The Open Thread for March 21, 2018

President Trump said that he spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin to congratulate him on his recent election victory and said that the two would likely get together in the not too distant future, ABC News reports. Said Trump: “We had a very good call.”

“President Trump did not follow specific warnings from his national security advisers when he congratulated Russian President Vladi­mir Putin Tuesday on his reelection, including a section in his briefing materials in all-capital letters stating ‘DO NOT CONGRATULATE,’” the Washington Post reports.  “Trump also chose not to heed talking points from aides instructing him to condemn Putin about the recent poisoning of a former Russian spy in the United Kingdom with a powerful nerve agent, a case that both the British and U.S. governments have blamed on Moscow.”

“An American president does not lead the Free World by congratulating dictators on winning sham elections,” Senator John McCain said in a statement Tuesday.And by doing so with Vladimir Putin, President Trump insulted every Russian citizen who was denied the right to vote in a free and fair election to determine their country’s future, including the countless Russian patriots who have risked so much to protest and resist Putin’s regime.”

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) told the Washington Post that he would support impeachment proceedings against President Trump if the president ends special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election “without cause.”

Said Flake: “We’re begging him: ‘Don’t go down this road. Don’t create a constitutional crisis. Don’t force the Congress to take the only remedy that Congress can take. To remind the president of that is the best way to keep him from going down that road. To fire Mueller without cause, I don’t know if there is any other remedy left to the legislative branch.”

He joins Senator Lindsay Graham, who also said yesterday that he would support impeachment if Trump fired Mueller without cause.  “More Republicans are telling President Trump in ever blunter terms to lay off his escalating criticism of special counsel Robert Mueller and the Russia probe,” the AP reports.  “But party leaders are taking no action to protect Mueller, embracing a familiar strategy with the president — simply waiting out the storm.”

“An undercover investigation by Channel 4 News has revealed how Cambridge Analytica claims it ran key parts of the presidential campaign for Donald Trump. The British data company was secretly filmed discussing coordination between Trump’s campaign and outside groups – an activity which is potentially illegal. Executives claimed they ‘ran all the digital campaign, the television campaign and our data informed all the strategy’ for President Trump.”

Mother Jones found an interesting photo of Cambridge Analytica CEO Alexander Nix.  ”He happens to be posing with Alexander Yakovenko, the Russian ambassador to the United Kingdom. The photo was taken days after Democratic National Committee files and emails hacked by Russian intelligence were dumped online by WikiLeaks at the start of the Democratic Party’s convention. The previous month, the Trump campaign had hired Nix’s company, and by this point, it had been widely reported that Russian intelligence was behind the DNC hack.“

“Fox has degenerated from providing a legitimate and much-needed outlet for conservative voices to a mere propaganda machine for a destructive and ethically ruinous administration.” —Retired Lt. Col. Ralph Peters, quoted by BuzzFeed, explaining to friends why he quit his job as a Fox News analyst.

“I think one of the really sad realizations over the last year is not what kind of a president Donald Trump turns out to be — I think it was all too predictable — but rather, how many members of Congress would be unwilling to stand up to him, and more than that, would be completely willing to carry water for him. That is a very sad realization. I did not expect that. I thought there would be more Jeff Flakes, more John McCains, more Bob Corkers.” — Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), in an interview with Politico.

John Gruber: “In the short run I always caution against reading anything into the market’s sense, but in this case I think investors are right. Facebook is in some serious trouble. This Cambridge Analytica scandal proves that Facebook ought to be heavily regulated, and that’s not good for Facebook’s bottom line.”

“I take issue, though, with the phrase ‘ended up in the hands of’. The implication with that phrasing is that Cambridge Analytica hoodwinked Facebook, or breached some sort of defenses. They didn’t. The information Cambridge Analytica obtained was exactly the information Facebook provides to advertisers by design. Cambridge Analytica just used that data in ways Facebook didn’t anticipate. Or perhaps better said, Facebook never anticipated that when people started to realize just what Facebook enables, there’d be outrage.”

President Trump must face a defamation lawsuit by a former contestant on his reality TV show “The Apprentice” after a Manhattan judge ruled in a first-of-its kind decision that he could not claim immunity through his job as the nation’s commander-in-chief, the New York Post.

Meanwhile, “a former Playboy model who claimed she had an affair with Donald Trump sued to be released from a 2016 legal agreement requiring her silence, becoming the second woman this month to challenge Trump allies’ efforts during the presidential campaign to bury stories about extramarital relationships,” the New York Times reports. “The model, Karen McDougal, is suing the company that owns The National Enquirer, American Media Inc., which paid her $150,000 and whose chief executive is a friend of Mr. Trump’s.”

Further, adult film actress Stormy Daniels underwent a polygraph exam in 2011 about her relationship with Donald Trump, and the examiner found there was a more than 99 percent probability she told the truth when she said they had unprotected sex in 2006, according to a copy of the report obtained by NBC News.

