The Open Thread for March 23, 2018

The chances of all of us dying in nuclear fire very soon just shot dramatically up. John Bolton is your new National Security Advisor.   “Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, the battle-tested Army officer tapped as President Trump’s national security adviser last year to stabilize a turbulent foreign policy operation, will resign and be replaced by John Bolton, a hard-line former United States ambassador to the United Nations,” the New York Times reports.

“General McMaster will retire from the military… He has been discussing his departure with President Trump for several weeks, they said, but decided to speed up his departure, in part because questions about his status were casting a shadow over his conversations with foreign officials.”

“John Dowd, the member of Trump’s legal team who most strongly opposed an interview and was leading the discussions with Mueller about one, resigned on Thursday. The move clears the path to begin preparations should an interview occur.”

“The shake-up in President Trump’s legal team is part of preparations for a potential presidential interview with special counsel Robert Mueller,” NBC News reports.

Former White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon said he believes if chief of staff John Kelly leaves the White House, President Trump will not replace him, The Hill reports.  “Bannon said that rather than hiring a new chief of staff should Kelly leave, Trump would likely opt for a more hands-on approach that would involve directly receiving reports from multiple individuals each day.”

Amy Walter: “There’s always something of a disconnect between what Washington, DC is obsessed about and what the rest of the country is worried about. In DC, of course, the story is Robert Mueller, Russia and White House chaos. Out in congressional races, however, Democratic candidates aren’t talking about any of those things. Instead, their primary focus is health care; specifically, their criticism of GOP attempts to repeal Obamacare. Ironically, while the passage of Obamacare cost Democrats their House majority in 2010, GOP attempts to repeal Obamacare may help Democrats flip House control in 2018.”

“While Republicans argue that Americans are going to vote with their pocketbooks this fall (thanks to a growing economy boosted by tax cuts and deregulation), Democrats seem to be betting that health care — costs and access — will be the more salient issue in 2018. In fact, as we saw in the special election in PA-18, Democrat Conor Lamb made the case that many of his constituents are going to have to use their tax cut refund to pay for escalating health care costs.”

Special counsel Robert Mueller “is scrutinizing the connections between President Trump’s campaign and the data mining firm Cambridge Analytica,” the AP reports. “Mueller’s investigators have asked former campaign officials about the Trump campaign’s data operations, particularly about how it collected and utilized voter data in battleground states.”  “The investigators have also asked some of Trump’s data team, which included analysts at the Republican National Committee, about its relationship with Cambridge Analytica.”

Mueller’s team has so far discussed with President Trump’s lawyers four main topics they want to talk about with the President, CNN reports.  “According to two sources, the areas that the special counsel investigators have indicated they want to pursue with Trump are the President’s role in crafting a statement abroad Air Force One that miscast Donald Trump Jr.’s campaign June 2016 meeting with Russians in Trump Tower, the circumstances surrounding that Trump Tower meeting as well as the firings of FBI Director James Comey and national security adviser Michael Flynn.”

Matt Viser: “Stormy Daniels is proving that she is the master of the prolonged reveal.”

“Over the last two and a half months the adult film actress and her lawyer have rolled out a textbook negative media campaign against the master of media manipulation, with a series of tantalizing details and disclosures that has provoked a storm of salacious and damaging news coverage.”

“And the worst for President Trump, who is in the rare position of struggling to win a tabloid-style media war, is yet to come. Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, is scheduled to appear in a 60 Minutessegment on Sunday in which she is expected to tell plenty more about her alleged affair with Trump in 2006.”

“President Trump took the first steps toward imposing tariffs on $50 billion in Chinese goods and limiting China’s ability to invest in the U.S. technology industry, saying the moves were a response to Beijing’s history of forcing U.S. companies to surrender their trade secrets to do business in China,” the Washington Postreports.

Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball: “Republicans already have more retirements than any presidential party in a midterm cycle from 1974 to 2018, and they are not far behind Democrats in 1978 in terms of the open seats they hold. Because seats lacking an incumbent are more difficult for the incumbent party to retain, this situation should deeply worry the GOP.”

Politico: “What GOP leaders fear most heading into the thick of the midterm elections: incumbents who haven’t seen a real race in years snoozing as a Democratic wave builds. Speaker Paul Ryan and the National Republican Congressional Committee are less concerned about their battle-tested swing-district members — who face tough races every election cycle — and more worried about complacent Republicans not prepared for a fight.”

