Open Thread

The Open Thread for March 16, 2018

Special counsel Robert Mueller “has subpoenaed the Trump Organization to turn over documents, including some related to Russia,” the New York Times reports.  “The order is the first known time that the special counsel demanded documents directly related to Trump’s businesses, bringing the investigation closer to the president.”

Red  line crossed, so prepare for a Saturday night massacre this weekend.

Meanwhile, Trump’s lawyers “are gaming out possible questions and answers for a potential interview with special counsel Robert Mueller,” Politico reports.

“The preparations reflect an understanding that negotiations with the lead Russia investigator, which have been ongoing since January, will eventually culminate in a sit-down meeting between Mueller with the president. One source said the discussions about the terms of a possible interview may soon even reach a conclusion.”  Said a source: “I don’t think it’s months and months out. I don’t think it’s in a week. But I think it’s moving toward closure.”

A new Pew Research survey finds 61% of Americans say they are very or somewhat confident special counsel Robert Mueller will conduct a fair investigation.

“While opinions about Mueller’s probe – and other issues related to Russia’s alleged election meddling – are divided along partisan lines, nearly half of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents (46%) are very or somewhat confident Mueller will conduct a fair investigation. Democrats and Democratic leaners are overwhelmingly confident Mueller’s investigation will be fair (75% very or somewhat confident).”

First Read: “Finally, [Tuesday] night’s result could very well scare off a handful of GOP incumbents who are on the fence about running in 2018. The good news for Republicans is that many filing deadlines have already passed. The bad news is that one or two more GOP retirements in semi-competitive districts could end up proving decisive in November’s race for control of Congress. That’s maybe why Republicans have been spinning the results so much — essentially saying, ‘Hey, last night wasn’t THAT bad’ — so they can prevent more retirements.”

Mike Allen: “Top Democrats tell me that if they take back the House in November, a restoration of Speaker Nancy Pelosi is no longer guaranteed.”

“In fact, some well-wired House Democrats predict she will be forced aside after the election and replaced by a younger, less divisive Dem…. Pelosi has hung in through the minority, and remains the party’s most consistent fundraiser. As for whether she’ll return as Speaker, she has just said that it’s up to the members. (Her allies note that she has never lost a leadership vote.)”

Playbook: “Nancy Pelosi has thick skin. She would love nothing more than for Democrats to win back the House majority. If people dump on her en route to the majority, fine.”

Washington Post: “The financial sanctions seek to deter Moscow from targeting this year’s midterm elections. It’s a noteworthy step, as President Trump has shown reluctance to blame the Kremlin for tampering with the 2016 presidential race despite the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusion that Moscow did so.”

First Read: “Not only did Republicans pull back from their tax cut messaging in Pennsylvania — widely seen as a sign that the plan wasn’t resonating politically in the district — but they also aren’t really talking about any other 2018 policymaking before the midterms. It’s not even April, and it doesn’t feel like Republican legislators are ready to stomach much more legislating.”

“Yes, it’s an election year, when it can be notoriously difficult to get new bills passed by risk-averse members. And yes, Republicans have spoken generally about addressing issues like infrastructure and the opioid crisis, but the details of how and when they’ll take up those bills — particularly when they have tricky upcoming confirmation hearings for incoming State and CIA chiefs — are far from obvious.”

“Democratic candidates Lamb and Doug Jones were both successful in running against Washington gridlock, so doesn’t the GOP need to show that they can legislate and make Congress work more this year?”

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s infamous trip to Kentucky to watch the solar eclipse last August cost taxpayers $33,000 because the secretary traveled on a military aircraft rather than on a commercial flight, the Daily Beast reports.

Records show that the government has already spent nearly $1 million for Mnuchin’s flights on military aircraft.

New York Times: “And the purge at the top may not be over. Mr. Trump, who is famously fickle, appears to have soured on additional members of his senior leadership team — and his frequent mulling about making changes has some people around him convinced that he could act soon.”

“Mr. Trump could act as early as Friday to remove one or more of them, though the president is known to enjoy keeping people off kilter.”

More at Talking Points Memo and Daily Kos.

“Fox News personality Pete Hegseth, a conservative voice on veterans’ policy, has emerged as a leading candidate to replace embattled Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin, who has fallen from favor with the Trump administration,” the Washington Post reports.

Rep. Ryan Costello (R-PA) is considering retirement, several state and national officials in GOP politics have told ABC News, a move that would boost Democratic hopes in their quest to retake control of the House.

“Documents marked “HIGHLY CONFIDENTIAL PROCEEDING” for the first time tie President Trump’s flagship holding company to the continuing effort to silence a former adult-film actress who says she had an affair with Mr. Trump,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“A Trump Organization lawyer, Jill Martin, is listed as counsel in an arbitration demand for Essential Consultants LLC, a Delaware company formed by Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer and used to pay $130,000 to Stephanie Clifford (a.k.a. Stormy Daniels) in exchange for her silence, according to Feb. 22 arbitration documents filed in Orange County, Calif.”

CNN: “In addition to showing a second attorney connected with the Trump Organization having direct involvement in legal matters related to Daniels, the new documents raise questions about Cohen’s previous insistence that ‘neither the Trump Organization nor the Trump campaign was a party to the transaction with Ms. Clifford,’ though it is not known whether Martin had any involvement in the case prior to the arbitration filing.”

“President Trump boasted in a fundraising speech Wednesday that he made up information in a meeting with the leader of a top U.S. ally, saying he insisted to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that the United States runs a trade deficit with its neighbor to the north without knowing whether that was the case,” the Washington Post reports.

Said Trump: “Trudeau came to see me. He’s a good guy, Justin. He said, ‘No, no, we have no trade deficit with you, we have none. Donald, please. Nice guy, good-looking guy, comes in — ‘Donald, we have no trade deficit.’ He’s very proud because everybody else, you know, we’re getting killed.”

He added: “… So, he’s proud. I said, ‘Wrong, Justin, you do.’ I didn’t even know… I had no idea. I just said, ‘You’re wrong.’ You know why? Because we’re so stupid… And I thought they were smart. I said, ‘You’re wrong, Justin.’ He said, ‘Nope, we have no trade deficit.’ I said, ‘Well, in that case, I feel differently,’ I said, ‘but I don’t believe it.’ I sent one of our guys out, his guy, my guy, they went out, I said, ‘Check, because I can’t believe it.’”

President Trump broke his silence on the Pennsylvania special election at a private fundraiser, telling a crowd of donors that Conor Lamb (D) had run “a pretty smart race, actually,” according to an audio recording of the remarks obtained by The Atlantic.

Said Trump: “The young man last night that ran, he said, ‘Oh, I’m like Trump. Second Amendment, everything. I love the tax cuts, everything.’ He ran on that basis. He ran on a campaign that said very nice things about me. I said, ‘Is he a Republican? He sounds like a Republican to me.’”


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

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