Open Thread

The Open Thread for August 24, 2018

President Trump took aim at Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Bloomberg reports.  Said Trump: “We have somebody who they seem to go after a lot of Republicans.” He added that the inability of his attorney general to “control” his department was “a regrettable thing.”

So, the President expects the Attorney General of the United States to only target Democrats and to ignore crimes committed by Republicans.  It’s nice that Trump says the quiet usually code-worded part out loud.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has issued a statement defending himself from President Trump’s criticism this morning, saying the Justice Department “will not be improperly influenced by political considerations,” the Washington Post reports.  He added: “I demand the highest standards, and where they are not met, I take action.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said it’s “very likely” President Trump will replace Attorney General Jeff Sessions but warned against doing so before the midterm elections, Bloomberg reports.  Said Graham: “The president’s entitled to an attorney general he has faith in, somebody that’s qualified for the job, and I think there will come a time, sooner rather than later, where it will be time to have a new face and a fresh voice at the Department of Justice. Clearly, Attorney General Sessions doesn’t have the confidence of the president.”

“A bill that would have significantly bolstered the nation’s defenses against electoral interference has been held up in the Senate at the behest of the White House, which opposed the proposed legislation,” Yahoo News reports.

“As it currently stands, the legislation would grant every state’s top election official security clearance to receive threat information. It would also formalize the practice of information-sharing between the federal government—in particular, the Department of Homeland Security—and states regarding threats to electoral infrastructure. A technical advisory board would establish best practices related to election cybersecurity. Perhaps most significantly, the law would mandate that every state conduct a statistically significant audit following a federal election. It would also incentivize the purchase of voting machines that leave a paper record of votes cast, as opposed to some all-electronic models that do not. This would signify a marked shift away from all-electronic voting, which was encouraged with the passage of the Help Americans Vote Act in 2002.”

I wonder why Trump doesn’t want to protect the election.

Federal prosecutors granted immunity to David Pecker, CEO of the company that publishes National Enquirer, in the Michael Cohen investigation, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Gabriel Sherman: “Pecker’s apparent decision to corroborate Cohen’s account, and implicate Trump in a federal crime, is another vivid example of how isolated Trump is becoming as the walls close in and his former friends look for ways out… Trump and Pecker have been close for years.”  Said one Trump friend when told the news: “Holy shit, I thought Pecker would be the last one to turn.”

First Read: “When it comes to Michael Cohen’s claim that he was directed by an unnamed candidate in 2016 — Donald Trump — to make payments to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal to influence the 2016 election, there’s something important to remember.”

“Prosecutors say they have audio recordings, text messages and phone records about Cohen’s payments — and the intent behind them.”

With Michael Cohen pleading guilty to fraud, the Trump Organization’s CFO, Allen Weisselberg, is now also implicated in that fraud. He’s been called to testify before a grand jury and he knows far more about all of President Trump’s financial dealings than Cohen.

Timothy O’Brien noted this when Weisselberg was mentioned on the taped conversation last month between Cohen and Trump discussing the hush money payment to Stormy Daniels.  Said Cohen to Trump on the recording: “I’ve spoken to Allen Weisselberg about how to set the whole thing up. So, I’m all over that. And, I spoke to Allen about it.”

Notes O’Brien, who is also the author of Trump Nation:  “Weisselberg isn’t a bit player in Trumplandia and his emergence on the Cohen-Trump recording – as someone possibly facilitating a scheme apparently meant to disguise a payoff – should worry the president. Weisselberg has detailed information about the Trump Organization’s operations, business deals and finances. If he winds up in investigators’ crosshairs for secreting payoffs, he could potentially provide much more damaging information to prosecutors than Cohen ever could about the president’s dealmaking.”

