The Open Thread for January 4, 2018

The divorce between Bannon and Trump has finally happened, and it was glorious.  In a series of on-the-record quotes for Michael Wolff’s inside account of the first 200 days of the Trump presidency, where the latter was given a fly on the wall access to the West Wing, Bannon essentially lit himself on fire with voluminous disparaging quotes on everybody, and has also blown the Mueller Russia probe wide open so much so that he has guaranteed that he will now be a witness for the prosecution against Trump, whether he wants to or not (and it seems he wants to).

Bannon has described the Trump Tower meeting between the president’s son and a group of Russians during the 2016 election campaign as “treasonous” and “unpatriotic” and “bad shit,” according to excerpts from Wolff’s book seen by the Guardian.  Said Bannon: “They’re going to crack Don Junior like an egg on national TV.”  He added: “The three senior guys in the campaign thought it was a good idea to meet with a foreign government inside Trump Tower … with no lawyers … You should have called the FBI immediately.”    “The chance that Don Jr. did not walk these Jumos up to his father’s office of the 26th floor is zero.”  Trump has denied ever meeting the Russian participants.

Bannon continued “You realize where this is going. This is all about money laundering. Mueller chose [senior prosecutor Andrew] Weissmann first and he is a money-laundering guy. Their path to fucking Trump goes right through Paul Manafort, Don Jr and Jared Kushner… It’s as plain as a hair on your face.”

President Trump released a blistering statement: “Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my Presidency. When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind. Steve was a staffer who worked for me after I had already won the nomination by defeating seventeen candidates, often described as the most talented field ever assembled in the Republican party.  Now that he is on his own, Steve is learning that winning isn’t as easy as I make it look. Steve had very little to do with our historic victory, which was delivered by the forgotten men and women of this country. Yet Steve had everything to do with the loss of a Senate seat in Alabama held for more than thirty years by Republicans. Steve doesn’t represent my base—he’s only in it for himself.”

The question now is “who gets the kids, in this case the Trump Breitbart base, in this divorce?”

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort has filed a lawsuit challenging the authority of special counsel Robert Mueller, The Hill reports.

Axios: “Manafort wants a judge to rule that Mueller can’t bring charges on any matters unrelated to Russian election meddling, an outcome that could be of significant importance to other’s in Trump’s orbit.” Good luck. This is nothing more than a Hail Mary pass and may actually backfire, in that Mueller will just amend the indictment with more charges tying him to Russia money laundering and the Trump campaign.

New York Times: “Mr. Romney’s potential ascent is particularly alarming to the White House because the former presidential candidate has an extensive political network and could use the Senate seat as a platform to again seek the nomination. Even if he were not to run again for president, a Senator Romney could prove a pivotal swing vote, impervious to the entreaties of a president he has scorned and able to rally other Trump skeptics in the chamber.”

Salt Lake Tribune on a possible Romney Senate bid: “No decision, but if he wants it, he’ll likely win.”


George Lakoff, a cognitive scientist with a specialty in political language, argues that President Trump uses social media as a weapon. It’s not necessarily strategic and may be entirely instinctual on his part, but it works extremely well in helping him control the news cycle.  Trump’s tweets can help him frame a debate, since whoever sets the rules first tends to win. Or if he’s in trouble, he can divert attention or attack the messenger. And he can also use them to test public opinion, no matter how controversial.

Washington Post: “The National Security Agency is losing its top talent at a worrisome rate as highly skilled personnel, some disillusioned with the spy service’s leadership and an unpopular reorganization, take higher-paying, more flexible jobs in the private sector. Since 2015, the NSA has lost several hundred hackers, engineers and data scientists, according to current and former U.S. officials with knowledge of the matter. The potential impact on national security is significant, they said.”

Politico: “Another shutdown showdown looms this month and Congress isn’t even back yet. Happy New Year, Washington. Congressional leaders from both parties will sit down with top White House officials on Wednesday to haggle over the basics of a budget deal they were supposed to settle last spring. And while aides say the talks will stick to spending, a fight over immigration looms along with a host of other thorny policy disputes that will shape the 2018 legislative agenda.”

“Ahead of the meeting, there was little sign of conciliation on either side.”

John Cassidy: “This is yet another argument for engaging in the political process in 2018. But staying engaged isn’t the same thing as being permanently addled, obsessing over every offensive Trump tweet, or lumping everyone who voted for him in with alt-right activists and neo-Nazis.”

“It means exercising patience, ignoring some of his verbal provocations (many of which are attempts at distraction), pointing out that his policies are hurting the very people he is claiming to represent, and, above all, committing to beating him and his allies politically. As the recent elections in Alabama and Virginia demonstrated, Trump and the Republicans can be defeated at the ballot box. Surely, the best way to survive the second year of the Trump era is to work calmly and deliberately toward that objective.”

The Atlantic: “There are sounds, for those who can hear them, of the preliminary and muffled drumbeats of war. The Chinese are reported to be preparing refugee camps along North Korean border. Resources are being shifted to observe and analyze the North Korean military. Mundane logistical processes of moving, stockpiling and updating critical items and preparing military personnel are under way. Only the biggest indicator—the evacuation of American dependents from South Korea—has yet to flash red, but, in the interest of surprise, that may not happen.”

“America’s circumspect and statesmanlike Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, talks ominously of storm clouds gathering over Korea, while the commandant of the Marine Corps simply says ‘I hope I’m wrong, but there’s a war coming.’

