This is not FAKE NEWS so everyone just shut up:

So, basically, a Trump lawyer says Trump is innocent, "with few exceptions." I will soon be releasing a statement from my lawyer too, confirming that I have not murdered anyone recently, "with few exceptions." I hope this satisfies everyone.

I wonder if Trump has yet figured out that the FBI investigation about Russia ties is targeted at lots of people besides him? Or is that just inconceivable to him?

Today's news from Donald Trump:

  • He's way too active to guarantee that his press briefings will always be accurate.
  • James Comey better shut up because there might be "tapes" of their conversations.1
  • The whole Russia thing is a witch hunt.
  • We can now sell beef to China, and that's what the press should be writing about.

I'm sure there will be an afternoon tweet eruption too, so stay tuned.

1In this case, "tapes" means any recollection whatsoever, the same way "wiretaps" meant any kind of surveillance of anyone whatsoever. This is the power of scare quotes in the Trump administration.

I say this with no snark whatsoever: can someone tell me WTF Donald Trump is talking about here?

You’re going to have absolute guaranteed coverage. You’re going to have it if you’re a person going in...don’t forget, this was not supposed to be the way insurance works. Insurance is, you’re 20 years old, you just graduated from college, and you start paying $15 a month for the rest of your life and by the time you’re 70, and you really need it, you’re still paying the same amount and that’s really insurance.

But I believe it’s very important to have this. Because one thing Obamacare did, is it gave that and it was a concept that people hadn’t heard of. And now I don't want to end it. I don’t want to end it for somebody that...first of all I don’t want to end it for the people that already have it. And I don’t want to end it for somebody that hasn’t been buying insurance for all of his life where he has a guarantee that for all of his life he’s been buying the insurance and he can buy it inexpensively when he turns 65 or 70 years old. So we put in a tremendous amount and we’re...you know, for the pre-existing conditions. We are going to have a great pool for pre-existing conditions.

What exactly is it that's "really insurance"? What is "very important to have"? What is the "concept that people hadn’t heard of"? What is it that Trump doesn't "want to end"? Why does Trump think people need the ability to "buy it inexpensively" after they turn 65?

The only thing I can think of is that Trump is talking about life insurance, not health insurance. That doesn't fit entirely, but it fits enough that the rest of it could be chalked up to Trump's usual simplemindedness along with his 50s-era understanding of pretty much everything. Any other ideas?

On January 26, deputy AG Sally Yates informed the White House that Mike Flynn had been compromised by the Russians. The next day, according to the New York Times, Donald Trump invited FBI director James Comey over for dinner:

As they ate, the president and Mr. Comey made small talk about the election and the crowd sizes at Mr. Trump’s rallies. The president then turned the conversation to whether Mr. Comey would pledge his loyalty to him.

Mr. Comey declined to make that pledge. Instead, Mr. Comey has recounted to others, he told Mr. Trump that he would always be honest with him, but that he was not “reliable” in the conventional political sense.

....By Mr. Comey’s account, his answer to Mr. Trump’s initial question apparently did not satisfy the president, the associates said. Later in the dinner, Mr. Trump again said to Mr. Comey that he needed his loyalty.

Mr. Comey again replied that he would give him “honesty” and did not pledge his loyalty, according to the account of the conversation.

But Mr. Trump pressed him on whether it would be “honest loyalty.”

“You will have that,” Mr. Comey told his associates he responded.

The White House denies everything about this, of course, though I imagine they'll scramble to reverse course when Trump fires off a 3 am tweet saying that he fired Comey because he was a double-crossing backstabber or something. After all, that's what Trump did today in his interview with NBC's Lester Holt, describing how he decided to fire Comey:

He's a showboat, he's a grandstander....Regardless of recommendation, I was going to fire Comey....And in fact when I decided to just do it I said to myself, I said, "You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story, it's an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should've won."

So there's the president himself, on national TV, telling everyone that the Russia investigation was at the top of his mind when he decided to fire Comey. He was angry that Comey had kept the Russia investigation alive even though it was obviously just a bogus partisan smear, so out he went.

I don't know about you, but if I did something like that I'd keep it to myself.