Unlike Cohen — who Trump now claims was just a part-time employee — Weisselberg has worked for the Trump family since the 1970s and knows more about the Trump Organization’s finances than nearly anyone.  When Cohen implicated the president in felony campaign finance fraud, it quickly became apparent that Trump’s downfall could be caused by something completely unrelated to collusion with Russia.  With Weisselberg now implicated in the same crime that will send Cohen to prison, it’s no wonder Trump wants to make “flipping” illegal.

“Despite rumors of an early exit for the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said the chamber wouldn’t be cutting short the August session unless all 17 of the president’s nominations on which he sought to cut off debate Wednesday are confirmed,” Roll Call reports.

Said Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX): “To any of our Democratic colleagues who are not here and preventing us from making a quorum, I can guarantee we will be here in session next week because this is important work to get these judges processed.”

A new Quinnipiac poll in Connecticut finds Ned Lamont (D) leading Bob Stefanowski (R) by double-digits in the race for governor, 46% to 33%, with independent candidate Oz Griebel at 4% and Libertarian Rod Hanscomb at 1%.  In a head-to-head matchup, Lamont tops Stefanowski 53% to 37%.

A new GW Politics poll, which is unusual because it tracks the views of the same group of registered voters over time, finds few fluctuations in opinions since the first poll in May.

“The stability of people’s preferences between the two interviews was striking: 92% of those who said in May that they planned to vote for the Republican candidate said the same thing in July. Similarly, 95% of those saying they would vote for the Democrat in May were planning to vote for the Democrat in July. Altogether, over three-quarters of all respondents (78%) were ‘consistent partisans’ in these two interviews.”

Overall, President Trump’s approval rating is 45% and Democrats lead the generic ballot, 44% to 39%.

A new Fox News poll finds approval of special counsel Robert Mueller stands at 59%, up 11 points since July, and 40% expect the investigation will find Trump committed criminal or impeachable offenses, up 5 points.

More from the Fox poll: Special Counsel Robert Mueller is more popular than Donald Trump, by double digits (59-45 percent approval) Obamacare is more popular than the GOP tax law, by double digits (51-40 percent) The Democratic party is more popular than the Republican party, by double digits (50-39 percent) Voters say they are more likely to vote for a Democrat than a Republican, by double digits (49 -38 percent) More Hillary Clinton voters say they are enthusiastic about casting a ballot in the midterms than Donald Trump voters do, by double digits (51 – 37 percent).

Even the economy, a relative bright spot for the GOP compared to almost every other factor, isn’t viewed all that positively by anyone but Republicans.

Only Republicans give the economy positive ratings (73 percent excellent or good). Most Democrats (67 percent) and independents (67 percent) say the economy is in fair or poor shape.

“The 2020 presidential election is still more than 800 days away, but a new Politico/Morning Consult pollshows President Trump with paltry levels of support when matched up with nearly a dozen would-be Democratic opponents.”

“Against the two best-known candidates — former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) — Trump trails 12 percentage points and is mired in the low 30s. Biden leads Trump, 43% to 31%, and Sanders’ lead over the president is virtually the same, 44% to 32%.”

A new NBC News/Marist poll in Pennsylvania finds that 45% of voters believe that tariffs and other import barriers will raise costs of consumer goods and hurt the country’s economy. By comparison, just 27% believe they will protect American jobs and help the economy.  Meanwhile, President Trump’s approval rate is a lowly 37% to 53%.  Gov. Tom Wolf (D) (54-40) and Sen. Bob Casey (D) (53-38) are both comfortably ahead of their Republican opponents this fall.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos “is considering whether to allow states to use federal funding to purchase guns for educators,” the New York Times reports.

“Such a move appears to be unprecedented, reversing a longstanding position taken by the federal government that it should not pay to outfit schools with weapons. And it would also undermine efforts by Congress to restrict the use of federal funding on guns. As recently as March, Congress passed a school safety bill that allocated $50 million a year to local school districts, but expressly prohibited the use of the money for firearms.”

“A juror in the trial of Paul Manafort said Wednesday that all but one of the jurors wanted to convict President Trump’s former campaign chairman on every charge he faced,” the Washington Post reports.

