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In thirteen months, the Trump campaign has learned nothing about damage control.

Since Trump rode down the escalator last June, his campaign hasn’t ended a single scandal in a timely fashion: Megyn Kelly, Judge Curiel, Corey Lewandowski, all went on for days and days. Trump’s damage control operation was so bad that many assumed it to be intentional—that he was fanning the flames to distract from other worse scandals, or, at the very least, to keep himself at the center of attention. Trump has shown himself to be made of a substance more stick-free than teflon, but in any case, this strategy, if you can call it that, worked in the primaries—or at least it failed to sink his campaign.

After Melania Trump was caught plagiarizing a portion of Michelle Obama’s 2008 DNC speech, the Trump camp is sticking to its only script: deny, blame opponents and the media, and refuse to apologize. Early Tuesday morning de facto campaign manager Paul Mantafort blamed Hillary Clinton: “Once again, this is an example of when a woman threatens Hillary Clinton, she seeks to demean her and take her down.” Manafort also told CNN’s Phil Mattingly “These are common words,” which, sure, but when it comes to plagiarism it’s the order that counts. Chris Christie took a break from the unbearable sadness of being Chris Christie to go on the Today Show and downplay the plagiarism while basically also copping to it: “93 percent of the speech is completely different from Michelle Obama’s speech,” he said, seemingly admitting that seven percent was plagiarized. “They expressed some common thoughts.”

This is, in some ways, classic spin: The job of a flak in instances like these is to provide counternarratives. But the problem is that this is a cut-and-dry case: Anyone who watches the side-by-side video knows that Melania Trump and/or her speechwriter(s) lifted a portion of Michelle Obama’s 2008 DNC speech, period. What the Trump campaign is doing now is inflaming a scandal that could swallow the next three days of the RNC.

March 29, 2017

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Republicans’ sneaky plan to smother future environmental regulations just passed the House.

The Honest and Open New EPA Science Treatment (HONEST) Act, which passed on Wednesday by a 228-194 vote, is a pernicious attempt to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from creating rules to protect the environment and public health.

The bill, introduced by Texas Republican Lamar Smith, requires the EPA to only use scientific studies for which all data is publicly available and the results are easily reproducible. This is much harder to do than it sounds. Many public health studies use private medical data, while others contain trade secrets and industry data. Moreover, public health studies are impossible to reproduce when, say, they’re based on one-time pollution events or on people who have died since the study was conducted.

David Stevenson, a member of Trump’s EPA transition team, told me last week that the HONEST Act would be instrumental in preventing regulations of carbon dioxide and other pollutions. “Almost everything that has been done in the last 10, 11, 12 years would not pass the standards [under the bill],” he said. “The Clean Power Plan, ozone regulations, particulate matter regulations—everything has been built on science that has not been peer-reviewed, that the data’s not visible, or that there’s only been one person doing the study.”

There isn’t yet a version of the HONEST Act in the Senate, and some of its leading opponents believe the Senate wouldn’t have the votes to pass it as a standalone bill. But they worry it could be slipped into a must-pass appropriations bill.


Are House Republicans really gearing up to get clowned on health care again?

Just five days after one of the most embarrassing self-owns in political history, Bloomberg reports that House Republicans are considering holding a vote on repealing Obamacare in only two weeks. Bloomberg says that “members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, who helped derail the bill, have been talking with some Republican moderate holdouts in an effort to identify changes that could bring them on board with the measure.” One member, Oregon Representative Greg Walden, even joked that it was high time for a political resurrection. “We’re approaching the Easter season,” Walden said. “Some things rise from the dead.”

In sacred texts, yes—but the Capitol is about as far from the Holy Land as you can get. While the whispers that health care isn’t quite dead have been growing louder—I wrote about them yesterday—the probability of House Republicans going through with this plan seems to be slim, especially considering that no one has yet to offer any changes to the American Health Care Act, one of the most hated bills ever.

That Republican House members would be risking failure mere weeks after a colossal blow to their credibility makes this even less plausible. The Associated Press reported yesterday that Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans are moving on: “It’s pretty obvious we were not able, in the House, to pass a replacement. Our Democratic friends ought to be pretty happy about that because we have the existing law in place, and I think we’re just going to have to see how that works out,” McConnell said on Tuesday. “We believe it will not work out well, but we’ll see.”

These should not be comforting words to House Republicans who wish to hold a vote. It’s possible that the point is to send a bad bill up to the Senate, where it will die. This would kill two birds—the bill and the ability to claim that the House passed a repeal bill—with one stone.

