Washington Free Beacon

    Nadler: Hush Payments May Be ‘Impeachable Offenses’

    Nadler: Hush Payments May Be ‘Impeachable Offenses’


    Rep. Jerry Nadler (D., N.Y.) said on Sunday that the hush payments from President Donald Trump to women who claimed to have had an affair with him may rise to "impeachable offenses." "If it is proven that the president directed or coordinated with Cohen...

    Rep. Jerry Nadler (D., N.Y.) said on Sunday that the hush payments from President Donald Trump to women who claimed to have had an affair with him may rise to "impeachable offenses."

    "If it is proven that the president directed or coordinated with Cohen to commit these felonies – And I understand it has not yet been. It's been alleged but not yet proven. If it's proven, would they be impeachable offenses?" CNN's "State of the Union" anchor Jake Tapper asked.

    "They would be impeachable offenses," Nadler said. "Whether they are important enough to justify an impeachment is another question, but certainly they're impeachable offenses. Even though they were committed before the president became president, they were committed in the service of fraudulently obtaining the office. That would be an impeachable offense."

    Prosecutors allege the president's former personal lawyer Michael Cohen acted at the direction of Trump, referred to as Individual-1 in a court filing, when he made payments to several women during the campaign.

    "In particular, and as Cohen himself has now admitted, with respect to both payments, he acted in coordination with and at the direction of Individual-1," the court documents read.

    Nadler said the initial charges point toward a "much broader conspiracy against the American people."

    "The fact of the matter is that what we see from these indictments and charging statements is a much broader conspiracy against the American people, involving these payments, involving an attempt to influence the campaign improperly, with improper payments involving the Russians, trying to influence the campaign, involving the president lying for an entire year about his ongoing business dealings with the Russians, involving obstruction of justice," Nadler said. "All of these have to be looked at very seriously by the Congress, by the special counsel and by the Justice Department to see what actions we should then take. And what is clear also is that the Republican Congress absolutely tried to shield the president. The new Congress will not try to shield the president."

    Tapper asked for more information on when impeachment proceedings would be appropriate.

    "Can you explain what you mean when you differentiate between maybe these are, if proven it's impeachable offenses, but that does not necessarily mean that the offenses themselves are important enough to actually begin proceedings of impeachment?" Tapper asked.

    Nadler argued impeachment proceedings shouldn't necessarily occur because a president committed an "impeachable offense."

    "It's not necessarily a difference. It's simply two different considerations. You don't necessarily launch an impeachment against the president because he committed an impeachable offense," Nadler said. "There are several things you have to look at. One, were impeachable offenses committed, how many, et cetera. Secondly, how important were they? Do they rise to the gravity where you should undertake an impeachment? An impeachment is an attempt in effect to overturn or change the result of the last election. You should do it only in very serious situations."

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    Workers Will Ask the Supreme Court to Recoup Dues Money

    Workers Will Ask the Supreme Court to Recoup Dues Money


    Workers seeking to take back millions in forced dues plan on taking their case to the Supreme Court after federal appellate judges rejected their class action suit. Home health aides were forced to pay more than $30 million to the labor giant Service...

    Workers seeking to take back millions in forced dues plan on taking their case to the Supreme Court after federal appellate judges rejected their class action suit.

    Home health aides were forced to pay more than $30 million to the labor giant Service Employees International Union (SEIU) under an agreement hatched by former governor Rod Blagojevich, who is finishing up a prison sentence for corruption. The Supreme Court declared that arrangement unconstitutional in 2014 because home health aides, many of whom are caring for disabled relatives, did not meet the standard of government employment.

    Several of those aides sought to recoup the money deducted by SEIU Healthcare Illinois & Indiana for several years. Those bids were rejected, but new hope emerged after the Supreme Court ruled in Janus v. American Federation of State, County, & Municipal Employees—a case filed by an Illinois state employee—that forced union dues from government agencies infringed on the First Amendment rights of workers. The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, however, agreed that workers previously bound by forced dues contracts were entitled to take their money back, but said class action suits were not the appropriate venue for doing so.

    "We agreed with the putative class that no one could be compelled to pay fair share fees," the court said in a ruling. "Janus does not require a different result on the narrow question presented in our appeal, namely, whether the class-action device is the proper one for the Assistants to use in seeking refunds of fair-share fees."