“The juror, who spoke on the record to Fox News and gave her name as Paula Duncan, said jurors ‘again and again’ laid out for the lone holdout the evidence that persuaded them Manafort was guilty. But the holdout, a female, said she harbored reasonable doubt.”

Politico: “Twenty-four hours after one of the most damaging days for Donald Trump’s presidency, the Republican wall of support around him shows no signs of crumbling.”

“Though some GOP senators expressed discomfort with the plea deal reached by Trump lawyer Michael Cohen and the guilty verdict rendered on former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, there has been no seismic shift in the GOP after a bombshell Tuesday. Some Republicans attacked Cohen as not credible, some said Manafort’s conviction has nothing to do with Trump and others still said the matter doesn’t fall in their purview as senators.”

Politico: “He has called himself a ‘great loyalty freak.’ He has said he values loyalty ‘above everything else—more than brains, more than drive.’ And one of his greatest strengths, at least of a certain sort, always has been his ability to engender unwavering, slavish, even sycophantic allegiance. But it’s also been so brutally, consistently one-sided, and the Cohen flip brings to the fore the fragility of Trump’s transactional brand of loyalty and potentially its ultimate incompatibility with the presidency.”

”This is not some tabloid or Twitter tit-for-tat. The stakes are of course incomparably higher. And Trump’s long span of quiet about Cohen was so out of character it suggested even he understands the reality of his legal jeopardy. For the first time, it appeared, a once biddable lapdog had turned around and bitten the boss—hard.”

Said Trump biographer Michael D’Antonio: “He is terrified. This is 40 years of deceit coming home to torment him.”

President Trump told a Fox News reporter he would consider pardoning his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who was convicted on Tuesday of bank and tax fraud, Reuters reports.

“Fox News has been airing excerpts of the interview with Trump, which is scheduled to be shown in its entirety on Thursday morning. The excerpts have not included a clip of Trump saying he would consider pardoning Manafort.”

Ben Bauer: “How the case develops from here is not possible to judge at this time, but the Cohen campaign finance plea resonates unmistakably with the special counsel investigation, which also concerns what a candidate is prepared to do to win an election and then cover his tracks. The criminal information cites the involvement of unnamed members of the Trump campaign; the campaign, like the candidate, is now clearly in separate legal jeopardy.”

”The similarities between Trump’s problems and those of Richard Nixon continue to grow. In the short term, should there be any doubt about Trump’s unwillingness to sit for an interview with prosecutors, this seems yet another reason why he had no intention to do so. His lawyers will now busily attack Cohen, as they have already begun to do, but they don’t know what he’s told prosecutors or what evidence he has supplied to back up his claims. Any interview with the president would touch on these issues, among others—and the president whose lawyer has proclaimed that ‘truth is not truth’ and who repeatedly rails about ‘perjury traps’ is surely not able to take his chances with his own version of the Daniels and McDougal tales.”

“This is another possibility raised by the Cohen plea. It may not matter whether the president agrees to testify. Others seem prepared to bear that burden. As Nixon found when one of his lawyers also became a witness for the government, this can be the beginning of very hard times.”

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

4 comments on “The Open Thread for August 24, 2018

  1. Graham has to be owned by Russia. There is no way McCain’s best friend is a full-on Magat unless he is severely compromised.
    Meanwhile, Sessions needs another hug from his favorite Dino, Carper. Maybe they can both enjoy retirement together in January. Get ready for AG Arpaio… you know it to be true.

  2. cassandram

    I heard Graham talking about Sessions being replaced on the news last night. He was so comfortable speculating that it seemed that perhaps Graham had been promised the AG chair at some point. Would explain why his lips are firmly planted on the GRIFTUS’ butt.

  3. cassandram

    More election fraud by Republicans. Dead people signing petitions in Virginia.

  4. Elaine Smith

    Ben, can you link me to video that shows Carper hugging Sessions when he was confirmed AG? I need to share with some fence sitters.

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