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TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  Russian Smoke Getting Closer to Being a Smoking Gun
      •  Trump Administration Deports First DREAMer
      •  Vinson Plot Thickens
      •  Bye, Bye Jason!
      •  Bye, Bye Bill!
      •  Ricketts Withdraws Name from Consideration
      •  New England Patriots Visit White House

Russian Smoke Getting Closer to Being a Smoking Gun

Another piece of the Russian puzzle presented itself on Wednesday, with Reuters breaking the news of a pair of documents produced by the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies, a think tank with close ties to Vladimir Putin. The first document, produced in June 2016, discussed—without naming any specific individuals—the need for Russia to secure election of a U.S. president who would be a softer touch than Barack Obama. The second, produced in October, concluded that Russian efforts to derail Hillary Clinton had failed, and that the time had come to focus the country's propaganda campaign on undermining the legitimacy of the election.

The Obama administration became aware of these documents weeks before the election, and they were central to the conclusion that the Russians had indeed been meddling. As to Donald Trump, this new information does not prove that he was a witting accomplice to the scheme, though it certainly does leave open the possibility. And, at very least, he was an unwitting accomplice, since he did more than anyone else in October and November to spread tales of voter fraud and phony election results. To put that another way, the best-case scenario for Trump is that he was, as the Russians like to say, a "useful idiot." (Z)

Trump Administration Deports First DREAMer

On many occasions, Donald Trump has said that his administration would focus on deporting "bad hombres." He also said that he would leave in place Obama-era protections for undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children, citing his own "big heart." So much for that; we now learn that back in February, the administration deported 23-year-old Juan Manuel Montes, who has been in the United States since he was nine. His only crime, of course, was accompanying his parents across the border while he was still a minor. And given that courts often don't recognize the capacity of nine-year-old to commit crimes, one could argue that he's committed no crime at all.

That argument would never hold water in a courtroom, of course, but that won't be a problem for Montes. It turns out that Immigration and Customs Enforcement screwed up in their record-keeping, and also that they did not give him due process. So, he is going to get his day in court, and he's got a strong case. Meanwhile, in a development that may well be proof that there is a god, and that he has a sense of humor, the judge that has been assigned to the case is...Gonzalo Curiel. Yes, he of the "he has a conflict of interest because he's Mexican" fame. You can't make this stuff up. (Z)

Vinson Plot Thickens

The strange voyage of the U.S.S. Carl Vinson continues to make headlines; it's like a real-life version of "Where's Waldo?" White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, in his inimitable fashion, tried to set the record straight on Wednesday: "The president said that we have an armada going towards the peninsula. That's a fact, it happened." Then he promptly corrected himself: "It is happening, rather." Nothing like making a misstatement while trying to correct a misstatement.

Thus far, the administration's explanation for this situation is that there was a miscommunication between the President, the Secretary of Defense, and the Pentagon. This doesn't exactly add up, however; the whole purpose of the "show of strength" was to respond to North Korea's missile test. If the Carl Vinson was only going to galavant over to Korea when its schedule permitted, there is really no point in its going at all. Meanwhile, as the New Yorker's Amy Davidson points out, this story is more than a curiosity—there are some very problematic aspects to it. First of all, it makes the administration look chaotic and disorganized. Second, threatening Kim Jong-un and then failing to follow through is just about the worst way to deal with him. Third, and most importantly, President Trump gave the false/incorrect information about the Carl Vinson to Xi Jinping, so that he could pass it along to North Korea. Undoubtedly, Xi is not going to be pleased about being made an unwitting stooge. (Z)

Bye, Bye Jason!

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) is one of the highest profile members of Congress, by virtue of his outspokenness and his leadership of the House Oversight Committee. On Wednesday, he announced that, "After long consultation with my family and prayerful consideration, I have decided I will not be a candidate for any office in 2018." His stated reason for this is that he is weary of being away from home; he insists there is no "ulterior motive" for his retirement.

Chaffetz may be telling the truth, but it's a bit hard to believe that someone with his ambition would end his political career just like that. He's expressed interest in running for governor of Utah in 2020, when that job comes open. And while Utah is very red, it's notoriously unfriendly to Trump. So, a very plausible alternate explanation is that he wants to disentangle himself from The Donald ASAP, such that he doesn't have any Trump-brand baggage when he takes his shot at the governor's mansion. (Z)

Bye, Bye Bill!

On Thursday, as was widely expected, Fox News axed Bill O'Reilly. Reportedly, the host learned the news shortly after enjoying a private audience with Pope Francis, which must have made for an interesting roller coaster ride. Late Wednesday, O'Reilly released a statement in which he thanked Fox News for their time together, while saying that it is, "tremendously disheartening that we part ways due to completely unfounded claims." So much for learning...well, anything from all of this.

