Open Thread

The Open Thread for 12/11/2018

“The job of White House chief of staff is close to impossible at the best of times, but President Donald Trump’s new West Wing enforcer faces an even tougher mission — one that may eventually evolve into an effort to save his presidency itself,” CNN reports.

“The next chief will walk into a White House engulfed in scandal, in the sights of special counsel Robert Mueller and newly empowered Democrats, at what is shaping up as one of the most grave constitutional moments in US history.”

Which is probably why no one wants the job.  The presumptive favorite for the job, Pence’s Chief of Staff, Nick Ayers, abruptly turned Trump down via tweet, according to The Hill.

Jonathan Swan: “Over the past 24 hours, President Trump has been privately asking many people who they think should be his new chief of staff.”

“Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is one of the advisors to President Trump under consideration to be the next White House chief of staff,” CNBC reports.  “Yet Mnuchin has indicated to his inner circle that he feels best served as the head of Treasury… Even so, according to a source close to the Treasury secretary, some of Trump’s family members are pushing for Mnuchin as a possible replacement for the departing John Kelly.”

Politico: “In any ordinary White House, the job [everyone] is declining — for what he calls family reasons — would be an ambitious insider’s dream.”

“It’s a different story under Trump. A job that was once a ticket to Washington royalty has recently become a laughing stock. Trump’s first two top aides, Kelly and Reince Priebus before him, have left as diminished and arguably humiliated figures, unable to control the wild chaos of this president’s White House.”

Playbook: “We made a round of calls last night about the chief of staff job and heard the same thing over and over again: No one wants it this time, and it’s an exceedingly bad phase of the administration to take the helm. Whoever takes over right now would likely be at Trump’s side when special prosecutor Robert Mueller’s report drops, when Democrats on Capitol Hill start hammering him and as the market continues to slump.”

“Accused Russian spy Maria Butina appears to have reached a plea deal with federal prosecutors,” CNN reports.

“Butina is accused of trying to infiltrate Republican political circles and party leaders during the 2016 campaign in order to advance Russian interests, and prosecutors have said the former American University student was in touch with politically powerful Russians about her activities in the US.”

USA Today: “She is accused of infiltrating multiple political organizations, including the National Rifle Association, to gain influence for Russia.”

Washington Post: “Again and again and again, over the course of Donald Trump’s 18-month campaign for the presidency, Russian citizens made contact with his closest family and friends, as well as figures on the periphery of his orbit.”

“Some offered to help his campaign and his real estate business. Some offered dirt on his Democratic opponent. Repeatedly, Russian nationals suggested Trump should hold a peacemaking sit-down with Vladi­mir Putin — and offered to broker such a summit.”

“In all, Russians interacted with at least 14 Trump associates during the campaign and presidential transition, public records and interviews show.”

Jonathan Swan: [Today] at 11:30 am, President Trump plans to meet with Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer to see if they can cut a deal to keep the government open.”

“Over the past two days, we’ve emailed and spoken to more than a dozen Democrats and Republicans in close touch with leadership. None were optimistic that Tuesday’s meeting could yield a durable deal. The problem is simple: Trump wants $5 billion for his border wall, and Pelosi and Schumer don’t want to give it to him.”

“Especially not Pelosi, who won’t even commit to the $1.6 billion Schumer has already offered. She has offered a one-year funding extension at current levels ($1.3 billion for border security).”

“We’ve had limited success in dealing with this President. His word isn’t good. Within 48 hours he reverses himself. It’s very difficult to enter into a long-term agreement.”  — Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), quoted by Politico, on negotiations to avoid a government shutdown.

“Facing the prospect of a devastating loss in Parliament, British Prime Minister Theresa May announced Monday that she would delay a vote on the Brexit plan she negotiated with the European Union,” the Washington Postreports.

Said May: “If we went ahead and held the vote tomorrow, the deal would be rejected by a significant margin. We will therefore defer the vote scheduled for tomorrow and not proceed to divide the House at this time.”

“May will likely go to Brussels this week for a last-ditch attempt to seek new concessions from European Union leaders and write a deal that her own party can support. But it remains unclear what Europe can offer May to placate her domestic critics. E.U. leaders have never had much patience for Britain’s domestic squabbling, since most view Brexit as an entirely self-inflicted wound.”

New York Times: May’s Brexit deal is probably going to fail. What happens then?

“Sen. Elizabeth Warren has the core of her 2020 team in place if she runs for president,” Politico reports.

“She has the seed money — there’s $12.5 million ready to go, left over from her recent Senate run — and a massive email list she’s amassed over years, boosted by a $3.3 million investment in digital infrastructure and advertising in the last election alone. Her aides have been quietly shopping for presidential campaign headquarters space in the Boston area in recent weeks, according to a source with knowledge of the move.”

Jonathan Chait: “Reporters and commentators have begun saying Mueller’s probe is reaching its final stages. But given that Mueller’s operation is utterly airtight, this conclusion is almost certainly a matter of speculation, which has gained wide acceptance through repetition. Nobody actually knows if the probe is almost over.”

