The Open Thread for February 2, 2018

THE NUNES MEMO.  President Trump “cleared the way for the release of a secret memo written by Republican congressional staffers and said to accuse federal law enforcement officials of abusing their surveillance authorities,” the New York Times reports.

“The president’s decision came despite a growing chorus of warnings from national security officials who say that releasing the document would jeopardize sensitive government information, including how intelligence is gathered, and from Democrats who say it is politically motivated and distorts the actions of the Justice Department and the F.B.I. by omitting crucial context.”

Jonathan Swan: “Inside the Trump administration, sources who’ve been briefed on the Nunes memo expect it will be underwhelming and not the ‘slam dunk’ document it’s been hyped up to be.”

“Trump still wants to release the memo. But there are a number of people in the White House who are fairly underwhelmed, and there’s internal anxiety about whether it’s worth angering the FBI director and intelligence community by releasing this information.”

THE FBI RESPONSE. “Top White House aides are worried FBI Director Christopher Wray could quit if the highly controversial Republican memo alleging the FBI abused its surveillance tools is released,” CNN reports.

“Wray has made clear he is frustrated that President Trump picked him to lead the FBI after he fired FBI Director James Comey in May, yet his advice on the Nunes memo is being disregarded and cast as part of the purported partisan leadership of the FBI.”

Daily Beast: “Former FBI agents are warning that FBI Director Christopher Wray has to be prepared to quit, should President Donald Trump assent over bureau objections to the release of a memo calling the FBI’s integrity into question.”

Washington Post: “Wray, who worked as a top Justice Department official during the George W. Bush administration and left a law firm position to lead the FBI, has had to defend himself and the bureau from Trump’s attacks before.”

“He has shown a willingness to consider resigning when the department is under political pressure. When [James] Comey in 2004 was prepared to quit as the deputy attorney general over concerns about reauthorization of a secretive domestic surveillance program, Wray approached him in the hall at the Justice Department and said, ‘Look, I don’t know what’s going on, but before you guys all pull the rip cords, please give me a heads-up so I can jump with you,’ according to an account of the incident in the Washingtonian magazine.”

GOP GOES ALL IN WITH TRUMP.  Ron Brownstein: “On both of those fronts—reaching swing voters and energizing Democrats—Trump’s personal behavior creates bigger headwinds for the GOP than his specific policies do. Though Trump supporters often say voters already weighed their personal doubts about him when they backed him in 2016, according to Quinnipiac University polls, he has suffered significant declines since Election Day in the share of Americans who say he’s honest, a strong leader, intelligent, shares their values, and cares about people like them.”

“Yet congressional Republicans have responded to these rising doubts by aligning themselves more closely with Trump—the third key 2018 dynamic evident in the State of the Union. It was most visible in congressional Republicans’ repeated standing ovations during his remarks. But even more telling were comments before the speech from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell—who insisted he saw no need for legislation to protect special counsel Robert Mueller—and House Speaker Paul Ryan, who offered support for the release of a highly controversial memo intended to discredit Mueller’s investigation.”

REPUBLICANS GIVE UP ON OBAMACARE REPEAL. Politico: “Though the GOP still controls both chambers of Congress and maintains the ability to jam through a repeal-and-replace bill via a simple majority, there are no discussions of doing so here at House and Senate Republicans’ joint retreat at The Greenbrier resort. Republicans doubt they can even pass a budget providing for the powerful party-line ‘reconciliation’ procedure used to pass tax reform last year, much less take on the politically perilous task of rewriting health care laws in an election year.”

“Republicans’ decision to abstain from another attempt at gutting Barack Obama’s health law — at least this year — goes back on a pledge the party has made to voters since 2010. And it underscores how Republicans overpromised in their ability to reform the nation’s health care and never fully recognized how divided the party is over key Obamacare planks like protecting pre-existing conditions and preserving the law’s Medicaid expansion.”

THE PERSONA IS ALL THERE IS.  Matt Bai: “What we know of Trump, filtered through those closest to him, is that he’s given to passing tirades and is easily distracted, that he goes to bed early and watches ‘Fox & Friends’….But what profoundly moves or humbles him? When does he admit self-doubt, and to whom? What delights him or weighs him down?”

“When he was a TV performer, it was reasonable to assume that Trump was hiding some pivotal part of who he really was. Now you have to wonder if the persona is all there is… He seems always to be a man out of his element, uncomfortable…There must be private hours of sadness or self-doubt, humanizing moments he hides from the world. Inevitably, though, Trump responds publicly with the only real emotion he has consistently displayed as president — the bottomless rage against otherness that binds him tightly to his supporters. It is the closest he comes to a heartfelt humanity.”

VAST MAJORITY WANT TRUMP UNDER OATH.  A new Monmouth poll finds an overwhelming majority of Americans — 71% — say that President Trump should agree to be interviewed by special counsel Robert Mueller about the Russia probe.

