Open Thread

The Open Thread for August 19, 2018

White House counsel Donald McGahn “has cooperated extensively in the special counsel investigation, sharing detailed accounts about the episodes at the heart of the inquiry into whether President Trump obstructed justice, including some that investigators would not have learned of otherwise,” the New York Times reports.

“In at least three voluntary interviews with investigators that totaled 30 hours over the past nine months, Mr. McGahn described the president’s furor toward the Russia investigation and the ways in which he urged Mr. McGahn to respond to it.”

“For a lawyer to share so much with investigators scrutinizing his client is unusual. Lawyers are rarely so open with investigators, not only because they are advocating on behalf of their clients but also because their conversations with clients are potentially shielded by attorney-client privilege, and in the case of presidents, executive privilege.”

Also interesting: “Mr. McGahn and his lawyer, William Burck, could not understand why Mr. Trump was so willing to allow Mr. McGahn to speak freely to the special counsel and feared Mr. Trump was setting up Mr. McGahn to take the blame for any possible illegal acts of obstruction.”

Pew Research: “Across a range of political activities – from attending political rallies to donating to campaigns – voters who back Democratic candidates for Congress are reporting higher levels of political activity than GOP voters.”

“But both sets of voters share a view that the upcoming election is important: About three-quarters in both parties say it ‘really matters’ which party wins control of Congress in this fall’s election.”

BuzzFeed News: “Many politicians spent their younger days working or volunteering for campaigns, and they now regale voters with stories about knocking on doors for a candidate whose virtue appealed to their young idealism.”

“But Michael Avenatti, the TV-ready lawyer representing Stormy Daniels in her legal battle with Donald Trump, began his political career as a trainee in what is now one of the least sympathetic places in Democratic politics: as an opposition researcher for the Clinton machine.”

“Now Avenatti is considering running for president, and his origin story will test a dark thesis: That what Democrats want, more than hope or change or a return to normal, is simply to destroy Donald Trump.”

“Michael Cohen initially balked at the idea of buying the silence of a former adult-film star who says she had sex with Donald Trump, but he did an about-face after a video of Mr. Trump talking about groping women became public in October 2016,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“A day after the recording surfaced of outtakes of Mr. Trump speaking to a host of NBC’s Access Hollywood, Mr. Cohen, then Mr. Trump’s senior counsel, told a representative for the performer that he was open to a deal… Within days, Stormy Daniels, whose given name is Stephanie Clifford, signed a nondisclosure agreement that provided her $130,000 for her silence.”

“Federal prosecutors in New York view the Access Hollywood tape as a trigger that spurred Mr. Cohen to bury potentially damaging information about his boss, as they investigate whether the payment amounted to an illegal, in-kind contribution or an expenditure that should have been disclosed by the campaign.”

Politico: “The scheme is part of a sharp escalation in super PACs avoiding reporting requirements and keeping voters in the dark about their funding until after key elections. Two other groups aired more than $3 million in attack ads in West Virginia’s GOP Senate primary this year and used the same method to dodge the FEC until after the May 8 vote. Overall, at least two dozen super PACs that spent millions of dollars in recent elections used loopholes to get out of revealing their donors.”

“It’s a sign that political operatives see more risk in revealing the big-money meddlers in congressional elections than in pushing the boundaries of campaign finance law — and many of the groups pushing the boundaries are aligned with Democrats, the party most associated with complaints about undisclosed ‘dark money’ affecting elections.”

President Trump tweeted that he is considering ending quarterly jobs reports in favor of reporting the numbers only twice a year.

Said Trump: “In speaking with some of the world’s top business leaders I asked what it is that would make business (jobs) even better in the U.S. ‘Stop quarterly reporting and go to a six month system,’ said one. That would allow greater flexibility and save money. I have asked the SEC to study!”

New York Times: “At the White House, Mrs. Trump tends to stay in the residence, where she has worked with the kitchen staff to arrange more-healthful meals for her husband — though he still prefers two scoops of ice cream for dessert. She does regular Pilates workouts and consults with the White House Historical Association on residence renovations and upkeep.”

“She maintains a separate bedroom from her husband, and when the two travel, they stay in separate hotel suites.”

“Very few people are privy to the inner details of her life. Her aides regularly deny a widespread belief that Mrs. Trump lives outside the White House with her parents, near Barron’s school in Maryland. “

President Trump attacked social media platforms in a series of tweets for “totally discriminating” against Republicans as they have begun censoring controversial accounts.