    The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, which successfully argued the Janus case before the Supreme Court and represents the Illinois healthcare workers, said it will ask the justices to review the 7th Circuit decision. The Supreme Court asked the appellate judges to review its previous dismissal of the class action suit following its June decision. Foundation spokesman Patrick Semmens said the court needs to rectify the multi-million dollar fraud.

    "As part of a backroom deal with disgraced former Illinois governor Blagojevich SEIU bosses seized over $32 millions dollars out of the pockets of tens of thousands of home care providers, and this ruling denies the victims of this scheme long overdue justice," Semmens said.

    The 7th Circuit did not dispute the Supreme Court's Janus ruling. The three judge panel affirmed a lower court ruling that the workers in the class lacked the similar interests or harm to constitute a class.

    "The answer to the central question that remains—how much money each individual class member is entitled to recoup—is particularly ill-suited for class treatment, because it depends on a myriad of factors particular to each individual worker," the 7th Circuit ruled.

    The foundation has pursued the class action suit on behalf of home healthcare workers since the Harris decision. The Supreme Court has twice remanded the case to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. Semmens said the appellate justices have erred in their interpretation of federal labor law, and the Supreme Court is needed to clarify the rights of workers who have seen their pay docked under coercive dues schemes. The case could have major implications for union coffers, as government workers in several states have filed class action suits to recover their docked wages.

    "Unfortunately another Supreme Court ruling will now likely be needed to force the SEIU to return those funds to the individuals whose rights were violated," Semmens said.

    SEIU did not return requests seeking comment about the case.

    The post Workers Will Ask the Supreme Court to Recoup Dues Money appeared first on Washington Free Beacon.

    Russia Dispatching Blackjack Bombers to Venezuela

    Russia Dispatching Blackjack Bombers to Venezuela


    Russia is deploying nuclear-capable Tu-160 Blackjack bombers to Venezuela this week as part of an increasingly provocative pattern of bomber training flights, according to American defense officials. At least two Blackjacks will fly from a strategic...

    Russia is deploying nuclear-capable Tu-160 Blackjack bombers to Venezuela this week as part of an increasingly provocative pattern of bomber training flights, according to American defense officials.

    At least two Blackjacks will fly from a strategic forces air base in Russia to Venezuela as part of a series of training exercises that will include long-range refueling, said officials familiar with Russian plans for the flight.

    The bomber foray to South America will be Russia's seventh training flight for Blackjack bombers in the past three months.

    Mark Schneider, a former Pentagon official and specialist on the Russian military, said Tu-160 flights are unusual and increasing.

    "There were six announced Tu-160 flights of the ‘provocative' type during the last three months, which is a lot," Schneider said.

    The most recent incident took place near Norway in late October when Tu-160s were shadowed by British and Norwegian jet fighters over the Barents Sea.

    Additionally, Russian forces utilized both Tu-160 and Tu-95 bombers during a recent strategic nuclear forces drill, and the Defense Ministry announced that the recent Ocean Shield exercise in the Mediterranean involved Blackjacks that were described by the Russian defense ministry as involving undisclosed new tactics.

    "The announced Tu-160 flight over the North Pole is also unusual as well as clearly aimed at us," Schneider said. In August, two Blackjacks flew to the North Pole.

    The Pentagon is expected to closely monitor the Blackjacks because of their potential to fire nuclear-armed cruise missiles at U.S. targets. A Pentagon spokesman could not be reached for comment Sunday.

    Russian President Vladimir Putin announced in January 2018 that the military is investing $2.8 billion to modernize the Tu-160 fleet with new engines and advanced avionics.

    Putin recently stepped up threatening rhetoric against the United States following the announcement by the Trump administration that it will pull out of the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty over Moscow's violations of the accord.

    Russia used Tu-160s in Syria in firing long-range cruise missiles.

    In March, Russian Deputy Defense Minister Yury Borisov announced the Tu-160, a supersonic jet that is the largest combat aircraft in the world, is undergoing a major upgrade and carries nuclear-tipped KH-55 cruise missiles, as well as conventional KH-555 and KH-101 conventional cruise missiles.

    "We are going to … carry out deep modernization of the planes [that are currently] in service when only the fuselage would remain while all the avionics equipment and engines would be replaced," Borisov said.

