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What Now?! – 7/23/19

Playbook: “On Wednesday, Mueller will come to Capitol Hill to testify. There are two theories rattling around the town. One: that the hearing will be a bust, since Mueller has said he won’t say anything outside the four corners of his report. Two: that the hearing will be powerful no matter what he says. Mueller has been mostly silent for years, and his reading the report could be consequential enough — not least for the reaction it provokes from the TV watcher in chief.”

“To give a sense of just how much coverage these hearings will get, take a look at how the networks are planning to handle them. They’re all wall to wall with their biggest names.”

Politico: Inside the preparations for Mueller’s history-making testimony.

“Constant infighting among top officials. Sudden departures of senior staffers without explanation. A leader who is disengaged and prone to falling asleep in meetings,” Politico reports.

“The Commerce Department has reached its apex of dysfunction under Wilbur Ross, according to four people with knowledge of the inner workings of the department. The 81-year-old Commerce secretary, who has for months endured whispers that he is on the outs, spends much of his time at the White House to try to retain President Donald Trump’s favor, the sources said, leaving his department adrift.”

“He’s hardly the only top Trump official to seek the president’s approval. But department insiders say they’ve rarely seen Commerce so rudderless — and they say Ross’s penchant for managing upward at the expense of his staff is leading to what one plugged-in observer described as ‘a disaster over there.’”

“President Trump said late Sunday night that he wants to set up a meeting with Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer about conditions at the U.S.-Mexico border following the New York Democrat’s tour of migrant detention centers that he called ‘inhumane,’” the Washington Post reports.

“Trump called for a meeting ‘ASAP’ in tweets that came two days after Schumer and a group of U.S. senators toured several detention facilities.”

New Yorker: “When I asked [Al Franken] if he truly regretted his decision to resign, he said, ‘Oh, yeah. Absolutely.’ He wishes that he had appeared before a Senate Ethics Committee hearing, as he had requested, allowing him to marshal facts that countered the narrative aired in the press.”

Chicago Tribune: “Top leaders of the Illinois Republican Party launched an effort at damage control Sunday after a social media post echoed President Trump’s criticism of four Democratic congresswoman and went further, referring to them in a movie-type poster of being a ‘jihad squad’ and contending they believe any criticism is racist.”

Geraldo Rivera told the New York Times that President Trump’s recent comments telling four minority congresswomen to “go back” to the countries they came from have shown him that critics of Trump “were much more right than I.”

Said Rivera: “My friendship with the president has cost me friendships, it has cost me schisms in the family, my wife and I are constantly at odds about the president.”

He added that “as much as I have denied it and averted my eyes from it, this latest incident made it impossible to defend him.”

“The Trump administration and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi are on the cusp of the critical debt and budget deal, one that would amount to an against-the-odds victory for Washington pragmatists seeking to avoid politically dangerous tumult over must-do fiscal deadlines,” the Associated Press reports.

“The agreement on an outline for $1.3 trillion in agency spending would represent a win for lawmakers eager to return Washington to a more predictable path amid political turmoil and polarization, defense hawks determined to cement big military increases and Democrats seeking to protect domestic programs. Nobody can claim a big win but both sides view it as better than a protracted battle this fall that probably wouldn’t end up much differently.”

“White House and congressional negotiators rushing to hammer out the final details of a sweeping budget and debt deal are unlikely to include many — if any — actual spending cuts, even as the debt limit is lifted for two years” the Washington Post reports. “The agreement appeared likely to mark a retreat for White House officials who had demanded major spending cuts in exchange for a new budget deal. But the process remained in limbo while negotiators awaited final approval late Sunday from President Trump.”

“The pending deal would seek to extend the debt ceiling and set new spending levels for two years, ratcheting back the budget brinkmanship that led to a record-long government shutdown earlier this year.”

President Trump announced that Congress and the White House had reached a two-year budget deal after days of furious negotiating, The Hillreports.

“It’s a significant win for Mnuchin and Pelosi, who have spoken several times over the past two weeks as well as Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who took a back seat in the talks but has been pushing the White House to accept a two-year deal.”

Jonathan Bernstein: “For one thing, settling for a one-day, two-committee session is already a defeat.., For another, what they did eventually win – a third hour for the judiciary committee, apparently to allow each of the Democrats on the panel to have five minutes to question the witness – suggests the worst: We may be in for a whole lot of grandstanding by individual members.”

