Another day. Another Article of Impeachment. President Trump asked the FBI director James Comey “to shut down the federal investigation into Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, in an Oval Office meeting in February,” the New York Times reports.
Said Trump, according to the memo: “I hope you can let this go.”
“The existence of Mr. Trump’s request is the clearest evidence that the president has tried to directly influence the Justice Department and FBI investigation into links between Mr. Trump’s associates and Russia.”
Andrew Sullivan: “An attempt to obstruct justice is an impeachable offense. And Trump has just openly admitted to such a thing. When, one wonders, will the patriots in the Republican Party stand up and confront this? If Clinton had done such a thing, the House would be drawing up articles of impeachment right now. We saw their pusillanimity last spring as this malign buffoon manhandled his way to the nomination. It has not abated. Comey may have made mistakes; he may have had a Messiah complex; he may go down in history as a self-righteous prick who interfered in an election. But he is obviously and transparently independent — the key criterion for any FBI director. He has angered both Democrats and Republicans over the years — and this very ability to stand up to the Bush administration and the Clinton campaign at critical moments made him someone you could count on to get to the bottom of the Russia affair. I might add: I’m a skeptic about whether there’s anything there on the Russia stuff that directly implicates Trump in criminal dealings. But Comey was my reassurance that someone would have the tools to get to the bottom of it, whatever it was. Now, if I am not to be stupefyingly naive, I have to assume the president is guilty of something and is busy rigging the system to stymie any attempt to bring potential traitors to justice. And yes: This is about the possibility of treason against our democratic system. And the president, chumming it up with Lavrov and Kislyak the next day, seems incensed that there is even an investigation at all.
If this is swept under the rug, we take one giant step toward the authoritarianism Trump has always threatened. When a democracy believes its own president can put his finger on the scales of justice whenever his own interests are at stake, and get away with it, it is on its way to disintegration. I hope the Senate understands that this is not a drill. There needs now to be an independent prosecutor to take charge of the FBI case. If there isn’t, the checks in our system will have failed.”
The highly classified intelligence that President Trump disclosed in a meeting last week with Russian officials at the White House was provided by Israel, the New York Times reports.
“The revelation adds a potential diplomatic complication to the episode. Israel is one of the United States’ most important allies and a major intelligence collector in the Middle East. The revelation that Mr. Trump boasted about some of Israel’s most sensitive information to the Russians could damage the relationship between the two countries. It also raises the possibility that the information could be passed to Iran, Russia’s close ally and Israel’s main threat in the Middle East.”
Erick Erickson says he knows one of the sources who told the Washington Post that President Trump gave classified information to the Russian foreign minister and “the source is solidly supportive of President Trump, or at least has been and was during Campaign 2016.”
“But the President will not take any internal criticism, no matter how politely it is given. He does not want advice, cannot be corrected, and is too insecure to see any constructive feedback as anything other than an attack. So some of the sources are left with no other option but to go to the media, leak the story, and hope that the intense blowback gives the President a swift kick in the butt. Perhaps then he will recognize he screwed up. The President cares vastly more about what the press says than what his advisers say. That is a real problem and one his advisers are having to recognize and use, even if it causes messy stories to get outside the White House perimeter.”
“I am told that what the President did is actually far worse than what is being reported.”
James Hohmann: “Let’s step back for a second and ponder why Trump thought it was a good idea to give an audience to two leaders from an adversary of the United States, who the intelligence agencies believe meddled in last year’s presidential election. The FBI continues to probe possible connections between Trump associates and the Russian government. So are multiple congressional committees. Adding insult to injury, Trump scheduled this meeting for the morning after he axed Comey.”
“Not only that, Trump welcomed Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak — a key figure in the earlier Russia controversies — to the meeting. Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, had to resign because of fallout from his contacts with Kislyak and misleading statements about what he’d said. Attorney General Jeff Sessions had to recuse himself from matters related to the FBI’s Russia investigation after it emerged he met and spoke with Kislyak, despite denying any contact with Russian officials while under oath during his confirmation hearing. Any conventional president would avoid Kislyak like the plague. Trump welcomed him with open arms.”
Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) “wrote a fundraising letter in March to the board member of a local bank, warning him that a member of an activist group opposing the Republican worked at his bank,” WNYC reports.
“The employee was questioned and criticized for her involvement in NJ 11th for Change, a group that formed after the election of Donald Trump and has been pressuring Frelinghuysen to meet with constituents in his district and oppose the Trump agenda… She says the pressure she received for her political involvement was one of several reasons she decided to leave.”
First Read: “Trump’s 39% job rating is a screaming alarm bell for the Republican Party when you think about the midterms, which are still more than 500 days away. To put Trump’s 39% into perspective, George W. Bush didn’t reach that level in the NBC/WSJ poll until October 2005, so after the Social Security debacle, after the Iraq war turned south, and after Hurricane Katrina. And the GOP lost the House and Senate the following year. And Barack Obama NEVER reached 39% in our poll — his lowest approval rating was 40% in September 2014, right before Democrats lost the Senate (after losing the House in 2010).”
A new Gallup poll finds 64% of U.S. adults say same-sex marriages should be recognized by the law as valid. “Although not meaningfully different from the 61% last year, this is the highest percentage to date and continues the generally steady rise since Gallup’s trend began in 1996.”
Politico: “White House chief of staff Reince Priebus issued a stern warning at a recent senior staff meeting: Quit trying to secretly slip stuff to President Trump. Just days earlier, K.T. McFarland, the deputy national security adviser, had given Trump a printout of two Time magazine covers. One, supposedly from the 1970s, warned of a coming ice age; the other, from 2008, about surviving global warming, according to four White House officials familiar with the matter.”
“Trump quickly got lathered up about the media’s hypocrisy. But there was a problem. The 1970s cover was fake, part of an Internet hoax that’s circulated for years. Staff chased down the truth and intervened before Trump tweeted or talked publicly about it. The episode illustrates the impossible mission of managing a White House led by an impetuous president who has resisted structure and strictures his entire adult life.”
Jonathan Swan: “I’m beginning to hear senior Republicans fret about Democrats recruiting unusually high quality House candidates for the 2018 midterms. They worry that with Trump in turmoil, accomplished progressives view next year as a their best chance in ages to win a congressional seat.”
“A DCCC source tells me the Democratic committee has already had serious conversations with more than 300 potential candidates in about 75 districts.”
Alexander Burns reports at the New York Times that “Young Black Democrats, Eager to Lead From the Left, Eye Runs in 2018“: “In states from Massachusetts to Florida, a phalanx of young black leaders in the Democratic Party is striding into some of the biggest elections of 2018, staking early claims on governorships and channeling the outcry of rank-and-file Democrats who favor all-out battle with Mr. Trump and increasingly question his legitimacy as president…By moving swiftly into the most contentious midterm races, these candidates aim to cement their party in forceful opposition to Mr. Trump and to align it unswervingly with minority communities and young people. Rather than muting their differences with the Republican Party in order to compete in states Mr. Trump won, like Georgia and Florida, they aim to make those distinctions starker.” The states where African American political figures are planning a run for statewide office inlcude FL; GA; IL; MA; MD; OH and VA.
FiveThirtyEight: “We went back and looked at key congressional votes during three relatively recent periods in which a president was accused of wrongdoing: Watergate (Richard Nixon), Iran-contra (Ronald Reagan) and the Monica Lewinsky scandal (Bill Clinton). Two trends stick out. First, partisanship still matters. And in a big way. Second, when defections do come, they’re more likely to come from the centrist wing of a party.”
“These were three of the biggest scandals in modern American history, and party loyalty stayed strong almost through the end of each.”