The Open Thread for September 17, 2017

Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) “sought to rally support for the last-ditch Obamacare repeal plan he co-authored, saying he believes he’s on the verge of winning the final votes needed to jam it through the Senate,” Politico reports.

“Cassidy claims that as many as 49 GOP senators have expressed support but doesn’t have a hard whip count with just days left to use a fast-track process allowing the bill to pass with a simply majority. And his search for the elusive 50 ‘aye’ votes got harder Thursday, when Sen. Rand Paul announced his opposition.”

Playbook: “This is a real thing, according to aides close to the process. In a private lunch of Republican senators on Thursday, they decided this was a bill worth pursuing. That doesn’t mean this will be quick. Leadership needs to whip the bill, submit it for a Congressional Budget Office score and have the parliamentarian check it for issues. It’s a heavy lift but it could get through.”

Vox: “Senate Republicans are trying to build momentum for a last-gasp bill to replace the Affordable Care Act, swearing that they are once again just a few votes short of delivering on their seven-year pledge. The health law’s supporters are trying to regalvanize the base that helped beat back previous repeal attempts, worried about being caught off-guard by a new plan that nobody took seriously until recently.”

“An imminent deadline is fueling the sense of urgency: Republicans have until the end of the month to act on a repeal bill. Otherwise, they’d need to start the process over at the very beginning — by passing a new budget resolution — or win Democratic support for it. Neither is particularly appealing, so this could very well be the GOP’s last shot for the foreseeable future.”

“Trump administration officials said Saturday the U.S. wouldn’t pull out of the Paris Agreement, offering to re-engage in the international deal to fight climate change,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“The shift from President Trump’s decision in June to renegotiate the landmark accord or craft a new deal came during a meeting of more than 30 ministers led by Canada, China and the European Union in Montreal.”

However: “The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.” And now I am hearing that the White House is denying this report.  Also, consider the following as confirmation as this report is not true: “The Trump administration is quietly moving to allow energy exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for the first time in more than 30 years, according to documents obtained by the Washington Post, with a draft rule that would lay the groundwork for drilling.”

“Congress has sole authority to determine whether oil and gas drilling can take place within the refuge’s 19.6 million acres. But seismic studies represent a necessary first step, and Interior Department officials are modifying a 1980s regulation to permit them.”

Politico: “His critics might see his growing isolation as a product of his political inexperience—an aversion to the norms of the legislative process, a penchant for topsy-turvy management. But as unprecedented as this might be in the annals of the West Wing, it’s merely a continuation of a lifelong pattern of behavior for Trump. Take away the Pennsylvania Avenue address, the never-ending list of domestic and international crises, and the couldn’t-be-higher geopolitical stakes—and this looks very much like … Trump throughout his entire existence. Isolated is how he’s always operated.”

“The middle son of a stony, workaholic father with whom he had an ‘almost businesslike’ relationship, Trump is a double divorcee, a boss with a professed distaste for having partners or shareholders, a television-tethered, hamburger-eating homebody and a germaphobe who has described shaking hands as ‘terrible,’ ‘barbaric’ and ‘one of the curses of American society.’ He’s been a loner most of his life.”

Frank Rich:  “It didn’t turn out well for the Vichy collaborators in World War II, and the same fate in one way or another will befall those Republican leaders who abandoned whatever principles they had once Trump occupied their party. History will be merciless to them, but how much fun to watch them reduced to thunderstruck supernumeraries in real time.

Still, this instance of victory for congressional Democrats was a one-off. The new coinage that Trump is somehow an “independent,” with its implicit invocation of the Teddy Roosevelts of American history, is a way of dignifying and normalizing erratic behavior that hasn’t changed from the start. It’s the latest iteration of those previous moments when wishful centrist pundits started saying things like “Today Trump became president” simply because he stuck to a teleprompter script when addressing Congress or bombed Syria. Trump is an “independent” in the same way a toddler is. He jumped at the Democrats’ deal solely on impulse. He remains a drama queen who likes to grab attention any way he can, especially when he thinks he can please a crowd, whether the mobs at his rallies or the press Establishment he claims to loathe but whose approval he has always desperately craved. The most telling aspect of this whole incident was his morning-after phone call to Schumer to express his excitement that he was getting rave reviews not only from Fox but CNN and MSNBC as well.”