Said Trump: “Too many voices are being destroyed, some good and some bad, and that cannot be allowed to happen.”

His solution: “Let everybody participate, good and bad, and we will all just have to figure it out!”

Former CIA Director John Brennan told MSNBC that President Trump was “drunk on power” after he revoked Brennan’s security clearance.

Said Brennan: “I think right now, this country is in a crisis in terms of what Mr. Trump has done and is liable to do.”

He added: “And so, are the Republicans on the Hill — who have given him a pass — going to wait for a disaster to happen before they actually find their backbones and spines, to speak up against somebody who clearly, clearly is not carrying out his responsibilities with any sense of purpose and common sense from the standpoint of national security.”

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-NC) told the Associated Press that he doesn’t think the committee should rush to wrap up its Russia investigation, saying “the worst thing we can do is to prematurely try to end” the probe.

“He says the panel still has a handful of people to interview behind closed doors and some who they may want to interview again, though he isn’t making any commitments on bringing witnesses forward publicly.”

Said Burr: “Nothing in this town stays classified or secret forever. And at some point somebody’s going to go back and do a review. And I’d love not to be the one that chaired the committee when somebody says, ‘well, boy, you missed this.’ So we’ve tried to be pretty thorough in how we’ve done it.”

He added: “If the intent is to have a show trial, I’m not a participant.”

“Special Counsel Robert Mueller recommended in a court filing on Friday that a judge sentence former Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos to up to six months in prison for lying to federal agents investigating whether Russia interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election,” Reuters reports.

“According to Mueller’s sentencing memorandum to the judge, Papadopoulos lied about his contacts with people who claimed to have ties to top Russian officials, including his meeting with a professor who said Russia had ‘dirt’ on Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.”

“Muller also told the judge that Papadopoulos had not fully cooperated with prosecutors.”

“The White House has drafted documents revoking the security clearances of current and former officials whom President Trump has demanded be punished for criticizing him or playing a role in the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election” the Washington Post reports.

“Trump wants to sign ‘most if not all’ of them, said one senior White House official, who indicated that communications aides, including press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Bill Shine, the newly named deputy chief of staff, have discussed the optimum times to release them as a distraction during unfavorable news cycles.”

Jonathan Chait: “Amid this torrent of lies, the president had identified one important truth. There has in fact been a series of firings and demotions of law-enforcement officials. The casualties include FBI director James Comey, deputy director Andrew McCabe, general counsel James Baker, and, most recently, agent Peter Strzok. Robert Mueller is probing the circumstances surrounding Trump’s firing of Comey for a possible obstruction-of-justice charge. But for Trump, obstruction of justice is not so much a discrete act as a way of life.”

“The slowly unfolding purge, one of the most vivid expressions of Trump’s governing ethos, has served several purposes for the president. First, it has removed from direct authority a number of figures Trump suspects would fail to provide him the personal loyalty he demanded from Comey and expects from all officials in the federal government. Second, it supplies evidence for Trump’s claim that he is being hounded by trumped-up charges — just look at all the crooked officials who have been fired! Third, it intimidates remaining officials with the threat of firing and public humiliation if they take any actions contrary to Trump’s interests. Simply carrying out the law now requires a measure of personal bravery.”

“Republicans are struggling to make the $1.5 trillion Trump tax cuts a winning issue with voters in the midterm congressional elections, but the cuts are helping the party in another crucial way: unlocking tens of millions of dollars in campaign donations from the wealthy conservatives and corporate interests that benefited handsomely from it,” the New York Times reports.

“Billionaires and corporations that reaped millions of dollars in tax cuts are pumping some of that windfall into the Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC closely aligned with Speaker Paul Ryan that is flooding the airwaves and front porches of swing congressional districts with increasingly sharp attacks on the Democratic candidates vying to wrest control of the House.”

Los Angeles Times: “The concept had been pushed unsuccessfully since 2016 by a small group of current and former government officials, some with deep financial ties to the aerospace industry, who see creation of the sixth military service as a surefire way to hike Pentagon spending on satellite and other space systems.”

“A few days after the San Diego speech, Trump took a phone call at his Mar-a-Lago Club in Florida from Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL), an Alabama Republican who is chairman of the House Armed Services subcommittee on strategic forces. He had been promoting the space force to Trump and his advisors for months.”

Said Trump: “I’m all in. We are going to have a space force.”

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

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