“Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team last year made clear it wanted former Trump campaign deputy Rick Gates’ help, not so much against his former business partner Paul Manafort, but with its central mission: investigating the Trump campaign’s contact with the Russians,” CNN reports. “Mueller’s team alleges that Gates was in contact with a close colleague of Manafort’s who worked for a Russian intelligence agency — and that Gates knew of the spy service ties in September and October 2016, while he worked on the Trump campaign. Gates would have to talk about the communication with the man if prosecutors wanted.”
“Investigators probing whether Donald Trump’s presidential campaign colluded with Russia have been questioning witnesses about events at the 2016 Republican National Convention,” Reuters reports. Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team “has been asking about a convention-related event attended by both Russia’s U.S. ambassador and Jeff Sessions, the first U.S. senator to support Trump and now his attorney general… Another issue Mueller’s team has been asking about is how and why Republican Party platform language hostile to Russia was deleted from a section of the document related to Ukraine.”
Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that Utah’s top federal prosecutor, John Huber, “has been examining a cluster of Republican-driven accusations against the FBI and has decided that no second special counsel is needed — at least for now,” CNN reports.
READ THIS. “They saw me as an obstacle to privatization who had to be removed. That is because I am convinced that privatization is a political issue aimed at rewarding select people and companies with profits, even if it undermines care for veterans.” https://t.co/fYoaJMK3MI
— Ben Wikler (@benwikler) March 29, 2018
President Trump’s national security advisers “spent months trying to convince him to sign off on a plan to supply new U.S. weapons to Ukraine to aid in the country’s fight against Russian-backed separatists,” NBC News reports. “Yet when the president finally authorized the major policy shift, he told his aides not to publicly tout his decision, officials said. Doing so, Trump argued, might agitate Russian President Vladimir Putin.”
Said one White House official: “He doesn’t want us to bring it up. It is not something he wants to talk about.”
Conservatives are hurling personal attacks at the Parkland shooting survivors.
The internet isn't having it: https://t.co/rUpfdM7gMy
— Vox (@voxdotcom) March 30, 2018
President Trump “repeated a lie that construction on his long-promised wall at the US-Mexico border had started,” BuzzFeed News reports. Said Trump: “We started building our wall, I’m so proud of it. We started. We have $1.6 billion. You saw the pictures yesterday. I said what a thing of beauty.” The pictures he tweeted were actually from 2009.
Putin says dasvidaniya to 150 Western diplomats. 60 of them are American. https://t.co/YK6RsIpCLY pic.twitter.com/o0mTsox9UG
— Alex Ward (@AlexWardVox) March 29, 2018
“After a three-month delay, a lightning-quick lawsuit and three orders from as many judges, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) called two special elections Thursday and GOP senators dropped legislation to block the contests,” the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports. “Republican efforts collapsed following a Wednesday ruling by an appellate judge ordering the governor to call the May primary and June general elections. In less than a day, Walker abandoned a state Supreme Court appeal to overturn the ruling and lawmakers in both the Senate and Assembly canceled plans to vote to leave the seats vacant.”
The Republicans Are Giving up on Democracy https://t.co/n47I6uKG4F
— Martin Longman (@BooMan23) March 29, 2018
Daily Beast: “Ask a professional Democrat for his or her opinion on billionaire political donor Tom Steyer, and the answer you often get is a variation of the following: Why would someone with so much money spend it all on a fruitless attempt to impeach Donald Trump?”
“Press them for their thoughts in private, however, and many concede that the man funding a $40 million campaign to get rid of the current president is not just a gifted self-promoter, but is, in fact, building one of the true powerhouse entities within the Democratic ecosystem. Steyer is poised to play a massive role in the midterms and pull the party in the direction of his choosing. He’s also set himself up incredibly well—perhaps better than any other potential aspirant—for a serious presidential bid in 2020.”
Said one Democratic strategist: “If I were a rich person and I wanted to run for president. I would be doing exactly what he’s doing.”
Why Trump can't act on his impotent rage against Amazon: https://t.co/JKH24uvBrv
— Paul Waldman (@paulwaldman1) March 29, 2018
Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball: “As of this writing, just 379 of 435 House districts will have incumbents running in them this November. That’s the second-lowest total of the post-World War II era.” “The 56 total open districts include 37 open Republican-held seats and 19 open Democratic seats.”
“Since our last open seat update, the Democratic potential in these seats has grown: It’s possible the Democrats could get a third or more of the way toward flipping the House just through netting gains among the open seats.”
A new Greenberg Quinlan Rosner poll suggests that Democratic candidates running in swing districts “must express a willingness to work with President Trump when his agenda might help the district.”
