Open Thread

The Open Thread for May 15, 2017

“I think in many ways our institutions are under assault both externally — and that’s the big news here is the Russian interference in our election system — and I think as well our institutions are under assault internally.” — Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, in an interview with CNN.

A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll finds just 29% of Americans say they approve of President Trump’s decision to fire FBI Director James Comey, while 38% disapprove. Another 32% of respondents don’t have enough to say on the matter.

48% of Americans say it’s the GOP health care bill is a bad idea, including 43% of respondents who “strongly” believe that.  By contrast, just 23% call the legislation a good idea, including 18% who “strongly” say that.

Dan Balz: “The firing of James Comey as director of the FBI has left the credibility of President Trump’s White House in tatters. The White House now appears to be an institution where truth struggles to keep up with events, led by a president capable at any moment of undercutting those who serve him.”

“This past week wasn’t the first time that the president’s spokespeople have been asked to explain the inexplicable or defend the indefensible. But what it showed is that this is far more than a problem with the White House communications team, which initially bore the brunt of criticism for offering what turned out to be an inaccurate description of how the president came to dismiss Comey. Whether the communications team is or isn’t fully in the loop is not the pertinent issue.”

“Instead, the responsibility for what has been one of the most explosive weeks of the Trump presidency begins at the top, with the president, whose statements and tweets regularly shatter whatever plans have been laid for the day or week.”

Jeffrey Toobin: “So far, to the good fortune of the nation—and, even, the world—the President has had to confront disasters only of his own making, like firing Comey and promulgating executive orders that discriminate against religious and ethnic minorities. But, in these perilous and unpredictable times, it’s worth pausing to consider how Trump’s recklessness might manifest itself in a national-security emergency. His default response to conflict has always been to lash out, which can be entertaining on a reality-television show and effective in a political debate. But, as the President of the United States, who commands a nuclear-armed military, Trump is playing for incalculably higher stakes.”

“Democrats, despite their characteristic caution and fecklessness, have begun to speak candidly about Trump, but their status as the minority party renders them nearly irrelevant to Trump’s fate. The Republicans alone have the power to impose limits on this Presidency or to end it altogether. To date, however, no one in the leadership, or even in the rank and file, has displayed the courage to live up to the example set by the honorable Republicans of the past. Daily, and conspicuously, Trump proves the danger of his continued service. His party’s stalwarts won’t be able to say that they weren’t warned.”

“Lawmakers in both parties said Sunday that President Trump will need to hand over any recordings of conversations in the White House if such a taping system does exist,” the Washington Post reports.

“Trump suggested Friday that he taped private White House conversations with then-FBI Director James Comey, who was abruptly fired last week, and White House officials have not confirmed or denied the existence of a recording system.”

Associated Press: “By one estimate, 300,000 eligible voters in the state lacked valid photo IDs heading into the election; it is unknown how many people did not vote because they didn’t have proper identification. But it is not hard to find the Navy veteran whose out-of-state driver’s license did not suffice, or the dying woman whose license had expired, or the recent graduate whose student ID was deficient.”

“Under the Wisconsin law, voters must present a driver’s license, state ID, passport, military ID, naturalization papers or tribal ID to vote. A student ID is acceptable only if it has a signature and a two-year expiration date. Those who do not have their ID can cast a provisional ballot that will be counted only if they return with the proper ID within a few days of the election.”

Mike Allen: “At the urging of longtime friends and outside advisers, most of whom he consults after dark, President Trump is considering a ‘huge reboot’ that could take out everyone from Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and chief strategist Steve Bannon, to counsel Don McGahn and press secretary Sean Spicer… Trump is also irritated with several Cabinet members, the sources said.”

Said one source: “He’s frustrated, and angry at everyone.”

“House Republicans just voted to slash hundreds of billions of dollars in health care for the poor as part of their Obamacare replacement. Now, they’re weighing a plan to take the scalpel to programs that provide meals to needy kids and housing and education assistance for low-income families,” Politico reports.

Wall Street Journal: “Conservative Senate Republicans are weighing faster and steeper cuts to Medicaid that could drop millions of people from coverage and mark the biggest changes to the program in its 52-year history.”

“President Trump’s refusal to overhaul Social Security and Medicare — and his pricey wish-list for infrastructure, a border wall and tax cuts — is sending House budget writers scouring for pennies in politically-sensitive places: safety-net programs for the most vulnerable.”

Laurence Tribe: “Ample reasons existed to worry about this president, and to ponder the extraordinary remedy of impeachment, even before he fired FBI Director James Comey and shockingly admitted on national television that the action was provoked by the FBI’s intensifying investigation into his campaign’s ties with Russia.”

“Even without getting to the bottom of what Trump dismissed as ‘this Russia thing,’ impeachable offenses could theoretically have been charged from the outset of this presidency. One important example is Trump’s brazen defiance of the foreign emoluments clause, which is designed to prevent foreign powers from pressuring U.S. officials to stray from undivided loyalty to the United States. Political reality made impeachment and removal on that and other grounds seem premature.”

“No longer. To wait for the results of the multiple investigations underway is to risk tying our nation’s fate to the whims of an authoritarian leader.”  Impeach him now.

New York Times: “At the root of Mr. Trump’s unpredictable presidency, according to people close to him, is a deep frustration about attacks on his legitimacy, and a worry that Washington does not see him as he sees himself.”

“As he careens from one controversy to another, many of them of his own making — like his abrupt decision to fire the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, who was leading an investigation into the president’s associates — Mr. Trump seems determined to prove that he won the election on his own. It was not Russian interference. It was not Mr. Comey’s actions in the case involving Hillary Clinton’s emails. It was not a fluke of the Electoral College system. It was all him.”

“Mr. Trump burns with frustration over not getting enough credit for winning the nation’s highest office after having never so much as run for City Council or town alderman. He ran when pundits predicted he would not, stayed in when they were certain he would drop out, never lost his core supporters and, amid a dysfunctional campaign that was known for self-inflicted wounds, propelled himself to victory over the vastly more experienced Clinton machine. He expected to be celebrated for it, and that has not happened.”

Wall Street Journal: “As a businessman, Mr. Trump sometimes taped phone conversations with associates and others from his Trump Tower office in New York, according to three people who say they have direct knowledge of the recordings.”

“Mr. Trump had one or more recording devices that he used to tape his phone calls from his office, the three people said. All are former high-level employees who worked for Mr. Trump over a span of three decades. They said they saw devices in use recording phone calls.”

“A fourth person said he knew that Mr. Trump had recorded a phone conversation with him because it was later entered into evidence in a lawsuit.”

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