Spoiler Alert: Will Howard Schultz Mean A Trump Re-Election?

Ken AshfordElection 2020Leave a Comment

Man, we really need to reform how elections are done. And stop having billionaires step in and think they can run America because they are billionaires.

I am, of course, referring to Howard Schultz, former CEO of Starbucks.
Schultz initially contemplated entering the Democratic primary, correctly calculated that he stood no chance of success that way, and then incorrectly decided that he could win as an independent. “I will run as a centrist independent outside of the two-party system,” he has said. His public comments reveal how little he grasps about American politics.

He’s wrong about what it means to be an “independent” voter these days. While a huge amount of Americans identify as “independent”, that is not a political party, and the independents vary widely in their beliefs. Most of them are just disaffected, but they are really disaffected partisans — either disaffected conservatives or disaffected progressives. They are not in the center, as Schultz seems to think.

Conventional wisdom suggests that Schultz will act as a spoiler and draw from Democrats, thus assuring a Trump re-election victory. If that’s true, Schultz is Trump’s best friend right now, and this tweet is self-harming:

It is quite possible that Schultz could go the way of Ralph Nadar or Jill Stein, and pull juuuust enough votes away from the Democratic nominee to allow Trump to step in. On the other hand, he might pull so disaffected Trump voters towards him — especially those who think that accumulation of wealth means competence.

But I suspect that Schultz will become a blip on the screen, and bow out once the debates and other matters start in earnest. He may not even get on the ballot in every state.

RELATED:

Mike Bloomberg Statement on Independent Runs
JAN. 28, 2019

Last fall I spent over $100 million of my own money to elect Democrats to the House because I believed it was absolutely imperative to ensure a congressional counterweight to President Trump.

Thankfully, we were successful. But that was just the first step — the next and most important step is to defeat Donald Trump in 2020.

Now I have never been a partisan guy — and it’s no secret that I looked at an independent bid in the past. In fact I faced exactly the same decision now facing others who are considering it.

The data was very clear and very consistent. Given the strong pull of partisanship and the realities of the electoral college system, there is no way an independent can win. That is truer today than ever before.

In 2020, the great likelihood is that an independent would just split the anti-Trump vote and end up re-electing the President. That’s a risk I refused to run in 2016 and we can’t afford to run it now.

We must remain united, and we must not allow any candidate to divide or fracture us. The stakes couldn’t be higher.

Weekly List 115

Ken AshfordWeekly ListLeave a Comment

his is the longest and perhaps most perilous week for Trump so far. Not only did House Speaker Nancy Pelosi outmaneuver him in the government shutdown, but by week’s end she was publicly questioning if Trump is beholden to Russian President Vladimir Putin, and if his campaign coordinated efforts to subvert the 2016 U.S. election. Meanwhile, House committees, now chaired by Democrats, geared up to challenge Trump and his regime on a number of fronts, including inquiries into Deutsche Bank’s handling of Trump’s accounts and the regime’s process of granting of security clearances.

Following dire warnings from agencies, unions, and former government officials about safety and security risks, public outcries and protests from unpaid furloughed workers, and plummeting approval, Trump finally agreed to reopen the government Friday. The final impetus appeared to be delayed flights at New York’s LaGuardia Airport due to staffing issues with unpaid air traffic controllers.

This week a sixth Trump insider, Roger Stone, was indicted on seven counts Friday, raising further concerns that the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia to subvert the election. A line in the indictment document, “a senior Trump campaign official was directed to contact Stone,” left pundits speculating if the person directing Stone to gather information on the WikiLeaks’ release of Clinton Campaign emails stolen by Russia was Trump or a family member. Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani also made incriminating public statements about the timing of Trump’s discussions with Michael Cohen on the Trump Tower Moscow project, as Trump continued to publicly threaten Cohen and his family, raising concerns of witness tampering.

