The Open Thread for July 7, 2017

Russian spies are ramping up their intelligence-gathering efforts in the US, according to current and former US intelligence officials who say they have noticed an increase since the election.  The officials say they believe one of the biggest US adversaries feels emboldened by the lack of a significant retaliatory response from both the Trump and Obama administrations.

“Russians have maintained an aggressive collection posture in the US, and their success in election meddling has not deterred them,” said a former senior intelligence official familiar with Trump administration efforts.

President Trump suggested that he “still was not convinced that Russia was solely responsible for interference in the 2016 election, breaking with American intelligence agencies who have agreed that the effort emanated from Moscow and was directed by Mr. Putin,” the New York Times reports. Said Trump: “I think it was Russia, and it could have been other people in other countries.” He added: “Nobody really knows. Nobody really knows for sure.”

“President Trump promised voters that he would strike ‘a great deal’ with Russia and its autocratic president, Vladimir Putin. He has repeatedly labeled an investigation of Russian meddling in the U.S. election as ‘a hoax,’ and he even bragged to Russian officials about firing the FBI director leading the probe,” the Washington Post reports.

“Now nearly six months into his presidency, Trump is set to finally meet Putin at a summit this week in Hamburg after a stop here in Warsaw — severely constrained and facing few good options that would leave him politically unscathed.”

“If Trump attempts to loosen sanctions against Russia for its involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine or its interference in the 2016 U.S. election, Congress could defy him by pursuing even stronger penalties. And if he offers platitudes for Putin without addressing Russia’s election meddling, it will renew questions about whether Trump accepts the findings of his own intelligence officials that Russia intended to disrupt the democratic process on his behalf.”

Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) “won’t vote for the Senate GOP health care bill without the addition of a controversial amendment he’s championing with Sen. Ted Cruz — a position he has made clear to the White House and Senate Republican leaders,” according to Caitlin Owens.

Said Lee: “The entire bill is unacceptable without the Consumer Freedom Option.”

Jonathan Chait: “Lee’s position makes it almost impossible for McConnell to find his 50 votes. Blue-state senators Susan Collins and Dean Heller already appear irretrievably opposed to anything resembling McConnell’s plan. If Lee demands that the bill let insurers charge higher prices for coverage of treatments needed by sicker people, then he drives away at least one more vote on the party’s opposite wing: Lisa Murkowski or Shelley Moore Capito, among others, have expressed reservations about yanking coverage away from people who have obtained it through Obamacare.”

Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that a bill “focused on buttressing the nation’s insurance marketplaces will be needed if the full-fledged Republican effort to repeal much of President Barack Obama’s health care law fails,” the AP reports. “It was one of his most explicit acknowledgments that his party’s top-priority drive to erase much of Obama’s landmark 2010 statutes might fall short.” Said McConnell: “No action is not an alternative. We’ve got the insurance markets imploding all over the country, including in this state.”

Jonathan Swan: “There will likely only be six people in the room when President Trump meets President Putin on Friday at the sidelines of the G-20 meeting in Hamburg, Germany…. it will be Trump, Putin, the Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov, and translators.”  The meeting is scheduled to last only half an hour.

Office of Government Ethics Director Walter Shaub told NPR he is turning in his resignation.  “The move follows months of clashes with the White House over issues such as President Trump’s refusal to divest his businesses and the administration’s delay in disclosing ethics waivers for appointees.” Said Schaub: “The current situation has made it clear that the ethics program needs to be stronger than it is.”

“White House officials apparently waited too long to book accommodations for President Trump, leaving him without a hotel in Hamburg, Germany, as world leaders converge for the G20 summit,” BuzzFeed News reports.

“The Hamburger Abendblatt, a local news outlet, reported that the US government wanted to accommodate Trump in the Four Seasons, but it was already booked. In fact, it turns out that every luxury hotel in Hamburg was reportedly booked by the time the Americans called, leaving Trump, who is associated with an empire of hotel properties, scrambling for a place to stay.”

Rick Klein: “In the run-up to the most anticipated meeting of Donald Trump’s presidency, the give-and-take that matters is inside the president’s head. Specifically, how much does the part of Trump that craves being liked decide to give? And how much does the part of Trump that wants to be feared and respected try to take? One can imagine Russian President Vladimir Putin’s watching the president’s news conference this morning with a kind of anticipation he hasn’t had since … Barack Obama was the new president.”

“The fact that even now – nearly six months into office – Trump still won’t accept as fact that the Russians attempted to influence the election? That gives Putin an out as big as a Red Army tank, plus a giant hint that hacking allegations are not on the U.S. president’s agenda… For now, Trump seems more inclined to slam Obama and CNN, as he did at the news conference today, than Putin.”

