The Open Thread for December 28, 2017

Yahoo News: “As described by sources familiar with various aspects of the investigation, the Mueller probe is fast approaching a critical crossroads. […] Mueller and his team, they say, are pursuing new leads, interrogating new witnesses and collecting a mountain of new evidence, including subpoenaed bank records and thousands of emails from the campaign and the Trump transition. […]

In just the last few weeks, his prosecutors have begun questioning Republican National Committee staffers about the party digital operation that worked with the Trump campaign to target voters in key swing states. They are seeking to determine if the joint effort was related to the activities of Russian trolls and bots aimed at influencing the American electorate, according to two of the sources.

In what is potentially another ominous sign for the White House, the lawyer for Jared Kushner, the president’s son in law and senior adviser who was in charge of the campaign’s digital operation, recently began searching for a crisis public relations firm to handle press inquiries — a step frequently taken by people who believe they may be facing criminal charges.”

“President Trump’s legal team plans to attack the credibility of former national security adviser Michael Flynn and cast him as seeking to protect himself if he accuses the president or his senior aides of any wrongdoing,” the Washington Post reports. “The approach would mark a sharp break from Trump’s previously sympathetic posture toward Flynn, who is cooperating with the special counsel’s Russia investigation.”

“Flynn is the most senior former Trump adviser known to be providing information to Mueller’s team. The lenient terms of his plea agreement suggest he has promised significant information to investigators, legal experts said.”

Martin Longman: “Given the basic attitude of the intelligence community, I can see why Trump’s supporters would doubt the objectivity of the FBI and Robert Mueller, but it was the director of the FBI James Comey who delivered the strongest wound to Hillary Clinton in the waning days of the campaign when he announced he was reopening a case against her. What Mueller is trying to do is to see if the intelligence community can prove their theory of the case. If they can, then Trump will be removed from power with just cause. If they can’t, then he’ll stay in power but with the ever-present suspicion from his own government that he isn’t loyal or trustworthy.

Trump should be comforted that a Republican Congress won’t impeach and convict him for minor offenses or based on contentious evidence. They probably won’t even remove him even when most Americans think the case is proven. Trump has a jury that is far more biased than the intelligence community ever could be, so he isn’t as disadvantaged as he’d like us all to believe.”

David Atkins on Trump’s idiotic braggadocio remark at Mar-a-Lago that he just made all the wealthy members of the club richer: “Like many con artists, he can’t help crowing about his latest heist.

Regardless, it’s a guarantee that this quote will feature in Democratic attack ads. How could it not? And it will hurt. A lot of voters in 2016 figured that Trump’s personal wealth made him incorruptible. Interview after interview with prospective Trump voters sounded a common refrain: Trump doesn’t need the money, they believed, so he would stand up for the people and not for himself. Yes, anyone who examined Trump’s history knew how ludicrous that was, but the belief was widespread. The Clinton campaign, meanwhile, made the mistake of emphasizing Trump’s repulsive statements and negative character traits–facts that persuadable voters already knew well and had already factored into their decision.  Trump lied to his voters. He enriched himself his friends at their expense and publicly admitted it. And there will be consequences for that betrayal.”

“When billionaire Democratic donor Tom Steyer launched a digital petition drive to impeach President Trump two months ago, some Democratic Party leaders dismissed it as an unhelpful vanity project — and even Steyer thought he’d top out at a million signatures,” Politico reports.  “But nearly 4 million digital signatures later, the philanthropist and environmental activist’s unlikely campaign has seized on an issue — impeaching Trump — that could become part of the Democratic mainstream in 2018. It’s placed at his fingertips a potentially powerful tool: an email list of millions of motivated activists whom he can reach instantly for organizing and fundraising and that could become the hottest trove of data in Democratic politics since the email list that Bernie Sanders’ insurgent campaign against Hillary Clinton collected in 2016.”

Daily Beast: “A superseding indictment would essentially replace the current indictment of Manafort. And in that current indictment, Mueller’s team hinted there was more to come. In particular, they hinted at potential tax charges for Manafort’s foreign financial transactions. Federal prosecutors can bring charges against any American who has money in a foreign bank account and doesn’t check a box on their tax forms disclosing it. The Manafort/Gates indictment describes financial behavior that may be liable for that kind of prosecution. And that’s an indicator that Mueller’s team may be preparing to formally charge both men with violating tax laws.”

