National Open Thread

What Now?! – 2/15/19

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said President Trump is ready to sign compromise spending legislation that would avert another government shutdown and will declare a national emergency to get additional funds for a border wall, Bloomberg reports.

The spending bill passed the Senate 83-16. Eleven Republicans and five Democrats in the Senate opposed the legislation. Four of the five Democratic senators who voted against it — Cory Booker of New Jersey, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Kamala Harris of California and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts — are running to challenge Trump for the presidency next year. The Democratic House passed the bill 300-128. Some members of the Democratic caucus’ left flank, such as Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y. and Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., were expected to oppose it because it puts more money toward immigration enforcement. 109 Republicans voted no, 19 Democrats voted no, 87 Republicans voted yes, and 213 Democrats voted yes.

According to CNN, the President has complained to allies over the past few days that “Republican negotiators were outplayed by their Democratic counterparts, securing a border funding number far smaller than Trump has spent the last two months demanding.” “[P]rivately, Trump has cast the GOP’s dealmaking efforts as inadequate and wondered why he, an experienced dealmaker, [LOL] wasn’t consulted at more regular intervals as the two sides haggled over an agreement.” Remember, a narcissistic sociopath can never do wrong. They can only be wronged.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi has recourse against a possible declaration of a national emergency by Trump. The National Emergencies Act states that if one chamber, in this case the House of Representatives, condemns such an emergency declaration then the other, in this case the Senate, must also act on it. This would force Republican senators to register their vote on whether they support Trump’s declaration. One unnamed Republican senator even suggested to the Washington Examiner that Trump would suffer major defections in his own party. Many more GOP senators are now pushing back on the record.

Republican senators will be forced to decide whether they support Trump’s emergency declaration — which everyone knows isn’t a real emergency and is opposed by two-thirds of voters — or vote against Trump and worry about a possible future primary challenge fueled by his angry base.

If a simple majority of the Senate joins the House in voting to condemn the national emergency declaration, which seems highly likely, Trump would be forced to veto the measure. Then there will be an override vote, which may or may not pass (given the two thirds majorities in both chambers that are necessary). And then the battle goes to the courts.

“Andrew McCabe, the former deputy F.B.I. director, said in an interview aired on Thursday that top Justice Department officials were so alarmed by President Trump’s decision in May 2017 to fire James Comey, the bureau’s director, that they discussed whether to recruit cabinet members to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Mr. Trump from office,” the New York Times reports.

“The concerns about the president’s actions also prompted Mr. McCabe to order the bureau’s team investigating Russia’s election interference to expand their scope to also investigate whether Mr. Trump had obstructed justice by firing Mr. Comey. They also were to examine if he had been working on behalf of Russia against American interests.”

“Soon after speaking to President Trump about the firing of his boss James Comey, Andrew McCabe, who became the bureau’s acting director, began obstruction of justice and counterintelligence investigations involving the president and his ties to Russia. In his first television interview since his own firing, McCabe tells 60 Minutes he wanted those inquiries to be documented and underway so they would be difficult to quash without raising scrutiny.”

Said McCabe: “I was very concerned that I was able to put the Russia case on absolutely solid ground, in an indelible fashion. That were I removed quickly, or reassigned or fired, that the case could not be closed or vanish in the night without a trace.”

The Atlantic runs an excerpt from McCabe’s new book, The Threat.

After the interview aired, Trump ripped McCabe on Twitter, calling him “a disgrace to the FBI and a disgrace to our Country.”

As President Donald Trump and his aides gear up for 2020, they are most concerned about different targets: Trump’s staffers are focused on gathering opposition research on Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Kamala Harris (D-CA). Trump, on the other hand, has focused his attention on potential candidate Joe Biden, who he sees as having the greatest chance of winning a general election.

According to a Thursday Politico report, Trump’s aides have had mixed reactions while watching the start of the primaries: pleasure at the candidates’ lean to the left, shock at Harris’ impressive rollout and fear that Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Biden will enter the race and put the midwest on the table. Trump sees Biden as most able to appeal to disparate parts of the base, while his aides see him as too centrist to survive the primary. Trump’s staffers are pleased at the lack of a frontrunner and hope that support will be spread too thin for one dominant candidate to emerge and overcome the incumbency effect.

New York Times: “After a series of misadventures, Mr. Trump has conspicuously laid off personal attacks aimed at Ms. Pelosi. Even as the standoff over funding a border wall appears to be finally ending with a deal seen as a defeat for the president, he has blamed unnamed Democrats but not their most prominent leader. And there has been no undermining Trumpian nickname — the president has said his moniker for Ms. Pelosi is, simply, ‘Nancy.’”

“Mr. Trump, who once stalked Hillary Clinton, the former Democratic nominee, around the presidential debate stage and continues to encourage ‘lock her up’ chants at his rallies more than two years later, simply gazed up at Ms. Pelosi during his State of the Union address — and then found himself the target of ridicule for the picture of her giving him what appeared to be a dismissive clap of the hands.”

“Without his anticipated punching bag, Mr. Trump has been left searching for an alternative, delivering haphazard attacks on Democrats as they announce their presidential campaigns, trial-and-error hits on an inchoate field of 2020 contenders.”

