The Open Thread for May 4, 2018

“As of last week, the American public had been told that President Trump’s doctor had certified he would be the ‘the healthiest individual ever elected.’ That the president was happy with his legal team and would not hire a new lawyer. That he did not know about the $130,000 payment to a former pornographic film actress who claimed to have had an affair with him,” the New York Times reports.

“As of this week, it turns out that the statement about his health was not actually from the doctor but had been dictated by Mr. Trump himself. That the president has split with the leaders of his legal team and hired the same new lawyer he had denied recruiting. And that Mr. Trump himself financed the $130,000 payment intended to buy the silence of the actress known as Stormy Daniels.”

“Even in the current political environment that some derisively call the post-truth world, the past few days have offered a head-spinning series of revelations that conflicted with the version of events Mr. Trump and his associates had previously provided.”

“Federal investigators have wiretapped the phone lines of Michael Cohen, the longtime personal lawyer for President Trump who is under investigation for a payment he made to an adult film star who alleged she had an affair with Trump,” NBC News reports.

“It is not clear how long the wiretap has been authorized, but… it was in place in the weeks leading up to the raids on Cohen’s offices, hotel room, and home in early April… At least one phone call between a phone line associated with Cohen and the White House was intercepted.”

“Two sources close to Trump’s newest attorney, Rudolph Giuliani, say he learned that days after the raid the president had made a call to Cohen, and told Trump never to call again out of concern the call was being recorded by prosecutors.”

“Rudy Giuliani’s cable rollout as a member of President Trump’s legal team, and the torrent of statements he made Wednesday night, caught many in the White House offguard and flat-footed, highlighting the continued chaotic nature of the President’s communications strategy,” CNN reports.  Said Giuliani: “They were, there was no way they wouldn’t be. The President is my client, I don’t talk to them.”

On Fox & Friends yesterday morning, Rudy Giuliani admitted that the hush agreement with Stormy Daniels was entirely about the presidential campaign.

First Read: Giuliani made not one, but two giant unforced errors.

Rick Hasen: “If what Giuliani says is true, and if the payments were made to help the campaign and not (just) to help Trump personally, the campaign may be implicated in illegal activity. If Trump knew that Cohen was advancing him a $130,000 loan for campaign purposes, that would have to be reported by the campaign, as would the payments Giuliani said Trump made in installments to Cohen. These would be campaign expenditures that the committee has to keep track of. As Philip Bump notes, if the Trump Organization facilities were used to help make these payments, then there may be additional campaign violations related to the use of corporate resources for campaigns.”

“Although many campaign finance violations are handled just as fines, as Giuliani seemed to suggest in his Hannity interview Wednesday night, that’s not true for willful violations of campaign finance law, especially those implicating the public interest. Those can lead to criminal liability.”

Special counsel Robert Mueller “is focusing intensely on alleged interactions between former top Trump campaign official Rick Gates and political operative Roger Stone, one of President Trump’s closest confidants,” CNBC reports.

“The questions have been largely about what was discussed at meetings, including dinners, between Stone and Gates, before and during the campaign… The new developments indicate that Mueller’s team is interested in Stone beyond his interactions with Wikileaks founder Julian Assange during the campaign.”

Daily Beast: “There is no set date for McGahn’s exit from the White House. But for months now, his position in the administration has been shaky as his relationship with Trump has deteriorated.”  “Though McGahn is in the room for meetings involving high-profile legal matters… the two hardly talk directly to each other anymore. One White House official conceded that they are ‘barely on speaking terms’ unless they absolutely have to be.”


Republican voters approve of President Trump by overwhelming margins, 85% to 15%.

But a new Wall Street Journal analysis finds deep divisions within the Republican Party. One set of GOP voters strongly backs the president while another opposes many of his actions or supports them only weakly.   In one wing, Republicans say they support Trump more than the party itself, while those in the other wing back the party more than they do Trump. This is seen most clearly in the intensity of support of Trump from the two groups.

The issues that divide the two groups include race, immigration, trade, views of the FBI and the president’s behavior and leadership qualities.   The only thing both sides overwhelmingly agree on is lowering taxes.   Perhaps most important to Trump, this division is also seen in views of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. Trump Republicans support the president and believe his arguments that the FBI is corrupt and the investigation is a “witch hunt.” By contrast, many Party Republicans are taking a “wait and see” attitude.   If Trump is implicated in the investigation, he could find it very hard to rally his divided party behind him.

