The Open Thread for February 8, 2017

Sebastian Gorka, deputy assistant to President Trump, said that the administration will continue using the term “fake news” until the media understands that their “monumental desire” to attack the President is wrong, CNN reports.

Said Gorka: “There is a monumental desire on behalf of the majority of the media, not just the pollsters, the majority of the media to attack a duly elected President in the second week of his term. That’s how unhealthy the situation is and until the media understands how wrong that attitude is, and how it hurts their credibility, we are going to continue to say, fake news. I’m sorry… That’s the reality.”

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said he has “serious, serious concerns” about President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee after their meeting, complaining that the federal judge “avoided answers like the plague,” the AP reports.   He says that “Neil Gorsuch needs 60 votes.”

Nominees to our nation’s highest court must demonstrate that they are mainstream and independent enough to earn the support of at least 60 senators from both parties. Both of President Obama’s nominees to the Supreme Court exceeded that level of support. The simple question we are asking is: Can President Trump’s nominee meet that same test? If the nominee fails to meet 60 votes, the answer isn’t to change the rules; it’s to change the nominee.

This is not unfair or obstructionist—this is the Senate doing its job by critically evaluating a nominee who will have immense impact on the lives of Americans. The most important factor in assessing a Supreme Court nominee in the time of the Trump administration is whether or not the potential justice will be an independent check on an executive who may act outside our nation’s laws and the Constitution. It remains to be seen if Judge Gorsuch is able to fulfill that important constitutional role.

CNN: “Thanks to a little-known and rarely used provision in the law, either the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, the Senate Finance Committee or the Joint Committee on Taxation may request anyone’s tax returns to examine — including the president’s — from the secretary of the Treasury.”

“They wouldn’t need to tell anyone that they did so. They could share the returns with their committee members in closed session. And if one of the committees thinks releasing the returns to the House or Senate would further a legitimate committee purpose and be in the public interest, they can do that, too — without Trump’s consent.”


The Gallup daily tracking poll finds President Trump’s approval rate at 42% to 54%.

A new Quinnipiac poll finds that American voters oppose President Trump’s order suspending all travel to the U.S. from seven Muslim nations by a 51% to 46% margin.

Jack Goldsmith, a former senior Bush Justice Department official who helped design the post-9/11 anti-terror legal architecture, told the New Yorker that President Trump might be laying the groundwork for expanded powers in the wake of a major terrorist attack.

Said Goldsmith: “If it is a large and grim attack, he might ask for more surveillance powers inside the U.S. (including fewer restrictions on data mingling and storage and queries), more immigration control power at the border, an exception to Posse Comitatus (which prohibits the military from law enforcement in the homeland), and perhaps more immigration-related detention powers. In the extreme scenario Trump could ask Congress to suspend the writ of habeas corpus, which would cut off the kind of access to courts you are seeing right now for everyone (or for every class of persons for which the writ is suspended).”

He added: “The point of the example is that the only question is not what powers Trump might ‘ask for,’ powers he might assert or assume or grab, and what he can get away with.”

A new Morning Consult survey finds that 35% of Americans said either that they thought Obamacare and the Affordable Care Act were two different policies (17%) or didn’t know if they were the same or different (18%).

“This confusion was more pronounced among people 18 to 29 and those who earn less than $50,000 — two groups that could be significantly affected by repeal.”

First Read: “After Senate Democrats’ 24-hour talk-athon and after Vice President Pence’s history-making vote, Betsy DeVos is expected today to become just the seventh member of President Trump’s team to win confirmation. By contrast, at this same point in time in 2009, the Senate had confirmed 23 Obama nominees, according to the Partnership for Public Service. This incredibly slow start in forming Trump’s government is due, in part, to Senate Democrats dragging their feet.”

“But it is much more than that. For one thing, the Partnership for Public Service says Team Trump has nominated just 35 people to 693 key positions requiring Senate confirmation (or 5%). By comparison, Team Obama had nominated 37 officials by Jan. 30. The other component here is how slowly these nominees submitted their ethics forms, which delayed the confirmation process. Add it all up, and you have an administration that hasn’t even left the gate yet to get on the runway.”

Rick Klein: “Betsy DeVos still appears likely to be confirmed as Secretary of Education on Tuesday – the type of activity that typically means the disappearance of Betsy DeVos from the national political dialogue. But her nomination – capped by Senate Democrats’ overnight talk-athon in opposition – has revealed the first outlines of a roadmap for how to oppose Trump.”

“Attention to DeVos’ hearings reverberated far outside of Washington. The pressure campaign did reach Capitol Hill, via congressional offices that were inundated with input. Democrats’ play for more time focused attention, as it also has on Trump’s choice for Labor Secretary, Andrew Puzder. (What Puzder has admitted to – employing a housekeeper who was an undocumented immigrant – has been enough to sink Cabinet nominees in the past.) There’s no cause for Democrats to celebrate their strategy, but at least it looks like they have one.”

“Republicans see a once-in-a-generation opportunity to overhaul the U.S. tax code. Just weeks into Donald Trump’s presidency, they are getting a taste of why such attempts are always confounding—every action creates an equal and opposite reaction,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“A linchpin of the House Republicans’ tax plan, an approach called ‘border adjustment,’ has split Republicans and fractured the business world into competing coalitions before a bill has even been drafted.”

“A border-adjusted tax would impose a levy on imports, including components used in manufacturing, and exempt exports altogether. Opposing it are retailers, car dealers, toy manufacturers, Koch Industries Inc., oil refiners and others that say it would drive up import costs and force them to raise prices.”

House Republicans during a closed-door meeting Tuesday discussed safety precautions to protect themselves and their staff from anti-Obamacare repeal protesters storming town halls and offices, sources in the room told Politico.

“The conference discussion comes as Democratic activists around the nation ramp up protests against Republican to repeal Obamacare. Protesters have disrupted town halls and other public events, jeering and yelling at Republicans just as conservatives did to Democrats when they were writing the law eight years ago.”

“Conservative Republicans, worried about growing voices within the party advising or accepting a slower pace for repealing the Affordable Care Act, are redoubling their push to speed the GOP’s long-desired goal,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“President Trump on Sunday became the latest top Republican to sound cautious notes about the party’s ability to rapidly repeal large swaths of the 2010 health law… The remarks reflected the unforgiving congressional math hamstringing the Republican efforts.”

“But the party’s thin congressional margins can also be undone by conservative lawmakers, particularly in the House, where the right-leaning House Freedom Caucus represents a 40-strong contingent. Conservatives see sweeping away the law as an essential first step to hammering out a far-reaching alternative.”

“Overlooked in Donald Trump’s campaign crusade against illegal immigration was his vow to crack down on legal immigration, too,” Politico reports.

“Now, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), a reliable Trump ally, is taking steps to execute that part of the president’s immigration vision… Cotton will start off with legislation being unveiled Tuesday that will dramatically slash the number of immigrants who can obtain green cards and other visas every year.”

Melania Trump filed her third defamation suit against the Mail Online over an August 2016 article that accused her of having once been a prostitute, arguing for the first time that it ruined her “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” to cash in on the presidency, the New York Post reports.

From the lawsuit: “Plaintiff had the unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, as an extremely famous and well-known person…to launch a broad-based commercial brand in multiple product categories, each of which could have garnered multi-million dollar business relationships for a multi-year term during which plaintiff is one of the most photographed women in the world.”

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