White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said that she is not likely to conduct a White House press briefing any time in the near future, deriding the once-regular sessions as an act of “theater” for reporters seeking “to get famous” during the televised news conferences, Politico reports.
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“Donald Trump’s lawyers insist they don’t need to form an impeachment defense team,” Politico reports.
“Yet here’s what they have: At least 30 White House and Justice Department attorneys who have worked on related issues. Several personal lawyers for the president dealing with the subject. A lurking presence at Capitol Hill impeachment-focused hearings. Aggressive legal briefs and countersuits foiling efforts to gather fuel for potential proceedings. Near-daily media appearances discussing the topic.”
“This technically nonexistent yet omnipresent force has been critical in stymying Democrats’ attempts to build their case for removing Trump from office.”
“Talk about pressuring a foreign country to interfere with and control a U.S. election. It couldn’t be clearer, and that’s not just undermining democratic institutions. That is treason. It’s treason, pure and simple, and the penalty for treason under the U.S. code is death. That’s the only penalty.”
— Former Gov. William Weld (R), quoted by the Washington Post.
Daniel Drezner: “It is safe to assume that Trump will continue to abuse the powers of the presidency as long as he is in office. The Ukraine example shows that he is not above using presidential authority for partisan gain. Furthermore, when he is not doing those things, he is pursuing other policies that harm the U.S. economy and the national interest.”
“Would impeachment stop any of that? No, not directly. What it would do, however, is distract the heck out of him. To say that Trump can be easily distracted would be an understatement — his short attention span occupies a healthy portion of the #ToddlerinChief thread. Sharpiegate exemplified how Trump obsessed about a small thing so much that it became a more scandalous thing.”
“So why impeach Trump? Because he will obsess about it. The moment it becomes a live option, the moment a trial in the Senate seems conceivable, he will talk about nothing else. He will rant to his staff and bore foreign leaders about it. He loves a fight. And every moment Donald Trump thinks about impeachment is a moment he is not thinking about doing even more reckless things, like trying to compromise the independence of the Fed, or launching a larger trade war, or stumbling into a real war.”
Matthew Yglesias: “Democratic voters are stuck in a self-destructive loop.”
“The loop begins and ends with polls. Pollsters know that Democrats want to know who is the strongest candidate against President Donald Trump, so they conduct a lot of head-to-head polls matching Trump up against various contenders. The polls show that the best-known Democrats — former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren — are the strongest candidates against him, which likely boosts them in the polls. This makes it hard for the lesser-known candidates to get attention, which further ensures they’ll do poorly in the head-to-head polls against Trump.”
“The problem is that head-to-head polls at this stage in the race overwhelmingly reflect the challenger’s name recognition rather than anything that would help you predict an election outcome that’s more than a year in the future.”
Jonathan Bernstein: “Many details remain unknown about the whistle-blower complaint that is now roiling Washington. But Trump himself has confirmed the core of the story: He pressured the new president of Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, or perhaps to just invent some dirt on him.”
“By all objective standards, this is a monster story. It’s a clear-cut case of not just an impeachable offense, but one that demands impeachment and removal. For a president to invite foreign interference in a U.S. election is a flat-out abuse of power. And that’s not even to mention the widespread suspicion that Trump held up military aid to Ukraine as an added inducement. Just what we know is more than enough; add it to all the other ways in which Trump has violated his oath of office (and see David Leonhardt’s tour de force summation), and it’s not a close call.”
“By all objective standards, that is. Politics, like it or not, isn’t in most cases about objective standards. Which is why on Monday the big test will be very simple: Will Americans light up the phones of their representatives in Congress to demand action? Or is this just more background noise for them – just fodder for partisans to yell about, but nothing more?”
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was interviewed by Jake Tapper on CNN:
TAPPER: Let me just close by asking, if, for instance, President Obama had pressured a foreign leader, Putin or the president of Ukraine, anyone, and said, I want you to look into Donald Trump Jr. or I want you to look into Eric Trump, international businessmen, both of them, would you not find that inappropriate?
MNUCHIN: Again, I’m not going to speculate on that. What I do find inappropriate is the fact that Vice President Biden at the time’s son did very significant business dealings in Ukraine. I, for one, find that to be concerning. And, to me, that is the issue perhaps that should be further investigated.
TAPPER: I don’t understand. So it is OK for Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump Jr. to do business all over the world, it’s OK for Ivanka Trump to have copyrights approved all over the world while President Trump is president, but while Vice President Joe Biden was vice president, his son shouldn’t have been able to do business dealings?
MNUCHIN: Again, I don’t — I don’t really want to go into more of these details, other than to say…
TAPPER: Well, you’re just setting a precedent that the president is violating.
Rick Hasen: “President Trump may well have committed a new campaign finance crime if he, as reported, pressured Ukraine into providing dirt on a political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, and Biden’s son Hunter.”
