Open Thread

The Open Thread for July 15, 2017

THE COLLUSION MEETING HAD A SOVIET HACKER SPY IN IT NOW: “The Russian lawyer who met with the Trump team after a promise of compromising material on Hillary Clinton was accompanied by a Russian-American lobbyist — Rinat Akhmetshin — a former Soviet counter intelligence officer who is suspected by some U.S. officials of having ongoing ties to Russian intelligence,” NBC News has learned.

Jonathan Chait: “Akhmetshin has been accused in federal court of “hacking into two computer systems and stealing sensitive and confidential materials as part of an alleged black-ops smear campaign,” reports the Daily Beast, which cited court records.

Akhmetshin, who attended the meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, has provided the alibi (of sorts) that he offered to share “printed-out documents that detailed what she believed was the flow of illicit funds to the Democratic National Committee.” Chuck Ross points out that, nine days after the meeting, Guccifer 2.0 published materials meeting precisely that description.

So the meeting at Trump Tower, which was held on the explicit promise of furthering Russian support for the Trump campaign, included a hacker, and the materials the Russians say they brought were among those published by the Russian hacking cutout.”

Meanwhile, President Trump “plans to put a veteran Washington lawyer, Ty Cobb, in charge of overseeing the White House’s legal and media response to investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 campaign,” Bloombergreports.

“Top administration officials want someone to enforce discipline in the White House regarding Russia matters — and that includes the president, who frequently vents his frustrations about the investigations on Twitter.”


TRUMP VOTERS ARE JOINING THE REST OF AMERICANS IN OPPOSING TRUMPCARE.  A new Vox/Survey Monkey poll finds 14% of Trump supporters now fear that the Senate health care bill will make them worse off.  “Those supporters are the most vulnerable part of Trump’s coalition. They have lost faith in Trump’s promise that he would replace Obamacare with something ‘much better,’ and they have less faith in the rest of his presidency too. Compared with their fellow Trump backers, they are more economically anxious, less confident in Trump’s economic policies, and more concerned about the Russia scandal and the administration’s possible ethical violations.”

A new Kaiser Health Tracking Poll finds that 61% of Americans continue to hold unfavorable views of the Republican plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, including 44% who say they have “very unfavorable” view.



“Republicans are considering tying a must-pass increase in the federal debt limit to funding for a program that lets military veterans get medical care outside of Veterans Affairs facilities,” the Wall Street Journal reports.  “The legislative move, still in the early stages of discussion on Capitol Hill, would let Republicans claim a policy victory while raising the federal borrowing cap.”



“House GOP leaders will decide next week whether to brave an ugly floor fight over a massive GOP spending bill — a proposal applauded by some rank-and-file Republicans but that risks embarrassment if it fails,” Politico reports.

“In a closed-door GOP conference meeting Friday morning, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said all 12 appropriations bills will be finished in committee by the end of next week. Starting Monday, leadership will begin a tentative whip count on whether lawmakers would vote for a package before the August recess that combines all of those bills into one $1 trillion government funding bill.”

“Though the bill would never pass the Senate in the face of Democratic opposition, the process would allow House Republicans to offer potentially hundreds of amendments, an exercise that excites members who are frustrated that they’ve had no input on how to fund the government… The strategy could open something of a Pandora’s box, however. Lawmakers would be required to vote on controversial amendments that could be used against them in their districts, from provisions on the Confederate flag to gay rights proposals that put them in bind.”


“France is America’s first and oldest ally. A lot of people don’t know that.” — President Trump, quoted by the Boston Globe.  We all knew it.  At least, those of us who are educated beyond your first elementary school American history class.

“It’s almost embarrassing being an American citizen… and listening to the stupid shit we have to deal with in this country.” — J.P. Morgan CEO Jaime Dimon, quoted by CNBC.



Washington Post: “The president has treated health care and a host of other legislative agenda items, from taxes to infrastructure, as issues to be hammered out by lawmakers with often-scant direction from the executive branch — and with decidedly mixed signals from Trump himself.”

“Trump’s sporadic salesmanship on the bills and ambitions lingering on Capitol Hill has become a defining characteristic of the complicated relationship between the president and congressional Republicans. Although Trump routinely proclaims his desire for political victories, he has yet to make a full-throated case to the country about legislation that Congress is pursuing and has spent a modest amount of time attempting to twist arms in the House or Senate.”


Jennifer Rubin: “Let me suggest the real problem is not the Trump family, but the GOP. To paraphrase Brooks, “It takes generations to hammer ethical considerations out of a [party’s] mind and to replace them entirely with the ruthless logic of winning and losing.” Again, to borrow from Brooks, beyond partisanship the GOP evidences “no attachment to any external moral truth or ethical code.”…

We have always had in our political culture narcissists, ideologues and flimflammers, but it took the 21st-century GOP to put one in the White House. It took elected leaders such as House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) and the Republican National Committee (not to mention its donors and activists) to wave off Trump’s racists attacks on a federal judge, blatant lies about everything from 9/11 to his own involvement in birtherism, replete evidence of disloyalty to America (i.e. Trump’s “Russia first” policies), misogyny, Islamophobia, ongoing potential violations of the Constitution’s emoluments clause (along with a mass of conflicts of interests), firing of an FBI director, and now, evidence that the campaign was willing to enlist a foreign power to defeat Clinton in the presidential election.”



THE TRUMP CRIME FAMILY PRESIDENCY: David Remnick: “The Republicans, the self-proclaimed party of family values, remain squarely behind a family and a Presidency whose most salient features are amorality, greed, demagoguery, deception, vulgarity, race-baiting, misogyny, and, potentially—only time and further investigation will tell—a murky relationship with a hostile foreign government.”