    "One cannot even compare the Tu-160 aircraft equipped with the X-55, X-555, and X-101 missiles and a plane that we are hoping to get by 2030 equipped with new air-delivered ordnance that would have completely different effective distance," Borisov added.

    At least five upgraded Tu-160s are currently deployed, along with 11 older variants.

    The Russians dispatched two Blackjacks to Venezuela in September 2008 as part of a training mission in support of Venezuela's leftist then-President Hugo Chavez.

    The latest flights are expected to be similar to those in 2008, when the bombers conducted training flights over international waters near Venezuela.

    Disclosure of the bomber flights comes as Venezuela is experiencing political and economic crisis under the regime of President Nicolas Maduro that has become increasingly dependent on Russia for aid.

    Maduro visited Moscow last week and was promised an estimated $6 billion in investment pledges in the oil and mining sectors aimed at propping up the regime in Caracas and its collapsing economy.

    Maduro said Moscow also promised to help modernize Venezuela's military.

    Defense ministers from the two countries met in Moscow last week and agreed that Russian air force and naval forces would continue to use Venezuelan ports and airports.

    Russian officials, however, played down expectations of a major bailout for Venezuela, the Financial Times reported Monday.

    The Russian state oil company Rosneft previously lent $6 billion to Venezuela's state oil company PDVSA.

    Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov last week declined to comment on the new aid package for Venezuela but said: "A whole range of issues related to bilateral co-operation has been discussed. There is no doubt that Russia will continue supporting Venezuela to one degree or another."

    Russia has sought closer ties to the anti-U.S. regime in Venezuela in response to U.S.-led sanctions against Moscow for its annexation of Ukraine's Crimea.

    Russian chief of the general staff, Gen. Valery Gerasimov, said recently that in response to U.S. missile defenses Russia will be upgrading its nuclear forces, including equipping its current strategic bombers by expanding their range of weapons.

    "In the next several months I expect additional threats including more bomber provocations and possibly significant military action against Ukraine," Schneider said.

    "Normally in December they release a lot of information about their plans for the nuclear Strategic Missile Force. I expect they will make this as threatening as possible. I believe there will be more provocative bomber flights."

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    Angus King: No Evidence Yet for Public to Think Impeachment Is ‘Appropriate Path’

    Angus King: No Evidence Yet for Public to Think Impeachment Is ‘Appropriate Path’


    Sen. Angus King (I., Maine) said on Sunday's "Meet the Press" that he doesn't think there is any publically available evidence to date that would justify impeaching President Donald Trump. "I don't think that there's evidence yet available to the public...

    Sen. Angus King (I., Maine) said on Sunday's "Meet the Press" that he doesn't think there is any publically available evidence to date that would justify impeaching President Donald Trump.

    "I don't think that there's evidence yet available to the public where there would be more or less a consensus that this was an appropriate path," King said.

    The senator was responding to a question from "Meet the Press" host Chuck Todd about the recent filings from special counsel Robert Muller in regards to Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Trump's former personal attorney Michael Cohen.

    "Given that the government is now saying the weight of the government is behind the charges that the president helped direct Michael Cohen to commit that crime – and as you said there is still a defense there for the president, he can claim he didn't know it was a crime or at least a breaking of a campaign finance crime – Do you believe there's already enough to start an impeachment inquiry?" Todd asked. "That doesn't mean he would be impeached. In fact, is Congress almost obligated to open an inquiry at this point?

    King argued impeachment would be the wrong path given the current information available.

    "I don't think so. I think impeachment is entirely different from criminal prosecution. And as you know, the Justice Department made a decision years ago in an opinion that a sitting president could not and should not be indicted. And so whether the president will ever face criminal charges with regard to this matter is an open question. But impeachment essentially, Chuck, is a political issue," King said.

    "My concern is that if impeachment is moved forward on the evidence that we have now, at least a third of the country would think it was just political revenge and a coup against the president. That wouldn't serve us well at all. The best way to solve a problem like this to me is elections," King added.

    Todd pressed King on his view that impeachment is a political tool rather than a tool to hold the president accountable to the rule of law.

    "Let me ask you this, the whole point of the impeachment process was because of this idea that you can't necessarily hold a president to the same rule of law that you can hold other individuals and that the one means to dealing with a president who commits crimes is through the impeachment process. If you don't go through it, isn't this Congress' way of saying, ‘well, yes, he committed some crimes, but politically it's uncomfortable.' So, if you're popular enough or if you have a big enough base, you can get away with committing crimes?" Todd asked.

