Open Thread

The Open Thread for 12/9/2018

President Trump confirmed that White House Chief of Staff John Kelly “will leave by the end of the year, capping the retired Marine general’s rocky tenure as the president’s top aide,” the Washington Post reports.

“Trump had previously said Kelly would serve as his chief of staff through 2020, but their clashes were an open secret. Nick Ayers, who currently serves as Vice President Pence’s chief of staff, is widely expected to be Kelly’s replacement.”

“For the past month, Nick Ayers has been a White House chief of staff in waiting. President Trump informally offered Ayers a job as his top aide during a private huddle at an election night party in the White House residence last month. Several White House staff and advisers were within earshot and overheard the conversation, which included First Lady Melania Trump, and its details were described to Politico by two people briefed on them. It seemed like a done deal, except for one complication: The position wasn’t open yet.”

“John Kelly was still hanging on to the job, however tenuously. White House officials now believe that will finally change, saying they expect Kelly to exit any day now. That would seem to clear the way for Ayers. But the lag time allowed a month-long lobbying campaign both for and against the 36-year-old Ayers, currently Vice President Mike Pence’s top aide. Ayers’ detractors — who consider him nakedly ambitious and untrustworthy — have lobbied Trump against following through on the offer.”

Bloomberg: “Trump has made it known that he will not force Kelly out but is prepared to let him leave in his own time, people familiar with the situation said. Some think Kelly’s departure may come quickly, though it could also slip until after the holidays.”

However, according to the Wall Street Journal, Trump president told one of his associates on Thursday night: “Stop calling John for anything. Call Nick. He’s my guy.”

Jonathan Swan: “The most important phrase Trump said in his brief remarks to reporters today was that Kelly’s replacement ‘might be on an interim basis.’”

New York Times: “Nick Ayers has told Mr. Trump that he would serve on an interim basis through the spring, when his family will return to Georgia, according to people familiar with the discussions. But Mr. Trump, who frets about the image of a White House in constant chaos, wants a full-time replacement and is eager for Mr. Ayers to stay for the duration.”

“If the president ultimately turns to another candidate, potential choices include the Treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin; his budget director, Mick Mulvaney; and the United States trade representative, Robert Lighthizer.”

“As the stock market churned this week, President Trump anxiously called advisers both inside and outside the White House looking for validation that his talks with China were not driving the sell-off,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“Fresh off what he described as a ‘historic’ weekend meeting with China’s President Xi Jinping, Mr. Trump has questioned why the markets weren’t reacting more positively to the news of his potential breakthrough with Beijing. In consulting with advisers, he remained convinced that the volatility wasn’t his own doing, but rather, the product of the Federal Reserve’s plan to raise the benchmark interest rate.”

“But investors—and many within his administration—saw it differently… Publicly, Mr. Trump has often dismissed market fluctuations as part of a natural correction, but several people close to the president say he places as much importance on the health of the Dow Jones Industrial Average for validation of his job performance as he does with his polling numbers.”

“White House chief of staff John Kelly was interviewed by special counsel Robert Mueller’s team in recent months,” CNN reports.

“Kelly responded to a narrow set of questions from special counsel investigators after White House lawyers initially objected to Mueller’s request to do the interview earlier this summer.”

“Kelly is the latest high-ranking White House official known to provide information for Mueller’s investigation, though his interview marks a departure of sorts since Kelly didn’t join the White House until July 2017. Most of the dozens of other interviews have been with people who were associated with the Trump campaign, were part of the transition or served in the early part of the administration.”

Ken White: “The president said on Twitter that Friday’s news ‘totally clears the President. Thank you!’ It does not. Manafort and Cohen are in trouble, and so is Trump. The special counsel’s confidence in his ability to prove Manafort a liar appears justified, which leaves Manafort facing what amounts to a life sentence without any cooperation credit. The Southern District’s brief suggests that Cohen’s dreams of probation are not likely to come true.”

“All three briefs show the special counsel and the Southern District closing in on President Trump and his administration. They’re looking into campaign contact with Russia, campaign-finance fraud in connection with paying off an adult actress, and participation in lying to Congress. A Democratic House of Representatives, just days away, strains at the leash to help. The game’s afoot.”

Mike Allen: “The flashing siren in the ‘known knowns’ of the Russia probe is how often people close to Vladimir Putin approached people close to Donald J. Trump — and how often they gladly connected. And then lied about it.”

Former FBI Director James Comey told House lawmakers that he and special counsel Robert Mueller are “not friends in any social sense,” dismissing President Trump’s assertion that they are “Best Friends,” Politico reports.

Said Comey: “I admire the heck out of the man, but I don’t know his phone number, I’ve never been to his house, I don’t know his children’s names.”

He added: “I think I had a meal once alone with him in a restaurant. I like him. I am not a — I’m an associate of his who admires him greatly. We’re not friends in any social sense.”

“Senior American officials were worried. Since the early months of the Trump administration, Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and Middle East adviser, had been having private, informal conversations with Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the favorite son of Saudi Arabia’s king,” the New York Times reports.

