Open Thread

The Open Thread for November 13, 2018

MUELLER TIME?  Although it was a federal holiday today, CNN reports that at least eight prosecutors working for special counsel Robert Mueller were in the office today.

“Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former personal attorney and close associate, arrived in Washington, D.C., Monday morning, accompanied by one of his own criminal defense lawyers,” ABC News reports.

Law and Crime: “So while federal courts may be closed and there’s ‘no reason to believe; a grand jury is meeting, it’s still within the realm of possibility that Michael Cohen in D.C. + numerous Mueller prosecutors work = the precursor to something bigger.”

Jerome Corsi, a conspiracy theorist linked to Roger Stone and who was subpoenaed to testify in Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, told ABC News that he’s expecting an indictment from the special counsel soon.

Let’s also go back and review what has happened in the last few days.  President Trump moved swiftly to fire Attorney General Sessions after the midterm elections, catching most of his senior staff off-guard.  Matt Whitaker, the new acting attorney general, clearly wasn’t vetted for anything other than his opinion that special counsel Robert Mueller was overreaching.  Hours after Sessions was removed, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein went to the White House to brief the president. There was almost no coverage of what happened during that meeting.

Ever since, Trump has been in a particularly bad mood. He was grim-faced while in France over the weekend and inexplicably canceled an appearance at a military cemetery to honor U.S. troops. Now back in Washington, he skipped a visit to Arlington National Cemetery — on Veteran’s Day, of all days.   Both events would have guaranteed Trump positive media coverage acting as Commander in Chief. That’s led many to conclude that something’s up.

Former FBI agent Frank Figliuzzi, who worked with Mueller, told MSNBC that he had “a theory” about what Mueller was about to do:  “I think he’s ready to indict some folks and… those indictments will tell the story of what he’s found against the president.  I’m not saying he’s indicting the president. I’m saying there’s a middle ground where he tells us the story, locks it into the court system by indicting others, then files a report with Whitaker.”  If Rosenstein was briefing Trump on the Mueller investigation last week, then that could explain the president’s bad mood over the last few days. One report suggested that Donald Trump Jr. was telling friends that he was worried about being indicted.

RICK SCOTT LOSES IN COURT.   A judge denied Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s request in a lawsuit to impound Broward County ballot and voting machines while they were not in use, CBS Miami reported.  Scott’s Senate campaign filed two new lawsuits on Sunday asking that impound the voting machines in Broward and Palm Beach counties while officials engage in a recount of the race between Scott and Democratic incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson.

Broward Circuit Court Judge Jack Tuter denied the motion, and told both sides to come to an agreement on what they’d like to do to keep the recount secure. Tuter suggested that the Broward County Election office add three more officers to the security detail at the recount facility.

RECOUNTS LIKELY WON’T CHANGE RESULT.  Look, Nelson and Gillum lost.  We must count all the votes, and by law we have to recount them because the races were so close, but they both lost.  Tampa Bay Times: “According to an analysis by the nonpartisan group FairVote, which advocates for electoral reforms that make it easier to vote, out of 4,687 statewide general elections between 2000 and 2016, just 26 went to a recount.”

“Of those 26, just three recounts wound up changing the initial result of the race: The 2004 Washington governor’s race, the 2006 Vermont state auditor’s race and the 2008 Minnesota U.S. Senate race. The average swing in those three elections after the recounts? About 311 votes. … Essentially, Nelson — and to a greater extent, Gillum — would need a systematic error to be discovered during their recounts if their results are to be reversed.”

HOPE IN GEORGIA? Georgia Secretary of State Robyn Crittenden told county election officials to count absentee ballots even if they lack a voter’s date of birth, as long as the voter’s identity can be verified, the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports.  Brian Kemp (R) holds the lead over Stacey Abrams (D) in the race to become Georgia’s governor. Abrams would need to gain more than 20,000 votes to force the race into a runoff.

WHITAKER DOES NOT PLAN TO PULL MUELLER FUNDING.  Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker — who took over after President Trump forced Jeff Sessions to resign just hours after the midterms — has told associates in private that he will not slash funding to special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe, Bloomberg reported. 

According to a person familiar with the matter who spoke to Bloomberg, Whitaker plans to allow the investigation to continue, despite his comments last summer when he told CNN if Sessions were ousted, an acting director could reduce Mueller’s budget “so low that his investigations grind to a halt” rather than firing the special counsel.

Whitaker, who served as Sessions chief of staff, has been openly critical of the Russia probe for some time, but he has no intentions of recusing himself from overseeing the probe.

