The Open Thread for 12/23/2018

President Trump “has at least twice in the past few weeks vented to his acting attorney general, angered by federal prosecutors who referenced the President’s actions in crimes his former lawyer Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to,” CNN reports.

“Trump was frustrated, the sources said, that prosecutors Matt Whitaker oversees filed charges that made Trump look bad. None of the sources suggested that the President directed Whitaker to stop the investigation, but rather lashed out at what he felt was an unfair situation.”

“President Trump’s near-simultaneous decisions this week to force a government shutdown over his demand to fund a border wall and withdraw American troops from Syria and Afghanistan have imperiled the fragile Republican coalition, exacerbating the party’s fears about what may become of his presidency — and its own electoral prospects in 2020,” the New York Times reports.

“By placating the far right on immigration, embracing his instincts on foreign policy and unnerving investors with his trade wars and policy gyrations, Mr. Trump is elevating the nativist and noninterventionist elements of his party. In doing so, he is deeply straining his most important links to mainstream Republican governance, and the national security hawks and conservative business executives who have long been pillars of the right.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced that the Senate “would shutter for legislative business until Thursday, leaving many federal agencies closed until later next week at the earliest,” the Washington Postreports.

“The decision came after President Trump had a lunch with conservative Republicans and dispatched Vice President Pence to the Capitol to make the latest offer to Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY), a meeting that is ongoing.”

“By shuttering the Senate until then, lawmakers will go home for the holidays as hundreds of thousands of federal workers are left in limbo about their status.”

Special counsel Robert Mueller “is nearing the end of his historic investigation into Russian election interference and is expected to submit a confidential report to the attorney general as early as mid-February,” NBC News reports.

Said a lawyer who has been in contact with the Mueller team: “They clearly are tying up loose ends.”

“The sources either did not know or would not say whether Mueller has answered the fundamental question he was hired to investigate: Whether Trump or anyone around him conspired with the Russian intelligence operations to help his campaign.”

Frank Rich: “What happens now? Surely the best fit for next secretary of Defense — one who aligns with Trump’s interests — is Erik Prince, whose security firm, then known as Blackwater, carried out a massacre of Iraqi civilians in Baghdad in 2007. Prince is Betsy DeVos’s brother, an advocate of privatizing the military, and has caught Robert Mueller’s attention for his own alleged role in Russian collusion with the Trump campaign. But I speak in jest. Prince could never get through a confirmation process now, and who knows where America will be or who will be in charge by the time we get to Mattis’s announced February departure date, more than two months from now. The country is going to be riveted by the televised testimony of lawyered-up Trump lackeys as they face the inquisitors of Nancy Pelosi’s Congress.

What we are likely to see in the meantime: further indictments of Trump family members and other close associates; a complete halt to governance in Washington whether there’s actually a government shutdown or not; new overt and covert threats to national security; a further effort by Trump to destabilize the Federal Reserve and assault its chairman; and perhaps, at last, an intervention by those Vichy Republicans, in the financial sector as well as in the capital, who see their own necks on the line.

But meanwhile, we have more than two weeks in store of watching an isolated madman rampaging through the gilded rooms of Mar-a-Lago, wreaking whatever damage he can on the country as the walls of justice continue to close in on him. Happy New Year!”

“The Supreme Court on Friday denied the Trump administration’s request that it be allowed to immediately enforce a new policy of denying asylum to those who illegally cross the U.S.-Mexico border, a change that lower courts declared possibly illegal,” the Washington Post reports.

“Four justices — Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito Jr., Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh — would have granted the administration’s request to let the order go into effect.”

Washington Post: “The president has complained to aides about how unfair it is that he is blamed for the market’s slide and for growing unease about an economic slowdown in the months to come.”

“And he has needled Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell about the pace at which the central bank has raised short-term interest rates. The lower the market drops, the more the president worries that he is losing his most potent argument for reelection.”

