Adam Entous: “As Trump stepped up his public and private attacks on Obama, some of the new president’s advisers thought that he should take the extraordinary step of denying Obama himself access to intelligence briefings that were made available to all of his living predecessors. Trump was told about the importance of keeping former Presidents, who frequently met with foreign leaders, informed.”“In the end, Trump decided not to exclude Obama at the urging of H.R. McMaster.”
Exclusive: @realDonaldTrump tells @Reuters he has chosen not to be involved in Mueller probe but is "totally allowed" to be if he wanted to. "I've decided to stay out. Now, I don't have to stay out, as you know. I can go in and I could… do whatever, I could run it if I want."
— Jeff Mason (@jeffmason1) August 20, 2018
In the same interview, President Trump took another swipe at the Federal Reserve in an interview with Reuters, expressing concern that the central bank is raising interest rates after years of holding borrowing costs near zero. Said Trump: “I’m not thrilled with his raising of interest rates, no. I’m not thrilled. I should be given some help by the Fed.”
A memo just released by the National Archives reveals that Brett Kavanaugh laid out in explicit language the questions President Clinton should have been asked about his relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky, the Washington Post reports.
Among the questions: “If Monica Lewinsky says that you inserted a cigar into her vagina while you were in the Oval Office area, would she be lying?”
The memo to independent counsel Kenneth Starr also included this: “After reflecting this evening, I am strongly opposed to giving the President any ‘break’ in the questioning regarding the details of the Lewinsky relationship unless he resigns or confesses perjury. He has required the urgent attention of the courts and the Supreme Court for frivolous privilege claims — all to cover up his oral sex from an intern. He has lied to his aides. He has lied to the American people. He has tried to disgrace you and the Office with a sustained propaganda campaign that would make Nixon blush.”
Republican consultants are concerned that the combination of their voters’ insulation from reality — and Donald Trump’s fragile ego — could cost the party control of the House https://t.co/jHgHlJ0FCO
— Daily Intelligencer (@intelligencer) August 20, 2018
Jonathan Swan: “The president’s contempt for mainstream polling and the media may come back to haunt him in November. Several top Republican operatives working on the midterm elections told me Trump’s fanciful “red wave” predictions could depress Republican turnout and, ironically, serve to make any blue wave even bigger.”
“One of those strategists told me he’s detecting something interesting — and concerning — from focus groups of Trump voters.”
Said the strategist: “We’ve seen it in focus groups, with Republican base voters, where you’ll come up with a hypothetical that the Democrats win, and people are like, ‘That’s not going to happen, that’s stupid.’ … They’re like, ‘Oh, to hell with this crap, we were told Trump wasn’t going to win. It’s bullshit.’”
He added: “I would rather Sean Hannity get on TV every night and go, ‘Oh my God, Nancy Pelosi could be Speaker and they’re going to impeach Trump. You better get out to vote.’”
President Trump praised Border Patrol agent Adrian Anzaldua to an audience of Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection officials by reassuring them he “speaks perfect English.” https://t.co/vhcGFlzaws
— Vox (@voxdotcom) August 20, 2018
A new Monmouth poll finds that just 30% say President Trump hires the “best people,” while a clear majority of 58% say he does not. Another 7% volunteer that the quality of his hiring choices have been mixed.
While 67% of Republicans say that Trump does hire the best people, a sizable minority of his fellow partisans either disagree (18%) or give a mixed response (11%). On the other hand, 93% of Democrats say that Trump does not hire the best people.
Meanwhile, Trump’s overall job rating stands at 43% approve and 50% disapprove.
A New Hampshire Journal poll finds that 56% of all voters — and 40% of Republicans — believe a Republican primary challenge to President Trump in 2020 “would be a good thing.”
“President Trump’s overall approval in New Hampshire, 41% approving to 54% disapproving, mirrors findings from the national average of polls… But Trump’s approval among New Hampshire Republicans, 72%, was 10 points below his standing with the GOP nationwide.”
Elizabeth Warren isn't trying to destroy capitalism. She's saving capitalism from itself.https://t.co/o8D7h5VgWn
— David Atkins (@DavidOAtkins) August 20, 2018
Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former personal lawyer, could be charged before the end of the month with bank fraud in his dealings with the taxi industry and with committing other financial crimes, the APreports.
“Absent a quick resolution, it’s believed that prosecutors would put off a decision on how to go forward with the case until after the election in compliance with an informal Justice Department policy of avoiding bringing prosecutions that could be seen as political and influence voters.”
Rep. George Holding (R-NC), who has won each of his three terms with more than 56% of the vote, told supporters that he is trailing challenger Linda Coleman (D), McClatchy reports.
In a fundraising email, Holding announced internal poll numbers that he says show him down three points.
