‘S.N.L’: Robert De Niro Plays Robert Mueller, and Haunts Eric Trump

Robert De Niro, left, reprised his role as the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, on “Saturday Night Live,” haunting the bedside of Eric Trump (played by Alex Moffat)Credit NBC

If a stack of documents released on Friday by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, and by federal prosecutors in New York were too much to keep up with, why not conclude your week with a bedtime story in the company of Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr.?

“Saturday Night Live” opened this week’s broadcast in the Trump Tower bedroom of Eric (played by Alex Moffat), as he timidly told his older brother, Donald Jr. (Mikey Day), that he feared something sinister was in his closet.

Day told him: “Eric, there’s no boogeyman in your closet. Have you been watching the news again? You can’t watch that stuff, bud. It’s too grown-up.”

California: State of Change ~ NYT

Screen Shot 2018-11-28 at 1.21.29 PM.png

Photos by Bob Martin for The New York Times; Animation by Grant Gold/The New York Times.

This portfolio is the first publication from Past Tense, an archival storytelling project of The New York Times. As we digitize some six million photo prints in our files, dating back more than 100 years, we are using those images to bring the events and characters of the past to life in the present. To enhance these photographs’ value as artifacts and research tools, we are presenting these images with some of the “metadata” from the reverse side of each print.

In California, there were deserts and mountains, vast farmlands and a thousand miles of publicly owned beach. There were people from everywhere and opportunity that only a country like America could offer the working man or woman, and their children, too. From San Francisco to San Diego, from Hollywood to the world, California offered succor, health and, oddly, anonymity. If you didn’t like the view, you moved. If the boss gave you grief, you dropped him.

The sun shone mercilessly, but no one asked for mercy.

Everybody was rich because anything was possible.

Men outside the International Hotel in San Francisco’s Manilatown in 1970. Nikki Arai for The New York Times

Architect Richard Neutra’s Kaufmann House, in Palm Springs, Calif., in 1947. Julius Shulman/J. Paul Getty Trust

John F. Kennedy surrounded by fans on the beach in Santa Monica, Calif., in 1962. Bill Beebe/Los Angeles Times

When World War II was over, people asked my father’s African-American relatives where they could go after seeing Paris. “Where?” they replied. “I’m goin’ to California where it’s mild enough that you can sleep on the ground outside, wake up in the morning and eat fruit right off the tree.”

Jim Crow had seen his day. It was time to move on and move up; to immigrate within your own country. Southern California was growing by leaps and bounds, and any able-bodied woman or man was welcome to work a job, or two or three. You could buy property, send your kids to school and go out for a drive to nowhere at all, do anything — as long as you stayed within certain parameters, like Watts or the Barrio.

Seasonal farmworkers, part of the “bracero” program, taking a break to eat in 1963. United Press International

Traffic streaming across the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge on opening day, in 1936. The New York Times

Children attending Japanese school in Los Angeles in 1935. The New York Times

“Elkie,” my Jewish cousin Lily said to my mother, Ella Slatkin, on the telephone in 1945, “in California, it’s never cold and the beaches go on forever. Come out to visit me and I bet you never go back to the Bronx.”

My mother came bleary-eyed and tired to the breakfast table that first morning. Lily asked if it was the time change from New York that made her so tired.

“No, Lily,” my mother moaned. “It’s all that racket.”

Join us for a reception and conversation between celebrated author Walter Moseley and Hrishikesh Hirway, co-host and co-founder of the West Wing Weekly podcast. They will be discussing The New York Times’s new section Past Tense, and its first issue, California: A State of Change. Go behind the scenes with Times journalists, grab a drink and mingle with our guests and fellow subscribers.

Louis Armstrong’s Life in Letters, Music and Art


18louis-armstrong-lead-threeByTwoLargeAt2X.jpgLouis Armstrong in his den in 1958. In the background: a rug in the guest bathroom at the Louis Armstrong House Museum in Queens. Credit Charles Graham, via Louis Armstrong Archive; Nathan Bajar for The New York Times



Behind his blistering trumpet solos, revolutionary vocal improvising and exuberant stage persona, how did Louis Armstrong see himself? What was it like to be the first pop virtuoso of the recorded era — the man whose earliest releases set the tune for America’s love affair with modern black music, and who went on to become one of history’s most famous entertainers?

