Open Thread

The Open Thread for July 24, 2017

Former CIA and NSA director Michael Hayden called Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election the “most successful covert influence operation in history,” Yahoo News reports. “Hayden argued that the release of stolen Democratic emails on WikiLeaks was the Kremlin’s egregious act, not the hacks to obtain the information.”

Said Hayden: “If we as NSA could have an insight into … Russia through the same techniques, game on. But now you make the great distinction: What the Russians then did with the information. And then that turned it into what we call a covert influence operation.”

And yet…. New White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci told CNN that President Trump still does not accept the intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia attempted to influence the 2016 election.

Said Scaramucci: “The mainstream media position on this, that they interfered in the election. It actually in his mind, what are you guys suggesting? You’re going to delegitimize his victory?”

He added: “If the Russians actually hacked this situation and spilled out those e-mails, you would have never seen it. You would have never had any evidence of them, meaning that they’re super confident in their deception skills and hacking.”


Laurence Tribe, Richard Painter and Norm Eisen: “President Trump thinks he can do a lot of things just because he is president. He says that the president can act as if he has no conflicts of interest. He says that he can fire the FBI director for any reason he wants (and he admitted to the most outrageous of reasons in interviews and in discussion with the Russian ambassador). In one sense, Trump is right — he can do all of these things, although there will be legal repercussions if he does. Using official powers for corrupt purposes — such as impeding or obstructing an investigation — can constitute a crime.”

“But there is one thing we know that Trump cannot do — without being a first in all of human history. He cannot pardon himself.”

Mike Allen: “Aides say the quickest way to get Trump to do something is to tell him he can’t, or argue that it’s contrary to tradition. You always have to give him an alternative, and sometimes you can persuade him.”



Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is having discussions about running for president again, according to The Hill.  Said one close associate: “He thinks he’s earned the right to run again and he believes if he would have been the Democratic candidate he would have won against Trump. The last thing he’s going to do is step aside and let Joe Biden take it.”

Bernie has animus against Joe Biden now?   He would be wiser to work with the stable of younger candidates to see which one is acceptable to him.



Washington Post: “Over the course of his first six months, Trump averaged an approval rating of 38.8 percent, according to Gallup, more than five percentage points lower than the second-least popular president, Bill Clinton. Every other president since Dwight D. Eisenhower, who entered office after an election, has had an average approval of at least 50 percent.”



New York Times: “Much as the Clintons did, Mr. Trump is assembling a team of lawyers both inside and outside the White House to draw issues related to the investigation away from the rest of the West Wing. And he has embarked on a campaign to discredit the investigators before they can even get very far in their investigation, hoping to do to Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, what the Clintons did to Kenneth W. Starr, the independent counsel.”

“Advisers to Mr. Trump have studied and privately expressed admiration for the no-holds-barred way the Clintons attacked Mr. Starr’s integrity at every turn in an effort to shift attention from their conduct to his during the Whitewater and Monica S. Lewinsky investigations. The Clintons, Mr. Trump’s advisers said, knew how to ‘go to the mattresses,’ a phrase sometimes used approvingly in this White House, and they added that they were trying to do the same thing.”

There some differences. First, Clinton never contemplated firing Starr.  Second, Starr, a partisan Republican was investigating a Democratic President.  Here, Mueller, a nonpartisan Republican is investigating a Republican President.   Starr’s investigation was partisan. Mueller’s is not.  Third, Starr and his employees, investigators and attorneys leaked information to the press like a siv.  Mueller et al. so far have not.


“As a candidate, President Trump billed himself as a new breed of think-big Republican, pitching a $1 trillion campaign pledge to reconstruct the nation’s roadways, waterworks and bridges — along with a promise to revive the lost art of the bipartisan deal,” the New York Times reports.

“But an ambitious public works plan, arguably his best chance of rising above the partisan rancor of his first six months in office, is fast becoming an afterthought — at precisely the moment Mr. Trump needs a big, unifying issue to rewrite the narrative of his chaotic administration.”

“Infrastructure remains stuck near the rear of the legislative line, according to two dozen administration officials, legislators and labor leaders involved in coming up with a concrete proposal.”



Michelle Goldberg at Slate says the Resistance is planning for when Trump fires Mueller.

