Open Thread

The Open Thread for November 29, 2018

President Trump told the New York Post that he’s never discussed a pardon for Paul Manafort, but it’s “not off the table.”  Said Trump: “It was never discussed, but I wouldn’t take it off the table. Why would I take it off the table?”  This is, of course, a lie.  According to reporting from the Washington Post’s Michael Schmidt, he has discussed it.

He also charged that Manafort, Roger Stone and Jerome Corsi were all asked to lie by the special counsel: “You know this flipping stuff is terrible. You flip and you lie and you get – the prosecutors will tell you 99 percent of the time they can get people to flip. It’s rare that they can’t.”  Trump has a joint defense agreement with leading birther conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi, the Daily Beast reports.

“A lawyer for Paul Manafort, the president’s onetime campaign chairman, repeatedly briefed President Trump’s lawyers on his client’s discussions with federal investigators after Mr. Manafort agreed to cooperate with the special counsel,” the New York Times reports.

“The arrangement was highly unusual and inflamed tensions with the special counsel’s office when prosecutors discovered it after Mr. Manafort began cooperating two months ago… Some legal experts speculated that it was a bid by Mr. Manafort for a presidential pardon even as he worked with the special counsel, Robert Mueller, in hopes of a lighter sentence.”

Aaron Blake: “Once you agree to cooperate with the government, your interests no longer align (and often clash) with other subjects of the investigation, and such ‘joint defense agreements’ are usually instantly voided. That’s what happened when Michael Flynn flipped last year and with Michael Cohen this year. But that’s not the same as saying anyone involved will be punished — especially if they never misrepresented what they were doing.”

“There is another possible legal consequence, though, and it involves the broader obstruction of justice investigation. Basically, Mueller’s team could decide that this arrangement has amounted to witness tampering or obstruction, or that it adds to a mountain of evidence on that latter count.”

Trump “told special counsel Robert Mueller in writing that Roger Stone did not tell him about WikiLeaks, nor was he told about the 2016 Trump Tower meeting between his son, campaign officials and a Russian lawyer promising dirt on Hillary Clinton,” CNN reports.  “One source described the President’s answers without providing any direct quotes and said the President made clear he was answering to the best of his recollection.”

“The list of questions special counsel Robert Mueller submitted to President Donald Trump included a query about a controversial change to the Republican party’s convention platform in June 2016 regarding the U.S. providing arms to Ukraine,” ABC News reports.  “Sources tell ABC News the president told Mueller he was not aware of the platform change to the best of his recollection.”

Garrett Graff tells Axios there are at least six signs special counsel Robert Mueller is moving towards more indictments:

  1. Mueller is tightening the screws on Jerome Corsi, a friend of former Trump adviser Roger Stone. A plea deal — or charges — appear imminent.
  2. Ecuador may be moving toward turning over WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. The government removed its Assange-backing U.K. ambassador last week, and has prohibited his lawyers from meeting with him.
  3. Russian spy and NRA superfan Maria Butina is reported to be in talks for a plea deal.
  4. A number of Mueller’s prosecutors were hard at work on Veterans Day —when Michael Cohen took the train to Washington to talk to Mueller’s team.
  5. ABC News reported an “unusually high” number — nearly three dozen, in fact — of sealed indictments filed over the course of the year in D.C. Fourteen of those have been added since August, a period when Mueller’s investigation was publicly quiet.
  6. And this big one: President Trump last week finally turned in long-awaited written answers to Mueller’s investigators.

“President Trump compared the prosecutions of Robert Mueller to those in the McCarthy era on Wednesday, continuing his relentless attacks on the special counsel investigating possible coordination between Russia and Trump’s 2016 campaign,” the Washington Post reports.  In a morning tweet, Trump also claimed that “major players” under investigation have “intimated” that Mueller’s team “is viciously telling witnesses to lie about facts & they will get relief.”

“The tweet marked the third straight day in which Trump has taken to Twitter in an attempt to discredit Mueller, who is also examining whether the president has tried to obstruct the investigation.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said he “would start voting against priority items for completing the Senate’s work if he is not properly briefed by the CIA about the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi,” Roll Call reports.  Said Graham: “I’m talking about any key vote. Anything that you need me for to get out of town, I ain’t doing it until we hear from the CIA.”

