What Now?! – 4/27/19

Murray Waas: “Prosecutors working for Special Counsel Robert Mueller concluded last year that they had sufficient evidence to seek criminal charges against President Trump for obstruction of justice over the president’s alleged pressuring of then FBI Director James Comey in February 2017 to shut down an FBI investigation of the president’s then national security adviser, Michael Flynn.”

“Privately, the two prosecutors, who were then employed in the special counsel’s office, told other Justice Department officials that had it not been for the unique nature of the case—the investigation of a sitting president of the United States, and one who tried to use the powers of his office to thwart and even close down the special counsel’s investigation—they would have advocated that he face federal criminal charges.”

Charlie Sykes: “Depending on which competing reality you have been frequenting, two narratives have dominated discussions of President Donald Trump’s attempted obstruction of justice. The first (let’s call it the Barr/Fox version) argues that since there was no underlying crime, there was really nothing to obstruct and, plus, he was sincerely angry. The second version (let’s call it the too-incompetent to obstruct version) accepts his malign and impeachable intentions, but focuses on the refusal by his aides and assorted cronies to carry out his obstructive suggestions. In this reality, Trump was largely thwarted by Don McGahn’s integrity and Corey Lewandowski’s general incompetence and cowardice.”

“But now comes Benjamin Wittes, the editor-in-chief of Lawfare, who has been subjecting the Mueller report to a deep dive read (if you are not following his ‘reading diary,’ you really need to start). Wittes offers evidence of a third possible version: Mueller’s report suggests strongly that Trump did, in fact, successfully obstruct the investigation by dangling pardons to potential witness, most notably former campaign chairman Paul Manafort.”

“Longtime National Rifle Association leader Wayne LaPierre has told the group’s board he is being extorted and pressured to resign by the organization’s president, Oliver North, over allegations of financial improprieties, in an extraordinary battle roiling one of the nation’s most powerful nonprofit political groups,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

New York Times: “Behind it is a widening crisis involving a legal battle between the N.R.A. and its most influential contractor, Ackerman McQueen, amid renewed threats from regulators in New York, where the N.R.A. is chartered, to investigate the group’s tax-exempt status. With contributions lagging, the N.R.A. is also facing an increasingly well-financed gun control movement, motivated by a string of mass shootings.”

FBI Director Christopher Wray said Russian efforts to influence American public opinion are not confined only to periods around elections, NBC News reports. Said Wray: “It’s pretty much a 365-days-a-year threat. And that has absolutely continued.”

The FBI chief said it consists of constant use of social media, with “fake news, propaganda, false personas, et cetera, to spin us up, pit us against each other, sow divisiveness and discord, and undermine Americans’ faith in democracy.”

So Rosenstein sold out to Trump. And then he goes on a tirade last night. He was no hero. Rosenstein “attacked the Obama administration, former law enforcement officials, the press and his own critics in a fiery speech on Thursday night that he used to defend his handling of the Russia investigation,” the New York Times reports.

“He blamed the previous administration for doing too little to publicize Russia’s campaign to sabotage the 2016 election while it was underway, and he called out the F.B.I. and Congress for leaks about the case… He left unmentioned that Republican congressional leaders urged former President Barack Obama to keep quiet about the Kremlin’s operation during the presidential race.”

In a short Q&A with reporters on the White House lawn, President Trump called Don McGahn, his former White House Counsel, a liar, called Robert Mueller a “Trump hater” and doubled down on his notorious “very fine people” comment about Charlottesville.  He fell right into the trap.

President Trump said the United States did not pay any money to North Korea as it sought the release of Otto Warmbier, a day after a report said Trump had approved a $2 million bill from Pyongyang for the American student’s care, Reuters reports. Said Trump: “No money was paid to North Korea for Otto Warmbier, not two Million Dollars, not anything else.”

Politico: A quarter of the Pentagon’s most senior civilian posts remain filled by temporary personnel who are unconfirmed by the Senate – a high number that has slowed decisions, handicapped the department in policy disputes and shifted more power to the White House, according to recently departed Pentagon officials.”

“Including acting Defense Secretary Pat Shanahan, who has served in a temporary capacity for an unprecedented 115 days, nine of the Pentagon’s 45 secretaries, deputy secretaries, undersecretaries, deputy under-secretaries, and assistant secretaries are serving in an acting capacity or fall into a related category of officials who are ‘performing the duties of’ the position.”

“A controversial bill that has received national attention over criticism that it would criminalize voter registration efforts was approved in the state Senate on Thursday,” the Tennessean reports. “If the bill is enacted, Tennessee would become the first state to threaten voter registration efforts with civil penalties for incomplete forms.”

“Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), the top Republican on the House Oversight Committee, is seeking to resolve a tense dispute between Democrats and the White House as part of the panel’s review of the Trump administration’s security clearance process,” CNN reports.

“In a letter obtained by CNN and dated Friday, Jordan is asking White House counsel Pat Cipollone to allow former official Carl Kline to sit down for a voluntary transcribed interview to avoid a growing constitutional clash between the two branches of government.” “Cummings is now threatening to hold Kline in contempt, which Jordan says in his letter could happen as soon as Tuesday.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) criticized Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) for ignoring a series of bills passed by the Democratic House, The Hill reports. Said Pelosi: “The Republican Senate needs to wake up, and vote on these urgently needed bills immediately. If they don’t like our bipartisan bills, then they can pass their own version and we can go to conference.”

The Kansas state Supreme Court ruled that women “have the right to end a pregnancy, in a decision that sets up a bitter fight among lawmakers over abortion,” the Wichita Eagle reports. “While abortion has been legal for decades under the U.S. Constitution, the court found Friday that the Kansas Constitution also protects the right to an abortion.”

British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn declined to attend a state dinner at Buckingham Palace in honor of Donald Trump, Politico reports. “The U.S. president will make a state visit to the U.K. in June, which will include a banquet hosted by Queen Elizabeth. But Corbyn, an outspoken critic of Trump, said he was opposed to the president receiving the ‘red carpet’ treatment and would not be attending the dinner.”

Gabriel Sherman: “Inside Fox, staffers speculated Pirro would be fired, two sources told me, but Trump pre-empted such a move by calling Rupert Murdoch to complain about her suspension. Fox agreed to allow Pirro to come back on the air but cut her opening monologue, a venue for her most incendiary rhetoric. When Trump found out about that, he called Rupert again, a source said. A compromise was proposed: Pirro could return and deliver a shortened version of her opening statement.”

Said one source: “Trump called Rupert, and Rupert put pressure on the executives.”

Russian gun rights activist Maria Butina was sentenced Friday to 18 months in federal court in Washington for failing to register as a foreign agent, the Washington Post reports. Butina had requested a sentence of time served and deportation after agreeing to cooperate with U.S. prosecutors.

“For years, President Trump has insisted it’s impossible to find Americans to fill seasonal jobs at his hotels, resorts, and wineries, leaving him no choice but to hire foreign guest workers instead,” BuzzFeed News reports.

“But government records… reveal for the first time that at least 58 US workers applied for the temporary jobs as cooks, servers, and housekeepers at Mar-a-Lago and other Trump resorts from early 2014 through mid-2018.”

“Only one of them appears to have been hired.”

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

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