This includes 85% of Democrats, 74% of independents, and 51% of Republicans. If Trump agrees to an interview, 82% say he should do so under oath, including 93% of Democrats, 85% of independents, and 67% of Republicans.

ONE WEEK AWAY FROM ANOTHER SHUTDOWN. “Congress is a week away from another government shutdown. And if it happens this time, the blame may lie with Republicans, who are struggling to keep their lawmakers in line,” Politico reports.

“Republicans have considered a stopgap funding bill that could run one month or possibly deeper into March… Discussions have been fluid, however, as House and Senate Republicans gather this week in West Virginia for their annual retreat. The House could vote as soon as Tuesday, two days before funding runs dry. But many rank-and-file GOP lawmakers who reluctantly backed the last temporary funding bill, including conservatives and defense hawks, are balking at yet another patch.”

Further, the deadline on the debt ceiling is coming. “Congress came under increased pressure to raise the nation’s debt ceiling following two reports forecasting that the federal government will run out of cash within a matter of weeks,” Bloomberg reports. “A key reason for the change is the implementation of December’s tax overhaul through new withholding tables in February.”

Sen. John Thune (R-SD) urged House Republicans “to slow their push to release a secret staff-written memo said to accuse the F.B.I. and Justice Department of abusing their authorities to obtain a warrant to spy on a former Trump campaign associate,” the New York Times reports.

Said Thune: “They need to pay careful attention to what our folks who protect us have to say about what this, you know, how this bears on our national security.”

“Thune also called for a Democratic memo rebutting the Republican document to be shown to the public at the same time.”

James Hohmann: “It’s going to be very hard for members of the intelligence community and Democrats to push back on the information in the memo after it comes out because doing so would require the disclosure of even more sensitive information about sources and methods. And Trump defenders will get fodder to question the integrity of the underlying probe.”

President Trump “continues to tell his associates he believed the highly controversial Republican memo alleging the FBI abused its surveillance tools could help discredit the Russia investigation,” CNN reports.

“In phone calls last night and over the past days, Trump has told friends he believes the memo would expose bias within the agency’s top ranks and make it easier for him to argue the Russia investigations are prejudiced against him.”

Also important: “People familiar with the President’s thinking say the fate of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein remains in question amid the expected release of the Nunes memo.”

Pennsylvania state Senate president pro tempore Joe Scarnati (R) said that he “will not cooperate with the state Supreme Court’s request to turn over data after it found that the state’s congressional map was unconstitutionally gerrymandered,” The Hill reports.

Philadelphia Inquirer: “Republican lawmakers, including Scarnati, have said the court order does not give them enough time to draw a new map, especially because the justices did not provide a full opinion when they released the order overturning the map. By imposing a tight timeline with little guidance, the Republicans argue, the court sets them up to fail, clearing the way for the justices to draw their own map.”

Garrett Graff: “If you’re confused about how the GOP could be criticizing McCabe for appearing to aid Hillary Clinton’s campaign when deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein’s memo accusing Jim Comey and the FBI of treating her unfairly was the purported basis for his firing by Trump last May, well, you’re not alone — this investigation increasingly appears to be taking America through the looking glass.”

“There’s no reason to believe, in fact, that Mueller… hasn’t been organizing his investigation since day one with the expectation that he’d someday be fired and worked to ensure that this, his final chapter in a lifetime of public service at the Justice Department, won’t be curtailed before it has gotten to what Mueller calls ‘ground truth.’”

Vice President Mike Pence “is launching one of the most aggressive campaign strategies in recent White House history: he will hopscotch the country over the next three months, making nearly three dozen stops that could raise tens of millions of dollars for House and Senate Republicans, all while promoting the party’s legislative accomplishments,” Politico reports.

“The vice president’s team has devised a unique ancillary strategy to support his cross-country campaigning: partnering with America First Policies — a Trump-backed public-policy non-profit group designed to boost the president’s agenda — to hold public events designed specifically to discuss legislative achievements like the tax bill.”

“Pence’s plan, extraordinary for a vice president, has its roots in a congressional summit at Camp David. In early January, congressional Republicans leaders projected the risk of political peril to White House staff at the presidential retreat.”

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

9 comments on “The Open Thread for February 2, 2018

  1. How will this “Nunes memo” explain how a Russian bear ate Hillary’s homework.?

  2. Suspect the magical mystery memo will be “underwhelming” as stated, and not for one minute do I agree the Dems can’t fight back effectively, especially once the FBI issues their own statement. I see this as a stupid game on the part of the Republicans and Nunes in particular. As for the Pennsylvania Republicans defying the state’s supreme court suspect the politicians will be eating their words at some point. I mean who do they think they are? Trump?

  3. The argument from Scarnati is really going to be “Yeah we made a mess but you’re not giving us enough time to clean it up! So, it’ll have to just stay a mess!” Really?

    How old is this guy? 5?

    • Most five-year olds I know have deeper understanding of “fairness” than a Pennsylvania Republican Senator

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