Seemingly every experienced observer has said the same thing about these hearings: Democrats should swallow their egos and turn over their time to the committee’s counsel to do the initial questioning – or, perhaps, to a handful of committee members who could coordinate.  Here’s my suggestion: New members of the committees should simply give away their time to other lawmakers designated by the committee chairs, on the condition that the questioners consult with them about what to ask.”

“This wouldn’t be an entirely selfless act. After all, new members go last in such hearings anyway. Few constituents will be watching live and it’s unlikely that the end-of-the-line group will win the battle of the sound bites. In other words, five minutes really isn’t worth very much. Giving their time away, by contrast, would probably generate some positive publicity and win some credit from more senior lawmakers. Most important, though, it would be good for the nation – because a better-run hearing will be better able to dramatize Trump’s misconduct, which is supposed to be the point.”

Rick Klein: “A full week was consumed by President Trump’s decision to single out four freshman Democratic House members in singularly offensive fashion. The president continues to fuel that storyline, while this week figures to be consumed by Wednesday’s long-awaited Capitol Hill testimony featuring Robert Mueller.”

“The urgency is real for the roughly two-thirds of the field still clamoring for a spot in the fall debates. Efforts to contrast plans with Sen. Bernie Sanders’ Medicare for All proposal or Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s college-debt forgiveness plan — to cite just two prominent examples — need to be heard to get traction.”

“The condemnation of Trump has been swift and unanimous among Democrats. It’s also low-hanging political fruit — made no less tempting by the knowledge that the president would like them to pick it… Labeling Trump, though, is the easy part of the Democratic primary. It’s harder for candidates to turn the focus to something, or someone, else.”

President Trump continued his Twitter attacks on a group of four freshman Democratic lawmakers, calling the group of minority women a “racist group of troublemakers.”

“The White House and President Trump’s re-election campaign plan to tune in Wednesday to watch former special counsel Robert Mueller’s congressional testimony without a coordinated plan to counter the appearance ahead of time, according to multiple officials involved in those discussions,” NBC News reports.

“The president himself is expected to monitor the hearings from the White House as Mueller answers questions about the Russia investigation, according to campaign aides, much like he has done with similar events in the past. His schedule for that day only includes a routine lunch with the vice president, and aides point to his morning ‘executive time’ as a natural window for Trump to take in snippets of the coverage.”

“But when asked directly by reporters last week if he intended to tune in, the president claimed he ‘won’t be watching.’”

“Justice Department officials have communicated to Robert Mueller that the department expects him to limit his congressional testimony this week to the public findings of his 448-page report,” Politico reports.

“In extensive discussions since the former special counsel was subpoenaed to testify on June 25, department officials have emphasized that they consider any evidence he gathered throughout the course of his investigation to be ‘presumptively privileged’ and shielded from public disclosure.”

“The Pentagon has revealed a few details about a secret Army mission that has Black Hawk helicopters flying missions over the Washington, D.C., area backed by active-duty and reserve soldiers,” Bloomberg reports.

“The mysterious classified operation was disclosed when the Army asked Congress for approval to shift funds to provide an extra $1.55 million for aircraft maintenance, air crews and travel in support of an ‘emerging classified flight mission.’”

Vice President Mike Pence abruptly canceled a trip to New Hampshire this month to avoid shaking hands with an alleged interstate drug dealer, Politico reports.

White House officials have declined to explain why Pence aborted the July 2 trip, saying only that the reason would eventually become known.

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

2 comments on “What Now?! – 7/23/19

  1. Tina Smith has essentially not uttered a word that has contributed to any national discussion. Never mind pushing forward Democratic values or contributing to the opposition of the Administration. It is appalling that Democrats happily sacrificed one of their most effective (and ethical) voices to achieve what, exactly?

    • cassandram

      Tina Smith has a reasonably good approval rating in her state and while she has no where near Franken’s visibility, she’s doing a decent job for her constituents. I didn’t read anything exculpatory in the article that Jane Mayer wrote, but I did read a piece that made the case for letting an Ethics Committee do its job. The very last paragraph is the real lesson that needs to be learned here:

      “The lawyer Debra Katz, who has represented Christine Blasey Ford and other sexual-harassment victims, remains troubled by Franken’s case. She contends, “The allegations levelled against Senator Franken did not warrant his forced expulsion from the Senate, particularly given the context in which most of the behavior occurred, which was in his capacity as a comedian.” She adds, “All offensive behavior should be addressed, but not all offensive behavior warrants the most severe sanction.” Katz sees Franken as a cautionary tale for the #MeToo movement. “To treat all allegations the same is not only inappropriate,” she warns. “It feeds into a backlash narrative that men are vulnerable to even frivolous allegations by women.””

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