January, 2017

Le Pen’s Main Rival Hit with Fresh Scandal

“French presidential candidate Francois Fillon employed two of his children as legislative aides, Le Canard Enchaine newspaper said, adding to the scandal that is starting to surround his election bid,” Bloomberg reports.

“Fillon has been the establishment’s leading candidate in the battle to stop Marine Le Pen’s populist campaign to seize the presidency and lead France out of the euro. Fillon won the Republicans’ primary boasting that he had the irreproachable integrity required to lead the country. While polls show Le Pen leading in the first round of voting, they also suggest that she would lose heavily to any of the main candidates in a run-off.”

Democrats Boycott Votes on Two Trump Nominees

“In a surprise turn of events, Senate Democrats announced Tuesday morning that they are boycotting a committee vote on two of President Donald Trump’s Cabinet nominees, drawing fury from Republicans across the aisle,” CNN reports.

“The Senate Finance Committee was set to vote on the nominations of Rep. Tom Price to lead the Department of Health and Human Services and Steve Mnuchin for Treasury Secretary. But minutes after the vote was scheduled to take place, Democrats on the panel convened an impromptu news conference to announce that they refused to participate in the proceeding, all as their Republican colleagues were waiting in a hearing room down the hallway.”

Trump Nominee May Have Plagiarized Responses

“President Trump’s nominee for education secretary, in written responses to questions from senators, appears to have used several sentences and phrases from other sources without attribution — including from a top Obama administration civil rights official,” the Washington Post reports.

“The responses from nominee Betsy DeVos were submitted Monday to the top Democrat on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, which is voting Tuesday morning on her confirmation.”

Democrats Are Awake Now

Rick Klein: “President Obama is off the bench. Members of Congress are chanting with the protestors. The party has found its cause –blocking the Trump agenda. Just a week ago, talk in Washington was about how Chuck Schumer could be a closer partner to the president than Mitch McConnell. Now, the president is making fun of Schumer’s tears when he appeared alongside people impacted by the travel ban. Add that to the late-night firing of an acting attorney general over an entirely political disagreement and you have a base plus elected officials who are losing any incentive to work with the new president. Democrats can thank the president for showing them the strategy that now seems inevitable for the next four years: stand strong, and stand in his way.”

Does Trump Respect the Rule of Law?

James Hohmann: “Trump’s move last night, while legally defensible, raises fresh questions about the president’s commitment to the rule of law. It follows several episodes during the campaign that were far outside American norms.”

“The decision to fire Yates also raises profound questions about Trump’s view of the judiciary as an independent branch of government. Firing Yates gives Democrats more fodder to rigorously scrutinize whomever Trump announces tonight at 8 p.m. as his pick for the Supreme Court. What kind of conversations has the president had with this person? Did he ask him to make any commitments about anything? Would Trump stop himself, or would anyone on his staff stop him, from calling this justice directly to complain about something he doesn’t like or to press him on a case that’s before the high court?”

How Not to Win Friends

First Read: “There’s one more thing that’s so rare or unprecedented about Trump — the degree to which he criticizes the political opposition or even members of his own party… If you cover politics like we do, you’ve become numb to these kinds of statements from Trump. But remember, these are the people (Republicans, Democrats, even the media) that a presidential administration needs to work with.”

Pentagon Trying to Get F-16 Pilots Exempted from Ban

Air Force Times: “The Defense Department and Iraqi diplomats are trying to find a way to exempt Iraqi military pilots from President Trump’s executive order on immigration and allow them to continue training in the United States with the Air Force.”

“Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina blasted Trump’s order… saying it could become ‘a self-inflicted wound in the fight against terrorism.’ They cited the Iraqi pilots as an example of how the executive order undermines the fight against the Islamic State.”

Flashback of the Day

At her 2015 confirmation hearing, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), President Trump’s nominee for attorney general, asked Sally Yates, the acting attorney general Trump fired last night, an interesting question:

Sessions: Do you think the attorney general has the responsibility to say no to the president if he asks for something that’s improper? A lot of people have defended the Loretta Lynch nomination, for example, by saying: ‘Well, he appoints somebody who’s going to execute his views. What’s wrong with that?’ But if the views the president wants to execute are unlawful, should the attorney general or the deputy attorney general say no?

Yates: Senator, I believe that the attorney general or the deputy attorney general has the obligation to follow the law and the Constitution, and to give their independent legal advice to the president.

The exchange starts at about 1:15 in the video.