But that is a 4D chess explanation, which does not fit the blundering political maneuvering that we’ve seen from House Republicans. (If this was the plan, moreover, House Republicans would have passed the AHCA last week.) More likely than not, they are using this as an opportunity to quiet raging donors who are furious that they botched health care reform. “If both the Freedom Caucus and the Tuesday Group can agree on some things, then we’re in good shape,” Representative Morgan Griffiths told Bloomberg. That tells you pretty much all you need to know about the status of the bill—it will require hardliners and so-called moderates to come together and, from what we’ve seen over the past month, that’s not going to happen.


Ivanka makes the nepotism official.

This afternoon it was reported in the New York Times that daddy’s dearest daughter will become an official government employee: an unpaid adviser to her father. For all intents and purposes, Ivanka, who has shown up to a lot of meetings with foreign dignitaries, was already doing this job. Only a week ago, she moved into an office in the West Wing, and faced backlash for the questionable ethics of being an unofficial employee. (As Norm Eisen told Politico, “If she can voluntarily subject herself to the rules, she can voluntarily un-subject herself to the rules.”)

Making her role official is an attempt to sidestep this criticism. In a statement, Ivanka said, “I will instead serve as an unpaid employee in the White House office, subject to all of the same rules as other federal employees.” But this is akin to putting a Band-aid on a bullet wound. The Trump family has already ignored a host of ethical guidelines, and the new position doesn’t solve Ivanka’s particular conflict-of-interest problems; while Ivanka put her fashion and jewelry line into a trust, she still owns it.


What will Donald Trump learn about tomorrow?

Trump is really doing well. First he learned about Frederick Douglass, who is being recognized more and more every day. Then he played with a truck and made vroom-vroom sounds. Now he’s learned about Susan B. Anthony:

He is such a good helper! Now these women know all about Susan B. Anthony, who got arrested for trying to vote while female. American women definitely don’t know anything about her.

No word about his behavior at naptime, but if he is very, very good perhaps he will get a gold star. What a big important day for a big important boy! If we turn the Constitution into a chapter book, we may survive this yet.

Lamar Smith (left) with House Speaker Paul Ryan in January. Zach Gibson/ASSOCIATED PRESS

House Republicans held an insane hearing just to attack climate science.

The Trump administration has been nothing if not a master class in gaslighting—the art of manipulating people, often through lies, into questioning their own sanity—and its pupils on Capitol Hill have clearly been taking notes. On Wednesday, the Republicans on the House Science Committee held a three-hour hearing on the merits of climate change science, a cavalcade of falsehoods so relentless and seemingly rational that one might well need psychiatric counseling after having watched it.

There were four witnesses: One scientist from within the scientific mainstream, and three from the climate-denial fringe. This witness makeup, the result of Republicans’ majority power, created an environment where there appeared to be exponentially more doubt about the reality of global warming than actually exists in the scientific community (97 percent of climate scientists say global warming is problematic and caused by humans). The stated intention of the hearing was to bring “integrity” back to the scientific process. “It is important that we have the best available data to make informed decisions,” said Republican Congressman Andy Biggs of Arizona. “It is also important that this data is grounded in sound science that is not biased or part of a larger political agenda.”

That sounds perfectly reasonable, but an “honest discussion” of the data is not what happened. It was not honest, for example, when House Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith angrily said the Heartland Institute—an organization that openly denies climate science—does not deny climate science. It was not honest when Smith criticized Science magazine—one of the country’s most prestigious science publications—as being a non-objective source of information about science. Nor was it honest that the discussion would be apolitical. Judith Curry, a scientist who doubts mankind’s role in climate change, ended her opening statement thus: “Let’s make scientific debate about climate change great again.”

At one point, a Republican on the committee even tried to pin the label of “climate denier” on Michael Mann, a world-renowned climate scientist the Democrats had called to defend mainstream science. Georgia Congressman Barry Loudermilk asked Mann if he though it was possible, even in the slightest, that humans are not the main driver of climate change. Mann said that based on the current data, it’s not possible. Loudermilk concluded: “We could say you’re a denier of natural change.”

For being the only witness who accepted the mainstream position on climate change, Mann sure took a beating. Representative Paul Higgins pressed Mann to prove he wasn’t “affiliated or associated” with the Union of Concerned Scientists or the Climate Accountability Institute, two left-leaning climate science advocacy groups. Mann, clearly confused, said he knew people in the groups but didn’t work for them. Texas Congressman Randy Weber then attacked Mann for not being able to “remember” if he’s affiliated with the groups. “It certainly seems to be a convenient lack of memory,” Weber said.

For all their gaslighting, these Republicans never did conceal the true intention of the hearing: to bully the scientific mainstream. Smith even suggested as much last week at Heartland’s annual conference for climate change deniers, where he was met with cheers when he announced his three chosen witnesses. When he mentioned Mann, the crowd loudly booed, and Smith smiled. “This hearing is going to be so much fun,” he said.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty

The Trump administration is defending its coal policy by saying “there’s no such thing as clean energy.”

