The Open Thread for May 1, 2018

“White House chief of staff John Kelly has eroded morale in the West Wing in recent months with comments to aides that include insulting the president’s intelligence and casting himself as the savior of the country, according to eight current and former White House officials,” NBC News reports.

“The officials said Kelly portrays himself to Trump administration aides as the lone bulwark against catastrophe, curbing the erratic urges of a president who has a questionable grasp on policy issues and the functions of government. He has referred to Trump as ‘an idiot’ multiple times to underscore his point.”

Said on official: “He says stuff you can’t believe. He’ll say it and you think, ‘That is not what you should be saying.’”

So, does Kelly last the week?

Special counsel Robert Mueller “has at least four dozen questions on an exhaustive array of subjects he wants to ask President Trump to learn more about his ties to Russia and determine whether he obstructed the inquiry itself,” according to a list of the questions obtained by the New York Times.

“The open-ended queries appear to be an attempt to penetrate the president’s thinking, to get at the motivation behind some of his most combative Twitter posts and to examine his relationships with his family and his closest advisers. They deal chiefly with the president’s high-profile firings of the FBI director and his first national security adviser, his treatment of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and a 2016 Trump Tower meeting between campaign officials and Russians offering dirt on Hillary Clinton.”

“But they also touch on the president’s businesses; any discussions with his longtime personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, about a Moscow real estate deal; whether the president knew of any attempt by Mr. Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to set up a back channel to Russia during the transition; any contacts he had with Roger Stone, a longtime adviser who claimed to have inside information about Democratic email hackings; and what happened during Mr. Trump’s 2013 trip to Moscow for the Miss Universe pageant.”

These are questions read by Mueller’s team to Trump’s lawyers who then compiled a list.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) “raised $16.1 million for House Democrats in the first quarter of 2018, a massive pile of cash that brings her total this cycle to $66.7 million,” Politico reports.  “She is outpacing her fundraising of the 2016 cycle by nearly $10 million… Pelosi has an unmatched ability to raise cash, and that’s crucial for any Hill leader. Her ability to raise money for the party is always the subject of chatter in the Capitol.”  And it’s one of the reasons she is still the leader.

Michael Avenatti, the lawyer representing Stormy Daniels, said a recent National Enquirer cover promising details about Michael Cohen’s “secrets and lies” is a sign that President Trump is in “panic mode” over Cohen possibly cooperating with investigators in New York, the Washington Post reports.   The Enquirer’s parent company, American Media, is run by David Pecker, a friend and ally of Trump’s.

Said Avenatti: “It’s pretty transparent what is going on here… this is the first effort on their part to undermine Mr. Cohen’s credibility so they can claim when he does flip that he’s a liar.”

If this happens to you, refuse.

“A few weeks ago, it felt as if a trade war pitting the United States against allies like Australia, Canada and the European Union was over before it even began. The Trump administration dispensed so many temporary exemptions to steel and aluminum tariffs that many countries figured the threats were just political theater,” the New York Times reports.

“But with only days left before the exemptions expire and punitive tariffs take effect, it’s dawning on foreign leaders that decades of warm relations with the United States carry little weight with a president dismissive of diplomatic norms and hostile toward the ground rules of international trade.”

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) told the Economist that the new Republican tax law isn’t helping American workers like his party promised it would.

Said Rubio: “There is still a lot of thinking on the right that if big corporations are happy, they’re going to take the money they’re saving and reinvest it in American workers. In fact they bought back shares, a few gave out bonuses; there’s no evidence whatsoever that the money’s been massively poured back into the American worker.”

President Trump “is expected to speak at the National Rifle Association’s annual meeting later this week in Dallas,” CNN reports. “The trip would be Trump’s third consecutive address to the NRA’s annual meeting. But this year, Trump is set to speak to the gun lobby just two months after he drew concerns from conservatives after urging lawmakers to not fear the NRA and suggesting law enforcement officials should take guns away from dangerous individuals without due process.”’

“Attendees at the National Rifle Association’s annual meeting in Dallas can carry their firearms — except during the forum where President Trump and Vice President Pence speak Friday,” the AP reports.  “The NRA posted a notice on its website saying that the arena will be under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Secret Service during the leadership forum. It’s standard for the Secret Service to bar firearms from being carried into places visited by the people they protect, regardless of state laws. Other prohibited items include toy guns and knives, according to the NRA posting.”

