The Open Thread for March 3, 2018

New York Times: “Mr. Trump is also frustrated with Mr. Kushner, whom he now views as a liability because of his legal entanglements, the investigations of the Kushner family’s real estate company and the publicity over having his security clearance downgraded, according to two people familiar with his views. In private conversations, the president vacillates between sounding regretful that Mr. Kushner is taking arrows and annoyed that he is another problem to deal with.”

“Privately, some aides have expressed frustration that Mr. Kushner and his wife, the president’s daughter Ivanka Trump, have remained at the White House, despite Mr. Trump at times saying they never should have come to the White House and should leave. Yet aides also noted that Mr. Trump has told the couple that they should keep serving in their roles, even as he has privately asked Mr. Kelly for his help in moving them out.”

Jim VandeHei: “It’s no secret a lot of people inside and outside the White House want Jared Kushner gone. They think he’s too inexperienced, too compromised by conflicts of interest and the Russia probe, and too ineffective.”

“Their revenge against him this week has been brutal, sustained, at times brilliant, and potentially lethal. What has unfolded is not the work of coincidence: it is the slit-by-slit slow bleed of a top adviser and son-in-law to the president.”

“Federal investigators are scrutinizing whether any of Jared Kushner’s business discussions with foreigners during the presidential transition later shaped White House policies in ways designed to either benefit or retaliate against those he spoke with,” NBC News reports.

“Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team has asked witnesses about Kushner’s efforts to secure financing for his family’s real estate properties, focusing specifically on his discussions during the transition with individuals from Qatar and Turkey, as well as Russia, China and the United Arab Emirates, according to witnesses who have been interviewed as part of the investigation into possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign to sway the 2016 election.”

“The real estate firm tied to the family of presidential son-in-law and top White House adviser Jared Kushner made a direct pitch to Qatar’s minister of finance in April 2017 in an attempt to secure investment in a critically distressed asset in the company’s portfolio,” the Intercept reports.

“The failure to broker the deal would be followed only a month later by a Middle Eastern diplomatic row in which Jared Kushner provided critical support to Qatar’s neighbors. Led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, a group of Middle Eastern countries, with Kushner’s backing, led a diplomatic assault that culminated in a blockade of Qatar. Kushner, according to reports at the time, subsequently undermined efforts by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to bring an end to the standoff.”

Meanwhile, “the Securities and Exchange Commission late last year dropped its inquiry into a financial company that a month earlier had given White House adviser Jared Kushner’s family real estate firm a $180 million loan,” the AP reports.

“While there’s no evidence that Kushner or any other Trump administration official had a role in the agency’s decision to drop the inquiry into Apollo Global Management, the timing has once again raised potential conflict-of-interest questions about Kushner’s family business and his role as an adviser to his father-in-law, President Trump.”

NBC News: “According to two officials, Trump’s decision to launch a potential trade war was born out of anger at other simmering issues and the result of a broken internal process that has failed to deliver him consensus views that represent the best advice of his team.”

“On Wednesday evening, the president became ‘unglued,’ in the words of one official familiar with the president’s state of mind.”

“A trifecta of events had set him off on in a way that two officials said they had not seen before: Hope Hicks’ testimony to lawmakers investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, conduct by his embattled attorney general and the treatment of his son-in-law by his chief of staff.”

John Harwood: “Whether Mueller ultimately alleges such a crime remains unknown. He now has help from Trump’s former national security advisor, deputy campaign chief and campaign foreign policy advisor — all of whom have admitted felonies.”

“But whatever the special counsel concludes legally about ‘collusion,’ evidence on public display already paints a jarring picture. It shows an American president who has embraced Russian money and illicit favors, while maintaining rhetoric and policies benefiting Russia and undercutting national security officials of his own country.”

“That in-plain-sight reality gets obscured by the Trump news avalanche.”

First Read: “As for Trump’s tariffs and his talk of a ‘trade war,’ we’re about to embark on a fascinating economic/political experiment: What happens to a growing, full-employment employment when you add big tax cuts, more spending and tariffs?”

“Well, we’ll find out in a year or two.”

“Not since Richard Nixon started talking to the portraits on the walls of the West Wing has a president seemed so alone against the world,” Gloria Borger writes.

“One source — who is a presidential ally — is worried, really worried. The source says this past week is ‘different,’ that advisers are scared the President is spiraling, lashing out, just out of control. For example: Demanding to hold a public session where he made promises on trade tariffs before his staff was ready, not to mention willing.”

Said the source: “This has real economic impact. Something is very wrong.”

Axios: “Czech Justice Minister Robert Pelikan appears to be leaning toward extraditing Russian hacker Yevgeniy Nikulin to the United States rather than Russia, after telling parliament he will base his decision on where the most severe crimes were committed and which side requested his extradition first. Both criteria point to the U.S.”

“U.S. authorities believe he may also have information about Russian state-sponsored cyber activities — a view politicians and analysts say is supported by Russia’s desperate attempts to have him sent back home.”

A White House insider tells the Daily Mail that Hope Hicks has been secretly keeping what was described as a “detailed diary of her White House work, and her interactions with the president.”

Said the source: “Hope’s one of Donald Trump’s most loyal colleagues and friends. She’s not one to destroy that relationship. And she is certainly under some sort of nondisclosure agreement. Moreover, the various investigations by the special counsel and Congress could target her. So she has to be very careful about jumping into any deals.”

Washington Post: “They were the ascendant young couples of the Trump White House: Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, and Rob Porter and Hope Hicks. They enjoyed rarefied access to the president and special privileges in the West Wing. Glamorous and well-connected, they had an air of power and invincibility. They even double-dated once.”

