Delaware

The Open Thread for June 24, 2017

President Trump appeared to acknowledge in a Fox & Friends interview that his tweet suggesting he might have taped conversations with James Comey was intended to influence the fired FBI director’s testimony before Congress.   Once again — in a television interview no less — Trump admitted he was trying to influence the investigation into the Russian hacking of the presidential election. He admitted was trying to intimidate a witness.  He also completely contradicted what Trump and his lawyers have insisted to date: that Comey was lying. Now, he claims he tricked Comey into telling the truth.

Police always say they are helped in their successful investigations by the stupidity of the criminal suspect.   Donald Trump can be no better example of this. He can’t stop confessing.

Meanwhile, the story leaking out of the White House is that little Donald is raging and obsessed with the Russia investigation.   “President Trump has a new morning ritual. Around 6:30 a.m. on many days — before all the network news shows have come on the air — he gets on the phone with a member of his outside legal team to chew over all things Russia,” the Washington Post reports.

“The calls — detailed by three senior White House officials — are part strategy consultation and part presidential venting session, during which Trump’s lawyers and public-relations gurus take turns reviewing the latest headlines with him. They also devise their plan for battling his avowed enemies: the special counsel leading the Russia investigation; the ‘fake news”’ media chronicling it; and, in some instances, the president’s own Justice Department overseeing the probe.”

“By the time the president arrives for work in the Oval Office, the thinking goes, he will no longer be consumed by the Russia probe that he complains hangs over his presidency like a darkening cloud. It rarely works, however. Asked whether the tactic was effective, one top White House adviser paused for several seconds and then just laughed.”

“Early last August, an envelope with extraordinary handling restrictions arrived at the White House. Sent by courier from the CIA, it carried ‘eyes only’ instructions that its contents be shown to just four people: President Barack Obama and three senior aides,” the Washington Post reports.

“Inside was an intelligence bombshell, a report drawn from sourcing deep inside the Russian government that detailed Russian President Vladi­mir Putin’s direct involvement in a cyber campaign to disrupt and discredit the U.S. presidential race. But it went further. The intelligence captured Putin’s specific instructions on the operation’s audacious objectives — defeat or at least damage the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, and help elect her opponent, Donald Trump.”

Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV) said that “he cannot support Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s health-care bill without changes to it, becoming the fifth GOP senator to take that position since the bill was released,” the Washington Post reports.

“Heller, who is up for reelection in 2018, has expressed concerns about the way the measure addresses the future of Medicaid. The proposal would impose long-term federal spending cuts on the program.”

Said Heller: “I cannot support a piece of legislation that takes away insurance from tens of millions of Americans and hundreds of thousands of Nevadans.”

In response, I suppose in order to prevent more defections, a “pro-Trump outside group is launching an advertising blitz against Republican Sen. Dean Heller over his opposition to the health care repeal bill — a bold act of political retaliation against a member of the president’s own party,” Politico reports.

A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll finds that by a 3-to-1 margin, the American public holds a negative view of the American Health Care Act, 48% to 16%.  Strikingly, even Republican respondents in the poll are lukewarm about the House bill, with only 34% viewing it positively (and 17% viewing it negatively).

A new Kaiser Family Foundation poll finds a majority of Americans dislike the GOP health care plan, 55% to 30%.  In contrast, most Americans have a favorable view of Obamacare, 51% to 41%.

“President. Candidate. Businessman. Three of President Trump’s roles converge next week as he holds his first major re-election fundraiser at his hotel in Washington,” the AP reports.

Jonathan Chait: “If he were a normal president, rather than one who produced calamities at an unprecedented pace, Trump’s open profiteering would receive five-alarm media coverage and threats of impeachment… That it has caused barely a ripple helps to explain why Trump feels emboldened to locate the first fundraiser for his reelection campaign at his hotel in Washington.”

“Trump’s Washington hotel has already raked in cash from lobbyists and government officials, foreign and domestic, seeking to curry favor with the First Family. Trump has gotten away with it because his party has evinced zero interest in restraining him. The GOP Congress has quashed investigations of his profiteering or demands that he produce his tax returns. Now the party elite will literally be suborned at an event conjoining his public duties and the fattening of his own wallet.”

First Read: “Either his bill passes quickly or it dies quickly: And politically, it appears that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell sees quick action on the legislation accomplishing one of two things — either it passes quickly, or it dies quickly (to allow Republicans to move on to other matters). But if does pass and become law, remember that many of the provisions (like phasing out Medicaid) don’t happen for a while. And so it’s easy to see how Democrats, when they return to power, re-establish the Obamacare provisions — or even go full single-payer.”

