Open Thread

The Open Thread for October 19, 2018

BOLTON V. KELLY IN A HEATED SHOUTING MATCH IN WEST WING.   “A heated argument in the West Wing between chief of staff John Kelly and national security adviser John Bolton over a recent surge in border crossings turned into a shouting match Thursday,” CNN reports.

“The exchange lay bare a bitter disagreement that has existed between two of President Trump’s top aides for weeks now. Trump, who was incensed about the rising levels of migrants and threatened to shut down the southern border on Twitter earlier that morning, took Bolton’s side during the argument.”

“The fight between Kelly and Bolton startled several aides throughout the West Wing on Thursday… adding that the raised voices went well beyond the heated discussions of the Trump administration.”

Bloomberg: “The shouting match was so intense that other White House aides worried one of the two men might immediately resign. Neither is resigning.”

THE TRUMP-SAUDI MURDER COVER-UP.   “The rulers of Saudi Arabia are considering blaming a top intelligence official close to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for the killing of Jamal Khashoggi,” the New York Times reports.

“The plan to assign blame to Gen. Ahmed al-Assiri, a high-ranking adviser to the crown prince, would be an extraordinary recognition of the magnitude of international backlash to hit the kingdom since the death of Mr. Khashoggi… Blaming General Assiri could also provide a plausible explanation for the killing and help deflect blame from the crown prince, who American intelligence agencies are increasingly convinced was behind Mr. Khashoggi’s disappearance.”

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has withdrawn from the Future Investment Initiative conference in Riyadh next week after facing bipartisan backlash over his plans to attend despite the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi, the New York Times reports

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-TN) says that the Trump administration has “clamped down” on intelligence regarding the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, CBS News reports.  Corker told the Washington Post that an intelligence briefing scheduled for this week had been canceled and for the time being, there would be no more intelligence shared with the Senate.

“American intelligence officials are increasingly convinced that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia is culpable in the killing of the dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, an appraisal that poses challenges to a White House intent on maintaining a close relationship with the kingdom,” the New York Times reports.

“Intelligence agencies have not yet been able to collect direct evidence of the prince’s involvement, American and European officials said.”

“But intelligence agencies have growing circumstantial evidence of the prince’s involvement — including the presence of members of his security detail and intercepts of Saudi officials discussing a possible plan to detain Mr. Khashoggi.”

REPUBLICANS ENDORSING DEMOCRATS.  A fourth former official in Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s (R) administration has publicly denounced the governor as he seeks a third term, while releasing a letter calling for the election of challenger Tony Evers (D), the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.

Former Kansas Gov. Mike Hayden (R) joined the growing ranks of Republicans endorsing Laura Kelly’s (D) run for governor over Kris Kobach (R), the Kansas City Star reports.  Said Hayden: “After eight years of crisis, we cannot elect someone who wants to repeat the disasters of the past. Kris Kobach has promised to do just that — risking the future of our great state.”  All living ex-Republican governors have now endorsed Kelly, except Sam Brownback (R).

TRUMP PERSONALLY INTERVENED TO STOP THE FBI FROM MOVING HQ.  “President Trump personally intervened to stop the FBI from moving its headquarters in Washington, D.C., to the Maryland or Virginia suburbs, emails made public Thursday reveal,” according to the HuffPost.

“The decision that the bureau will not move will help the president’s bottom line by reducing competition for his flagship hotel property located in the Old Post Office building across the street from the current FBI building.”

TRUMP LOVED THE HORSEFACE INSULT.  Daily Beast: “Donald Trump caught various West Wing officials off-guard on Tuesday when he decided to describe the woman alleging that they’d had an affair as having a ‘horseface.’ But privately, the president not only thought that it was strategically smart to go after the adult film star Stormy Daniels in such a visceral way; he workshopped the insult prior to tweeting it.”

“Well before Trump mocked Daniels’ physical appearance, he trial-ballooned the ‘horseface’ dig privately—among White House aides, close friends, and acquaintances… The president often tosses around ideas for snide new nicknames in smack-talk sessions with associates, if only to gauge their reactions. And, as in past cases, the ‘horseface’ incident saw Trump defying presidential norms (whatever those are anymore) and ignoring senior aides and confidants who advised him simply to let the matter go.”

Trump is never happier than when he is insulting someone, usually a woman, on their looks.

MIDTERMS ARE ALL ABOUT TRUMP, JUST HOW HE LIKES IT.   Washington Post: “Trump has deliberately placed himself at the center of the November elections, explicitly telling voters to imagine they’re casting a ballot for him, rather than their local representative… The president, meanwhile, has told White House aides that his supporters won’t come out to the polls if they don’t believe the election matters to him.”

“He wants to campaign for Republicans six days a week — and sees these mega-rallies as a testing ground for his own 2020 reelection… While aides around Trump have grown increasingly concerned about the prospect of Republicans losing the House, the president himself privately insists the polls are fake and that his performances at rallies will carry Republicans to victory.”