Those questions aren’t rhetorical. There’s actually a deep well of resources on hand to help answer them. For his entire adult life, away from the spotlight, Armstrong amassed a huge trove of personal writings, recordings and artifacts. But until this month, you would have had to travel far into central Queens to find them. Now anyone can access them. Thanks to a $3 million grant from the Fund II Foundation — run by Robert F. Smith, the wealthiest African-American — the Louis Armstrong House Museum has digitized the entire collection he left behind and made it available to the public.

Armstrong wrote hundreds of pages of memoir, commentary and jokes throughout his life, and sent thousands of letters. He made collages and scrapbooks by the score. Over the final two decades of his life, he recorded himself to reel-to-reel tapes constantly, capturing everything from casual conversations to the modern music he was listening to.

One of Armstrong’s trumpetsCredit Nathan Bajar for The New York Times

All told, Armstrong’s is not just one of the most well documented private lives of any American artist. It’s one of the most creatively documented lives, too.

“Posterity drove him to write manuscripts and make tapes and catalog everything,” said Ricky Riccardi, the director of research collections at the Louis Armstrong House Museum and a noted Armstrong scholar. “He was just completely aware of his importance and wanting to be in control of his own story.”

And it wasn’t just posterity. The same things that drove him as a performer — faith in unfettered communication, an irreverent approach to the strictures of language, the desire to wrap all of American culture in his embrace — course through his writings, collages and home recordings.

Armstrong’s home office features a portrait of the trumpeter painted by Tony Bennett. Credit Nathan Bajar for The New York Times
The Armstrongs in their denCredit via Louis Armstrong Archive

Armstrong had been largely responsible for shaping jazz into the worldly, youth-driven music it became in the 1930s. He emerged as a symbol of racial pride, crossing Tin Pan Alley gentility with street patois, and sometimes singing directly about black frustrations. But as his career went on, his grinning stage persona — an expansion on the minstrel shows and New Orleans cabarets of his youth — fell out of step with most African-American listeners’ tastes. (“I loved the way Louis played trumpet, man, but I hated the way he had to grin in order to get over with some tired white folks,” Miles Davis wrote in his autobiography.)

With jazz’s identity solidifying as an art music in the 1950s, Armstrong became especially unfashionable to the critical establishment. The autumnal hits he scored in the mid-1960s, “Hello, Dolly!” and “What a Wonderful World,” seemed only to confirm the media consensus that the times had passed him by.

But these archives contain the tools for a better understanding of Armstrong: as idiosyncratic an artist as any, one whose creative instincts only grew deeper and broader over time.

Now it’s their turn: Blue-state Republicans on the hot seat

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) speaks on Wednesday during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)
Opinion writer

November 9 at 12:30 PM

For two years, Senate Democrats from red states lived in fear for their political lives. Vote against repeal of the Affordable Care Act, and you’ll lose your seat! Vote against Neil Gorsuch or Brett Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court, and you’ll lose your seat! Vote for gun bills or against tax cuts, and you’ll lose your seat! (Logically, this argument should have stop working once they voted the “wrong” way once or twice.) Well, some red-state Democrats certainly did lose.

But now the map turns. Senate Republicans from blue and purple states are up for reelection in 2020. Sens. Cory Gardner of Colorado and Susan Collins of Maine will face voters. So will Thom Tillis from North Carolina, where a Democratic governor will have a more Democratic state legislature. (“Democrats needed to flip four seats in the state House and six in the state Senate to break the Republican supermajority, which allows to the GOP to override vetoes issued by Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper. Democrats broke through by flipping seats around Raleigh, Charlotte and Greensboro. Wake County Republicans Nelson Dollar, Chris Malone, John Adcock and Tamara Barringer all lost.”)

Moreover, the few Republican House survivors in competitive seats in California, Pennsylvania, Florida and elsewhere will need to make the case to their constituents once more that they are not like those “other” Republicans.

All of that means that Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), most likely the next speaker of the House, should be able to force a series of votes in the House that put vulnerable Republicans in both the House and Senate in a bind.

