January, 2018

Quote of the Day

“Special Agent Andrew McCabe stood tall over the last 8 months, when small people were trying to tear down an institution we all depend on. He served with distinction for two decades. I wish Andy well. I also wish continued strength for the rest of the FBI. America needs you.”

— Former FBI Director James Comey, on Twitter, reacting to the ouster of Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe.

Putin Says U.S. List of Oligarchs Is ‘Hostile Step’

Russian President Vladimir Putin says the Trump administration’s list of top officials and businesspeople is a “hostile step” that harms relations between Russia and the United States, the AP reports.

“Just 12 minutes before the deadline, the administration late on Monday released a long-awaited list of 114 Russian politicians and 96 ‘oligarchs’ who have flourished under Putin, fulfilling a demand by Congress that the U.S. punish Moscow for interfering in the 2016 U.S. election.”

Trump Approval Averaged 38% Last Year

“President Trump’s job approval rating averaged 38% throughout the U.S. in 2017, but at the state level it ranged from a high of 61% in West Virginia to a low of 26% in Vermont,” according to Gallup.

“Trump averaged 50% or higher approval in 12 states in total, primarily in the states where he received the most votes in the 2016 election. In addition to West Virginia, the states where at least half the respondents approved of Trump included several western states (Wyoming, Idaho, Montana and Alaska), several southern states (Oklahoma, Alabama, Kentucky, Tennessee and Arkansas) and two Midwestern states (North and South Dakota).”

“Fewer than 40% of respondents approved of Trump in the remaining 18 states, 14 of which are located in the East and West — his worst performing regions in the election.”

Will Trump Stay on Script?

Politico: “At last year’s speech, Trump won praise for sticking to the teleprompter. While he’s whiplashed America since then with his combative Twitter persona and reports of his blowups and ‘shithole’ remarks on immigration at West Wing meetings, Trump knows everything goes more smoothly when he stays on message.”

“With the recent shutdown, for instance, Trump stayed out of sight, only commenting via Twitter during the roughly 70 hours of the closure. That helped his party stick to its strategy of putting the blame on Democrats—something Trump hopes to continue as members of Congress try to nail down a deal on immigration and the budget before a Feb. 8 deadline.”

House GOP Votes to Release Secret Memo on Russia Probe

“Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee, disregarding Justice Department warnings that their actions would be ‘extraordinarily reckless,’ voted Monday evening to release a contentious secret memorandum said to accuse the department and the F.B.I. of misusing their authority to obtain a secret surveillance order on a former Trump campaign associate,” the New York Times reports.

“The vote, made along party lines, threw fuel on an already fiery partisan conflict over the investigations into Russia’s brazen meddling in the 2016 presidential election. Republicans invoked a power never before used by the secretive committee to effectively declassify the memo that they had compiled.”

Washington Post: “The committee also voted along party lines against releasing a rebuttal memo from Democrats, who denounced both moves upon leaving the closed-door hearing.”

BuzzFeed News: Here’s what the memo is all about.

First Lady Will Attend State of the Union

New York Times: “Mrs. Trump and the president have had a tumultuous relationship at times over the years, but few episodes have roiled the peace as much as the news surrounding Ms. Daniels. The reports of a payoff blindsided the first lady, who was furious with her husband, according to two people close to the couple. She has kept a low profile since.”

“On Tuesday, Mrs. Trump is expected to resurface. The White House said that she would attend Mr. Trump’s State of the Union address, typically the most high-profile appearance of the year for first ladies.”

FBI Director Pressured McCabe to Quit

“Andrew McCabe abruptly stepped down on Monday as the FBI’s deputy director after months of withering criticism from President Trump, telling friends he felt pressure from head of the bureau to leave,” the New York Times reports.

FBI director Christopher Wray “raised concerns about a forthcoming inspector general report examining the actions of Mr. McCabe and other senior F.B.I. officials during the 2016 presidential campaign… In that discussion… Mr. Wray suggested moving Mr. McCabe into another job, which would have been a demotion.”

Historical side note: The deputy FBI director during Watergate, Mark Felt, turned out to be “Deep Throat.”

Trump’s Gripe Against McCabe Included Comey Flight

“The day after President Trump fired James Comey, he became so furious watching television footage of the ousted FBI director boarding a government-funded plane from Los Angeles back to Washington, D.C. that he called the bureau’s acting director, Andrew McCabe, to vent,” NBC News reports.

“Trump demanded to know why Comey was allowed to fly on an FBI plane after he had been fired… McCabe told the president he hadn’t been asked to authorize Comey’s flight, but if anyone had asked, he would have approved it.”

“The president was silent for a moment and then turned on McCabe, suggesting he ask his wife how it feels to be a loser — an apparent reference to a failed campaign for state office in Virginia that McCabe’s wife made in 2015.”

Trump Erupted Over Justice Department

President Trump’s “frustrations with the Russia investigation boiled over on Air Force One last week when he learned that a top Justice Department official had warned against releasing a memo that could undercut the probe,” Bloomberg reports.

“Trump erupted in anger while traveling to Davos after learning that Associate Attorney General Stephen Boyd warned that it would be ‘extraordinarily reckless’ to release a classified memo written by House Republican staffers. The memo outlines alleged misdeeds at the FBI and Justice Department related to the Russia investigation.”

“For Trump, the letter was yet another example of the Justice Department undermining him.”

Chart of the Day

After the New York Times broke the story that Harvey Weinstein repeatedly paid off sexual harassment accusers, the percent of the U.S. public indicating that “sexual harassment of women in the workplace is a problem in this country” was 10 percent lower than December 1992 and equivalent to October 1991, right after Anita Hill’s Senate testimony.

Source: Data from ABC News/Washington Post and ABC News surveys, obtained from searches of the iPOLL Databank provided by the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research at Cornell University. Note: October ’91 reflects the average of two October surveys (76% and 74%)

Thanks to Peter K. Enns, Executive Director of the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research and Associate Professor of Government, Cornell University

Sanders Backs Out of Interview

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) backed out of an interview with Seven Days after the newspaper refused to accept conditions his staff attempted to set.

A spokesman for Sanders said the senator was not interested in answering questions about “political gossip” nor about the senator’s family.

Sanders’ wife, Jane O’Meara Sanders, has been under scrutiny by federal prosecutors over her role leading the now-defunct Burlington college. His stepdaughter, Carina Driscoll, is running for mayor of Burlington.