    "Impeachment is the remedy … the standard in the Constitution is ‘high crimes and misdemeanors.' It's a very high standard," King said.

    "Is it? The word misdemeanor – when people say it's a high standard – ‘high crimes, and misdemeanors.' You could argue that encompasses the entire –" Todd interjected.

    "Jaywalking," King suggested.

    "Yes, exactly," Todd said, laughing.

    "I don't read it that way, and here's why," King said. "If you go back to Andrew Johnson's impeachment, the very first one back in 1867, the danger, Chuck, is that we don't want to create a precedent where a Congress of one party unseats the president of another party for essentially political reasons. If that starts to happen, if that happens, then we've changed our system. We've become a kind of parliamentary system because you're overturning the will of the voters. So I'm a conservative when it comes to impeachment. I think it's a last resort and only when the evidence is clear of a really substantial legal violation."

    "We may get there, but we're not there now," King added.

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    Rubio: ‘I Think it Would Be a Terrible Mistake’ to Pardon Manafort

    Rubio: ‘I Think it Would Be a Terrible Mistake’ to Pardon Manafort


    Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) said it would be a "terrible mistake" for President Donald Trump to pardon former campaign chairman Paul Manafort. The Florida senator also said such a pardon could lead to a debate about whether pardoning powers should be...

    Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) said it would be a "terrible mistake" for President Donald Trump to pardon former campaign chairman Paul Manafort. The Florida senator also said such a pardon could lead to a debate about whether pardoning powers should be limited in certain situations.

    "I think it would be a terrible mistake. Pardons should be used judiciously," said Rubio during an appearance on ABC's "This Week." "I know he hasn't ruled it out. it would be a terrible mistake, I think," he later added.

    "I think it undermines the reason for presidential pardons. It could trigger a debate about the pardon powers and whether they should be amended given these circumstances. I hope they don't do that," Rubio continued.

    A recently released filing from Special Counsel Robert Mueller's office accused Manafort of lying to the Justice Department, thereby nullifying a plea agreement he signed earlier this year. Manafort claimed to not be in contact with administration officials, but Mueller's office claims he has been. The New York Times reported a couple weeks ago that Manafort's attorney was briefing Trump's legal team about what Manafort had told the the Department of Justice.

    Manafort also reportedly lied about his interactions with Konstantin Kilimnik, a former business associate who allegedly has ties to Russian intelligence. Manafort and Kilimnik were charged with obstruction of justice earlier this year for trying to influence potential witnesses at Manafort's trial.

    On Saturday, Trump said newly released filings in the Manafort and Michael Cohen cases showed no collusion between his campaign and Russia.

    "We're very happy with what we're reading because there was no collusion whatsoever," said the president.

    Manafort will receive his first sentence, for eight financial convictions, in early February. His second sentencing will likely be in early March. He faces 17 to 22 years in prison for the charges he faces in D.C. federal court.

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    Mass. Revolt

    Mass. Revolt


    A lawsuit is asking the Supreme Court to overturn a Massachusetts rule that prohibits companies from campaign contributions while exempting unions from similar restrictions. The pro-free market Goldwater Institute and Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance...

    A lawsuit is asking the Supreme Court to overturn a Massachusetts rule that prohibits companies from campaign contributions while exempting unions from similar restrictions.

    The pro-free market Goldwater Institute and Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance petitioned the high court to review the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court's unanimous ruling approving campaign finance restrictions placed on for-profit businesses. The state court ruled in 1A Auto, Inc. and 126 Self Storage, Inc. v. Sullivan that the law did not infringe on the First Amendment rights of employers by preventing them from making contributions directly or indirectly on behalf of state or local candidates. While acknowledging that the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional a federal ban on independent expenditures inn Citizens United, the Massachusetts justices said it did not overturn the 2003 Beaumont decision affirming limits on corporate contributions.

    "The Court reaffirmed the key distinction between contributions and independent expenditures, emphasizing that contributions present a special risk of quid pro quo corruption because, unlike independent expenditures, they are coordinated with candidates," the September ruling says. "Experience confirms that, if corporate contributions were allowed, there would be a serious threat of quid pro quo corruption."

