The Open Thread for May 23, 2017

Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn will decline the Senate Intelligence committee subpoena for his testimony and invoke 5th Amendment protection against self-incrimination, the AP reports.  The Washington Post notes “the Fifth Amendment protects you from making incriminatory comments about yourself — but it doesn’t protect you from things you’ve said in the past. Documents are similarly a form of past behavior to which the Fifth Amendment doesn’t apply.”

“The risk to Flynn is that the Senate committee demanding the documents could vote to hold him in contempt. If they were to do so, the full Senate would be asked to weigh in on the matter and, if the Senate agreed to hold Flynn in contempt, the matter would be referred to the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington for criminal charges. In other words, Flynn could end up being convicted of a crime for withholding the documents and face prison time — regardless of what the documents say.

And it looks like Flynn has reason to take the 5th.  Michael Flynn “misled Pentagon investigators about his income from Russian companies and contacts with Russian officials when he applied for a top-secret security clearance last year,” the New York Times reports.

“Mr. Flynn, who resigned this year as President Trump’s national security adviser, told investigators in February 2016 that he had received no income from foreign companies and had only ‘insubstantial contact’ with foreign nationals, according to the letter. In fact, Flynn had two months earlier sat beside President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia at a Moscow gala for RT, the Kremlin-financed television network, which paid Mr. Flynn more than $45,000 to attend the event and give a separate speech.”

“His failure to make those disclosures and his apparent attempt to mislead the Pentagon could put Mr. Flynn in further legal jeopardy. Intentionally lying to federal investigators is a felony punishable by up to five years in prison.”

A new SurveyUSA poll in Georgia’s 6th congressional district special election finds Jon Ossoff (D) leads Karen Handel (R), 51% to 44%.

Meanwhile, according to the Betfair prediction market, there’s a roughly 50 percent chance that President Trump will not serve out his four-year term.  There an approximately 20 to 25 percent chance that Trump doesn’t make it through 2017 without leaving office.

NORTH CAROLINA RACIAL GERRYMANDER SHOT DOWN.  “The Supreme Court ruled Monday that racial considerations pervaded the way North Carolina lawmakers drew congressional maps after the 2010 Census in order to maximize Republicans’ advantage,” USA Today reports.

In the 5-3 decision, with ultra-conservative Justice Clarence Thomas joining the four liberal justices in the majority, the court ruled that North Carolina unconstitutionally packed African American voters into two districts, in violation of the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause. Justice Neil Gorsuch, who joined the court in April, did not participate in the ruling.  “This decision by Justice [Elena] Kagan is a major victory for voting rights plaintiffs, who have succeeded in turning the racial gerrymandering cause of action into an effective tool to go after partisan gerrymanders in Southern states,” election law expert Rick Hasen wrote on his blog Monday morning. “That Justice Kagan got Justice Thomas not only to vote this way but to sign onto the opinion (giving it precedential value) is a really big deal.”

DEMOCRATS ARE USING THE 2006 PLAYBOOK.   Politico: “An unpopular president, the scent of corruption in Washington, a riled-up liberal base — to House Democrats, 2018 is already looking like 2006 on overdrive. Now Democrats see the same ugly storm forming for Republicans that delivered them the majority 11 years ago, and they’re digging out the blueprint. The party is vastly expanding the number of districts it plans to contest, recruiting veterans and business owners to compete in conservative terrain as it did back then.”

“Three senior House Democrats are soon heading to Chicago to seek advice from Rahm Emanuel, the party’s 2006 master strategist.”

Playbook: “While some of the political dynamics are similar to 2006, that election was more than a decade ago. Since then, redistricting has tilted the scale toward Republicans. Probably more importantly, the internal fissures between the Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren wing of the party and the Hillary Clinton wing of the party are far from being resolved, which could lead to brutal primary battles instead of a unified assault on Republicans.”

“The Trump administration is billing its budget as a plan to ‘reform the welfare system’ and replace ‘dependency with dignity of work,’ while saving $274 billion over 10 years,” according to a four-page memo obtained by Politico.

“The White House budget, to be released Tuesday, will suggest taking an ax to safety net programs like food stamps and popular family benefits like the child tax credit, in order to achieve the ambitious goal of balancing the federal budget over a decade.”

Washington Post: Trump’s plans to cut food stamps could hit his supporters hardest.

The special election for Montana’s at-large congressional seat hasn’t captured the national attention like similar contests in Georgia and Kansas, but there are some late signs it could be a close race.  First, see the ads for both the Rod Quist campaign and the House Majority PAC supporting him below.  Roll Call says a Quist victory “is within the realm of possibility.”

There isn’t enough evidence that the candidates are neck-and-neck to justify a Tossup rating, but there is enough uncertainty with special election turnout, and with previous special election races as a backdrop, for us to change our Inside Elections rating of the Montana race from Likely Republican to Tilts Republican.

Even though the election isn’t until Thursday, the Missoulian reports that more than 30% of registered voters had already returned absentee ballots. This is an early indication that turnout will be relatively high for a special election.

Here is more from Mother Jones on how the Republican desire to sell off and/or exploit public lands is helping Quist.

Ross Douthat: “I do not believe he is really capable of the behind-the-scenes conspiring that the darker Russia theories envision. And it is hard to betray an oath of office whose obligations you evince no sign of really understanding or respecting.”

“Which is not an argument for allowing him to occupy that office. It is an argument, instead, for using a constitutional mechanism more appropriate to this strange situation than impeachment: the 25th Amendment to the Constitution, which allows for the removal of the president if a majority of the cabinet informs the Congress that he is ‘unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office’ and (should the president contest his own removal) a two-thirds vote by Congress confirms the cabinet’s judgment.”

“The Trump situation is not exactly the sort that the amendment’s Cold War-era designers were envisioning. He has not endured an assassination attempt or suffered a stroke or fallen prey to Alzheimer’s. But his incapacity to really govern, to truly execute the serious duties that fall to him to carry out, is nevertheless testified to daily.”

Rick Pearlstein, author of Nixonland, talks to David Remnick:  “I actually think the comparisons at this point obscure more than they reveal. Nixon was just so shrewd, so strategic: it’s simply inconceivable he would get caught with his pants down implicating himself on the record, like Trump now does almost daily.   My favorite Nixon maxim was “Never get mad unless it’s on purpose.” But the words “on purpose” and “Donald Trump” now feel like matter and anti-matter; with him, it’s all impulse. Nixon was so obsessed with preparation he used to memorize answers to likely press conference questions, questions he’d delegate to staffers like Pat Buchanan to dream up. Can you imagine!?”

Delaware politics from a liberal, progressive and Democratic perspective. Keep Delaware Blue.

1 comment on “The Open Thread for May 23, 2017

  1. “reform the welfare system’ and replace ‘dependency with dignity of work “. Lots of words to say desperate and dying. Notice they have expanded the definition of “welfare” to include food stamps and Medicaid as well. Dare say you would be surprised how many old people rely on Medicaid, it’s frequently used to pay the deductible and premiums for Medicare. And as I have stated Medicaid is the primary payer for a great many old people in rest homes, seems your savings goes pretty quick when your paying 4 to 7 thousand a month to stay in a home. These people may not be able to vote, but there children sure as hell can, and their the ones the burden will fall on without Medicaid. As for Flynn it’s a matter of time, he’ll sing and save himself if he can, or I suspect settle for reduced charges.

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