President Trump “feels no urgency to nominate a new attorney general and is content with Matthew Whitaker in place as acting head of the Department,” Bloomberg reports.

“He isn’t concerned by demands to move quickly to nominate a successor to fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions from key Republican senators including Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley and Lindsey Graham, who is set to take over the panel in January… Trump has had conversations with many advisers about potential nominees, but no clear frontrunner has emerged… He’s been satisfied with Whitaker’s performance and that is one reason for his unhurried pace.”

Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta, then a federal prosecutor, crafted a plea deal in 2007 for Jeffrey Epstein that was meant to conceal the sexual abuse of as many as 80 underage girls, the Miami Herald reports.  “Not only would Epstein serve just 13 months in the county jail, but the deal — called a non-prosecution agreement — essentially shut down an ongoing FBI probe into whether there were more victims and other powerful people who took part in Epstein’s sex crimes.”

“The pact required Epstein to plead guilty to two prostitution charges in state court. Epstein and four of his accomplices named in the agreement received immunity from all federal criminal charges. But even more unusual, the deal included wording that granted immunity to ‘any potential co-conspirators’’ who were also involved in Epstein’s crimes.”

“As part of the arrangement, Acosta agreed, despite a federal law to the contrary, that the deal would be kept from the victims.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has cleared a key hurdle in her quest to seize back the speaker’s gavel, winning the support of the vast majority of her caucus in a closed-door vote Wednesday afternoon.  Pelosi secured the support of 203 Democrats, with just 32 members of her caucus opposing her and three submitting blank votes.

The real test will come on Jan. 3, when Pelosi needs to win a majority of the entire House to become speaker. To do so, she can afford to lose just 17 Democratic votes. She and her allies have been working hard behind the scenes to twist enough arms and offer enough perks to recalcitrant members to keep that number to a minimum.

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) was elected Democratic Caucus chairman Wednesday, defeating Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) for the No. 5 leadership post in a 123-113 vote, Politico reports.  Jeffries, 48, has been in Congress for only six years but is already often mentioned by younger members as a future party leader.

CNN: The calls from wealthy Democratic donors, influential party bosses and long-time supporters alike are coming in this week to Rep. Kathleen Rice, the New York Democrat who’s trying to mount a coup against Nancy Pelosi.”  “And they all carry a similar message: Get behind Nancy Pelosi.”

“Rice, who’s helping to lead a faction of roughly 18 Democrats who say they won’t support Pelosi, is getting a small taste of the furious onslaught waged by Pelosi and her allies to lock down support, limit defections and ensure that she will once again reclaim the speaker’s gavel she first wielded more than a decade ago.”

First Read: “In [Tuesday]’s Senate runoff in Mississippi, appointed Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS) defeated Democrat Mike Espy by 8 points, 54% to 46%. That’s down from President Trump’s 18-point advantage in the state in 2016 and former Sen. Thad Cochran’s 22-point win there in 2014.”

“Indeed, Espy’s 10-point overperformance from the 2016 presidential results is close to the average of Democrats’ showing in the eight other major special elections of the 2018 cycle – from GA-6 to the Roy Moore vs. Doug Jones Senate race in Alabama.”

Nathan Gonzalez: “Republicans were fortunate that most of them took place in GOP-friendly territory or they would have lost more of them.”

First Read: “With Hyde-Smith’s victory in Mississippi last night, the GOP will hold a 53-47 Senate majority next year (up from the 52-48 advantage they held to begin the 2018 cycle).”

“So here’s the Senate math you need to memorize for 2020: If Democrats win the White House, they will need a net of three pickups to control the chamber (since the vice president can break 50-50 ties in the Senate). But if they lose the White House, they will need to net four seats for control.”

“The early Senate battlegrounds for 2020: Alabama (D), Arizona (R), Colorado (R), Georgia (R), Iowa (R), Maine (R), Michigan (D) and North Carolina (R).”

