Daily Bread for 1.23.18

Good morning.

The Scene from Whitewater, WisconsinTuesday in Whitewater will be cloudy, with a few flurries, and a high of thirty-one.  Wet snow last night means a two hour delay for Whitewater’s schools this morning, but Midwesterners are resilient and bounce back quickly. Sunrise is 7:16 AM and sunset 4:57 PM, for 9h 40m 19s of daytime. The moon is a waxing crescent with 36.5% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the {tooltip}four hundred thirty-ninth day.{end-texte}Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.{end-tooltip}

On this day in 1957, Wham-O purchases the rights to a toy fling disc, later to be renamed the Frisbee. On this day in 1864, the 23rd Wisconsin Infantry continued its reconnaissance mission on the Matagorda Peninsula, Texas.

Recommended for reading in full —

➤ Jonathan Swan reports Scoop: FBI director threatened to resign amid Trump, Sessions pressure:

Attorney General Jeff Sessions — at the public urging of President Donald Trump — has been pressuring FBI Director Christopher Wray to fire Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, but Wray threatened to resign if McCabe was removed, according to three sources with direct knowledge.

  • Wray’s resignation under those circumstances would have created a media firestorm. The White House — understandably gun-shy after the Comey debacle — didn’t want that scene, so McCabe remains.
  • Sessions told White House Counsel Don McGahn about how upset Wray was about the pressure on him to fire McCabe, and McGahn told Sessions this issue wasn’t worth losing the FBI Director over, according to a source familiar with the situation.
  • Why it matters: Trump started his presidency by pressuring one FBI Director (before canning him), and then began pressuring another (this time wanting his deputy canned). This much meddling with the FBI for this long is not normal.

➤ Jack Goldsmith, Benjamin Wittes assess this scoop in Power and Integrity at the FBI: Chris Wray Stands Up to the President and the Attorney General:

First, we should underscore what a difficult situation Wray is in. As Jack wrote in a related context, Wray is in the extraordinary position of “dealing with a president who is attacking the integrity of the Justice Department and the FBI in a truly unprecedented fashion at a time when many of the president’s associates, and probably the president himself, are under investigation by the Justice Department and FBI.”

Second, it is clear from this episode that Wray has chosen this path—that is, that his ultimate commitment lies with the FBI and the preservation of its institutional integrity. This is exceptionally good news. It is also unsurprising. Wray, after all, is an old-time Justice Department hand who was prepared to resign under President George W. Bush during the warrantless wiretapping controversy. (Wray and Jack worked together in the Justice Department during this episode, in which Jack was involved.)

Finally, a word about Attorney General Sessions. It says a lot about the man that he was willing to pressure Wray to remove McCabe—and that he was willing to put sufficient pressure on him to provoke a conflict. Of course, in theory, the attorney general—who supervises the FBI director—should be able to discuss with the FBI director who the deputy director should be. But in context, when the president is attacking McCabe and explicitly tying the attacks to the Russia investigation, and when Sessions is recused from that investigation, the proper role for Sessions is actually the one that Wray played here. The job of the attorney general here was to try to uphold and defend the FBI’s independence. Not only did Sessions not do that, at least according to Axios, but Wray had to do it, to protect the FBI from the attorney general himself.

➤ Gabriel Sherman reports “I’ve Got Another Nut Job Here Who Thinks He’s Running Things”: Are Trump and Kelly Heading for Divorce? (“With the president and his chief of staff arguing in public, Ivanka Trump takes charge of finding a replacement”):

Donald Trump’s relationship with John Kelly, his chief of staff, fraught from the beginning, may finally have gone past the point of no return. Two prominent Republicans in frequent contact with the White House told me that Trump has discussed choosing Kelly’s successor in recent days, asking a close friend what he thought about David Urban, a veteran Washington lobbyist and political operative who helped engineer Trump’s victory in Pennsylvania. Ivanka is also playing a central role in the search, quietly field-testing ideas with people. “Ivanka is the most worried about it. She’s trying to figure who replaces Kelly,” a person who’s spoken with her said.

Kelly’s departure likely isn’t imminent, sources said. “He wants to stay longer than Reince [Priebus],” an outside adviser said. Trump can also hardly afford another high-level staff departure, which would trigger days of negative news cycles. “This could be like [Jeff] Sessions,” one of the Republicans explained, referring to Trump’s festering frustration about not being able to replace his attorney general.

But the prospect of a Trump-Kelly rupture became more probable as news of their clashes over immigration leaked. Last week, Kelly reportedly infuriated Trump when he told Fox News that Trump had “evolved” on his position to build a southern border wall. Kelly further catalyzed Trump’s ire when he told Democratic lawmakers that Trump was “uninformed” when he made his campaign promise to build the wall. The next morning Trump rebutted his chief of staff with a tweet: “The Wall is the Wall, it has never changed or evolved from the first day I conceived of it.”

(Trump conveniently overlooks that these are the men he’s hired, given vast powers…)

➤ Spencer S. Hsu and John Wagner report Trump voting commission bought Texas election data flagging Hispanic voters:

President Trump’s voting commission asked every state and the District for detailed voter registration data, but in Texas’s case it took an additional step: It asked to see Texas records that identify all voters with Hispanic surnames, newly released documents show.

In buying nearly 50 million records from the state with the nation’s second-largest Hispanic population, a researcher for the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity checked a box on two Texas public voter data request forms explicitly asking for the “Hispanic surname flag notation,” to be included in information sent to the voting commission, according to copies of the signed and notarized state forms.

White House and Texas officials said the state’s voter data was never delivered because a lawsuit brought by Texas voting rights advocates after the request last year temporarily stopped any data handoff.

➤ Here are Five of the World’s Most Unusual Factories:

In this reel, we delve deep into how it’s made. We hold our breathe at the world’s smelliest factory, throwback to the analog age at the last place in the U.S. producing cassette tapes, and travel to an archaeological factory where a team of experts are trying to rebuild nature’s largest creatures.

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