Richard Cohen: “The saga of the adult-film star and the juvenile president has become a rollicking affair. Each step of the way, Daniels has out-Trumped Trump. She is as shameless as he, a publicity hound who adheres to the secular American religion that, to be famous, even for nothing much, is to be rich. By and large, that’s not true, but then there is Kim Kardashian to prove otherwise.”

“In pre-Trump days, it might have been possible to destroy Daniels by calling her a slut or whatever. But Trump himself is a slut. He is a liar and a moral harlot who revels in irresponsibility and bad-boy behavior. He has no moral edge over his accuser. We have all been instructed by Trump himself to disregard schoolhouse virtues of honesty, dignity and rectitude. Trump himself travels light.”

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt “spent more than $120,000 in public funds last summer for a trip to Italy that included a meeting of G-7 ministers and a private tour of the Vatican,” the AP reports.  “The known cost of Pruitt’s previously reported trip grew this week after the agency disclosed a heavily censored document showing expenses for Pruitt’s security detail cost more than $30,500. That’s on top of nearly $90,000 spend for food, hotels, commercial airfare and a military jet used by Pruitt and nine EPA staff.”

Speaker Paul Ryan said he has received “assurances” that Robert Mueller won’t be fired, as questions swirl around whether President Trump will pull the plug on the special counsel, The Hill reports.  Said Ryan: “I received assurances that his firing is not even under consideration. We have a system based upon the rule of law in this country, we have a justice system, and no one is above that justice system.”

“President Trump’s legal team has reached out to Thedore B. Olson, one of the country’s most high-profile and seasoned litigators, to join forces amid mounting challenges in the probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election,” the Washington Post.  “The addition of Olson would come as President Trump, feeling vulnerable to the investigation led by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, has told confidants that he wants to recruit top-tier talent and shake up his group of lawyers.”  However, Ted Olson has turned Trump down.  I knew he was too smart to take Trump as a client.

Meanwhile, the latest addition to President Trump’s legal team — former U.S. attorney Joe diGenova — reflects three White House realities, Mike Allen reports.  “The state of play: (1) The White House is digging in for a fight that looks to be longer and messier than officials had expected. (2) This is another example of the president responding to televised cues. Trump has spent most of his adult life in litigation, and obsesses about legal positioning in the same way that he is consumed by his press coverage. (3) It’s another pugilistic voice at the table, and suggests that this weekend’s attacks on Mueller won’t be the last.”

Politico: “The Koch network has a rare message for President Trump: Take the Democrats’ immigration deal. A trio of organizations supported by Charles and David Koch is urging Trump to accept congressional Democrats’ weekend offer, which would deliver $25 billion for a border wall and security in exchange for a pathway to citizenship for 1.8 million young immigrants, according to officials in the Koch network.”

Stu Rothenberg: “Seven and a half months before the midterm elections, the combination of attitudinal and behavioral evidence leads to a single conclusion: The Democrats are very likely to win control of the House in November.”

“President Trump’s job approval rating has settled into a relatively narrow range, with between 39% and 42% of registered voters approving of his performance. Only 33% to 37% of respondents say that the country is headed in the right direction, another bit of evidence that reflects the extent of support for Trump and the Republican Party.”

“The current congressional generic ballot question suggests that Democrats have an 8- or 9-point advantage, a significant margin even if it is at least a couple of points below what Democrats would ideally want going into the midterms.”

“Taken together, these numbers paint a dangerous picture for the president and his party.”

First Read: “Our latest NBC/WSJ poll finds Democrats with a 10-point lead in congressional preference, with Dems holding the advantage in enthusiasm and among independents, and with college-educated white women breaking heavily against the GOP. But there’s another ominous sign for Republicans in our poll: They’re losing ground on the congressional-preference question in GOP-held congressional districts.”

“Bottom line: Given that so much of the 2018 House battleground is in red/purple areas, the GOP being in single digits — or even — in Republican-held districts is a problem.”

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

3 comments on “The Open Thread for March 21, 2018

  1. Cambridge Analytica may well be the biggest story out there, Facebook is in trouble and with it Zuckerberg The Great. Suspect FB will be regulated at some point and it’s well deserved. Russian trolls roam free and wide, there’s hatred pages a plenty and a company that seems asleep at the switch. As for Stormy Daniels it’s Go Stormy Go! As noted Trump and the media cannot call her out on her sexual behavior with the premier bad boy of sex in the White House, not that she would care. Even better she’s not the only one, far from it. And finally if Trump does fire Mueller there will be hell to pay, if not now than later especially if the Dems retake the house the game is over as Trump has known it. So sad, so well deserved.

  2. “An American president does not lead the Free World by congratulating dictators on winning sham elections,”- John McCain

    I guess they do, because Obama did it in 2012….Yeah,but….

  3. I’m sorry, you’ve apparently mistaken this for the John McCain Fan Club web site. It’s not.

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