  1. WAPO reported Trump has made 8,158 false or misleading claims in his first two years in office, including more than 6,000 in the second year alone.
  2. Trump averaged 5.9 false or misleading claims per day in his first year in office, and almost triple that, 16.5 per day, in his second year. The biggest topic of Trump’s misleading claims is immigration.
  3. On Saturday, Trump gave a 13 minute speech in which he offered a 3-year reprieve on his attempts to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, and temporary protected status, in exchange for $5.7 billion for his wall.
  4. The proposal was put together by a small group of Trump insiders, without consulting Democrats. House Speaker Pelosi called it a “non-starter,” and vowed to pass legislation in the coming week to reopen the government.
  5. WAPO reported Trump’s speech and handling of the shutdown accentuated traits of his time in office: a shortage of empathy; difficulty accepting responsibility; and a desire for revenge against political foes.
  6. Trump has approached the shutdown like a public relations challenge. White House aides acknowledge he is losing the battle of public opinion. One friend said even if his base is intact, he is ripping the nation apart.
  7. Trump has also drawn criticism for his competence as an executive. West Wing aides acknowledge they hadno contingency plans for the shutdown, and are learning about problems at agencies though reporting in real time.
  8. On Sunday, Brett McGurk, the former U.S. envoy to fight against ISIS who resigned after Trump announced withdrawal from Syria, told “Face the Nation” that “there is no plan” for what comes after troops are withdrawn.
  9. On Sunday, amid trade negotiations between the countries, China granted Ivanka Trump’s company preliminary approval for another five trademarks. The applications were filed in 2016 and 2017.
  10. On Sunday, Trump tweeted, “The Media is not giving us credit for the tremendous progress we have made with North Korea,” adding “Looking forward to meeting with Chairman Kim at end of February!”
  11. On Tuesday, NBC News reported according to a report from Beyond Parallel, a project sponsored by a defense think tank, North Korea has as many as 20 undisclosed missile sites in the country.
  12. Reportedly, some Trump officials and U.S. allies are nervous because they know so little about what Trump and Kim Jong Un talked about in Singapore, and are concerned about what Trump might agree to next.
  13. On Sunday, Rudy Giuliani told “Meet the Press” that discussions to build a Trump Tower in Moscow remained an “active proposal” as late as November of 2016, months later than Trump previously publicly admitted.
  14. Giuliani said Trump can “remember having conversations” with Michael Cohen “throughout 2016.” Cohen admitted he worked on the project through June 2016, after telling Congress talks ended January 2016.
  15. On Sunday, Giuliani told the Times that Trump had said discussions about the project were “going on from the day I announced to the day I won.”
  16. On Monday, Giuliani tried to walk back his comments in a statement, saying his remarks about discussions between Trump and Cohen “were hypothetical and not based on conversations I had with the president.”
  17. Hours later, in an interview with The New Yorker, Giuliani said “I have been through all the tapes” of conversation between Trump and Cohen. The existence of tapes had not been previously discussed.
  18. When pressed about the tapes in the interview, Giuliani responded “I shouldn’t have said tapes,” adding, “No tapes. Well, I have listened to tapes, but none of them concern this.”
  19. Vanity Fair reported Trump is “furious” about Giuliani’s recent botched press appearances. Reportedly Trump is being advised by Ivanka and Jared and others to fire Giuliani before he does more damage.
  20. AP reported that Trump’s close allies have urged him to bench Giuliani, with some suggesting he be barred from evening interviews because of concerns that he was going on TV after drinking.
  21. On Monday, NYT reported that a confidential document, titled “Terms of Removal” and signed by representatives of Oleg Deripaska and the Treasury Department, is significantly different than what has been publicly shared.
  22. The Treasury Department described the broad contours of the agreement in a letter to Congress, which was released publicly. However, major details were not provided to Congress, which voted last week.
  23. The deal is significantly less punitive and contains provisions that free Deripaska from hundreds of millions of dollars in debt, while leaving him and his allies with majority ownership of his most important company.
  24. Despite the Treasury Department indicating that Deripaska had lowered his stake in the sanctioned companies below the 50% threshold to 44.95%, the document reveals the actual overall stake is closer to 57%.
  25. Also Viktor Vekselberg, who has attracted Mueller’s attention, has a stake in Mr. Deripaska’s empire, as does Len Blavatnik, a Ukrainian-born billionaire, who donated $1 million to Trump inauguration.
  26. On Monday, Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny announced he has heard audio recordings of Deripaska’s associates plotting to have Anastasia Vashukevich arrested.
  27. Vashukevich was supposed to be deported, when released from prison in Thailand, to her home to Belarus, but instead she was arrested during their layover at Moscow in connection with a prostitution case.
  28. On Tuesday, Vashukevich, who said she had evidence Russia interfered in the U.S. election, was freed from Russian police custody. TASS News reported she remains a suspect in an unrelated criminal case.
  29. On Tuesday, ABC News reported congressional investigators are looking into Robert Foresman, now vice chairman of UBS’s investment arm, who lived for years in Moscow and led a $3 billion Russian investment fund.
  30. Foresman, who has ties to the Kremlin, sought a sit down with Trump through the producer of “The Apprentice,” Mark Burnett, during the transition period. Burnett helped get him a meeting with Tom Barrack.
  31. The meeting with Barrack was canceled, but Foresman continued to pursue a role on Trump’s team by meeting with Michael Flynn. Foresman did not support Trump in the primary or general election.
  32. Records also show Foresman had a December 2016 meeting with Sergei Gorkov, chairman of a state-owned Russian development bank. Gorkov also flew in for one day in December for a meeting with Jared Kushner.
  33. On Tuesday, the Supreme Court allowed the mystery foreign government-owned company thought to be part of the Mueller probe to file appeal papers under seal.
  34. On Saturday, the Diocese of Covington criticized any students involved in taunting Native Americans at the Indigenous Peoples March, adding the matter is under investigation and students could be expelled.
  35. Nathan Phillips, a veteran in the indigenous rights movement, said he felt threatened by the teens. The Indigenous Peoples Movement called the incident “emblematic of our discourse in Trump’s America.”
  36. On Monday, USA Today reported the Sandmann family hired Louisville public relations firm RunSwitch PR, which was instrumental in a 3-page statement in which Nick defended his actions, and an extended video.
  37. On Monday, Trump tweeted “Looking like Nick Sandman [sic] & Covington Catholic students were treated unfairly with early judgements proving out to be false — smeared by media.”
  38. The tweet was sent during Fox News host Tucker Carlson’s show, whom Trump quoted in a tweet: “‘New footage shows that media was wrong about teen’s encounter with Native American’ @TuckerCarlson.”
  39. On Tuesday, in the morning Trump again tweeted on Covington, invoking his common anti-media theme: “Nick Sandmann and the students of Covington have become symbols of Fake News and how evil it can be.”
  40. ICE arrested Carmen Puerto Diaz at a green card interview with her husband. Diaz, who is five months into a high risk pregnancy, was denied medication for days, and was later released after public outrage.
  41. Star Tribune reported coach Michael Walker, whose high school team is predominantly black, pulled out of a MLK Day game in Minneapolis, citing the host team had a front row Trump 2020 banner last time they played.
  42. On Monday, Mark Bartlett, 51, was arrested in Florida, after a video showed him drawing a gun, and yelling racial slurs at a group of Black Americans participating in an anti-gun violence event on MLK Day.
  43. On Tuesday, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 to allow Trump’s transgender military ban to proceed, clearing the way for it to go into effect while lower courts hear additional arguments.
  44. On Tuesday, the Supreme Court took no action on the Trump regime’s appeal in the “Dreamers” case, leaving the program in place, and signaling that the court will not hear the regime’s challenge in the current term.
  45. Trump, who tried to end the program in 2017, said in a cabinet meeting this month that he had expected to use a victory in the Supreme Court as leverage in negotiations with Democrats on immigration.
  46. On Tuesday, Trump’s Justice Department said it plans to ask the Supreme Court to take up hearing the case on adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census on an expedited basis in order to decide the case by June.
  47. On Tuesday, the day after Sen. Kamala Harris announced her 2020 presidential run, Trump supporters rekindled birtherism, claiming she is not eligible to run because her parents were not born in the U.S. Harris was born in Oakland.
  48. On Wednesday, James Jackson, a 30 year-old white supremacist, pleaded guilty to killing a Black man with a sword in New York. Jackson had planned to carry out many attacks against Black men.
  49. Jackson picked New York because it’s “the media capital of the world” and he “wanted to make a statement.” The criminal complaint states Jackson “was angered by black men mixing with white women.”
  50. On Wednesday, Colorado police arrested Christopher Cleary, 27, who threatened to kill “as many girls as I see,” because he is a virgin and had been rejected by women multiple times.
