The Open Thread for April 14, 2018

President Trump said on Friday he had ordered strikes on Syrian targets, seeking to punish President Bashar al-Assad for a suspected chemical attack near Damascus that killed more than 40 people.  Trump said Britain and France had joined the United States in the strikes.  Oh, joy.

STEELE DOSSIER CONFIRMED.  Special Counsel Robert Mueller has evidence that Michael Cohen made a trip to Prague in the summer of 2016, McClatchy reports, citing two sources with familiar with the matter.  The Steele dossier contained claims that Cohen, President Trump’s long-time fixer, met secretly with Russian intelligence agents in Prague in 2016 to strategize about the campaign.  This meeting also including Russian hackers.  Cohen has previously denied traveling to Prague, but this is now revealed to be a lie.

Mueller’s team has evidence that Cohen entered the Czech Republic through Germany, which he could have done without a passport, according to McClatchy’s sources.   The report represents a significant development in Mueller’s Russia investigation. If the meeting occurred, it could undercut Trump’s repeated claim that there was “no collusion” between his campaign and Russia.

Meanwhile, former FBI Director James Comey admits in an ABC News interview that he doesn’t know if the “pee tape” — one of the more salacious items in the Steele dossier — actually exists, but it’s possible.  Said Comey: “I honestly never thought this words would come out of my mouth, but I don’t know whether the current president of the United States was with prostitutes peeing on each other in Moscow in 2013. It’s possible, but I don’t know.”

Further,  CNN confirmed Cohen is “under criminal investigation.”  “In response to Cohen’s motion to restrain the evidence collected in Monday’s raids of his home and office, the US attorney in New York asserted the raids were authorized by a federal judge to seek evidence of conduct ‘for which Cohen is under criminal investigation.’”  The filing redacts what Cohen is under investigation for.

LORDY, THERE ARE TAPES.  AND WE HAVE THEM.  Federal agents who raided Trump attorney Michael Cohen’s home, office and hotel room this week seized audio recordings, sources familiar with the raid tell ABC News.

“Sources say Cohen was known to record conversations with reporters so he could show them to Trump in order to deal with reporters on certain stories. Cohen was known to record other types of discussions and communications too, which sources say, could include communications with Trump.”

Trump is fucked.  He knows it.  Which is why he is melting down.

COHEN PAYS OFF MISTRESS OF GOP DONOR, WHO THEN HAS AN ABORTION.  President Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen “negotiated a deal in late 2017 to pay $1.6 million to a former Playboy model who said she was impregnated by” top Republican fundraiser Elliot Broidy, the Wall Street Journal reports.   The woman later had an abortion.  All these Trump people are just so Christian.

“The deal, which hasn’t previously been reported, prohibits the Los Angeles woman from disclosing her alleged relationship with Mr. Broidy in exchange for $1.6 million to be paid to her over two years in quarterly installments, these people said. The first payment was due Dec. 1.”

Interesting: “The Broidy agreement uses the same pseudonyms for Mr. Broidy and the woman with whom he was allegedly involved—David Dennison and Peggy Peterson—as the earlier agreement used for Mr. Trump and Ms. Clifford, respectively… Both agreements had separate side letters that listed the real names of the parties.”

RUSSIAN SPY HELPED WITH TRUMP TOWER MOSCOW.  “A former Russian spy helped Donald Trump’s business team seek financing for a Trump-branded tower in the heart of Moscow during the 2016 presidential campaign,” BuzzFeed News reports.

“This connection between Trump and Russian intelligence — made public here for the first time — is known to special counsel Robert Mueller’s team and raises fresh questions about the president’s connections to the Kremlin. The former agent, who had served in Russia’s military intelligence arm known as the GRU and later worked as an arms dealer, negotiated for financing from a Russian state-owned bank that was under US sanctions at the time.”

“BuzzFeed News is not naming the the Russian agent because two US intelligence officials said that doing so would endanger his life.”

COHEN INVESTIGATION IS THE GREATER THREAT.  President Trump’s advisers “have concluded that a wide-ranging corruption investigation in New York poses a greater and more imminent threat to the president than even the special counsel’s investigation,” the New York Times reports.

“As his lawyers went to court on Friday to try to block prosecutors from reading files that were seized from his longtime personal lawyer and fixer this week, Mr. Trump found himself increasingly isolated in mounting a response. He continued to struggle to hire a new criminal lawyer, and some of his own aides were reluctant to advise him about a response for fear of being dragged into a criminal investigation themselves.”

TRUMP CALLED COHEN TODAY TO CHECK IN.  President Trump phoned his longtime confidant, Michael Cohen, to “check in” on Friday as lawyers for the two men went to court to block the Justice Department from reading documents seized in a raid on Cohen’s home and office, the New York Times reports.

“It is not clear what else they discussed in a call that came days after a series of FBI raids. Depending on what was said, the call could be problematic for both men, as defense lawyers often advise their clients not to talk to each other during investigations. Mr. Trump and Mr. Cohen still were trying to determine what exactly was seized.”

“The raids were even broader than have been previously reported. Prosecutors said the raids were part of a monthslong investigation into Mr. Cohen. In addition to searching Mr. Cohen’s office and hotel room, prosecutors also obtained warrants to seize material from his cellphones, tablet, laptop and a safe deposit box.”

NEW POLLING LOW FOR TRUMP.  Gallup: “President Trump’s favorable rating, already low by historical standards, has dropped to 38% — while his unfavorable rating is at 59%.”

A new Washington Post-ABC News poll finds the public by a broad 69% to 25% supports special counsel Robert Mueller’s initial thrust, to investigate possible collusion between Trump campaign officials and Russian government attempts to influence the 2016 election.

