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Friday's HOT MIC

Welcome to HOT MIC, PJ Media's daily liveblog. Join our editors and contributors for news updates and conversation throughout the day, and add your thoughts to the mix in our comments section at the bottom or by clicking on the comment bubbles on individual posts.  Be sure to save this link so you can find HOT MIC every day.

Good Friday Morning!

Here's what is on President Trump's agenda today:

  • In the morning, President Donald J. Trump will meet with Director of the Office of Management and Budget Mick Mulvaney.
  • In the afternoon, the President will depart the White House for Joint Base Andrews en route to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Trump's trip

The President leaves today on his first trip abroad and he will be accompanied by wife Melania for an 8-day, five-country tour.

Trump may be attempting to rebuild relations with countries like Israel and Saudi Arabia, which frayed under the Presidency of Barack Obama. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will also accompany Trump for most of the trip.

"I will strengthen old friendships and seek new partners, but partners who also help us, not partners who take, and take, and take," Trump said in his commencement address. "Partners who help pay for whatever we are doing and all of the good that we are doing for them. Which is something that a lot of people have not gotten used to, and they just can't get used to it."

Trump will visit Saudi Arabia, Israel, Vatican City, Belgium, and Italy.

PJ Media will report on the developments of Trump's trip.

Take a selfie

Lee Smith, a senior editor at the Weekly Standard and a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, shares some insight into President Trump's trip at Tablet Magazine.

Donald Trump is hoping to rescue his presidency with a trip to a place that has never failed to provide American presidents with relief from workaday cares—the Middle East. The world’s most volatile region is looking pretty moderate right now compared to what Trump’s got on the homefront, where he’s the managerial black hole at the center of his own administration, which is daily beset by internet explosions detonated by himself and by a political class gleefully celebrating its interlocking control of the elite media and the higher levels of the federal bureaucracy.

And now conclusive evidence shows that the Trump White House is indeed under the control of an external power. The big surprise is that it’s not Russia that gives Donald Trump his marching orders—no, his presidency is being run by midlevel paper-pushers at the State Department and the Pentagon whose larger vision of the world is shaped by their former bosses.

Smith points to some recent diplomatic confusion regarding the administration's position on Israel: Will Bibi accompany Trump to the Western Wall? Does the administration believe the Western Wall is part of Israel? McMaster was asked questions at a press conference earlier this week only to respond:

"That sounds like a policy decision,” McMaster demurred.

“No state has sovereignty over the city of Jerusalem,” said another Trump administration official. “The status of Jerusalem is an issue that should be resolved in final status negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians.”

And Smith has soured on the entire "peace process."

Trump was elected because he was going to drain the swamp, and there is no fouler cesspool in U.S. foreign policy than the peace process. It’s an industry that creates a lobby of many thousand creeps around the world who have a vested interest in prolonging a pointless exercise regardless of how many Israeli, Arab, or American lives are sacrificed along the way so they can go on mouthing platitudes at Davos. Trump is not going to walk away from the peace process because the swamp will drag him in—it already has.

Read the whole piece. Lee Smith is always worth reading.

On the other hand, a senior official at a national Jewish organization told PJ Media: "The Lee Smith article is reckless at best. Taken to its logical conclusion, the article says Trump should point up from the Western Wall at the Temple Mount, say 'I want to go up there too,' and walk up. But that would blow everything up and put the United States in an impossible position."

Comey, Comey, Comey

Here's some of the latest fallout from the media obsession with their new hero-darling, fired FBI Director Comey.

From Politico about Comey's concern with Rosenstein:

Lawfare blog editor-in-chief Ben Wittes wrote that he'd had a series of conversations with Comey in recent months, sometimes discussing the FBI director's concerns that Trump was ignoring longstanding procedures limiting contacts between the White House and FBI about ongoing investigations.

In a blog post Thursday night, Wittes said that at a March 27 lunch meeting Comey expressed concerns about Rosenstein, who served as U.S. attorney for Maryland under both the George W. Bush and Obama administration and was then awaiting confirmation as deputy attorney general.

"His reservations were palpable. 'Rod is a survivor,' he said. And you don’t get to survive that long across administrations without making compromises. 'So I have concerns,'" Wittes wrote, describing his conversation with Comey.

From The New York Times about the FBI clearing Trump:

President Trump called the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, weeks after he took office and asked him when federal authorities were going to put out word that Mr. Trump was not personally under investigation, according to two people briefed on the call.

Mr. Comey told the president that if he wanted to know details about the bureau’s investigations, he should not contact him directly but instead follow the proper procedures and have the White House counsel send any inquiries to the Justice Department, according to those people.

Joe Lieberman is a top contender for FBI director

Why? Why?

Former Sen. Joe Lieberman is one of President Donald Trump's top picks to be nominated as FBI director, Trump said Thursday.

Speaking to reporters while meeting with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, Trump said he is "very close" to choosing a new FBI director to replace James Comey. And asked if Lieberman, the Democrat-turned-independent senator from Connecticut was a top candidate, Trump said yes.

