Open Thread

The Open Thread for February 19, 2017

The FBI “is pursuing at least three separate probes relating to alleged Russian hacking of the U.S. presidential elections,” Reuters reports.  Key takeaway: “This counterintelligence inquiry includes but is not limited to examination of financial transactions by Russian individuals and companies who are believed to have links to Trump associates. The transactions under scrutiny involve investments by Russians in overseas entities that appear to have been undertaken through middlemen and front companies, two people briefed on the probe said.”

Leonard Pitts is beautifully pissed off.

Dear Mr. So-Called President:

So let me explain to you how this works.

You were elected as chief executive of the United States. …

But there is one thing to which your election does not entitle you. It does not entitle you to do whatever pops into your furry orange head without being called on it or, should it run afoul of the Constitution, without being blocked.

You and other members of the Fourth Reich seem to be having difficulty understanding this. Reports from Politico and elsewhere describe you as shocked that judges and lawmakers can delay or even stop you from doing things. …

What you do “will not be questioned?” Lord, have mercy. That’s the kind of statement that, in another time and place, would have been greeted with an out-thrust palm and a hearty “Sieg heil!” Here in this time and place, however, it demands a different response:   Just who the hell do you think you are?

Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly “has signed sweeping new guidelines that empower federal authorities to more aggressively detain and deport illegal immigrants inside the United States and at the border,” the Washington Post reports.   “In a pair of memos, Kelly offered more detail on plans for the agency to hire thousands of additional enforcement agents, expand the pool of immigrants who are prioritized for removal, speed up deportation hearings and enlist local law enforcement to help make arrests.”

President Trump “this week abruptly dropped the nation’s commitment to a two-state solution for Middle East peace — without reviewing the specifics of his new strategy with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson,” Politico reports.  “For a president who declared on Thursday he had assembled ‘one of the great Cabinets in American history,’ sidelining Tillerson was an unorthodox way to utilize one of his top-tier picks. But it follows a pattern from Trump’s first month in office, where the president is operating without seeking much input from his more experienced Cabinet secretaries — including Defense Secretary James Mattis and Tillerson, as well as Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly and CIA Director Mike Pompeo — a group one GOP source called ‘the grownups.’”

The FBI “is pursuing at least three separate probes relating to alleged Russian hacking of the U.S. presidential elections,” Reuters reports.  Key takeaway: “This counterintelligence inquiry includes but is not limited to examination of financial transactions by Russian individuals and companies who are believed to have links to Trump associates. The transactions under scrutiny involve investments by Russians in overseas entities that appear to have been undertaken through middlemen and front companies, two people briefed on the probe said.”

New Yorker: “Even before Flynn’s rapid fall, his closest military colleagues had been struggling to make sense of what had happened to the talented and grounded general they once knew… Some of Flynn’s former military colleagues, even those from whom he’s drifted apart in recent years, told me they were skeptical that Flynn would have conducted shadow diplomacy on his own. Despite his reputation as an agitator, he was, in the end, a soldier who followed orders, they said.”  Said one intelligence official: “This story is bigger than Mike Flynn. Who told Mike to go do this? I think somebody said, ‘Mike, you’ve got some contacts. Let them know it’s gonna be all right.’ Mike’s a soldier. He did not go rogue.’”

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) slammed President Trump’s attacks on the media this week by noting dictators “get started by suppressing free press,” CNN reports.  “It was a startling observation from a sitting member of Congress against the President of the United States, especially considering McCain is a member of Trump’s party.”  Said McCain: “If you want to preserve — I’m very serious now — if you want to preserve democracy as we know it, you have to have a free and many times adversarial press. And without it, I am afraid that we would lose so much of our individual liberties over time. That’s how dictators get started.”

Kathleen Parker is aware that Trump voters still like Trump … which doesn’t make them right.

Maybe there was nothing much to the chats between short-lived national security adviser Michael Flynn and Russia’s ambassador. Maybe there was no collusion between Trump campaign aides during multiple communications with Russian operatives during the 2016 election.

But given (1) Trump’s solicitousness toward Putin, (2) the administration’s willingness to declaim moral equivalence between Russia and the United States, combined with (3) Trump’s campaign threat to rethink U.S. involvement with NATO — wouldn’t the media be derelict in their duty if they did not relentlessly scrutinize these issues and events?

There’s nothing “fake” about these reports. And although the media can be accused of vigorously pursuing such stories, even at the risk of appearing “negative,” isn’t this their job? Resistant as I am to the cheap comparison, can you imagine the Republican reaction if this same set of facts emerged during the first month of a Hillary Clinton administration — especially if Trump had won 3 million more votes?

“The White House abruptly dismissed a senior National Security Council aide on Friday after receiving reports that he had publicly laced into the president and his senior aides, including son-in-law Jared Kushner and daughter Ivanka Trump at an event hosted by a Washington think tank,” Politico reports.   “The aide, Craig Deare, was serving as the NSC’s senior director for Western Hemisphere Affairs. Earlier in the week, at a private, off-the-record roundtable hosted by the Woodrow Wilson Center for a group of about two dozen scholars, Deare harshly criticized the president and his chief strategist Steve Bannon and railed against the dysfunction paralyzing the Trump White House.”

“He complained in particular that senior national security aides do not have access to the president — and gave a detailed and embarrassing readout of Trump’s call with Mexican president Enrique Pena Nieto.”

CBS News: “An angry President Trump called CIA Director Mike Pompeo and yelled at him for not pushing back hard enough against reports that the intelligence community was withholding information from the commander-in-chief. The agency then drafted a strongly worded statement rebutting the claim.”

White House chief of staff Reince Priebus advised Americans to take President Trump’s attacks on the media “seriously,” following the president’s denunciations of the press as the “enemy,” CBS News reports.  Said Priebus: “I do think it’s a problem. And I think that the media needs to, in some cases — not every case, John — but in some cases really needs to get its act together.”

Sebastian Mallaby on some of that “mess” Obama left behind.

President Trump asserts that the U.S. economy is a disaster and that he alone can fix it. The truth is that the U.S. economy is doing better than most Americans realize, and activist attempts to fix what ain’t broke are one of the gravest threats to it. What’s at stake is not simply that the president is vague or wrong about the facts. It’s that bad facts make for bad policy. […]

With the economy at near full employment, workers have felt the benefit. The Federal Reserve Bank in Atlanta reports that wage growth has picked up to around 3.5 percent per year, up from less than 2 percent at the start of this decade. The Census Bureau reports that median household income rose in 2015 at the fastest rate on record . The number of people living in poverty fell 8 percent.

 

 

1 comment on “The Open Thread for February 19, 2017

  1. Trump’s bad, the American electorate is far worse. Despite Trump’s best efforts to alarm, nauseate and disgust the American people there are more than a few that worship this Mussolini wanna be. How pathetic is it that McCain now steps up as the voice of reason in the senate? We will all pay for a generation for the failure of one election.

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