New York Times: “White House advisers have discussed a potential point of leverage over their adversary, a senior administration official said: a pending merger between CNN’s parent company, Time Warner, and AT&T. Mr. Trump’s Justice Department will decide whether to approve the merger, and while analysts say there is little to stop the deal from moving forward, the president’s animus toward CNN remains a wild card.”

New York Times: “Even his top aides do not know precisely what Mr. Trump will decide to say or do when he and Mr. Putin meet face to face on Friday on the sidelines of the Group of 20 economic summit gathering in Hamburg, Germany. And that is what most worries those advisers as well as officials across his administration as Mr. Trump begins his second foreign trip as president, stopping first in Warsaw to give an address on Thursday and then heading to Hamburg.

“The highly anticipated conversation with Mr. Putin is in many ways a necessity, given the critical disputes separating the United States and Russia. But it also poses risks for Mr. Trump, who faces a web of investigations into his campaign’s possible links to Russia, as well as questions about his willingness to take on Moscow for its military aggression and election meddling on his behalf. The air of uncertainty about the meeting is only heightened by the president’s propensity for unpredictable utterances and awkward optics.”

New York Times: “While the June jobs report, coming on Friday, is expected to show that hiring continued at a healthy pace last month, other recent indicators in areas like consumer spending, construction and auto sales have been decidedly less robust.”

“As a result, Wall Street forecasters have been busy lowering their growth estimates for the second quarter, which ended last Friday, much as they were forced to do over the first three months of the year. Economic expansion for the full year now appears unlikely to be much greater than 2 percent — about the average for the current recovery, which celebrates its eighth year this month.”

Columbia Journalism Review: “The president is fully aware that his war against the press is one of the few things that is working for him. His campaign promise to replace Obamacare is in tatters, his immigration ban has been watered down by the courts, the wall is still only (and thankfully) an architect’s rendering. There’s very little of substance left to bind Trump to his base or to the rightwing mediasphere that has been his cheerleader. Take away the war on the media and the bond between Trump and his supporters thins out fast.”

“Every time Trump fires a shot in his war against the media, there’s an opportunity for a more serious, nuanced argument about why everyone benefits from a free and vigorous press: Airing a president and his policies to open discussion and scrutiny results in better government. Squashing those things, or seeking to discredit the scrutiny before it even happens, neutralizes a key check against power baked into our Constitution. Dialing up the outrage meter every time Trump attacks CNN, The Washington Post, or The New York Times gets us no closer to that important debate, which is just fine for a president who has very little else to offer.”

John Harwood: “However hostile the party’s feelings about Trump, their challenge may get even steeper the closer the nation draws to the 2020 presidential contest. David Axelrod, the chief strategist in Barack Obama’s breakthrough 2008 victory, notes a recurrent pattern: Voters seek qualities in their next president that compensate for what they consider defects in the last one.”

Said Axelrod: “In 2020, there will be a market for an antidote to him. There will be a receptivity to someone who offers big ideas about how to insure a fair shot and economic insecurity for the broadest number of Americans in a rapidly changing economy, rather than promising a return to an irretrievable past. There will be a market for a more healing and unifying figure who can speak to our common values and concerns as Americans rather than mining resentment and sowing antagonism.”

“If he’s right, harsh denunciations of the wealthiest 1 percent won’t prove the most effective Democratic answer to Trump’s denunciations of illegal immigrants. That dynamic would give an advantage to potential White House candidates with a more consensus-oriented message, such as Joe Biden or Cory Booker, rather than Sanders or Warren.”

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

5 comments on “The Open Thread for July 7, 2017

  1. delacrat

    “Russian spies are ramping up their intelligence-gathering efforts in the US, according to current and former US intelligence officials who say they have noticed an increase since the election. “

    Jennifer Worrell of Wilmington, NC hits the nail on the head at 9:28

    “I don’t care about Russia !” We want clean water. We want good jobs and living wages”…..”The media are not focusing on the right things at all”.

    • cassandram

      If you don’t care about Russia meddling in American business then don’t pay attention to it. You don’t get to dictate what everyone else has to care about. Besides, it hasn’t occurred to you yet that if the Russians are fooling with our government, you can kiss any change at clean water or better jobs or wages out of the window. c.f., the Real Russia. But I guess it is all fun and games until they actually hack into nuclear plants.

      • It’s at times like this I really miss the like/dislike button.

      • delacrat

        While “it hasn’t occurred to you yet”, it has most certainly occurred to the people of Wilmington, NC (and beyond) that the culprits who polluted their water, off-shored their jobs, foreclosed on their homes and are generally “fooling with are government” are not any Russian boogie man.

        • cassandram

          No, but Russian boogie men are fooling with their votes, buying off American politicians and maybe trying to get control of nuclear plants. And if the latter happens, the former won’t matter much.

          Or maybe “it hasn’t occurred to you yet”.

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