  51. On Wednesday, the Trump regime granted a waiver to give Miracle Hill Ministries in South Carolina permission to participate in the federally funded foster-care program, even though the group openly discriminates.
  52. Miracle Hill does not permit adoption by LGBTQ and non-Christian parents. The waiver overrides an Obama-era regulation barring groups that discriminate on the basis of religion from receiving federal money.
  53. On Thursday, newly-appointed Florida secretary of state Michael Ertel resigned after photos emerged of him posing as a Hurricane Katrina victim in blackface at a private Halloween party 14 years ago.
  54. On Thursday, NBC News reported the Trump regime plans to begin turning asylum-seekers back at the southern border on Friday to wait in Mexico under a new policy designed to crack down on immigration.
  55. Customs and Border Protection officers will begin turning back asylum-seekers from Central America at the San Ysidro port of entry in California from Tijuana, Mexico, where thousands are waiting in poor conditions.
  56. Currently, immigrants who pass an initial “credible fear” interview are allowed to remain in the U.S. to see an immigration judge. The new policy dubbed Migration Protection Policy is likely to be sued by advocates.
  57. Beginning Friday, asylum-seekers will be sent back to Tijuana with a notice to appear in court in San Diego. On their court dates, I.C.E. will provide transportation from the port of entry to immigration court.
  58. On Monday, Trump marked Martin Luther King Jr. Day with a 2-minute visit to Washington’s Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. This was Trump’s only public event for the day.
  59. On Monday, National Review reported that Rep. Joe Neguse said the House Judiciary Committee will likely investigate whether Supreme Court justice Brett Kavanaugh committed perjury during his confirmation hearing.
  60. On Tuesday, a North Carolina Superior Court judge denied Republican Mark Harris’ request to certify the still-disputed 9th District congressional race, saying the Board of Elections should complete its investigation.
  61. On Tuesday, the House voted 357-22 on legislation to prevent Trump from pulling out of the North Atlantic Treaty Association, after reporting that Trump considered pulling out during 2018. The bill will now move to the Senate.
  62. On Wednesday, Trump backed a coup in Venezuela by opposition leader, Juan Guaidó, the 35-year-old National Assembly leader. President Nicolás Maduro dismissed Guaidó’s claim to the presidency.
  63. Maduro responded by giving American diplomats 72 hours to leave the country with a derisive “be gone!” and accused the Trump regime of plotting to overthrow him. The U.S. said it would ignore the deadline.
  64. On Tuesday, as Congress returned to session on Day 32 of the shutdown, Trump tweeted, “Without a Wall our Country can never have Border or National Security,” adding, “Must finally be done correctly. No Cave!”
  65. Speaker Pelosi told reporters “We cannot have the president, every time he has an objection, to say I’ll shut down the government until you come to my way of thinking…If we hold the employees hostage now, they’re hostage forever.”
  66. The Transportation Security Administration reported TSA employees called out at a national rate of 10% on Sunday, a record high and a jump from 3.1% one year ago on the same weekend.
  67. A TSA spokesperson told ABC News we are in “uncharted territory.” Employees say they are unable to continue to unpaid work, and at February 1, when rent and mortgages are due, things will get worse.
  68. On Tuesday, Politico reported furloughed federal workers are running up credit card debt, taking out loans, flocking to pawn shops, finding temporary work, and asking friends and family to help.
  69. A spokesperson for the Consumer Bankers Association, which represents retail lenders, said calls for help have picked up tenfold, and will increase further nearing February 1 when mortgage and rent payments are due.
  70. On Tuesday, a report issued by the FBI Agents Association, the group representing 13,000 agents, said the shutdown has impeded the agency’s efforts to crack down on child trafficking, violent crime, and terrorism.
  71. The 72-page report says the FBI has been unable to issue grand jury subpoenas and indictments in several cases. Field offices have run out of basic supplies like copy paper, forensic supplies, and DNA swab kits.
  72. On Tuesday, the State Department canceled the 16th International Export Control and Border Security Conference, focused on border security and scheduled to take place in Scotland in mid-February, citing the shutdown.
  73. On Tuesday, Trump tweeted that he told press secretary Sarah Sanders “not to bother” with giving formal press briefings from the “podium” anymore, saying, “the press covers her so rudely & inaccurately.”
  74. Sanders has not taken questions from the podium since December 18, and she appeared just once in September, November, and December. The number of press briefings has steadily declining since Trump took office.
  75. According to data collected by The American Presidency Project, in 2018, the Trump regime averaged less than 5 press briefings per month, fewer than any president in recent history.
  76. CNN reported the lack of briefings is also a result of an ongoing power struggle for control between Sanders, Bill Shine, Kellyanne Conway, and Mercedes Schlapp on the communications team, going on for months.
  77. Also staffing of the White House press office has dwindled. Roles of many younger press aides who have departed, including “assistant press secretary” or “deputy press secretary” positions, remain unfilled.
  78. Unlike in past administrations, there has not been a rush of candidates to fill empty seats. The White House has not prioritized hiring, but Trump’s campaign is actively hiring for the 2020 re-election.
  79. On Tuesday, A. Wess Mitchell, the assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, resigned effective February. The resignation comes at a time when Europeans are questioning Trump’s commitment to alliances.
  80. Mitchell’s departure creates another assistant secretary of state vacancy at the State Department. Six of the 24 spots have nominees awaiting Senate confirmation. Mitchell was the first assistant secretary under Trump.
  81. On Tuesday, Politico reported Shahira Knight, Trump’s legislative affairs director who acts as his liaison to Congress, is planning to leave in the coming months what many insiders say is a thankless job.
  82. Slate reported that the Trump regime’s Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women quietly changed the definition of domestic violence last April with little notice, making the definition substantially more limited.
  83. Under the new definition, only harms that constitute a felony or misdemeanor crime may be called domestic violence, excluding critical components of the phenomenon like the dynamics of power and control.
  84. Rolling Stone reported Susan Combs, Trump’s unconfirmed appointee who is leading the Interior Department’s reorganization, earned almost $2.1 million in recent years from oil companies who stand to benefit.
  85. Combs, who was nominated by Trump in July 2017, has also been fiercely opposed to protecting endangered species during her time in Texas government — a position in line with the oil and gas industry.
  86. On Thursday, California Assemblyman Brian Maienschein, who serves in a conservative stronghold, announced he would switch parties and become a Democrat, blaming Trump’s behavior and divisiveness.
  87. On Thursday, the Golden State Warriors made their annual trip to Washington D.C. as NBA champions.Rather than visit the White House, the team was seen in photos visiting with former President Obama.
  88. On Wednesday, Trump sent a letter to Pelosi, saying he had checked, and that there were no such concerns from the Secret Service, and “therefore, I will be honoring your invitation” and delivering the State of the Union.
  89. Hours later, Pelosi sent a letter to Trump, saying she would not pass a resolution authorizing him to come, saying “I look forward to welcoming you” to the House to speak “when government has been opened.”
  90. On Wednesday, Trump said he would look for alternative venues for the State of the Union, telling reporters, “The State of the Union has been canceled by Nancy Pelosi because she doesn’t want to hear the truth.”
  91. Trump also told reporters, “It’s a great, great horrible mark.” Ronald Reagan’s address was postponed after the Challenger space shuttle exploded, but there is no precedent for a SOTU invitation being rescinded.
  92. On Wednesday, after 11 p.m. EST, Trump tweeted that Pelosi had “changed her mind because of the Shutdown, suggesting a later date. This is her prerogative,” adding, “I will do the Address when the Shutdown is over.
  93. On Wednesday, a CBS News poll found that 71% of Americans do not believe that Trump’s wall is worth the government shutdown, while just 28% believe it is.
  94. The poll found 47% believe Pelosi is doing a better job handling shutdown negotiations, to 35% for Trump. Also, 60% believe the shutdown is causing serious problems, 34% said some problems, 5% no problems.
  95. Trump’s approval fell 3 points from November down to 36%, while 59% of Americans disapprove, a high for his time in office for this poll.
  96. On Wednesday, a Politico/Morning Consult poll found 57% of Americans believe it is likely that Russia “has compromising information“ on Trump, compared to 31% who do not think it is likely.
  97. On Wednesday, an AP-NORC poll found Trump’s approval at a yearlong low of 34%, down from 42% in December. Trump’s standing with independents is among its lowest points of his time in office.
  98. The polls also found that 71% of women and independents disapprove of Trump, both up from 58% in December, and 76% of college graduates disapprove, up from 65% in December.