“President Trump told House Republican leaders on Tuesday that Congress must accede to his demand to include $5 billion for a southern border wall in a hefty year-end spending bill, intensifying a fight over one of his signature campaign promises that could lead to a partial government shutdown next week,” the New York Times reports.

“With less than 10 working days to wrestle out the details of an anticipated seven-bill spending package and deliver a measure to the president’s desk, Democrats have shown little sign of giving in to Mr. Trump’s demands. But House Republican leaders said after a private White House meeting that Mr. Trump would not back down, and sought to turn Democrats’ opposition against them.”

Playbook: “Not only does Trump seem a bit more dug in than before, he sounds more convinced than ever that the wall fight is good for him — something that Republican leaders have traditionally pushed back on. This means Democrats and Republicans are billions apart at the outset of the lame-duck session.”

“Plus, the president said the $5 billion he wants is just for the wall. Republicans, though, believe they can spread the $5 billion out over some time — but he told House Republican leaders he wasn’t happy about that either. If he doesn’t get $5 billion somehow, a shutdown seems almost unavoidable.”

“I don’t do anything just for political gain. But I will tell you politically speaking, that issue is a total winner. People look at the border, they look at the rush to the police, they look at the rock throwers and really hurting three people, three very brave Border Patrol folks — I think that it’s a tremendous issue, but much more importantly, is really needed.” — President Trump, in an interview with Politico, on threatening to shut down the government over funding for a border wall.

Boston Globe: “Moulton, who’s emerged as the unofficial leader of the group trying to dislodge Pelosi, may find himself in a jam, and perhaps a pariah in the party caucus, if she is able to quell the dissent in her ranks as her allies confidently predict. The question for him isn’t just how defeat will play inside the House but also what it will look like outside the Beltway, where his larger ambitions may well lie.”

“Much will depend on the tone he sets when this contretemps is done; will he beat a retreat or carry on as a critic? Certainly, the Marine veteran has been aggressive to this point, deploying every weapon in his arsenal against the longtime Democratic leader, prompting blowback from liberal pundits and some of his own constituents. He recruited House candidates who largely repudiated Pelosi on the trail, gathered signatures on a letter opposing her, and went on a media blitz warning of the dangers to Democrats if she’s reelected.”

“An intense behind-the-scenes power struggle over who will become Donald Trump’s top congressional defender is coming to a head as two Freedom Caucus leaders and their allies pressure senior Republicans to give them two top committee posts,” Politico reports.

“Rep. Jim Jordan has formally launched a bid to become the top Republican lawmaker on the House Judiciary Committee, according to two leadership sources, while Rep. Mark Meadows is going for the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.”

“President Trump placed responsibility for recent stock market declines and this week’s General Motors plant closures and layoffs on the Federal Reserve during an interview Tuesday, shirking any personal blame for cracks in the economy and declaring that he is ‘not even a little bit happy’ with his hand-selected central bank chairman,” the Washington Post reports.

“Trump complained at length about Federal Reserve Chairman Jay Powell, whom he nominated earlier this year. When asked about declines on Wall Street and GM’s announcement that it was laying off 15 percent of its workforce, Trump responded by criticizing higher interest rates and other Fed policies, though he insisted that he is not worried about a recession.”

Said Trump: “I’m doing deals, and I’m not being accommodated by the Fed. They’re making a mistake because I have a gut, and my gut tells me more sometimes than anybody else’s brain can ever tell me.”

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

4 comments on “The Open Thread for November 29, 2018

  1. @Cassandram: truth hurts??

  2. RE Vanella

    Not as much as my reminding you hiw much I’m anticipating your passing. That seems to hurt you a lot more.

    It happens to everyone, bud. We all die.

    Just know that after you die, we’re going party.

    Now, wringe & gnash & cry you anonymous coward. Beg for my banishment. Quote the Bible!

    Dance monkey, dance….

    • Oh, so you read what I wrote, WOW! I didn’t beg for your banishment. I think this blog is better than that and there should be a bit of civility.

  3. RE Vanella


Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: