Turn Democrats Upside Down

Karen Handel, R, winner of Georgia's 6th District U.S. House seat.

Karen Handel, R, winner of Georgia's 6th District U.S. House seat.

Democrats hoped to win special elections for the U.S. House of Representatives this year. Tuesday in Georgia, Republican Karen Handel won the 6th District House seat.

Republicans have skunked Democrats in 2017. During this year of Trump, they have lost four of four special elections for which the previous House members were Republican.

Georgia was the largest Democratic effort, with $23 million spent by the party’s candidate, Jon Ossoff. He did not help by living outside the district. The fact that much of his funding came from outside the area detracted too.

Indeed, Ossoff’s outsider issues reinforced the impression of Democratic smugness. For instance, no law requires a House member to live in the district represented, but common sense says a representative should. Too often, Democrats lord their view of themselves over their view of Republicans, particularly Trump supporters.

Democrats should turn themselves upside down. They should look upward for inspiration — practically speaking — from Republicans and especially from Trump supporters.

Handel’s victory is proof. She won 51.9 percent to Ossoff’s 48.1 percent, a difference of 3.8 points. This was the most expensive House race in history, with more than $50 million spent.

Never mind that the presidency of Donald Trump has been error-prone and unsubstantial since Jan. 20, when the new president insisted that his inauguration’s crowd size was monumental despite photographs showing the opposite.

Among the president’s real troubles are carrying no legislation of note from proposal to approval; staff turmoil; investigations of impropriety, which include a special counsel; and an early morning habit of writing on Twitter. Even within his core, many wish he would lay off the often-contradictory tweets.

The operative words are “never mind.” Despite an overall approval rating in polls of 40 percent or less for the better part of a month, those who support Trump — his core — do so with dedication and enthusiasm.

They do not want to be told what to think about the president or much of anything else. Many beyond the Trump core characterize this outlook as “don’t confuse me with facts.”

These gazes from above simply stiffen Trump’s supporters. The concrete of their foundation is strong down at ground level.

Such faith keeps the Trump movement rolling like a tank against small arms. Day-to-day Democrats should learn from the president’s core. They should discover that it is they as a broad group — not party tiptops — who need to pull the movement together, set its priorities and make its choices.

The Democrats can argue that their losing streak is explainable. Republicans had held all the seats. In the case of the 6th District, Republicans had held it since Newt Gingrich’s victory in 1978.

The arrogance exposed by Ossoff’s outsider problems, however, is not arguable.

It was an easy target for a Trump tweet in which he stated his view on Ossoff’s positions, then nailed him by saying he “doesn’t even live in district.”

Likewise, Handel’s final-week TV ad “About You” packed a powerful punchline in its final three paragraphs:

“My opponent doesn’t live here, doesn’t share our values.

“He’s raised millions outside of Georgia from Nancy Pelosi and outsiders who just don’t share our priorities.

“He wants to make it about them. It should be about you.”

Democrats think they are the teachers. Instead, they should become students. Rather than looking down on Trump’s supporters and other Republicans, they should look up and learn.

The pendulum will swing, as it always has, but time could drag.

If Democrats hope to speed the movement, they will start at the bottom and construct their future from a foundation of shared strength. Momentum will build, as their opponents have shown.

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Trump Digs Presidential Grave

President Donald Trump.

President Donald Trump.

For more than a month, President Donald Trump has dug a legal hole so deep that he has trapped himself. Shovelfuls of self-inflicted errors could cost Trump his office.

With a pledge to testify under oath about the events connected to his firing of FBI Director James Comey, Trump continues to excavate his presidential grave one scoop of dirt after another.

On May 9, Trump fired Comey.

In a letter to Comey that day, Trump wrote he had received “letters from the attorney general and the deputy attorney general of the United States recommending your dismissal as director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. I have accepted their recommendation, and you are hereby terminated.”

On May 10 in the White House, Trump told two top Russian officials that he fired the FBI director to eliminate “great pressure” he faced “because of Russia.” The FBI’s investigation into possible connections between the Trump presidential campaign and the Russian government was the highest-level case overseen by Comey.

On May 11, Trump told Lester Holt of “NBC Nightly News” that, when he fired Comey, he did not rely on the recommendations from Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. “I was going to fire Comey — my decision,” Trump said, adding, “I was going to fire, regardless of recommendation.”

His reason for firing Comey, Trump told Holt: “When I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, ‘You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story.’”

On May 12, Trump wrote on Twitter, “James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!”

On June 8, Comey testified under oath to the Senate Intelligence Committee about his firing by President Trump, including related events before and after.

Comey said that at the end of a Feb. 14 counterterrorism meeting in the Oval Office, Trump dismissed the other participants, including Sessions, and spoke with him alone about Michael Flynn. Trump had fired Flynn from his position of national security adviser the day before.

Trump asked him to halt investigation into Flynn’s Russian interactions, Comey said, quoting Trump: “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”

“I’ve seen the tweet about tapes,” Comey told the committee. “Lordy, I hope there are tapes.”

“The president surely knows if he taped me,” Comey added. “If he did, my feelings aren’t hurt. Release all of the tapes. I’m good with it.”

On June 9, Trump held a joint news conference with Romanian President Klaus Iohannis in the Rose Garden.

A reporter asked about Comey’s statement that the president told him to let Flynn go. “I didn’t say that,” Trump said.

“So he lied about that?” the reporter asked.

“Well, I didn’t say that. I mean, I will tell you I didn’t say that,” Trump said.

The reporter asked: “So, he said those things under oath. Would you be willing to speak under oath to give your version of those events?”

“One hundred percent,” Trump said.

The reporter asked, “When will you tell us about the recordings?”

“Over a fairly short period of time,” Trump said.

“Are there tapes?” the reporter asked.

“Oh, you’re going to be very disappointed when you hear the answer. Don't worry,” Trump said.

Since his appointment May 17 by Rosenstein, Special Counsel Robert Mueller has stood above the FBI, the House and the Senate, and their investigations.

Friday, Trump wrote on Twitter that he is under investigation: “I am being investigated for firing the FBI director by the man who told me to fire the FBI director! Witch hunt.”

Trump could be right about being investigated but likely is wrong about the investigator — Rosenstein, by implication. In any case, the president can expect scrutiny.

Because of his sworn-testimony promise, Trump faces the prospect of testifying to Mueller about his Russian interactions, as well as any other actions that Mueller deems appropriate.

The president’s wide-ranging comments about the investigations and related goings-on — too often contradictory — are unlikely to escape prosecutorial examination or testimonial untangling.

Most damning is Trump’s conflict of interest in firing Comey who, at the time, oversaw the investigation into connections between Russia, and the Trump campaign and administration.

If Mueller finds truth in Comey’s account of Trump interfering with the FBI’s investigation, the lid on his presidency’s casket will close for good.

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Balance Web for Privacy, Speed

Craig Federighi, Apple senior vice president software engineering.

Craig Federighi, Apple senior vice president software engineering.

The World Wide Web makes written, photographic and video works available in volume and with ease that has existed for less than a generation.

This opening of media has been double-edged.

Over the past few years, the web’s clear routes of travel across a world of information have been cluttered and slowed by obtrusive advertisements. These ads block webpages and delay their display. Trackers, used by ad companies to build dossiers on readers and bolster advertising, further degrade the web.

Apple announced Monday that its next Safari web browser will include a tracking blocker this fall. This offers hope for a faster, more private web, less cluttered by such intruders. In a similar vein, reports of a Google plan to use industry standards for an ad blocker in a 2018 version of its Chrome browser could lead to reasonable presentation of advertising. This would benefit websites without obscuring the content sought by readers.

The two approaches should be encouraged and adopted by all browser-makers, and embraced by web publishers.

WEB TANGLING

As the web developed in the 1990s, publishers — particularly of printed material such as books, magazines, newspapers and photographs — found their work devalued. Why would one buy a printed version when the same material could be viewed online free and instantly?

As a result of lost income, print publishers have trimmed operations, converted to online operation or have simply gone out of business.

As publishing companies and individuals moved online, advertising appeared on most of their websites, much as they had on the pages of newspapers and magazines.

Now, in a publishing twist of which only the ever-changing internet is capable, online publishing is in the midst of its own wave of income loss.

In the early days of web publishing, ads were static. They looked and acted much like printed ads, with the exception of containing a hyperlink. Click on the linked ad, and the website for the advertiser would appear. That arrangement was simple-and-fair.

Today’s tricks result in ads and trackers that multiply file sizes by many times. As a result, not only do they increase page-load time greatly but data usage, which can be costly on smartphones. Such mobile devices are the predominant means of viewing the web now.

PRIVACY

Readers have taken back their web access by installing ad blockers in their browsers.