  99. The polls also found 60% of Americans blame Trump for the government shutdown, while just 31% blame congressional Democrats and 36% congressional Republicans.
  100. On Wednesday, Trump unveiled a new slogan in the early morning, tweeting, “BUILD A WALL & CRIME WILL FALL!,” adding “this is the new theme, for two years until the Wall is finished,” and, “Use it and pray!”
  101. Minutes later, Trump again tweeted, “BUILD A WALL & CRIME WILL FALL!” And again in the afternoon, Trump tweeted, “Even Trump Haters like (MS)NBC acknowledge you “BUILD A WALL & CRIME WILL FALL!”
  102. On Wednesday, Day 33 of the shutdown, led by several unions that represent furloughed federal employees and out-of-work contractors, hundreds of workers staged a sit-in inside the Hart Senate Office Building.
  103. Protesters stood in silence for 33 minutes, holding Styrofoam plates with messages like: “Jobs not walls,” “Will work for pay,” and “Please let us work.” The empty plates signified the need to feed their families.
  104. After the silence, protestors shouted, “No more food banks,” and, “They need paychecks!” Some staged a sit-in outside senators’ offices, and demanded a meeting with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
  105. When McConnell’s office staff refused, a dozen took seats in the hallway outside his office, and were later pulled up from the floor and arrested, their arms zip tied behind their backs, by the U.S. Capitol Police.
  106. On Wednesday, McConnell blocked a bill to temporarily reopen the Department of Homeland Security, the fourth time he has blocked a House’s DHS bill from coming to the floor
  107. McConnell has also blocked legislation three times that would have opened other departments and agencies, arguing it would be a “show” vote because Trump will not sign it.
  108. On Wednesday, WAPO reported acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney has pressed agency heads to provide him with a list by Friday of programs which would be impacted if the shutdown lasts until March or April.
  109. Mulvaney’s request is the first known by a top White House official for a broad accounting of the spreading impact of the shutdown. So far officials have been focused on the wait times at airports, but not other programs.
  110. Officials are already grappling with keeping their agencies functioning as unpaid workers refuse to show up. Over months, the impact is expected to extend to tens of millions of Americans who rely on government services.
  111. Federal workers will miss their second paycheck on Friday. Unions are filing legal action against the regime for making employees work without pay. Agencies are still trying to understand the scope of their problems.
  112. Other impacts include the federal court system is likely to halt major operations after February 1, and the Department of Agriculture will run out of funding to pay food stamp benefits in March to 40 million people.
  113. On Wednesday, a joint statement by air traffic controllers, pilots, and flight attendants unions said, “We have a growing concern for the safety and security of our members, our airlines and the traveling public.”
  114. The 130,000 aviation professionals said, “We cannot even calculate the level of risk currently at play, nor predict the point at which the entire system will break,” adding, “It is unprecedented.”
  115. On Wednesday, five bipartisan former secretaries of the Department of Homeland Security, including John Kelly, sent a letter to Trump and Congress calling for an end to the shutdown, calling it “unconscionable.”
  116. The letter said “DHS employees who protect the traveling public, investigate and counter terrorism, and protect critical infrastructure should not have to rely on the charitable generosity of others.”
  117. On Thursday, former secretary Jeh Johnson said at an event “from a security standpoint we are letting our guard down,” adding, the “very people we depend on for security are made to suffer.”
  118. On Monday, Lara Trump, campaign adviser and wife of Eric Trump, told Bold TV said federal workers are going through “a little bit of pain,” but that Trump’s wall “is so much bigger than any one person.”
  119. Kevin Hassett, chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, appeared to compare the shutdown to a vacation, saying it could leave workers “better off” since they will receive back pay and without having to report to work.
  120. On Thursday, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told CNBC, “I don’t really quite understand why” federal workers need to go to food banks, adding, “these folks will get back pay once this whole thing gets settled down.”
  121. Ross also said “It’s kind of disappointing that the air traffic controllers are calling in sick.” The anchor said it is because they cannot support their families, Ross responded, “They are eventually going to be paid.”
  122. On Thursday, Pelosi took a swipe at Ross and Trump, telling reporters “I don’t know if it’s a “let them eat cake” kind of attitude, or “call your father for money,” or this is character building for you, it is all going to end well.”
  123. Minutes later, suggesting he was watching Pelosi’s press conference, Trump tweeted “Nancy just said she “just doesn’t understand why?” Very simply, without a Wall it all doesn’t work,” adding, “We will not Cave!”
  124. On Wednesday, Michael Cohen indefinitely postponed his scheduled February 7 testimony to Congress, with his attorney Lanny Davis citing verbal attacks by Trump, including unspecified threats against Cohen’s family.
  125. Trump allies Reps. Jim Jordan and Mark Meadows also sent a letter to Cohen’s attorney, Guy Petrillo, suggesting Cohen would face aggressive questioning from House Republicans.
  126. Trump allies have privately said Cohen’s disclosures are one of the most significant threats to Trump. Cohen has spent more than 70 hours in interviews with investigators for the Southern District of New York and with Mueller’s team.
  127. On Wednesday, committee chairs Reps. Elijah Cummings and Adam Schiff said they understood Cohen’s concerns for his family’s safety and repeated their earlier warning against efforts to intimidate witnesses.
  128. On Thursday, in an early morning tweet, Trump called Cohen a “bad lawyer” who “sadly will not be testifying before Congress,” adding Cohen, “is using the lawyer of Crooked Hillary Clinton to represent him.”
  129. That lawyer, Lanny Davis, in an interview on Thursday accused Giuliani of witness tampering for recent comments he made about Cohen’s father-in-law, suggesting he might have ties to organized crime.
  130. On Thursday, the Senate Intelligence Committee issued a subpoena for Cohen to appear privately before the panel next month and correct false testimony he delivered last year about the Trump Tower Moscow project.
  131. On Wednesday, House committee chairs Reps. Maxine Waters and Adam Schiff said they are planning to launch a joint investigation of Deutsche Bank over its business dealings with Trump.
  132. Waters asked Deutsche Bank for details of its handling of Trump’s accounts in May 2017, but the bank refused to cooperate, citing privacy. She now has subpoena power as chair of the House Financial Service Committee.
  133. On Thursday, Deutsche Bank AG said it received an inquiry from the two House committees on its ties to Trump. Reps. Waters and Schiff said they are in talks with the bank and expect its cooperation in its inquiries.
  134. On Wednesday, in a letter sent by committee chair Rep. Elijah Cummings to White House counsel Pat Cipollone, the House Oversight Committee announced it will investigate White House security clearances.
  135. The letter also states the investigation will look into why the regime is “defying federal law by failing to provide to Congress information about its security clearance process required by the SECRET Act.”
  136. The letter seeks information about security clearance issued for Jared Kushner, John Bolton, Michael Flynn, Michael Flynn Jr., K.T. McFarland, Robert Porter, Robin Townley, John McEntee, and Sebastian Gorka.
  137. Cummings said he also sent a letter to the National Rifle Association about Bolton, seeking information about his contacts with Maria Butina. Democrats vowed to subpoena Trump if documents are not turned over.
  138. On Thursday, NBC News reported Jared Kushner’s application for a top-secret clearance was rejected by two career White House security specialists, but was overruled by their supervisor, Carl Kline.
  139. Kline became director of the personnel security office in the Executive Office of the President in May 2017.Kushner was one of at least 30 cases in which he overruled security experts, approving top security clearance.
  140. The FBI background check on Kushner raised concerns about potential foreign influence on him, citing questions about his family’s business, his foreign contacts, his foreign travel, and meetings during the campaign.
  141. Kline recommended to the CIA that Kushner be granted “sensitive compartmented information” (SCI) clearance. CIA officials wondered how Kusher was granted top-secret clearance and denied the SCI request.
  142. On Thursday, Trump tweeted promotion of a book by conservative commentator Doug Wead, who had appeared on “Fox & Friends” that morning calling Trump the “most accessible” president in history.
  143. Trump also quoted Wead, tweeting, “This is everything FDR dreamed about, the New Deal to put America back to work. Think of LBJ, he gave people food stamps & welfare. Donald Trump’s giving them a job.”
  144. Trump also repeated his new slogan, tweeting, “Without a Wall there cannot be safety and security at the Border or for the U.S.A. BUILD THE WALL AND CRIME WILL FALL!”
  145. On Thursday, the Senate rejected dueling proposals to end the shutdown. The Senate voted 52-44 to reject House-backed legislation that would fund the government through February 8, with six Republicans joining the Democrats.
  146. The Senate also voted down Trump’s proposal by a 50-47 vote which would have provided $5.7 billion for his border wall and granted temporary protection for some undocumented immigrants.