On Wednesday, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke officially rescinded an Obama-era policy that banned coal leasing on public lands across the country. The day before, in defending President Donald Trump’s decision to do this, Zinke made an interesting argument: that when it comes to coal’s impact on the environment, renewable energy is basically no better.

Zinke made this claim in a radio interview with Fox News’s Brian Kilmeade. Kilmeade noted that although Trump has promised “really clean coal”—or coal mining that’s better for the environment—there’s the argument that clean coal does not actually exist. Zinke shot back: “You look at, is there such a thing as clean coal? Well, there’s no such thing as clean energy.” Here’s the full exchange:

KILMEADE: Remember Joe Biden said when he was running in ‘08, “There’s no such thing as clean coal.” I understand today you are rescinding a ban on coal leasing on federal lands. Are you hurting the environment to help jobs?

ZINKE: We’re not hurting the environment. You look at, is there such a thing as clean coal? Well, there’s no such thing as clean energy. Even wind comes at a cost, when you wanna talk about migratory birds and cutting through. But coal, can we do it better? Absolutely. It is better to export cleaner coal oversees than have China use low-quality, high-sulfur coal.

Clearly every source of energy has an environmental impact. Wind and solar both require tons of land to operate at large scales, raising concerns about habitat loss and land degradation. Geothermal power plants use a lot of water; and biofuels have a whole host of problems. But it’s sort of a no-brainer that renewable energy sources are much cleaner than coal. Fossil fuels do substantially more harm to air and water—not to mention the climate. According to Scientific American, coal burning is responsible for “more than a third of all energy-related U.S. carbon dioxide emissions and 80 percent of those from electricity production. It is also one of the largest contributors of air pollution, acid rain, and even toxic environmental mercury.”

As for the migratory bird problem, Zinke may want to look at this chart, which shows how many birds are killed per year by different fuel sources.

U.S. News & World Report

Britpop was bad.

Twenty-three years after Blur’s Parklife, Britpop doesn’t need another takedown, or commemoration, or really anything more said about it. Which makes Pitchfork’s list of the 50 Best Britpop Albums an odd document: Why now? Does anyone in the world need to be reminded of the ultimate mediocrity of Oasis, or the fact that Blur’s best work was actually in the 2000s, or the existence of Suede?

The answer may just be existential. Since being bought by Condé Nast, Pitchfork has continued its stylistic evolution. Its reviews have gotten sharper and less irritating and the site has published some truly outstanding features, but it’s also leaned into more questionable, click-driven content like the completely baffling and extraneous “50 Best Indie Albums of the Pacific Northwest” and the culturally damaging “Here Is the Scandalous Father John Misty Interview You’ve Been Waiting For.” This is, of course, what digital publications do.

Pitchfork knows that its lists—many of which are good!—prime the pump. Could they have waited until the 25th anniversary of Parklife? Probably! But that would mean that Britpop’s waning influence would have been waning for two more years.

Anyway, back to Britpop. Part of the weirdness of the list is that 50 whole albums stretches things way too far. Including The Bends as a Britpop album is a pretty great neg of Radiohead, even if it would have been better if The Bends had been beaten out by either of Oasis’s two not-terrible albums. (The fact that Oasis is perhaps the least charismatic band in rock history is not addressed by Pitchfork. Neither is their strange devotion to parkas—they’re weirdly depicted wearing trenchcoats in the Sgt. Pepper-ish art accopmanying the feature.) Morrissey has not one but two albums in the top 50! While “Tomorrow” sounds like Morrissey doing Britpop, it also sounds like Morrissey, who is not Britpop—this is definitely a category error.

The accompanying playlist does a decent job arguing that Britpop was more than a marketing gimmick for Britain’s fading glory, Union Jack-themed merchandise, and the Glastonbury tourism board, but it still struggles to make the case that Britpop was a genre and not an irritating mix of shoegaze flange and power pop songcraft.

The other problem is that most of the music is bad. I was watching the video for Cornershop’s annoying “Brimful of Asha,” only for Deep Blue Something’s “Breakfast at Tiffanys” to autoplay when the song finished—as if YouTube really wanted to make it clear that “Brimful of Asha” was a bad song. Ash sounds like if the Ramones had frontal lobotomies; you can hear Coldplay being born in the Verve’s depthless self-importance; and a surprising number of these bands sound like the Goo Goo Dolls. If Anton Newcombe, the insane frontman of the mediocre Brian Jonestown Massacre, had founded the band in Surrey instead of San Francisco, he would have released a string of #1 records and live in a giant penthouse apartment in Kensington, instead of doing whatever it is he’s doing now.