“There remains a vast chasm between what has been reported in the news media — hell, what has even transpired in plain sight — and what Mueller has been able to demonstrate in a court of law. We still don’t know how much of this chasm will ever be closed. It’s possible the trail of inquiry will stop at the refusal of people like Roger Stone and Paul Manafort to talk. But prosecuting even a single person, let alone a large conspiracy, can take a lot of time. It’s also possible there remains a long way to go. Trump’s lawyers were promising the inquiry would be over by Thanksgiving — of last year! Do we have any real reason to believe it won’t still be going by this time next year?”

Beto O’Rourke and Rev. Al Sharpton spoke on Friday, a source familiar with the interaction told BuzzFeed News, as O’Rourke considers a presidential campaign and courts allies of Barack Obama.

Said a Sharpton spokesperson: “They spoke and agreed to meet within the next couple of weeks and they had a great conversation.”

“About 120 people showed up for Rep. Beto O’Rourke’s recent town hall, his first since losing his U.S. Senate race. The Texas Democrat then went home to live-stream himself cooking a chicken dinner with his wife, daughter and their pet snake Monty. That 45-minute broadcast attracted 257,000 views on Facebook — along with more than 12,400 comments,” the Washington Post reports.

“Presidential aspirants take heed: The 2020 campaign, which is poised to kick into high gear next year with dozens of potential candidates, will take place in a media landscape that has shifted in just the past two years and been radically transformed since the 2008 primary, which began before the release of the first iPhone.”

“The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to review lower court decisions that blocked efforts in two states to end public funding to Planned Parenthood, refusing for now to get involved in state battles over abortion rights,” the Washington Post reports.

The cases did not touch on abortion itself, but three justices who said the court should have accepted the cases said that was the reason the court declined to get involved.

CNBC reports Republican-appointed justices John Roberts and Brett Kavanaugh sided with their liberal colleagues.

“Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and a group of House Democratic rebels are discussing a proposal to impose term limits on both party leaders and committee chairs,” Politico reports.

“Pelosi has been in private talks with a group of rank-and-file House Democrats, who have publicly opposed her bid to return to the speaker’s chair in the next Congress. Pelosi is looking to peel off a handful of those rebels, and allowing a term-limits proposal to move forward could be the price she pays for any such deal.”

“Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), who is poised to lead the House Foreign Affairs Committee, plans to conduct a thorough review of US policy towards Saudi Arabia — and that could include Jared Kushner’s ties to the crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman,” CNN reports.

The Washington Post has instituted a new fact checking category — called “Bottomless Pinocchios” — for President Trump’s false claims that have been repeated at least 20 times and were originally rated Three or Four Pinocchios.

“The Fact Checker has not identified statements from any other current elected official who meets the standard other than Trump. In fact, 14 statements made by the president immediately qualify for the list.”

Rep.-elect Ross Spano (R-FL) “is struggling to hire office staff as he relies on a controversial adviser: one of the friends at the center of a campaign finance scandal that is rocking the Florida Republican,” Politico reports.

“Spano, an attorney and outgoing state legislator with past financial troubles, recently admitted in a letter to the Federal Election Commission that he might have committed a campaign finance ‘violation’ in failing for two months to disclose $180,000 he accepted from two friends.”

“But if the FEC deems the ‘loans’ to be campaign contributions, they would exceed legal donation limits of $2,700 per cycle, per contributor. And experts say it could constitute a criminal violation by Spano and, potentially, the two people who gave his campaign the money — Cary Carreno and Karen Hunt.”

In recent weeks, federal prosecutors contacted the Trump Organization “to renew a request they had made this year for documents and other materials,” the New York Times reports.

“The precise nature of the materials sought was unclear, but the renewed request is further indication that prosecutors continue to focus on the president’s company even as the case against Mr. Cohen comes to a close.”

President Trump asserted Monday that payments to buy the silence of two women about alleged affairs were not illegal campaign contributions, as federal prosecutors contend, but instead a “simple private transaction,” the Washington Post reports.

“In his tweets, Trump suggested that the payments were being scrutinized only because prosecutors have not been able to find evidence of collusion between his 2016 campaign and Russia. He also appeared to suggest that prosecutors are taking their cues from Democrats… He further asserted that even if the payments could be considered campaign contributions, he should be facing a civil case rather than a criminal case. And he said, Cohen should be held responsible, not him.”

“Trump’s tweets were criticized Monday by several lawyers, both for their substance and for his public airing of a defense that could complicate matters if charges are ever brought against him.”

“The United States joined a controversial proposal by Saudi Arabia and Russia this weekend to weaken a reference to a key report on the severity of global warming, sharpening battle lines at the global climate summit in Poland aimed at gaining consensus over how to combat rising temperatures,” the Washington Post reports.

“The U.S. position lines up with the views of the Trump administration, which is plowing ahead with a raft of aggressive policies on coal power and oil exploration that are likely to worsen the effects of climate change — steamrolling over dire environmental warnings issued by the administration’s own team of experts in a major report just two weeks ago.”

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

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