The Open Thread for September 5, 2018

A central theme of Bob Woodward’s new book, Fear: Trump in the White House, “is the stealthy machinations used by those in Trump’s inner sanctum to try to control his impulses and prevent disasters, both for the president personally and for the nation he was elected to lead,” the Washington Post reports.

“Woodward describes ‘an administrative coup d’etat’ and a ‘nervous breakdown’ of the executive branch, with senior aides conspiring to pluck official papers from the president’s desk so he couldn’t see or sign them.”

“Again and again, Woodward recounts at length how Trump’s national security team was shaken by his lack of curiosity and knowledge about world affairs and his contempt for the mainstream perspectives of military and intelligence leaders.”

The Washington Post obtained a copy of Bob Woodward’s forthcoming book, Fear: Trump in the White House.  One story tells how President Trump’s personal attorney, John Dowd “was convinced that President Trump would commit perjury if he talked to special counsel Robert Mueller. So, on Jan. 27, the president’s then-personal attorney staged a practice session to try to make his point.”

“In the White House residence, Dowd peppered Trump with questions about the Russia investigation, provoking stumbles, contradictions and lies until the president eventually lost his cool.”  Trump erupted: “This thing’s a goddamn hoax. I don’t really want to testify.”

President Trump called Bob Woodward in early August, after the manuscript for Fear: Trump in the White House had been completed, to say he wanted to be interviewed.

The Washington Post has a transcript and audio of that phone call which essentially proves Woodward’s thesis of a dysfunctional White House and president. It’s worth reading.


Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) will name former Sen. Jon Kyl (R) to fill the seat of Sen. John McCain, after notifying McCain’s wife, Cindy, and other key political figures of his decision, the Arizona Republic reports.

“Kyl has agreed to serve at least through the end of the year… If he opts to step down after the end of the session, the Republican governor would be required to appoint another replacement.”

Special counsel Robert Mueller “will accept written answers from President Trump on questions about whether his campaign conspired with Russia’s election interference, Mr. Mueller’s office told Mr. Trump’s lawyers in a letter,” the New York Times reports.

“But on another significant aspect of the investigation — whether the president tried to obstruct the inquiry itself — Mr. Mueller and his investigators understood that issues of executive privilege could complicate their pursuit of a presidential interview and did not ask for written responses on that matter.”

“Mr. Mueller did not say that he was giving up on an interview altogether, including on questions of obstruction of justice. But the tone of the letter and the fact that the special counsel did not ask for written responses on obstruction prompted some Trump allies to conclude that if an interview takes place, its scope will be more limited than Mr. Trump’s legal team initially believed.”

Jonathan Chait: “Woodward has repeatedly scolded the media for its unfairness to Trump, and expressed skepticism about the Russia investigation. Another reporter who did the same thing, before proceeding to publish a book stuffed with harrowing inside tidbits about Trump’s dysfunction, is Michael Wolff. Perhaps both of them were shrewdly planting favorable commentary in order to warm up potential sources. Wolff’s book, and its too-amazing-to-be-real anecdotes, was met with a fair amount of skepticism from the mainstream media. The additional support from Woodward seems to confirm its essential thrust, if not every detail.”

“However dumb and crazy you might think Trump is, the reality always turns out to be even worse.”

Chuck Todd: “Instead of attacking rivals, or assailing critics—going negative,in the parlance of political campaigns—reporters need to showcase and defend our reporting. Every day, we need to do our job, check our facts, strive to be transparent, and say what we’re seeing. That’s what I’ve tried to do here. I’ve seen a nearly 50-year campaign to delegitimize the press, and I’m saying so. For years, I didn’t say a word about this publicly, and at times I even caught myself drawing false equivalencies because I was afraid of being labeled as biased. I know that stating the obvious will draw attacks, but I’ve also learned that the louder critics bark, the more they care about what’s being reported.”

“I’m not advocating for a more activist press in the political sense, but for a more aggressive one. That means having a lower tolerance for talking points, and a greater willingness to speak plain truths. It means not allowing ourselves to be spun, and not giving guests or sources a platform to spin our readers and viewers, even if that angers them. Access isn’t journalism’s holy grail—facts are.”

CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin said that President Trump’s weekend attacks against Attorney General Jeff Sessions over bring charges against two Republican lawmakers may be grounds for impeachment.

Said Toobin: “This tweet alone may be an impeachable offense. This is such a disgrace. This is so contrary to the traditions of the Department of Justice.”

