Open Thread

The Open Thread for 12/8/2018

THE COHEN AND MANAFORT MEMOS.  Federal prosecutors Friday requested that the court impose “a substantial term of imprisonment” for Donald Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen, CNN reports.

Prosecutors said the crimes Cohen had committed “marked a pattern of deception that permeated his professional life,” and though he was seeking a reduced sentence for providing assistance to the government, he did not deserve much leniency.  Said prosecutors: “He was motivated to do so by personal greed, and repeatedly used his power and influence for deceptive ends.”

Special counsel Robert Mueller credited Michael Cohen with significant cooperation — including providing “useful information concerning certain discrete Russia-related matters core to its investigation that he obtained by virtue of his regular contact” with Trump organization executives during the campaign, as well as “relevant and useful information concerning his contacts with persons connected to the White House during the 2017–2018 time period,” the Washington Post reports.

They revealed that Cohen told them of what seemed to be a previously unknown November 2015 contact from a Russian national, who claimed to be a “trusted person” in the Russian Federation offering the campaign “political synergy” and “synergy on a government level.”

Read the Special Counsel’s Memo and the SDNY Memo at the links.

Special counsel Robert Mueller in a court filing Friday detailed for a judge the lies former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort allegedly told investigators, including after he agreed to cooperate with the special counsel.   Mueller said Manafort lied about his communications with Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russian national who had worked closely with Manafort on his consulting projects in Ukraine, as well as about his contact with Administration officials. Manafort also lied about a wire transfer made by a firm working for him, according to Mueller, and about “information pertinent to another Department of Justice investigation.”

Mueller goes into more detail about those allegedly false statements, though much of that section of the court filing is redacted. However, the section about his lies about his contacts with the administration is presented in full. Texts show that Manafort in May 2018 has “authorized a person to speak to an Administration official on his behalf,” and another Manafort colleague said that Manafort in February 2018 claimed to have been in contact with a senior Administration official. Manafort, in his interviews with Mueller prosecutors, had denied any contact — direct or indirect — with officials currently in the administration.

Garrett Graff: “We are deep into the worst case scenarios. But as new sentencing memos for Trump associates Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen make all too clear, the only remaining question is how bad does the actual worst case scenario get?”

“The potential innocent explanations for Donald Trump’s behavior over the last two years have been steadily stripped away, piece by piece. Special counsel Robert Mueller and investigative reporters have uncovered and assembled a picture of a presidential campaign and transition seemingly infected by unprecedented deceit and criminality, and in regular—almost obsequious—contact with America’s leading foreign adversary.”

TRUMP NOMINATES BARR TO AG.   President Trump announced Friday that he will nominate former Attorney General William Barr to be attorney general again.  “He was my first choice since day one,” Trump said. “He’ll be nominated.”  Barr previously served as attorney general under President George H.W. Bush. If confirmed, he would replace acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker, who was named to the role after Trump fired former Attorney General Jeff Sessions last month.  Regardless, Barr’s confirmation process is likely to take months.

TRUMP NOMINATES FOX NEWS ANCHOR TO UN.  “President Trump has decided to nominate State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert to replace departing United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley,” Bloomberg reports.

“Nauert, 48, is an unorthodox choice for the UN role given that she had little experience in government or foreign policy before joining the administration in April 2017 after several years as an anchor and correspondent for Fox News, including on the Fox and Friends show watched by Trump.”

KELLY OUT… AGAIN?  We have had so many fucking stories about John Kelly and whether he is staying or going.  So how about one more.  “John Kelly is expected to resign as White House chief of staff in the coming days,” CNN reports.

“Seventeen months in, Kelly and President Trump have reached a stalemate in their relationship and it is no longer seen as tenable by either party. Though Trump asked Kelly over the summer to stay on as chief of staff for two more years, the two have stopped speaking in recent days.”

New York Times: “Mr. Kelly and Mr. Trump have grown weary with each other. But Mr. Trump, according to several senior administration officials and people close to him, has so far been unable to bring himself to personally fire a retired four-star military general.”

“IT VIOLATES THE LAW.”  “So often, the president would say here’s what I want to do and here’s how I want to do it and I would have to say to him, Mr. President I understand what you want to do but you can’t do it that way. It violates the law.”

— Former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, quoted by the Houston Chronicle.

TRUMP RAGE TWEETED ALL FRIDAY MORNING.  If President Trump’s tweets this morning are an indication, he’s bracing for bad news in the three court filings expected to be made by special counsel Robert Mueller and prosecutors in the Southern District of New York today.

Said Trump: “Robert Mueller and Leakin’ Lyin’ James Comey are Best Friends, just one of many Mueller Conflicts of Interest. And bye the way, wasn’t the woman in charge of prosecuting Jerome Corsi (who I do not know) in charge of ‘legal’ at the corrupt Clinton Foundation? A total Witch Hunt…”

He goes on: “Will Robert Mueller’s big time conflicts of interest be listed at the top of his Republicans only Report. Will Andrew Weissman’s horrible and vicious prosecutorial past be listed in the Report. He wrongly destroyed people’s lives, took down great companies, only to be overturned, 9-0, in the United States Supreme Court. Doing same thing to people now. Will all of the substantial & many contributions made by the 17 Angry Democrats to the Campaign of Crooked Hillary be listed in top of Report.”