“Given Mr. Kushner’s political inexperience, the private exchanges could make him susceptible to Saudi manipulation… In an effort to tighten practices at the White House, a new chief of staff tried to reimpose longstanding procedures stipulating that National Security Council staff members should participate in all calls with foreign leaders.”

“But even with the restrictions in place, Mr. Kushner, 37, and Prince Mohammed, 33, kept chatting… In fact, they said, the two men were on a first-name basis, calling each other Jared and Mohammed in text messages and phone calls.”

Nick Ayers, the leading candidate to be President Trump’s next chief of staff, has a net worth of $12.2 million to $54.8 million — “a huge fortune for a self-made career political operative in his 30s,” the New York Times reports.

“His wealth, accumulated partly through a complicated web of political and consulting companies in which he held ownership stakes, evoked to some the swamp that Mr. Trump has pledged to drain, though Mr. Ayers also holds significant investments in other sectors, including farmland in his native Georgia worth $2.5 million to $11 million.”

The possibility of Trump picking Ayers “has prompted grumbling from within the White House and Washington’s Republican professional class, where critics have long cast him as more focused on expanding his reputation and bank account than effective management.”

“A growing number of Republicans fear that a battery of new revelations in the far-reaching Russia investigation has dramatically heightened the legal and political danger to Donald Trump’s presidency — and threatens to consume the rest of the party as well,” the Washington Post reports.

“Trump remains headstrong in his belief that he can outsmart adversaries and weather any threats, according to advisers. In the Russia probe, he continues to roar denials, dubiously proclaiming that the latest allegations of wrongdoing by his former associates ‘totally clear‘ him.”

“But anxiety is spiking among Republican allies, who complain that Trump and the White House have no real plan for dealing with the Russia crisis while confronting a host of other troubles at home and abroad.”

“The FBI’s counterintelligence investigation into potential ties between the Trump campaign and Russia initially focused on four Americans and whether they were connected to Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election, former FBI Director James Comey told lawmakers during hours of closed-door questioning,” the AP reports.

“Comey did not identify the Americans but said President Trump, then the Republican candidate, was not among them.”

Politico: “White House aides predicted that Nick Ayers, if tapped despite internal opposition to his selection, would focus the West Wing almost entirely on the president’s reelection effort.”

Said one former White House official: “You’re going to have a White House that’s all politics all the time.”

Also interesting: “Ayers himself, however, is a polarizing figure within the West Wing whose rise has already sparked controversy. Several aides have told the president they would quit if he is tapped for the job, with one predicting a ‘melee of backstabbing’ to come.”

NPR: “Cohen told Mueller’s office about what the document calls ‘attempts’ by Russians to make contacts with the Trump team, including a meeting in November 2015 in which a Russian national offered ‘political synergy’ with Moscow.”

“The person alluded to the potential Trump Tower project in Russia, prosecutors wrote, describing the ‘phenomenal’ benefit that Trump might enjoy if he met with Russian President Vladimir Putin.”

“Not only would that help Trump in a ‘political’ dimension but ‘in a business dimension as well,’ according to the court papers, because Putin’s support for the Moscow Trump Tower would help the project along.”

“Republican efforts to weaken incoming Democratic governors in Michigan and Wisconsin have reignited the grass-roots fervor that flipped both states in November, turning the typically sleepy post-election period into a key organizing moment ahead of the 2020 presidential election,” Politico reports.

“For nearly two years, since the U.S. intelligence community released its report on the Russian campaign to assist Donald Trump in the 2016 election, the American people have been seeking an answer as to whether the Trump campaign colluded with its Russian counterpart. In the endless speculation about the direction of the investigation, a common view was that maybe the investigation would never implicate President Trump or find any collusion,” the Daily Beast reports.

“But a flurry of recent activity this past week all points in the same direction: Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation will likely implicate the president, his campaign, and his close associates in aiding and abetting a Russian conspiracy against the United States to undermine the 2016 election.”

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

11 comments on “The Open Thread for 12/9/2018

  1. I’m going to follow the “no 2016” rule for 2020. No Clinton, no Sanders, no Biden, no Trump.

    • Agreed.

    • I agree as well, just say no to ancient politicians looking for one more term. A firm hand at the wheel or forget it.

    • Did you omit Jill Stein because you voted for her, or with 20/20 hindsight, realize you should have voted for her?

      • Because she was even more of a joke candidate than Gary Johnson, probably.

      • The “no 2016” rule should have a corollary of “no supporters of Putin”. Which would give Stein two reasons to not pay attention to her.

      • Why would having voted for Jill Stein make any difference now? Losers lose with or without one more vote. Again, it seems you view politics as a morality tale instead of a power struggle, and as long as you vote for the correct candidate, you win.

        This is a game only you are playing.

        • It turned out that a vote for Clinton was as good as a vote for Jill Stein. So the Clinton voters might as well have voted for Stein.

  2. I’m going to follow the “why box yourself in with rules?” rule.

  3. RE Vanella

    Seems like a strange plan to dismiss out of hand the most popular politician in the country because thinking about him makes you feel mad. But, hey, whatever you need to do re: self care, I guess.

  4. nathan arizona

    REV: Biden? That’s what the polls say.

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