Said campaign manager Carter Wrenn: “We want people to understand where we are. We don’t want people to take this election for granted. George has always won by a pretty comfortable margin. This is a completely different election.”
The next eleven weeks could be some of the craziest of the entire Trump presidency: https://t.co/YwLO5G1utO
— Paul Waldman (@paulwaldman1) August 20, 2018
“Hillary Clinton is stepping back into the limelight ahead of the November midterm elections, helping to raise money for the Democratic National Committee in a series of fundraisers,” NBC News reports.
“The 2016 Democratic presidential nominee will headline three events — in San Francisco, Chicago and New York — for the DNC this fall to boost the party’s chances to seize control of the U.S. House and Senate.”
“The $43,000 phone booth that former EPA administrator Scott Pruitt installed in his office may not have been worth all the headaches it caused him,” the Washington Post reports. “He only placed one phone call to the White House, newly released records from the agency show. It lasted five minutes.”
— The New Republic (@newrepublic) August 20, 2018
Jonathan Chait: “Throughout the Russia scandal, President Trump has acted flamboyantly guilty, most recently by comparing himself implicitly with Richard Nixon during Watergate, and dismissing informants as “rats.” And yet a weekend report in Axios confidently asserted that the president maintains a fully innocent state of mind: ‘Trump himself thought then and thinks now that he personally has nothing to lose because he personally did nothing wrong.’”
“How could reporters know what Trump ‘believes’ deep in his heart? They couldn’t. (Indeed, Axios since corrected the statement to report that it reflects what Trump ‘tells associates,’ rather than claiming definitive insight into his mind.) Yet this practice is extremely common within the news media. While they have dug up an extraordinary amount of incriminating facts about Trump, reporters have also repeatedly leaned into the most exculpatory interpretations of those same facts.”
Fascinating Brookings analysis of GOP rhetoric on the campaign trail: "Of all non-incumbent Republicans running for the House, 53 percent don’t talk about the president at all. Just 37 percent of Republican candidates talk of Trump positively." https://t.co/jfuDQlISg0
— Ezra Klein (@ezraklein) August 20, 2018
First Read: “For all the attention to Rudy Giuliani’s ‘Truth isn’t truth’ comment… President Trump’s personal lawyer made an even more startling statement on the program. Giuliani declared that the Trump campaign representatives who met with Russians in that June 9, 2016 Trump Tower meeting (Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort, Jared Kushner) didn’t know they were representatives of the Russian government.”
“Let’s unpack Giuliani’s comments: One, he admits the purpose of that 2016 meeting was to get dirt on Hillary Clinton (when their original explanation was Russian adoptions). Two, he says any campaign would have taken such a meeting (when past Democratic and Republican campaigns have said they never did). And three, Giuliani declares they didn’t know Natalia Veselnitskaya was connected with the Russian government. But we know that isn’t true.”
“For Giuliani to claim that Donald Trump Jr. — or anyone else associated with the Trump campaign — didn’t know Veselnitskaya and others were connected to the Russian government doesn’t pass the smell test. The facts don’t back it up.”
“Lanny Davis, an attorney for former longtime Donald Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, said he has been reaching out regularly over the past few months to John Dean, the former White House counsel who helped bring down the presidency of Richard Nixon,” Politico reports.
“Cohen has sent signals that he might cooperate in the investigations surrounding his former boss. The fact that his lawyer is talking frequently to Dean — who was name-checked by Trump on Sunday in the context of recent reports that White House counsel Don McGahn is cooperating with investigators — adds new hints that Cohen could be open to being a potential witness in any case against Trump.”
"Don McGahn…. has seen everything, knows everything and [he] is going to tell the truth. That is why the President had a meltdown. He figured out this weekend that the White House counsel is not your lawyer and he didn't lie for you"- @SteveSchmidtSES w/ @NicolleDWallace pic.twitter.com/IgjrkH34gu
— Deadline White House (@DeadlineWH) August 20, 2018
Former CIA director John Brennan said “that he is willing to take President Trump to court to prevent other current and former officials from having their security clearances revoked, escalating a battle over whether the president is misusing the power of his office to retaliate against opponents,” the Washington Postreports.
Said Brennan: “I am going to do whatever I can personally to try to prevent these abuses in the future, and if it means going to court, I will do that.”
The Cook Political Report‘s Dave Wasserman tells Axios that the most under-covered aspect of 2018 is that “a blue wave is obscuring a red exodus.”
“There are 43 Republican seats now without an incumbent on the ballot. That’s more than one out of every six Republicans in the House — a record in at least a century, Wasserman says.”
Said Wasserman: “There’s a bit of over-caution, perhaps, on the part of the punditocracy, after what happened in 2016. But if anything most media could be under-rating Democrats’ potential to gain a lot of seats. They could be caught being cautious in the wrong direction.”