Open Thread

The Open Thread for August 23, 2018

President Trump falsely claimed to Fox News that the hush-money payments arranged by Michael Cohen did not break the law.  Said Trump: “My first question when I heard about it was, ‘did they come out of the campaign?’ Because that could be a little dicey. But they didn’t come out of the campaign and that’s big. It’s not even a campaign violation.”

Jonathan Chait: “That is not a defense. That is why it’s a crime. If the money came from the campaign, it would have been legal.”

President Trump “didn’t consult his campaign finance lawyer Don McGahn about hush-money payments that were made days before the election and are now the center of a criminal case,” Bloomberg reports.

“The absence of McGahn, who is now White House counsel, could be a key piece of evidence in any criminal prosecution… Prosecutors could argue it shows Trump knew the payments were illegal and hid them. But Trump’s lawyers could counter that it’s a sign Trump didn’t realize they were related to the campaign.”

“Impeachment proceedings against President Trump went from a theoretical danger to a vivid reality with yesterday’s guilty plea by former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen,” sources close to the White House tell Axios.   “Cohen’s guilty plea (with the president identified as ‘Individual-1’) said Trump directed him to arrange hush money during the 2016 campaign to keep women from speaking out about affairs — so Cohen was accusing Trump of pushing him to commit a crime. Look for Cohen’s statement to form the basis of a 2019 impeachment attempt if Democrats win control of the House in November.”

”The crimes detailed yesterday have nothing to do with colluding with Putin to throw an election — but are felonies, nonetheless.”

Rick Hasen: “For the first time since the Trump presidency began, President Donald Trump is in some real legal jeopardy, providing potential grounds for his eventual impeachment, if not indictment.”

“Most people watching the investigations involving Trump and his orbit have been focused on whether Special Counsel Robert Mueller is going to bring charges related possible illegal coordination between the 2016 Trump presidential campaign and Russian government entities. But Tuesday brought news of a different kind of campaign collusion: between Trump and his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen. Cohen’s guilty plea to campaign finance violations related to hush money payments to porn actress Stormy Daniels and former Playboy Playmate Karen McDougal bring the president front and center in a conspiracy to violate federal campaign finance laws.”

”More importantly, assuming Cohen’s story can be corroborated with documentary evidence, the campaign finance violations could count as impeachable offenses that the House of Representatives could consider in any articles of impeachment against Trump.”

“Investigators in New York state issued a subpoena to Michael Cohen as part of their probe into the Trump Foundation,” the AP reports. “The subpoena was issued after Cohen’s attorney said his client has information of interest to both state and federal prosecutors.”

A new NBC News/Marist poll in Texas finds Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) leading challenger Beto O’Rourke (D) by just four points among registered voters, 49% to 45%.  “While both candidates have largely consolidated their bases — with O’Rourke capturing the support of 90% of Democrats and Cruz securing 91% of Republicans — independents in the state are equally split between the two men.”

A new Marquette Law School Poll in Wisconsin finds Gov. Scott Walker (R) deadlocked with challenger Tony Evers (D), 46% to 46% among likely voters, with Libertarian Phil Anderson at 6%.  In the U.S. Senate race, Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) barely leads challenger Leah Vukmir (R), 49% to 47%.

A new Quinnipiac poll finds Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) leads challenger Bob Hugin (R) by a slim 43% to  37%.  Said pollster Mary Snow: “As Menendez sees his once dominant lead whittled down to single digits, New Jersey voters are sending a clear message. They are troubled by the ethics cloud hanging over him.”

A new Pew Research poll finds that 61% of adults surveyed said that they thought it was a good thing that more women are running for Congress. Another third said it was neither good nor bad, while only 5% said it was a bad thing.

