting so filled with prominent men that it had its own cachet around town. “Anything worthwhile in my life,” the judge said forty years into his sobriety, “can be traced to a decision to climb out of the bottle.” For now, though, Lee was still deep inside it.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

the last book I ever read (Casey Cep's Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee, excerpt fourteen)

from Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee by Casey Cep:

That commitment would determine not only her style but also her subject. With In Cold Blood, Capote had chosen an exceptional crime. “Of all the people in all the world,” he quoted one of the investigators on the case as saying, “the Clutters were the least likely to be murdered.” That was true, and much the same could be said of the victims in most popular works of true crime that followed; except for accounts of domestic violence, not many of the murders described in those books were representative of violent crime in this country. Their victims were typically wealthy and white, while murder victims, statistically speaking, are more likely to be economically disadvantaged and people of color; their killers were often calculating or deranged outsiders, while most homicide victims are killed by someone they know. Capote, in particular, had gone looking for what amounted to a horror story in the heart of white America: the murder of an entire middle-class household by total strangers.

Lee, by contrast, found a case where the only white characters were the lawyers and law enforcement officers. To portray the victims, the killers, and the survivors, she would be writing about black lives and black deaths, black families and black communities—an unusual move for the genre even today, and a challenge for her, as the black characters in To Kill a Mockingbird are essential to the plot but hardly as realized as their white counterparts. But she had already demonstrated her ability to depict crimes that confronted readers with their own prejudices and those of the criminal justice system, and she’d wanted to go even further before Ty Hohoff discouraged her. To Kill a Mockingbird featured two parallel stories about violence: in one, a black man, Tom Robinson, dies because he is falsely accused of rape; in the other, a white man, Arthur “Boo” Radley, is spared from even being charged for a murder the authorities know he committed. The former portrayed the power of a mob to enforce a distorted vision of justice, the latter portrayed the prerogative of law enforcement to exercise personal preferences, and both dramatized the way that the biases of society are reflected in the criminal justice system. Altnough Atticus Finch has to be talked into sparing his son, Jem, and their neighbor Boo Radley a trial for the murder of Bob Ewell, it takes only a few pages for Sheriff Tate to convince him of the expediency of vigilantism: “There’s a black boy dead for no reason, and the man responsible for it’s dead. Let the dead bury the dead this time, Mr. Finch. Let the dead bury the dead.”