Vote to shore up Obamacare? Well, even red-state voters like that now so, sure, pass something in the House and make Gardner, Tillis and others squirm. Pelosi also vows to pass “bipartisan, commonsense solutions to prevent gun violence.” It’s not clear what that might entail, but Gardner, Collins, Tillis and the few surviving suburban House Republicans (especially those in Florida) are going to have a hard time explaining why they didn’t vote for popular measures such as universal background checks.

In the same vein, Pelosi has a chance to put on the floor a compromise bill on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) that outgoing Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) would not — for fear that it would pass! Send that over to the Senate and see whether vulnerable Republican senators as well as colleagues from border states and/or from states with a sizable Hispanic population (e.g. John Cornyn of Texas, Jon Kyl of Arizona, Marco Rubio of Florida) have the nerve to vote against popular measures.

An infrastructure bill that House Republicans never managed to pass might come up again — with President Trump cheerleading for a bill he has wanted to pass since he took office. The very same Republicans who ran up the debt will scream about the expense — but might not have the nerve to vote against it when Gardner, Collins, Tillis and others start sweating.

If Pelosi and Democrats are very clever, they will even pass a tax bill that reallocates tax breaks from the super-rich or corporations to the middle class and that gives blue states back their uncapped state and local tax (SALT) deductions.

In some cases, Pelosi might be able to push legislation through that delights Democrats; in other cases, she will be helping sow dissension between Trump and Republican lawmakers — and between Republicans and their constituents. Having the House majority, you see, not only means that your party has control of the committees and subpoena power; it also means one controls the agenda. With Republicans in political retreat and crosswise with voters on key policy issues, that’s a really big deal for Pelosi and her members.

Mueller Has a Way Around Trump and His Minions ~ NYT

A roadmap from the Watergate prosecution shows a potential route for the special counsel to send incriminating evidence directly to Congress.

By Richard Ben-Veniste and George Frampton

Mr. Ben-Veniste and Mr. Frampton worked on the Watergate cover-up task force of the special prosecutor’s office.

The Watergate special prosecutor, Leon Jaworski, outside the Supreme Court during the Watergate hearings in 1973Credit Wally McNamee/Corbis, via Getty Images

In a stunning move on the heels of the midterm election, President Trump has forced the resignation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and appointed an outspoken critic of the Mueller investigation — Matthew Whitaker — as acting attorney general, shunting Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to the sidelines. This raises the specter of a fearful president attempting to muzzle Special Counsel Robert Mueller or hinder him from revealing whether his 18-month-long grand jury investigation has turned up evidence of criminality implicating Donald Trump or his immediate family.

But a 44-year-old “road map” from the Watergate prosecution shows a potential route for Mr. Mueller to send incriminating evidence directly to Congress. The road map was devised in 1974 by the Watergate special prosecutor, Leon Jaworski, with our assistance. We wrote the road map — actually a report — to be conveyed to Congress; it was called “Report and Recommendation” and served as a guide to a collection of grand jury evidence contained in a single document. That evidence included still-secret presidential tape recordings that had been acquired through grand jury subpoena — but which had been withheld from Congress by President Nixon.

The recent decision by Washington’s Federal District Court chief judge, Beryl Howell, to release the document from the National Archives provides a historic legal precedent that could be a vehicle for Mr. Mueller and the grand jury assisting him to share the fruits of their investigation into possible criminal conduct within the Trump presidential campaign and subsequent administration.

In all the discussion about Mr. Mueller’s options when he concludes his investigation, little attention has been paid to the potential role of the grand jury. Chief Judge Howell’s decision unsealing the Watergate road map brings new focus on the role the grand jury might play in the dynamics of the endgame. Although the grand jury is a powerful tool for federal prosecutors, it has historic and independent power and operates under the supervision of the federal judiciary. Following the Oct. 20, 1973, “Saturday Night Massacre” — in which President Nixon forced the Justice Department to fire the original special prosecutor, Archibald Cox — the Watergate grand jury played a critical role in forcing the president to back down, hand over the subpoenaed tapes and appoint a new special prosecutor.


