The Open Thread for April 17, 2018

TAX CUTS AREN’T CUTTING IT. A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll finds that the tax-cut law, never broadly popular, has sagged in public esteem lately. Just 27% of Americans call it a good idea, while 36% call it a bad idea and the rest have no opinion.

“Moreover, a majority gives thumbs-down on the plan when asked to consider its potential effects. Just 39% foresee a positive impact from a stronger economy, more jobs and more money in their pockets; 53% foresee a negative impact from higher deficits and disproportionate benefits for the wealthy and big corporations.”

Bloomberg: “Some recent polls show that the majority of Americans still don’t support the tax law, despite an uptick in sentiment since the end of 2017. And a special House election in a conservative district of Pennsylvania in March delivered an upset victory to the Democratic candidate, who’d framed the tax cuts as a giveaway to the wealthy.”

“After most individual taxpayers finish up their returns this week, all eyes will turn to what the tax code revamp means for next year’s filings and beyond. Part of the Republican party’s problem in selling the tax cuts is that the answer is murky for many. Variables like dependents and itemized deductions can complicate the picture, even though most — 65 percent — will see a tax cut in 2018. And even for voters who do see a cut, whether it’s enough to sway their decisions at the ballot box is far from clear.”

Perhaps not coincidentally, a new Emerson College poll in Arizona’s 8th congressional district special election finds Hiral Tipirneni (D) narrowly leading Debbie Lesko (R), 46% to 45%.  Most other recent polling shows Lesko winning by double-digit margins.

Meanwhile, at the conclusion of the same hearing, “a federal judge on Monday rejected an attempt by President Trump and his longtime personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, to block prosecutors in Manhattan from reviewing a trove of materials seized in F.B.I. raids last week on Mr. Cohen’s office, home, hotel room and safe deposit box,” the New York Times reports.  “But feeling her way toward a resolution of the clash involving Mr. Trump and prosecutors investigating Mr. Cohen, the judge, Kimba Wood, signaled that she was considering appointing a special master to assist prosecutors if and when they cull through documents seized in the raids.”

ANOTHER ACT OF TREASON BY TRUMP.  President Trump “put the brakes on a preliminary plan to impose additional economic sanctions on Russia, walking back a Sunday announcement by U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley that the Kremlin had swiftly denounced as ‘international economic raiding,’” the Washington Post reports.  “The Trump team decided to publicly characterize Haley’s announcement as a misstatement.”

The Post also has an incredible anecdote that captures President Trump’s reluctance to punish Russian president Vladimir Putin, noting that the president “erupted” after learning the United States had ousted 60 Russians in response to the poisoning of a former spy, while France and Germany each expelled only five diplomats.   “The president, who seemed to believe that other individual countries would largely equal the United States, was furious that his administration was being portrayed in the media as taking by far the toughest stance on Russia. His briefers tried to reassure him that the sum total of European expulsions was roughly the same as the U.S. number.”

Screamed Trump: “I don’t care about the total!”

20% OF TRUMP’S CAMPAIGN DONATIONS GO TO THE LAWYERS.  “President Trump’s reelection campaign spent more than $1 out of every $5 on attorney fees this year as the president contended with the ongoing special counsel investigation and a new legal challenge from an adult-film star,” the Washington Post reports.  “Of the $3.9 million that Trump’s committee spent in the first quarter of 2018, more than $834,000 went to eight law firms and the Trump Corp. for legal fees.”

“The latest figures bring the Trump campaign’s total spending on legal fees to nearly $4 million since the president took office, records show.”

Perhaps not coincidentally, “President Trump’s re-election campaign has ramped up its fund-raising this year, bringing in $20.2 million, while investing heavily in cultivating a wide base of small donors,” the New York Times reports.  “Mr. Trump’s campaign apparatus spent nearly $8.2 million through the end of last month, with more than 60 percent of that going toward low-dollar fund-raising tools such as solicitations delivered via social media, email, direct mail and telemarketing, the reports show.”