“Bottom line: We’re not sure the Senate bill, even if it passes, provides certainty to the health care system.”

Politico: “Right now, McConnell is far from having a commitment for the 50 votes needed for passage, according to senators who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal politics of the 52-member caucus. But no one on Capitol Hill seems to be betting against the wily majority leader as he plans for one of the most critical roll call votes of his career next week.”

“McConnell’s strategy has been a slow burn, allowing his members to vent in private party discussions while gradually writing a bill that takes in their considerations over the past six weeks. He’s had more than 30 meetings with his members about taking down the 2010 health law, intended to give his members more input and get them comfortable with the product.”

James Hohmann: “McConnell can only afford two defections, and he’s facing objections from the right and the middle. But if anyone can thread this needle, it’s the Senate majority leader.”

David Frum: “The U.S. government is already osmotically working around the presidency, a process enabled by the president’s visible distaste for the work of governance. The National Security Council staff is increasingly a double-headed institution, a zone of struggle between Kushner-Flynn-Bannon types on one side, and a growing staff of capable, experienced, and Russia-skeptical functionaries on the other. The Senate has voted 97-2 to restrict the president’s authority to relax Russia sanctions. It seems the president has been persuaded to take himself out of the chain of command in the escalating military operations in Afghanistan. National-Security Adviser H.R. McMaster recently assured the nation that Trump could not have done much harm when he blabbed a vital secret to the Russian foreign minister in the Oval Office, precisely because the president was not briefed on crucial ‘sources and methods’ information.”

“In their way, these workarounds are almost as dangerous to the American system of government as the Trump presidency itself. They tend to reduce the president to the status of an absentee emperor while promoting his subordinates into shoguns who exercise power in his name. Maybe that is the least-bad practicable solution to the unprecedented threat of a presidency-under-suspicion. But what a terrible price for the failure of so many American institutions—not least the voters!—to protect the country in 2016 from Russia’s attack on its election and its democracy.”

A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll finds that by a 2-to-1 margin, 45% to 22%, Americans say they are more likely to believe former FBI Director James Comey than President Trump when it comes to their differing accounts of events that led up to Comey’s firing.  Also interesting: Just 50% of Republicans believe Trump.

Politico: “One of the bills to see a floor vote, dubbed Kate’s Law, boosts penalties for immigrants who try to re-enter the United States after being deported. It is named after Kate Steinle, a young woman who was shot and killed in San Francisco by an immigrant who had been deported repeatedly yet returned. Trump frequently discussed the killing on the campaign trail last year.”

“The second is legislation that goes after so-called sanctuary cities — localities that limit cooperation with federal immigration authorities, including by refusing to hold an immigrant in jail longer just so federal officials can pick him or her up to be deported. Sanctuary cities, usually liberal jurisdictions such as New York, have also been a major Trump target.”

“White House counsel Don McGahn has largely stepped back from managing Donald Trump’s response to the expanding Russia investigation, but that hasn’t stopped the president from lashing out at him about it anyway,” Politico reports.

“Trump started the week by giving McGahn, a loyal supporter who was among the first Washington establishment figures to sign on with his presidential campaign, a dressing down in the Oval Office for not doing more to squash the Russia probe early on.”

“The episode — recounted by four people familiar with the conversation — came as part of a broader discussion on Monday about the president’s frustrations with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.”

The New York Times published a graphic that is simply titled, “Trump’s Lies.” They chronicle every one he’s told since inauguration (and yes, they had to use really small font to do so). Here is part of their commentary to accompany the list.

President Trump’s political rise was built on a lie (about Barack Obama’s birthplace). His lack of truthfulness has also become central to the Russia investigation, with James Comey, the former director of the F.B.I., testifying under oath about Trump’s “lies, plain and simple.”

There is simply no precedent for an American president to spend so much time telling untruths. Every president has shaded the truth or told occasional whoppers. No other president — of either party — has behaved as Trump is behaving. He is trying to create an atmosphere in which reality is irrelevant.

Politico: “No matter what Priebus does to try to save his job, it will amount only to tinkering around the edges, because the central stumbling block is Trump himself. Until the president learns that he cannot govern without giving someone the authority to tell him hard truths, there is little any chief of staff can do.”

“As it is, the Trump administration has been unable to perform the most basic tasks: issue enforceable executive orders, craft legislation, prioritize the president’s agenda or communicate a coherent message. In a normal White House, all of these functions flow from a strong and empowered chief of staff. But in the transplanted Manhattan real estate firm that is Trump’s West Wing—a scrum of advisers competing for the boss’ favor—Priebus has never been given the necessary authority as first among equals.”

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

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