“But an unlikely cascade of events — set in motion by paparazzi photos of Porter and Hicks published Feb. 1 in a British tabloid — crashed down on Kushner this week. The shortest month of the year delivered 28 days of tumult that many inside and outside the White House say could mark the fall of the House of Kushner.”

“Once the prince of Trump’s Washington, Kushner is now stripped of his access to the nation’s deepest secrets, isolated and badly weakened inside the administration, under scrutiny for his mixing of business and government work and facing the possibility of grave legal peril in the Russia probe.”

Trump economic adviser Gary Cohn “has been rumored to be on the brink of leaving the White House for months but stayed for one main reason: to stop the president from imposing steep tariffs,” Politico reports.

“By Thursday afternoon, Cohn had lost the fight.”

“The decision came after a frantic 24 hours in which Cohn and others tried to walk Trump off the ledge. At one point, aides were sure Trump would make the announcement. Then they said he wouldn’t. Finally, sitting alongside steel executives, he did.”

Michelle Goldberg writes about “the strange saga of Anastasia Vashukevich. She is a Belarusian woman, a self-described ‘sex expert,’ who is now in a Thai jail and who claims, in a desperate Instagram video, to be the ‘the missing link in the connection between Russia and the U.S. elections.’”

“It sounds, of course, like an outrageous scam, and perhaps it is. But Vashukevich, who goes by the alias Nastya Rybka, has a documented link to Oleg Deripaska, an oligarch who figures prominently in one of the scandals surrounding the Trump campaign. Indeed, that link may be why she’s locked up in the first place. Whether you believe her or not, her bizarre, sordid story offers real clues to the chain connecting Trump’s circle to the highest level of the Russian government.”

“Could a social-media-obsessed escort help explain the degrading nightmare of the Trump presidency? It seems like the preposterously lazy plot of a sub-B movie. But these days, so does everything else in our politics.”

Special counsel Robert Mueller “is significantly turning up the heat on President Trump. While the president once again attacks his own attorney general and declares himself the victim of a ‘witch hunt,’ he faces increasingly ominous signs that Mueller has the president’s innermost circle — and Trump himself — in his sights,” the Washington Post reports.

“Mueller remains unlikely to indict the president, but any findings that Trump was involved in criminal activity could lead to calls for impeachment. And the constraints around indicting a sitting president do not apply to those closest to him, including members of his family who were deeply involved in his campaign. This week has brought the clearest signs yet that Mueller’s net is tightening around the White House — and maybe the president himself.”

“As companies across America take a stand on guns after the Florida school massacre, Delta Air Lines withstood swift political retribution in its home state of Georgia for cutting ties with the National Rifle Association,” ABC News reports.

“Ignoring warnings that the state’s business-friendly image could be tarnished, Republicans in the state legislature voted Thursday to kill a tax break that would have saved Delta millions of dollars in sales tax on jet fuel. The proposal wasn’t controversial until Delta announced last weekend it would no longer offer discounted fares to NRA members.”

Meanwhile, CBS News quoted Delta CEO Edward Bastian, who is not backing down: “Our values are not for sale.”

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

10 comments on “The Open Thread for March 3, 2018

  1. Anybody read about the 7,000 year old burial site found by divers off of Florida? Pretty cool. Twenty feet under water. They say the ocean has risen thirty ft since those days. I did the math, and that is about 1/19 of an inch per year of sea level rise….And just a scant bit of time later (geologically speaking), the beat goes on, thanks to the waning ice age.

  2. Oh, no A Democrat, progressive? A former member of the San Francisco School Board!!!!

    Go ahead let’s hear it>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

    • Hear what? Good. He deserves to go to jail. There. You heard it.

      Why you think any Dem/liberal would defend this is beyond me. In case you haven’t noticed, you are the only one keeping score by setting up and knocking over your own straw men. You really need to stop playing with yourself.

  3. Because you think only Republicans, do stuff like this. Wrongo! “You really need to stop playing with yourself.” Now isn’t that an adult, mature thing to say!

    • Great “I know you are but what am I” reply, how was the third grade? Other than long and hard that is.

    • You’re going to have to prove where I’ve ever said that I think only Republicans do stuff like this. This is your game. One you constantly play with yourself.

      Don’t think no one noticed how you only linked to Dem sexual harassment scandals, despite me saying, many times, that this wasn’t an R or D issue. Yet you continued to keep your one sided scorecard, Even tho everyone could see that you couldn’t care less about sexual harassment and assault. (See: dumpster fire)

      And I’ll take your delicate feelings on civility seriously when you get the vapors over Trump.

      Dave’s correct about your abject hypocrisy.

      • We can see the GOP defending this kind of crap from their pols every day. Somehow it is only wrong when Dems do it. I mean, your President is paying off porn stars not to talk about affairs he had when his wife was pregnant or a new mom. The GRIFTUS’s son in law has been escorting courtiers into the WHite House and then getting big time loans for his business. When you guys reject the need for your pols to grift every bit of the system, then you get to talk about what Dems are willing to tolerate. And no Dems are defending this guy’s BS.

      • “your one sided scorecard” This is Delaware Blue, Delaware Liberal, just the players have changed. This is not a middle of the road group, this is the leftist of the left!

  4. No. What they think is that only Republicans pretend they don’t do stuff like that. Democrats do it as well. They just don’t put on airs. Remember your greatest sin is not what you do, It’s what you pretend to not do.

    The entire Trump administration has repeatedly demonstrated how corrupt they are and you pretend they are not. Evangelicals love Trump even though he is anathema to every principle they (pretend) to hold dear.

    Your greatest fault and sin is not your politics or philosophy; it’s your abject hypocrisy.

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