Open Thread

The Open Thread for March 30, 2017

The Senate intelligence committee has asked 20 people to be questioned in its investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, the panel’s chairman said Wednesday.

“This one is one of the biggest investigations the Hill has seen in my time here,” Chairman Richard Burr, a North Carolina Republican, said at a news conference with committee vice-chairman Mark Warner.  Burr and Warner say they have 20 witnesses they plan to interview and have scheduled interviews with five of them so far. The committee leaders said that they are happy that President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and former campaign chairman Paul Manafort have agreed to testify, but they have not yet decided when they will bring them in.  The Senate investigation has garnered increased intention as the House investigation has stalled along partisan lines related to its chairman, Rep. Devin Nunes, and his communication with the White House related to the incidental collection of the president and his aides.

Democrats have called on Nunes to step down from his post, while most Republicans in the chamber say they support Nunes.  The panel will hold its first public hearing today.

“North Carolina’s Republican-controlled legislature and its Democratic governor announced late Wednesday that they had reached an agreement to repeal the controversial state law that curbs legal protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and sets rules that affect transgender bathroom use in public buildings,” the New York Times reports.

“But gay rights advocates raised objections, arguing that the compromise would continue to allow discrimination. And it was unclear late Wednesday whether the deal, if approved, would end the boycotts by sports leagues, businesses and others that have harmed the state’s reputation and economy.”

There is no compromise on discrimination.  Either it is discriminatory, or it is not.  There is no in between.   Governor Roy Cooper should reject this deal.

“That was some weird shit.”   — Former President George W. Bush, quoted by New York Magazine, at Donald Trump’s inauguration in January.

“Democrats are on a torrid fundraising pace in the first months of the Donald Trump era, powered by enraged small donors who are plowing millions of dollars worth of online contributions into campaign and committee treasuries,” Politico reports.

“A Politico analysis of new federal disclosures suggests many Democratic Senate incumbents — particularly those who have been most outspoken in their resistance to Trump — are on a trajectory to raise more money online than ever before in a non-election year. That could help level the fundraising playing field at a time when Republicans are poised to reap the financial rewards of holding all the levers of power in Washington.”

A federal judge in Hawaii has extended the order that blocks President Trump’s travel ban.  “The Court concludes that, on the record before it, Plaintiffs have met their burden of establishing a strong likelihood of success on the merits of their Establishment Clause claim,” the judge’s order says.  The Justice Department can appeal the ruling to the 9th Circuit.

“Jared Kushner has been a power player able to avoid much of the harsh scrutiny that comes with working in the White House. But this week he’s found that even the president’s son-in-law takes his turn in the spotlight,” the AP reports.

“In a matter of days, Kushner, a senior Trump adviser, drew headlines for leaving Washington for a ski vacation while a signature campaign promise fell apart. The White House then confirmed he had volunteered to be interviewed before the Senate intelligence committee about meetings with Russian officials. At the same time, the White House announced he’ll helm a new task force that some in the West Wing have suggested carries little real influence.”

David Ignatius: “Kushner is apprenticing for the role of Trump’s Henry Kissinger. He’s the secret emissary, the evaluator of talent, the whisperer of confidential advice. He’s the only person in this White House who Trump can’t fire, really. All these qualities strike me as beneficial, so long as Kushner uses them to make Trump a better president who learns how to compromise and govern.”

Politico: “McConnell’s attempt to buck up his GOP ranks, relayed by three sources in attendance, underscores the high stakes of the Gorsuch battle as the Senate barrels toward a likely nuclear showdown next week: His confirmation is, to put it mildly, a can’t-lose for Republicans.”

“That was true after Senate Republicans waged a yearlong blockade of Merrick Garland that positioned the GOP to pick someone else now. But the spectacular collapse of the Obamacare repeal effort last week makes Gorsuch all the more urgent for President Donald Trump and reeling Hill Republicans.”

“The Rio Grande, what side of the river are you going to put the wall? We’re not going to put it on our side and cede the river to Mexico. And we’re probably not going to put it in the middle of the river.”  — Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, quoted by E&E News, suggesting a border wall could be placed on the Mexican side of the U.S. border.

A treaty and statutory law prevents the placement in the wall in the middle of the river, as it would disrupt the flow of the river.   Placing the wall on Mexico’s side would require a full scale war requiring the invasion of the country to at least Mexico City.

“The Trump administration is signaling to Congress it would seek mostly modest changes to the North American Free Trade Agreement in upcoming negotiations with Mexico and Canada, a deal President Donald Trump called a ‘disaster’ during the campaign,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

LOL to all the idiot Trump voters.  And LOL to all the Sanders voters who, to this very day, are sympathetic to Trump because of his now fully revealed non existent anti-free trade policies.

Nate Cohn on why Democrats have a good shot in the special election in the Georgia Sixth: “Start with the money. Mr. Ossoff, a 30-year-old first-time candidate, has benefited from timing. He was basically the only Democrat seeking federal office at a moment when Democratic energy was surging and when progressives were looking to ‘do something.’”

“Mr. Ossoff probably would not have raised nearly as much money if he’d been competing for attention with 434 other races. His fund-raising tally is better than that of 96 percent of the congressional challengers who raised more than $100,000 in 2016, and there’s still time for him to move up the list.”

“Instead, it’s the Republicans who are struggling to coalesce. They have 11 candidates on the ballot, with none emerging as the obvious favorite, although former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel, the businessman Bob Gray and state senator Judson Hill are considered among the strongest contenders. Whoever advances to a runoff (assuming anyone does) will have only two months to coalesce support and raise funds with the benefit of party unity.”

Ryan Lizza: “Last Monday morning, shortly before the start of the hearing, a senior White House official told me, ‘You’ll see the setting of the predicate. That’s the thing to watch today.’ He suggested that I read a piece in The Hill about incidental collection. The article posited that if ‘Trump or his advisors were speaking directly to foreign individuals who were the target of U.S. spying during the election campaign, and the intelligence agencies recorded Trump by accident, it’s plausible that those communications would have been collected and shared amongst intelligence agencies.’”

“The White House clearly indicated to me that it knew Nunes would highlight this issue. ‘It’s backdoor surveillance where it’s not just incidental, it’s systematic,’ the White House official said. ‘Watch Nunes today.’”

Jonathan Swan: “With the credibility of his Russia investigation under question — even from Republicans — Nunes needs to prove he hasn’t colluded with the Trump administration. Lizza’s reporting surely doesn’t help.”

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