    The plaintiffs urge the Supreme Court to overturn the state court's decision in light of Citizens United and other federal court rulings since 2003. The filing says the nation's highest court needs to clarify the First Amendment protections granted to for-profit entities and overturn the Beaumont decision. The Massachusetts ban on corporate contributions directly to candidates, as well as the ban on third party spending through political action committees, violates the same free speech and association rights as the prohibition of independent expenditures in the Citizens United case, according to the suit.

    "The Court has spoken clearly on these principles, lower courts nonetheless lack clarity on how they should analyze challenges to certain types of campaign-finance restrictions that the Court’s recent decisions have not directly addressed," the petition says. "Although this Court has condemned laws that favor some political speakers over others, the lower courts still give discriminatory contribution limits minimal scrutiny for lack of specific guidance from this Court."

    A spokesman for the Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance—the agency that is party to the suit—declined to comment on the petition, instead directing the Washington Free Beacon to a November newsletter on the suit from Director Michael Sullivan. Sullivan defended the law saying corporate contribution regulations have been in place for more than a century and that unions also face regulations since they are capped at contributions of $15,000 or 10 percent of their General Funds, whichever is less.

    "The state's ban on direct corporation contributions to candidates dates to 1907," Sullivan said in the newsletter.

    The plaintiffs argue that the rules need to be updated to reflect the equal rights of labor organizations and employers. Massachusetts regulators solidified the union exemption in 1986, rather than 1907. The state judgment's focus on quid pro quo for for-profit enterprises ignored the fact that unions may have similar financial conflicts of interest, according to Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance spokesman Paul Diego Craney.

    "This past September's ruling was a missed opportunity for advocates of campaign finance reform," he said in a statement. "Employers and unions are two sides of the same coin, and they should be treated as such. It’s a fundamental issue of fairness, and the time to bring equity to the situation is now."

    Jacob Huebert, a senior attorney at the Arizona-based Goldwater Institute, said the Supreme Court needs to weigh in on the case to create equal standards for all political actors. Employers may be able to express their political support for federal candidates, but they are stifled when it comes to electing their neighbors. The rules give labor groups an advantage in seeing their advocates assume office and advance their policies.

    "Massachusetts and other states have used campaign-finance rules to tilt the political playing field to favor some groups and ideas over others. And, unfortunately, courts have mostly let them get away with it," Huebert said in a release. "We're asking the Supreme Court to take this case to end this unfairness and make sure states respect everyone's equal right to participate in politics."

    The Massachusetts Attorney General's office, which defended the campaign finance law before the state court, did not respond to request for comment.

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    DNC’s Perez Joins Liberal Activists Hoping to Pack Supreme Court

    DNC’s Perez Joins Liberal Activists Hoping to Pack Supreme Court


    Democratic National Committee chairman Tom Perez delivered remarks during a Demand Justice event where liberal activists pushed radical proposals such as packing the Supreme Court with additional justices if Democrats regain power. Demand Justice, a...

    Democratic National Committee chairman Tom Perez delivered remarks during a Demand Justice event where liberal activists pushed radical proposals such as packing the Supreme Court with additional justices if Democrats regain power.

    Demand Justice, a group run by former Hillary Clinton spokesman Brian Fallon that took a leading role in the fight against Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation, hosted a Wednesday night discussion on solutions to fix a "court in crisis" now that Donald Trump has gotten two justices confirmed in his first two years in office.

    Fallon introduced Perez with a speech on how proposals to "meaningfully reform the Supreme Court" need to be part of the Democratic presidential primary discussion.

    "We must look at ideas like expanding the number of justices on the Court, to ensure that a future Democratic president might have the chance to fill two or more seats," Fallon said. "Some sort of reform must be part of the 2020 discussion, and we're hoping to start that discussion today."

    Perez did not specifically argue for the proposal to pack the court or other recommendations such as impeaching Kavanaugh or installing term limits for justices, but he did characterize the "reform proposals" that were being offered during the event as "practical suggestions."

    "What I'm not going to do tonight, because there's a panel of remarkable experts to do it, is get into the critical minutia of what we do from here," Perez said to the crowd of liberal activists.

    "I'm confident you'll come away from here with a blueprint of practical suggestions," Perez added. "I've been in many foxholes with all of you, and I'll get in a foxhole with you all any day of the week."

