What did I say in yesterday’s Open Thread? That Giuliani likely made up that September 1 deadline and the media should probably stop acting like a stenographer, dutifully reporting out what Rudy says as fact? Yes, that’s what I said, and guess the frack what?
A source familiar with the probe tells Reuters that the deadline was “entirely made-up” and “another apparent effort to pressure the special counsel to hasten the end of his work.” Said the source: “He’ll wrap it up when he thinks he’s turned over every rock, and when that is will depend on how cooperative witnesses, persons of interest and maybe even some targets are, if any of those emerge, and on what new evidence he finds, not on some arbitrary, first-of-the-month deadline one of the president’s attorneys cooks up.”
Jonathan Chait: “This weekend, the New York Times revealed that, in August 2016, Donald Trump Jr. met in Trump Tower with representatives of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, who offered campaign help… The deeper question is how closely related the Gulf story is to the heart of the Russia question. Was it just another one of Donald Jr.’s legal misadventures? Or did Nader, Prince, and the Gulf States play a central role in facilitating a corrupt deal with Russia?”
“Trump’s furious lashing out, including his reckless escalation of a crisis with the Department of Justice this weekend, provides interesting clues. Trump has no poker face, no chill. The closer the investigators get to incriminating evidence, the more intensely he rages. He resembles a suspect at a crime scene screaming at the police not to go into the attic. And now that attic is looking awfully interesting.”
First Read: “Don’t get distracted — that reporting of a second Trump Tower meeting in 2016 was the biggest news from the weekend.”
People say there are a lot of Trump scandals but there’s actually only one. https://t.co/xWqmHaLkab
— Adam Serwer 🍝 (@AdamSerwer) May 21, 2018
Former President Obama formally announced “a multiyear production deal with Netflix in which he and the former first lady, Michelle Obama, will produce television shows and films for the streaming service,” the New York Times reports.
“The deal will give Mr. Obama an international television platform during his post-presidency, allowing him to reach millions of people in the United States and internationally. The couple has created ‘Higher Ground Productions,’ a company to produce content for Netflix, the streaming service announced.”
Variety: “It is unknown how much the Obamas’ Netflix agreement is worth. In March, Penguin Random House signed the couple to a joint book deal that pays them a reported $65 million for their respective memoirs.”
“Democrats are preparing to highlight allegations of corruption surrounding the Trump administration — and a legislative agenda to prevent future abuses — as they continue rolling out their party platform ahead of November’s midterm elections,” the Washington Post reports.
“The new Democratic focus on corruption as a campaign message marks a return to a formula that helped put Democrats into the House majority in the 2006 midterm elections — after numerous scandals including the Jack Abramoff and Duke Cunningham revelations put pay-to-play politics on the public’s political radar in a big way. Polling done after the election showed that the tide of corruption helped swing votes to Democrats, and the party’s official now sees signs of similar concerns among voters.”
Smart column from @hiattf: “Trump is proving not so hard to read. Look at whatever he has believed since the 1980s; ignore any evidence that has emerged since; and you can make a fairly educated guess where he will end up.” https://t.co/OegvGuII8C
— Max Boot (@MaxBoot) May 21, 2018
As President Trump calls for an investigation into whether the FBI “infiltrated” his campaign in a supposedly nefarious plot, some of his defenders suggest that if the FBI wasn’t out to “get him” they would have at least tried to warn him. Of course, the FBI did warn him, right after he became the GOP nominee on July 19, 2016. As NBC News reported last year, the FBI did warn him.
“The warning came in the form of a high-level counterintelligence briefing by senior FBI officials, the officials said. A similar briefing was given to Hillary Clinton, they added. They said the briefings, which are commonly provided to presidential nominees, were designed to educate the candidates and their top aides about potential threats from foreign spies. The candidates were urged to alert the FBI about any suspicious overtures to their campaigns, the officials said.”