Playbook: “Republicans don’t want to be in Washington this month — especially House Republicans. All they need to do is fund the government, and prevent PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP from making this showdown about immigration policy — because the GOP leadership believes the specter of a shutdown and a prolonged discussion about migration policy are losers for the folks trying to hold onto the House. Get government funded, do no harm and get out of town — that’s the GOP’s mantra for the month.”

“We expect the house will cancel a whole chunk of time in session if they can get the government funding situation worked out.”

With a tweet complaining that indictments of two congressmen “by the Jeff Sessions Justice Department” put GOP seats at risk, President Trump guaranteed a confirmation minefield for any future attorney general, Jonathan Swan reports.

Said one of Washington’s most respected Republican lawyers: “Like everything else, he shoots first and then asks questions later. So in his … mind he thinks he can find someone to take the job who will be confirmable and rein in Mueller. So he’ll force out Sessions and then find there’s no one who will take the job who the Senate Republicans can support.”

Meanwhile, “In recent conversations with confidants, President Trump has added FBI Director Christopher Wray to his list of complaints about key members of his administration,” NBC News reports.

“Trump has criticized Wray as another figure in the Justice Department who is not protecting his interests — and is possibly out to undermine his presidency.”

Said one person familiar with Trump’s thinking: “He is in the worst mood of his presidency and calling friends and allies to vent about his selection of Sessions and Wray.”

Registered voters prefer the Democratic candidate over the Republican candidate in their district by 52 percent to 38 percent — a 14-point advantage for Democrats — according to a Washington Post-ABC poll released on Tuesday.

A new NBC News-Marist poll finds Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) locked in a dead heat with challenger Josh Hadley (R), 47% to 47%.

A new Quinnipiac poll in Florida finds Andrew Gillum (D) leading Rep. Ron DeSanti (R) in the governor’s race, 50% to 47%

Nate Silver: “If Labor Day is the traditional inflection point in the midterm campaign — the point when the election becomes something that’s happening right now — then Democrats should feel pretty good about where they stand in their quest to win the U.S. House.”

“Republicans are in their worst position to date in our U.S. House forecast: The Classic version of our model gives them only a 1 in 5 chance of holding onto the House. Other versions of our model are slightly more optimistic for the GOP: The Deluxe version, which folds in expert ratings on a seat-by-seat basis, puts their chances at 1 in 4, while the Lite version, which uses district-level and generic ballot polls alone to make its forecasts, has them at a 3 in 10 chance.”

Former Vice President Joe Biden “is convinced he can beat President Trump, friends and advisers say, and he has given himself until January to deliberate and size up potential competition for the Democratic nomination,” the AP reports.

“In the meantime, Biden diligently maintains a network of supporters in key states, a group 30 years in the making, while some of those competitors are still making introductions.”

Rick Hasen: “By the time President Donald Trump runs for reelection in 2020, he might be able to accept unlimited campaign contributions to support his bid, thanks to his nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the United States Supreme Court. Documents released ahead of Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings this week that date from his time in George W. Bush’s White House reveal that the judge just might be ready to strike down what’s left of federal law limiting contributions to candidates, as a First Amendment violation. There are two cases heading to the Supreme Court that would allow him to do just that.

Randy Bryce (D), who is running the congressional seat being vacated by Speaker Paul Ryan’s seat, tweetsthat his opponent, Bryan Steil (R), “just released three minutes of silent B roll footage in hopes a right wing Super PAC would use it to make an ad for him.”

He adds: “They haven’t made one yet, so we made one for them.”

The HuffPost got a copy of the first album from Texas U.S. Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke’s punk band Foss and concludes, “It’s not bad at all.”

The recording came from former bandmate Cedric Bixler-Zavala who said he really stands behind O’Rourke: “I truly believe Beto to be the answer. He really gives a fuck.”

Texas Republicans mocked the cover of the album in a tweet last week.

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

3 comments on “The Open Thread for September 5, 2018

  1. I have real TV this week and saw one MSNBC program last night that played parts of the Woodward call with the GRIFTUS. No wonder they don’t want this fool to appear before Mueller.

  2. Eye roll at Chuck Todd. While I agree with much of what he says, it doesn’t exactly sync up with his own behavior. My own beef with these guys is that facts and accountability all too often fall by the wayside for horserace reporting. The crazy both sides do it reporting has provided the GOP plenty of cover for breaking all of the china and it is remarkably late for Todd to be in this position.

    • Agree. It’s honestly like Todd was happy to play devil’s advocate for a decade and now he has found religion.

      Maybe he’s being honest, but he has been falling for bullshit since 2008, so it’s hard to tell.

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