O'Reilly's enemies were quick to celebrate his demise. Rolling Stone managed to throw together "A Timeline of Bill O'Reilly's Vileness." Keith Olbermann appeared with Katie Couric and said, "Mission accomplished!" And Stephen Colbert, who rose to fame playing a Bill O'Reilly parody on "The Colbert Report," discussed "papa bear" on Wednesday's "Late Show," with "Stephen Colbert" (the character, brought out of mothballs) lamenting the firing, while Stephen Colbert (the person) called him "a selfish landfill of angry garbage." It's not known what O'Reilly plans next, though he might be a good fit for the probably-soon-to-be-open job of White House Press Secretary. (Z)

Ricketts Withdraws Name from Consideration

Todd Ricketts, co-owner of the Chicago Cubs and nominee for deputy commerce secretary, has withdrawn his name from consideration, explaining that he cannot separate himself from his business interests fully enough to satisfy government ethics laws. He is the third nominee to run into this problem, following former Secretary of the Army nominee Vincent Viola and former Secretary of the Navy nominee Philip Bilden.

The fact that so many billionaires have found that their business career is incompatible with government service may say something about the President, not to mention his daughter and his son-in-law. In the case of the latter two, the majority of Americans certainly feel that way. According to a new Quinnipiac poll, 53% of respondents felt that Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner's White House roles are "inappropriate." Only 36% find Ivanka's role to be "appropriate," while only 32% feel that way about Kushner. Presumably, this poll will not be one of those The Donald retweets. (Z)

New England Patriots Visit White House

For at least half a century, it's been customary for the winners of major sports championships to visit the White House. It was the New England Patriots' turn on Wednesday, and things went about as poorly as possible. To start, six players from the reigning Super Bowl champions refused to attend, due to their dislike of Trump. Then, at the last moment, star quarterback Tom Brady had to drop out, due to family issues. And on top of that, former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez—who was with the team until 2012, before being convicted of murder—committed suicide Wednesday morning.

Everyone present for Wednesday's festivities put on their game face, but it was presumably a relief for most when the visit came to an end. Next up, in theory, will be the NBA champion, but it's likely that whoever that is will boycott as a team. NHL champions visit erratically. And the next World Series winner may also boycott, particularly if it is the Chicago Cubs again. So, Trump could be waiting a while until he gets another #45 jersey. Or, perhaps the tradition will go by the wayside, kind of like throwing out the first pitch of the baseball season. (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Apr19 Ossoff Comes Up Short
Apr19 Warships Headed to North Korea Are in...Australia
Apr19 China Hands Out Trump Trademarks Like Candy
Apr19 Hypocrisy, Thy Name Is Trump
Apr19 O'Reilly May Be Done at Fox
Apr19 Trump Signs "Buy American, Hire American" Executive Order
Apr19 Scientists to March on Washington
Apr19 UK Will Hold Elections
Apr18 Everyone's Watching GA-06 Today
Apr18 Nothing Has Changed with Trump's Tax Returns
Apr18 Gorsuch Hits the Ground Running
Apr18 New Polls Are Mostly Bad News for Trump
Apr18 Democrat Wants to Amend Presidential Removal Procedure
Apr18 Chris Christie: He's Baaaaaack
Apr18 How Does Spicer Feel About McCarthy's Impersonation?
Apr17 Everyone's Watching GA-06 Today
Apr17 Nothing Has Changed with Trump's Tax Returns
Apr17 Gorsuch Hits the Ground Running
Apr17 New Polls Are Mostly Bad News for Trump
Apr17 Democrat Wants to Amend Presidential Removal Procedure
Apr17 Chris Christie: He's Baaaaaack
Apr17 How Does Spicer Feel About McCarthy's Impersonation?
Apr16 Protesters Around the Country Demand to See Trump's Tax Returns
Apr16 White House Sweeping Conflicts of Interest Under the Rug
Apr16 Trump Actually Has Delivered on Some of His Promises
Apr16 The Kushner-Bannon Civil War Is Still Raging
Apr16 Tillerson on the Rise
Apr16 Bipartisan Group of Senators Pushing to Revive Glass-Steagall
Apr16 Nearly $500,000 of Trump's Campaign Funds Have Gone to His Companies
Apr16 North Korean Bomb Bombs
Apr15 Russia Intrigue Just Keeps Mounting
Apr15 North Korea Situation Seems To Be Deteriorating
Apr15 U.S. Will Not Name China as a Currency Manipulator
Apr15 Trump Keeps Badmouthing the Dollar
Apr15 White House Will Not Make Visitor Logs Public
Apr15 Re-election Bids Are Attracting Lots of Money
Apr15 Trump Says He Can't Be Sued
Apr15 Trump Gets Burned by Regulations
Apr14 U.S. Drops MOAB on Afghanistan
Apr14 Suburban Voters Have Had It with Trump
Apr14 Trump's Base Has Had it With Trump
Apr14 Virginia Governor's Race Turns Into a Referendum on Trump
Apr14 Business Leaders Trying to de-Bannonize Trump
Apr14 Maybe Rumors of Bannon's Death Are Greatly Exaggerated
Apr14 Tax Reform May Not Follow the Ryan Blueprint
Apr14 Sanders: Trump Will Be a One-term President
Apr14 Prof. Who Called the Last Eight Presidential Elections Says Trump Will Be Impeached
Apr13 Tillerson Receives a Chilly Reception in Moscow
Apr13 Trump Now Wants to Do Healthcare Before Tax Reform
Apr13 Trump May Be Sick of Bannon