An epic deluge
The National Weather Service warned of “historic to catastrophic flooding” across the Midwest this week, as hundreds of families evacuated while their farms turned into lakes. Nebraska, Iowa, South Dakota, and Wisconsin activated emergency protocols after rain-engorged rivers drowned small towns and cut farmers off from their animals and supplies, a potentially ruinous hit for farmer owners already struggling from a tariff-driven trade war and falling grain prices. “When you’re losing money to start with, how do you take on extra losses?” asked Clint Pischel, 23, of Niobrara, Neb., who spent a day gathering 30 dead calves from under huge chunks of ice on his family ranch. The record-breaking floods resulted when warm rain fell on frozen, flat surfaces, causing abrupt snowmelt. Many cows had just given birth, and similar carnage was reported throughout Nebraska, where floods could cost the state’s livestock sector alone $400 million.
Paying for dirt
Bezos and Sanchez
Racy text messages between Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and his paramour, Lauren Sanchez, were sold to the National Enquirer by her brother for $200,000, The Wall Street Journal reported this week. The news counters Bezos’ suspicions that the exposé relied on Saudi Arabian spying, or was fueled by the White House as payback for reporting in the Bezos-owned Washington Post. Michael Sanchez, a Hollywood talent agent, concedes he made a “deal with the devil” by selling texts and photos that became the centerpiece of the Enquirer’s January bombshell. The October deal was a rare upfront payment for the Enquirer, and reportedly approved by David Pecker, CEO of the tabloid’s parent company. Sanchez claims he was trying “to protect” his sister and Bezos, adding, “Anybody who doesn’t get that by now is an idiot.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders’ socialist record drew increased scrutiny last week after CNN unearthed newspaper interviews from the 1970s in which Sanders called for the nationalization of most major U.S. industries. As a leader of Liberty Union, which Sanders called “a radical political party,” he advocated for public ownership of banks, factories, and energy, drug, and telephone companies. He also backed a 100 percent tax rate on income over $1 million. Upon leaving Liberty Union in 1977, Sanders said, “If workers do not take power in a reasonably short time, this country will not have a future.” He later moderated his positions. Yet he continued praising socialist regimes; while mayor of Burlington in 1985 he defended then–Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. As a presidential candidate, Sanders said he doesn’t believe the government should “own the means of production.”
Rep. Steve King (R.-Iowa) shared a cartoon on Facebook last week joking about the prospect of another U.S. civil war. Below an image of red states and blue states, the meme read, “One side has about 8 trillion bullets, while the other side doesn’t know which bathroom to use.” King captioned the post, “Wonder who would win…” along with a winking emoji. He later deleted the post. An ally of President Trump and member of Congress since 2003, King was stripped of his committee assignments in January after defending the terms “white supremacy” and “white nationalist.” Asked at an Iowa town hall this week, “Do you think a white society is superior to a nonwhite society?” King demurred, saying, “I don’t have an answer for that. That’s so hypothetical.” He recently announced plans to seek re-election.
Mob boss slain
New York City
Calì in 2008 (left), Comello
Reputed Mafia boss Francesco “Franky Boy” Calì was shot to death last week outside his Staten Island home and run over by the assailant’s truck. Calì, 53, was known as the head of the Gambino crime family, one of the notorious “Five Families” controlling mob activity in New York City. It’s the first time a boss was killed in the city since Calì’s predecessor, John Gotti, put a hit on Gambino boss Paul Castellano in 1985. Construction worker Anthony Comello, 24, was charged with the murder this week. He allegedly backed into Calì’s Escalade to lure him out of his house, then shot him at least six times. Police say Comello is not connected to the Mafia and was upset that Calì had barred him from dating his niece. Comello appeared in court with “MAGA forever” scribbled on his hand and once ran a pro-Trump Instagram account.
Attorney General Barr
White House lawyers plan to review special counsel Robert Mueller’s final report before it reaches Congress, CNN reported this week. They are likely to claim executive privilege to avoid disclosure of some of the documents provided by the White House, and of interviews with administration officials. Attorney General Bill Barr has discretion over what, if anything, to submit to Congress; in his confirmation hearings last month, he did not commit to releasing the full report. The House voted 420 to 0 last week (with four members voting “present”) urging Barr to provide them a full account of Mueller’s work, though Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) blocked the resolution from reaching the Senate floor. Many believe Mueller is winding down his investigation; his team of lawyers will soon be down to 10, from 17. Mueller’s deputy, Andrew Weissmann, plans to depart soon, and his top FBI agent, David Archey, has left to run the FBI’s Richmond, Va., office. ■