Trump met with Lieberman Wednesday and found him "agreeable," a source said.

Democrats poll testing impeachment

This isn't going to go away.

Democratic strategists are racing to figure out whether it’s politically wise to call for President Donald Trump’s impeachment, as one bombshell revelation after another about his ties to Russia is forcing candidates for the Senate and House of Representatives to consider the question far sooner than anyone had expected.

In a significant development, party operatives say they expect Democrats to poll-test the public’s views on impeachment, trying to acquire hard data about an issue that until now has not been seriously analyzed. Other strategists say that candidates and party organizations will begin conducting focus groups on the question.

"One bombshell revelation after another."

The article contains unsourced comments from "Democrat operatives."

Not everyone is (publicly) sold on impeachment. DNC chair Tom Perez said:

“This is why we need a special prosecutor. The evidence is mounting by the day. But as long as Republicans continue putting party over country, justice will never be served. Make no mistake: Their complacency is complicity, and history will remember them as cowards.”

At least one person in the party seems to get it:

“Voting for a check on Trump is one thing,” said one national Democratic strategist, granted anonymity to speak candidly about party strategy.“But if a vote for a check on the president . . . becomes a de facto vote for an impeachment trial, the task in front of us will only get more difficult.”

That's right, bozos.

Final Morsels

"Who's the Boss" reboot?

Basquiat painting sells for $111M

Chaffetz retiring after next month

Judge allows transgender person to sue under disability law

Mother grabs guns, frightens intruder out of her home

California man accused of stealing $1M worth of bees

Have a great weekend and catch you back here on Monday.

When Vox is an island of sanity in a sea of stupidity and misinformation:

President Donald Trump is about to resign as a result of the Russia scandal. Bernie Sanders and Sean Hannity are Russian agents. The Russians have paid off House Oversight Chair Jason Chaffetz to the tune of $10 million, using Trump as a go-between. Paul Ryan is a traitorfor refusing to investigate Trump’s Russia ties. Libertarian heroine Ayn Rand was a secret Russian agent charged with discrediting the American conservative movement.

These are all claims you can find made on a new and growing sector of the internet that functions as a fake news bubble for liberals, something I’ve dubbed the Russiasphere. The mirror image of Breitbart and InfoWars on the right, it focuses nearly exclusively on real and imagined connections between Trump and Russia. The tone is breathless: full of unnamed intelligence sources, certainty that Trump will soon be imprisoned, and fever dream factual assertions that no reputable media outlet has managed to confirm.

Twitter is the Russiasphere’s native habitat. Louise Mensch, a former right-wing British parliamentarian and romance novelist, spreads the newest, punchiest, and often most unfounded Russia gossip to her 283,000 followers on Twitter. Mensch is backed up by a handful of allies, including former NSA spook John Schindler (226,000 followers) and DC-area photographer Claude Taylor (159,000 followers).

These three — Mensch, Schindler, and Taylor — form a kind of self-reinforcing information circle, retweeting and validating one another’s work on a nearly daily basis. A quick Twitter search reveals hundreds of interactions between the three on the platform in recent months, many of which reach huge audiences on Twitter (judging by the retweet and favorite counts). They’re also reliably boosted by a few allies with large followings — conservative NeverTrumper Rick Wilson, the anonymous Twitter account Counterchekist, and financial analyst Eric Garland (best known as the “time for some game theory” tweetstormer.)

Read the whole thing, especially to get the juicy background on some of the principals.


Mr. Low Energy piles on:

Former GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush suggested Friday that his predictions on the campaign trail that President Trump would bring "chaos" to the White House had been validated. "When I ran for office, I said he is a chaos candidate and would be a chaos president," Bush said at the Skybridge Alternatives (SALT) hedge fund conference in Las Vegas, according to CNN.

"Unfortunately, so far chaos organizes the presidency right now," he added. Bush, a former Florida governor, fought bitterly on the 2016 campaign trail with Trump, labeling the real estate mogul a "chaos candidate" and arguing he would make a "chaos president."

Bush, who was considered in the early days of the GOP race to be a favorite, ended his bid for the Republican nomination after a disappointing finish in the South Carolina primary in February 2016. His comments Friday come in the wake of a series of controversies for Trump over the past 10 days, beginning with his abrupt firing of FBI Director James Comey last week.

With friends like this, Republicans don't need enemies. But with enemies like Jeb, even those skeptical of Donald Trump double down and hope for the best.

RE the "Clockboy" story referenced by Stephen Green, it looks like the Mohamed family's 15 minutes are finally up with a federal judge's dismissal of their lawsuit against the city of Irving, Texas, and the Irving school district.

This wasn't the first time the family had lost in court. In January, a district court judge in Texas dismissed a defamation lawsuit filed by the Mohameds against Fox News, Glenn Beck, the Center for Security Policy, and the mayor of Irving, among others.

In the lawsuit that was dismissed today, the family was demanding $15 million from the city of Irving.