More than 1 in 10 use ad blockers worldwide and more than 1 in 6 use them in the United States. Internationally, usage grew 30 percent in 2016. Many ad blockers also block trackers.

Whether motivated by desperation or greed, publishers that overindulge in web ads and trackers find their income plummeting. These poor decisions also have diminished well-behaved websites. Readers have blocked the ads and trackers of gluttonous sites, or moved on.

Information is vital for readers, but ease of use is paramount.

Monday, Apple announced intelligent tracking prevention for the next version of its Safari browser. The updated browser is scheduled to arrive in new mobile and computer operating systems this fall, the company announced during its World Wide Developers Conference in San Jose, California. Safari is the second-most-popular web browser. It is used in iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch mobile devices, and in Mac computers.

“Have you ever had this experience where you go to buy something on the web? You even complete the purchase, and then it seems like everywhere you go on the web, it just follows you around,” said Craig Federighi, senior vice president software engineering. “It kind of feels like you’re being tracked. That’s because you are.”

Apple’s approach is to find trackers on webpages and halt their movement. Using machine learning, a type of artificial intelligence that allows computers to draw their own conclusions and act upon them, Safari will prevent tracking beyond the website viewed, protecting privacy.

In our testing, we found popular websites with over 70 such trackers, all silently collecting data on users.
— John Wilander, Apple browser-security engineer

Another Apple engineer explained the steps.

“Imagine a user who first browses example-products.com for a new gadget and later browses example-recipies.com for dinner ideas,” said John Wilander, an Apple browser-security engineer, Monday on the WebKit blog. WebKit is an open-source organization created by Apple. It develops the foundational programing code on which Safari runs and makes it available to others.

Under many circumstances, Wilander said, “the owner of example-tracker.com has the ability to know that the user visited both the product website and the recipe website, what they did on those sites, what kind of web browser was used” and more.

“In our testing, we found popular websites with over 70 such trackers, all silently collecting data on users,” he said.

Additionally, Apple said Monday that it will block automatic playing of videos in the fall version of Safari.

STANDARDS

Google is planning not only to build an ad blocker into its Chrome browser in 2018 but also to base its ad blocking on a set of industry standards, reported The Wall Street Journal on April 19. Chrome, the most popular web browser, is available for nearly all mobile devices and computers.

Google is expected to follow standards released March 22 by the Coalition for Better Ads, The Journal reported. The coalition contains advertisers, ad providers and ad associations.

Among the ad types rejected by the standards are “pop-up ads, prestitial ads, ads with density greater than 30 percent, flashing animated ads, autoplay video ads with sound, poststitial ads with countdown, full-screen scrollover ads and large sticky ads.” A prestitial ad, usually full-page, loads before the home page. A poststitial ad, usually full-page, loads at the end, during credits. A scrollover ad is full-page and must be scrolled through completely before the website can be seen.

The Journal reported June 1 that Google has told publishers it will give them notice of six months before releasing its built-in ad blocker and will provide a program to test ads to see if Chrome will block them.

Skepticism over Google’s ad blocker, and its motivation for it, is reasonable. Google is one of the web’s top advertising companies. Advertising made up 88 percent of the revenue for Alphabet Inc., Google’s parent company, in 2016. Chrome’s ad blocker will not stop ad trackers or all types of ads, The Journal reported. Most add-on blocking programs are comprehensive. Also, skepticism is warranted for the ad-industry makeup of the Coalition for Better Ads.

Nonetheless, the standards are a good start.

All makers of web browsers — especially Microsoft with its Edge browser and Mozilla with its Firefox browser — should follow the lead of Apple by blocking trackers and autoplay videos. Google should follow through on its standard-based ad-blocking effort, as should other browser-makers, including Apple.

Advertisers cannot be relied upon to stop their race to the bottom. Nor can publishers that allow outlandish, counterproductive ads and trackers on their websites. Stave-off-the-creditors desperation is understandable but not an excuse. Greed is unacceptable. Advertisements that turn away readers or lead them to block all ads must be eliminated for production of useful web content to thrive.

Balanced-but-firm standards must be used in web browsers and by advertisers to strike a useful balance between web users and web publishers.

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Protect Liberty of Job Choice

Thomas Jefferson.

Thomas Jefferson.

For more and more Americans, getting a job means locking themselves into a single company for their type of work in the local region or beyond.

The chain that restrains workers is the noncompete clause.

The clause, which also goes by the name of noncompete agreement and covenant not to compete, usually hides within a stack of employment forms. One fills out and signs such paperwork on the first day of a new job.

