The Open Thread for September 6, 2018

The New York Times published an anonymous op-ed by “a senior Trump administration official” who, along with his or her like-minded colleagues “have vowed to thwart” parts of President Trump’s agenda “and his worst inclinations.”

So who wrote it?

Dan Bloom finds the use of the word “lodestar” to describe the late Sen. John McCain as “unusual” enough to raise suspicions. He found no references of White House chief of staff John Kelly or Defense Secretary James Mattis using the word. But there are multiple examples of Vice President Mike Pence using the word, including even before he was vice president.

However, Bloom acknowledges the piece begins with a disclaimer that describes the author as: “a senior official in the Trump administration whose identity is known to us and whose job would be jeopardized by its disclosure.” Pence is basically the only White House employee that cannot be fired.

Nate Silver says the use of “anti-trade” sticks out “in a sentence where it doesn’t really belong and makes me wonder if it’s someone in Treasury or at least highly concerned with economic policy.”

Matt Glassman suggests that the odds a cabinet-level official writing the op-ed “are pretty slim, and the likelihood Pence wrote it are basically zero. On sheer numbers alone, there are just too many deputy assistant secretaries who are plausible candidates and could be described as senior officials.”

Omarosa Maginault Newman suggests it could be someone in Trump’s family.

Phillip Klein points out a “weird thing” about the essay: “If you’re arguing your goal at the White House is to calm Trump down, doesn’t publishing this op-ed (particularly in the New York Times) accomplish the exact opposite?”

David Frum: “Impeachment is a constitutional mechanism. The 25th Amendment is a constitutional mechanism. Mass resignations followed by voluntary testimony to congressional committees are a constitutional mechanism. Overt defiance of presidential authority by the president’s own appointees—now that’s a constitutional crisis.”

“If the president’s closest advisers believe that he is morally and intellectually unfit for his high office, they have a duty to do their utmost to remove him from it, by the lawful means at hand. That duty may be risky to their careers in government or afterward. But on their first day at work, they swore an oath to defend the Constitution—and there were no “riskiness” exemptions in the text of that oath.”

A Richmond Circuit Court judge ruled that independent Shaun Brown should be removed from Virginia’s 2nd congressional district ballot, finding “out and out fraud” in the effort to gather her signatures, the Richmond Times Dispatch reports.

Washington Post: “Many of those signatures were gathered by staffers working for the incumbent Republican, Scott Taylor, who is seeking a second term. Five current or former staffers for the congressman declined to answer questions in court, pleading the Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination. A separate criminal probe into the matter is ongoing and a state police investigator attended the civil hearing.”

The Washington Post reports that the “controversy has boosted his Democratic opponent, Elaine Luria, in a race with national implications. The 2nd District… went for Trump in 2016 but backed Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam last year. It’s a race targeted by Democrats as a possible flip in their quest to regain control of the House of Representatives.”

“The Trump administration has consistently sought to exaggerate the potential security threat posed by refugees and dismissed an intelligence assessment last year that showed refugees did not present a significant threat to the U.S.,” three former senior officials told NBC News.

“Hardliners in the administration then issued their own report this year that several former officials and rights groups say misstates the evidence and inflates the threat posed by people born outside the U.S.”

“Two people with direct knowledge of Trump’s comments tell the Daily Beast that they have heard the president mock Sessions—a frequent target of his cyber-bullying and degradation—as mentally deficient, personally annoying, and ‘retarded’ and a ‘retard.’”

“This corroborates a minor, though eyebrow-raising, detail featured in veteran journalist Bob Woodward’s new book, Fear: Trump in the White House, the release of which is currently causing intense heartburn in Trump’s West Wing.”

“I had a business dispute with Mueller before that. I had a real business dispute. And he’s Comey’s best friend. And I could give you 100 pictures of him and Comey hugging and kissing each other. You know, he’s Comey’s best friend.”  — President Trump, explaining to the Daily Caller why he didn’t pick Robert Mueller as FBI Director.