“Unfortunately, special counsel Robert Mueller may have stymied any future DOJ’s ability to enforce that law when he gave Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr. a pass earlier this year on similar conduct. If Trump has again sought foreign assistance in an election, Mueller’s decision not to enforce the law last time around is partly to blame for the president acting with total impunity along with an accompanying decay of democratic norms.”
“When Republicans cut corporate and individual taxes in 2017, they promised two things: It would grow the economy and it would not add to the national debt. Neither of those have borne out,” the Washington Post reports.
“Not only has economic growth slowed, in part because of President Trump’s ongoing trade war with China, but the deficit has grown to its highest level in seven years, in part due to reduced tax revenue.”
“To counter these trends, the Trump administration has engaged in economic double-talk, including repeatedly saying, falsely, that the federal deficit — and by extension, the national debt — was falling or would fall in the future.”
Corey Lewandowski apologized for saying he had no obligation to be truthful with the media, in an interview with Fox News.
Said Lewandowski: “I regret the fact that I should have explained it better and specifically as it related to my tenure in front of the special counsel … but I did that out of respect for the special counsel and the investigative process and at the advice of counsel, so we didn’t spend countless hours answering these questions in the public while the investigation continued.”
“Faced with growing tumult at home and abroad, President Donald Trump heads into his three-day visit to the United Nations this week hoping to lean on strained alliances while fending off questions about whether he sought foreign help to damage a political rival. Trump’s latest U.N. trip comes after nearly three years of an ‘America First’ foreign policy that has unsettled allies and shredded multinational pacts,” the AP reports.
“A centerpiece of this year’s U.N. schedule will be a Monday session on climate change that Trump plans to skip. Instead, he will address a meeting about the persecution of religious minorities, particularly Christians, an issue that resonates with Trump’s evangelical supporters.”
David Leonhardt steps back to look at the full picture of Donald Trump’s presidency.
Playbook: “Unlike the Byzantine Russiagate allegations, the latest charge — that the president repeatedly tried to get a foreign leader seeking military aid to investigate a political opponent — is not hard to understand. It’s about the actions of Trump himself, not his aides or former campaign nobodies. At this point, the facts are pretty much in the open and agreed to: The president has practically admitted he discussed Biden with Ukraine’s president, and his lawyer Rudy Giuliani has been open about pressing the Ukrainians to investigate Biden’s son Hunter. Now it’s up to Congress to figure out how to proceed.”
“Speaker Nancy Pelosi understands the caucus’ moods better than anyone, and her letter Sunday — which said the president needs to hand over the whistleblower report now, or else — was a rifle shot that should not be underestimated.”
“Time is of the essence for the Trump White House. If they don’t produce the whistleblower report within days — maybe a week — Democrats are going to be under extreme pressure to move toward impeachment. Thursday will be an important day to watch: That’s when Joseph Maguire, the acting director of national intelligence, is testifying in an open hearing.”
“President Trump acknowledged on Sunday that he raised corruption accusations against former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. during a phone call with Ukraine’s leader, a stunning admission as pressure mounted on Democrats to impeach Mr. Trump over allegations he leaned on a foreign government to help damage a political rival,” the New York Times reports.
“In public and in private, many Democrats said the evidence that has emerged in recent days indicating that Mr. Trump pushed the Ukrainian government to investigate Mr. Biden, and his administration’s stonewalling of attempts by Congress to learn more, were changing their calculations about whether to charge him with articles of impeachment.”
“The foreign strategy of soothing tensions with the United States by stroking President Trump’s ego was put into vivid effect here Sunday when Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi lathered praise on his American counterpart at a massive rally celebrating the Indian diaspora,” the Washington Post reports.
“The leaders of the world’s two largest democracies took the stage together in Houston before a roaring crowd of tens of thousands of Indian Americans, where Modi delivered an unmistakable endorsement of Trump’s presidency and cast their joint appearance in historic terms.”
Said Modi: “His name is familiar to every person on the planet. He was a household name and very popular even before he went on to occupy the highest office in this great country. From CEO to commander in chief. From boardrooms to the Oval Office. From studios to global stage.”
New York Times: “Iowa’s presidential caucuses disenfranchise huge blocs of voters. The state is 91 percent white. It is not easy to get to, or get around in. But to a greater degree than in recent campaigns, this unrepresentative and idiosyncratic state is proving that it is the only electoral battleground that matters for Democrats from now until caucus night on Feb. 3.”
“Conservative leaders are circulating data to White House staff that claims adults who vape will turn on President Trump if he follows through with his planned ban on flavored e-cigarettes,” Axios reports..
“The data reveals that the number of adult vapers in key battleground states greatly outweighs the margins by which Trump won those states in 2016 — and they argue it could cost him reelection.”