“In the near term, if any wrongdoing is found, the Trump family member who stands to lose the most is the son-in-law and consigliere, Jared Kushner, who accompanied Donald, Jr., to the meeting with Veselnitskaya and Akhmetshin. Kushner seems to see himself and his wife, Ivanka, as lonely voices of probity and moderation in an otherwise unhinged West Wing. Why they would believe this when their conflicts of interest are on an epic scale is a mystery. But such is their self-regard. It is said by those close to Kushner that, if he fears anything, it is to repeat the experience of his father, Charles, who, in 2005, pleaded guilty to charges of making illegal campaign contributions and hiring a prostitute to entrap his brother-in-law, and spent fourteen months in an Alabama penitentiary.”

“Meanwhile, as the Trump family consumes the nation’s attention with its colossal self-absorption and ethical delinquencies, the temperature keeps rising.”

Washington Post: “Most White House aides are trying to protect the principal: the president and, really, the presidency itself. But Trump himself seems focused primarily on protecting his personal interests, which includes his family.

James Hohmann: “Trump’s embrace of a kind of nepotism that’s historically been more common in banana republics than the first world continues to backfire on him — creating a myriad legal and political headaches. And they’re probably only going to get worse.”


“In defiance of a court order, the Justice Department is refusing to release part of a security form dealing with Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ contacts with the Russian government,” NPR reports.


Frank Rich: “The good news for those who want to see justice done is that this scandal not only resembles Watergate but also The Godfather — albeit a Godfather where every Corleone is a Fredo and not a single lawyer is as crafty as Tom Hagen, despite the fact that Little Donald’s private attorney has a history of defending clients from mob families. The level of stupidity of the conspirators is staggering: Not the least of the week’s news is that Kushner thought he could get away with omitting this Trump Tower meeting on the government questionnaire he filed to get his security clearance. (The $2.5 million that Charles Kushner donated to Harvard to gain his son admissionwas not money well spent.) My other favorite detail of the week (so far) is that Rob Goldstone, the former British tabloid writer and Miss Universe entrepreneur who served as the Trump campaign’s Russian middleman, posted on Facebook that he was “preparing for meeting” at Trump Toweron the day it took place.

Now it’s every man (and his lawyer) for himself as the president, having hidden from the press and the public ever since he returned home from his Yalta-themed tête-à-tête with Vladimir Putin, escapes to France, of all places. His press secretary is also in hiding, as is his chief of staff, Reince Priebus, who as recently as Sunday dismissed the Donald Jr. story as a “nothingburger” — Trumpspeak for the Nixon press secretary Ron Ziegler’s designation of Watergate as a “third-rate burglary.” About the only administration stalwart not remaining silent is the vice-president, whose statement following the release of the Donald Jr. emails let it be known that he was “not aware” of the Trump Tower meeting and that it had taken place before he joined the campaign. Mike Pence has clearly been boning up on Gerald Ford, and may already be brooding about the risks entailed if he should eventually be in the position to pardon the 45th president.”


Amy Walter notes the forces opposed to the GOP’s health care legislation are outspending those supporting the bill $5.8 million to $354,000.

“According to data supplied to the Cook Political Report from Kantar Media CMAG, a nonpartisan tracker of political TV advertising, there have been 26,713 ads run between May 23 and July 10 that mention the health care bill. Just over 25,000–or 94 percent–of those ads have been critical of the GOP plan. Note that these figures don’t represent digital or radio ad buys.”


Chuck Todd spoke at an Axios roundtable yesterday and reported the White House “doesn’t know what it’s doing. They have no idea how to make legislation happen. They have no idea how to work with Congress. They came in with no big plan, no big agenda.”

He added: “We’re at a point where it’s every man and woman for themselves. It’s not a point where everyone is abiding by that, but it’s more and more every day.”  Also interesting about President Trump: “He showed me his DIRECTV list…he records a lot. If it’s not about him, then [channel click noise]. He watches all five Sunday shows every Sunday at some point in time.”


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

3 comments on “The Open Thread for July 15, 2017

  1. “Republicans are considering tying a must-pass increase in the federal debt limit to funding for a program that lets military veterans get medical care outside of Veterans Affairs facilities,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
    I think this is a good idea, actually, as long as their care is covered. The VA is is an anomoly in our healthcare system, with medical care provided by government employees. That said, I had no idea how complicated it is:
    I assume there are a bunch of reporting requirements involved in caring for veterans, a lot of paperwork and also probably research and special programs, so going outside the system means a loss of information or maybe even losing the veteran in terms of follow-up. Either that or burdensome paperwork for outside providers. It could be interesting to call on outside facilties to apply to be approved providers and go through training and get the various resources they need to serve veterans so that there are more facilities available to treat them closer to home (like being “in network” in an insurance plan). Also maybe a way to shore up struggling hospitals in rural areas. Of course, this would require more funding for the program, not less.

    • cassandram

      The VA’s entire problem is wrapped up in not enough resources. They have a very large and geographically distributed client base — and given the bump in needs caused by Afghanistan and Iraq, Vietnam vets are aging. These aging Vets have the same issues as the rest of us aging folks do, but they also have complications from some of their tour exposures. The system seems to be facing a perfect storm it seems to me.

  2. cassandram

    The first two years if 45 budgets expand our deficits.

    Remember when the GOP was howling about reducing deficits and debt? I also remember when our local Federal delegation did their own handwringing about deficits — with lots of stern talk about being Governor’s and County Executives who HAD to balance their budgets. Anyone hearing from these people yet?

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