    The first panel following remarks from Perez featured Todd Tucker, who just last month released a report calling for "adding justices to the bench through Court expansion." He has been a longtime advocate for court packing, arguing in June that it would be the best response to the "conservative majority’s support of Trumpism."

    The second and final panel of the event featured two vocal advocates for court packing, liberal activists Elie Mystal and Sean McElwee.

    Both offered impassioned arguments for court packing during the event.

    McElwee, also a leading advocate for abolishing ICE, had written before the event started that he was excited to make the case for court packing alongside Perez.

    "I’ll be in DC with the actual chair of the DNC making the case for Court expansion," he wrote.

    Perez and the DNC have not made any public statements for or against packing the Court if Democrats are able to gain power in 2020. The DNC did not respond to a request for comment on whether it views court packing as a winning issue for the party this election cycle.

    Fallon also did not respond to an inquiry into whether he had discussed court packing with Perez.

    The full event can be viewed on Demand Justice's Facebook page.

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    Warhol’s Endless 15 Minutes

    Warhol’s Endless 15 Minutes


    "Andy Warhol is like the Beatles," a family friend said to me. "It doesn't matter whether you like them or not." They are such large presences on the cultural landscape that they seem impervious to criticism. We were strolling through the sprawling...

    "Andy Warhol is like the Beatles," a family friend said to me. "It doesn't matter whether you like them or not." They are such large presences on the cultural landscape that they seem impervious to criticism. We were strolling through the sprawling exhibit "Andy Warhol: From A to B and Back Again" at the Whitney Museum of American Art, open until March 31. Warhol, like the Beatles, was a cultural phenomenon, omnipresent in his place in time, and he still manages to hold unwavering relevance 31 years after his death. Time itself has much to do with not only his art but his posthumous popularity, considering our continuing interest in the raucous '60s, '70s, and '80s—decades he ruled over with mystifying endurance and celebrity. The Whitney provides a startling abundance of his work, but its younger visitors will learn little about the man or his life. Warhol is turning mythic.

    I recommend buying your tickets to the exhibit in advance: A huge line ran outside the doors and down the street. Whitney employees walked down the line, informing the patrons that there would be "about over an hour wait." Faces fell, but no one left the line. "If you wanted, you could skip the line by purchasing a membership to the museum!" Several people looked at each other, nodded, and scurried to do so. (A year's membership costs $90.)

    Marilyn Monroe Diptych

    Andy Warhol (1928-1987), née Andrew Warhola, cryptically said, "I want to be a machine." He certainly churned his work out like one. Born and raised in Pittsburgh by Byzantine Catholic Czechoslovakian immigrants, he left for New York City in 1949 and led a lucrative career in commercial illustration. In the 1960s, he rose to fame for silkscreens and paintings that reflected rampant branding and advertising in America. He was first known for his silkscreen Marilyn Diptych (1962), the Campbell Soup Can series of paintings (1962), and the sculptures Brillo Boxes (1964). When he painted his Green Coke Bottles in 1962, he made a point about class in America: Everyone watches TV and sees Coca Cola—Elizabeth Taylor and the president drank the same Coke as anyone else. "No amount of money can get you a better Coke than the one the bum on the corner is drinking," he said. "All Cokes are the same and all the Cokes are good." Warhol himself soon became as famous as the art he made, and he gathered a widespread circle of friends—or more accurately, followers—who would gather at his silver-walled studio, the Factory.

    Warhol's works were commentary on current events in familiar formats (they looked like advertisements or album covers) and bright colors, and the Whitney shows this somewhat haphazardly in its strangely placed rooms. There are the paintings from private collections—widely known but rarely seen—such as Superman (1961) and Dick Tracy (1961). There is the room displaying his Flowers series (1964-5) on walls covered in his Cow Wallpaper (1966), ideal for the Instagram hordes who throng to art museums for the perfect picture.

    His famous 1972 portrait of Mao, one in a seemingly endless series, also hangs in the Whitney, and nearby are countless sketches of the Chinese dictator's paunchy face. His Mao portraits, as well as his Hammer and Sickle series (1976) and Skull series (1976), caused many to believe Warhol was a Communist. But Warhol was just reacting to any and all media frenzy. He addressed the AIDS epidemic with his Camouflage Last Supper (1986), sprawling across its humongous canvas. Across this at the Whitney is the Sixty-Three White Mona Lisas (1979), covering an equally giant canvas. Its stark lack of color delivers a welcome sense of calm.