“President Trump, showing his outrage over Bob Woodward’s explosive new book, is ordering a real witch hunt in the West Wing and throughout his administration, asking loyal aides to help determine who cooperated with the book,” CNN reports.

“In Trump’s eyes, what makes or breaks aides who are reported to have made disparaging comments about him is how strongly they push back on the accusations. But he is also taking note of the silence from several other former administration officials.”

Josh Rogin: “Well before this week’s revelations about President Trump’s interactions with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis in Bob Woodward’s new book, officials inside the White House have been actively discussing who will replace Mattis at the Pentagon — whenever he might step down.”

“Of course, in light of Woodward’s reporting that Mattis told associates Trump ‘acted like — and had the understanding of — a fifth- or sixth-grader,’ internal speculation about Mattis’s potential departure has intensified.”

Man, which side do I choose?

President Trump “said he was unlikely to shut down the federal government ahead of the Nov. 6 midterm elections over funding the construction of a southern border wall as part of his controversial immigration plan,” Reuters reports.

Said Trump: “I don’t like the idea of shutdowns. I don’t see even myself or anybody else closing down the country right now.”

Politico: “With Kavanaugh considered likely to win confirmation absent a major misstep, Democrats must keep pushing against long odds while carving out an upside to potential defeat. They’re readying an intense volley of questions for the 53-year-old appellate court judge on hot-button liberal issues from abortion to the Russia probe and aiming to create viral social media moments from particularly controversial exchanges in the hopes of chipping away at Kavanaugh’s credibility.”

“Even if Democrats can’t quash Kavanaugh’s confirmation, though, they know they’ll have to walk away from the fight with the minor victory of weakening Kavanaugh’s public persona and forcing Republicans to come up with the votes to approve him before a single one of their members comes off the fence.”

“Southern Republican senators defended Jeff Sessions after an explosive new book by Bob Woodward recounted how President Trump called his attorney general a “dumb Southerner” and mocked his accent,” the Washington Post reports.

“In the forthcoming chronicle of Trump’s White House, Fear, Woodward writes that the president privately called Sessions a ‘traitor,’ saying: ‘This guy is mentally retarded. He’s this dumb Southerner… He couldn’t even be a one-person country lawyer down in Alabama.’”

“The remarks are said to have come during a conversation between Trump and his former staff secretary, Rob Porter, about Sessions’s decision to recuse himself from the Russian investigation. They represent the most withering insults the president has directed at his attorney general in months of largely one-sided sniping.”

Commenting at the protests over Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to be on the Supreme Court, President Trump told the Daily Caller that protesting should be illegal.

Said Trump: “I don’t know why they don’t take care of a situation like that. I think it’s embarrassing for the country to allow protesters. You don’t even know what side the protesters are on.”

He added: “In the old days, we used to throw them out. Today, I guess they just keep screaming.”

Republicans in Kansas further splintered as former Gov. Bill Graves (R) endorsed Laura Kelly (D) for governor over Kris Kobach (R), his party’s nominee, the Kansas City Star reports.

Said Graves: “Laura Kelly is the only Democrat I have ever endorsed for public office. And the reason I’m doing that now is because I believe so much is at stake in the state of Kansas.”

“A Republican-led lawsuit seeking to nullify Obamacare will be spotlighted in court in the final months of congressional election campaigns, giving Democrats political fodder and sending GOP candidates in competitive races looking for cover,” Bloomberg reports.

“The Trump administration’s Justice Department has taken the unusual step of siding with Texas — instead of defending the federal law — in the states’ bid to persuade a judge that various aspects of the Affordable Care Act should be tossed out, including protecting people with pre-existing medical conditions.”

“The arguments come at a difficult time for Republicans as they try to defend their control of the House and Senate in the November elections while many Democrats make health care a central issue in their campaigns.”

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

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