HIGH STAKES LAME DUCK. “Congress is returning to Washington this week for an end-of-the-year session that’s expected to be filled with high-stakes legislative flights and plenty of drama,” The Hill reports.  “Both chambers are set to be in session for approximately four weeks once they reconvene on Tuesday, giving lawmakers little room for error as they race to wrap up their work for this session of Congress.”

Trump’s top priority is a sweeping revision of the nation’s immigration laws. He would love to have the border wall be fully funded, cut legal immigration, reduce the number of people getting asylum, and generally make sure fewer immigrants, legal or otherwise, get in. The problem is that not all Republicans want this. In general, the business community likes having lots of immigrants because they are willing to work for less than Americans are. Senate Democrats will filibuster any plan that does not include a pathway to citizenship for the dreamers, something Miller and Trump don’t want. The most likely outcome is that as a last hurrah, the House will pass some kind of slap-dash bill but it won’t even make it to the floor of the Senate since Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) knows very well it could never pass.

DEMOCRATIC INVESTIGATION PLANS. Incoming House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff told Axios that Democrats plan to investigate whether President Trump abused White House power by targeting — and trying to punish with “instruments of state power” — the Washington Post and CNN.

Further, “the House Oversight Committee plans to investigate Donald Trump’s involvement in hush payments made to women during the 2016 presidential campaign,” ABC News reports.  “When the Democrats take control of the House in January and gain subpoena power, they plan to probe the president’s role in payments to two women who alleged during the 2016 campaign that they had affairs with Trump, according to the aide.”

“House Democrats plan to probe every aspect of President Trump’s life and work, from family business dealings to the Space Force to his tax returns to possible ‘leverage’ by Russia,” top Democrats tell Mike Allen.  “One senior Democratic source said the new majority, which takes power in January, is preparing a ‘subpoena cannon,’ like an arena T-shirt cannon.”

Axios has assembled a list of at least 85 potential Trump-related investigation and subpoena targets for the new majority

TRUMPS REJECTS MORE AID TO PUERTO RICO. “President Trump doesn’t want to give Puerto Rico any more federal money for its recovery from Hurricane Maria, White House officials have told congressional appropriators and leadership. This is because he claims, without evidence, that the island’s government is using federal disaster relief money to pay off debt,” according to Jonathan Swan.

“Trump also told senior officials last month that he would like to claw back some of the federal money Congress has already set aside for Puerto Rico’s disaster recovery, claiming mismanagement.”

HUSH PAYMENTS COULD BE IMPEACHABLE.  Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) told CNN that if President Trump is found to have violated campaign finance laws with hush payments to women then it “might very well be an impeachable offense.”   Said Nadler:  “Well, it may be an impeachable offense if it goes to the question of the President procuring his office through corrupt means. And that could be impeachable.”

But is it convictable?   In my opinion, Democrats should not pursue impeachment unless they are assured of conviction votes by 20 Republican Senators.  We will likely have 47 Democrats in the Senate, and Republicans will have 53 Senate seats.   To remove a President from office, you need 67 Senators voting to convict and remove.  47 + 20.   Republicans are not going to impeach over Stormy Daniels.  They are just not.

TRUMP WANTS MORE CAR TARIFFS. Jonathan Swan: “Trump is as jazzed as ever about hitting foreign-made cars with steep tariffs. Just about every member of his senior economic team besides Peter Navarro believes this is a terrible idea. But they haven’t swayed him.”

“With each passing month, his zest for car tariffs only swells.”

“Trump now views the threat of car tariffs as his best leverage over negotiating partners. He has privately told aides that he got a better trade deal with Canada because he threatened Prime Minister Justin Trudeau with car tariffs. And he says the same about the Europeans, according to sources briefed on his thinking.”

Wide guess: probably not.  I mean, if a Trump voter cannot win a congressional race in West Virginia, he is not going to beat Trump nationwide.

MCCONNELL FEARS ACT BLUE.  “Mitch McConnell stood before a roomful of Republican donors on Wednesday night to thank them for their help in the midterms. But the Senate leader also issued a dire warning: Democrats had just thumped them in the all-important online donor game, and the GOP badly needs to catch up,” Politico reports.

“The heart of the problem, McConnell said at the event at party headquarters on Capitol Hill, is ActBlue. The Democratic fundraising tool funneled over $700 million in small donations to House and Senate candidates over the course of the 2018 campaign. The GOP leader said Republicans were getting swamped in the hunt for online givers and that he’d charged his political team with coming up with a solution to enable them to compete in 2020.”