    Warhol drew intense criticism. Artists like Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns despised him for still identifying himself as a commercial artist even when some art critics were elevating pop art to the realm as fine art. The critic Robert Hughes lampooned Warhol as essentially a talentless cult leader who only cared about fame. Hughes called his followers "cultural space-debris, drifting fragments from a variety of sixties subcultures." But Warhol is almost worshipped today because he embraced and publicized these same subcultures, including transvestites (especially African-American members of the community, who appear in a series of portraits at the Whitney), gays, rock and roll musicians, and castaways from the most wealthy families.

    Still, Hughes detected something real: There was a cult-like exclusivity and power that Warhol held over those who clung to him. Perhaps that's why, Hughes suggests, one of them, Valerie Solanas, ended up shooting Warhol in 1968. (Hughes fails to note Solanas was also a paranoid schizophrenic—she did create an organization called the Society for Cutting Up Men.)

    Because Warhol became so internationally celebrated at such a young age, it is difficult to believe he cared whether the people who flocked to him were famous or not. Many were not known until he granted them his magical attention. It worked like fairy dust, ensuring a good "15 minutes of fame," a phrase he coined that's as famous as any of his art.

    While many thought his work was shallow, he was the first to say so. He admitted to being a "deeply superficial person." You can go a long way being self aware. One begins to suspect Warhol's art was an inside joke with himself. He was reticent and shy, with a wide-eyed look that appeared to convey he was constantly in conversation with himself. He said one of his favorite things to say was, "So what." Therefore, it is not surprising that in his many interviews his composure was often construed as snobbish indifference. In a 1965 interview on the Merv Griffin Show, Warhol and his most famous Superstar, the doomed actress and socialite Edie Sedgwick, shimmered in front of the cameras.

    "An artist always carries a certain amount of emotion into a painting," Griffin said. "Can you do that in pop art? Is that any certain amount of emotion for you?"

    Warhol flicked a half smile. "No," he murmured.

    Screen Test 309, Edie Sedgwick 1965

    "None at all?" a stunned Griffin said.

    "No."

    "What kind of emotion can you put into a Campbell Soup can?" Sedgwick said, with a raspy laugh.

    Warhol's avant-garde films, on the other hand, appeared to be a serious endeavor for him. A small theater in the Whitney is playing his screen tests of the starlets who came to the Factory. They have a haunting effect. People in the '60s, of course, would not see Sedgwick's face as we do today, given what we now know about her tortured life. The passage of time may furnish the most compelling aspect of Warhol's work.

    In the end, the wide-eyed, blonde, gay man left his mark on American history while telling us little about his own life, beyond a tireless appetite and the company of celebrities. He spawned the Velvet Underground; socialized with transvestites, junkies, and the upper echelons of wealthy society; and painted or printed or photographed or filmed seven days a week. His ambitions and energy were endless. You may come to the Whitney to mock or to revel. Either way it doesn't matter. Warhol is Warhol. As he would say himself, "So what."

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    Trump: Chief of Staff John Kelly ‘Leaving at the End of the Year’

    Trump: Chief of Staff John Kelly ‘Leaving at the End of the Year’


    Just before boarding Marine One on his way to the Army-Navy football game Saturday, President Donald Trump announced his chief of staff was leaving the White House. "John Kelly will be leaving at the end of the year," Trump said. "We'll be announcing who...

    Just before boarding Marine One on his way to the Army-Navy football game Saturday, President Donald Trump announced his chief of staff was leaving the White House.

    "John Kelly will be leaving at the end of the year," Trump said. "We'll be announcing who will be taking John's place. It might be on an interim basis. I'll be announcing that over the next day or two."

    Trump seemed to leave open the possibility of Kelly taking another position in the administration, although Trump did not allude to a specific job.

    "John Kelly will be leaving. I don't know if I can say retiring, but he's a great guy," Trump said.

    "He's been with me almost two years now as you know between the two positions, so we're probably going see him in a little while," Trump added, referring to Kelly's work both in the White House and leading the Department of Homeland Security.

