It's almost like they're trying to be as cartoonishly corrupt as possible

That’s Chris Lehmann's reaction to the scoop by Adam Entous, Greg Miller, Karen DeYoung and Kevin Sieff in the Washington Post, Blackwater founder held secret Seychelles meeting to establish Trump-Putin back channel (32,000+ shares). Aaron Blake elaborates, “Meeting at which Erik Prince set up Trump-Putin back channel occurred 9 days before inauguration.” Will Bunch adds, “Ex-Blackwater head Prince was also the one spreading stories that NYPD had dirt on Hillary via Weiners laptop.” Oh, and there’s this: “Fun fact,” says Robbie Gramer. “The sister of the founder of Blackwater is none other than Betsy DeVos, Trump's education secretary.” “#mondaymotivation The dots. The dots. They're being connected,” says Kathy Keatley Garvey. Here’s the main point: “If you pitched the first months of Trump as a tv show, you'd get turned away because the storyline was unrealistic,” tweets Wesley Lowery. And we’ll let Steven Rich have the last word with this: “Alternate headline: ‘He sells back-channels in the Seychelles.’”

Coming to a U.S. border near you

Today in “extreme vetting,” Laura Meckler reports in The Wall Street Journal that the Trump administration is considering far-reaching steps. Tweets Jacquie McNish, “Coming to a U.S. Border near you: ‘Extreme Vetting’, phone searches and ideological tests.” Alastair Gale explains, “US immigration may go through your phone files when you visit, like North Korea does.” Says Emily Cahn, “I'm sure the tourism industry will LOVE this. So many people will want to come to the US with these rules.” Tim Elfrink puts it this way, “This insanity is tailor-made to destroy Miami's economy.”

Elsewhere, “Folks who work on police reform in Baltimore & Chicago - where federal agreements pending - very concerned tonight,” says Wesley Lowery of his reporting with Sari Horwitz and Mark Berman in the Washington Post, Sessions orders Justice Department to review all police reform agreements (11,000+ shares). Tweets Berman, “This is a major, major move by the Sessions DOJ, imperiling numerous police reform deals.”

Syria Chemical Attack Reportedly Kills Dozens

Mike Giglio points to Reuters’ breaking news “reports of another horrific chemical weapons by the Assad regime on civilians in rebel-held Syria.” Alexander Mccall Smith of NBC News reports that, according to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, 58 people, including 11 children, were reportedly killed in a chemical attack in Syria’s Idlib Province.

Something for everyone

At Bloomberg View, “Looks like @EliLake got WH counsel sources confirming S. Rice requested unmasking of incidentally caught Trump asst,” says Noah Rothman of Eli Lake's piece, Top Obama Adviser Sought Names of Trump Associates in Intel (16,000+ shares). Says Michael Warren, “Good reporting from @EliLake, and this seems important.” And Stacey Shick says, “Scoop from @EliLake on Susan Rice's seeking to ‘unmask’ Trump contacts in intel reports has something for everyone.”

Hoo boy

 “BIG,” tweets Ali Watkins. “Former Trump adviser Carter Page met and passed documents to an SVR agent in NYC in 2013.” Of her BuzzFeed piece, A Former Trump Adviser Met With A Russian Spy (11,000+ shares), Ben Smith says, “Big newsbreak here: The first clearly documented contact between a Trump adviser, Carter Page, and a Russian spy.” And E.D. Cauchi says, “Evoking images from All The President's Men, @BuzzFeedNews confirmed that ‘Male-1’ is Page.” Laura Rozen explains, “It's like that episode of Veep where the aide keeps coming in and telling them what the Chinese have just hacked.” Says Mike Isaac, “seriously hope this guy goes on the cable news interview circuit again because hoo boy.” We’ll leave the last word on this one to Alex Wilhelm: “am i on drugs.”

What a time we live in

At the Forward, Lili Bayer brings us EXCLUSIVE: Controversial Trump Aide Sebastian Gorka Backed Violent Anti-Semitic Militia. As Gideon Resnick points out, “Gorka's on video in this story.” Well sure “...but maybe he was just in the video supporting the anti-Semitic Hungarian blackshirt militia to honor his father,” offers Adam Weinstein. And Michael Weiss asks, “Why is the fake news media trying to defame this man by airing comments he made on television?” Says Krystal Ball, “What a time we live in that a senior White House aide backing an anti-Semitic militia isn't even biggest news of day.”

Fine-tuned machine

The verdict is in: It was a sloppily played game, and at times poorly officiated. More to the point, the refs ruined the NCAA championship game. Nevertheless, the North Carolina Tar Heels prevailed, topping the Gonzaga Bulldogs 71-65 in the “messy” final to claim their sixth national title. And don’t listen to the grumblings that the refs were pro-Carolina, says Fox Sports' Chris Chase. “Nonsense. These refs were equal opportunity dopes, blowing calls all over the court regardless of name, face or jersey color.”

Also in sports news, at ESPN.com, Todd Archer and Adam Schefter have more on Dallas Cowboys QB Tony Romo’s decision to leave football for a broadcast career.

How is this a thing?

Good question, Laura Marsh. Fashionista reports that Condé Nast Will Now Charge Its Freelancers Money If They Want to Get Paid in a Timely Manner. Another good question, from Colleen Kelsey: “um? how is this not shady af.” “One for the old 'late capitalism' files,” says Annie Lowrey.

"We wish Mr. Bowen the best of luck in his job application."

And here's just a touch more shade. Josh Fruhlinger calls it “the sickest burn i've ever seen,” Chris Zappone says it’s a “Hilarious(ly) sad must read,” and Susanna Lazarus admires its “Marvellous levels of sass.” In Arab News discontinues Andrew Bowen’s column, we learn that “The reason behind this decision is the columnist insisting that this newspaper deletes previous articles dating back prior to the recent US election where he was in favor of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.” Many retweeted Bruce Bartlett’s elaboration, “American Enterprise Institute ‘scholar’ demands deletion of pro-Hillary columns so he can get a job with Trump.” Says Gerry Doyle, “a story in which everyone emerges looking bad, except arab news.”

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