“Richard Painter, a longtime Republican who was chief ethics lawyer for George W. Bush’s White House, intends to run for the U.S. Senate in Minnesota this year as a Democrat,” the Minneapolis Star Tribunereports.

“Painter, a persistent and frequent critic of President Donald Trump on national cable TV news appearances and on Twitter, is expected to announce his candidacy at a Monday news conference. … [The] seat is up this fall in a special election, and [Tina] Smith has said she intends to run for a full six-year term.”

Yeah, while I encourage all Never Trump Republicans to vote for the Democratic Party, and even join it if they feel the party now represents them, that doesn’t necessarily mean we all are going to be voting for a literal DINO.   Go Tina Smith.

Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley (R) moved “to quell spiraling anxiety among senior Republicans and top party donors that his bid to oust vulnerable Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) is slowly slipping away,” the Washington Examiner reports.

“In a memo issued to campaign contributors, but also directed toward nitpicking Republican officials in Washington, Hawley revealed fresh polling that shows a close but stable race with McCaskill that has been unaffected by the deepening sex scandal engulfing embattled GOP Gov. Eric Greitens.”

The OnMessage survey showed Hawley narrowly edging McCaskill, 47% to 46%.

“The Trump campaign has spent nearly $228,000 to cover some of the legal expenses for President Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen, sources familiar with the payments tell ABC News, raising questions about whether the Trump campaign may have violated campaign finance laws.”

“Cohen has said that he did not have a formal role in the Trump campaign, and it is illegal to spend campaign funds for personal use.”

In updating its manual for U.S. attorneys, which provides guidance for prosecutors and other federal lawyers, the Trump Justice Department eliminated entirely a section titled “Need for Free Press and Public Trial,” which had been “included in versions of the manual at least as far back as 1988,” BuzzFeed News reports.

“The changes include new sections that underscore Sessions’ focus on religious liberty and the Trump administration’s efforts to crack down on government leaks — there is new language admonishing prosecutors not to share classified information and directing them to report contacts with the media.”

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) asked his son-in-law, Ben Domenech, over the weekend to “take care of” his daughter as he continues to receive treatment for complications connected to his brain cancer, Roll Call reports.  Tweeted Domenech: “John hugged me tonight. He asked me to take care of Meghan. I said I would.”  He deleted the tweet shortly after.

The silence from the McCain camp for the last few months, and his absence from DC, point to the fact that he was likely in his final months.  This is crass but there is no way to avoid this topic in an election year, but if McCain passes away before May 30, there will be a special election this year for his seat.

Regardless, McCain says in his new book that his current term is his last,” CNN reports.  Said McCain: “This is my last term. If I hadn’t admitted that to myself before this summer, a stage 4 cancer diagnosis acts as ungentle persuasion. I’m freer than colleagues who will face the voters again. I can speak my mind without fearing the consequences much. And I can vote my conscience without worry.”

A new Emerson College Poll in Missouri has the closely watched Senate race between Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and likely challenger Josh Hawley (R) in a tie, 45% to 45% with 10% of voters undecided. Governor

Meanwhile, Gov. Eric Greitens (R), currently reeling from multiple scandals involving infidelity, blackmail, and campaign finance violations, has 33% to 46% approval rating, When asked what Greitens should do next, 36% want him to resign, 33% want the governor to remain in office, and 18% want him impeached, which means that 54% of Missouri voters want Greitens out as Governor.

In trying to secure his vote to confirm Mike Pompeo as Secretary of State, President Trump told Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) that he was prepared to end the war in Afghanistan, the Washington Post reports.  Said Paul: “The president told me over and over again in general we’re getting the hell out of there. I think the president’s instincts and inclination are to resolve the Afghan conflict.”

“The two men discussed no exit dates and did not strike a written agreement… It is unclear just how much Trump’s private conversations signal a public shift in policy or, rather, if they are just maneuvering by a famously transactional leader who often says what he needs to say to make a deal and then reverses himself.”


This map shows 2016 electoral college results if abstention from voting was counted as a vote for “nobody.”

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

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