“Various resistance groups have started contingency planning for what happens if Trump attempts to kill the Mueller probe. “No one’s going to do anything prematurely, or accept the idea that Trump is going to or can fire Mueller,” said Fred Wertheimer, founder of the government watchdog group Democracy 21. “But if that should happen, or if he issues pardons, then a large number of groups that have been coordinating their efforts are going to be ready to help take the issue to the country and the Congress.”

If news breaks that Trump has forced Mueller out, Wertheimer believes that “the country will explode.” For the resistance, the trick is making sure the explosion is sustained. “That means people in the streets, demonstrations, marches, folks coming to Washington, a massive lobbying effort in Congress,” he said.

Yet everything keeps coming back to pushing a Congress that has so far been supine before the president and often hostile to dissenting constituents. “If Trump were to fire Mueller, that is to me the straw that breaks the camel’s back,” Democratic Congressman Ted Lieu told me. “I think at that point you’re going to have large numbers of Republicans saying we need to start impeachment proceedings.”

This should be true, but I’m not sure it is. Certainly, Republicans have been expressing horror about the idea of Mueller’s firing. Friday, Congressman Mike McCaul, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, told Andrea Mitchell that if Trump moves against Mueller, it would lead to a “tremendous backlash response” from House Republicans. Still, over the past six months, Republicans have shown themselves adept at tolerating the intolerable; one longtime Republican operative recently told me that no one has any idea where the tipping point might be.

For now, absent a plan to overthrow an illegitimate government, members of the resistance have no choice but to work through their representatives. “If Congress does nothing, that means the pressure ratchets up more in response,” said Lisa Gilbert, vice president of legislative affairs at Public Citizen. “We’re hoping to do everything we can to make that impossible.” Looking back to Nixon, she said, “There was a moment when it became too much and pressure had to be relieved, and Congress had to act. Similarly to the special counsel being appointed in the first place in this situation. We wouldn’t have thought that the Trump administration would do that, but they had to do something. In every situation, there’s a moment when it’s just too much.”

And if that moment doesn’t come for House Republicans, the midterms will become a referendum on impeachment.”



Mike Allen reports that Trump’s staff are having to learn how to speak his language.

“What doesn’t work: Sources who’ve watched McMaster in action say he over prepares to brief the President. He knows the outcome he wants and wants to stick rigidly to his plan. But Trump likes to be discursive and will frequently turn to others or meander into other subjects while McMaster is briefing him. When Trump finishes his riff, McMaster will often return precisely to the point he left off.

This bothers Trump, who has openly wished for the return of Michael Flynn, who was more spontaneous…

What works: A more successful approach with Trump is a more conversational, anecdotal style with lots of references to him — his theories and beliefs, things he has said in the past. Dina Powell, the deputy national security adviser, has been especially adroit at this: She gets the same place McMaster would go, but does it in a personal, leisurely style that engages the boss.”





“Donald Trump has been asked to make a ‘dummy’ State visit to Britain this year to show he can avoid embarrassing the Queen,” the Daily Mail reports.

“He has been invited to come for brief talks with Theresa May – but with none of the Royal pomp and circumstance he wanted.”

“The decision will be hailed as a victory by nearly two million people who signed a petition calling for the trip to be downgraded to spare the Queen’s blushes because of Trump’s ‘misogyny and vulgarity’… As a face-saving measure, the US President will be offered a State visit next year – but it won’t take place unless the low-profile trip is a success.”




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

3 comments on “The Open Thread for July 24, 2017


    Speaking with a local radio station on Monday, Farenthold said it was “absolutely repugnant” that the Republican-controlled Senate had yet to pass a healthcare bill.

    “Some of the people that are opposed to this, there are female senators from the north-east,” Farenthold said. “If it was a guy from south Texas, I might ask him to step outside and settle this Aaron Burr-style.”

    Someone should remind Representative Farenthold that Aaron Burr killed a framer of the Constitution, that that duel was illegal even at the time, that it put an end to his political career, and that he was arrested for treason three years later.

    • cassandram

      This Farenhold fool probably has the Code Duello all wrong. If he is issuing a challenge, it is the challenged that gets to choose the weapons. And I am pretty sure you are not allowed to challenge anyone above your station.

  2. cassandram

    Senators on hot mic: Trump is ‘crazy,’ ‘I’m worried’

    The WaPo has tape of Senators Reed and Collins discussing the inability of the GRIFTUS to govern. A must hear.

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