Sometimes the clause is presented as part of a contract. New owners of a business can foist a noncompete clause on workers during “rehiring,” despite having held the same jobs for years under previous owners without restriction. The clause can apply to permanent or temporary positions.

However presented, a noncompete clause’s trigger mechanism and outcome are the same: Leave one company for a new job with a competing company before a waiting period of six months to two years, and a lawsuit against you and your new employer will arrive before you settle in.

Noncompete clauses are used by 21 percent of companies with more than 5,000 employees and 12 percent of companies with fewer than 25 employees, says a paper by professors at the University of Maryland and the University of Michigan.

The American freedom to choose one’s employment is as old as the nation.

“Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” are “unalienable rights” spelled out in the second sentence of the Declaration of Independence. The declaration was drafted by Thomas Jefferson and passed by the Second Continental Congress on July 4, 1776.

The people of the United States “secure the blessings of liberty,” says the Constitution’s preamble.

Liberty, to be clear, is “The quality or state of being free; the power to do as one pleases,” as defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary.

CEO TO SANDWICH-MAKER

Once, the practice of requiring a noncompete clause was limited to a position such as chief executive officer or membership on a company’s board of directors. These are among several top-of-pyramid roles involved with the strategy of a company, which is often secret. In many companies, those few people are compensated greatly. They are provided a cushion to leave in luxury and, after a rejuvenating break, flourish elsewhere.

Now, noncompete clauses appear in the paperwork for new employees such as middle managers, fast-food workers and laborers. This restrictive practice has spread to the bottom of the employment pyramid. Neither strategic secrets nor necessity reside in this broad base.

Noncompete clauses result in workers avoiding new jobs, ignoring new opportunities.

Contract-happy employers run rampant over job-needy workers across the nation, except in California. The state bans noncompete clauses. Limitations have been considered by other states but are few.

EXPERIENCE

One might expect a noncompete prohibition to mute competition between companies. History shows otherwise.

Silicon Valley, an area of California south of San Francisco, is known for high-tech innovation and wealth. The valley enables entrepreneurs to establish companies that expand like the big bang.

The prototype for Silicon Valley was HP, which preceded silicon chips — integrated circuits. The 1939 company was born in a Palo Alto garage by Bill Hewlett and David Packard to design and build electronics.

The modern model is 1998’s Google, created by Larry Page and Sergey Brin in a Menlo Park rental garage, after their early work in a Stanford dorm room.

The Silicon Valley standard is Apple. Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak founded the 1976 company in the Los Altos garage of Jobs’ parents. There, the pair built the Wozniak-designed Apple I computer, which sold for $666.66. Thirty-eight years later, Apple became the first U.S. company to reach a value of $700 billion. Today, it is world’s most valuable company — publicly traded, by market capitalization.

The garage model of entrepreneurship continues to proliferate. It is not angelic: Apple and Google were caught in a 2005-2009 pay-fixing pact to stop engineers and programmers from switching companies. Nonetheless, Silicon Valley’s entrepreneurial companies continue to emerge and blossom under California’s ban on noncompete clauses.

Choosing one’s course and determining one’s future are liberties that define the American Way. Most people make their income from companies. When companies use noncompete clauses, they stifle freedom as a way to make workers dependent.

In the name of liberty, all states — if not Congress or a federal court — should ban noncompete clauses. Nothing could be more un-American than restricting one’s independence.

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Budget of Bloody Zeros

Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget.

Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget.

Take President Donald Trump’s promise for a great America and health protection for all citizens. Compare it to his full 2018 budget, unveiled while he was visiting five countries in the Middle East and Europe for eight days.

The difference between Trump’s individual promises and the corresponding budget numbers exposes his grand lie. Rather than greatness, rather than good health, rather than better lives, Trump’s priority is enriching the wealthy while leaving those in need to rot.

Trump’s budget adds zeros to bank balances that are plump and undercuts the life spans of those relying on the government to help get through difficult lives. For too many people struggling to survive day by day, breath by breath, this budget cuts their fragile lives to zero.

On the Saturday before his inauguration, Trump gave a late-night interview on health care to The Washington Post. “We’re going to have insurance for everybody,” he said. “There was a philosophy in some circles that if you can’t pay for it, you don’t get it. That’s not going to happen with us.”

In his Feb. 28 address to a joint session of Congress, Trump called for health insurance “reforms that expand choice, increase access, lower costs and, at the same time, provide better health care.”