Politico: “[Kamala] Harris’ decision to sit for extended radio interviews with black hosts at the outset of her run is part of a broader strategy for the half-Jamaican, half-Indian former prosecutor. It’s designed to give her the chance to directly confront the uncomfortable and offensive internet memes about her personal life before they can metastasize among voters, three advisers to Harris said.”

“In recent days, Harris has parried skepticism over everything from claims to her black heritage to her decision to marry a white man — bluntly putting down markers on nuanced topics to help inoculate her from false critiques with answers that also illuminate how she views her own identity.”

Mike Allen: “House Democrats plan a vast probe of President Trump and Russia — with a heavy focus on money laundering — that will include multiple committees and dramatic public hearings, and could last into 2020.”

“The aggressive plans were outlined yesterday by a Democratic member of Congress at a roundtable for Washington reporters. The member said Congress plans interviews with new witnesses, and may go back to earlier witnesses who ‘stonewalled’ under the Republican majority.”

“The reporters, many of them steeped in the special counsel’s investigation, came away realizing that House Dems don’t plan to depend on Robert Mueller for the last word on interference in the 2016 election.”

Jonathan Chait: “Here we have, in this case alone, every single element one would need to establish collusion. There was a meeting between Trump’s campaign manager and a Russian operative; the discussion of something Russia would gain from a Trump victory (a favorable Ukraine settlement); the exchange of information that would assist Russian campaign intervention (polling data that would allow Russia to target its social-media attacks). Also, they left the meeting place via separate entrances. This isn’t merely suspicious. It’s a scene from The Americans.”

“And perhaps most curious of all, you have the interest of the president. If Manafort was just running a side hustle behind Trump’s back, Trump would have little reason to care about him getting caught. Prosecutors have already charged that Manafort maintained secret contacts with the White House as recently as 2018.”

“The revelations about Manafort have dribbled out slowly enough that it’s easy to lose track of how far along they have come.”

House Democrats are considering actions they could take to learn what was discussed during President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s private meeting in Helsinki last year, Axios reported.

According to a Democratic member of Congress who reportedly spoke to D.C. reporters on Tuesday, House Democrats are considering “subpoenaing the notes or subpoenaing the interpreter or other steps.”

The White House never revealed what the two world leaders discussed during their two-hour, staff-free — except for interpreters — closed door meeting during a summit in Helsinki last summer.

The U.S. Senate voted to confirm William Barr as attorney general, “putting him in command of the Justice Department at one of the most politically charged moments in its history,” the Washington Post reports.

“Once Barr is sworn in, he will be thrust into supervising the special counsel probe into whether President Trump’s campaign worked with Russia to swing the 2016 election — and will be saddled with the political baggage that comes with it.”

“Barr, who has said he considers Mueller a friend, will oversee the probe at a particularly sensitive time, as it is widely presumed that Mueller is nearing the end of his work and lawmakers and the public are growing eager to learn his conclusions.”

The vote was 54-45, with Senator Rand Paul voting no, and three Democrats (Manchin, Jones, Sinema) voting yes.

Daily Beast: “Two teams of federal officials assembled to fight foreign election interference are being dramatically downsized, according to three current and former Department of Homeland Security officials. And now, those sources say they fear the department won’t prepare adequately for election threats in 2020.”

“One of the task forces is now half the size it was a few months ago… and there’s no indication that DHS senior political leadership will staff it up or sustain it. Instead, there are concerns it will completely wither away. The other task force also shrunk significantly shortly after the midterms… and before its members produced a thorough assessment of what happened during the 2018 elections.”

Jeffrey Toobin: “It’s true that Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, would likely violate his Merrick Garland rule and try to push through a nominee in 2020, an election year, but 2019 would be much easier to navigate. So, many conservatives are asking, why shouldn’t Thomas leave now?”

“It seems that the President may have had the same thought. Trump has shown unusual solicitude for Justice Thomas and his wife, Ginni, a hard-right political activist. The President and the First Lady had the Thomases to dinner, and then Trump welcomed Ginni and some of her movement colleagues to the White House for an hour-long discussion.”

“Trump rarely engages in this kind of cultivation, and it’s reasonable to speculate that he’s trying to persuade the Justice that his seat would be in good hands if he decided to leave.”

James Hohmann: “President Trump will struggle to get reelected if the 2020 campaign is purely a referendum on his own performance, but elections typically become choices between two flawed candidates and their visions.”

“Republicans are banking on this, and Trump is doing everything possible – more than a year before we learn the identity of the presumptive Democratic nominee – to paint an apocalyptic picture of what would happen if he loses.”

“Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) won’t be on the ballot next year anywhere but the Bronx and Queens, but you wouldn’t know that from listening to GOP messaging. Republicans have gleefully elevated her into the avatar of the opposition, and her botched rollout of the Green New Deal resolution has given them fodder for over-the-top attacks that foreshadow how the next 21 months will likely play out.”

The Hill: “In addition to the vote after next week’s recess on the star freshman’s climate change plan, they say the Senate could find itself considering Ocasio-Cortez’s call for a 70 percent marginal tax rate on the nation’s highest income earners, providing ‘Medicare for all’ and abolishing Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).”

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

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