First Read: “The question Democrats are asking today: Can someone like Sessions who played such a big role in Trump’s campaign — and whose top staff now work for Trump — show that same kind of independence at the Justice Department?”

White House Sees Refugee Ban As Just a Start

Los Angeles Times: “Even as confusion, internal dissent and widespread condemnation greeted President Trump’s travel ban and crackdown on refugees this weekend, senior White House aides say they are only getting started.”

“Trump’s top advisors on immigration, including chief strategist Steve Bannon and senior advisor Stephen Miller, see themselves as launching a radical experiment to fundamentally transform how the U.S. decides who is allowed into the country and to block a generation of people who, in their view, won’t assimilate into American society. That project may live or die in the next three months, as the Trump administration reviews whether and how to expand the visa ban and alter vetting procedures. White House aides are considering new, onerous security checks that could effectively limit travel into the U.S. by people from majority-Muslim countries to a trickle.”

Brat Says Lawmakers Feeling Heat Over Obamacare Repeal

Rep. David Brat (R-VA) told a conservative audience he “is feeling some political pressure as Republicans in Congress move to repeal the Affordable Care Act,” the Richmond Times Dispatch reports.

Said Brat: “Since Obamacare and these issues have come up, the women are in my grill no matter where I go. They come up — ‘When is your next town hall?’ And believe me, it’s not to give positive input.”

He pleaded with the audience to get organized: “Help us write newspaper articles. We’re getting hammered.”

How Obama Will Take On Trump

Politico: “Barack Obama and his aides expected to take on President Donald Trump at some point, but they didn’t think it would happen this quickly. Now they’re trying to find the right balance on issues that demand a response, and how to use Obama deliver the selective pushback. Obama and his team are monitoring what’s happening at the White House, and not ruling out the possibility that Obama will challenge Trump more forcefully in the coming months, according to people who’ve been in contact with the former president.”

“It depends on Trump. It also depends, the people close to the former president said Monday, on whether speaking out would just set him up to have no effect and be dismissed, and result in empowering Trump more, which is a very real worry for them.”

Trump’s Talk About Muslims Led Yates to Defy Him

New York Times: “Repeated comments from President Trump and his advisers about barring Muslims from entering the United States were at the heart of the decision on Monday by the acting attorney general, Sally Q. Yates, to refuse to defend the president’s executive order on immigration, senior officials involved said.”

“Like many others in the government, Ms. Yates, a holdover from the Obama administration, was caught by surprise Friday night by Mr. Trump’s executive order temporarily halting all refugees from entering the country and indefinitely blocking immigration or visits from seven Muslim countries. The Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel had reviewed the order and signed off on its legality. But Ms. Yates and her staff lawyers believed that the department had to consider the intent of the order, which she said appeared designed to single out people based on religion.”

Clinton Aides Still Blame Obama for Her Loss

Mike Allen: “Clintonites feel that if Obama had come out early and forcefully with evidence of Russian interference in the campaign, and perhaps quicker sanctions, she might be president today. His caution, they argue, allowed the public to have a foggy sense of clear, calculated, consistent Russian meddling in the campaign. We can’t stress enough how upset some Democrats are. It’s testing relationships between Clinton and Obama loyalists. It’s making efforts to form a new Trump opposition coalition harder.”

However, Obama “has let it be know he remains befuddled how she missed what to him was an easy layup of a win, given his own popularity on Election Day and Trump’s vulgarity.”

The GOP’s Deal with the Devil

David Brooks: “Many Republican members of Congress have made a Faustian bargain with Donald Trump. They don’t particularly admire him as a man, they don’t trust him as an administrator, they don’t agree with him on major issues, but they respect the grip he has on their voters, they hope he’ll sign their legislation and they certainly don’t want to be seen siding with the inflamed progressives or the hyperventilating media.”

“Their position was at least comprehensible: How many times in a lifetime does your party control all levers of power? When that happens you’re willing to tolerate a little Trumpian circus behavior in order to get things done.”

“But if the last 10 days have made anything clear, it’s this: The Republican Fausts are in an untenable position. The deal they’ve struck with the devil comes at too high a price. It really will cost them their soul.”

It’s Won’t Get Any Better

Eliot Cohen: “Precisely because the problem is one of temperament and character, it will not get better. It will get worse, as power intoxicates Trump and those around him. It will probably end in calamity — substantial domestic protest and violence, a breakdown of international economic relationships, the collapse of major alliances, or perhaps one or more new wars (even with China) on top of the ones we already have. It will not be surprising in the slightest if his term ends not in four or in eight years, but sooner, with impeachment or removal under the 25th Amendment.”