Lunchtime Photo

These two lovebirds are our favorite ducks. They are inseparable. Literally so: I don't think I've ever seen them more than a few yards apart for more than a few seconds. They are totally dedicated to each other. Mating for life has definitely worked out well for them.

Donald Trump has now admitted on national TV that he directly asked James Comey three times if he was under investigation. I will allow my attorney pal bmaz to comment:

I failed to take bmaz seriously enough when he told me that James Comey's July 5 press conference about the Hillary Clinton investigation was way out of bounds, and it's time to make up for that. The president of the United States cannot call the director of the FBI and ask if he is under investigation, especially when the threat of firing the FBI director is obviously hanging in the air. This is indeed fucking bananas.

Believe it or not, this headline isn't clickbait. Sarah Kliff reports that Nevada has figured it out:

Nevada made one policy decision that made selling marketplace coverage way more financially appealing (kudos to Louise Norris at HealthInsurance.org for reporting this first): It gave insurers that wanted to manage the state's Medicaid program an incentive to sell on the marketplaces too.

....Medicaid is a way bigger program than the Obamacare marketplaces....Nevada knew these were contracts insurers would want. So it told the health plans that Medicaid applications would get preferential treatment if the insurance plan committed to selling marketplace coverage in 2018.

And that is exactly what the Medicaid health plans did. Two insurance plans, Silver Summit and Aetna, bid for and won new Medicaid contracts. As a result, both are expected to join the marketplace next year.

This is, admittedly, not a long-term solution. Eventually the Obamacare exchanges will have to become profitable on their own. But as a short-term way of riding out the next couple of years while Trump and Congress do their best to screw everything up, it should work a treat.

Jonah Goldberg points out the following Trump timeline:

2016: “Well, sometimes you have to prime the pump,” he says. “So sometimes in order to get jobs going and the country going, because, look, we’re at 1% growth.”

Late 2016: "We are also going to lower our business tax rate from 35 percent all the way down to 15 percent. That’s going to be big. Going to prime the pump. Got to prime the pump."

Today: "We have to prime the pump....Have you heard that expression used before? Because I haven’t heard it. I mean, I just...I came up with it a couple of days ago."

This is not good. "What is the right way to interpret Trump’s statement that he coined the phrase 'prime the pump' a few days ago?" asks Goldberg. Unfortunately, I think we all know the answer: Trump is 70 years old and his cognitive skills are deserting him. The evidence for this is becoming scarily abundant.

Behold our commander-in-chief making the tough decisions on weapons procurement for our newest trio of aircraft carriers:

You know the catapult is quite important. So I said what is this? Sir, this is our digital catapult system. He said well, we’re going to this because we wanted to keep up with modern [technology]. I said you don’t use steam anymore for catapult? No sir. I said, "Ah, how is it working?" "Sir, not good. Not good. Doesn’t have the power." You know the steam is just brutal. You see that sucker going and steam’s going all over the place, there’s planes thrown in the air.

It sounded bad to me. Digital. They have digital. What is digital? And it’s very complicated, you have to be Albert Einstein to figure it out. And I said—and now they want to buy more aircraft carriers. I said what system are you going to be—"Sir, we’re staying with digital." I said no you’re not. You going to goddamned steam, the digital costs hundreds of millions of dollars more money and it’s no good.

The Ford-class carriers use an electromagnetic catapult that goes with an entirely new shipwide electrical system: "Together, AAG and EMALS will not only reduce maintenance costs, Moore said, they’ll improve operations, allowing 30 percent more sorties per day — making a Ford the operational equal of 1.3 Nimitzes."

Needless to say, it's too late to switch back to steam since the Ford is basically finished and will begin acceptance trials shortly. This means that somebody in the Pentagon has to figure out how to quietly ignore the president's ramblings. Maybe someone should tell Trump the Chinese plan to use EMALS in their future carriers. We can't let ourselves fall behind the Chinese, can we, Mr. President? No, of course not. Now how about a nice nap? That's good. You just rest, Mr. President, while we take care of things for you.

Your Evening Zen

We've gone through a lot today, and you deserve a break. So here it is: the Huntington Beach pier at sunset on Wednesday. Just stare at it and relax for a while. Tomorrow will erupt soon enough.