The Open Thread for May 23, 2018

“A significant business partner of Michael Cohen, President Trump’s personal lawyer, has quietly agreed to cooperate with the government as a potential witness, a development that could be used as leverage to pressure Mr. Cohen to work with the special counsel examining Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election,” the New York Times reports.

“Under the agreement, the partner, Evgeny A. Freidman, a Russian immigrant who is known as the Taxi King, will avoid jail time, and will assist government prosecutors in state or federal investigations.”

A new Greenberg Quinlan Rosner (D) poll finds the popularity of the new tax law has dropped into net negatives, currently opposed by a 50% to 41% margin.

Stan Collender: “Even though the start of the next federal fiscal year is still four months away, Congress’s action…or, really, inaction…over the past week makes it virtually certain both that a continuing resolution will need to be enacted by October 1 to keep the government operating and that there will be a possible government shutdown this fall only six weeks before the midterm elections.”

President Trump’s legal team is trying to narrow the scope of his potential interview with special counsel Robert Mueller to questions on Russia-related matters that occurred before Trump’s election, CNN reports.

“Trump’s lawyers, who are urging Mueller to wrap up his investigation, are looking for a way to get him to agree to limit — or eliminate — questions regarding Trump’s conduct after he won the presidency, especially those related to whether he might have obstructed justice while in office.”

Meanwhile, Mueller’s team “has asked about flows of money into the Cyprus bank account of a company that specialized in social-media manipulation and whose founder reportedly met with Donald Trump Jr. in August 2016,” Bloomberg reports.

“Time to reschedule those vacation plans: The Senate’s traditional August recess is likely to be trimmed or possibly scrapped entirely, according to four Republican senators,” Politico reports.

“No final decision has been made, senators said, and the caucus is still debating how many weeks of the recess to slash. But McConnell, the president and GOP senators are so frustrated with the pace of spending bills and Trump’s nominations that McConnell appears ready to pull the plug on the traditional getaway from Washington ahead of the mid-term elections this fall.”

“The White House and the Justice Department have put off a high-stakes confrontation over the FBI’s use of a confidential source to aid an investigation into the Trump campaign, after top law enforcement and intelligence officials met with President Trump on Monday to discuss the brewing controversy,” the Washington Post reports.

Instead, Chief of Staff John F. Kelly plans to convene another gathering between the officials and congressional leaders to “review highly classified and other information” about the source and intelligence he provided.

New York Times: “Chinese negotiators left Washington this weekend with a significant win: a willingness by the Trump administration to hold off for now on imposing tariffs on up to $150 billion in Chinese imports. China gave up little in return, spurning the administration’s nudges for a concrete commitment to buy more goods from the United States, and avoiding limits on its efforts to build new high-tech Chinese industries.”

“The trade fight is far from over. And large Chinese technology companies in particular could be vulnerable if the United States starts punching again, with administration officials appearing to back away from Mr. Trump’s pledges to help ZTE, a Chinese telecommunications company hit with severe American penalties.”

“Still, the latest round of negotiations showed that a confident China could be more than a match for divided American officials who have made often discordant demands.”

“President Trump uses a White House cell phone that isn’t equipped with sophisticated security features designed to shield his communications, according to two senior administration officials – a departure from the practice of his predecessors that potentially exposes him to hacking or surveillance,” Politico reports.

“The president, who relies on cellphones to reach his friends and millions of Twitter followers, has rebuffed staff efforts to strengthen security around his phone use.”

“The president has gone as long as five months without having the phone checked by security experts.”

Associated Press: “Trump fundraiser Elliot Broidy and his business partner, Lebanese-American George Nader, pitched themselves to the crown princes as a backchannel to the White House, passing the princes’ praise — and messaging — straight to the president’s ears. Now, in December 2017, Broidy was ready to be rewarded for all his hard work. It was time to cash in.”

“In return for pushing anti-Qatar policies at the highest levels of America’s government, Elliot Broidy and George Nader expected huge consulting contracts from Saudi Arabia and the UAE, according to an Associated Press investigation based on interviews with more than two dozen people and hundreds of pages of leaked emails between the two men. The emails reviewed by the AP included work summaries and contracting documents and proposals.”