Backing for Mueller’s work goes further: Americans by 64% to 32% also support his investigating Trump’s business activities. And by 58% to 35% support investigators’ latest apparent direction, looking at allegations that Trump’s associates paid hush money to women who say they had affairs with him.

RYAN SUPPORTS MCCARTHY. Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) told NBC News that he has endorsed House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) to replace him as Speaker. Said Ryan: “We all think that Kevin is the right person.”

Axios: “House Republicans are in an exceptionally tough spot for the midterms, and Ryan’s decision to not run for reelection only added to concerns that Democrats have a shot at becoming majority. But having a clear replacement in place, like McCarthy who is known and trusted within the GOP, Republicans have a someone they can rally behind as Nov. 6 edges closer.”

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), “a prominent and polarizing conservative leader, is strongly considering a run for House speaker in a bid that could upend the race to succeed Paul Ryan,” the Washington Post reports.  USA Today: “It is unlikely that Jordan could get enough votes to win the speakership himself, but he could get the support of dozens of his hardline colleagues which would make winning the speakership more difficult for other, more establishment candidates.”

ROSENSTEIN EXPECTS IT, TRUMP WANTS IT.  Wall Street Journal: “Two people who spoke to Mr. Trump during the week said they came away thinking both Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general who appointed Mr. Mueller, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions would soon be gone, potentially sparking a political and constitutional crisis.”

Said one: “It’s a matter of when, not if.”

For his part, Rosenstein “has struck a stoic and righteous tone in private conversations he has had this week about the fate of his job as President Trump has launched public criticism against him and considered firing him,” NBC News reports.  “One source who spoke to Rosenstein said he seemed fully aware he may soon lose his job and was at peace with the possibility, confident he had done his job with integrity.”

Also interesting: “Rosenstein has said in recent private conversations that history will prove he did the right thing by firing Comey in May 2017, claiming that the American people do not have all the facts about what led to his decision to write the memo that led to Comey’s dismissal.”

SCOOTER LIBBY PARDONED.  President Trump pardoned “Scooter” Libby, former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, who was convicted of obstruction of justice and perjury, the Washington Post reports.

“Libby was sentenced to 30 months in prison and was fined $250,000. His sentence was commuted by President George W. Bush. Although Libby was spared jail time, he was not pardoned.”

The House Ethics Committee called for former Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX) to honor his pledge to repay an $84,000 taxpayer settlement to end a sexual harassment case, the Houston Chronicle reports.

“The bipartisan committee, in a unanimous statement, said that while it no longer has jurisdiction over the Corpus Christi Republican, it encouraged him ‘in the strongest possible terms’ to make good on his promise to pay back the settlement stemming from a 2015 sexual harassment case brought by Lauren Greene, a former staffer in his Washington office.”

TRAPPED IN THE WHITE HOUSE. “Trump administration officials looking to escape to the private sector are getting a rude awakening: No one wants to hire them,” BuzzFeed News reports.

“Companies and firms who used to recruit from presidential administrations and brag when they were successful in poaching an aide are making the calculation that the risks of bringing on a Trump administration official outweigh the rewards, according to interviews with 10 current and former administration officials, top recruiters, and lobbyists who did not want to be named to talk candidly.”

NO INTERVIEW NOW.  Special counsel Robert Mueller’s office and President Trump’s legal team “are now proceeding with strategies that presume a presidential interview will likely not take place as part of the Russia investigation, after months of talks between the two sides collapsed earlier this week,” NBC News reports.

“The prospects for a presidential interview drastically dimmed once the FBI raided the home, office and hotel room of Trump’s long-time personal lawyer, Michael Cohen on Monday… The president criticized the raid as out of bounds in Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and possible collusion with Trump aides.”

“Republicans are rushing to shore up congressional seats deep in the heart of Trump country as they come to an alarming realization: In this midterm election, few GOP lawmakers are safe,” Politico reports.

“GOP leaders are pressing Republicans lawmakers in conservative areas to get their sluggish campaigns in order. They’re pleading with major donors to open their wallets for incumbents in seats previously thought to be secure. And they’re polling districts President Trump won comfortably just a year-and-a-half ago, searching for signs of trouble.”

“While most of the party’s efforts have been focused on defending swing districts, Republicans are increasingly turning their attention to more conservative areas, from suburban Phoenix to rural Virginia, fearful that they too could be casualties of a midterm bloodbath.”

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

7 comments on “The Open Thread for April 14, 2018

  1. Cue The Monkees: “then I saw her face, now I’m a Peeliever”. 100 points for the win to Jonathan Chait.

  2. cassandram

    It’s pretty remarkable that the Comms strategy for Comey is based on acknowledging his book and engaging with its accusations. They helped make the Wolff book a blockbuster and here they are again.

    • Considering we’re targeting Syrians and not Russians, that’s common practice. It was done under Obama as well. We’re supposedly cooperating with Russia on the Syria situation.

      This should calm down those who think any attack on Syria automatically starts WWIII.

      • cassandram

        Yes — largely posted because I am seeing this attack being used to note that the Griftus isn’t so willing to accomodate Putin after all.

        • It’s a good thing that we did warn the Russians. I don’t know about you guys, but I sure don’t want a war with Russia. That would be insane. I think maybe there are some deranged Hillary supporters out there that would disagree with me though, because they’re looking for revenge.

          • delacrat

            It’s remarkable what lengths and risks a US gov’t will go with Syria, considering that there is no evidence that the Assad gov’t was responsible for the alleged chemical attack, in contrast to Trump’s inaction with respect to Israel’s admitted shooting of over 1,000 Gazans; killing two dozen.

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