A new Fox News poll hows if the election were today, 49% of voters would back the Democratic candidate in their House district and 38% the Republican.  Key takeaway: “Overall, when the ballot results are narrowed to ‘extremely’ interested voters, Democrats hold a 56-38 percent advantage.  And when narrowed to counties where the 2016 presidential vote was close (Clinton and Trump within 10 points), Democrats are up by 45-39 percent.“

Walter Shapiro: “Right now, the consensus of soothsayers suggests that the Democrats will take back the House. Nate Silver, for example, at his FiveThirtyEight website gives the Democrats a 73 percent chance of regaining the speaker’s gavel, and his model suggest a pickup of 34 House seats.”

“But when you factor in the possibility of the unexpected, I would argue that the Democrats’ chances to win the House are actually higher. On the Senate side, the daunting map for Democrats still makes it a stretch, regardless of external events.”

“Obviously, if I could predict the future, including black-swan events, I would be in a more lucrative racket than journalism. But when you think of the Trump presidency and the various types of potential October surprises, it is hard to concoct a scenario that would aid the Republicans.”

Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) told KGTV that he’s innocent of accusations of campaign funding misuse one day after he and his wife Margaret were indicted by a federal grand jury.  Said Hunter: “We’re excited about going to trial with this, frankly. This is modern politics and modern media mixed in with law enforcement that has a political agenda. That’s the new Department of Justice.”  He added: “Let them expose themselves for what they are: a politically motivated group of folks.”

Yes, let’s expose that known liberal Democrat named Jefferson Beauregard Sessions.

Cook Political Report: “On Tuesday, a federal grand jury indicted GOP Rep. Duncan Hunter (CA-50) and his wife Margaret on charges of wire fraud, falsifying records and misusing $250,000 in campaign funds for personal expenses including an Italian vacation, dental work and flying a pet rabbit to accompany the family. Hunter’s race moves from Solid Republican to the Lean Republican column, with the potential to move further.”

Garrett Graff: “It seems hard to imagine that if the personal lawyer of either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton had just pleaded guilty to paying hush money to a porn star in the days before the presidential election—and said, under oath, that Obama or Clinton had directed the payment be made—that speaker of the House Paul Ryan, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, or the chair of the House oversight committee would sit quietly on the sidelines. Yet, for now, GOP lawmakers appear to believe that supporting the president remains good politics.”

“In fact, Republican senator Lindsey Graham all but explicitly endorsed any presidential crime short of actual treason Tuesday night, saying, ‘Campaign finance violations, I don’t know what will come from that, but the thing that will hurt the President the most is if, in fact, his campaign did coordinate with a foreign government like Russia. Anything short of that is probably going to fall into partisan camps.’”

“What, if anything, will change that belief is the biggest unknown in American politics today.”

The DNC contacted the FBI “after it detected what it believes was the beginning of a sophisticated attempt to hack into its voter database,” CNN reports.

“The DNC was alerted in the early hours of Tuesday morning by a cloud service provider and a security research firm that a fake login page had been created in an attempt to gather usernames and passwords that would allow access to the party’s database.”

“The page was designed to look like the access page Democratic Party officials and campaigns across the country use to log into a service called Votebuilder, which hosts the database… adding the DNC believed it was designed to trick people into handing over their login details.”

And once again, Trump is racebaiting this on the wrong facts.  The suspect was here legally.  Des Moines Register:  “The government is incorrectly promoting the idea that Rivera is not in Iowa legally, attorney Allen Richards of Tama said in a court document asking for a gag order in the case.

“Sad and sorry Trump has weighed in on this matter in national media which will poison the entire possible pool of jury members,” Richards wrote, referencing a statement from the president citing Tibbetts’ death as an example why “immigration laws are such a disgrace.”  Rivera has lived in Iowa for four to seven years, working at Yarrabee Farms, a Brooklyn-area farm owned by Eric Lang, the brother of Craig Lang, a prominent Republican.

Craig Lang has verified that Rivera is in Iowa legally, according to Richards’ motion.  “Craig Lang supports Cristhian’s right to be in this jurisdiction and for the government to support any other idea of status publicly flies in the face of such statement,” Richard wrote.  “Cristhian deserves the court’s protection as to his characterization before a jury pool.”

Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) “canceled her upcoming meeting with Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh because of the alleged legal troubles surrounding President Trump,” Politico reports.

Hirono accused the president of being “an unindicted co-conspirator in a criminal matter” and said he “does not deserve the courtesy of a meeting with his nominee—purposely selected to protect, as we say in Hawaii, his own okole.”

Mike Allen: “Corruption instantly becomes a centerpiece issue in the midterm campaigns — a huge new weight for Republicans in marginal races.”  Said a top GOP guru: “The Republican Party looks like a criminal enterprise.”  Looks like?  It is.

Playbook: “Two House Republicans have been indicted this month. Democrats — who were looking to turn this into a ‘corruption’ election — are feeling good at the moment.”

Max Boot: “In short, there is growing evidence that the president is, to use the word favored by Richard Nixon, ‘a crook.’ Even buying the silence of his reputed playmates could by itself have been enough to swing an exceedingly close election decided by fewer than 80,000 votes in three states. Trump certainly would not have authorized the payments unless he thought it was politically imperative to do so. There is also considerable evidence, as I previously argued, that Russia’s intervention on Trump’s behalf affected the outcome. Even more than Nixon, Trump is now an illegitimate president whose election is tainted by fraud.”

“It would start within minutes of special counsel Robert Mueller being fired — a torrent of activity ricocheting through the halls of Congress and over television airwaves, including nearly a thousand protests being prepped from the Virgin Islands to Alaska,” NBC News reports.

“Democrats have drafted a wide-ranging contingency plan should Mueller be fired or President Trump take other steps to quash the Russia investigation, like firing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein or pardoning key witnesses.”

“Of top concern in the first 24 hours of such a move would be preventing Mueller’s documents from being destroyed and his team disbanded.”

John Harwood: “Trump’s weak public standing remains above the 40 percent level mainly because of the strong economy. But his reliance on crude demagoguery about immigration before friendly campaign audiences – including Tuesday night in West Virginia – demonstrates that his principal economic arguments lack punch with the electorate. Average workers have gained little from Trump’s tax cuts, and his trade wars threaten to cost more jobs than they save.”

“Republican lawmakers will not suddenly abandon Trump any more than Republican lawmakers suddenly abandoned Richard Nixon 45 years as the flames of Watergate grew higher. Their survival instincts won’t permit it, given the allegiance of Trump’s diminished but still fervent base among GOP voters.”

“But concrete legal developments erode political defenses. There will soon be fewer Republican members of Congress than hold office today.”

Dan Balz: “No day during President Trump’s 19 months in office could prove as dangerous or debilitating as Tuesday. Everything that happened in a pair of courtrooms hundreds of miles apart strengthened the hand of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and weakened that of the president of the United States.”

“This was a day when truth overran tweets, when facts overwhelmed bald assertions. Presidential tweets, however provocative, eventually disappear into the ether. Tuesday’s convictions could send two people who have had close relationships with Trump to prison for several years, while one of them brought the investigation to the doorstep of the White House.”

“What took place Tuesday will ratchet up the pressure on the president, will embolden his critics, and will no doubt inflame and rally his supporters. If the past months have seemed increasingly hot, the coming months could be hotter still — there’s little doubt that the Trump presidency has now entered more treacherous territory, and no one can know where it will end.”

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

3 comments on “The Open Thread for August 23, 2018

  1. Gotta love how Fox News is bragging that one of their cultists threw 10 counts, even though she knew he was guilty, because she’s a scum sucking MAGAT. That is how I know the GOP will never hold dipshit accountable. It is also how I know they would support something like preventing or nullifying an election… that is IF they lose it. The level of certainty around this Nov sounds so much like 2016, it’s making me sick.

    • An interview last night with a juror revealed that there was a single holdout on the other 10 charges. The one juror is a right-wing hero today.

      • expect them to be emboldened now. you’ll see holdouts for murders of “thugs” and “illegals”. 45 is encouraging this anti-law mentality. It is about to get far, far worse. We can no longer count on (not that we could in the first place) law and the ballot box to save us.

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