Open Thread

The Open Thread for November 18, 2017

Playbook: “December is going to be really, really, really brutal. Spending caps deal. Government funding. Potential legislation to deal with the expiration of DACA. Action to prop up the health care law. And now, we hear that  the debt ceiling could be part of the mix in the final month of the year, as well. Treasury says Congress has until January to lift the debt limit, but some say if Congress is going to slap together a big package, the debt limit might as well be included. No one really wants to raise the debt limit in an election year, anyway. But the negotiations have to be going really well for the debt limit to be included. It’s not a must-pass at the end of the year, and it could just as easily slip to 2018. In other words, Republicans tell us they won’t let the debt limit be a bargaining chip for Democrats who are trying to get a DACA deal.”

“We also hear Congress will pass a short-term government funding bill in time for the Dec. 8 deadline, kicking the deadline toward the end of the month in time for a large spending deal. Oh yeah – the White House has made it clear they want tax reform done in December as well. Whoever wins the Alabama Senate race will join the chamber toward the end of December, too. This could easily be the most consequential legislative month in years.”

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Michael Gerson makes some good points.

“I spent part of my convalescence from a recent illness reading some of the comprehensive timelines of the Russia investigation… In all of this, there is a spectacular accumulation of lies. Lies on disclosure forms. Lies at confirmation hearings. Lies on Twitter. Lies in the White House briefing room. Lies to the FBI. Self-protective lies by the attorney general. Blocking and tackling lies by Vice President Pence. This is, with a few exceptions, a group of people for whom truth, political honor, ethics and integrity mean nothing.

What are the implications? President Trump and others in his administration are about to be hit by a legal tidal wave. We look at the Russia scandal and see lies. A skilled prosecutor sees leverage. People caught in criminal violations make more cooperative witnesses. Robert S. Mueller III and his A-team of investigators have plenty of stupidity and venality to work with. They are investigating an administration riven by internal hatreds — also the prosecutor’s friend. And Trump has already alienated many potential allies in a public contest between himself and Mueller. A number of elected Republicans, particularly in the Senate, would watch this showdown with popcorn.”

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Martin Longman: “If you haven’t already, you should set aside some time to read about the blockbuster from NBC News and Reuters on the astounding criminality surrounding the Trump Ocean Club International Hotel and Tower project in Panama City. The people involved in selling those units from Trump have been accused and in several cases convicted of everything from pimping to working in the human slave trade to kidnapping to laundering money for South American drug kingpins. This, all in a project that Trump set aside to be Ivanka’s “baby”- her introduction to the real estate game. Many of these people were Russians and the same is true of their customers, who in most cases never occupied the properties they “bought” with their dirty money.

During a recent visit by NBC News, the Trump Ocean Club appeared to be largely empty, with virtually no one in the restaurants at night. The hallways were consistently empty. The lights were off in many of the units after dark. Ventura said most of his clients never intended to live in the Trump Ocean Club.

Imagine what someone with Robert Mueller’s resources can discover about Trump’s business practices.  He’s already taken the chairman of Trump’s campaign, Paul Manafort, down for money laundering dirty Russian money, and that’s just scratching the surface.”

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“The Roy Moore scandal has unleashed a torrent of online donations to Democrat Doug Jones, who was collecting around $250,000 per day in its immediate aftermath,” NBC Newsreports.

“Democrats may end up in the unlikely situation of dramatically outspending the GOP in the Senate contest in deep red Alabama now that national Republicans have abandoned Moore. The Republican candidate’s bank account had been depleted by a tough primary battle even before nine women came forward to accuse of him of sexual impropriety.”

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A Democrat is now a narrow favorite to win a Senate special election in Alabama,” write Kye Kondik and Geoffrey Skelley at Sabato’s Crystal Ball. “We’re changing our rating of the Dec. 12 special election from Likely Republican all the way to Leans Democratic…Polls, already close before the really bad stories about Moore began appearing about a week ago, seem to have tightened further, with Jones even leading in some. For instance, Politico’s Alex Isenstadt reported on Wednesday that the National Republican Senatorial Committee — no friend of Moore’s even before the sexual misconduct stories broke, to be sure — has Moore down 51%-39% to Jones in its polling. However, we’re not sure how useful polls will be in this race: Anticipating turnout in a special election like this is very hard. What we do know is 1.) Last week’s elections and special elections conducted throughout the year have shown high levels of Democratic enthusiasm in both liberal and conservative jurisdictions; 2.) Jones is likely to have a big resource advantage in this race — he’s already outspent Moore 11-to-one on TV ads, according to Advertising Analytics — with national Republicans staying away from Moore; and 3.) Moore may have trouble preventing poor Republican turnout given his horribly damaged candidacy.”

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A new Fox News poll in Alabama shows former President Obama is more popular in Alabama than Donald Trump.  The poll shows Obama with a 52% favorability rating in the state, compared to Trump’s 49%.

