Open Thread

The Open Thread for April 14, 2017

British and other European intelligence agencies intercepted communications between Trump associates and Russian officials during the presidential campaign, US law enforcement and US and European intelligence sources say.

The communications were captured during routine surveillance of Russian officials and other Russians known to western intelligence. The intercepts were passed on to US intelligence agencies. The British and European intelligence agencies, including Britain’s GCHQ, were not proactively targeting members of the Trump team but rather picked up these communications during what’s known as “incidental collection,” these sources tell CNN.  FBI Director James Comey has acknowledged that an investigation was opened last year into Russia’s efforts to influence the election and the question of whether the Trump campaign coordinated with the Kremlin.

“Britain’s spy agencies played a crucial role in alerting their counterparts in Washington to contacts between members of Donald Trump’s campaign team and Russian intelligence operatives,” the Guardian reports

“GCHQ first became aware in late 2015 of suspicious ‘interactions’ between figures connected to Trump and known or suspected Russian agents, a source close to UK intelligence said. This intelligence was passed to the US as part of a routine exchange of information… Over the next six months, until summer 2016, a number of western agencies shared further information on contacts between Trump’s inner circle and Russians.”

Look, Trump is an idiot.  Much like his children, he was born on third base and he immediately thought he invented the game of baseball.   He knows absolutely nothing.   He is the most un-intelligent President ever elected in any country on this Planet.

FBI Director James Comey said Americans “should be aware of foreign efforts to undermine confidence in U.S. elections and mindful of the possibility that what they’re reading might be part of an organized disinformation campaign,” the AP reports.

Said Comey: “The most important thing to be done is people need to be aware of the possibility that what they’re reading has been shaped by troll farms looking to push a message on Twitter to undermine our confidence.”

Washington Post: “Gary Cohn, a former Goldman Sachs president, is capitalizing on his new position as director of Trump’s National Economic Council to push a centrist vision and court bipartisan support on some of Trump’s top agenda items such as tax reform and a $1 trillion infrastructure plan.”

“The growing strength of Cohn and like-minded moderates was on display this week as Trump reversed himself on several high-profile issues — including a less confrontational approach to China, an endorsement of government subsidies for exports and the current leadership of the Federal Reserve. The president’s new positions move him much closer to the views of Cohn and others on Wall Street, not to mention mainstream Republicans and Democrats.”

“In a White House short on experienced personnel, Cohn has found an edge by hiring two dozen policy experts, most with government experience.”

Carter Page, a foreign policy adviser to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, told ABC News that when he was in Moscow last summer, “something may have come up in a conversation” with Russians about lifting U.S. sanctions.

Said Page: “I don’t recall every single word I ever said. Something may have come up in a conversation. I have no recollection, and there’s nothing specifically that I would have done that would have given people that impression.”

He added: “We’ll see what comes out in this FISA transcript.”

Politico: “As Trump struggles to keep his campaign promises and flirts with political moderation, his most steadfast supporters — from veteran advisers to anti-immigration activists to the volunteers who dropped their jobs to help elect him — are increasingly dismayed by the direction of his presidency.”

“Their complaints range from Trump’s embrace of an interventionist foreign policy to his less hawkish tone on China to, most recently, his marginalization of his nationalist chief strategist, Steve Bannon. But the crux of their disillusionment, interviews with nearly two dozen Trump loyalists reveal, is a belief that Trump the candidate bears little resemblance to Trump the president. He’s failing, in their view, to deliver on his promise of a transformative ‘America First’ agenda driven by hard-edged populism.”

Democratic Senate candidates are doing well as their 2018 campaigns begin to crank up. As Ed Kilgore notes at New York Magazine, “The Democrats running in all those 2016 red states are by and large doing better than one might expect when it comes to job-approval ratings from their constituents. And the numbers do not invariably correlate to the presidential strength of the two parties in each state, either…Then we come to Democratic senators in states that Trump carried much more narrowly — indeed, narrowly enough that the usual midterm pushback against the party controlling the White House might erase any presumed GOP advantage entirely. All are in favorable territory…”

Trump’s gloating tweet, “Great win in Kansas last night for Ron Estes, easily winning the Congressional race against the Dems, who spent heavily & predicted victory!” was met with the following tweet from Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight: “Estes underperformed Trump’s margin by 20.3 points. If every district behaved like that, Dems would gain 122 (!) House seats next November…They’d also win Senate races next year in Texas, Utah and Mississippi (plus Arizona and Nevada).”

President Trump told the Wall Street Journal that he’s considering a new strategy to force Democrats to help him repeal the Affordable Care Act:

Nearly three weeks after Republican infighting sank an overhaul of the Affordable Care Act, President Donald Trump dug back into the battle on Wednesday, threatening to withhold payments to insurers to force Democrats to the negotiating table.

In an interview in the Oval Office, Mr. Trump said he was still considering what to do about the payments approved by his Democratic predecessor, President Barack Obama, which some Republicans contend are unconstitutional. Their abrupt disappearance could trigger an insurance meltdown that causes the collapse of the 2010 health law, forcing lawmakers to return to a bruising debate over its future.

Said Trump: “Obamacare is dead next month if it doesn’t get that money. I haven’t made my viewpoint clear yet. I don’t want people to get hurt…. What I think should happen and will happen is the Democrats will start calling me and negotiating.” Put more clearly, Trump is saying that to prevent people from getting hurt, he’s going hurt people… and that will force Democrats to give him what he wants.

Steve Benen notes the strategy makes no sense politically:

What Trump is describing is a form of political suicide: he’s publicly describing a scenario in which he alone starts hurting Americans, on purpose, so that everyone will know exactly who to blame…  Trump’s original strategy involved allowing the Affordable Care Act to whither through neglect and then avoid responsibility, insisting he had nothing to do with the law’s creation. That, too, was badly flawed, but it was least borderline coherent. This latest gambit is simply bonkers: the president is prepared to take it upon himself to create a crisis that doesn’t currently exist, guaranteeing that Americans blame him directly for the ensuing disaster.

It’s hard to believe Republican lawmakers would back Trump up on this approach. Recent polling from the Kaiser Family Foundation shows that 61% of all Americans say Trump and Republicans are responsible for problems with the ACA going forward and that 75% of all Americans say Trump and his administration “should do what they can to make ACA work.”

2 comments on “The Open Thread for April 14, 2017

  1. As noted Trump’s Refusal To Pay for the ACA will have an immediate impact on Americans including many more Trump voters than he’d like to admit, not quite political suicide but a damn good first step. It’s fun to watch the far right cluck and express dismay in Trump, they wanted a radical government on the road to destruction and it seems it’s not going to happen. Awww… Bless their tiny black hearts! Finally if Dems can turn out in the midterm election we can either blunt or overturn Republican dominance in congress. I see no reason why Trump will not continue to flounder and fail, diversionary missile strikes or not.

  2. delacrat

    All this D-party blaming Russia for electing Trump insults the intelligence of the American voter.

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