The Open Thread for October 12, 2017

President Trump “said he wanted what amounted to a nearly tenfold increase in the U.S. nuclear arsenal during a gathering this past summer of the nation’s highest ranking national security leaders,” NBC Newsreports.

“Trump’s comments, the officials said, came in response to a briefing slide he was shown that charted the steady reduction of U.S. nuclear weapons since the late 1960s. Trump indicated he wanted a bigger stockpile, not the bottom position on that downward-sloping curve.”

“According to the officials present, Trump’s advisers, among them the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, were surprised. Officials briefly explained the legal and practical impediments to a nuclear buildup and how the current military posture is stronger than it was at the height of the build-up. In interviews, they told NBC News that no such expansion is planned.”

“The July 20 meeting was described as a lengthy and sometimes tense review of worldwide U.S. forces and operations. It was soon after the meeting broke up that officials who remained behind heard Tillerson say that Trump is a ‘moron.’”

In response to the NBC News story, Trump tweeted that NBC’s broadcast license should be pulled as punishment for reporting what he considers fake news. “Fake @NBCNews made up a story that I wanted a ‘tenfold’ increase in our U.S. nuclear arsenal. Pure fiction, made up to demean. NBC = CNN!” Trump tweeted. “With all of the Fake News coming out of NBC and the Networks, at what point is it appropriate to challenge their License? Bad for country!” Then he said in a photo spray with Canadian Prime Minister Justin “McDreamy” Trudeau that “It is frankly disgusting the press is able to write whatever it wants to write.”

A senior Republican source told Gabriel Sherman that White House chief of staff John Kelly and Defense Secretary James Mattis talked about what they would do if President Trump “lunged for the nuclear football.”

A person close to the White House told the Los Angeles Times that President Trump and White House chief of staff John Kelly had engaged in “shouting matches” in recent days.

“Kelly has sought to limit Trump’s free time and to prevent outsiders from bringing him unfiltered and sometimes inaccurate information that can rile him up… More often, though, Kelly and others on his side are frustrated.”

“The president, meanwhile, is said to be discomfited not only by the attempts to control him, but by the recent departure of his longtime lieutenant, Keith Schiller, who had been White House director of operations and, perhaps most important, a key interpreter and soother of Trump’s feelings.”

Several people close to President Trump have told Gabriel Sherman that the president is “unstable,” “losing a step,” and “unraveling.”

“The conversation among some of the president’s longtime confidantes, along with the character of some of the leaks emerging from the White House has shifted. There’s a new level of concern.”

“In recent days, I spoke with a half dozen prominent Republicans and Trump advisers, and they all describe a White House in crisis as advisers struggle to contain a president who seems to be increasingly unfocused and consumed by dark moods. Trump’s ire is being fueled by his stalled legislative agenda and, to a surprising degree, by his decision last month to back the losing candidate Luther Strange in the Alabama Republican primary.”

Said one person: “Alabama was a huge blow to his psyche. He saw the cult of personality was broken.”

“Not totally sure how rap battles work, but I believe Eminem is now the President of the United States of America.” — Ellen executive producer Andy Lassner, on Twitter.

Stephen Bannon is building a nationwide coalition that — in the words of a former Trump White House official — could “wreak havoc” across the map “if Bannon is even halfways successful,” Axios reports.

“Some of Bannon’s candidates for Republican primaries have privately pledged they’ll oppose Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. It’s becoming a de facto litmus test in Bannon’s recruitment.”

“Bannon vows to support primary challengers against every incumbent Republican senator running for re-election in 2018 — with the sole exception of Ted Cruz. So that could mean seven Bannon GOP challengers, and he has as many as eight Democratic senators in his sights. Bannon is also exploring gubernatorial and House races.”

As Bannon told Sean Hannity: “Nobody’s safe. We’re coming after all of them.”

Fred Barnes: “No longer will ‘blue slips’ be allowed to deny a nominee a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing and vote on confirmation. In the past, senators have sometimes barred a nominee from their state by refusing to return their slip to the committee, thus preventing a hearing and confirmation.”

“The majority — that is, Republicans — will treat a blue slip ‘as simply notification of how you’re going to vote, not as an opportunity to blackball,’ McConnell told me. The use of blue slips, he noted, is not a Senate rule and has ‘been honored in the breach over the years.’ Now it won’t be honored at all.”

Said McConnell: “Regardless of what tactics are used by Democrats, the judges are going to be confirmed.”

Rick Hasen: “This is a serious escalation in the judicial wars.”

“One of the Democratic Party’s most prominent financial backers is demanding that lawmakers and candidates on the left support removing President Trump from office, putting pressure on Democrats to make Mr. Trump’s ouster a defining issue in the 2018 midterm elections,” the New York Times reports.

“Tom Steyer, a billionaire California investor who spent more than $91 million supporting Democrats in the 2016 elections, issued the demand to his party in a letter on Wednesday. In his message, Mr. Steyer described Mr. Trump as a ‘clear and present danger to the republic’ and called on Democrats to pledge that they would seek to remove him from office if they take control of Congress next year.”

