The Open Thread for May 3, 2018

President Trump “plans to hire Emmet T. Flood, the veteran Washington lawyer who represented Bill Clinton during his impeachment, to replace Ty Cobb, the White House lawyer who has taken the lead in dealing with the special counsel investigation, who is retiring,” the New York Times reports.  “Mr. Flood is expected to take a more adversarial approach to the investigation than Mr. Cobb, who had pushed Mr. Trump to strike a cooperative tone.”

“It was not clear what prompted Mr. Flood to sign on. The president’s legal team for the special counsel investigation has been marked by turnover and uncertain strategy, complicated by a client liable to dismiss his lawyers’ advice. That factor prompted Mr. Trump’s lead lawyer on the case, John Dowd, to quit this year.”

After being interviewed by special counsel investigators, former aide Trump aide Michael Caputo told CNNthat Robert Mueller’s team is “focused on Russia collusion.”  Said Caputo: “It’s clear they are still really focused on Russia collusion. They know more about the Trump campaign than anyone who ever worked there.”  He added: “The Senate and the House are net fishing. The special counsel is spearfishing. They know what they are aiming at and are deadly accurate.”

President Trump’s current team of lawyers “lacks the security clearances needed to discuss sensitive issues related to a possible presidential interview with Special Counsel Robert Mueller,” Bloomberg reports.  “Trump’s former lead lawyer John Dowd had been the only member of the president’s personal legal team with a security clearance… When Dowd quit in March over disagreements with Trump on legal strategy, Jay Sekulow became the lead lawyer on the investigation and is still waiting for his clearance.”

Meanwhile, President Trump’s lawyers “are preparing for a legal showdown with special counsel Robert Mueller,” CNN reports.  “Trump’s legal team is bracing for the dramatic possibility that Mueller would subpoena the President, setting up a collision that could force a lengthy court fight and test the legal limits of the President’s power all the way up to the Supreme Court.”


Phillip Bump: “Why is this important? In part because it was Trump’s only credential. He pitched himself as a dealmaking, problem-solving business expert, but the numbers presented for his net worth (and the failure to release income data from his tax returns) meant that we had no way of evaluating whether he was actually much good at business. Sure, various buildings have his name on them, but it’s not clear what that means in terms of his business acumen — even granting that business acumen is transferable to governance.”

Jeffrey Toobin: “That appears to be the subtext of the nearly fifty questions, leaked to the press on Monday, that Robert Mueller, the special counsel, reportedly wants to ask the President. The questions, revealed in yet another scoop by the Times’ Michael Schmidt, do not appear to be word-for-word recitations of what the prosecutor will ask. Rather, they appear to be summaries of those questions, prepared by the President’s lawyers. But the gist is clear. Mueller seems to suspect that Donald Trump orchestrated an obstruction of justice in order to forestall the FBI’s investigation of his campaign’s possible ties to Russia. Mueller also seems to have questions about the legality of the contacts between people affiliated with the campaign and Russians in the first place.”

“It’s usually a fool’s game to guess who leaked something, and why; the identity and the motives of journalists’ sources are difficult to fathom, even to the leaker and the leakee. But the message, intentional or not, of these questions is clear: there is no way that Trump should put himself in the position of answering them.”

“If he took the Fifth, Trump would surely endure a few days of bad press, and his assertion of his rights would become an indelible part of his record as President. But would his approval rating, which has rarely strayed more than a few points north or south of forty per cent, really be hurt? Would his supporters desert him? I doubt it.”

Rep. Evan Jenkins (R), who is running for U.S. Senate in West Virginia, is running an ad showing primary opponent Patrick Morrisey (R) shaking hands with Hillary Clinton — something that never happened, Yahoo News reports.  “The ad uses a manipulated version of a photograph that originally showed his rival shaking the hand of someone else: President Trump.”

The Atlantic: The era of fake video begins.

“Michael Cohen, already under pressure from a federal criminal investigation into his business and financial dealings, has been hit this month with more than $185,000 in new state warrants for unpaid taxes on his taxicab companies,” Bloomberg reports.

“Added to his previous tab, that brings the total to $282,000 owed to New York state by 16 taxi medallion-holding companies owned by Cohen or members of his family, including Mad Dog Cab Corp., Smoochie Cab Corp., Golden Child Cab Corp. and N.Y. Futon Taxi Corp.”

Daily Beast: “Some videotapes recording the torture of a CIA detainee may have survived the 2005 destruction facilitated by Donald Trump’s nominee to run the agency. That’s according to an ex-CIA analyst who reviewed massive amounts of internal CIA documentation about torture and said she was told by a colleague that some of the tapes survived.”

Rolling Stone: “A few years before he started working for Donald Trump, and long before he gave legal advice to people like Fox News personality Sean Hannity, Michael Cohen had a different kind of clientele. Cohen roamed the courthouses of New York City, filing lawsuits on behalf of people with little means who were seeking compensation for the injuries they suffered in car collisions. Many personal-injury lawyers make their living this way, but there was something striking about Cohen’s cases: Some of the crashes at issue didn’t appear to be accidents at all.”

