Open Thread

The Open Thread for June 1, 2017

Fired FBI director James Comey plans to testify publicly in the Senate as early as next week to confirm bombshell accusations that President Donald Trump pressured him to end his investigation into a top Trump aide’s ties to Russia, CNN reports.

Final details are still being worked out and no official date for his testimony has been set. Comey is expected to appear before the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is investigating possible connections between the Trump campaign and Russia during last year’s presidential election.  “When he testifies, Comey is unlikely to be willing to discuss in any detail the FBI’s investigation into the charges of possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign — the centerpiece of the probe… But he appears eager to discuss his tense interactions with Trump before his firing, which have now spurred allegations that the president may have tried to obstruct the investigation.”

Congressional investigators are examining whether Attorney General Jeff Sessions had an additional private meeting with Russian officials during the presidential campaign, according to Republican and Democratic Hill sources and intelligence officials briefed on the investigation. Sessions has previously failed to disclose meetings with Russian officials.

The House Intelligence Committee just approved subpoenas requiring that ex-national security adviser Michael Flynn and Trump personal lawyer Michael Cohen both appear to testify in the investigation into Russian election hacking.  In addition, the House approved subpoenas targeting records from the two mens’ businesses, Flynn Intel Group LLC and Michael D. Cohen & Associates.

Meanwhile, Flynn will provide documents to the Senate Intelligence Committee and will submit the first batch by June 6, a person close to Flynn said Tuesday.  The source said that Flynn’s lawyers alerted the intelligence committee Tuesday that he would respond to the two subpoenas sent to his businesses and would also provide personal documents sought via a separate subpoena after Senate investigators narrowed the scope of the request.

“One of President Donald Trump’s closest confidants, his personal lawyer Michael Cohen, has now become a focus of the expanding Congressional investigation into Russian efforts to influence the 2016 campaign,” ABC News reports.  Cohen confirmed that House and Senate investigators have asked him “to provide information and testimony” about any contacts he had with people connected to the Russian government, but he said he has turned down the invitation.  Said Cohen: “I declined the invitation to participate as the request was poorly phrased, overly broad and not capable of being answered.”

Ryan Lizza says Trump stays in touch with the traitor Roger Stone: “Part of being a Trump adviser is to constantly put up with Trump’s abuse and willingness to attack or publicly undercut you… Stone has been through this cycle many times over. As Stone left the studio on May 11th, the President, who the evening before had essentially pretended not to know him anymore, had a simple message: good job.”

“But, aside from contradicting Trump’s claim of not talking to Stone, the call is unusual for another reason.”

Explained ethics lawyer Norm Eisen: “The conventional wisdom is that when someone has exposure to obstruction-of-justice liability, as Trump certainly does, he should avoid unnecessary reaching out to others involved in the investigation, lest he make things worse for himself. But Trump is famously unorthodox. Indeed, that is how he got into this mess in the first place. Trump just added another item to the investigators’ checklist.”

Hillary Clinton has no fucks to give.  Watch the full interview below:

A new Monmouth University poll finds that President Trump may not be well-served by his primary spokespeople, but he is probably his own worst mouthpiece.

“More Americans say that Donald Trump, press secretary Sean Spicer, and counselor Kellyanne Conway tend to hurt rather than help the administration’s cause when they step in front of the media. Reviews are mixed for deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Vice President Mike Pence is the only official tested in the poll who has a net positive impact when he speaks on behalf of the administration.”

Key finding: 61% of Americans say Trump does more to hurt his own cause when he speaks on behalf of the administration. Just 33% say he does more to help his administration when he speaks publicly.

Said pollster Patrick Murray: “This is the epitome of a no-win situation. It’s not as if Trump’s appointed spokespeople are doing worse than the man himself. It may simply be an impossible task to represent this president and come off as credible.”

Jonathan Chait: “Over the last several days, the Russia scandal has taken a darker turn. Friday night, the Washington Post reported that Jared Kushner tried during the presidential transition period to set up a secret communications channel with Moscow. Tuesday morning, CNN reported that, during the 2016 campaign, Russian officials discussed having leverage of a financial nature over Trump, which could be used to manipulate the Republican nominee. The exact nature of this relationship remains as yet unknown, but its parameters have shifted. The most innocent explanations of Donald Trump’s shadowy relationship with Russia have grown increasingly fanciful, while the most paranoid interpretations have grown increasingly more plausible.”

“Indeed, in another one of dramatic juxtapositions that would have seemed ham-handed in a spy thriller, the latest scandalous revelations came out just as Trump could be seen carrying out what looks for all the world like his end of a pact with Moscow. If the president did have an objective on his trip to Europe — a premise that, it goes without saying, cannot be assumed — it was to crack up the American alliance with Western Europe. That happens to have been Russia’s primary diplomatic objective since the end of World War II.”

