The Open Thread for April 5, 2018

“Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team has taken the unusual step of questioning Russian oligarchs who traveled into the US, stopping at least one and searching his electronic devices when his private jet landed at a New York area airport,” CNN reports.

“The situations have one thing in common: Investigators are asking whether wealthy Russians illegally funneled cash donations directly or indirectly into Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and inauguration.”

“One area under scrutiny… is investments Russians made in companies or think tanks that have political action committees that donated to the campaign.”

“Another theory Mueller’s office is pursuing… is whether wealthy Russians used straw donors — Americans with citizenship — as a vessel through which they could pump money into the campaign and inauguration fund.”

Further, “a witness who is cooperating in the special counsel investigation, George Nader, has connections to both the Persian Gulf states and Russia and may have information that links two important strands of the inquiry together,” the New York Times reports. “Mr. Nader’s ties to the United Arab Emirates are well documented — he is an adviser to its leader — but the extent of his links to Russia have not been previously disclosed.”

A new American Research Group poll in New Hampshire finds President Trump leads Gov. John Kasich (R) in a possible presidential primary by 6 points, 48% to 42%.  Trump leads Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) by a wider margin, 49% to 33%, with 18% of voters undecided.

Gov. John Kasich told CNN he is “unlikely” to challenge President Trump in 2020 as an independent.  Said Kasich: “Am I going to run as an Independent? No, I’m not even thinking about that, It’s unlikely, but when you have options on the table, all options are on the table, right?”

President Trump “grew irritated with his top military brass and national security team on Tuesday when they advised him an immediate withdrawal of US troops from Syria would be unwise and could not provide a timeline for when American forces could exit,” CNN reports. “In a sometimes-tense meeting of his national security team, Trump complained at length about the amount of American money being spent in the region, which he said had produced nothing for the US in return.”

Rebecca Dallet trounced Michael Screnock for a seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court, “shrinking the court’s conservative majority and giving Democrats a jolt of energy heading into the fall election,” the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports. “It marked the first time in 23 years that a liberal candidate who wasn’t an incumbent won a seat on the high court.”

Gov. Scott Walker (R) has warned that a “blue wave” may be coming for the midterm elections after a Democratic-backed candidate won a seat on Wisconsin’s supreme court, CNN reports. Said Walker: “Tonight’s results show we are at risk of a blue wave in Wisconsin. The far left is driven by anger and hatred — we must counter it with optimism and organization. Let’s share our positive story with voters and win in November.”

Seems like a “Deplorable” gaffe by Walker here. As Hillary learned, nothing enthuses your opponents’ voters more than insulting them. I love that he is scared. His tears are delicious.

Washington Post: “As the Arizona Republican battles brain cancer, party leaders are contemplating the unusual prospect of defending two Senate seats in the state this year — something they are already doing in Mississippi as they seek to improve on their 51-49 advantage in the midterm elections.”

“McCain’s health has been shrouded in secrecy, leading many Republicans to privately wonder if he will remain in office beyond May 30. If he doesn’t, there would probably be a special election for his seat in the fall. Congress will return Monday from a two-week recess with no clear indication that McCain, 81, will be back. He has been absent since December.”

This is a very tough ad against Rep. John Faso (R-NY) in a race the Cook Political Report rates a Toss Up.

Stan Collender wonders whether President Trump will attempt to not spend funds appropriated in the omnibus spending bill passed by Congress. He could “try to do this legally or just ignore the law and do it on his own.”

“Either way, if Senate Republicans allow this it absolutely would be a huge breach of faith with their Democratic colleagues and a violation of the deal they cut with them to avoid a filibuster on the omnibus. It would render another bipartisan agreement on any issue close to impossible for as long as Trump was president. It would also be the most egregious abuse in the past four decades of one of the most obscure (unless you’ve been reading my column lately) parts of the federal budget process.”

“This is exactly what we’ve come to expect from an autocratic president who acts impulsively, has no interest in the legislative process, has (and still is) supporting misuses of the process to suit his whims and doesn’t think or care at all about long-term political strategy.”

“China said it would levy an additional 25 percent tariff on imports of 106 U.S. products including soybeans, automobiles, chemicals and aircraft, in response to proposed American duties on its high-tech goods,” Bloomberg reports.

“Matching the scale of proposed U.S. tariffs announced the previous day, the Ministry of Commerce in Beijing said the charges will apply to around $50 billion of U.S. imports. Officials signaled that the implementation of the proposed measures will depend on when the U.S. applies its own after a period of public consultation.”

Playbook: “This could completely dwarf the good news Republicans have celebrated from tax reform and screw up their strategy to use it as the GOP’s main selling point in the midterms.”