Lawfare: “The possibility that Special Counsel Robert Mueller might issue a subpoena to President Trump to compel him to testify before a federal grand jury has, understandably, provoked questions: Can the President be forced to testify if he refuses to give Mueller an interview voluntarily? What has the Supreme Court said on the subject? And if the staring match between Team Trump and Team Mueller becomes litigation, who is likely to win?”

“The bottom line, in our view, is that Mueller would probably prevail if and when a battle over a grand-jury subpoena makes its way into court. But it is not a sure thing, and the president has plausible arguments available to him that a court would have to work through before enforcing a subpoena for his testimony.”

“Summer Zervos, a former contestant on The Apprentice who accused President Trump of sexual assault, is seeking records to prove that he defamed her by calling her a liar,” the New York Times reports.

“A lawyer for Ms. Zervos, who is suing Mr. Trump for defamation in New York, said on Wednesday that subpoenas had been issued both to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, which owns archives of the reality show, and to the Beverly Hills Hotel, where Ms. Zervos says he groped her in 2007.”

New York Times: “The president has come to believe that Mr. Kelly is hiding things from him, in the view of people who work in the White House and insist on anonymity to describe private conversations. He has complained that Mr. Kelly has not been forthcoming about the pasts of some staff members, who either opposed him during the 2016 presidential primaries or had connections to the Bush family.”

“And he has taken to venting about Mr. Kelly to an array of friends and supporters, while expressing confidence that recent successes — such as the continued strength of the economy and progress toward nuclear disarmament talks with North Korea — are proof that he is his own best adviser.”

Politico: 5 tricks for surviving in Trump’s cabinet.

Politico: “Looking the part has always mattered to President Trump. The president’s preference for people who look like they came from ‘central casting’ has become a well-known part of how Trump makes personnel decisions. The president said as much when he nominated Ronny Jackson — the square-jawed White House physician with a full head of hair thick enough to hold a side part — to be secretary of Veterans’ Affairs.”

“But behind the scenes, there’s another set of characters who populate Trump’s world: loyal fixers who lie for Trump, and clean up his messes in the shadows, where their looks count less than their loyalty. It’s a dichotomy that’s well-known in Trump’s inner circle.”

Said one former adviser: “Central casting for ‘front porch’ jobs, trolls for the real work.”

Rudy Giuliani told The Hill that Attorney General Jeff Sessions should intervene in the Michael Cohen case and put the people behind the probe “under investigation.”  Said Giuliani: “I am waiting for the Attorney General to step in, in his role as defender of justice, and put these people under investigation.”

Washington Post: “Ryan intends to remain as speaker until the end of his term, and his endorsement of the No. 2 House Republican, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), was meant to quell persistent questions about McCarthy’s readiness for the top job. Ryan is doubling down on that message in the next two months, co-hosting high-dollar fundraisers with McCarthy in a bid to preserve GOP control of the House.”

“But interviews with dozens of Republican lawmakers over the past few weeks reveal a race that is more unsettled than the top leaders are publicly acknowledging, one that could remain fluid and distract lawmakers from a tough midterm election battle.”

“The biggest mystery surrounds the roughly three dozen hard-line conservatives who helped tank McCarthy’s last run for speaker, in 2015. They are poised to again use their leverage to install a sympathetic leader, or at least one willing to meet their demands.”

“A New York state judge ruled that a high-rise condo building called ‘Trump Place’ may remove that name from its facade, rejecting an argument from President Trump’s company that the building was permanently obligated to keep it,” the Washington Post reports.

“It is the latest move by a Trump-branded property to remove the name over concerns that property values are negatively affected by an association with the divisive president.”

Politico: “Republicans are increasingly unnerved by the rift between retiring Sen. Bob Corker and Marsha Blackburn, the GOP congresswoman vying to replace him, saying it could cost them a must-win seat in Tennessee.”

In a two-page letter, the Rev. Patrick Conroy informed Speaker Ryan “that he gave in to pressure from the speaker’s staff when he agreed in mid-April to resign, believing that Ryan had the power to fire him, but the chaplain now believes he was pressured into the resignation for lack of cause,” the Washington Post reports.

Said Conroy: “I have never been disciplined, nor reprimanded, nor have I ever heard a complaint about my ministry during my time as House chaplain.”

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

1 comment on “The Open Thread for May 4, 2018

  1. cassandram

    And right on cue: Koch Bros are funding a real canvass to convince people that the tax cuts are good for them. With not much success it looks like.

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