“Jared Kushner and Russia’s ambassador to Washington discussed the possibility of setting up a secret and secure communications channel between Trump’s transition team and the Kremlin, using Russian diplomatic facilities in an apparent move to shield their pre-inauguration discussions from monitoring,” the Washington Post reports.
“Ambassador Sergei Kislyak reported to his superiors in Moscow that Kushner, then President-elect Trump’s son-in-law and confidant, made the proposal during a meeting on Dec. 1 or 2 at Trump Tower, according to intercepts of Russian communications that were reviewed by U.S. officials. Kislyak said Kushner suggested using Russian diplomatic facilities in the United States for the communications.”
“Kislyak reportedly was taken aback by the suggestion of allowing an American to use Russian communications gear at its embassy or consulate — a proposal that would have carried security risks for Moscow as well as the Trump team.”
So. I have questions. First. We have to now consider Kushner to be a Russian agent, no? Second. Is Trump protective of Flynn because Flynn can destroy Kushner?
“The Senate Intelligence Committee, which is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential race, has asked President Trump’s political organization to gather and produce all documents, emails and phone records going back to his campaign’s launch in June 2015,” the Washington Post reports.
“Dozens of former staffers are expected to be contacted in the coming days to make sure they are aware of the request.”
“Every time something like Montana happens, Republicans adjust their standards and put an emphasis on team loyalty. They normalize and accept previously unacceptable behavior.” — Conservative former talk show host Charlie Sykes, quoted by the Washington Post.
“Respectfully, I’d submit that the president has unearthed some demons. I’ve talked to a number of people about it back home. They say, ‘Well, look, if the president can say whatever, why can’t I say whatever?’ He’s given them license… There is a total weirdness out there.” — Rep. Mark Sanford (R-SC), quoted by the Washington Post.
New York magazine has a must-read interview with Hillary Clinton. Here is my favorite part:
There are plenty of people who yearned for Clinton to get mad; during the campaign, an imagined litany of Clinton’s fury titled “Let Me Remind You Fuckers Who I Am” went viral. “Oh, I am [pissed],” she says. But as a woman in public life, “you can’t be angry for yourself. You just can’t. You can be indignant, you can be annoyed, you can be frustrated, but you can’t be angry … I don’t think anger’s a strategy.” You mean it’s not a strategy for you, I clarify. “For me, yeah.” She pauses. “But I don’t think it’s a good strategy for most people.”
But this was an election that was, in many ways, about anger. And Trump and Sanders capitalized on that. “Yes.” Clinton nods. “And I beat both of them.” [….]
Clinton and her team understand that she will be excoriated for whatever she writes. “There’s never going to be enough self-blame for the people who demand it,” says Schwerin of the book. The appetite for the abasement of Hillary Clinton has long been insatiable. Over the course of 25 years, stories about whether Clinton should apologize, about how she apologized, or about her unwillingness to apologize — for everything from dissing Tammy Wynette to voting for the Iraq War — have been frequent and fetishistic. [….] When I ask Clinton about the eagerness to blame her and her alone for the election result, she gets impatient. “Oh, I don’t know, you’d have to talk to a psychologist about it. There’s always, what’s that word … Schadenfreude — ‘cut her down to size,’ ‘too big for her own britches’ — I get all that. But I don’t see this being done to other people who run, particularly men. So I’m not going to engage in it. I take responsibility, I admit that I’m not a perfect candidate — and don’t know anybody who was — but at the end of the day we did a lot of things right and we weathered enormous headwinds and we were on our way to winning. So that is never going to satisfy my detractors. And you know, that’s their problem.”
“Donald Trump, in the mid-1980s, aggressively pursued an official government post to the USSR, according to a Nobel Peace Prize winner with whom Trump interacted at the time,” according to the Hollywood Reporter.
Said Bernard Lown: “He already had Russia mania in 1986, 31 years ago. He said to me, ‘I hear you met with Gorbachev, and you had a long interview with him, and you’re a doctor, so you have a good assessment of who he is.’ So I asked, ‘Why would you want to know?’ And he responded, ‘I intend to call my good friend Ronnie,’ meaning Reagan, ‘to make me a plenipotentiary ambassador for the United States with Gorbachev.’”He added: “Those are the words he used. And he said he would go to Moscow and he’d sit down with Gorbachev, and then he took his thumb and he hit the desk and he said, ‘And within one hour the Cold War would be over!’ I sat there dumbfounded. ‘Who is this self-inflated individual? Is he sane or what?’”