  147. On Thursday, in an unplanned evening press availability, Trump claimed, “In fact, I see a lot of the Democrats — almost all of them are breaking saying, ‘Walls are good. Walls are good.’” This is a false statement.
  148. Trump floated the idea of a prorated down payment for his wall to reopen the government. Speaker Pelosi scoffed at the idea being discussed in the Senate, and added of Trump, “I don’t think he knows what he wants.”
  149. Trump threatened to declare a national emergency, saying: “I have other alternatives,” and adding, “A lot of people who wants this to happen. The military wants this to happen. This is a virtual invasion of our country.”
  150. Trump defended Wilbur Ross, saying “perhaps he should have said it differently,” and claiming, without evidence, that grocery stores and banks “are working along” with furloughed federal workers.
  151. On Thursday, CNN reported the White House is preparing a draft proclamation for Trump to declare a national emergency. The questions of legality and legal challenges are the main hold ups in acting.
  152. The draft states: “The massive amount of aliens who unlawfully enter the United States each day is a direct threat to the safety and security of our nation and constitutes a national emergency.”
  153. Also $7 billion in possible funding for the wall has been identified: $681 million in Treasury forfeiture funds, $3.6 billion in military construction, $3 billion in Pentagon civil works funds, and $200 million in DHS funds.
  154. On Thursday, Trump attacked Michael D’Antonio, a commentator and Trump biographer, for “playing his biggest con of all on Fake News CNN,” tweeting D’Antonio is “a broken down hack who knows nothing about me.”
  155. On Friday, in an early morning raid, FBI agents arrested Roger Stone at his home in Fort Lauderdale. In Mueller’s team 24-page document, Stone was indicted on seven counts of lying, obstruction and witness tampering.
  156. CNN video footage showed FBI agents at Stone’s door: “FBI. Open the door,” before adding, “FBI. Warrant.” The FBI agents who arrested Stone were working without pay given the government shutdown.
  157. The indictment said Stone sought stolen emails from WikiLeaks that could damage Trump’s opponents. In July 2018, Mueller indicted 12 Russians of orchestrating the hacks and distributing documents to WikiLeaks.
  158. The indictment also notes before Stone’s actions in the summer of 2016, the Democratic National Committee had already announced it had been hacked by Russians, implying Stone knew that too.
  159. The indictment said “a senior Trump campaign official was directed to contact Stone” about future releases by “Organization 1,” thought to be WikiLeaks. It was unclear who directed the senior campaign official.
  160. After WikiLeaks released its first set of Clinton campaign emails on October 7, 2016, Stone received a text message from “an associate of the high-ranking Trump campaign official” saying “well done.”
  161. In an October 2016 email to Steve Bannon, then-campaign chief executive, Stone implied he had information about WikiLeaks’ plans. It was not clear if Bannon is the high-ranking official and his lawyer declined to comment.
  162. Stone tried to cover up what he had done by lying to Congress. He also tried persuade another witness, identified as “Person 2” — thought to be Randy Credico —  to refuse to talk to the House Intelligence Committee.
  163. Jerome Corsi confirmed to CNN that he is “Person 1” in the indictment and that the statements about him in the indictment are “accurate.” Corsi also said what the indictment contains “confirms I did nothing wrong.”
  164. After Stone’s arrest, Trump tweeted, “Greatest Witch Hunt in the History of our Country! NO COLLUSION!”
  165. Trump also tweeted, “Who alerted CNN to be there?” echoing a tweet by former Fox News host Greta van Susteren, who falsely claimed the FBI had tipped off CNN to cover Stone’s arrest. CNN monitored grand jury activity.
  166. Stone appeared in a Fort Lauderdale court with steel shackles on his wrists and ankles Friday morning, and was released on a bond. On the courthouse steps, he made the V-for-victory gesture used by Richard Nixon.
  167. Stone said “There is no circumstance whatsoever under which I will bear false witness against the president, nor will I make up lies to ease the pressure on myself.” The crowd booed and chanted, “Lock him up!”
  168. With Stone’s indictment, the Mueller probe has now led to charges against 34 people and guilty pleas by six Trump associates and advisers. Stone got his start in politics working for Nixon’s 1972 re-election campaign.
  169. Agents also moved to search Stone’s New York City apartment. His case was assigned to assigned to U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson of the District of Columbia, who is also hearing Paul Manafort’s case.
  170. On Friday, House Intelligence Committee chair Adam Schiff said his committee will release all interview transcripts from its Russia probe to Mueller, citing Stone is second witness to be indicted for lying.
  171. On Friday, the Nixon Foundation distanced itself from Stone, tweeting during his time as a college student, Stone “was a junior scheduler on the Nixon reelection committee. Mr. Stone was not a campaign aide or adviser.”
  172. On Friday, Mueller’s team said in court that Manafort should not any get credit for cooperating when he is sentenced on February 8, saying the “multiple discernible lies” were not instances of “mere memory lapses.”
  173. On Friday, TSA Administrator David Pekoske tweeted that the department had scraped together funds left over from last year to make a “a partial payment” to TSA screeners for the first two-weeks of the shutdown.
  174. On Friday, WAPO reported at least 14,000 of the 26,000 unpaid Internal Revenue Service employees, whose work includes tax processing and call centers, did not show up this week after being called back last week.
  175. On Friday, the Federal Aviation Administration announced it was restricting flights into and out of New York’s LaGuardia Airport, saying there were not enough air traffic controllers to manage flights safely.
  176. Within hours, delays at LaGuardia had a ripple effect on other East Coast airports. The FAA’s action was the first time staffing shortages hit air traffic control centers during the shutdown.
  177. On Friday, an ABC News/Washington Post poll found Trump’s approval at 37%, one point off the low in his first two years, as 60% of Americans disapproved of his handling of the shutdown.
  178. Trump’s two-year average approval rating of 38% is the lowest on record for a president in 72 years of polls, compared with an average of 61% for the 12 previous presidents since 1945.
  179. The poll also found Trump’s approval among women dropped to a new low of 27 %, down 9 points since November, while 49% of men approved. His rating with independents dropped to 32%, matching its low.
  180. Shortly after the FAA’s action, the White House announced Trump would address the press from the Rose Garden. In the afternoon, cabinet officials and White House aides lined the sides and applauded him as he spoke.
  181. Trump claimed victory, saying he was “very proud to announce” what he called “a deal to end the shutdown and reopen the federal government.” The government would reopen for three weeks with no funding for his wall.
  182. At a joint press conference after the speech, Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer thanked federal workers for working a month without pay. Rather than accepting credit, Pelosi praised the unity of her caucus.
  183. Pelosi said McConnell “is a professional” so it is painful to see him kowtowing to Trump, saying she asked him, “Do you just want to abolish the Congress or maybe just the United States Senate? Because that is effectively what you’re doing.” Pelosi said his response was “nothing.”
  184. Later, Trump gave no explanation for his capitulation, tweeting, “This was in no way a concession. It was taking care of millions of people” hurt by the shutdown, adding, “in 21 days, if no deal is done, it’s off to the races!”
  185. Conservative commentator Ann Coulter expressed outrage, tweeting “Good news for George Herbert Walker Bush: As of today, he is no longer the biggest wimp ever to serve as President of the United States.”
  186. On Friday evening, press secretary Sanders quoted Trump’s tweet saying this was in no way a concession,” adding that in 21 days, Trump “is moving forward building the wall with or without the Democrats.”
  187. Late Friday, Trump signed a bill to temporarily reopen the government, ending a 35 day shutdown, the longest in the nation’s history. Over one million government contractors will not be reimbursed for missed pay.
  188. Late Friday, in a series of tweets, Pelosi said Trump’s “continued efforts to undermine” the Mueller probe “raises the questions,” adding, “What does Putin have on @realDonaldTrump, politically, personally or financially?”
  189. Pelosi also asked, mirroring a statement issued by her office Friday, why has the Trump regime “continued to discuss pulling the U.S. out of NATO, which would be a massive victory for Putin?
  190. Pelosi also tweeted “Stone’s indictment makes clear there was a deliberate, coordinated effort by top Trump campaign officials to subvert the will of the American people during the 2016 Election. #FollowTheFacts.”
  191. On Saturday, Trump sought to shift the narrative, tweeting, “If Roger Stone was indicted for lying to Congress, what about the lying done by Comey, Brennan, Clapper, Lisa Page & lover, Baker and soooo many others?”
  192. Trump also sent a series of five tweets arguing for his wall, culminating with a video of snippets Schumer and Pelosi, with his new slogan “BUILD A WALL & CRIME WILL FALL!”
  193. On Saturday, NYT compiled a list of more than 100 in-person meetings, phone calls, text messages, emails, and private messages on Twitter that Trump and his campaign associates had with Russians during the 2016 election.
  194. Gizmodo reported that some of Trump’s photos on Facebook and Instagram have been manipulated to make him appear thinner, and to make his fingers appear slightly longer.

