Open Thread

The Open Thread for April 12, 2017

Republican and Democratic lawmakers and aides have so far found no evidence that Obama administration officials did anything unusual or illegal by requesting the “unmasking” of US individuals’ identities, multiple sources in both parties say.

Their private assessment comes after a review of the same intelligence reports brought to light by House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes. It also contradicts President Donald Trump’s allegations that former Obama national security adviser Susan Rice broke the law by requesting some individuals in the intelligence reports be identified, or unmasked.

One congressional intelligence source described the requests made by Rice as “normal and appropriate.” Another source said there’s “absolutely” no smoking gun in the reports, urging the White House to declassify them to make clear there was nothing alarming in the documents.

Nunes must immediately resign.  The House must immediately commence impeachment proceedings against the President for obstruction of justice.

Tim Murphy at Mother Jones: “Even if Estes prevails, as he’s still expected to, Thompson’s campaign is notable for a few reasons. An Army veteran and civil rights attorney from Wichita, Thompson is a political novice who was inspired to run by Sanders’ campaign. He picked up the endorsement of Sanders’ political outfit, Our Revolution and appeared at an event with the Vermont senator in February. His platform is a mix of progressive populism and red-state credentials; he wants a $15 minimum wage, said in a recent Reddit AMA that he likes the idea of single-payer health care (although he believes it won’t happen in the near-term), and cut a campaign ad in which he shoots an assault rifle.

But what may be most relevant, for the perspective of national Democrats, is how well he was able to assemble a campaign without much help from on high. The Democratic National Committee never offered any money to the state party, and the state party balked at Thompson’s request for a mere $20,000. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee only got involved on Monday. Instead, Thompson built his campaigns on thousands of small-dollar donations, in the mold of his political icon, Sanders. And when the race appeared to tighten last week (there have been no reliable public polls of the race), the progressive grassroots showed up in overwhelming force. From last Thursday, when Republicans began to sound the alarm, through Sunday, Daily Kos raised $149,255 for Thompson through ActBlue—an astounding four-day haul for a Democrat in a district Pompeo last won by 34 points. Thompson has raised more in three months for his special election than the 2016 Democratic nominee, Daniel Giroux, raised in 13.”

Thompson ended up losing last night by a small margin.  But that doesn’t matter.  It proves that Democrats are fired up everywhere and it proves that a grassroots genuine Democrat can build a viable coalition in Trump country, largely on his own.   And that says a lot about the party’s chances in 2018.

“The FBI obtained a secret court order last summer to monitor the communications of an adviser to presidential candidate Donald Trump, part of an investigation into possible links between Russia and the campaign,” the Washington Post reports.

“The FBI and the Justice Department obtained the warrant targeting Carter Page’s communications after convincing a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court judge that there was probable cause to believe Page was acting as an agent of a foreign power, in this case Russia.”

“This is the clearest evidence so far that the FBI had reason to believe during the 2016 presidential campaign that a Trump campaign adviser was in touch with Russian agents.”

President Trump “has far more than three years left in his first term. But inside his pressure-cooker of a White House, aides and advisers are sweating the next three weeks,” Politico reports.  “The symbolic 100-day mark by which modern presidents are judged menaces for an image-obsessed chief executive whose opening sprint has been marred by legislative stumbles, legal setbacks, senior staff kneecapping one another, the resignation of his national security adviser and near-daily headlines and headaches about links to Russia.”

“The date, April 29, hangs over the West Wing like the sword of Damocles as the unofficial deadline to find their footing— or else.

 

 

“Moderate House Republicans who flirted with supporting the GOP’s now-stalled Obamacare replacement will face attack ads in their districts this week for doing so,” Politico reports.

“Save My Care, a coalition of left-leaning health care advocacy groups fighting to preserve Obamacare, is launching a seven-figure TV ad buy in seven competitive House districts across the country. It’s one of the first attempts by the left to weaponize the GOP’s failed attempt to repeal Obamacare, and it comes as Republicans arrive at home for a two-week recess after trying and failing repeatedly to coalesce behind a health care plan.”

Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC), who famously yelled “You Lie!” during President Obama’s address to Congress in 2009, was drowned out by chants of “You Lie!” at a town hall meeting in Graniteville, S.C. as he tried to explain his support of a bill to repeal Obamacare.

Beautiful.

Jeet Heer says Trump’s confused presidency will endanger the world:

These discordant statements [on Syria by his UN Ambassador, National Security Advisor and Secretary of State] are a natural outgrowth of Trump’s chaotic decision-making process. Trump has always preferred an extreme version of “team of rivals” management, with underlings in competition to please him. Moreover, his slowness at staffing the government meant that the normal procedures weren’t followed. “There can have been no proper interagency process before the strike,” David Frum wrote at The Atlantic, “because none of the relevant agencies of government other than the Department of Defense is properly staffed to join such a process. You can’t have a deputies’ meeting without deputies.”