President Trump “punctured any illusions that he was on a fence-mending tour of Europe, declining to explicitly endorse NATO’s mutual defense pledge and lashing out at fellow members for what he called their ‘chronic underpayments’ to the alliance,” the New York Times reports.
“On a tense day when Mr. Trump brought the ‘America first’ themes of his presidential campaign to the very heart of Europe, he left European leaders visibly unsettled, with some openly lamenting divisions with the United States on trade, climate and the best way to confront Russia. The discord was palpable even in body language. When Mr. Trump greeted Emmanuel Macron, France’s new president, they grabbed each other’s hands, jaws clenched, in an extended grip that turned Mr. Trump’s knuckles white. When the leaders lined up to pose for the traditional photograph at NATO headquarters, Mr. Trump appeared to push aside the Montenegrin prime minister, Dusko Markovic, to get to his assigned place in the front.”
Former Russia ambassador Michael McFaul: “In Saudi Arabia, Trump promised no lectures. But at NATO, he lectured our allies at length.”
First Read: “Two days ago, you wouldn’t have been wrong to declare Trump’s overseas trip a relative success. But after yesterday — the ‘push aside,’ critical comments about Germany, no firm Article 5 embrace by Trump, and no formal position on Russia sanctions (!!!) — the trip became a disaster.”
Jonathan Swan reports that Bannon in back in power in the Trump Mind: “Nine sources in the West Wing and within Trump’s close orbit said the Russia situation is Bannon’s shot at redemption. He’s being described as a ‘wartime consigliere’ relishing a fight against the ‘deep state,’ media, Democrats and investigators.”
“Bannon had been on very rocky footing recently (to the extent that the President has vented to a number of people about him), but the bolstering of the White House team to respond to the outside crises is a joint effort led by Kushner, Bannon and Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, two sources said. The senior staff that had been out for each other is now united by a common enemy.”
Said one source: “It is now very clear that there is a unified opponent and that’s ultimately the swamp, both with regard to the deep state leakers, to the partisan opponents and the people who just don’t want to give up their power. That includes the media.”
Politico: “A feeling of pessimism is settling over Senate Republicans as they head into a week-long Memorial Day recess with deeply uncertain prospects for their push to repeal Obamacare. Senators reported that they’ve made little progress on the party’s most intractable problems this week, such as how to scale back Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion and overall Medicaid spending.”
“Republicans have started writing the very basics of their repeal legislation, even though they’ve made few decisions about what it will say. Staffers will work on the bill over the break to try to increase the pace of negotiations, as well as haggle with the Senate parliamentarian over whether the chamber can even consider the bill because of procedural reasons. But in the meantime, frustrations are rising and confidence is diminishing.”
Axios: “There have been three special elections in the Trump era, and although Democrats have yet to flip a seat, they’ve gained considerable ground in each compared to results in the general.”
“A similar situation unfolded in 2009 when three blue-state seats opened up following Obama’s win. The GOP gained ground in each of those special elections (without winning), foreshadowing the 2010 midterms when Republicans picked up 63 seats and took control of the House.”
Alex Shepard at The New Republic writes—Why Democrats in 2018 Shouldn’t Campaign to Impeach Trump:
[Democrats] are poised for massive gains in the 2018, thanks to the fact that the president is an incompetent idiot who keeps doing self-destructive and possibly criminal things. His behavior in office has been shameful and scandalous, and his White House perpetually seems on the verge of collapse. Less than four months into his presidency, calls for impeachment have become deafening. And to be fair, these calls are eminently reasonable.
In this environment, running on impeachment—on pledging to take back Congress and prosecute Trump—will be tempting for Democrats in 2018. Midterm elections are always referendums on the president, so why not turn 2018 into the biggest referendum of all? Elect us, Democrats can say, and we’ll take the president down. But while the legal arguments for impeaching Trump are strong—and they will probably only get stronger—there are serious pitfalls to impeachment as an electoral approach. […]
The question facing Democrats is similar to the dilemma faced by the Clinton campaign in 2016: Do you try to make an inspiring, big-picture policy argument, or do you focus your campaign on the fact that Trump is a nut? The Clinton campaign focused on the latter, a decision that certainly played a role in her loss. The difference is that Democrats now have a wealth of material to work from: Trump’s disastrous health care bill, as well as budget and tax proposals that would favor the interests of the extremely wealthy over everyone else.