Open Thread

The Open Thread for November 21, 2018

“President Trump told the White House counsel in the spring that he wanted to order the Justice Department to prosecute two of his political adversaries: his 2016 challenger, Hillary Clinton, and the former F.B.I. director James Comey,” the New York Times reports.

“The lawyer, Donald McGahn, rebuffed the president, saying that he had no authority to order a prosecution. Mr. McGahn said that while he could request an investigation, that too could prompt accusations of abuse of power.”

Per the Times, Trump asked McGahn in their conversation about potentially prosecuting Clinton and Comey “what stopped him from ordering” investigations of the pair. McGahn responded that the move would create a damaging backlash, and followed up with a memo saying as much. The memo outlined potential congressional investigations in Trump’s abuse of power and, potentially, blow back at the ballot box, the Times said.

President Trump said in a statement today that whether or not Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the U.S. will stand by Saudi Arabia.  The statement was wild even for Trump, and indicates that Trump likely dictated it himself.  Give it a read.

Zack Beauchamp says the statement is a green light to all dictators around the world to kill as many journalists and dissidents as they see fit: “Trump is overtly stating that whether or not MBS ordered the Khashoggi hit, it doesn’t matter: He believes Saudi Arabia is an important ally and doesn’t care what they do so long as they help with Trump’s priorities. In this case, those priorities are countering Iran, fighting terrorism, and “keeping oil prices at reasonable levels — so important for the world.”

There’s only one reasonable conclusion from this: The United States doesn’t care how friendly dictators treat their own people, even if that means murdering a US resident like Khashoggi. And indeed, Trump’s final lines all but explicitly say this:

“As President of the United States I intend to ensure that, in a very dangerous world, America is pursuing its national interests and vigorously contesting countries that wish to do us harm. Very simply it is called America First!”

This conclusion captures the enormity of the statement. Everything from siding with a dictator over US intelligence to the moral repulsiveness of the geopolitical logic to even the juvenile writing style screams an obvious fact: A man who released this under his name is not fit to run the world’s oldest democracy and most powerful country.”

Most Want Legislation to Protect Robert Mueller.  A new CBS News poll finds that 52% of Americans think Congress should pass legislation to protect the special counsel in charge of the Russia investigation from being fired, including three out of four Democrats and most independents.  Sixty-seven percent of Republicans, however, disagree.

Most Democrats want Pelosi as Speaker.  The CBS News poll finds 49% of Democrats nationwide think Nancy Pelosi should become the next speaker of the House, while 40% would prefer another Democrat.

Trump’s approval rating in the poll is down to 39%.

“Attorneys for President Trump said that they turned over his answers to a series of questions from special counsel Robert Mueller about the president’s knowledge of the Russian government’s efforts to assist his 2016 White House bid,” the Washington Post reports.

“The inquiries address only a portion of the questions that Mueller has sought to pose to Trump for nearly a year, when he first requested an interview with president.”

Democratic Operatives are Eager to join Biden’s 2020 Campaign.   NBC News: “Democrats’ 2020 field could number in the dozens, and the decision from Biden, more than any other Democratic heavyweight, will determine how large it becomes. A close-knit team of aides has been working quietly to put Biden in position to wage a presidential campaign if he chooses to do so. But their preparations can only go so far without a final decision, expected by mid-January.”

“A top Biden aide told NBC News that Democratic operatives eager to join a Biden campaign have been reaching out to the political team. Some say they’ve received offers from other potential contenders — Booker was interviewing potential campaign managers just last week — but that they would hold out for Biden if he’s going to make the jump. No commitments are being made, the aide said.”

Judge Bars Trump’s Asylum Ban.  “A federal judge barred the Trump administration on Monday from refusing asylum to immigrants who cross the southern border illegally,” the AP reports.

“U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar issued a temporary restraining order after hearing arguments in San Francisco. The request was made by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Constitutional Rights, which quickly sued after President Trump issued the ban this month in response to the caravans of migrants that have started to arrive at the U.S.-Mexico border.”

Beto Opens the Door.  TMZ caught up with Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-TX) “strolling around Capitol Hill and asked him straight-up if he’s planning to run for Prez in 2020… and the rocker-turned-politician left the door wide open.”

Trump impressed with Whitaker’s “courage.” Jonathan Swan: “President Trump has been telling people privately that he’s impressed by the ‘courage’ acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker is showing in the face of burgeoning legal challenges and questions about his history of publicly criticizing the Mueller investigation.”

Said a source familiar with Trump’s thinking: “Clearly what he likes about him is he’s holding his ground, not running for the tall grass.”

“Trump has shown no great urgency to settle on a permanent replacement for Jeff Sessions and seems happy with Whitaker’s current status.”

Mississippi Senate Race devolves into a close bare knuckle racial brawl.   “Republicans hoped to spend the final days of the special election in Mississippi coronating Cindy Hyde-Smith as the first woman to represent the state in the Senate. Instead, the race has become a bare-knuckle brawl infused with ugly racial politics,” Politico reports.

“Hyde-Smith’s comments about attending a public hanging and suppressing liberal votes — remarks she maintained were made in jest — have upended a contest that a week ago was seen as a mere formality for the GOP.”

New York Times: “Facing an uproar in a state divided by race and deeply scarred by a history of lynchings carried out against African-Americans, Ms. Hyde-Smith has since retreated from the campaign trail, ducking reporters’ questions and declining to apologize.”

A Recession is Coming.   The Hill: “Goldman Sachs on Monday issued a report projecting GDP growth will slow to 1.8 percent and 1.6 percent in the third and fourth quarters of 2019, sooner than anticipated and creating a major headwind for GOP candidates the following year.”

Show, Don’t Tell.  Mike Allen: “Incoming House Democratic leaders are being warned to emphasize the findings of their Trump administration investigations rather than the mechanics, like subpoenas and document requests.”

“The polling shows that with the country so closely divided, Democrats could easily overplay their hands as they revel in their new clout.”  From a strategy blueprint from Navigator Research: “Show — don’t tell. Too much focus on the investigative process rather than the findings could tarnish public perceptions.”


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

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