Josh Marshall: Trump’s flouting of democratic norms during the campaign was a core element, perhaps the core element, of his appeal. Support for Trump certainly wasn’t in spite of this. Nor was it incidental. We focus on Trump’s antics. They remain erratic and unbridled. But equally important, probably more important, is the absence of any overriding respect for the rule of law or democratic norms among his supporters. Functionally that means the entire Republican party, even if individual Republican officeholders may express a muted displeasure.

Rand Paul now seems to be on board with the anti-“deep state” critique of the Russia probe and the FBI. So does Lindsey Graham. It’s not that I see either man as a paragon of democratic virtues. But neither was a major or conspicuous Trump supporter. And neither seems particularly in need of his support for their own political future. Paul isn’t up for reelection again until 2022. They’re falling in line as Trump-True members of the GOP is a sign of the degree to which allegiance to Trump personally is now the standard of membership in the GOP. For months pundits claimed that the success of tax reform, rather than cementing Trump’s political power in the GOP would actually be his undoing since Republicans would no longer have any need for him.

This was always a flawed reasoning. Republicans never ‘needed’ Donald Trump. A big tax cut was probably easier – certainly no less difficult – with a Jeb Bush or a Marco Rubio or any other 2016 Republican on offer. Republicans rallied to Trump because their voters demanded it. The current moment confirms this. Republicans got their tax cut. Far from slackening, their loyalty to Trump, not just in conventional political terms but against the criminal justice system itself is intensifying.”

So that means all Republicans everywhere are the enemy.  There are no good ones.  If they were good people or good officials, they would not be Republicans.  They all must be defeated.

Gallup: “Americans once again are most likely to name Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton as the man and woman living anywhere in the world they admire most, as they have for the past 10 years. The pair retain their titles this year, although by much narrower margins than in the past. Obama edges out Donald Trump, 17% to 14%, while Clinton edges out Michelle Obama, 9% to 7%.”

New York Times: “According to six officials who attended or were briefed about the meeting, Mr. Trump then began reading aloud from the document, which his domestic policy adviser, Stephen Miller, had given him just before the meeting. The document listed how many immigrants had received visas to enter the United States in 2017. More than 2,500 were from Afghanistan, a terrorist haven, the president complained.”

“Haiti had sent 15,000 people. They ‘all have AIDS,’ he grumbled, according to one person who attended the meeting and another person who was briefed about it by a different person who was there.  Forty thousand had come from Nigeria, Mr. Trump added. Once they had seen the United States, they would never ‘go back to their huts’ in Africa, recalled the two officials, who asked for anonymity to discuss a sensitive conversation in the Oval Office.”

“Many U.S. charities are worried the tax overhaul bill signed by President Trump on Friday could spur a landmark shift in philanthropy, speeding along the decline of middle-class donors and transforming charitable gift-giving into a pursuit largely left to the wealthy,” the Washington Post reports.  “The source of concern is how the tax bill is expected to sharply reduce the number of taxpayers who qualify for the charitable tax deduction — a big driver of gifts to nonprofits. One study predicts that donations will fall by at least $13 billion, about 4.5 percent, next year. That decline is expected to be concentrated among gifts from the middle of the income scale. The richest Americans will mostly keep their ability to take the tax break.”

Paul Waldman at The Week warns that Republicans will try to ram through a cruel agenda in case there’s a wave election on the horizon: “If even one house of Congress falls to the Democrats, the big, sweeping changes Republicans would like to see will be impossible; all that’s left will be executive actions and tweaks to regulations, which are neither comprehensive nor lasting enough to be truly satisfying. So one way to deal with that reality is to go full steam ahead. If we might lose our majorities a year from now, this first theory goes, let’s pass everything we’ve ever wanted to do while we still have the chance. ‘

President Trump “has spent nearly one-third of his time in office this year at one of the properties that either bear his name or that his family company owns,” according to CNN.  “Trump has so far spent 110 days as president at one of his properties, a fact that critics argue helps the businessman-turned-politician boost the bottom line at The Trump Organization. Trump transferred his business holdings to a trust run by his sons before taking office earlier this year, but stopped short of selling off his holdings.”

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

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