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Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak said that it would take him more than 20 minutes to name all of the Trump officials he’s met with or spoken to on the phone, CNBC reports.  Said Kislyak: “First, I’m never going to do that. And second, the list is so long that I’m not going to be able to go through it in 20 minutes.”

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Politico: “Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley is burning the blue slip for some judicial nominees. The Iowa Republican announced Thursday that he is going ahead with a confirmation hearing for a nominee to the powerful appellate courts despite the objections of a Democrat who had been blocking the nomination for months. The move will likely escalate the judicial wars in the Senate.”

“The blue slip process is a century-old Senate tradition that says the Judiciary Committee doesn’t hold a confirmation hearing for potential judges without approval from permission from the candidate’s home-state senators… Previous committee chairs have rigidly adhered to the blue-slip rule for district court nominees, whose courts span just a single state.  But they have been more flexible for the more influential and powerful circuit courts.  Democrats pointed out that Grassley, as chairman during the final two years of Obama’s presidency, declined to hold hearings for nine of Obama’s judicial picks because of the blue slip policy.”

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“President Trump is nominating white men to America’s federal courts at a rate not seen in nearly 30 years… So far, 91 percent of Trump’s nominees are white, and 81 percent are male, an Associated Press analysis has found. Three of every four are white men, with few African-Americans and Hispanics in the mix. The last president to nominate a similarly homogenous group was George H.W. Bush.”

“The shift could prove to be one of Trump’s most enduring legacies. These are lifetime appointments, and Trump has inherited both an unusually high number of vacancies and an aging population of judges. That puts him in position to significantly reshape the courts that decide thousands of civil rights, environmental, criminal justice and other disputes across the country. The White House has been upfront about its plans to quickly fill the seats with conservatives, and has made clear that judicial philosophy tops any concerns about shrinking racial or gender diversity.”

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David Wasserman: “Taken together with results from four 2017 House special elections in red districts, where Democrats outperformed Clinton anywhere from one point (GA-06) to 13 points (KS-04), the balance of evidence suggests Democrats would be the ever-so-slight favorites to reclaim the House if the elections were held today. New congressional generic ballot polls showing Democrats with double-digit leads only bolster that assessment.”

“The major caveats, of course, are that 2018 is still almost a year away and Republicans have yet to air their opponents’ flaws. But, there’s no guarantee things will get better for the GOP in the next 12 months.”

“Based on recent developments, we’re changing our ratings in seven districts, with six moves reflecting enhanced opportunities for Democrats.”

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Bloomberg: “The federal indictment of Paul Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman, accuses him of laundering millions in foreign payments to pursue a ‘lavish lifestyle’ in the U.S., especially in the Hamptons, where he has a house. What it doesn’t explain — or highlight — are the stratospheric payments he made to home improvement companies when his renovation work was estimated at far less.

“Special Counsel Robert Mueller, in his indictment, says that a Hamptons firm got $5.4 million in wire transfers from Cyprus over 71 payments. But building permits over the same period examined by Bloomberg show that renovations by Manafort’s Hamptons’ contractor were estimated to cost $1.2 million. That’s less than a quarter of what was ultimately sent — an apparent discrepancy that could draw scrutiny from investigators.”

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The Atlantic: “With sexual misconduct allegations continuing to mount against the Republican Senate candidate in Alabama, Moore has defied calls to drop out of the race by advancing an audacious conspiracy theory—that partisan fabulists in the mainstream media are working with his enemies in the political establishment to wage a nefarious smear campaign against him. Not long ago, such claims likely would have backfired. But in the Trump era, anti-press sentiment has reached a fever pitch on the right—something candidates like Moore are eagerly exploiting.”

“Charlie Sykes, a former conservative talk radio host, said Republican voters have been conditioned over years of right-wing media consumption to reflexively reject any news that challenges their worldview.”

“In Alabama, Sykes said, a ‘nightmare scenario’ is unfolding. ‘You have credible journalism being attacked and ignored amid a flood of misinformation and bizarre propaganda,’ he said, adding that his compatriots in the conservative media who are horrified by Moore need to grapple with their own culpability. ‘I think we should be horrified by the monster we helped create.’”

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“The Trump administration has plans to stop granting work permits to spouses of H-1B holders, a move that would overturn a 2015 rule and affect thousands of foreigners currently in the United States,” the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

“About 100,000 spouses and children of H-1B visa holders come to the U.S. on H-4 visas each year, a number that has been steadily increasing since 2012.”

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Politico: “Before Christie flew to Dallas to endorse Donald Trump two weeks later, he didn’t tell some of his most senior aides. They learned about it from his secretary while he was in the air. Christie had assured aides after New Hampshire that he didn’t plan to endorse in the race, and they looked forward to trying to salvage his legacy in New Jersey.”

“After he learned the news, Kevin Roberts, then communications director, called his team into an emergency meeting and told them. He was met with silence.”

“‘We’re fucked,’ Roberts said, according to attendees. The decision was widely loathed in his circle. DuHaime, his top political adviser, declined to follow his lead. Maria Comella, his top aide for years, later came out with a statement endorsing Hillary Clinton.”

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

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