Paul Campos says the AP report detailing the influence peddling of GOP fundraiser Elliott Broidy and business partner George Nader “only strengthens the evidence” that Broidy paid hush money to a Playboymodel on behalf of President Trump.

“Trump, I pointed out, is exactly the kind of man who has affairs with women like Shera Bechard, while Broidy has a history of bribing public officials to further his business interests — indeed, he had even made payments to the mistress of a politician he was bribing. And it was clear Broidy had spent much of 2017 touting his connections to Trump to various foreign officials.”

“The first payment from Broidy came two days before the meeting that apparently helped him ink a nine-figure deal with a foreign country — a deal based in no small part on his access to, and influence on, Trump. If it’s difficult to imagine Broidy being willing to take the fall for Trump’s affair with Bechard and then paying her a seven-figure sum, it’s much simpler to imagine it simply as a perfectly timed and fantastically profitable bribe.”

Speaker Paul Ryan defended himself “amid reports of threats to his leadership position and reiterated his view that it’s not in Republicans best interest to have a divisive leadership race before the November midterm elections,” Roll Call reports.

Said Ryan: “Obviously I serve at the pleasure of the members; those are the people who drafted me in this job the first place. But I think we all agree the best thing for us is to complete our agenda and not wedge into the completion of our agenda divisive leadership elections.”

Playbook: “More than two years after running for speaker for the first time, Ryan is still reminding people he was drafted into the speakership. He’s making clear that he isn’t clinging to power — this job wasn’t even his first choice. But what would happen if he were to leave right now? Chaos, most likely, in the middle of an election year.”

“In the year since the start of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, one thing has been notably absent: a public indictment of any Russians for the hacking of the Democratic National Committee,” The Hillreports.

“Mueller has charged President Trump’s former campaign chief, secured guilty pleas from several individuals in Trump’s orbit and indicted 13 Russians for an elaborate plot to leverage social media to influence the American electorate.”

“But the special counsel has yet to announce charges for the hacking of the DNC, even though the intelligence community and private cybersecurity experts linked the attack to the Russian government more than a year ago. Legal experts say there are several possible explanations.”

Ron Brownstein: “The elimination of any distance between Trump and the conventional Republican interests that controlled the party before him has happened so incrementally it can be difficult to discern from day to day. But it remains one of the central political dynamics of 2018. Over the long term, Trump’s success at stamping his polarizing brand on the GOP remains a huge electoral gamble for the party because it risks alienating the young, well-educated and diverse groups growing, rather than shrinking, in the electorate.”

“But in the near-term, the GOP’s choice to ally so unequivocally with such a unique president may have the paradoxical effect of producing a much more conventional midterm election than seemed possible earlier this year. And that means for Democrats to secure the gains they seek in November, they will need to overcome the typical challenges they face in a midterm election far more than they expected even only a few months ago.”

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) said on Twitter that China is winning President Trump’s trade war:  “#China is winning the negotiations. Their concessions are things they planned to do anyways. In exchange they get no tariffs, can keep stealing intellectual property & can keep blocking our companies while they invest in the U.S. without limits. #Losing.”

Jonathan Swan: “Who knows how the chest-bumping over China ends. But for now, President Trump’s anti-China advisers are right: The president is buckling on his threats to punish China with fundamental, lasting changes to trade tariffs and rules. The reasons are threefold: North Korea, Steve Mnuchin and a lack of focus internally.”

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

4 comments on “The Open Thread for May 23, 2018

  1. delacrat

    Congresswoman Lisa Blunt-Rochester is among 33 House Democrats who joined with the Republicans to repeal Dodd-Frank rules for small and medium size banks, even while bank profits are soaring.

    This follows the betrayals of Delaware’s Senators Carper and Coons, 2 of 15 Senate Dems.

    With “Democrats” like these, ……..

    • Why would you be surprised that congresscritters from a banking state would do what the banks want them to? Can you name the last Delaware representative or Senator who voted against the priorities ot their sponsors?

      • delacrat

        Don’t you think it would have been good to have gotten a heads-up from, say the local blogs or the NJ, that this was coming, like they mobilized public opinion against gutting net neutrality? Then there might have been a fighting chance to stop this.

        • cassandram

          It can’t be a surprise that they voted for these banks, as destructive it is to the rest of us. You should have been more engaged to get them on the record so that you could organize the fight against it.

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