By Robert A. Vella
Barr under fire
WASHINGTON — Some of Robert S. Mueller III’s investigators have told associates that Attorney General William P. Barr failed to adequately portray the findings of their inquiry and that they were more troubling for President Trump than Mr. Barr indicated, according to government officials and others familiar with their simmering frustrations.
At stake in the dispute — the first evidence of tension between Mr. Barr and the special counsel’s office — is who shapes the public’s initial understanding of one of the most consequential government investigations in American history. Some members of Mr. Mueller’s team are concerned that, because Mr. Barr created the first narrative of the special counsel’s findings, Americans’ views will have hardened before the investigation’s conclusions become public.
Mr. Barr, who took office in February, has shown flashes of frustration over how the unveiling of the investigation’s findings has unfolded. In his follow-up letter to lawmakers on Friday, he chafed at how the news media and some lawmakers had characterized his March 24 letter.
WASHINGTON – Federal authorities are reviewing whether President Donald Trump’s private Mar-a-Lago resort could be vulnerable to foreign spying, a person familiar with the matter said Wednesday.
Disclosure of that inquiry follows the arrest on Saturday of a Chinese national, who arrived at the Palm Beach, Florida, retreat the president has referred to as his Winter White House with two passports, four cellphones and a thumb drive that investigators said was infected with malware.
The criminal investigation involving the woman, Yujing Zhang, was continuing Wednesday. Federal authorities led by the FBI also launched an examination of potential intelligence vulnerabilities at Mar-a-Lago out of “an abundance of caution,” as it was unclear what threat, if any, Zhang represented, said the person familiar with the probe, who was not authorized to comment publicly.
The FBI declined to comment.
The senior White House official whose security clearance was denied last year because of concerns about foreign influence, private business interests and personal conduct is presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner, according to people familiar with documents and testimony provided to the House Oversight Committee.
Kushner was identified only as “Senior White House Official 1” in committee documents released this week describing the testimony of Tricia Newbold, a whistleblower in the White House’s personnel security office who said she and another career employee determined that Kushner had too many “significant disqualifying factors” to receive a clearance.
Their decision was overruled by Carl Kline, the political appointee who then headed the office, according to Newbold’s interview with committee staff.
Senate Republicans used the “nuclear option” Wednesday to unilaterally reduce debate time on most presidential nominees, the latest in a series of changes to the fabric of the Senate to dilute the power of the minority.
The move by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) immediately paves the way for quicker confirmation of President Donald Trump’s judicial and executive branch picks and comes amid deep GOP frustration with Democratic delays. Future presidents will benefit too, though McConnell and Trump stand to gain inordinately as they seek to fill 130 District Court vacancies over the next 18 months before the 2020 election.
Five states, plus the District of Columbia, filed a complaint in federal court on Wednesday against the Department of Agriculture and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. The lawsuit argues that the changes to the 2012 school breakfast and lunch standards were rolled back without a required public comment period and that they go against nutrition requirements put in place by Congress.
Scramble across exposed rocks in the middle of Antarctica and it’s possible to find the mummified twigs of shrubs that grew on the continent some five million years ago.
This plant material isn’t much to look at, but scientists say it should serve as a warning to the world about where climate change could take us if carbon emissions go unchecked.
The time period is an epoch geologists call the Pliocene, 2.6-5.3 million years ago.
It was marked by temperatures that were significantly warmer than today, perhaps by 2-3 degrees globally.
Higher, too, were sea-levels. It’s uncertain by how much, but possibly in the region of 10-20m above the modern ocean surface.
What’s really significant, though, is that the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was very similar to what it is today – at around 400 CO2 molecules for every million molecules of air.
Count Chuck Grassley as among those displeased by President Donald Trump’s attacks on wind energy.
The longtime Iowa GOP senator told Iowa reporters on Wednesday afternoon that Trump’s comments implying turbines cause cancer was “idiotic.” Then he explained to Capitol Hill reporters that the president needs to stop railing against wind power.
When Saudi Aramco on Monday published its first ever profit figures since its nationalization nearly 40 years ago, it also lifted the veil of secrecy around its mega oil fields. The company’s bond prospectus revealed that Ghawar is able to pump a maximum of 3.8 million barrels a day — well below the more than 5 million that had become conventional wisdom in the market.
The Energy Information Administration, a U.S. government body that provides statistical information and often is used as a benchmark by the oil market, listed Ghawar’s production capacity at 5.8 million barrels a day in 2017. Aramco, in a presentation in Washington in 2004 when it tried to debunk the “peak oil” supply theories of the late U.S. oil banker Matt Simmons, also said the field was pumping more than 5 million barrels a day, and had been doing so since at least the previous decade.
In his book “Twilight in the Desert,” Simmons argued that Saudi Arabia would struggle to boost production due to the imminent depletion of Ghawar, among other factors. “Field-by-field production reports disappeared behind a wall of secrecy over two decades ago,” he wrote in his book in reference to Aramco’s nationalization.
The new details about Ghawar prove one of Simmons’s points but he missed other changes in technology that allowed Saudi Arabia — and, more importantly, U.S. shale producers — to boost output significantly, with global oil production yet to peak.