Daily Bread for 1.13.18

Good morning.

Saturday in Whitewater will be sunny with a high of fourteen. Sunrise is 7:23 AM and sunset 4:44 PM, for 9h 21m 42s of daytime. The moon is a waning crescent with 10.6% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the four hundred twenty-ninth day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

On this day in 1968, Johnny Cash performs two shows at Folsom Prison, California. The performances yielded material for Cash’s At Folsom Prison live album, released in May 1968.

On this date in 1922, Madison radio station WHA gets its call letters: “the call letters of experimental station 9XM in Madison were replaced by WHA. This station dates back to 1917, making it ‘The oldest station in the nation.’ ”

Recommended for reading in full —

Jason Noble reports Trump criticism dominates Chuck Grassley town meeting in rural Iowa:

LOGAN, Ia. — U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley faced relentless questioning about President Donald Trump’s fitness for office and his own handling of the investigation into Russian election meddling at a rural town meeting here Friday morning.

Amid a smattering of questions about trucking regulations, homeopathic medicine and pension security, a steady stream of attendees pressed Grassley to defend his handling of the ongoing Russia investigation and to offer his views on Trump’s conduct on the job.

“Are you not personally concerned about his fitness to serve? If not, why not? Because I’m very concerned,” Mary Mikels, a retired 67-year-old from nearby Portsmouth, asked Grassley.

Grassley deflected that question, saying he wasn’t qualified to make a psychiatric assessment, but Mikels persisted.

“He gets on Twitter and says the last thing that Fox News told him to say,” she said. “That’s not presidential. It’s concerning. Are you personally concerned?”….

(Admirable, truly, to hear Iowans speak directly as Americans, something that their senator can’t or won’t do. I’d almost say they’re woke, but then I’m not hip enough to use woke convincingly, and the surest proof is that I’m using hip as the measure of whether one is woke.)

Gabriel Sherman writes of “A Safe Space for Trump”: Inside the Feedback Loop Between the President and Fox News (“With Roger Ailes gone, the network’s chief de-facto programmer is the president. ‘He has the same embattled view as a typical Fox viewer.’ ”):

According to conversations in recent days with current and former Fox executives, producers, and hosts, Trump looms almost as large in the minds of employees as Ailes did. Fox hosts regularly get calls from Trump about segments he likes—or doesn’t. “When you worked at Fox, you knew that at any moment Roger Ailes was watching. Every day was like a job interview with Ailes. Now it’s the same way for Trump,” says a veteran Fox News contributor. According to sources, Trump doesn’t explicitly dictate talking points the way Ailes did, but over time, the effect can be similar. “What he usually does is he’ll call after a show and say, ‘I really enjoyed that,’” a former Fox anchor told me. “The highest compliment is, ‘I really learned something.’ Then you know he got a new policy idea.” But knowing Trump always could be tuning in means the network is being programmed for an audience of one. “He has the same embattled view as a typical Fox viewer—that ‘the liberal elites hate me; they’re trying to bring me down,’” an executive said.

This dynamic makes it extremely complicated to cover the administration’s near-constant conflagrations. “They don’t want to see stuff about Michael Wolff. It’s depressing,” one staffer said, speaking about how the network struggled to cover the frenzy around Fire and Fury. One sure strategy has been to follow Trump’s lead and continue attacking the Clintons. Since becoming president, Trump has tweeted about Hillary Clinton about 70 times. Trump brought up Hillary multiple times at a joint press conference with the Norwegian prime minister on January 10. One Fox staffer explained that the anti-Hillary segments rate almost higher than anything else the network programs. “The audience eats up anything about Hillary,” the staffer said. Fox will soon debut a new weekly documentary series called Scandalous.The subject of the first episode: the Clintons.

