Open Thread

The Open Thread for February 25, 2017

The White House blocked a number of news outlets from covering spokesman Sean Spicer’s question-and-answer session on Friday afternoon, The Hill reports.

“Among the outlets not permitted to cover the gaggle were news organizations that President Trump has singled out for criticism, including CNN. The New York Times, The Hill, Politico, BuzzFeed, the Daily Mail, BBC, the Los Angeles Times and the New York Daily News were among the other news organizations not permitted to attend.”

“Several right-leaning outlets were allowed into Spicer’s office, including Breitbart, the Washington Times and One America News Network.”

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) called for a special prosecutor to oversee the investigation into Trump associates’ contacts with Russia, Politico reports.

Said Issa: “You cannot have somebody, a friend of mine Jeff Sessions, who was on the campaign and who is an appointee. You’re going to need to use the special prosecutor’s statute and office to take — not just to recuse. You can’t just give it to your deputy. That’s another political appointee.”

“The son of legendary boxer Muhammad Ali was detained for hours by immigration officials at a Florida airport,” a family friend told the Louisville Courier-Journal.

“Officials held and questioned Ali Jr. for nearly two hours, repeatedly asking him, ‘Where did you get your name from?’ and ‘Are you Muslim?’ When Ali Jr. responded that yes, he is a Muslim, the officers kept questioning him about his religion and where he was born. Ali Jr. was born in Philadelphia in 1972 and holds a U.S. passport.”

“Since the election of President Trump, Republican lawmakers in at least 18 states have introduced or voted on legislation to curb mass protests in what civil liberties experts are calling ‘an attack on protest rights throughout the states,’” the Washington Post reports.

“Some are introducing bills because they say they’re necessary to counter the actions of ‘paid’ or ‘professional’ protesters who set out to intimidate or disrupt, a common accusation that experts agree is largely overstated... Others, like the sponsors of a bill in Minnesota, say the measures are necessary to protect public safety on highways. Still other bills, in states like Oklahoma and South Dakota, are intended to discourage protesting related to oil pipelines.”

“The Trump administration has enlisted senior members of the intelligence community and Congress in efforts to counter news stories about Trump associates’ ties to Russia, a politically charged issue that has been under investigation by the FBI as well as lawmakers now defending the White House,” the Washington Post reports.

“Acting at the behest of the White House, the officials made calls to news organizations last week in attempts to challenge stories about alleged contacts between members of President Trump’s campaign team and Russian intelligence operatives… The White House insisted the officials speak on the condition of anonymity — a practice President Trump has condemned.”

Josh Kraushaar of the National Journal on why the GOP Coalition is so unstable:

The Pew Re­search Cen­ter’s latest sur­vey found just 23 per­cent of adults iden­ti­fied them­selves as Re­pub­lic­ans—near an all-time low in the firm’s last three dec­ades of polling. Among voters who leaned to­wards a party, 52 per­cent as­so­ci­ated more closely with Demo­crats, while 38 per­cent leaned Re­pub­lic­an. Demo­crats hold an 11-point ad­vant­age on self-iden­ti­fic­a­tion over the GOP, up from a 3-point edge im­me­di­ately after the pres­id­en­tial elec­tion. That sounds alarm­ing for the GOP, but a few im­port­ant caveats are in or­der. A dis­pro­por­tion­ate num­ber of self-pro­claimed Demo­crats aren’t re­gistered to vote, or in­fre­quently show up to the polls. And an out­right plur­al­ity of voters are identi­fy­ing as in­de­pend­ent, total­ing 37 per­cent in the latest Pew sur­vey.  The data help ex­plain why Trump’s sup­port among Re­pub­lic­ans is his­tor­ic­ally strong, even as his over­all ap­prov­al num­bers are poor. He’s main­tain­ing strong loy­alty from a dwind­ling num­ber of par­tis­ans, but los­ing ground with in­de­pend­ents and en­gen­der­ing deep an­im­os­ity from Demo­crats.”

“Analysts at the Homeland Security Department’s intelligence arm found insufficient evidence that citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries included in President Trump’s travel ban pose a terror threat to the United States,” the AP reports.

“A draft document … concludes that citizenship is an ‘unlikely indicator’ of terrorism threats to the United States and that few people from the countries Trump listed in his travel ban have carried out attacks or been involved in terrorism-related activities in the U.S. since Syria’s civil war started in 2011.”

Josh Marshall/TPM:

You’ve probably seen that today the White House held a daily gaggle (an informal, off-camera Q&A) in which only a few select news outlets – including Breitbart, The Washington Times and One America Network – were allowed to attend. CNN, NYT, LAT, Politico and apparently others were barred. In other words, two shlock ‘news’ outlets and one highly conservative but still legitimate news organization. The places breaking the unwelcome Trump/Russia stories are blocked.

CNN is in high dudgeon over this, as are other outlets, which is entirely understandable. But I’d like to make a basic point about how we should see this, how journalists and news organizations should treat this. I think it is both more accurate and more productive to see this as cowardice rather than some sacrilege against journalism.

A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll finds that 53% of Americans believe that Congress should investigate whether Donald Trump’s presidential campaign had contact with the Russian government in 2016, while only 25% say that lawmakers should not probe the issue. A similar share — 54% — believe that Congress should look into Russian interference in the election generally, while 29% disagree.

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) blamed his decision not to hold town hall events on “the threat of violence at town hall meetings.”

He also pointed to a specific violent event to bolster his case, invoking the 2011 shooting that severely injured Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) and killed six others, the Washington Post reports.

Giffords responded: “To the politicians who have abandoned their civic obligations, I say this: Have some courage. Face your constituents. Hold town halls.”

“To resist the Trump presidency effectively, Democrats have to go beyond the defensive posture of relying exclusively or even primarily on protests, demonstrations and other forms of opposition. Instead, Democrats must seek to establish an independent and strong political base from which to articulate an alternative vision for the country. One way to do this would be for the governors of the blue states — California, New York, Oregon, Washington, Illinois, Connecticut and Colorado, to name some of the mightiest in numbers and weight — to form a very public council to articulate that alternative vision and publicly seek to make that vision a reality within their respective states: a vision that includes universal health care, strong support for labor unions, a humanitarian approach to immigrants and refugees, protection of the environment, among other morally necessary and compelling elements…This kind of public group stance by those representing the people who actually provided the popular vote majority for Hillary Clinton would be the assertion of a positive vision supported by a real political base to realize that vision. It would give people everywhere a sense of hope and strength from which to fight the larger national battle. And it would offer up a highly visible, positive alternative worldview to Trump’s dystopian picture of social reality that lacks any idealistic social elements.” – from “Going on the Offensive: A State-Based Strategy for the Democratic Party” at Truthout by Peter Gabel, editor-at-large of Tikkun magazine and author of Another Way of Seeing: Essays on Transforming Law, Politics, and Culture.

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