It would be entirely reasonable to think the FBI would use informants to speak to suspects in their counterintelligence investigation into the Russia threat — including those in the Trump campaign. In fact, it would have been accepted procedure for the FBI.
“West Virginia coal baron and former prisoner Don Blankenship announced on Monday that he plans to launch a long-shot third-party Senate bid after finishing a distant third in this month’s Republican primary,” Politico reports. “Blankenship said he would run in the general election as the Constitution Party nominee. But he would need to overcome a ‘sore loser’ law in West Virginia that prevents failed candidates in a main-party primary from refiling to run in the general election under another party’s banner.”
“Blankenship said he’s prepared to challenge that law in court if needed.”
— Shannon Watts (@shannonrwatts) May 21, 2018
“Friends and family of former national security adviser Michael Flynn are waging a campaign to try to exonerate the retired lieutenant general — and, possibly, land him a presidential pardon,” the Washington Post reports.
“But the largely social-media-based effort has, at times, put Flynn’s advocates, and occasionally Flynn, at odds with his own legal team, which believes that any public attention to Flynn’s case is not helpful as he awaits sentencing and has counseled that he and his family to remain quiet.”
“Bernie Sanders’ top operatives formed ‘Our Revolution’ after he lost the 2016 primaries to keep his army organized and motivated — and potentially prepare for another presidential run in 2020,” Politico reports.
“But an extensive review of the Sanders-inspired group depicts an organization in disarray — operating primarily as a promotional vehicle for its leader and sometimes even snubbing candidates aligned with Sanders. Our Revolution has shown no ability to tip a major Democratic election in its favor — despite possessing Sanders’ email list, the envy of the Democratic Party — and can claim no major wins in 2018 as its own.”
Not just Paul Ryan’s House, the entire Republican Party! https://t.co/Kaa34jpNEn
— Amy Siskind (@Amy_Siskind) May 20, 2018
Jonathan Swan: “Paul Ryan’s House is collapsing, and if the chaos keeps accelerating it could force him out of the speakership before his planned graceful exit at the end of the year. A group of about 20 moderate Republicans are threatening to help Democrats force a vote on a DACA bill. If this works, it could trigger a larger rebellion — likely driven by the Freedom Caucus — similar to the revolt that brought down Ryan’s predecessor John Boehner.”
“On Friday, House Republicans failed to pass the farm bill — one of Congress’s few remaining must-pass projects. Ryan, a lame duck Speaker, has little power over his members. He can’t convincingly threaten them. And nor can he cajole them or make any promises to help members in the future. He’s stuck.”
“The Republican House is careening into chaos at the moment its members most need to rally together. We’re less than six months away from the midterms, and the House is on the line. Hill Republicans are anxious and effectively leaderless. Nobody fears repercussions from a lame duck Speaker. So even the usually well-behaved moderate members are wreaking havoc.”
“Top Republicans in Congress and the White House have in recent days entertained a plan to push House Speaker Paul Ryan out of his post over the summer, in an effort to clear the way for his presumed successor, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, to assume the speakership,” the Weekly Standard reports.
“A source involved in the conversations and who has discussed the idea with President Trump told The Weekly Standard that Trump believes there is merit to the plan, but has not formed a final position. McCarthy has been weighing the effort alongside a small group of trusted advisers, considering the pros and cons of forcing Ryan’s hand, and debating the best time to launch the effort. As of last week he had not spoken to Ryan about the idea.”
Playbook: “The discharge petition to force a series of immigration votes on the House floor is 22 lawmakers short of 218 — a huge number of Democrats signed in the last few days. Speaker Paul Ryan is hoping that he can keep Republicans from signing onto the petition, instead opting for a tightly controlled series of Republican-leaning votes in June.”