“A Rolling Stone investigation found that Cohen represented numerous clients who were involved in deliberate, planned car crashes as part of an attempt to cheat insurance companies. Furthermore, investigations by insurers showed that several of Cohen’s clients were affiliated with insurance fraud rings that repeatedly staged ‘accidents.’”

“It’s important that it not be five white guys at the table, no offense. I have no intention of walking away from that table.”  — House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), quoted by the Boston Globe, referring to the top two leadership spots in the House and Senate and the presidency.

“Former New York congressman Michael Grimm (R-NY) is a felon who has admitted to hiring undocumented workers, hiding $900,000 from tax authorities and making false statements under oath. To hear him tell it, that’s a reason Staten Island Republicans should vote him back into office,” the Washington Post reports.

“Grimm has uncovered a new reality in the constantly changing world of Republican politics: Criminal convictions, once seen as career-enders, are no longer disqualifying. In the era of President Trump, even time spent in prison can be turned into a positive talking point, demonstrating a candidate’s battle scars in a broader fight against what he perceives as liberal corruption.”

“A Washington consultant and onetime lobbyist for foreign governments played a central role in attempting to set up a trip to Australia by Scott Pruitt, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, while the consultant took steps to disguise his role,” the New York Times reports.

“The disclosures add to the list of individuals from outside the government who have worked to influence foreign travel by Mr. Pruitt.”

David Wasserman: “Democrats’ path to a majority depends on California more than any other state: they have excellent chances in seven GOP seats that Hillary Clinton carried in 2016, and a few more could be long shots in a wave. But in at least four districts, Democratic over-enthusiasm has produced crowded fields that could lock Democrats out of the fall race altogether.”

“Under California’s unorthodox ‘top two’ primary system — first implemented in 2012 — all candidates appear on the same June primary ballot and the top two finishers, regardless of party, advance to a November runoff.”

“At the moment, Democrats face the greatest danger of a shutout in the 48th CD, where Rep. Dana Rohrabacher faces a credible challenge from former Orange County GOP chair Scott Baugh and three credible Democrats will be dividing their party’s vote. But it’s also possible Democrats could fail to make the fall ballot in the 39th and 49th CDs, where Reps. Ed Royce and Darrell Issa are retiring, as well as tarnished Rep. Duncan Hunter’s 50th CD.”

Michael Scherer: “When it comes to electoral politics, this is not normal long ago became the new normal. The latest transgression by the transgressor in chief just doesn’t seem to move the needle. (Send a bodyguard to raid a doctor’s office? Yawn.) Barring something major, like firing special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, it’s not clear the daily outrages have much more downside. And that’s good news for President Trump, who needs the upside of outrage to stay afloat.”

“Though many who work in Washington are wary of saying it, Trump’s big gambit has so far paid off — at least for him. He broke onto the scene as a political punchline making an argument no one else dared: He would gain more from breaking political, democratic and social norms than he would lose. To put it another way, losers behave like elites. Winners speculate baselessly about President Barack Obama’s birth certificate.”

Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-TX) challenged Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) to participate in six debates across Texas, two of them in Spanish, during their U.S. Senate race, the Texas Tribune reports.

New York Times: “In the United States, Paul Manafort is facing prosecution on charges of money laundering and financial fraud stemming from his decade of work for a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine.”

“But in Ukraine, where officials are wary of offending President Trump, four meandering cases that involve Mr. Manafort, Mr. Trump’s former campaign chairman, have been effectively frozen by Ukraine’s chief prosecutor.”

A new Politico/Morning Consult poll finds that 62% of voters say the Trump administration is running “very or somewhat chaotically” — nearly twice as many as the 32% who say it’s running very or somewhat well.  However, a majority of Republicans, 68%, say the Trump administration is running well.

Doug Sosnik: “Rather than trying to minimize the impact of the scandals, Trump seems to look for new opportunities to introduce his personal problems into the Oval Office. His words and actions simply serve to remind the public how obsessed he is with the accusation that his campaign colluded with the Russians during the 2016 election, as well as with the criminal investigation of his personal lawyer.”

“These mistakes will increase pressure on his Republican congressional supporters — particularly in the Senate — to disavow him at a time when Trump can least afford it. No matter how well the Democrats do in November’s midterm elections, Trump’s fate will ultimately be determined by Republicans in Congress. They are the only ones who could put enough political pressure on the president to either leave office or decline to run for a second term.”

“So far, congressional Republicans haven’t had to pay a price for supporting Trump. That is likely to change if Republicans, as is expected, suffer significant losses in November.”

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

1 comment on “The Open Thread for May 3, 2018

  1. cassandram

    “Grimm has uncovered a new reality in the constantly changing world of Republican politics: Criminal convictions, once seen as career-enders, are no longer disqualifying. In the era of President Trump, even time spent in prison can be turned into a positive talking point, demonstrating a candidate’s battle scars in a broader fight against what he perceives as liberal corruption.”

    Steve Benen calls them the Convict Caucus.

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