Ron Brownstein: “In its final stages, the tumultuous 2018 midterm election appears to be moving in contradictory directions, with Democrats and Republicans alike finding legitimate reasons for optimism amid the daily flurry of new polls.”

“But these seemingly disparate signals actually represent a mirror image of the same powerful force: a tightening connection between voters’ attitudes about President Trump and their preferences in House and Senate races next month.”

“That dynamic is lifting Republican hopes in the red state Senate contests central to the battle for the upper chamber. It’s also dimming Democratic prospects in the exurban and small town districts mostly on the periphery of their target list in the House. But it is simultaneously solidifying the Democratic advantage in many of the white-collar suburban seats, especially those that preferred Hillary Clinton over Trump in 2016, key to their hopes of recapturing a House majority.”

TRUMP SAYS HE IS TOO BUSY TO VISIT THE TROOPS.   President Trump told the Associated Press hat he hasn’t been able to visit military troops overseas yet because he has been “very busy.”   He has spent over 200 days golfing at his own properties over the last two years.   Very busy.   He noted that while he doesn’t think it is “overly necessary” that he visit a combat zone, he plans to do so “at some point.”

Said Trump: “I’ve been very busy with everything that’s taking place here. I’m doing a lot of things. But it’s something I’d do. And do gladly. Nobody has been better at the military. Hey, I just got them a pay raise. I haven’t had a pay raise in 11 years… I have done more for the military than any president in many, many years.”

THE APTLY NAMED CONGRESSMAN BRAT TELLS DRUG ADDICT THAT HIS LIFE IS TOUGH.   Rep. Dave Brat (R-VA) met with members of an addiction support group at a county jail and when an inmate expressed concerns about the challenges she’d face upon release, the congressman responded that he has it even worse, Think Progress reports.

Said Brat: “You think you’re having a hard time. I’ve got $5 million of negative ads against me. How do you think I’m feeling?”

He added: “Nothing’s easy for anyone. You think I’m a congressman. Oh life’s easy, this guy’s off having steaks… No one out there’s got some easy life.”

FRAUD WAS THE TRUMP ORG’S BUSINESS MODEL.  Adam Davidson: “It is becoming increasingly clear that, in the language of business schools, the Trump Organization’s core competency is in profiting from misrepresentation and deceit and, potentially, fraud.”

“This month, two incredible investigative stories have given us an opportunity to lift the hood of the Trump Organization, look inside, and begin to understand what the business of this unusual company actually is. It is not a happy picture. The Times published a remarkable report, on October 2nd, that showed that much of the profit the Trump Organization made came not from successful real-estate investment but from defrauding state and federal governments through tax fraud. This week, ProPublica and WNYC co-published a stunning story and a ‘Trump, Inc.’ podcast that can be seen as the international companion to the Times piece. They show that many of the Trump Organization’s international deals also bore the hallmarks of financial fraud, including money laundering, deceptive borrowing, outright lying to investors, and other potential crimes.”

BERNIE 2016 ALUMS NOT INTERESTED IN A 2020 RUN.  “Bernie Sanders has a problem as he decides whether to run in 2020: Many of his former staffers are looking elsewhere,” Politico reports.

“With the Vermont senator kicking off a nine-state tour on Friday with stops in Iowa, South Carolina, Nevada and California, a sizable contingent of the people who helped build his insurgent 2016 campaign is ambivalent about a second run, according to interviews with more than a dozen former staffers. Many of them are looking for a different progressive champion to finish what Sanders started.”

Kevin Drum: “If there’s a human being on the entire planet who’s earned the right to spout off about the need to crush the Republican leadership into Soylent Green and then distribute it in sacks to the poor, Hillary Clinton is it. After three decades of calmly putting up with an Augean stable’s worth of lies and attacks and assorted other forms of vicious bullshit, if she says it’s time to fight back, maybe we should listen.

[Republicans] care about nothing except kowtowing to the rich. They lie constantly about everything. They launch vile personal attacks a dozen times a day. They gerrymander and pass ID laws and refuse to let students vote and do anything else they can think of to make it harder for Democrats to cast ballots. They do all this without a smidgen of guilt and their base loves it.  But for some reason, a simple acknowledgement that Democrats could stand to be a little less civil about this produces the heebie jeebies[.]”

REFEREEING THE ELECTION WHILE RUNNING IN IT.  “In three states, the referee for the midterm elections is also on the field as a player,” McClatchy reports.

“Elected secretaries of state in Georgia and Kansas — who in their official capacities oversee the elections in their states — are running for governor. Ohio’s secretary of state is running for lieutenant governor. All are Republicans.”

“They have faced scattered calls to resign but have refused to do so. Election reformers say the situation underscores the conflict of interest when an official has responsibilities for an election while also running as a candidate.”

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

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