The survey also recommends that Democrats “not appear out of sync with what people believe about the economy.”
Axios: “President Trump’s election unleashed the far-left wing of the Democratic Party, but moderate Democrats are the party’s likely path to the majority. This new polling warns Democrats away from campaigning specifically against Trump and, instead, toward embracing the improving economy with a message focused on the middle class.”
Amy Walter: “What’s remarkable about Trump’s approval ratings during the course of his presidency, is how volatile and totally stable they are at the same time.”
“Since early March, Trump’s job approval has ticked up, but it is not any higher than it has been at previous points in his presidency. We will know things are really different this time around if Trump’s approval ratings break through – or at least continue to stay at — his current polling ceiling. However, it seems as if Trump’s floor and his ceiling are well-established with little, it seems, that can fundamentally move them.”
“The more pressing question, especially for Republicans going into 2018, is if Trump’s approval ratings will be on the higher end of the range (say 42-45%) than on the lower end (like 33-38%). While both are empirically pretty terrible numbers for any president, GOP members could have a fighting chance at preserving their House majority if Trump is on the higher end, while the lower end is likely to produce a tsunami-like wipeout.”
Could a disastrous performance by his party cause Trump big problems in getting renominated in 2020? It’s unlikely, but possible, writes @ed_kilgore https://t.co/EMyudc8bsK
— New York Magazine (@NYMag) March 29, 2018
James Hohmann: “Fealty to Trump has become more of a litmus test than ever for Republicans. Emboldened by private polling and focus groups that show the president is incredibly popular with the base, GOP candidates are stepping up attacks on their rivals over any daylight they’ve shown with Trump, even if it stemmed from his personal conduct toward women or apostasy on traditional conservative orthodoxy. It’s another illustration of the degree to which Trumpism has come to define the Republican Party. This is no longer the party of Abraham Lincoln, Ronald Reagan or George W. Bush. It’s the party of Donald J. Trump.”
The Washington Post reports that Mississippi Senate appointee Cindy Hyde-Smith (R) sat down yesterday with White House officials, who weren’t too keen on her when Gov. Phil Bryant (R) named her for the seat last week.
First Read: “At issue, among other things, is Hyde-Smith’s past as a former Democrat, which some Republicans worry could hamper her run against conservative firebrand Chris McDaniel, who’s also seeking the seat. Keep in mind that, if no candidate between Hyde-Smith, McDaniel and Democratic candidate Mike Espy gets to 50% of the vote on Election Day, we’ll be in for a runoff.”
McDaniel tweets: “It sounds like the WH is on the right track in refusing to endorse Cindy Hyde-Smith but this should help them make a final decision.”
Harry Litman: “The most enduring mystery to date in special counsel Robert Mueller’s inquiry has been former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort’s obdurate refusal to cooperate with the investigation. Manafort has a reputation as a swashbuckling gambler, but he has been playing odds in the biggest game of his life that are not just long but prohibitive. A new report that the president’s now-former lawyer once discussed pardoning Manafort may finally explain why the latter has kept quiet — even though that bet is still incredibly risky.”
“Manafort’s refusal to cooperate can’t be driven by a rational calculation that he has any reasonable chance of escaping conviction, multimillion-dollar legal fees and a prison sentence that will result in years behind bars.”
House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) admitted to Politico “his desire to lead the conference someday but said now isn’t the time to discuss it.” Said Scalise: “I wouldn’t rule it out. Obviously, I’ve shown interest in the past at moving up. I’ve enjoyed being in leadership. I feel like I’ve had a strong influence on some of the things that we’ve done, and I’ve helped put together coalitions to pass a full repeal of Obamacare.”
Playbook: “Scalise’s interest in the speakership is now public. So, whether he meant it or not, there is now an alternative to Kevin McCarthy. If you’re a member who wants Scalise as speaker — or doesn’t want Kevin — you now know a vote against McCarthy could get you the Louisiana Republican.”
“White House Chief of Staff John Kelly has lost some of his clout following recent missteps and wasn’t at President Trump’s side for recent crucial decisions on staffing and policy moves,” Bloomberg reports. “Kelly wasn’t with the president last week when Trump abruptly decided to oust H.R. McMaster as national security adviser and replace him with John Bolton. Just two people were in the room for that decision: Trump and Bolton.”
“And Kelly is rarely on the line any more when Trump calls foreign leaders. Last week, when Trump spoke with President Vladimir Putin days before the U.S. decided to expel dozens of Russian diplomats, Kelly wasn’t on the call.”
Maybe Laura Ingraham can do CPR to revive her career. Thoughts and prayers to her.
These kids are brilliant.