The judge wrote: "Plaintiff does not allege any facts from which this court can reasonably infer that any IISD employee intentionally discriminated against Ahmed Mohamed based on his race or religion."

That's great news, but I have a nit to pick with the Daily Mail.

"On September 14, 2015, 14-year-old Ahmed gained national attention when his high school teacher suspected he brought a bomb to school," the paper reported.

Wrong. The school didn't suspect that the "homemade alarm clock" Ahmed brought to school was an actual bomb. They suspected that it was a hoax bomb -- as did everyone who took an honest look at the thing. That's why "Clockboy" got in trouble.

It was not an innocent mistake -- it was an agenda-driven publicity stunt that was embraced by a lot of influential liberals -- including the president of the United States. Then-President Obama inserted himself into the controversy, calling the hoax bomb a "cool clock" on Twitter and inviting him to the White House. Rich liberals leapt onboard, showering the boy with gifts, and he went on a world tour culminating with a visit with Sudanese president and war criminal Omar al-Bashir. The judge's dismissal of the entire case will hopefully be the last thing we hear about this ridiculous family for at least a little while.

How dumb are journalists? According to this study, this dumb:

Journalists' brains show a lower-than-average level of executive functioning, according to a new study, which means they have a below-average ability to regulate their emotions, suppress biases, solve complex problems, switch between tasks, and show creative and flexible thinking.

The study, led by Tara Swart, a neuroscientist and leadership coach, analysed 40 journalists from newspapers, magazines, broadcast, and online platforms over seven months. The participants took part in tests related to their lifestyle, health, and behaviour. It was launched in association with the London Press Club, and the objective was to determine how journalists can thrive under stress.

Each subject completed a blood test, wore a heart-rate monitor for three days, kept a food and drink diary for a week, and completed a brain profile questionnaire.

The results showed that journalists' brains were operating at a lower level than the average population, particularly because of dehydration and the tendency of journalists to self-medicate with alcohol, caffeine, and high-sugar foods.

Remember this the next time you're reading one of the late-night, caffeine-and-sugar-fueled fantasies by one of these poor creatures: always on the outside looking in, but oh-so-angry they're not where the action is.

Coming soon - Trump in Israel. The JPost has a terrific write-up of plans for Trump's arrival in Israel that looked at only slightly from afar reads like the treatment for a great film comedy. The Israelis seem to be laying out the red carpet in spades (how's that for two cliches and a mixed metaphor at once?). Donald will be staying, of course, at the King David (yes, I've stayed there, lucky me) with its fantastic view of the Old  City. Trump, not surprisingly, is taking over the entire place. The Israelis at first thought they would have to prepare food for our president, but apparently he is bringing it all on Air Force One. But fear not, it will be kosher, because of Jared and Ivanka. Trump will be making the first visit to the kotel (aka the Western Wall) by a sitting president. Some people are wondering if Netanyahu will accompany him, making some kind of political statement out of that. Seems overblown to me. As is the question of when the US Embassy moves to Jerusalem, evidently an extremely expensive endeavor. We would want our best facilities there for obvious reasons. What's on everybody's mind now, as it should  be, is Iran. America is switching sides to the Sunnis from the Shiites. Israelis couldn't be happier. Bye-bye, Barack. (Not Ehud Barak)


How bad are things likely to get in Venezuela? The Venezuelan military is beginning to recruit snipers to fire into crowds and break up demonstrations.

The tactic didn't work for Qadaffi and it's not likely to work for President Maduro.

“Begin to make preparations with those individuals that can serve as snipers, beginning with psychological and aptitude tests” to make sure the unit commanders are in control of them, Torrealba instructed the military gathering. Torrealba is head of the Lara-state based Integral Defense Operational Zone (ZODI), one of several regional military operational zones.

The generals at the meeting included representatives of the army, air force and national guard, according to the Washington source.

“There will come a time when we will have to employ them [the snipers] and I want us to be ready for the moment that we have to employ them because the president will not remain at a green [preparation] phase, gentlemen,” Torrealba said, a likely reference to Maduro’s activation of the Zamora Plan, a war plan to be activated in the midst of imminent foreign invasion. “He [Maduro] has already signed a range of operations and as I said here [previously] … we could be at the beginning of a subversive urban war.”

The recording of Torrealba’s voice matches the one appearing in videos of his public speeches available on YouTube. His voice also was identified by the Washington source that supplied the tape to el Nuevo Herald.

So much for a military coup against the government in Venezuela. Not when the generals are willing to wade through rivers of blood to keep Maduro in power.

This is the most human reaction I've ever seen from Hillary Clinton, as she tries to dodge a hug from her Trump stand-in during a practice debate.

Huma Abedin wrote down the names of all those who laughed, who later received the customary 30 lashes.

Move over "Lyin' Ted," "Little Marco," and "Crooked Hillary" and make room for "Nutjob Comey."

Dilbert creator Scott Adams can't stop laughing at the former FBI director's new "forever nickname."

He says all that most people will remember in a month from this latest White House leak is Comey's new nickname -- nutjob.

Today, class, a "compare and contrast" exercise: