January, 2017

Bannon Seizes Role from Flynn

New York Times: “People close to Mr. Bannon said he is not accumulating power for power’s sake, but is instead helping to fill a staff leadership vacuum created, in part, by Mr. Flynn’s stumbling performance as national security adviser.”

“Mr. Flynn, a lifelong Democrat sacked as head of the Pentagon’s intelligence arm after clashing with Obama administration officials in 2014, has gotten on the nerves of Mr. Trump and other administration officials because of his sometimes overbearing demeanor, and has further diminished his internal standing by presiding over a chaotic and opaque N.S.C. transition process that prioritized the hiring of military officials over civilian experts recommended to him by his own team.”

What Does Congress Do Now?

Playbook: “Sometimes it makes sense to go through Congress. Yes, it’s slow, messy and cumbersome. But you’ll end up with something safer — and you’ll share the political risk. The question now: Will Republicans on Capitol Hill pass something to help clean up the mess Trump created? Or will they force him to own it? Absent congressional action, will Trump tweak the order? Or is that admitting defeat — something Trump doesn’t like to do. One thing is for certain: Every time Congress has to spend hours and political capital on something like this, it makes tax reform, replacing Obamacare and an infrastructure package that much harder.”

“While Trump is certainly a singular figure, we’ve seen people like him before in Washington. Rich business owners get elected or appointed to positions of power all the time and, in their quest to shake things up in a confining political environment, screw things up instead. Running a private company, where you’re accountable to only yourself, is different than running a country, where you’re accountable to 324 million people and 535 lawmakers, who won election just like the president.”

Chaos Inside the White House

Sources “high-up inside the administration” tell Mike Allen that the bungled rollout of the refugee ban over the weekend “are indicative of bigger problems ahead.”

In addition to worries about an insular decision making process, President Trump “is showing no signs of wanting order: He loves the competing views, internally and externally, allowing him to be the (usually last-minute) decider.”

Also worrying: “The place oozes paranoia. So every bad move is simply chalked up to media-hate.”

For members: The Man Behind Trump’s Gold Curtains

White House Readies for a Supreme Court Fight

Politico: “With Trump planning to announce his nominee on Thursday, but now considering an earlier rollout, his allies are moving quickly to sharpen a battle plan, and the first formal meeting of the de facto war room for the coming confirmation fight took place on Friday at the Capitol Hill headquarters of the National Republican Senatorial Committee on Friday.”

“Inside the room were officials from the White House, Senate GOP leadership and the outside groups that have spent months researching the records of Trump’s potential picks and are now prepared to unload at least $10 million in ads backing the nominee—much of it directed at Senate Democrats up for election in 2018 in states Trump carried.”

Some Muslim Nations Remain Conspicuously Silent

“The Germans criticized it. The British voiced their discomfort. The French, the Canadians and even some Republican senators in Washington stood in open opposition,” the New York Times reports.

“But in Cairo and Riyadh, in the heart of the Muslim world, President Trump’s decision to bar millions of refugees and citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from the United States was met with a conspicuous silence.”

A Key Moment for Senate Democrats

Rick Hasen: “This week (even with the potential for a Supreme Court nomination as soon as Monday), Senate Democrats will face a pivotal choice: will they work their remaining levers of power to protest President Trump’s policies and power? Even without a filibuster for nominations, Senate Democrats can withhold unanimous consent, demand 30 hours of debate per nomination, etc.”

Mnuchin Misled Senate on Foreclosures

President Trump’s nominee for Treasury Secretary was untruthful with the Senate during the confirmation process, documents uncovered by the Columbus Dispatch show.

“Steve Mnuchin, former chairman and chief executive officer of OneWest Bank, known for its aggressive foreclosure practices, flatly denied in testimony before the Senate Finance Committee that OneWest used ‘robo-signing’ on mortgage documents. But records show the bank utilized the questionable practice in Ohio.”

Supreme Court Fight May Now Be About Trump’s Ban

BuzzFeed: “The order ran into legal trouble almost immediately, with several federal courts and key Republicans pushing back in the 48 hours that followed. From here, federal district court rulings overnight Saturday are likely to be appealed, spurring a rolling series of legal debates about one of the first actions taken by President Trump.”

“And it’s about to get more complicated. Trump will now nominate a Supreme Court pick in the midst of a national debate over the powers of a chief executive who is drawing sharp criticism from Democrats and Republicans — including senators who will be holding hearings and voting on his nominee. That justice will provide a crucial vote on the highest-stakes cases in the country — and could wind up ruling on elements of the executive order.”

“At least three of the Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee — Sens. Lindsey Graham, Jeff Flake, and Ben Sasse — already have criticized aspects of the order.”

Gardner Says ‘Paid Protesters’ Are Calling His Office

Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) told CBS Denver that his office “is getting so many calls and emails, his has staff assigned to do nothing except respond to them. In one night, his office received 3,000 voicemails.”

Said Gardner: “It’s just been a fire hose.”

However, the senator said “many of them were from what Gardner calls paid protesters from other parts of the U.S.”

White House Says Bannon Essential to National Security

The White House said “the addition of President Trump’s chief strategist, Steve Bannon, to regular meetings of the country’s top national security officials was essential to the commander in chief’s decision-making process,” the AP reports.

Press secretary Sean Spicer said ‘‘having the chief strategist for the president in those meetings who has a significant military background to help make — guide what the president’s final analysis is going to be is crucial.’”