Breaking: Trump To Speak On Shutdown; Will He Invoke A National Emergency?

Ken AshfordBreaking News, Gubmint Shutdown, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

1:00 pm: Drudge Report is saying that an end-of-shutdown agreement has been reached. But I don’t know how reliable that is.

Other reports vary:

REUTERS: Trump to make statement on government shutdown at 1:30 p.m. ET today – White House

1:15 pm – from the Washington Post:

BREAKING NEWS: Congressional leaders, Trump have reached a tentative deal to temporarily reopen the government without wall funds, according to Hill officials.

With President Trump’s approval, the pact would reopen the government for three weeks while leaving the issue of $5.7 billion for the U.S.-Mexico border wall to further talks.

The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private deliberations.

Trump was expected to announce the deal in a White House ceremony at 1:30 p.m. in the Rose Garden.

2:16 pm — There’s still no president.

2:17 pm — Ah. here he is.

My take: a nice pro-bipartisan speech at first, and then the last two thirds were apparently written by Stephen Miller with a lot of strange off-teleprompter comments. And it seemed like he was threatening to make it a national emergency next month if he doesn’t get his wall money.

FINAL UPDATE: The right is NOT NOT NOT happy!

Breaking — Day 35 Of Government Shutdown Brings Stoppage of Flights Into LaGuardia

Ken AshfordBreaking News, Gubmint ShutdownLeave a Comment

NBC New York reports:

A ground stop has been ordered at LaGuardia airport due to staffing related issues, the Federal Aviation Administration said Friday. The stop was ordered shortly before 10 a.m. Some arriving flights are also being delayed. The government shutdown has entered its 35th day, the longest federal shutdown over.

CNN reports that Newark and Philadelphia are also affected.

Bloomberg Intelligence Senior Aviation Analyst George Ferguson:

“The FAA halt of flights into LaGuardia confirms rising risks for U.S. airlines’ 1Q results. Flight and security delays will reduce demand for air travel, and that’s going to require discounts to attract passengers. Profit and margin pain will follow.”

Minutes ago…

That is a joke. There is nothing to “work on”.

Boom: Stone Indicted, Arrested

Ken AshfordCrime, L'Affaire Russe, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

AP:

Roger Stone, a confidant of President Donald Trump, was arrested in the special counsel’s Russia investigation in a pre-dawn raid at his Florida home on Friday and was charged with lying to Congress and obstructing the probe.

The seven-count indictment against Stone, a self-proclaimed “dirty trickster,” is the first criminal case in months from special counsel Robert Mueller.

It provides the most detail to date about how Trump campaign associates in the summer of 2016 were actively seeking to politically benefit from the release of hacked material damaging to Hillary Clinton’s campaign. It alleges that unnamed senior Trump campaign officials contacted Stone to ask when stolen emails relating to Clinton might be disclosed.

The indictment does not charge Stone with conspiring with WikiLeaks, the anti-secrecy website that published the emails, or with the Russian officers Mueller says hacked them. Instead, it accuses him of witness tampering, obstruction and false statements about his interactions related to WikiLeaks’ release. Some of those false statements were made to the House intelligence committee, according to the indictment.

The indictment alleges that Stone lied to the committee about “his possession of documents pertinent to HPSCI’s investigation; the source for his early August 2016 statements about Organization 1; requests he made for information from the head of Organization 1; his communications with his identified intermediary; and his communications with the Trump Campaign about Organization 1.”

As the investigation heated up, Stone continued to publicly identify
New York comedian Randy Credico as the true “conduit” to Wikileaks. Behind the scenes, the longtime GOP political operative was allegedly threatening Credico, according to the indictment.

Stone then allegedly threatened Credico in April 2018, purportedly calling him in an email “a rat” and “a stoolie,” the indictment alleges.

“You backstab your friends-run your mouth my lawyers are dying Rip you to shreds,” Stone purportedly wrote. He later added to Credico, the indictment reads, that he would “take that dog away from you,” an apparent reference to Credico’s dog Bianca.

Prosecutors don’t cite any more communications until May, when Credico purportedly wrote to Stone “You should have just been honest with the house Intel committee … you’ve opened yourself up to perjury charges like an idiot.”

Prosecutors say that Stone then replied, “You are so full of [expletive].”

The special counsel announced that Stone will make an initial appearance at the federal courthouse in Fort Lauderdale at 11 a.m. ET Friday.

Russia is notably absent from the indictment — the only time the words “Russia” or “Russian” are used is in noting the date the DNC announced they had been hacked by Russian government actors and to describe the various investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 election and potential collusion with the Trump campaign.

Key points of the indictment regarding the Trump campaign:

  1. Stone allegedly told senior Trump campaign officials by June or July of 2016 that he had information about Wikileaks planning to leak information that would be damaging to Hillary Clinton. The DNC email leak happened on July 22.
  2. After the DNC emails, a senior Trump campaign official was allegedly instructed to ask Stone about any future Wikileaks dumps or if Wikileaks had any other damaging information on Clinton’s campaign. Stone then allegedly told them about potential future releases. Five days after that, Trump makes plea to Russia “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.”
  3. Stone then allegedly told the Trump campaign about potential future Wikileaks releases impacting the Clinton campaign.
  4. Between late July and early August, Stone allegedly repeatedly emailed with an undisclosed political commentator, who would later be interviewed by investigators, to obtain information from Wikileaks’ head Julian Assange about future leaks. It was shortly after that Stone publicly claimed to have spoken with Assange and to know the timing of the next leak.
  5. Around October 3, 2016, Stone allegedly wrote to “a supporter involved with the Trump Campaign” in regards to the expected Wikileaks dump: “Spoke to my friend in London last night. The payload is still coming.”
  6. After the release of Podesta’s emails in October, an associate of “the high-ranking Trump Campaign official” allegedly sent Stone a text which read, “well done.” CNBC is reporting that the “high-ranking Trump Campaign official” is Steve Bannon.
  7. Stone allegedly lied to House investigators about his communications with Wikileaks and Trump officials. He also attempted to persuade an undisclosed witness, described as “a radio host who had known Stone for more than a decade” to withhold information from the investigations, per the indictment.

White House reaction is…. stupid.

As for why CNN was there for the raid, there was no tip-off. It was great journalism. The Mueller Grand Jury met yesterday (Thursday). They don’t normally meet on Thursday. The last time they met on a Thursday, there was an indictment of 13 Russians. So CNN figured there might be an indictment today — and figured Stone was a likely target. So they staked out his place. Again, great journalism.

UPDATE: Stone appeared in court just now for his arraignment. He appeared “disheveled” in court, clad in jeans and shackled.

Stone makes the famous Nixon gesture. I’m sure that was intentional on his part — he has a tattoo of Nixon on his back.

MOMENTS AGO: “There is no circumstance whatsoever under which I will bear false witness against the president, nor will I make up lies to ease the pressure on myself,” Roger Stone says. “I look forward to being fully and completely vindicated.”

Stone case has been assigned to Amy Berman Jackson, also the judge in Paul Manafort’s DC case.

Day 34 Of Shutdown And Government Shows Signs Of Strain

Ken AshfordGubmint Shutdown, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

All it will take is one plane crash — it doesn’t even have to be a major one — and it’s a whole new ballgame.

Five former Department of Homeland Security Secretaries — including John Kelly (Trump’s former Chief of Staff) signed a letter calling on Trump and Congress to fund the agency to relieve DHS national security personnel from their financial hardship.

“This is unconscionable.”

The pressure is more on Trump than anybody else. And why not? The executive branch is the only branch responsible for keeping the trains running.

A new AP-NORC poll shows most Americans see the shutdown as a major problem, and they blame Trump far more than congressional Democrats for the mess that has ensnared the lives of roughly 800,000 government workers who are going without pay.

Sixty percent of Americans say Trump bears a great deal of responsibility for the shutdown. About a third place the same amount of blame on congressional Democrats (31 percent) or Republicans (36 percent).

Sixty-five percent of Americans, including 86 percent of Democrats, 69 percent of independents and 33 percent of Republicans, call the shutdown a major problem.

Trump may be popular overall with Republicans, but a sizable share holds him responsible for the current situation. Almost 3 in 10 Republicans think Trump bears a great deal of responsibility, while 73 percent of his party says he’s at least partly responsible.

This is undoubtedly true…

UPDATE:

The shutdown will go on.

Competing proposals to reopen the federal government each garnered majority support in the Senate on Thursday afternoon, but both failed to secure the necessary 60 votes to break an impasse that has dragged on for more than a month and cut off pay for 800,000 public employees.
The votes were technically procedural in nature, to end debate and move to final passage on both measures. But their twin defeat sent the same sobering message: More than a month of shuttered federal agencies and a mounting financial toll on well over 1 million employees and contractors have not been enough to forge consensus or a compromise in the Republican-led Senate. Bills passed by the Democratic majority in the House to reopen government have gone nowhere. President Donald Trump has not relented in his demand for money for a border wall, and Republicans, frustrated though they are by the president and by alarming poll numbers, have stood by him.