“If Republicans sign on this week — the last week before a weeklong Memorial Day recess — Ryan’s plan could be foiled, which would be seen internally as another blow to the speaker. If the discharge petition reaches 218, Ryan would need those Republicans to essentially abandon the petition by voting to turn it off in order to proceed to his vote plan. The leadership feels like it’s stopped the rush to sign the petition by convincing lawmakers the controlled series of votes is a better option. We’ll see if that holds this week.”
Jeffrey Toobin: “According to Quinnipiac, seventy-one per cent of Democrats already favor impeachment. To proponents, a nearly fifty-fifty split among the voting public at this early date, before Mueller has reported his findings, is significant. In primaries for the 2018 elections, some prominent Democrats, such as Gavin Newsom, the lieutenant governor of California, who is running for governor, made support for impeachment a major part of their platforms. Tom Steyer, a San Francisco billionaire, has since last year been running television advertisements supporting impeachment, and has generated a mailing list of more than 5.2 million people. Steyer is now on a thirty-city speaking tour.”
“For the moment, he and his followers are outcasts from the Washington consensus. But their passion, and the mounting evidence against the President, raises the question of whether the drive for impeachment is more likely to result in Trump’s removal from office or in a Democratic civil war.”
Here's everything you need to know about this Tuesday's primaries. Which states are they in? That's one of the things you need to know: https://t.co/tXjNHzM2RK
— Nathaniel Rakich (@baseballot) May 21, 2018
In response to President Trump demanding an investigation into whether the FBI “infiltrated” his presidential campaign, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein “asked its internal watchdog, the Office of the Inspector General, to expand its current inquiry into the surveillance of a former Trump campaign official to include the questions raised by the president,” the New York Times reports.
Said Rosenstein: “If anyone did infiltrate or surveil participants in a presidential campaign for inappropriate purposes, we need to know about it and take appropriate action.”
“By handing the question to the inspector general, Mr. Rosenstein appeared to be trying to thread the needle, giving the president what he said he wanted without fully bowing to his demands. But it was not clear whether that would satisfy Mr. Trump, who in February complained that it was ‘disgraceful’ for the Justice Department to hand over the surveillance investigation to an inspector general who lacks prosecutorial power, saying it would ‘take forever’ and suggesting that he was ‘an Obama guy.’”
“The RNC paid nearly half a million dollars to a law firm that represents former White House communications director Hope Hicks and others in the Russia investigations,” the Washington Post reports. “Last year, the RNC began tapping a pool of money stockpiled for election recounts and other legal matters to pay the ballooning legal fees of Trump and his associates drawn into the Russia investigations.”
Trump's judges are making it harder for workers to get justice — and easier for big business to avoid accountability.https://t.co/onacVBi1LO
— Bridge Project (@BridgeProject21) May 21, 2018
“President Trump, increasingly concerned that his summit meeting in Singapore next month with North Korea’s leader could turn into a political embarrassment, has begun pressing his aides and allies about whether he should take the risk of proceeding with a historic meeting that he had leapt into accepting,” the New York Times reports.
“Mr. Trump was both surprised and angered by a statement issued on Wednesday by the North’s chief nuclear negotiator, who declared that the country would never trade away its nuclear weapons capability in exchange for economic aid.”
“Mr. Trump’s aides have grown concerned that the president has signaled that he wants the summit meeting too much… The aides are also concerned about what kind of grasp Mr. Trump has on the details of the North Korea program, and what he must insist upon as the key components of denuclearization.”
“After the latest round of changes, Inside Elections now has 68 Republican seats rated as vulnerable compared to just 10 vulnerable Democratic seats. And there are at least a couple dozen more GOP-held seats that could develop into competitive races in the months ahead.”
“That discrepancy in the playing field is reminiscent of previous ‘wave’ elections. In April 2010, there were 68 vulnerable Democratic House seats and 11 vulnerable Republican seats. Republicans gained 63 seats later than year. And in May 2006, there were 42 vulnerable Republican seats and 11 vulnerable Democratic seats. Six months later, Democrats gained 30 seats.”