In the face of Congress’s inability to obtain evidence that the grand jury well knew incriminated the president, we prepared the grand jury report to Judge Sirica and requested that he use his plenary authority to transmit that evidence to the House Judiciary Committee, which had already commenced a proceeding to consider Mr. Nixon’s impeachment. It was carefully written to avoid any interpretations or conclusions about what the evidence showed or what action the committee should take. The report contained a series of spare factual statements annotated with citations to relevant transcripts of tapes and grand jury testimony. Copies of those tapes and transcripts were included as attachments.

Judge Sirica was convinced that the materials contained in the report should be made available to the House Judiciary Committee. His decision was affirmed by the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. This evidence formed the gravamen of Article I (obstruction of justice) of the impeachment resolution adopted by the Committee.

Much note has been made of the fact that the Justice Department regulations under which Mr. Mueller was appointed actually require him to submit a report to the attorney general. Importantly, nothing in the department regulations prohibits Mr. Mueller’s Department of Justice superior, now Mr. Whitaker, from refusing to release the report.

Robert Mueller.CreditAlex Wong/Getty Images

What if Mr. Mueller concludes that the president has committed a crime? The question of whether a sitting president can be indicted remains a subject of vehement debate among scholars. But assuming that Mr. Mueller follows what many regard as “current Justice Department policy” based on several past internal legal opinions that an indictment is inappropriate, then the appropriate place for consideration of evidence that the president has committed crimes rests definitively and exclusively with Congress.


With the fox now guarding the henhouse, there is sufficient precedent for the grand jury and Special Counsel Mueller to seek the chief judge’s assistance in transmitting a properly fashioned report to Congress.

An Existential Day for Democrats ~ The Atlantic

“There are more of us,” said Democratic Congressman Mark Pocan of Wisconsin. “We are America, and they are not.”Tuesday’s midterm elections will show whether he’s right.

For two years, Democrats have been chasing explanations for how Donald Trump won—the Russians, that last-minute letter from Jim Comey, Hillary Clinton’s inept campaign, economic pain and backlash across the country that was deeper than any of the political pros could wrap their heads around. More than any seat in the House or Senate or state legislature, Tuesday is about whether any or all of those explanations make sense, and whether Democrats are deluding themselves.

“If we do not win, with Trump and all of his insanity, and all of the horrible hatred and fear he’s sown,” said former Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, “if we don’t win this year, boy, it will be such a psychological blow.

“But,” McAuliffe quickly added, “I’m not worried.”

That’s about as confident as Democrats get, what with control of the House and maybe the Senate, and 20 or so competitive races for governor, on the line—and with pollsters still unable to figure out who counts as a likely voter in ways that could create reliable predictions.


Voter turnout seems to be surging, based on the numbers of the people who turned out early. Voter energy certainly is. Will Ferrell and Oprah Winfrey are knocking on doors. Most editorial boards are backing Democrats. Moderate Republicans and the old-guard GOP intelligentsia have spent the past few months announcing that they feel obligated at this moment to abandon their party.

In a measure of what this year has boiled down to, all the major statewide battlegrounds are in states Trump won in 2016. For the past two weeks, the president himself hasn’t appeared in any state where he didn’t win electoral votes. The midterms were not about expanding his appeal, but about trying to solidify it for a Republican Party remade in his image, and about a Democratic Party aiming to win back areas or expand into new ones made possible by the backlash against him.

Take Pocan’s state. He’s one of the most liberal Democrats in the House, the co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, and he was talking to a cheering crowd last week at a rally on campus at the University of Wisconsin in super-liberal Madison, 1,000 people—mostly college students—who came to the top floor of a cafeteria building at 9:30 on a Tuesday morning.

But it’s also a state that has been the home of the past decade of Republican revolution. Scott Walker was elected governor in 2010 on a promise of radically reshaping state spending and Wisconsin’s approach to unions, then dispatched a 2012 recall vote and a 2014 reelection challenge, to the disbelief of Democrats who still haven’t fully come to grips with how he won in the first place. Walker paved the way for Trump’s shocker win in the state in 2016, with what looked like a new coalition of voters in a new electoral map and a new national Republican reality. Plus, that same night, Senator Ron Johnson, who was dismissed by local and national Democrats as an aberration when he also won in the giant 2010 wave, walked away from his rematch against progressive hero Russ Feingold by four times the margin Trump got over Hillary Clinton.