Jonathan Swan: “Bannon’s comments won’t surprise anyone who’s spoken to him, but as on the record statements they are shocking sources close to the president. The White House was prepared for the Wolff book to be bad for them — and sources there have told me he spent a ton of time in the building visiting with Bannon — but they weren’t prepared for Bannon doing this.”

“Bannon touched the third rail of Trumpworld — going after the president’s blood family.”

Time: “Buried inside the mammoth $700 billion defense bill President Donald Trump signed last month is a relatively miniscule $25 million to fund development of a new road-mobile, ground-launched cruise missile. The program could be easily overlooked amid the Christmas list of military hardware the administration is buying, except for one thing: the missile is prohibited by a 30-year-old Cold War arms control agreement with Russia.”

“The research and development on the medium-range missile is intended to serve as a direct response to Russia’s deployment in recent years of its own treaty-busting missile. U.S. intelligence first recognized Moscow’s potential violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty when the Russian missile was still in test phase. The Obama administration worked unsuccessfully to persuade the Kremlin to stand down the program. Now the Trump administration has decided to respond with a missile of its own.”


Fusion GPS defended the dossier of alleged Trump-Russia ties and called on Republicans to release the firm’s testimony. “The attack on our firm,” the Fusion GPS founders wrote in a New York Times Op-Ed, “is a diversionary tactic by Republicans who don’t want to investigate Donald Trump’s ties to Russia.” Glenn Simpson and Peter Fritsch write they hired Christopher Steele to investigate Trump’s repeated efforts “to do deals in a notoriously corrupt police state that most serious investors shun.” They added: “As we told the Senate Judiciary Committee in August, our sources said the dossier was taken so seriously because it corroborated reports the [FBI] had received from other sources, including one inside the Trump camp,” referring to a drunk George Papadopoulos, who bragged about Russia having political dirt on Hillary Clinton to one of Australia’s top diplomats.

Josh Marshall says the Mueller probe may be nearing the end of the beginning: “So where are we now in this story? A series of revelations in the final weeks of 2017 placed us at what we should think not as the beginning or the end but the end of the beginning. We are still only at the front end of this investigation. We still know only the outlines of what happened and how. But we are past any serious question about whether there was collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. There was. It’s no longer a matter of probability, even high probability. We know it from either undisputed facts or sworn statements from Trump associates now cooperating with the Mueller investigation. […]

We know there was collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia during 2016. We just don’t know how much. We don’t have proof about how high it went. Did Trump himself know? How much did his longstanding but pre-campaign role with Russian organized crime and money laundering play into Russian efforts to secure his election? (That’s actually the question that most animates my mind.) What about Paul Manafort, the man who fortuitously and really inexplicably ended up as Trump’s campaign manager, despite decades out of US politics, who himself had two decades of history working with and for the same Russian and Ukrainian oligarch elite? What about Sam Clovis, Trump’s campaign co-chair, a key early foreign policy advisor and the guy who was on the receiving end of so many of Papadopoulos’s emails? Does it stop with him? Did he really never tell anyone else what was happening? Did he encourage Papadapoulos to keep moving forward on his own account?

Those remain the live questions. But I say the end of the beginning because the core question about collusion has been answered in the affirmative. We know this. Any reasonable survey of the evidence now makes this clear. What remains uncertain is whether it was (improbably) limited to a few non-central members of the campaign or whether it went right to the top.

That’s what we’ll learn this year.”

President Trump “is dissolving a controversial commission that was charged with investigating his unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud during the 2016 election,” Politico reports.

Washington Post: “The commission met only twice amid a series of lawsuits seeking to curb its authority and claims by Democrats that it was stacked to recommend voting restrictions favorable to the president’s party.”

Rick Hasen: “The Commission was poorly organized and conceived. It tried to operate to a large extent in secrecy, without recognition that doing so would violate the federal laws that govern presidential commissions and that protect privacy. It made rookie, boneheaded mistakes about handling documents used by the Commission, again in violation of federal law. It did not seem to have an end-game.”

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

3 comments on “The Open Thread for January 4, 2018

  1. This book is confirming what everyone already knows.

    “Donald Trump’s small staff of factotums, advisors and family began, on Jan. 20, 2017, an experience that none of them, by any right or logic, thought they would — or, in many cases, should — have, being part of a Trump presidency. Hoping for the best, with their personal futures as well as the country’s future depending on it, my indelible impression of talking to them and observing them through much of the first year of his presidency, is that they all — 100 percent — came to believe he was incapable of functioning in his job.

    At Mar-a-Lago, just before the new year, a heavily made-up Trump failed to recognize a succession of old friends.


    “Everybody was painfully aware of the increasing pace of his repetitions. It used to be inside of 30 minutes he’d repeat, word-for-word and expression-for-expression, the same three stories — now it was within 10 minutes.”

    I have no idea what exactly is going on with Trump. I do know he’s mentally unfit. I have dealt with dementia in my family. We referred to the repetitions as ‘the loop’.

    • As you know we’re knee deep in dementia here, at first I did not see it. But he’s showed cognitive difficulties and it’s getting more frequent. As noted he seems to be at the endless repetition phase as well. Unfortunately there is no definitive test to be done, just the “ten question” test that consists of “what day is it?” What state are we in?” and similar easy to answer questions.

  2. cassandram

    It is hilarious how the GRIFTUS is trying to pass off Bannon as a “staffer” on the campaign.

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