    It was long rumored that Trump was frustrated by Kelly's level of control over the White House and that he faced a potential ouster. Kelly outlasted many of his rivals in the White House, however, manning the ship while controversial figures who clashed with him, such as Anthony Scaramucci and Steve Bannon, were pushed out.

    Kelly acted as something of a gatekeeper for the president, restricting access to the Oval Office more tightly than predecessor Reince Priebus. This reportedly created friction with Trump, his family members, and some on staff, even as administrative discipline appeared to improve. Kelly at times appeared to clash with Trump on policy, notably when he said the president had "evolved" on the border wall, prompting Trump to tweet, "The Wall is the Wall, it has never changed or evolved from the first day I conceived of it."

    Saturday, Trump concluded his words about Kelly by commending him for his service.

    "I appreciate his service very much," Trump said.

    Trump also said he is "happy" with the state of Robert Mueller's special counsel investigation, following Mueller's latest court filings.

    "On the Mueller situation, we're very happy with what we're reading because there was no collusion whatsoever," he said.

    "I think it's all turning around very nicely," he added.

    Trump also discussed the new incoming chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, who is set to replace Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford.

    "General Mark Milley as you know was just appointed the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff … He's a great gentleman, he's a great patriot, he's a great soldier, and I look forward to that," Trump said.

    The post Trump: Chief of Staff John Kelly ‘Leaving at the End of the Year’ appeared first on Washington Free Beacon.

    Armed Woman Shoots Escaped Inmate After He Breaks into Her Home

    Armed Woman Shoots Escaped Inmate After He Breaks into Her Home


    A South Carolina woman shot and killed an escaped inmate who broke into her home armed with an improvised weapon early Tuesday morning. Pickens County sheriff Rick Clark said the woman acted in self-defense after shooting the man outside her bedroom...

    A South Carolina woman shot and killed an escaped inmate who broke into her home armed with an improvised weapon early Tuesday morning.

    Pickens County sheriff Rick Clark said the woman acted in self-defense after shooting the man outside her bedroom door. The convicted felon got there after he and another inmate overpowered guards at the Pickens County Prison and fled. A short time later 30-year-old Bruce Webb McLaughlin Jr. broke down the back door of the woman's home and grabbed a metal implement he took from the victim's kitchen.

    "The evidence at the scene confirms that the back door was kicked in and the escapee was near the homeowner's bedroom door when he was shot," Clark said in a press conference. "The evidence seems to suggest that the escapee had armed himself with a metal knife-sharpening tool. A pretty large sharpening tool."

    The woman inside the home, who Clark said had a valid concealed weapons permit but did not identify publicly, shot McLaughlin once in the head because she feared for her life.

    The sheriff said the second escaped inmate, Timothy Cleveland Dill, was captured by police shortly after making his escape and did not make it to the home. He was charged with criminal sexual conduct with a minor, according to a report from the Anderson Independent Mail.

    Clark told reporters at the press conference all the evidence points to the shooting being a legitimate self-defense incident and no charges were announced against her.

    "Our primary conclusion today is the homeowner is a victim of forced entry into her residence in the middle of the night by a convicted felon," he said. "He was an escapee from Pickens County Prison armed with an improvised weapon. The victim was trapped in her home and in her bedroom. The victim was in fear for her life and she used lethal force to protect herself. The sheriff's office has not uncovered any evidence or any information in any way that would suggest anything different."

    "This was a big guy," Clark said. "If she hadn't had a weapon, no telling what would've happened. But she stopped the crime. She solved the crime for us and she came out a winner."

    He encouraged other women to obtain a concealed weapons permit so they can be prepared for similar deadly threats they may encounter in their own lives.

    "The one thing I want to stress in this, especially for females, is get your CWP," Clark said. "Be trained in your weapon. Shoot it often at the local range or where you can. This is the shining example of what this lady did, took the time to get her CWP and set herself up to be able to protect herself and not be harmed, killed or raped or whatever."

    Clark further encouraged civilians to arm themselves and get proper firearms training.

    "If there's no other thing we pull out of this today, I want to hammer that home," he said. "This lady saved her life because she took a half a day out of her life and went and got training. And when that training came through, she was calm [and] steady as somebody can be in that situation and saved her life and stopped the bad guy."

    The post Armed Woman Shoots Escaped Inmate After He Breaks into Her Home appeared first on Washington Free Beacon.