MULVANEY DOCTRINE

Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s director of the Office of Management and Budget, put the plan together. Tuesday, at the White House, he presented it to reporters. Many of the budget decisions differ dramatically from Trump’s declarations.

The idea that government should serve the people confounds Mulvaney. The budget is called “the ‘New Foundation for American Greatness,’” he said, “but I wanted to call it the ‘Taxpayer First Budget.’” He added, “We looked at this budget through the eyes of the people who are actually paying the bills.”

The greatness of the nation as a whole: ignored. Under the Mulvaney doctrine, the more tax one pays, the more say one gets. Never mind the health, safety and welfare of those with thin bank accounts or none at all.

Some attention needs to be paid to those who pay less in taxes or who do not make enough to pay, Mulvaney said. “Yes, you have to have compassion for folks who are receiving the federal funds but also you have to have compassion for the folks who are paying it.”

Congratulations for wealth? Sure. Compassion for wealth? No.

HEALTH GUILLOTINE

The New York Times combed through the budget. It pulled out cuts and escalations, measured over 10 years.

Under the Mulvaney doctrine, Trump’s budget cuts the category of Health Care Services by $1.91 trillion — 28.5 percent less.

In that category, the budget cuts Medicaid by $627 billion — 11.8 percent less.

It slashes two others in the category: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cut by $18 billion — 26.9 percent less. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, cut by $11.2 billion — 25 percent less.

The budget cuts the category of Health Research and Training by $92.3 billion — 24.6 percent less. It cuts the National Institutes of Health by $86.5 billion — 24.8 percent less.

In the category of Consumer and Occupational Health and Safety, the budget cuts $16.5 billion — 29.1 percent less.

This category’s grievous gashes, department by department, astound:

  • The Food and Drug Administration, cut by $12.6 billion — 39.7 percent less.
  • Food safety and inspection, cut by $1.8 billion — 15.1 percent less.
  • Occupational and mine safety and health, cut by $1.8 billion — 16 percent less.
  • The Consumer Product Safety Commission, cut by $253 million — 17 percent less.

The budget cuts the category of Food and Nutrition Assistance by $207.7 billion — 18.1 percent less.

The budget devastates two important operations in this category: The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly Food Stamps), cut by $193.6 billion — 25.3 percent less. The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), cut by $11.1 billion — 15.3 percent.

NEGLIGENCE

These budget decisions show that Trump and Mulvaney do not care about Americans’ health or safety, or the feeding of famished families. The cuts show particular disdain for the nutrition of women, infants and children, which is important for a healthy future across the U.S.

Trump’s budget slashes funding for many more valuable agencies and programs, never mind pumping up operations that are funded sufficiently.

Congress is unlikely to take up Trump’s budget, anymore than it has done so for his predecessors. The 2018 budget takes effect Oct. 1.

Nonetheless, the president’s radically oppressive plan poses a danger: It opens the door to members of Congress hoping to pick and choose among Trump’s cuts. Many of these cuts would have been dismissed out-of-hand before this week.

Now, they carry the president’s seal of approval. This gives life to ideas so extreme that they will take frail human lives — those of American citizens.

Thus, will those deadly zeros make their bloody mark.

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Trump’s Tower of Incompetence

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, President Donald Trump and Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, President Donald Trump and Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak.

Day by day, error by error, sleight by sleight, Donald Trump proves his presidential incompetence.

When President Trump invited Russian officials to the White House on May 10, he could not restrain his ego or his boisterous voice. He bragged: “I get great intel. I have people brief me on great intel every day.”

Trump then leaked a location from which international intelligence had been gathered, one of several secrets he divulged. With that information, Russia would be able to determine who provided the intelligence and how it was gathered.

With a grin of incomprehension, Trump delivered this treasure to Sergey Lavrov, who has been Russia’s foreign minister since 2004 and was Russia’s U.N. representative for 10 years before, and to Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the U.S. since 2008.

Two unreported meetings with Kislyak last year resulted in the need for Attorney General Jeff Sessions to recuse himself from decisions connected to Russia and the Trump campaign, of which Sessions was a part.

The intelligence details that Trump divulged were so tightly locked down that many high-level American officials did not have clearance to learn of their existence. Authorized officials must use a code word before any mention.

If delivering a gold mine of intelligence to Russia was an insufficient outrage, The New York Times reported Friday that Trump also boasted to Lavrov and Kislyak about firing FBI Director James Comey. By doing so, Trump said, he rid himself of “great pressure” he faced “because of Russia.”