In Thursday’s votes, Democrats blocked President Donald Trump’s proposal to trade protections for some undocumented immigrants for the $5.7 billion he has demanded in funding for a border wall, while Republicans largely held the line against a Democratic bid for a two-week break in the shutdown to buy time for more negotiations. There were notable cracks in the GOP position: Six Republicans broke with the party to back the Democratic proposal that would have reopened the government, in addition to supporting the president’s failed plan.

The votes Thursday were the first the Senate has taken to reopen the government since the 34-day shutdown began on December 22. Yet the political dynamic has barely budged. The same GOP lawmakers who have been saying they would consider legislation to reopen the government without funding for the border wall—Cory Gardner of Colorado, Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska—voted for both measures on Thursday. They were joined by Republican Senators Mitt Romney of Utah, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, and Johnny Isakson of Georgia, as well as by Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, the centrist Democrat who was the only member of his party to back both Trump’s plan and the short-term alternative. The GOP defections were short of the 13 needed for the bill to clear a filibuster, but they ensured that the Democratic proposal secured more support in the Republican-controlled chamber than Trump’s. Two conservative Republicans, Senators Mike Lee of Utah and Tom Cotton of Arkansas, voted against both amendments.

The outcome on Thursday was expected, although enough Republicans kept quiet about their plans for the Democratic proposal to lend the afternoon a bit of drama. The House left town for the weekend earlier in the day, as the chamber’s Democrats displayed little confidence that they would be needed to send a bill to Trump’s desk.

The clean stopgap funding bill — the one that passed the House and was proposed by Schumer — got more votes than Trump’s proposal. In a Republican-run Senate.

Pelosi Wins SOTU War

Ken AshfordCongress, Democrats, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

Donald Trump blinked.

There’s simply no other way to interpret this tweet sent at 11:12 p.m. Eastern time Wednesday night:

That concession came after a day in which Trump tried to force House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s hand, sending her a letter in which he insisted he planned to deliver his State of the Union speech from the House floor — and dared her to say “no.”Which, of course, she promptly did.

That stunned the White House, according to CNN’s reporting. Wrote CNN’s White House team:

“White House officials had believed Pelosi wanted only to postpone Trump’s State of the Union for political reasons after she sent a letter to him last week asking him to delay the address until after the partial government shutdown ended.”

In short: Trump and his senior aides thought Pelosi would cave, that she wouldn’t endanger the tradition of the State of the Union simply because she disagreed with his demands for $5.7 billion for a border wall — a demand that sits at the heart of the government shutdown. They thought that Pelosi, an institutionalist, would break when faced with the prospect of a president demanding time to give the country its annual report card.

And on that, they were wrong. Because Pelosi had long ago concluded that the only way to effectively combat Trump is to play the game in the most unorthodox manner possible. Traditional political calculations — and deference — must go out the window, Democrats have long argued privately, when dealing with a president like Trump. The only thing he responds to is raw power plays, and so you need to make clear that you will go well beyond what have been considered the conventional limits of what politicians will — and won’t — do.

This fight over the SOTU is about much more than just when and where Trump gives his speech. This is the first major skirmish in the era of divided government in Trump’s Washington. The fight was widely — and rightly — regarded as a test case for how Democrats could/should deal with Trump for the next two years. Should they fight to a point and then concede in the interest of the body politic? Or should they fight and fight and fight — refusing to concede no matter what rhetorical attacks he leveled at them?

Pelosi chose the latter option. And she won.

Breaking: Witness Tampering Successful

Ken AshfordCourts/Law, L'Affaire Russe, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

Breaking: Trump Will Show Up For SOTU Anyway

Ken AshfordCongress, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

Just released by the White House:

Puerile, of course.

We’re actually going to have a showdown over this now?

If that is true… then she should formally uninvite.

Pelosi can’t stop Trump from coming to the Capitol anyway on January 29.

There are restrictions on who can walk onto the House floor. The privilege is reserved for current and former members of Congress, along with congressional staffers with specific credentials allowing them access. The president is also permitted to enter the House chamber at any time.

But Pelosi can use House rules to silence Trump.

Whether Trump could just get up on the dais and start delivering his State of the Union address is another question. Nothing could physically stop Trump from speaking in the House chamber, but there is a strict set of rules governing what is allowed to take place on the floor and what would be subject to condemnation.

In order for someone to deliver formal remarks in the House of Representatives, the chamber must be “in session,” which is at the discretion of the speaker.

And Pelosi can make it difficult for C-SPAN to broadcast Trump’s floor speech.

Ordinarily, C-SPAN is the only entity allowed to record House floor proceedings. But C-SPANonly has permission to operate when the House is officially in session. If the House isn’t in session and Trump comes to the floor and begins speaking, there would be no way of broadcasting the address to a national audience. The chamber lights might not even be on for Trump to see his written speech.

Unless someone broke House rules. Someone could videotape Trump and carry it live on Facebook or Twitter. When Democrats, then in the minority, took over the House floor in a 24-hour “sit-in” in 2016 to protest gun violence, Democrats filmed their own floor speeches and C-SPAN chose to air that content. The same thing could happen in this scenario.

Then Pelosi would have to decide whether to move forward with a vote to formally rebuke of Trump.

Trump could of course deliver his speech elsewhere (like the Senate floor).

If Trump wants people to see no crime, he should let federal agents get back to work with pay.

Trump May Be At His Wit’s End With Rudy

Ken AshfordL'Affaire Russe, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

Gabriel Sherman in Vanity Fair:

Every time Rudy Giuliani opens his mouth in front of a reporter, something bad seems to happen. Donald Trump’s beleaguered lawyer has, over the past few weeks, given one  disastrous interview after another. The latest fiasco came Monday, when Giuliani participated in a rambling Q&A with The New Yorker’s Isaac Chotiner. After telling Chotiner he only had a moment before he took a shower, Giuliani unspooled a series of bizarre responses, at one point in the conversation even admitting he worried that his legacy would be that “he lied for Trump.”

Trump is “furious” with Giuliani’s recent botched press appearances, two Republicans briefed on the president’s thinking told me. What makes the most recent interviews so frustrating to Trumpworld is that, on Friday, the president secured his biggest victory yet when Robert Mueller’s spokesman issued a rare public denial of BuzzFeed’s explosive report alleging Trump had directed Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about Trump Tower Moscow. “Before Rudy stepped in it, Mueller had basically called BuzzFeed ‘fake news,’” a Republican close to the White House said.

According to sources, a debate is playing out inside the West Wing over Giuliani’s future. Trump is being encouraged by several people, including Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, to dump Giuliani before it’s too late, while outside advisers Corey Lewandowski and Dave Bossie are lobbying Trump to keep Giuliani. “Trump is screaming. He’s so mad at Rudy,” one of the sources said. (“No, he’s not pissed. He just wants it clarified,” Giuliani told CNN’s Dana Bash on Tuesday, when asked about the president’s response to the interviews.) The White House had not responded to a request for comment by press time.

As Giuliani’s unforced errors pile up, former West Wing officials and 2016 campaign veterans are privately debating what’s gone wrong with Rudy. Why, they ask, is he making statements that so obviously damage his client? A former White House official speculated that maybe Giuliani “has lost his mind.” But there are other, more charitable ways of interpreting Giuliani’s interviews. As I’ve previously reported, the Trump-Giuliani relationship hasn’t been good for weeks. Giuliani has said privately that he “hates the job” and that Mueller’s final report will be “horrific” for Trump. Facing these challenges and pressures, it’s understandable he would make mistakes, the thinking goes. “Everyone who works for Trump screws up because there’s no way to please the guy,” an outside Trump adviser said.

But, frustrating as the job may be, Giuliani also may be addicted to it. Friends said the former New York mayor was embittered after being out of the limelight for years following his failed 2008 presidential campaign. He’s been exhilarated by the press attention that comes with being Trump’s lawyer. Sources said Giuliani often books his own interviews and frequently texts with television news anchors.

None of this is surprising. Rudy has always been a big media whore, even before his involvement with Trump.

And I’m amazed this “pro-bono” arrangement has gone on as long as it has. But really, what other choice does Trump have? Who else on his team is willing to talk to the press about Trump-Russia? Nobody.