The hugely successful alliance is mostly transactional—privately, many at the network have a nuanced view of the president. “He’s sort of viewed as this crazy person who calls all the time,” the Fox executive said. During the early stages of the Republican primary, Fox News was one of Trump’s chief antagonists. Murdoch championed comprehensive immigration reform and was horrified by Trump’s nativist rhetoric, sources told me. I reported how, shortly before the first G.O.P. primary debate, Murdoch told Ailes to prevent Trump from getting the nomination. But once Trump became the nominee, the network quickly fell into line. It was simply a programming play. Fox producers saw ratings drop whenever something negative about Trump was said on air. Since then, Fox has shed prominent Trump critics like Megyn Kelly,George Will, and Rich Lowry, while bulking up on pro-Trump voices such as Seb Gorka,Laura Ingraham, and Mark Levin. “The network has become a safe space for Trump fans,” said an executive. Those who didn’t get on board felt the pressure. Last spring, Bob Beckel, a former co-host of The Five and vocal Trump detractor, found an unsigned note in his office telling him to back off Trump, a Fox source told me. On the news side, journalists seem to have a somewhat freer hand. Chris Wallace and Shepard Smith have been skeptical in their Trump coverage….

Michael Duff and Nancy Gibbs write of The Unpresident: Why Donald Trump Will Never Change:

With Donald Trump, the nation is seeing something new. Although he flirted with running as an independent decades ago, and as a Republican in 2012, he was never driven by a vision, an agenda or a set of goals. He gave every indication of wanting to win the presidency but not be the President.

That impression, and so much more, is brought to life in Michael Wolff’s explosive and controversial new book, Fire and Fury, a damning account of the first nine months of the Trump presidency that has Democrats salivating and studying the Constitution and Republicans fretting over its conclusions while pretending to criticize it as a hatchet job. The President was so incensed by the book and its many criticisms of his leadership style that he tried to block its publication even after Fire and Fury was widely available, thereby guaranteeing that it would sell out everywhere from Maine to Montana. So many are the questions raised in the book about his suitability for office that Trump was left to declare in a Jan. 6 tweet that he is a “very stable genius.”

For all the criticism of Wolff’s methods, much about the portrait rings true. Trump didn’t expect to win and, if he thought about it, probably didn’t want to. The campaign itself gave him the power and the glory and the profits. The office takes those away. In the terms he cares about–nuclear button notwithstanding–he is in many ways less powerful as President than he was a year ago. Candidates can say whatever they want about what they will do; Presidents are expected go out and do it. There’s more ridicule and much less freedom. Harry Truman’s “great white jail” is spartan compared with a life pinballing between Mar-a-Lago and Fifth Avenue. The rewards of the office, such as they are, aren’t rewarding to Trump, other than the pomp, the crowds, the chance to show off the Lincoln Bedroom or to see in our response an awe he does not share but likes provoking. The fuel that powers the presidency–the passion for ideas, the attachment to allies, the give and take of practical politics–gives him no energy. So this is an exhausting, even debilitating, life for a 71-year-old, much less one with little curiosity or sense of mission beyond self-interest. The most thin-skinned public figure imaginable has been exposed to the elements. And he doesn’t like them….

Mike Levine reports FBI vets: What many are missing about the infamous ‘dossier’ amid Russia probe:

In fact, even without the dossier, the U.S. intelligence community was in possession of information warranting an FBI probe.

“I was aware of intelligence and information about contacts between Russian officials and U.S. persons that raised concerns in my mind about whether or not those individuals were cooperating with the Russians, either in a witting or unwitting fashion, and it served as the basis for the FBI investigation to determine whether such collusion [or] cooperation occurred,” former CIA Director John Brennan told the House Judiciary Committee last year.

For the FBI, the dossier was essentially just another tip.

“This particular matter was complicated by the fact that the ‘main subject’ happened to be the Republican nominee for President of the United States,” but “we still had an obligation to look at it as part of our effort to protect the Republic from foreign threats,” according to Frank Montoya, who spent more than two decades with the FBI and another two years leading U.S. counterintelligence policy under the Director of National Intelligence.

Police routinely respond to unverified “reports” of criminal activity on city streets. Border Patrol agents routinely respond to unverified reports of illegal border crossings. Similarly, the FBI routinely commits resources to a matter based on unverified reports.

In all those cases, what happens next depends on what investigators find. The FBI’s Russia-related probe is no different….

Perhaps he used Apple Pay

(I’ve seen clips like this before. Looking closely at this one, I’d say this seagull went for the Doritos® Salsa Verde. One might say that’s because it was easily within reach, but one might imagine more of this gull, that he’s a discerning consumer, as the salsa verde flavor so powerfully suggests.)