October, 2017

U.K. Sex Scandal Escalates as Cabinet Minister Named

Pressure mounted on British Prime Minister Theresa May after her defense secretary “admitted to inappropriately touching a journalist, bringing the sex scandal swirling around Westminster to the heart of her government,” Bloomberg reports.

“The escalation of allegations about sexual harassment in the British Parliament to include May’s inner circle could not have come at a worse time for the prime minister. She is seeking to navigate a path out of the European Union and struggling to claw back credibility after a catastrophic election result in June. She sat grim faced in the House of Commons on Monday as lawmakers debated extra action needed to protect staff.”

Trump Pollster Says Sanders Would Have Won

Trump campaign pollster Tony Fabrizio said that Sen. Bernie Sanders could have prevailed where Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton did not, The Hill reports.

Said Fabrizio: “There’s no question that if it had been anybody other than Clinton or anybody other than Trump, that race would not have been as close as it was either way. It would not have been.”

When asked what would happen during a Sanders-Trump match-up, Fabrizio replied, “I think Sanders beats Trump.”

Trump Campaign Knew Russia Had Democrats’ Emails

New York Times: “The guilty plea of a 30-year-old campaign aide — so green that he listed Model United Nations in his qualifications — shifted the narrative on Monday of the Trump campaign’s interactions with Russia: Court documents revealed that Russian officials alerted the campaign, through an intermediary in April 2016, that they possessed thousands of Democratic emails and other “dirt” on Hillary Clinton.”

“That was two months before the Russian hacking of the Democratic National Committee was publicly revealed and the stolen emails began to appear online. The new court filings provided the first clear evidence that Trump campaign aides had early knowledge that Russia had stolen confidential documents on Mrs. Clinton and the committee, a tempting trove in a close presidential contest.”

How Trump Reacted to the Indictments

“President Trump woke before dawn on Monday and burrowed in at the White House residence to wait for the Russia bombshell he knew was coming,” the Washington Post reports.

“Separated from most of his West Wing staff — who fretted over why he was late getting to the Oval Office — Trump clicked on the television and spent the morning playing fuming media critic, legal analyst and crisis communications strategist.”

“The president digested the news of the first indictments in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe with exasperation and disgust… He called his lawyers repeatedly. He listened intently to cable news commentary. And, with rising irritation, he watched live footage of his onetime campaign adviser and confidant, Paul Manafort, turning himself in to the FBI.”

CNN: “Watching the developments unfold on the large television screens installed in his private residence, Trump was ‘seething,’ according to a Republican close to the White House.”

Russian Posts Were Seen by 126 Million People

Washington Post: “Facebook plans to tell lawmakers on Tuesday that 126 million of its users may have seen content produced and circulated by Russian operatives, many times more than what the company previously disclosed about the reach of the disinformation campaign during the 2016 presidential election.”

“Previously, Facebook had focused its disclosures on Russian ads. The company has said that 470 accounts and pages run by a Russian troll farm had purchased roughly 3,000 ads, which the company said reached an estimated 10 million users. But the troll farm, known as the Internet Research Agency, also published free content. Researchers estimated that the spread of free content was far greater than that of ads and that Facebook has been under pressure to share more about those posts.”

‘Over Half My Life’

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Collins Lays Out Her Demands for Tax Bill

Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) told Bloomberg that “she’s opposed to two tax breaks for the wealthy that her party leaders are pushing for, indicating that her vote won’t be easy to win on President Trump’s top legislative priority.”

Said Collins: “I do not believe that the top rate should be lowered for individuals who are making more than $1 million a year. I don’t think there’s any need to eliminate the estate tax.”

ABA Deems Another Trump Nominee ‘Not Qualified’

Another one of President Trump’s judicial nominees — this time, to the powerful appellate courts — has been deemed “not qualified” by the American Bar Association, Politico reports.

Grasz is the second judicial nominee from Trump to get a “not qualified” label from the bar association.

A Political Wire reader went through all of the ratings available on the ABA website, back to 1989.  This is only the third unanimous “Not Qualified” over this period.

Reaction from Inside the White House

Jonathan Swan: “Nobody was surprised to learn that former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort is the first to be publicly indicted, along with his business partner Rick Gates, for alleged money laundering, failing to disclose foreign lobbying, and tax violations.”

“One of those sources told me ‘people are relieved it’s Manafort and not Flynn’ who was indicted.”

“I’ve had dozens of conversations about this subject with administration officials over the past months, and while nobody I’ve spoken to genuinely thinks collusion with Russia happened on the campaign, plenty worry about what Bob Mueller’s crack team of financial investigators will turn up on Trump and his allies.”

Mueller Puts Down a Marker

Financial Times: “The allegations in the federal indictment of Paul Manafort and Richard Gates — even considered in isolation — are enough to frighten any friend of America. If they are true, Donald Trump’s campaign manager from March to August 2016 — a period encompassing his nomination by the Republican party — was a criminal. Not a criminal in some abstract or technical sense: Mr Manafort is accused of laundering millions of dollars, evading taxes, and concealing his role as a lobbyist for a foreign government.”

“The latter point is the most alarming. It raises the possibility that a foreign power, without knowledge of the electorate, influenced the policy of the party that ultimately won the presidency.”

Two Takeaways from Mueller’s Indictments

Lawfare: The first big takeaway from this morning’s flurry of charging and plea documents with respect to Paul Manafort Jr., Richard Gates III, and George Papadopoulos is this: The President of the United States had as his campaign chairman a man who had allegedly served for years as an unregistered foreign agent for a puppet government of Vladimir Putin, a man who was allegedly laundering remarkable sums of money even while running the now-president’s campaign, a man who allegedly lied about all of this to the FBI and the Justice Department.”

“The second big takeaway is even starker: A member of President Trump’s campaign team now admits that he was working with people he knew to be tied to the Russian government to ‘arrange a meeting between the Campaign and the Russian government officials’ and to obtain ‘dirt’ on Hillary Clinton in the form of thousands of hacked emails—and that he lied about these activities to the FBI. He briefed President Trump on at least some them.”

“And here’s the rub: This is only Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s opening salvo. As opening salvos go, it’s a doozy.”