Daily Bread for 2.4.18

Good morning.

Sunday in Whitewater will see snow in the morning on a cloudy day with a high of fifteen. Sunrise is 7:04 AM and sunset 5:12 PM, for 10h 08m 02s of daytime. The moon is a waning gibbous with 79.6% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the four hundred fifty-first day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

On this day in 1783, Britain’s King George III proclaims a formal cessation of hostilities in the American Revolutionary War (although as a practical matter Britain was defeated after Yorktown two years earlier). On this day in 1789, electors choose George Washington to be the first president of the United States.

Recommended for reading in full —

➤ Massimo Calabresi and Alana Abramson report Carter Page Touted Kremlin Contacts in 2013 Letter:

Former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page bragged that he was an adviser to the Kremlin in a letter obtained by TIME that raises new questions about the extent of Page’s contacts with the Russian government over the years.

The letter, dated Aug. 25, 2013, was sent by Page to an academic press during a dispute over edits to an unpublished manuscript he had submitted for publication, according to an editor who worked with Page.

“Over the past half year, I have had the privilege to serve as an informal advisor to the staff of the Kremlin in preparation for their Presidency of the G-20 Summit next month, where energy issues will be a prominent point on the agenda,” the letter reads.

(Privilege to serve … the staff of the Kremlin.)

➤ Avi Selk reports Paul Ryan celebrated the tax cut with a tweet about a secretary saving $1.50 a week:

He’s been coaching other Republican lawmakers to sell the $1.5 trillion tax cut to voters, and telling people on Twitter to check their paychecks for wage hikes. The bill — which was deeply unpopular when it passed along party lines in December — is now breaking even in a new opinion poll.

So Saturday morning, by way of good news, Ryan’s Twitter account shared a story about a secretary taking home a cool $6 a month in tax savings.

Here is the passage in the Associated Press:

Julia Ketchum, a secretary at a public high school in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, said she was pleasantly surprised her pay went up $1.50 a week. She didn’t think her pay would go up at all, let alone this soon. That adds up to $78 a year, which she said will more than cover her Costco membership for the year.

The tweet was deleted within hours, probably guaranteeing it will never be forgotten, and leaving people baffled as to why Ryan ever thought it would make a good advertisement for the tax plan’s supposed middle-class benefit.

It’s true that the bill is stingy to people at the bottom of the pay scale. In fact, the average tax break for someone making $25,400 a year or less happens to be $60 — the exact price of a Gold Star Costco membership.

(Ryan’s gained extraordinary prominence, as a vice presidential candidate, budget chairman, and now speaker of the House. He never had, though, any real testing before his rise from his mediocre hometown newspaper, and a cosseted man is a weak, and often thoughtless, one.)

➤ Rep. Adam Schiff writes a Memo to the Public: The President Wants to Make the FBI His Instrument:

What we have witnessed during the first year of the Trump Administration is a determined effort to demolish the separation between politics and the fair administration of justice—an attempt to turn the DOJ’s investigative powers into the personal political tool of the president. Some have attempted to dismiss the president’s conduct as the actions of a new president, a free-wheeling businessman unaccustomed and unacquainted with the finer points of the office and government in general.

However, a year later, it has become clear that the president views the idea that the DOJ should be anything other than an extension of his political operation as an unacceptable constraint on his authority. He told a reporter in December that he has “the absolute right” to do whatever he wants with “his” Department of Justice. The president has sought to put that statement into action from the very day he was inaugurated.

Early in his tenure, President Trump demanded former FBI Director James Comey’s “loyalty,” and fired him when he did not get it in the form of ending the Flynn investigation and removing the cloud of the Russia probe. He has repeatedly called for the reopening of the investigation into his 2016 opponent, Secretary Clinton. He publicly berated Attorney General Jeff Sessions for recusing himself from the Russia investigation, a step recommended by the Department’s professional ethics staff. Finally, just in the past week it was reported that the president asked Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, the official responsible for overseeing the Special Counsel’s investigation, whether he was “on my team,” and then-Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe if he voted for the president.

Both the president’s public statements and his private actions make it clear that he is seeking nothing less than to destroy the institutions and norms that shield the Department of Justice from his direction. This is all the more pernicious considering the fact that his own campaign is under investigation for possible collusion with the Russians in their interference in the presidential election. He would take the reins of the FBI to protect himself and to deploy their immense investigative powers against his political opponents at will.

➤ Renato Mariotti contends The Memo Doesn’t Vindicate Trump. It’s More Proof of Obstruction.

The president himself said, after the memo’s release on Friday, that it “vindicates” him in the probe.

But it does no such thing. The memo from House Republicans, led by Representative Devin Nunes, fell well short of the hype. Its main argument is that when the Justice Department sought a warrant to wiretap the former Trump adviser Carter Page, it did not reveal that Christopher Steele — the author of a controversial opposition-research dossier — was funded by the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign through a law firm.

This is actually a fairly common — and rarely effective — argument made by defendants who seek to suppress evidence obtained by a warrant.

What might be the lasting legacy of the Nunes memo is how President Trump reacted to it. According to reports, Mr. Trump suggested “the memo might give him the justification to fire [the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein] — something about which Trump has privately mused — or make other changes at the Justice Department, which he had complained was not sufficiently loyal to him.”

In fact, Mr. Trump’s approval of the release of the memo and his comments that releasing it could make it easier for him to fire Mr. Rosenstein could help Robert Mueller, the special counsel, prove that Mr. Trump fired James B. Comey, then the F.B.I. director, with a “corrupt” intent — in other words, the intent to wrongfully impede the administration of justice — as the law requires.

➤ The Rover Curiosity records a Martian Scenic Overlook:

Curiosity Project Scientist Ashwin Vasavada gives a descriptive tour of the Mars rover’s view in Gale Crater. The white-balanced scene looks back over the journey so far. The view from “Vera Rubin Ridge” looks back over buttes, dunes and other features along the route. To see where the rover is now, visit https://mars.nasa.gov/msl/mission/whe…

To aid geologists, colors in the image are white balanced so rocks appear the same color as the same rocks would on Earth. Why? Click here: https://go.nasa.gov/2Fs8tFd