DEMOCRATS THINK MOST REPUBLICANS ARE RACIST, SEXIST.  Because they are.  A new Axios/Survey Monkey poll finds 61% of Democrats see Republicans as “racist/bigoted/sexist.”  Meanwhile, 31% of Republicans say they view Democrats in the same light.  ”If Americans are this convinced that the other side isn’t just wrong, but dumb and evil, they’ll never be able to find enough common ground to solve real problems. And they’re more likely to elect leaders who can’t do it, either.”

NO ONE WANTS TO RUN AGAINST PELOSI.  “The House Democratic rebels trying to keep Nancy Pelosi from becoming speaker have a big problem: They can’t seem to find someone to run against her,” Politico reports.

“The naysayers claim they have the 15 to 20 votes it would take to block Pelosi on the House floor. But so far, no one’s stepped up as an alternative, and it’s unclear who might. Also unknown is whether that person would have a prayer against the experienced Pelosi, as flawed as her detractors say she is.”

Playbook: “The internal House Democratic election is not until after Thanksgiving. Pelosi only needs half of the caucus then. The floor vote for speaker is Jan. 3 — 52 days from now.”

DEMOCRATS WILL MOVE FIRST ON HEALTHCARE.   New York Times: “House Democrats plan to hold early votes on proposals to protect people with pre-existing medical conditions, an issue they continually emphasized in midterm races. The votes will test campaign promises by Republicans who declared their support for such protections.”

“Democrats will push for the House to intervene in a lawsuit in which 20 states, with support from the Trump administration, are challenging provisions of the Affordable Care Act, including the protections for people with pre-existing conditions.”

“If the states’ lawsuit succeeds, legislation to shore up the health care law and coverage for people with pre-existing conditions could become a priority for Congress.”

NORTH KOREA SUCCESSFULLY DUPED TRUMP.  “North Korea is moving ahead with its ballistic missile program at 16 hidden bases that have been identified in new commercial satellite images, a network long known to American intelligence agencies but left undiscussed as President Trump claims to have neutralized the North’s nuclear threat,” the New York Timesreports.

“The satellite images suggest that the North has been engaged in a great deception: It has offered to dismantle a major launching site — a step it began, then halted — while continuing to make improvements at more than a dozen others that would bolster launches of conventional and nuclear warheads.” Said Trump, just last week: “We are in no rush. The sanctions are on. The missiles have stopped. The rockets have stopped. The hostages are home.”

COREY GARDNER IN DANGER.  Aside from Susan Collins, Gardner is probably the most endangered GOP Senators in 2020.   Denver Post: “Before the election, Colorado Republicans controlled the state Senate, occupied three of the state’s five statewide offices and held five of the state’s nine seats in Congress. Then nearly 900,000 unaffiliated voters cast their ballots and handed decisive victories to Democrats.”

Colorado GOP strategists say Sen. Corey Gardner’s (R-CO) “re-election prospects are grim unless the party can develop a new message that appeals to both the Trump loyalists and the independent voters who dislike the president.”

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

3 comments on “The Open Thread for November 13, 2018

  1. cassandram

    The New Republic article has some important ideas, but misses the mark on a few. First off, if we are talking about Democratic “identity politics” we should also talk about the fact those politics would not exist except in opposition to the OG of “identity politics” from the right — white supremacy. Second, we should list to Cheri Bustos who wants to think small because a defense crouch is what is good for her. But folks much like her constituents voted for referenda that expanded Medicaid, increased minimum wages, restored voting rights for felons which says to me that there is some room out there for a more progressive — or maybe a more people-oriented agenda. A focus on fixing the long-term issues of middle class and working class people — and make sure they know you have heard them. The House can pass a good deal of this kind of thing and while the Senate and the WH may stop it, it gives Dems a narrative for 2020. A narrative that clearly shows Dems working for the many while the Rs in the Senate and WH are having a temper tantrum.

    • I think you missed the point of the article, because it seems to be saying the same thing you are. It doesn’t actually criticize identity politics that I could see.

      • cassandram

        I am interested in contextualizing “identity politics” so that this is not a tic of Democrats or one of our current fads, but to remind folks that it only exists in opposition to white supremacy. Said contextualization makes it harder to pretend that this is all Democrats are concerned with or that there is some utility in not paying attention to it or that it is the reason why any of this stuff fails. I do think that the author does advocate for a robust people-centric agenda and is good at reminding people that none of this gets through the Senate or a WH pen.

Leave a Reply