“It’s one of the reasons Ryan’s political team and NRCC officials have started holding a series of meetings with lawmakers from traditionally reliable GOP districts. Their message: Get ready for a roller coaster and begin your campaign in earnest now.”

“The race to become the next White House Communications Director has degenerated into a round of backstabbing and factionalism that has taken aback even the most jaded of White House aides and allies,” the Daily Beast reports.

“One White House official described the contest to replace departing Trump adviser Hope Hicks as being well into its ‘smear campaign stage.’ Another senior administration official dubbed it as a ‘battle royale.’ And a Republican official close to the White House bemoaned yet another heavy shot of ‘palace intrigue and backstabbing’ in an administration uniquely notorious for both.”

Stuart Stevens: “Every job process involving this White House quickly slides into contest of who is most willing to degrade themselves the most for a job they will later be ashamed of holding. It’s why the available talent pool is so limited.”

“Guccifer 2.0, the ‘lone hacker’ who took credit for providing WikiLeaks with stolen emails from the Democratic National Committee, was in fact an officer of Russia’s military intelligence directorate (GRU), the Daily Beast reports.

“It’s an attribution that resulted from a fleeting but critical slip-up in GRU tradecraft.”

“That forensic determination has substantial implications for the criminal probe into potential collusion between President Donald Trump and Russia. The Daily Beast has learned that the special counsel in that investigation, Robert Mueller, has taken over the probe into Guccifer and brought the FBI agents who worked to track the persona onto his team.”

“Dealing a setback to Gov. Scott Walker and other Republicans, a judge ruled the governor must call special elections to fill two vacant seats in the Legislature,” the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.

“Walker declined to call those elections after two GOP lawmakers stepped down to join his administration in December. His plan would have left the seats vacant for more than a year.”

Ron Browstein: “Every time Donald Trump breaks a window, congressional Republicans obediently sweep up the glass.”

“That’s become one of the most predictable patterns of his turbulent presidency—and a defining dynamic of the approaching midterm elections. Each time they overtly defend his behavior, or implicitly excuse him by failing to object, they bind themselves to him more tightly.”

“With all of this, the GOP leadership is sending an unmistakable signal to voters antagonistic or ambivalent about Trump: So long as Republicans hold the congressional majority, they will not act to meaningfully constrain, or even oversee, the president. That choice represents an epic gamble for November—and beyond.”

Indeed.  Attention lefties and progressives too holier than thou to register as a Democrat: you can’t choose our party’s nominee if you are not a member of the party.   Open primaries should be banned.  If they were in Illinois, then maybe progressives would have defeated an anti-abortion piece of shit DINO.  But since Republicans could vote in the Democratic Primary due to Illinois’ open primary law, Lipinski stays.

Thomas Friedman: “During the campaign he promised to release them after the I.R.S. finished auditing him. Then, after he was elected, Trump said, sorry, not going to release them ever. And nothing happened. Trump, I am reliably told, has actually said to people close to him, ‘Can you believe I got away with that?’”

“Once Trump saw that he could get away with not disclosing his tax returns, he knew he could get away with anything. He knew that once he compromised the G.O.P., even its evangelical wing, into giving him a pass on his taxes, they’d roll over for anything — sex with porn stars, endless lying, trashing the F.B.I., coddling Putin. Once you erase a big red line, it’s hard to start enforcing others.”

“Get me Trump’s tax returns. Because there must be something very important in them that he wants to keep hidden. Maybe it’s just the embarrassment that he is not as rich as he claims, or, maybe, it’s something more fundamental — like how dependent he is on Russian oligarchs for financing, so much so that Putin has leverage on him. Whatever the reason, though, when Trump saw he could get away with hiding them, he knew he could break any rule, tell any lie and violate any presidential norm — and he’s done just that.”

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) said Wednesday that special counsel Robert Mueller should be fired from his position investigating Russia’s election meddling and the Trump campaign, The Hill reports. Said Gohmert: “I think Mueller should be fired. He should never have been appointed and he should never have accepted. He should be fired.”

However, Gohmert “clarified that he thinks the president should not actually fire Mueller, because Republicans in Congress might impeach him if he did so.”

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

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