I’m Sick Of The Covington Catholic Teen Incident, But This One Thing I Believe

Ken AshfordFake News, Race, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

Adam Serwer:

The incident became a national story in part because of the way the images seemed to confirm first one sweeping narrative, and then another, opposite one: the first, that the heart of Trumpism is prejudice; the second, that anti-prejudice, abetted by the liberal media, has become a malevolent force comparable to racial oppression. But only one of these bears any resemblance to empirical reality, and that would still be the case no matter what unfolded in front of the Lincoln Memorial.

As the Covington students ascend to right-wing martyrdom, some perspective is in order. The disproportionate reaction to their behavior does not, as some conservative commentators have suggested, represent a new kind of oppression comparable to that experienced by historically disfavored groups. While all children deserve forgiveness and understanding, in America, children who are not white are often simply not seen as children at all.

The Covington students are not likely to have their summary executions by police officers justified; they will not be separated from their parents for the crime of seeking asylum; they are not disproportionately more likely to be charged as adults for crimes they committed as children; they are not likely to be stalked in the night and murdered by grown men who become folk heroes for acting out the violent, racist fantasies of others. The president’s campaign merchandise remains a favorite of white-supremacist groups, and his name remains a racist taunt for those seeking to antagonize people of color of any age. None of this has changed, and the disgraceful overreaction of some liberals does not change it. If the right extended the sympathy the Covington students are now receiving to children who don’t remind them of their own, this would be a more just society.

Movement, Ever So Slightly, On Ending The Government Shutdown

Ken AshfordCongress, Gubmint Shutdown, Immigration and Xenophobia, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

NY Times:

WASHINGTON — Senate Republicans and Democrats on Tuesday offered the first glimmers of a potential resolution to the five-week partial government shutdown, scheduling procedural votes Thursday on President Trump’s proposal to spend $5.7 billion on a border wall and a competing bill that would fund the government through Feb. 8.

The plan for the Senate to consider the dueling proposals reflects the first bipartisan action since the shutdown began on legislation that could end the impasse, offering each party a chance to press its proposal. But the move by Senators Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, and Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, is far from a guarantee of breaking the gridlock.

With most Republicans united behind Mr. Trump’s insistence that any legislation to reopen the government include money for a border wall and most Democrats opposed to the linkage, neither measure is likely to draw the 60 votes required to advance.

I am a tad more optimistic on the continuing resolution bill. It doesn’t just include reopening the government; it includes disaster relief money for Gulf states—Texas, North Carolina, Florida, Mississippi—where there are eight Republican senators. Remember, though, this is the legislation McConnell swore he wouldn’t bring to the floor because Trump swore he would veto it.

We Now Know Why There Have Been So Few Press Briefings In The White House Press Room

Ken AshfordTrump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

ABC News reports:

President Trump said in a Tuesday tweet that he’s directed White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders “not to bother” with press briefings because “certain members of the press” cover her “rudely” and “inaccurately.”

The current 35-day streak without a press briefing from the White House podium is the longest on record since the tradition started during President Bill Clinton’s administration, according to ABC News’ Alex Mallin.

Nothing Is Real (And Nothing To Get Hung About)

Ken AshfordFake News, L'Affaire RusseLeave a Comment

This weekend saw the entire country come to terms with the new media, social media, and what is real.

It started off with a bombshell to quelch a previous bombshell.

Friday evening, special counsel spokesman Peter Carr issued a rare statement rejecting the central claim in a BuzzFeed article, that Mueller has corroborating evidence (including testimony from Cohen) indicating Trump directed Cohen to lie to Congress about the deal.

The statement was drafted internally within the special counsel’s office, which made the decision to release it, according to two sources with direct knowledge of the situation. The deputy attorney general’s office, which oversees the special counsel, was only given a heads up it was coming Friday evening.

BuzzFeed has since stood by its report,  although no other outlet has confirmed it. This set off a wave of predictable “fake news” claims from the crazed right.

But even the Mueller office denial set off speculation. What exactly was incorrect about the Buzzfeed report?

Rudy Giuliani went on CNN and, well, muddied the waters even more in such a way that made it seem like the Buzzfeed article had at least a kernel of truth. Giuliani did not deny that Trump talked to Cohen about the testimony in advance. He said he doesn’t know one way or another. Then Giuliani hinted that maybe he (Giuliani) was actually lying about that, and actually does know that Trump had the conversation, but can’t acknowledge it because it’s attorney-client privilege. Then Giuliani ultimately comes out with this gem: “And so what if he talked to him about it?” Giuliani’s position appears to be: sure, Trump talked to Cohen about his testimony, and believes that what Cohen was going to testify to was the truth.

This New Yorker interview with Rudy Giuliani is gold. Rudy is always entertaining, as the nearly senile septuagenarian lawyer who might say anything next. But this interview is great even for him.

First, there are the tapes that totally contradict the BuzzFeed story — and also, tapes? What tapes? Oh yeah, tapes. Well, the tapes have nothing to do with this:

Did President Trump’s lawyers or you yourself reach out to the special counsel’s office after the story, as has just been reported?

I can’t discuss that. President Trump would not have done that. If anybody would have done it, obviously it would have been his lawyers, and I really can’t discuss that. That would be confidential.

Do you—

But I can tell you, from the moment I read the story, I knew the story was false.

Because?

Because I have been through all the tapes, I have been through all the texts, I have been through all the e-mails, and I knew none existed. And then, basically, when the special counsel said that, just in case there are any others I might not know about, they probably went through others and found the same thing.

Wait, what tapes have you gone through?

I shouldn’t have said tapes. They alleged there were texts and e-mails that corroborated that Cohen was saying the President told him to lie. There were no texts, there were no e-mails, and the President never told him to lie.

So, there were no tapes you listened to, though?

No tapes. Well, I have listened to tapes, but none of them concern this.

Da fuq?

Okay…. so bottom line: the Buzzfeed story discussed on this blog and elsewhere, and never confirmed by any other news outlet, may or may not be true but probably has some kernel of truth but we don’t know what and won’t know what until the Mueller Report is released to the public if it is release to the public.

THEN, we had some crazy video that went viral involving several students from Covington Catholic High School and a Native American man. It looked like the students (from an all-white boys’ school) were harassing the Native American man (named Nathan Phillips, a Vietnam Vet) on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

This was how the local Covington (KY) news channel handled it:

But then longer videos emerged and the story developed. The students were there as part of a March For Life event. They were being taunted by a group known as Black Hebrew Israelites.

Nathan Phillips said he and his Native American group intervened between the two groups in order to diffuse the situation.

With the resources of a Louisville PR firm used by the GOP, Nick Sandmann, the Covington Catholic High School junior smirking at Nathan Phillips, issued a statement which read in part:

I never understood why either of the two groups of protestors were engaging with us, or exactly what they were protesting at the Lincoln Memorial. We were simply there to meet a bus, not become central players in a media spectacle. This is the first time in my life I’ve ever encountered any sort of public protest, let alone this kind of confrontation or demonstration.

I was not intentionally making faces at the protestor. I did smile at one point because I wanted him to know that I was not going to become angry, intimidated or be provoked into a larger confrontation. I am a faithful Christian and practicing Catholic, and I always try to live up to the ideals my faith teaches me — to remain respectful of others, and to take no action that would lead to conflict or violence.

Some bought this; others didn’t, and the entire incident became a Rorschach test where people see what they want to see. Other videos have emerged of the students (purportedly) taunting a woman.

And here is another one with a Covington Catholic kid screaming: “It’s not rape if you enjoy it”

So the country is split and nobody knows what’s real.

One thing is for sure: even IF the Covington Catholic high school kids are being wrongly accused, their “lives are not over” as many of their supporters over-dramatically claim. They are white and privileged. They will be fine.

All of this took place, by the way, on a weekend, where not one but TWO documentaries came out on the Fyre Festival… where white privileged young adults got taken in for millions of dollars to attend a music festival on a remote island that never had a chance of happening.

Nothing is real.