New York Times: “Given the swirling tumult, one political and legislative reality is suddenly becoming crystal clear: Republicans must deliver a tax cut or face an epic backlash that would pose a significant threat to their governing majority and long-term political health.”

“After Republicans were unable to fulfill their longstanding promise to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the tax cut proposal is the only remaining game in town for the struggling majority and its allies on K Street. The inability to enact a tax cut — an idea that nearly all Republicans support in theory while differing on the details — would represent a monumental failure.”

“The party would have virtually no argument for re-election in 2018 and Senate and House incumbents would be wide open to challenge from both the right and the left.”

Alabama U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore (R) once said that he did not take a “regular salary” from the charity he founded to promote Christian values because he did not want to be a financial burden, the Washington Post reports.

“But privately, Moore had arranged to receive a salary of $180,000 a year for part-time work at the Foundation for Moral Law… He collected more than $1 million as president from 2007 to 2012, compensation that far surpassed what the group disclosed in its public tax filings most of those years.”

“When the charity couldn’t afford the full amount, Moore in 2012 was given a promissory note for back pay eventually worth $540,000 or an equal stake of the charity’s most valuable asset, a historic building in Montgomery, Ala., mortgage records show. He holds that note even now.”

Frank Rich: “It’s a watershed moment that even when the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee invokes World War III, it is not enough to get the Vichy Republicans in Washington to speak up. The senators who remain silent while privately nodding in agreement with Corker don’t seem to understand the urgency of the situation. Someone should tell them that the tax cuts they are holding out for will not be honored in the event of nuclear Armageddon.

Those tax cuts aren’t going to become law anyway. Such is Trump’s ignorance about every aspect of American government he didn’t seem to understand that when Corker announced he was retiring from the Senate that meant he was leaving at the end of his term — not the end of the week. Trump has failed to get any major legislation through the Senate as it is; he can’t afford to lose Corker or anyone else for the next 15 months. That the likes of Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan still believe they can get a tax bill or anything else through Congress, even after the repeated “repeal and replace” humiliations on health care, is a fascinating case study in the power of denial. Trump will keep making a mockery of their ambitions every day.”

“A data firm backed by some of Donald Trump’s closest allies is now facing scrutiny as part of an investigation into possible collusion between the president’s team and Russian operatives,” the Daily Beast reports.

“The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) is looking at Cambridge Analytica’s work for President Trump’s campaign as part of its investigation into Russian efforts to meddle in the 2016 race… The company is in the process of turning over documents to HPSCI… Another source close to the investigation said that the probe’s focus on Cambridge Analytica is ‘fruitful.’”

As Al Giordano tweeted about this, “Now we’re cooking with gas.”

“Since February, the DCCC has hired full-time paid organizers in 38 districts focused on building relationships with the grass roots. And on Tuesday, the organization is rolling out its latest effort to connect motivated activists with the national party’s resources, , an online “toolbox” that aims to put potential activists in direct touch with the party operatives on the ground in battlefield districts.

Democrats need a net gain of 24 seats to win the House majority, and DCCC Executive Director Dan Sena said his group’s aim is to “arm the rebels” — a conscious nod to conflicts abroad where, rather than fight every battle itself, the U.S. military has instead advised and supplied native forces most invested in winning.”

CNN is reporting that Homeland Security is exploring how it could transform the immigration system without Congress. The possible changes could limit protections for unaccompanied minors who come to the US illegally, expand the use of quick deportation proceedings, and tighten visa programs that could limit legal immigration to the US. None of the policies have been finalized.

“It was a case of spies watching spies watching spies: Israeli intelligence officers looked on in real time as Russian government hackers searched computers around the world for the code names of American intelligence programs,” the New York Times reports.

“What gave the Russian hacking, detected more than two years ago, such global reach was its improvised search tool — antivirus software made by a Russian company, Kaspersky Lab, that is used by 400 million people worldwide, including by officials at some two dozen American government agencies.”

“The Israeli officials who had hacked into Kaspersky’s own network alerted the United States to the broad Russian intrusion, which has not been previously reported, leading to a decision just last month to order Kaspersky software removed from government computers.”

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

1 comment on “The Open Thread for October 12, 2017

  1. The supreme court and gerrymandering, expect the worst as it’s the Roberts court and the gang of five is newly replenished with Gorsuch. Steve Bannon, master of the world? Nope, expect a major smack down at some point, Bannon’s fellow billionaires are not going to have their control and profits threatened by Kid Breitbart. Roy Moore, how do your think politicians get rich? Hard work and working smarter? Not in the corruption game, but it will not matter in the blighted state of Alabama, now locked in a heated battle with Mississippi for worst of the worst. Is Trump “unstable”? Dare say so and it’s troubling that he has the nuclear codes and is anywhere near the famed “football”. A contingency plan to tackle his obese old ass is cold comfort compared to Trump being removed from access to the nukes. For one brief shining moment how about common sense for just this once.

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