TILLIS DRAWS FIRE. Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) “isn’t the kind of Republican who typically challenges Donald Trump,” Politico reports.  “But now he’s a lead sponsor of a bill to protect special counsel Robert Mueller from interference by Trump — enraging conservatives and potentially risking the president’s ire. It’s the biggest gamble Tillis has taken as a Republican senator, but one he believes is philosophically consistent with how the GOP would be treating a Democratic president.”

Said Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC): “I can tell you conservatives in my district are not happy about it.”

TRUMP IS NOT GOING TO LIKE THIS.  French President Emmanuel Macron said Sunday he “convinced” President Trump to stay in Syria before the United States, United Kingdom and France launched strikes against targets at three sites Friday night, CNN reports. Said Macron: “Ten days ago, President Trump said the USA’s will is to disengage from Syria. We convinced him that it was necessary to stay.”

HOW TRUMP COULD BURY THE MUELLER REPORT.  Greg Sargent: “There’s already been lots of discussion of the ways in which a replacement for Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein could limit Mueller’s probe, by, say, declaring certain areas off limits for the investigation. That’s a serious threat.”

“But there’s another important angle here: If Trump does remove Rosenstein, his replacement would also have a great deal of discretion over whether — and how much of — Mueller’s determinations ever see the light of day… A replacement for Rosenstein could not only decline to release something publicly, but could also sharply limit how much information gets sent to Congress.”

OPEN RACE FOR SPEAKER. “In endorsing his top lieutenant as his successor, House Speaker Paul Ryan has sought to project an air of inevitability around Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and lock in the California Republican’s status as the heir apparent,” the Wall Street Journal reports.  “It is a perception that could be hard to sustain.”

“Many members of the House Republican conference say the race is wide open and will be so long as Mr. Ryan maintains his plans to stay through the end of the year. They are also openly discussing it as a chance for several candidates to compete.”

THE NEVER TRUMPER PENCE AIDE RESIGNS. “Vice President Mike Pence’s pick for his national security adviser, Jon Lerner, has withdrawn after his hiring created tensions in the administration,” CNN reports.  “A GOP source close to the administration confirmed that news of Lerner’s hiring by the vice president created some tension within the administration, saying it caused ‘a big damn mess.’”

TRUMP’S BUSINESSES ARE SURVIVING ON HIS CORRUPTION.  “President Trump’s U.S. businesses have received at least $15.1 million in revenue from political groups and federal agencies since 2015,” McClatchy reports.

“The money went to Trump’s airplanes, hotels, golf courses, even a bottled water company during the presidential campaign and the first 15 months of his presidency… But it was Trump’s campaign itself that spent the biggest chunk by far – about 90 percent, or $13.4 million.”

THE EPA SOUNDPROOF PHONE BOOTH IS ILLEGAL.  EPA administrator Scott Pruitt installed a $43,000 soundproof phone booth at agency headquarters last fall, which “violated the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act, which prohibits an agency from paying more than $5,000 to redecorate or furnish a presidential appointee’s office without approval,” the Washington Post reports.  Wouldn’t this law apply to Ben Carson’s $33,000 conference table?

CORKER WON’T CAMPAIGN AGAINST BREDESEN. While retiring Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) announced that he’s contributed to expected GOP Senate nominee Marsha Blackburn (R), he also said that he won’t be out campaigning against her opponent, former Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen (D), the Chattanooga Times Free Press reports.  Said Corker: “I certainly do not plan to be working against somebody who is a friend and who has served our state ably. We’ve worked together to build a great state.”

TRUMP IS MORE WORRIED ABOUT COHEN THAN COMEY.  Jonathan Swan: “The main game for Trump — and the reason his agitation levels went through the roof the last two weeks — is what happened to Michael Cohen. Trump allies are exponentially more worried about the New York feds’ probe and the prospect of investigators poring over Trump’s business dealings than they are anything Comey is saying.”

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

1 comment on “The Open Thread for April 17, 2018

  1. “A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll finds that the tax-cut law, never broadly popular, has sagged in public esteem lately. Just 27% of Americans call it a good idea,”

    Hmmm…. John Carney has been saying for years that austerity will work if we stick with it. I suppose it is working for people he associates with.

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