CNBC: Stock futures plunged “as concerns over a potential trade war between the U.S. and China intensified.”

“In his last public remarks as national security adviser, Lt. Gen. HR McMaster offered harsh words for Russia during a speech,” CNN reports.  Said McMaster: “We have failed to impose sufficient costs’ on Russia.”  He added that the failure to impose adequate costs on Russia’s activities meant that “the Kremlin’s confidence is growing.”

“President Trump might need to hire a vote counter in the West Wing. That person would be able to explain to the president why Senate Republicans are in no rush to eliminate the legislative filibuster despite his constant pleas,” the Washington Post reports.

“Their reluctance is not just some longing for the better, bygone days of bipartisanship, but also a recognition that Republicans have passed just about all they can on a simple majority.”

“Senate Republicans are too divided to pass party-line legislation, whether on a border wall or the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, and instead need Democratic support to get just about anything done. All of that makes the ‘nuclear option,’ as the heavily partisan way of changing Senate rules is known, pretty pointless. There’s nothing that they can’t pass with 60 votes that they can pass with 51 votes.

Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards writes in her new memoir that Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump offered the organization increased federal funding if it stopped providing abortions, People reports.

Writes Richards: “If it wasn’t crystal clear before, it was now. Jared and Ivanka were there for one reason: to deliver a political win… In their eyes, if they could stop Planned Parenthood from providing abortions, it would confirm their reputation as savvy dealmakers. It was surreal, essentially being asked to barter away women’s rights for more money.”

“Roger Stone appeared on the InfoWars radio show the same day he sent an email claiming he dined with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange — and he predicted ‘devastating’ upcoming disclosures about the Clinton Foundation,” CNN reports. “Stone’s comments in his August 4, 2016, appearance are the earliest known time he claimed to know of forthcoming WikiLeaks documents.”

Luckily, the Philadelphia and Salisbury media markets, which cover Delaware, have no Sinclair stations.   So we have nothing to boycott.

Edward Luce: “Those who think Mr Trump acts solely on impulse are not paying attention. He is doing what populists always do. They target independent media. In some cases, such as in Victor Orban’s Hungary, they direct state advertising to friendly outlets. In Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Turkey, they hound independents with tax raids. Regulatory intimidation also works. Mr Trump keeps telling the world he intends to use such tools. We keep downplaying the risk. This is America, after all. Such things do not happen.”

“Yet they already have. Ponder this Ohio State University study. It found that voters who switched from Barack Obama in 2012 to Mr Trump in 2016 were influenced by three fake stories: Hillary Clinton was suffering from poor health; Pope Francis had endorsed Mr Trump; and Mrs Clinton had sold arms to Isis terrorists. All were essentially false. Together they may have tipped the election, says the report. Mr Trump is using his powers to ensure more Americans consume more stories like these. It helped elect him once. Why wouldn’t he press the advantage?”

Jeffrey Toobin: “Is collusion a crime? That is one of the central questions of the investigation into Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 U.S. elections. Even if it could be proved that Donald Trump and his supporters worked with the Russian government, or with Russian citizens, to win the Presidential race, would that activity have violated United States law? It’s long been an article of faith for Trump supporters, and for Trump himself, that collusion is not illegal. As the President told the Times in an interview last December, ‘There is no collusion, and even if there was, it’s not a crime.’”

“Now, it appears, Trump’s own Justice Department may have a different view. That conclusion appears in a document released earlier this week, in the course of pre-trial litigation in the case of Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman, on charges including money laundering.”

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

5 comments on “The Open Thread for April 5, 2018

  1. delacrat

    ” It found that voters who switched from Barack Obama in 2012 to Mr Trump in 2016 were influenced by three fake stories: Hillary Clinton was suffering from poor health; Pope Francis had endorsed Mr Trump; and Mrs Clinton had sold arms to Isis terrorists. “

    The fact that Clinton accomplished nothing positive as either Senator or Sec. of State had nothing to do with her loss.

    • oh look, more exact Tr*mp talking points from our favorite “progressive”

    • As usual, your comment lacks any semblance of logic. The story is about which fake stories were passed around the most. It says nothing about it being solely responsible for her loss.

      I’ve changed my mind. There’s no way they’d pay somebody with skills as feeble as yours.

  2. cassandram

    So this is really interesting. WaPo has mapped the production of some of the ag goods being targeted by China’s retaliatory tariffs. Places that backed the GRIFTUS will be hit by these, which is likely the strategy. It is hard to know how much they’ll be hit, since not all of their production is exported to China. But whacking off this much of a market will devalue these crops some.

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