Thus, Trump made his decision without sufficient input, and likely with little thought of the consequences. Hence the contradictory statements of Haley, Tillerson, and McMaster: They can’t agree on an endgame because Trump hasn’t thought that far ahead. “Where’s the plan for victory?” Frum asked. “What’s even the definition of victory?… Trump’s strike was symbolic and demonstrative, not decisive. It signaled, but did not compel. It leaves the Syrian and Russian leadership an array of options about how to respond—and it may well have committed the United States to potential next steps that the president did not imagine and does not intend.”

An erratic president like Trump can wreak much more havoc in foreign policy than domestic.

Martin Longman on the coming White House Egg Roll Catastrophe:  “Here are some things her reporting uncovered. Sesame Street will only be sending one (unnamed) character to the event rather than its usual full complement. A typical White House Easter Egg Roll has about 2,000 volunteers. This year it might draw only two hundred volunteers. Last year there were 37,000 attendees at the event, but sources say that Trump will be lucky to get half that many people this year. Washington-area public schools have historically received as many as 4,000 invites, but they haven’t heard a peep from the White House. The same is true for military/veterans organizations that normally account for about 3,000 egg rollers. And, most importantly, the event is normally supplied with approximately 85,000 wooden commemorative eggs, but this year the Trump folks ordered them so late that they’ll be getting only 40,000.  How did this happen? What explains this rank incompetence?  Well, you might want to blame the absent First Lady.

A new Quinnipiac poll finds Democrats in very good position ahead of this year’s gubernatorial election.    In the Democratic primary, former U.S. Rep. Tom Perriello leads Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam 25-20%.  Another 51 percent are undecided.

Gillespie leads the Republican primary with 28 percent, followed by Prince William County Supervisors Chair Corey Stewart at 12 percent, State Sen. Frank Wagner with 7 percent and 51 percent undecided.

In possible general election matchups:

  • Perriello tops Gillespie 46 – 33 percent;
  • Northam leads Gillespie 44 – 33 percent.

Virginia voters disapprove 57 – 36 percent of the job President Donald Trump is doing.

A new Washington Post-ABC News poll finds that 86% of Republicans support Donald Trump’s decision to launch strikes on a Syria for the same reason while just 11% are opposed.

“Overall, a bare 51% majority of U.S. adults support the president’s action in our new poll. In 2013, just 30% supported strikes. That swing is driven primarily by GOP partisans. For context, 37% of Democrats back Trump’s missile strikes. In 2013, 38% of Democrats supported Obama’s plan. That is well within the margin of error.”

“You had someone as despicable as Hitler, who didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons.” — White House press secretary Sean Spicer, quoted by ABC News, on Syria.

Spicer later tried to clarify the comment saying Hitler was “not using the gas on his own people in the same way that Assad is doing… He brought them into Holocaust centers.”

What he was trying to say is assine because if Assad was worse than Hitler, then all we are going to do is lob a few missiles at the guy?   Sure, Spicer made a lot of anti-semitic gaffes yesterday borne either of outright ignorance or malevolent bigotry.   But his original point is stupid and humiliating for the White House.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) said she “was seriously contemplating a run for Maine governor in 2018, her most definitive statement yet on a topic that has long been the subject of political speculation,” the Portland Press Herald reports.   Said Collins: “I’m trying to figure out where I can do the most good. I’m being totally honest with you – I truly don’t know, I really don’t, it’s a hard decision.”

That would instantly open up the Maine Senate seat is a premier and almost certain pickup opportunity for the Democrats.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions “directed federal prosecutors to pursue harsher charges against undocumented immigrants who commit crimes, or repeatedly cross into the U.S. illegally, and he promised to add 125 immigration judges in the next two years to address a backlog of immigration cases,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

Said Sessions: “It is here, on this sliver of land, where we first take our stand against this filth. This is a new era. This is the Trump era.”

Rep. Tom Marino (R-PA) is expected to step down from his seat to take on a new role in the Trump administration as “drug czar,” CBS News reports.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) “is warning that President Trump needs to release his personal tax returns if he hopes to achieve comprehensive tax reform in the coming months,” the Washington Post reports.   Said Schumer: “It’s going to make tax reform much harder… So for his own good, he ought to make them public. And the big mystery is why he hasn’t.”   He added: “I think he just has an obligation to come clean. When you clean up the swamp, it’s not keeping things secret and applies to yourself.”

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