Politico says the Russia investigation could reveal Trump’s tax returns: “The president and his beleaguered White House staff have given no outward sign that they have thought about the prospect yet. But in interviews, veteran federal prosecutors and legal scholars said that Mueller, who began his investigation only last week, has clear-cut authority to obtain the president’s tax returns—perhaps the most sensitive and sought-after government documents since the Pentagon Papers—from the IRS if Mueller suspects they might contain evidence of a crime.”

“And short of firing Mueller and shutting down his investigation, Trump—who is the first president in 40 years to refuse to make his tax returns public, despite once promising to do so— would have almost no way of stopping him. In fact, the prosecutors said, the president and his lawyers would not necessarily even know that Mueller had obtained them.”

President Trump has made his decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accord,” Jonathan Swan reports.  “Details on how the withdrawal will be executed are being worked out by a small team including EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. They’re deciding on whether to initiate a full, formal withdrawal — which could take 3 years — or exit the underlying United Nations climate change treaty, which would be faster but more extreme.”

Pulling out of Paris is the biggest thing Trump could do to unravel Obama’s climate legacy. It sends a combative signal to the rest of the world that America doesn’t prioritize climate change and threatens to unravel the ambition of the entire deal.”

A new Politico/Morning Consult poll finds that 43% of voters want the impeachment process for President Trump to begin, up 5 percentage points from last week.

These calls for impeachment are overwhelmingly on party lines. According to the Politico/Morning Consult poll, 71 percent of self-identified Democratic voters think Trump should be impeached, whereas 76 percent of Republicans don’t think Congress should act to remove the president.

A new poll in Michigan finds Trump’s support softening, one of the three states that helped tilt the Electoral College in Trump’s favor by a very slim margin of some 70,000 votes.   “The poll shows that, since the last poll by EPIC-MRA in February, Trump’s job approval rating — which is different from his favorability score — has fallen substantially.  Sixty-one percent of those surveyed gave Trump a negative job rating — up five percentage points from February. That matched the increase from 50% to 55% of Michiganders who believe the direction of the country has taken a “wrong turn,” according to the poll.”

Trump’s job approval ratings among Michiganders fell to just 12 percent (ouch!), down from an already embarrassing 18 percent.

Rick Klein: “What is it about the covfefe that so displeases President Trump? That may not seem to matter when the president finally manages to unite Twitter behind something he put into its all-too-toxic mix. The president, rather uncharacteristically, even had some fun with it by morning. But typos left to linger and inspire Twitter riffs are silly symptoms, not serious causes. This is Trump being Trump – and the rumblings out of the White House about a staff shake-up suggest we’re likely to get more such…creativity.”

“Trump’s White House has reacted to the recent barrage of negative coverage by turning inward, and/or responding not at all. Notably, when he made his return to the podium Tuesday, press secretary Sean Spicer didn’t even attempt to defend Jared Kushner’s alleged behavior with the Russians…. The White House also has anonymous spokespeople put out to condemn anonymously sourced stories as ‘fake news.’ The president himself RT’d a non-bylined story quoting an anonymous White House source saying other anonymously sourced stories are wrong. And, of course, Trump is very much back on Twitter. The president appears to be gravitating toward people who tell him he needs to return to his campaign style. That’s of questionable value for governing, to say nothing of spelling.”

Josh Marshall: “The most plausible ‘bad’ story behind the Trump/Russia mystery has always been some kind of financial preferment to members of the Trump family in exchange for lifting the sanctions put in place after the Russian annexation of Crimea and subsequent low-intensity incursions into eastern Ukraine. This wouldn’t come out of the blue. It would probably come in the context of some ‘deal’ over Syria or Ukraine or perhaps some agreement about global counter-terrorism cooperation. As I’ve written, there is a more ‘innocent‘ explanation as well. It may not be any quid pro quo. It could simply be years of doing business with Russians and people from other parts of the former Soviet Union which has made Trump inclined to see their needs in a sympathetic light. His hostility toward the sanctions regime could also be driven by the fact that, with his dependence on Russian and FSU investments and purchases, they likely hurt him directly.

[…] President Trump’s efforts to destabilize NATO and the EU are the most clear. These things are happening. The election hacking and subversion did happen. We know the Trump Organization has taken vast sums of money from Russia and other parts of the former Soviet Union over the last twenty years. Whether there’s any explicit quid quo pro today is what we don’t know. When people talk about collusion, this is the pattern of actions they’re looking at and trying to confirm.”

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

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