Is Wisconsin a state that reelects Walker or flips to Democrat Tony Evers’s pitch for calm stability and a return to active government spending? What about in Ohio, or Minnesota or Michigan, the states that Donald Trump had been hoping to reshape American politics around? Or in Arizona, Nevada, and Georgia, the states that Democrats have for years been hoping to lock in as theirs? What about in Texas and Florida, where Beto O’Rourke and Andrew Gillum became the symbols for Democratic hopes nationwide? Can either actually win?

Most Democrats stuck with a tortoise approach to talking up protecting health care and an “America is better than this” argument to run against Trump’s hyperactive nativist hyping of white fright, defended and embraced by Republican candidates across the country.

A 29-year old woman who’s seen as the most likely to take what has been a solidly Republican seat in northwest Iowa, Finkenauer campaigned as a bridge to the future by recapturing the spirit of the past.

“Hope, my friends, is on the line, and on the ballot here in 2018,” she said. “What else is on that ballot? Common sense and decency in public service.”

Trump’s response to that and the rest of the Democratic campaigns has been to dig in on warning of an immigrant invasion, moving farther and farther from describing reality by the day.

“A Democrat victory on Election Day would be a bright, flashing invitation to traffickers, smugglers, drug dealers, and gang members all over the world. Republicans believe our country should be a sanctuary for law-abiding Americans—not criminal aliens,” Trump said last Wednesday in Florida, shortly after tweeting a video of a Spanish-speaking cop-killer immigrant laughing about his crimes.

Trump only got more intense. By Sunday night, he was urging “Bikers for Trump,” the military, and ice to get into an armed showdown with Antifa.

Long gone are the Republican leaders insisting at the beginning of the year that they’d win by running on last year’s tax bill. Trump’s invented promise two weeks ago that there was an additional 10 percent tax cut coming before the election, meanwhile, was forgotten about at the White House almost as soon as the words left his mouth.

A year ago, on a much smaller scale, the Republican and the Democrat running for governor of Virginia spent the final days in much the same way. Most predictions were that the race would be tight, and though the Democrat might win, it would be by only a point or two.

In the end, he won by nine.

Democratic wins in 2018 would restock the party’s bench with candidates who’ve become causes and phenomena locally and nationally. They’ve already run the most diverse collection of candidates ever across the country, while the Republican Party has remained mostly white, and mostly male. The Democrats have run candidates who are far to the left and have attracted major attention because of it. But if the party has big wins—and certainly if it has enough wins to take the majority in the House—it will be because of candidates like Richard Ojeda in West Virginia and Colin Allred in Texas, not because of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the 28-year-old political newcomer who defeated Representative Joseph Crowley in the Bronx. For all the agenda setting she may seem set to do, Ocasio-Cortez will be filling a seat that’s been safely in Democratic hands for decades.

And big wins now could lock in a new political reality for years. Democratic wins, or even major inroads in Georgia, Texas, and Arizona, could spell a reshaping of the electoral map that would make it impossible for a Republican to be elected president, especially if the Democrats get back Wisconsin and the rest of the Midwest. Democrats elected to the statehouses and governorships now will be in charge when the new round of redistricting comes around after the 2020 census. Ballot questions in Michigan, Utah, Colorado, and Missouri could ban gerrymandering as well. And one in Florida that would restore voting rights to up to 1.4 million convicted felons would likely move the state from a Republican-tilting swing state to one that’s reliably blue. Young voters and non-college-educated women turned on to politics and against Trump could be the engine for Democratic wins for a generation.

The results won’t be a crystal ball for the next presidential election, but they will certainly set the tone, at least for the early stages of the primary that will quickly start moving as soon as the sun comes up on Wednesday. Trump’s campaign and the Democratic response to it already have.“What on earth are the closing days of 2020 going to look like?” tweeted David Plouffe, Barack Obama’s old campaign manager and one of the people who had predicted Trump would go down to a historically large loss in 2016, responding to everything that Trump tossed out to rile up his base in the past week. “Will test us in profound ways.”