Max Boot: “This ambiguity, indeed downright incoherence, makes Trump the most maddening politician anyone has ever tried to analyze. He contradicts himself constantly and unashamedly… The only constant is Trump’s egomania and impetuosity. He will say or do anything that, at that very moment, is likely to stoke his ego. The next moment he may do something entirely different. Like a small child, he seldom seems to think about the consequences of his actions or plan ahead. He just acts and hopes for the best.”

“You can make the case that Trump’s incoherence is his greatest strength because it allows him to appeal to all sides—and his greatest weakness because it means that no one trusts him. Because just about anything you say about him is both true and false.”

“President Trump’s inaugural committee raised an unprecedented $107 million for a ceremony that officials promised would be ‘workmanlike,’ and the committee pledged to give leftover funds to charity. Nearly eight months later, the group has helped pay for redecorating at the White House and the vice president’s residence in Washington. But nothing has yet gone to charity,” the AP reports.

“What is left from the massive fundraising is a mystery, clouded by messy and, at times, budget-busting management of a private fund that requires little public disclosure. The Associated Press spoke with eight people — vendors, donors and Trump associates — involved in planning and political fundraising for the celebration, an event that provides an early look at the new president’s management style and priorities. The people described a chaotic process marked by last-minute decisions, staffing turnover and little financial oversight.”

“Special counsel Robert Mueller and his team are now in possession of Russian-linked ads run on Facebook during the presidential election, after they obtained a search warrant for the information,” CNN reports.

“Facebook gave Mueller and his team copies of ads and related information it discovered on its site linked to a Russian troll farm, as well as detailed information about the accounts that bought the ads and the way the ads were targeted at American Facebook users.”

“The disclosure, first reported by the Wall Street Journal, may give Mueller’s office a fuller picture of who was behind the ad buys and how the ads may have influenced voter sentiment during the 2016 election.”

Meanwhile, “[a]n attorney working on the Justice Department’s highest-profile money laundering case recently transferred off that assignment in order to join the staff of the special prosecutor investigating the Trump campaign’s potential ties to Russia,” Politico reports.

“Kyle Freeny, whose assignment to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s staff has not been previously reported, is the 17th lawyer known to be working with the former FBI chief on the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.”

“The Trump administration on Friday escalated a battle with government ethics groups by declining, even in the face of a federal court order, to release the identities of individuals visiting with President Trump at his family’s Mar-a-Lago resort during the days he has spent at the private club in Palm Beach, Fla., this year,” the New York Times reports.

“The surprising move by the Department of Justice, which had been ordered in July to make the visitors log public, came after weeks of promotion by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, the liberal nonprofit group known as CREW, that it would soon be getting the Mar-a-Lago visitors logs.”

Rep. Dana Rohrabacker (R-CA) “contacted the White House this week trying to broker a deal that would end WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s U.S. legal troubles in exchange for what he described as evidence that Russia wasn’t the source of hacked emails published by the antisecrecy website during the 2016 presidential campaign,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“In the days leading up to Donald Trump’s presidential inauguration, when his soon-to-be national security adviser Michael Flynn was reportedly pushing a multibillion-dollar deal to build nuclear reactors in Jordan and other Middle East nations, Flynn and two other top Trump advisers held a secret meeting with the king of Jordan,” BuzzFeed News reports.

“The meeting — details of which have never been reported — is the latest in a series of secret, high-stakes contacts between Trump advisers and foreign governments that have raised concerns about how, in particular, Flynn and senior adviser Jared Kushner handled their personal business interests as they entered key positions of power.”

Charlie Cook: “There are now signs that President Trump is succeeding in driving a wedge in the GOP between his base and the Republican Congress, blaming his own party for a lack of progress on Capitol Hill, something that could spell trouble for incumbents like Dean Heller in Nevada, Jeff Flake in Arizona, and possibly others.”

“The danger is two-fold. Either the incumbent loses a primary to a less-electable Republican, or gets beaten in the general election because the party is so badly divided and Trump voters so disillusioned that usually reliable Republicans don’t go to the polls.”

“Senate Democrats are three seats shy of a majority and almost entirely on defense in the 2018 elections, making it all but impossible for them to retake the chamber next year,” Politico reports.

“But Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and DSCC Chairman Chris Van Hollen are privately refusing to rule out an improbable midterm victory, even though they must first defend 10 incumbents in states President Donald Trump won. Their insistence is primarily to keep donors invested and excited about next year’s Senate races, said a handful of top party operatives. But Democrats also want to be prepared to ride a massive wave next fall should one develop, potentially taking advantage of bloody Republican primaries to spur a red-state surprise and swing the Senate.”

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

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