There are some highlights. Elastica’s first album rules and so does most of Blur (though Blur doesn’t get really good until after Britpop was buried in a shallow grave). Oasis’s popularity makes sense when put in the context of the mediocrity of mid-90s music. And when Pulp, the British LCD Soundsystem, are good, they are really fucking good.

Sleeper also remains underrated. But that doesn’t change the fact that Britpop sucks.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The Trump Organization is planning to expand its hotel empire, which surely is just a coincidence.

The Washington Post reported on Wednesday that President Donald Trump’s company is readying a “nationwide expansion,” including a second hotel in Washington, D.C.:

Representatives of the Trump Organization, now run by the president’s adult sons, have inquired in recent months about converting one of several boutique, medium-sized hotels in upscale neighborhoods in and near downtown and reopening it under the company’s new Scion brand.

Unlike the luxurious Trump International Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue, which Trump and his family own, the more affordable Scion hotels would be owned by other developers who would pay the Trumps’ company for licensing rights and management.

The head of the Trump Organization’s hotel division told the Post that he’s signed “over 30” preliminary agreements for similar licensing deals around the country, suggesting the Trump brand name might not be as commercially toxic as some reports have suggested.

A second D.C. hotel would give Trump even more opportunity to personally profit by doing business in the nation’s capital. The existing Trump International Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue is raising ethics concerns for providing paying guests—including foreign diplomats—with proximity to the president, who makes routine visits. Though Trump turned over management of the Trump Organization to his adult children, he is still the owner, and thus would profit from the planned Scion expansion.

As this latest news proves, Trump’s rapid ascent in politics has been good for business. “Donald Trump Jr. said in an interview recently that he familiarized himself with other markets—and potential partners—while on the campaign trail for his father,” the Post reported. “The sons have said they are minimizing contact with their father except to provide basic updates on the business.”

Those “basic updates,” however, include quarterly financial reports about the company—so President Trump will know exactly how well his self-enrichment scheme is going.


The Mercers will spend millions to try to save Trump’s presidency.

Bloomberg reported this morning that the Mercer family, the cat-loving billionaires who helped get Trump elected to the White House, are reaching into their deep, deep wallets to try to bail Trump out. (If you want to know more about the Mercers, Jane Mayer’s latest is a must-read.) Making America Great, the non-profit run by Rebekah Mercer, the Mercer daughter dubbed “First Lady of the alt-right,” is reportedly spending $1 million in TV ads and $300,000 in digital campaigns to boost Trump. According to Bloomberg, they are focusing their money in D.C., along with “ten states Trump carried in the presidential election where a Democratic senator is up for re-election in 2018.”

The ads run through his purported accomplishments: the new job numbers, reducing EPA regulations, Keystone XL, and withdrawing from TPP. Health care, of course, is not mentioned.

With an impressively low approval rating of 36 percent, the president needs all the help he can get. It only looks like it’s going to get worse for the biggest boy in the land—the hole that the administration has dug with Russia is getting deeper, not helped by Devin Nunes’s latest bungles. And, staring down the barrel of a potential government shutdown next month, Trump might have to stall on plans to build the wall, his other big campaign promise to his voters.

The Mercers have their work cut out for them. But don’t underestimate the power of literal bags of money. After all, last time the Mercers invested in politics, they pulled off the biggest dark money swindle this country has seen and put Trump—along with Mercer buddies Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway—into the Oval Office.

Peter McDiarmid/Getty

It’s amazing that Britain is going to spend the next two years doing this crap.

Theresa May, keeper of one of the best chains in the rap game, formally began Brexit on Wednesday by triggering Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. The divorce proceedings between Great Britain and the EU must now end in two years. “This is an historic moment from which there can be no turning back. Britain is leaving the European Union. We are going to make our own decisions and our own laws,” May said.“We are going to take control of the things that matter most to us. And we are going to take this opportunity to build a stronger, fairer Britain—a country that our children and grandchildren are proud to call home.”

This, of course, conveniently overlooks the fact that young Britons voted overwhelmingly—by a 3-1 margin—to remain in the European Union.

Immediately after the surprise vote to leave the European Union in July, there was some hope that those who wished to remain in the EU would be able to ultimately prevail and stop the divorce. But that never came to pass (to be fair, neither did the recession many predicted).

Nigel Farage, the living embodiment of every imaginable British stereotype (particularly the colonial ones), is happy and that’s never a good thing.

Despite the hopes of May and Farage, leaving the EU will be a costly process, sucking up valuable resources that could be spent in less self-destructive ways. The list of things that must be done is daunting, including fashioning a whole new immigration system and negotiating a new treaty with the EU. It will also be a lengthy one—two years is a long time to continuously punch yourself in the face.

It’s tempting to feel superior in moments like this, but Brexit will theoretically be over on March 29, 2019. We’ll have to wait another 20 months for our version to Brexit to (maybe) end.