LOL.  He was quite pleased to take all the credit for the market gains.  The flip side of the coin if you are going to do that is you get all of the blame for any market drop.   Totally fair.

In a USA Today/Suffolk University Poll, Republican voters “worry that newly empowered congressional Democrats will go too far in investigating Trump and his administration. Democrats worry they won’t go far enough. Republicans want Congress to start the year by reducing illegal immigration and funding Trump’s border wall. Democrats want Congress to begin by addressing health care.”

Said pollster David Paleologos: “It’s the framework for gridlock.”

A new AP/NORC poll finds that 58% of Americans think President Trump has tried to impede the Russia investigation, while 4 in 10 say he has not. An overwhelming share of Democrats, 90%, say the president has sought to obstruct the probe, compared with 22% of Republicans.

The survey also shows that if Mueller’s investigation finds that Trump did not personally have inappropriate contacts with the Kremlin but nonetheless tried to obstruct the FBI’s work, 51% of Americans think Congress should take steps to remove him from office, while 46% think it should not.

President Donald Trump is disregarding his midterm promise of a mysterious 10 percent middle-class tax cut, the announcement of which came as a complete surprise to even congressional Republicans at the time.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told Bloomberg Tuesday that instead, the administration would focus on fixing mistakes in the 2017 tax overhaul.

“I’m not going to comment on whether it is a real thing or not a real thing,” Mnuchin said of Trump’s tax cut promise. “I’m saying for the moment we have other things we’re focused on.”

Back in October, Mnuchin said that he and House Republicans were hard at work on the middle-class tax cuts and would release a plan shortly. That plan never materialized.

“Democratic presidential candidates will meet in June for the first of at least 12 planned primary debates of the 2020 election cycle under a plan released Thursday by party officials who said they were determined to create large debate audiences with broad candidate participation,” the Washington Post reports.

“A ticket to the early debate stages will be determined by a combination of polling, grass roots financial support and other factors, in an effort to include candidates who are not registering nationally in public opinion surveys.”

Jonathan Bernstein: “Paul Ryan gave a farewell speech to the House of Representatives on Wednesday. He won’t be missed. Ryan was badly cast as speaker of the House from the start, and failed to ever really grow into the job. But that wasn’t the worst of it.”

“One problem for Ryan was honesty. For me, the core example was his convention speech in 2012 as a vice-presidential candidate. That Ryan acted as an attack dog and exaggerated some facts was no big deal. But what was unusually dishonest was a particular attack on President Barack Obama: ‘He created a bipartisan debt commission,’ Ryan said. ‘They came back with an urgent report. He thanked them, sent them on their way, and then did exactly nothing.’”

“This was extraordinary. Ryan himself was not only on that bipartisan commission, he was the one who torpedoed the ‘urgent report,’ which never reached the president because of Ryan’s own actions. It’s one thing to push the boundaries of the truth or to engage in clever spin, but Ryan’s attack was pure fantasy that transferred his own actions to his opponent.”

Tom Vilsack (D) “downplayed speculation that he is considering whether to challenge Joni Ernst for her U.S. Senate seat in 2020,” the Des Moines Register reports.

Said Vilsack: “Right now, the focus needs to be, for me, on making sure the party is prepared to do its job, relative to the caucuses, and to make sure that we have the kind of debate within the Democratic Party that will help us have a viable candidate in 2020 for president.”

When asked if he was keeping the door open, he said: “The door’s not open, closed, shut — I don’t even know where the door is.”

“The Trump administration announced on Wednesday that it intends to lift sanctions against the business empire of Oleg V. Deripaska, one of Russia’s most influential oligarchs, after an aggressive lobbying campaign by Mr. Deripaska’s companies,” the New York Times reports.

“The decision by the Treasury Department, which had been postponed for months, was both politically and economically sensitive, and drew criticism from some Democrats and foreign policy analysts that the administration was sending the wrong signal to Moscow about its conduct toward its neighbors and the United States.”

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

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