TRUMP ALMOST PULLED THE GORSUCH NOMINATION. “Earlier this year, President Trump talked about rescinding Neil M. Gorsuch’s Supreme Court nomination, venting angrily to advisers after his Supreme Court pick was critical of the president’s escalating attacks on the federal judiciary in private meetings with legislators,” the Washington Post reports.
“Trump worried that Gorsuch would not be ‘loyal,’ one of the people said, and told aides that he was tempted to pull Gorsuch’s nomination — and that he knew plenty of other judges who would want the job.”
Tax cuts for the wealthy are all Republicans believe in anyway. So any opposition to them was an act anyway. https://t.co/TMV3GbszU8
— Blue Delaware (@Blue_Delaware) December 19, 2017
MUELLER PROBE TO LAST THROUGH 2018. Washington Post: “People with knowledge of the investigation said it could last at least another year — pointing to ongoing cooperation from witnesses such as former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos and former national security adviser Michael Flynn, as well as a possible trial of two former Trump campaign officials. The special counsel’s office has continued to request new documents related to the campaign, and members of Mueller’s team have told others they expect to be working through much of 2018, at a minimum.“
THE CORKER KICKBACK. Politico: “Days before his surprise announcement that he would support the GOP tax bill, Sen. Bob Corker had been summoning administration officials and economists to his office to see whether he could ultimately get on board with the plan. One was Douglas Holtz-Eakin, the former Congressional Budget Office director and adviser to GOP presidential campaigns who painstakingly went through varying analyses of the tax measure as Corker — accompanied by at least a half-dozen aides and stacks of spreadsheets — drilled him with questions.”
“The mystery over Corker’s flip quickly swirled into a political firestorm over suggestions that the senator decided to support the tax measure only after winning a provision that could personally enrich him. Liberal activists and lawmakers declared it the ‘Corker Kickback,’ in a last-ditch bid to derail the bill — or at least further tarnish Republicans’ big tax win this week.”
Bloomberg: “Lawmakers scrambling to lock up Republican support for the tax reform bill added a complicated provision late in the process — one that would provide a multimillion-dollar windfall to real estate investors such as President Trump. The change, which would allow real estate businesses to take advantage of a new tax break that’s planned for partnerships, limited liability companies and other so-called ‘pass-through’ businesses, combined elements of House and Senate legislation in a new way.”
“Its beneficiaries are clear, tax experts say, and they include a president who’s said that the tax legislation wouldn’t help him financially…. The revision might also bring tax benefits to several members of Congress, according to financial disclosures they’ve filed that reflect ownership of pass-through firms with real estate holdings. One such lawmaker, Republican Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, who’d voted against an earlier version of the legislation, said on Friday that he would support the revised legislation.”
The Tennessean reports Corker asked Senate Finance Committe Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT) to explain how the provision “ended up in the final version of the tax reform package that Congress is expected to approve this week.”
David Wasserman points out that in the six congressional special elections this year, Democrats have been outperforming their Cook Political Report PVI-suggested share of the vote by an average of 9%.
MOST AMERICANS DON’T PLAY ON WALL STREET. Bloomberg: “Only about 45 percent of private-sector workers participate in any employer-sponsored retirement plan, and the lower-income workers in Trump’s political base are the least likely to hold money in such an account.”
“Trump mentions the stock market almost daily in tweets or public remarks, taking direct credit for record highs by the Dow Jones Industrial Average and other indices. But only about 14 percent of U.S. families directly own stocks, an asset class dominated by the country’s top earners, according to the Federal Reserve. Meanwhile, the president has also rolled back efforts to expand retirement savings options to more middle-class and low-income workers.”
TRUMP IS BACK TO HIS OWN APPOINTEES. Washington Post: “Advisers who have spoken recently with Trump about the Russia investigation said the president was sharply critical of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, as well as Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversees the Mueller operation — but did not broach the idea of firing Mueller… Rather, Trump appeared to be contemplating changes in the Justice Department’s leadership. In recent discussions, two advisers said, Trump has called the attorney general ‘weak,’ and complained that Rosenstein has shown insufficient accountability on the special counsel’s work.”
“A senior official said Trump mocked Rosenstein’s recent testimony on Capitol Hill, saying he looked weak and unable to answer questions. Trump has ranted about Rosenstein as ‘a Democrat,’ one of these advisers said, and characterized him as a threat to his presidency. In fact, Rosenstein is a Republican.”
The Fox anti-Mueller propaganda push is potentially much more dangerous than people think.
It creates a set of circumstances that could pull us into lawlessness that didn't exist in Nixon's time.
My new post:https://t.co/R00pgu8hLo
— Greg Sargent (@ThePlumLineGS) December 18, 2017
PAUL RYAN WANTS A GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN. “Republican leaders in both houses of Congress face a sticky situation this week as they try to avert a government shutdown: Each side has promised its members things that will not fly in the other chamber,” Politico reports.
“Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) told moderate Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) he’d support passage of legislation by the end of the year to prop up Obamacare insurance markets — so long as she votes for tax reform. That addition, however, puts Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) in a pickle: His members are loath to be seen as bailing out a health care law they hate.”
“Ryan, meanwhile, green-lighted a short-term spending strategy that funds the Pentagon but does nothing for Democratic priorities — and suggested House members could leave town to try to ‘jam the Senate’ into accepting their bill. But McConnell needs eight Democrats to pass anything, so the House plan is sure to fail in his chamber.”
If that happens, the House passing their bill and leaving town, the government will shut down. Democrats will not vote for that.
THE SUBURBAN BACKLASH. New York Times: “The mounting backlash to President Trump that is threatening his party’s control of Congress is no longer confined just to swing districts on either coast. Officials in both parties believe that Republican control of the House is now in grave jeopardy because a group of districts that are historically Republican or had been trending that way before the 2016 election are slipping away.”
“Much attention has been paid to the handful of seats in New York, New Jersey and California that are represented by Republicans but voted for Hillary Clinton last year. But even with district lines drawn to favor Republicans in many states, the swelling antipathy toward Mr. Trump threatens to breach the party’s defenses and stretch the congressional battlefield beyond the dimensions Republicans and Democrats anticipated a year ago.”
THE CONSERVATIVES HAVE WON THE WAR AGAINST THE IRS. “Years of conservative attacks on the Internal Revenue Service have greatly diminished the ability of agency regulators to oversee political activity by charities and other nonprofits,” the Washington Post reports.
“The fall in oversight, a byproduct of repeated cuts to the IRS budget, comes at a time when the number of charities is reaching a historic high and they are becoming more partisan and financially complex. It represents a success for conservatives who have long sought to scale back the IRS and shrink the federal government.”
There is no more important story in the world right now than how real the chance of war with North Korea is: https://t.co/7YizYR8L72
— Ezra Klein (@ezraklein) December 18, 2017
OBAMACARE WILL SURVIVE. Dylan Scott: “Health care lobbyists are flatly dismissing the idea that Congress could actually revisit Obamacare repeal next year. Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) remain opposed to taking up repeal efforts. The party’s long-sought talking point of repealing Obamacare root and branch is probably actually, finally dead.”
“Repealing the individual mandate is a legitimate blow to the Obamacare marketplaces, but doing so won’t unravel the markets entirely. They will function worse than they did before, and premiums will rise. But millions of people who receive generous tax subsidies to buy coverage will not feel the brunt of those cost increases. The law’s rules prohibiting health insurers from discriminating against preexisting conditions remain on the books. Finally, and most importantly, Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion, which covered upward of 15 million people, remains untouched.”
AMERICANS HATE THE GOP TAX BILL. A new Monmouth poll finds Americans disapprove of the tax reform plan currently making its way through Congress by a nearly 2-to-1 margin, 47% to 26%. It is also worth noting that strong disapproval (35%) of the proposal far outweighs strong approval (13%). Key finding: “Half the public believe their own taxes would go up under this plan and a plurality would like to see Congress scrap the current effort and start fresh in 2018.”
No need to belabor this. It's one of the interviews of the year. Watch the whole thing and see if you agree. https://t.co/eEjFiVFLNy
— Jay Rosen (@jayrosen_nyu) December 17, 2017
REPUBLICANS LOVE INCOME REDISTRIBUTION. Washington Post: “Back in 1980, the bottom 50% of wage-earners in the United States earned about 21% of all income in the country — nearly twice as much as the share of income (11%) earned by the top 1 percent of Americans.” “But today, according to a massive new study on global inequality, those numbers have nearly reversed: The bottom 50% take in only 13% of the income pie, while the top 1% grab over 20% of the country’s income.” “Since 1980, in other words, the U.S. economy has transferred eight points of national income from the bottom 50% to the top 1%.”
FBI WARNED TRUMP ABOUT HIS RUSSIAN COLLUSION. In the weeks after he became the Republican nominee, Donald Trump was warned that foreign adversaries, including Russia, would likely try to spy on and infiltrate his campaign, NBC News reports.
“The warning came in the form of a high-level counterintelligence briefing by senior FBI officials, the officials said. A similar briefing was given to Hillary Clinton, they added. They said the briefings, which are commonly provided to presidential nominees, were designed to educate the candidates and their top aides about potential threats from foreign spies.”
“The candidates were urged to alert the FBI about any suspicious overtures to their campaigns.”
— Tommy Vietor (@TVietor08) December 18, 2017