The two Russian foreign officers are sophisticated-and-notorious. They play in the major league of international intelligence operations, while Trump and some of his top administrators are mired in a minor league that breaks in novices.

RUSSIAN ROULETTE

Trump’s Russian glad-handing and mouth running resulted in needless jeopardy. He blurted the name of the Syrian city where the intelligence was gathered.

This fact and others undercut the safety of an Israeli spy operating in Islamic State territory. The spy develops valuable intelligence on terrorism for use by Israel, which shares it with the U.S.

If anyone other than the president had been so reckless as to reveal these secrets, that person would be open to criminal charges for releasing classified information.

However, because Trump is president, he has the authority to declassify any information instantly and tell it to anyone. The fact that the president lacks the prescience to understand the danger matters not.

Trump knew the location from which the intelligence came, but he did not know the nation for whom the spy works.

When U.S. officials with clearance and insight realized the gravity of Trump’s revelation, they rushed to erase it from the American meeting summary written for other American officials. They also notified the CIA and National Security Agency about the president’s secrecy leak.

Monday, as The Washington Post broke the news of Trump’s revelations to Russia, the White House rolled out National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to denounce The Post’s article as untrue.

Anyone paying attention found the denouncements a masquerade. The McMaster and Tillerson denials did not apply to The Post. The matters about which the officials spoke were not mentioned in the article.

Consider this meaningless McMaster smoke screen: “What the president discussed with the foreign minister was wholly appropriate to that conversation, and is consistent with the routine sharing of information between the president and any leaders with whom he’s engaged.”

COMEY CONSEQUENCES

One day in early February, Trump ejected everyone from the Oval Office, including Vice President Mike Pence. The president called in then-FBI Director James Comey alone, The New York Times reported Tuesday.

Trump asked Comey to end the investigation into Russian connections of then-National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. “I hope you can let this go,” Trump told Comey.

Comey wrote Trump’s comments in a memo he filed after the meeting. Extensive documentation of important matters is common within agencies such as the FBI and the CIA.

“I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” wrote Comey about Trump’s plea to end the investigation.

At Trump’s urging, Flynn resigned Feb. 13, after lying to Pence about conversations with Kislyak.

At the least, Trump has demonstrated that he cannot handle himself around adversaries such as experienced Russian foreign officers.

Wednesday, in response to the report of Trump’s incompetent handling of foreign intelligence, the stock market nose-dived. It had been rising since his election on expectation of an improved economy. The market regained a portion of the loss Thursday and Friday.

Late Wednesday, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein (rose-en-STINE’) appointed a special counsel to investigate whether the Trump presidential campaign made connections with Russia.

The FBI has been conducting the investigation. Because of his Russian recusal, Sessions did not make the decision.

Rosenstein appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller special counsel. Mueller is well-regarded both by Democrats and Republicans.

Asked in a news conference Thursday about the special counsel, Trump said: “The entire thing has been a witch hunt. And there is no collusion between certainly myself and my campaign — but I can always speak for myself — and the Russians, zero.”

Another question: “Did you at any time urge former FBI Director James Comey in any way, shape or form to close or to back down the investigation into Michael Flynn?” Trump answered: “No. No. Next question.”

Friday’s article by The Times cited the White House memo summarizing the Lasrov-Kislyak meeting. This is the same summary excised of classified details leaked by the president.

The summary says Trump told the Russian officials: “I just fired the head of the FBI. He was crazy, a real nut job.” It adds: “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.” Also, “I’m not under investigation.”

That was May 10. Now, Rosenstein’s charge to Mueller grants the special counsel great latitude in choosing the subjects for investigation.

Duty calls Mueller to determine whether Trump coerced Comey in an effort to halt the FBI’s investigation into Flynn, and whether Trump fired Comey in hope of freeing himself from the FBI investigation over Russia and his campaign.

If Mueller finds either accusation true, Congress should impeach and remove Trump, and the Department of Justice should prosecute him for obstruction of justice.

At the least, Trump has demonstrated that he cannot handle himself around adversaries such as experienced Russian foreign officers or a thorough American director such as Comey, who documents matters of importance in extensive memos.

Now, the nation knows that the Trump presidency could collapse.

If only the president would learn that the nation cannot be run by the seat of the pants. Nor can it be led on the basis of insults, strong-arming or sweeping generalizations.

Thought and planning is required. The work is hard. Competence is Job One.

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