First Read: “Somebody is clearly worried…”

THE COMEY HEARING.  Talking Points Memo: “Former FBI Director James Comey told reporters on Capitol Hill Friday afternoon that members of two House committees who questioned him behind closed doors largely asked about the Hillary Clinton email probe.  “I’m not sure we needed to do this at all,” Comey said after exiting his interview with the House Oversight and Judiciary Committees.

Comey also explained that the FBI had asked him not to discuss certain aspects of the Russia probe, since it’s still ongoing, but that it was not a large part of the interview on Friday.  “That’s a very teeny part of what we talked about — a whole lot of Hillary Clinton emails, which will bore you,” he said.”

WASPS COULD AFFORD TO BE HUMBLE AND MAGNANIMOUS.   Fareed Zakaria: “The death of George H.W. Bush has occasioned a fair amount of nostalgia for the old American establishment, of which Bush was undoubtedly a prominent member. It has also provoked a heated debate among commentators about that establishment, whose membership was determined largely by bloodlines and connections. You had to be a white Anglo-Saxon Protestant to ascend to almost any position of power in the United States until the early 1960s. Surely, there is nothing good to say about a system that was so discriminatory toward everyone else?”

“Actually, there is. For all its faults — and it was often horribly bigoted, in some places segregationist and almost always exclusionary — at its best, the old WASP aristocracy did have a sense of modesty, humility and public-spiritedness that seems largely absent in today’s elite. Many of Bush’s greatest moments — his handling of the fall of communism, his decision not to occupy Iraq after the first Gulf War, his acceptance of tax increases to close the deficit — were marked by restraint, an ability to do the right thing despite enormous pressure to pander to public opinion.”

“But, and here is the problem, it is likely these virtues flowed from the nature of that old elite. The aristocracy was secure in its power and position, so it could afford to think about the country’s fate in broad terms, looking out for the longer term, rising above self-interest — because its own interest was assured.”

WISCONSIN GOP GOT LITTLE FOR ALL THE DAMAGE THEY HAVE SUFFERED.   Charles Sykes: “The Wisconsin GOP’s lame-duck power play was not the death of democracy. But it was bad enough: petty, vindictive, and self-destructive. It was, as the saying goes, worse than a crime. It was a blunder. And for what?”

“In its arrogant insularity, the Wisconsin GOP became a national symbol of win-at-all-costs, norms-be-damned politics. Cut through the overwrought rhetoric and what did the Republican legislators actually accomplish? Not really a whole lot; certainly not enough to justify the political damage they’ve inflicted on themselves. They have managed to energize the progressive base, expose themselves as sore losers, and undermine crucial democratic norms. And in return … they got extraordinarily little.”

TRUMP’S TRIO OF TRAPS.  Jonathan Swan: “President Trump faces three clear and imminent threats as he heads toward his 2020 reelection race — the economy slipping, Congress flipping and a Russia probe drip, drip, dripping. And few inside the White House feel he is yet prepared or staffed for the hell about to hit them.”

“The combination of hazards bearing down on the president are more intense than at any previous point in his presidency.”

“One sign of a new sense of urgency: West Wing officials widely believe that chief of staff John Kelly’s departure is imminent and that Nick Ayers, chief of staff to Vice President Pence, will replace him.”

O’ROURKE RAISED $80M.  Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-TX) ended up raising an astonishing $80.1 million in his failed bid to unseat Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), the Dallas Morning News reports.

“The final tally, released late Thursday, is sure to intensify speculation that O’Rourke could mount a campaign in 2020 against President Trump.”

“Much of the attention on O’Rourke has focused on a frenetic campaign style that helped him come within three points of toppling Cruz — the best a Democrat has done statewide in Texas in years — and a social-media-friendly charisma that captivated liberals all over the U.S.”

MINNESOTA MULLING MAIL IN PRESIDENTIAL PRIMARY RATHER THAN CAUCUS.  Good.  No more caucuses.  “Minnesota officials are considering mail-only ballots for the state’s 2020 presidential primary, which would be a dramatic change from the state’s often chaotic and time-consuming party caucuses,” the Minneapolis Star Tribunereports.

“Beginning in 2020, Minnesota will switch to a more straightforward primary system that allows voters to cast ballots for their preferred choice for president rather than jam into classrooms and community centers for their party caucuses. Most other states use a primary system, but Minnesota has done so only a handful of times.”

A new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist Poll finds that 71% of Republicans agree with President Trump that special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation in a “witch hunt,” while 55% of independents and 82% of Democrats see the investigation as “fair.”

Said pollster Lee Miringoff: “The base is solidified, but that doesn’t get you more than that.”

Key finding: “In the poll, for the first time, more Americans said they view Mueller more negatively than positively, 29% favorable, 33% unfavorable. That’s a net 7-point decline from the summer, when Mueller was 33% positive and 30% negative.”

SENATOR-ELECT HAWLEY ALREADY UNDER INVESTIGATION.  Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft (R) has launched an investigation into the way Attorney General Josh Hawley (R) ran his office, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.  Ashcroft is looking into accusations that Hawley may have “used public funds as Attorney General to support his candidacy for U.S. Senate.”

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

4 comments on “The Open Thread for 12/8/2018

  1. “….. America’s leading foreign adversary.”

    Oh… it was the Russians who off-shored our auto industry, engineered the 2008 meltdown and wrote the Electoral College into the COTUS.

  2. “Foreign” doesn’t mean what you apparently think it does.

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