The Open Thread for August 29, 2018

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said that if President Trump replaces Attorney General Jeff Sessions, “his new nominee would have to promise the Senate that he would allow special counsel Robert Mueller to complete his investigation,” the Washington Post reports.

Said Graham: “You have to replace him with somebody who is highly qualified and will commit to the Senate to allow Mueller to do his job. Nobody is going to take Jeff’s place that doesn’t commit to the Senate and the country as a whole that Mueller will be allowed to finish his job without political interference.”

Graham raised eyebrows last week when he seemed to give Trump his blessing to fire Sessions, telling reporters that the president was “entitled to an attorney general he has faith in.”

Rudy Giuliani said that President Trump’s lawyers have not heard back from special counsel Robert Mueller’s office in nearly three weeks, CNN reports.  Said Giuliani: “I figured we wouldn’t hear until after the Manafort trial, but we still haven’t.”

He said Mueller’s office has told them it is “still studying” the latest letter from Trump’s team, which Giuliani said was only five to six pages.  He added: “I have to figure they’re planning something.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) dodged questions about whether he would consider renaming the Senate building after the late Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), an idea floated by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY).  “We’ll be talking about the best way to honor Sen. McCain,” McConnell told reporters on Monday, according to The Hill. McConnell reportedly ignored shouted follow up questions about whether the renaming is something he would abet.

The building is currently named after Democratic Sen. Richard Brevard Russell of Georgia, who was opposed to several attempts to pass civil rights legislation. Schumer will likely soon propose a resolution for the renaming of the building.

President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly expressed sympathy for his now- convicted former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, is so eager to pardon him that the President is mulling hiring a new White House counsel to circumvent his current one who is adamantly against the move.

According to a Wednesday Vanity Fair report, current White House counsel Don McGahn is strongly against the pardon, and has been coming to blows Trump over the issue.  Trump has been interested in pardoning Manafort since before the conviction, and warnings about how the pardon would play have not seemed to quash his enthusiasm.

President Trump “went after technology firms Tuesday morning, singling out Google by alleging its search setting are biased against him,” Roll Call reports.  “He used a pair of morning tweets to, as he often does, paint himself and fellow conservatives as the victims of a liberal conspiracy. In this incarnation of what is a running Trump narrative, he used this search topic to make his point: ‘Trump News.’”

“The president wrote Google’s search is programmed to return ‘only the viewing/reporting of Fake New Media.’ That means, in his view, the tech giant has its search function ‘RIGGED, for me & others, so that almost all stories & news is BAD.’”  The Verge notes Trump added that Google and others were “hiding information and news that is good,” and said that this was “very serious situation” that “will be addressed.”

Greg Sargent notes that Twitter is having fun with President Trump’s latest conspiracy theory: Google is rigging its results when you search for “Trump news.”

“But while this might seem like typical Trumpian buffoonery, at its core is some deadly serious business. These attacks on the media — which are now spreading to extensive conspiracy-mongering about social media’s role in spreading information — form one part of an interlocking, two-piece Trumpian strategy (whether by instinct or design is unclear) that serves to underscore the urgency of this fall’s elections.”

“Trump is unleashing endless lies and attacks directed at the mechanisms of accountability that actually arefunctioning right now — the media, law enforcement and special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation — to persuade his supporters not only that they shouldn’t believe anything they hear from these sources, but also to energize them and get them to vote, to protect him from those institutions’ alleged conspiracy against him.”

“Shunned at two funerals and one (royal) wedding so far, President Trump may be well on his way to becoming president non grata,” the Washington Post reports.  “The latest snub comes in the form of the upcoming funeral for Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), which, before his death, the late senator made clear he did not want the sitting president to attend. That the feeling is mutual — Trump nixed issuing a statement that praised McCain as a “hero” — only underscores the myriad ways Trump has rejected the norms of his office and, increasingly, has been rejected in turn.”

“Less than two years into first term, Trump has often come to occupy the role of pariah — both unwelcome and unwilling to perform the basic rituals and ceremonies of the presidency, from public displays of mourning to cultural ceremonies.”

“For the first time in two decades, American Arabs and Muslims are stepping up to run for public office in record numbers, registering to vote and bundling money for candidates from their community,” NBC News reports.   “With inflammatory rhetoric on immigration and his active push for a travel ban aimed primarily at Muslim-majority countries, Trump has put a national spotlight on the community’s long running travails. Trump has called for the monitoring of mosques and appointed Cabinet members and political advisers who have disparaged Muslims.”

“He’s also likely put the final nail in the coffin for the community’s waning support for the GOP.”

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), “during a lunch with colleagues last week in Washington passed the hat for campaign cash, as the Texas Republican’s anxiety mounts about the unusually brisk challenge from Democratic Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D),” the Washington Examiner reports.

“O’Rourke is raising money by the truckload — enough to compete in Texas, a big state with costly media markets. The development has forced Cruz to hunt for resources in unlikely places for a politician who built his national career on opposition to the party establishment: fellow lawmakers, political action committees, and wealthy Republican donors.”  Said one GOP operative: “He was pretty intense last week and he should be — he needs the dough.”

A new Axios/SurveyMonkey poll finds that 64% of Americans believe Michael Cohen’s claim that President Trump ordered him to make illegal payments to two women to keep them quiet about his affairs — but just 44% believe Congress should start impeachment proceedings.

Key findings: “Three key subgroups — white suburban women, ‘Never Hillary’ independents, and rural voters — are strongly against impeachment. Two subgroups — Millennials and African American women — strongly favor it.”

“In a closed-door meeting with evangelical leaders Monday night, President Trump repeated his debunked claim that he had gotten ‘rid of’ a law forbidding churches and charitable organizations from endorsing political candidates,” NBC News reports.

“In fact, the law remains on the books, after efforts to kill it in Congress last year failed. But Trump cited this alleged accomplishment as one in a series of gains he has made for his conservative Christian supporters.”

He also warned: “You’re one election away from losing everything that you’ve got” while adding that their opponents were “violent people” who would overturn these gains “violently.”

ruling by a panel of federal judges raised the potential of drawing new congressional districts in North Carolina before November’s election, the Charlotte Observer reports.

“Among the court’s proposed remedies this time: Redrawing the districts before November and holding a general election without a primary election, or redrawing the districts, holding a primary election in November and holding a general election sometime before Congress is seated in January 2019. The court also said it might allow the General Assembly another chance at redrawing the districts.”

Nate Silver: “If North Carolina were required to redistrict, would be worth another two seats or so for Democrats. Although with a high margin for error because of all of this happening at such a late date.”

Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer’s (R) campaign chairman has endorsed independent Greg Orman’s bid for governor after Colyer lost the Republican primary to Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R), the Wichita Eagle reports.

“The move by Steve Baccus, a long-time former president of the Kansas Farm Bureau, marks the first public defection to Orman from Colyer’s team after an often-bitter race between Colyer and Kobach.”

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) “vetoed legislation that would have raised the minimum salary for an Illinois teacher to $40,000 within five years, putting the re-election-seeking Republican at odds with teachers unions once again,” the Chicago Tribune reports.

“The bill approved by lawmakers in the spring would make the minimum teacher salary for next school year $32,076. The number would rise to $40,000 for the 2022-23 term and grow with the Consumer Price Index after that.”

“The top government official overseeing the $1.5 trillion student loan market resigned Monday, citing what he says is the White House’s open hostility toward protecting nation’s millions of student loan borrowers,” the AP reports.

“Seth Frotman is the latest high-level departure from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau since Mick Mulvaney took over in late November. Under Mulvaney, the bureau has scaled back its enforcement work and has proposed revising or rescinding all of the rules and regulations it put into place under the Obama administration.”

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