“I’m not concerned about people having breakfast,” Professor Plum said as he carried a baked omelet into the mail room.

He read the mail…. (More)

“You went into my kitchen,” Chef said drily.

“I forgot to mention that,” Professor Plum said before he took Ms. Scarlet’s hand. They then left to join the resident faculty in the wine cellar library, where they’ll spend the weekend drinking thinking on our motto of Magis vinum, magis verum (“More wine, more truth”).

In the staff poker game, the Professor of Astrology Janitor had a back-channel odds calculator open on his cell phone. He looked at his cards, tapped the King and Queen of Spades on the app, and put in an opening raise. Chef looked at her cards and began stacking chips. Then she shook her head.

“I just can’t do it,” Chef said. She nodded to his phone. “You know I can see your screen, right? So I know your cards?”

The Professor of Astrology Janitor looked down at his phone. “Oops.”

“So this is a dead hand?” the Squirrel texted. Chef nodded and the Squirrel tapped at his Blewberry. “Good. Coz I had junk.”

Chef chuckled. “I had the Ace and Queen of Hearts. Not a hand I’d re-raise with, unless I know an opponent has King-Queen. But that wouldn’t have been fair.”

She reshuffled and re-dealt. The Squirrel peeked at his cards and folded, and the Professor of Astrology Janitor looked at his hand: the Eight of Clubs and Three of Diamonds. He folded and began his plaintive mewling. Chef went to the kitchen to make more Russian Baked Omelets, leaving your lowly mail room clerk to review the week’s correspondence….


Dear Ms. Crissie,

The media is making a big deal out of nothing. We have back-channel communications with a number of countries. What that allows you to do is communicate in a discreet manner so I’m not concerned.

H.R. in D.C.

Dear H.R.,

We agree that it is normal for administrations to have ‘back-channel’ links with contacts in other countries. However, we note these links are almost always between staffers, not principals. Such links let staffers test proposals and iron out details before the principals are ready to commit to an agreement. More’s the point, such links do not use foreign embassies’ diplomatic communications channels. While those channels may (or may not) be hidden from U.S. intelligence, they are obviously monitored by the host country. In short, Jared Kushner suggested a communications link that Russian intelligence could monitor but U.S. intelligence could not. As The Atlantic’s Adam Serwer reported:

But what is also peculiar is the level of trust Kushner would have been placing in Russian officials in asking for such a communications channel. Foreign affairs is often complex, yet Kushner didn’t want the U.S. government’s help – or supervision.

“What is unusual and borderline disturbing about this is less that it cut out the State Department or cut out the intelligence community; I think there is a precedent for both of those things in back-channels,” said Jon Finer, former State Department chief of staff under John Kerry. “It shows a level of trust in Russian intelligence, and Russian diplomatic personnel beyond the level of trust afforded to American intelligence and American personnel.”
And former national-security officials noted that while back-channel communications are often compartmentalized – meaning they can only be viewed by a select number of officials – they usually have some level of involvement from national-security officials. Communicating with Moscow using Russian facilities could have shielded Kushner’s correspondence from U.S. intelligence agencies, without denying their Russian counterparts the same access.

“The only reason you would operate that way is if you were hiding something from your own government. That’s it. That’s the only plausible explanation,” said Nada Bakos, a fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute and a former CIA analyst.

We further note that Kushner did not mention this contact when he was being vetted for his position, and omitted it on his security clearance application. That may not disturb you, but it may well disturb Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

Finally, while Herbert and Raymond are uncommon names, we suggest you use one of them – or a diminutive – rather than the initials. The last senior staffer to use the initials H.R. … left the White House in disgrace.


Dear Ms. Crissie,

What is a Russian Baked Omelet, and how does Chef make it?

No Back-Channel to the Kitchen in Blogistan

Dear Squirrel,

Chef says this dish is often called an “omelet from childhood” because it’s commonly served in Russian schools. To make it, whisk 8-10 eggs together with 1 pint of milk and 1 teaspoon of salt, then pour into a buttered 12×15″ baking dish. Bake at 350ºF for 35 minutes, until the crust is golden brown. Slice into 4-6 servings and serve hot. Bon appétit!


H.R. in D.C.; as The Atlantic’s Adam Serwer reported; the last senior staffer to use the initials H.R.

Russian Baked Omelet.


Photo Credit: Alex Wong (Getty Images)


Happy Sunday!