February, 2018

Stalemate Over Guns and Immigration Isn’t Going Away

Ron Brownstein: “On both matters, Republicans are championing primarily non-urban and predominantly white constituencies that want fewer immigrants and more access to guns. Democrats reflect a mirror-image consensus: Their voters coming from diverse urban areas usually support more immigrants and fewer guns.”

“The predictability of deadlock testifies to the power of the intertwined cultural, demographic, and economic divide now separating urban and non-urban America—and how closely the nation’s partisan split follows the contours of that larger separation.”

Romney Announces Senate Bid

Mitt Romney announced in a video that he is running for U.S. Senate to “bring Utah’s values to Washington.”

Most interesting line: “Utah welcomes legal immigrants from around the world. Washington sends immigrants a message of exclusion.”

Salt Lake Tribune: “Romney, should he win, will enter the Senate with an oversized megaphone as one of the most well-known Republicans, able to garner attention for every word he utters or action he takes.”

McKay Coppins says Romney is running as a full-throated pitchman for his adoptive home state — making the case that Utah’s distinctive brand of conservatism could offer a better way forward for the GOP and the nation.

Inside the Senate’s Immigration Breakdown

Politico: “The Senate’s spectacular failure to address the plight of the most sympathetic batch of immigrants in the country illegally — a group that President Donald Trump once declared he had ‘great love’ for — was the latest display of legislative ineptitude in the upper chamber. This account, detailing the demise of the months-long immigration push, is based on interviews with more than a dozen senators and aides who’ve worked on the issue since Trump announced last fall he was rescinding the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.”

“While senators vowed to try again, there’s no apparent reason to think the next time will be any different. Immigration has always been polarizing and difficult to tackle, but Trump’s ascendance has made it that much more so, diminishing trust and depleting the group of dealmaking senators it would take to clear the chamber’s 60-vote threshold.”

For members: Trump Just Played Congress on Immigration

How Trump Concealed His Affairs

Ronan Farrow in the New Yorker reports that in 2006, Donald Trump and Karen McDougal, a former Playmate of the Year, “began an affair, which McDougal later memorialized in an eight-page, handwritten document… When I showed McDougal the document, she expressed surprise that I had obtained it but confirmed that the handwriting was her own.”

“The interactions that McDougal outlines in the document share striking similarities with the stories of other women who claim to have had sexual relationships with Trump, or who have accused him of propositioning them for sex or sexually harassing them. McDougal describes their affair as entirely consensual.”

“Her account provides a detailed look at how Trump and his allies used clandestine hotel-room meetings, payoffs, and complex legal agreements to keep affairs — sometimes multiple affairs he carried out simultaneously — out of the press.”

Is Donald Trump a Traitor?

James Risen: “One year after Trump took office, it is still unclear whether the president of the United States is an agent of a foreign power. Just step back and think about that for a moment.”

“His 2016 campaign is the subject of an ongoing federal inquiry that could determine whether Trump or people around him worked with Moscow to take control of the U.S. government. Americans must now live with the uncertainty of not knowing whether the president has the best interests of the United States or those of the Russian Federation at heart.”

Russia Attacked U.S. Troops In Syria

Eli Lake: “If you’ve been listening just to the Kremlin and the Pentagon, you probably didn’t know that Russia attacked American forces and their allies in Syria last week, suffering heavy casualties.”

“Yes, all sides admit that there was an incident at a U.S. base in Deir Ezzor. And that elements of the Syrian regime and Shiite militias participated in the assault. The Pentagon and Kremlin both acknowledge that Russian “mercenaries” participated, too. But the line for now is that those contractors had gone rogue, and Moscow didn’t know anything about it.”
“But make no mistake: There is overwhelming evidence that those Russian contractors were working at the behest of the Kremlin.”

White House Won’t Defend Veterans Chief

Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin “battled for his political survival Thursday as he faced ethics questions about a trip to Europe, acknowledging to lawmakers that ‘the optics of this are not good’ and lobbying the White House to defend him,” the Washington Post reports.

“White House officials refused to do so, however, saying they felt misled by Shulkin over the significance of an inspector general’s report alleging ‘serious derelictions’ by the secretary and his senior staff.”

“Shulkin accused other senior political appointees within the agency of working to undermine him.”

Trump Hangs Back During Another Crisis

Politico: “The White House was slow to immediately respond to the Parkland school shooting… The hesitance followed a week in which the president did nothing to calm the furor surrounding the revelation that a former top aide was allowed to keep working in the West Wing and handling sensitive information without a full security clearance because of his past domestic abuse.”

“In both cases, the president seemed to hang back behind staff decisions rather than taking decisive action to look engaged and involved. The response underscored the extent to which this White House, which is eternally thrust into dramas—many of Trump’s own making—remains rudderless in a crisis and curiously flat-footed when true emergencies like the Florida shooting arise.”

Top Trump Campaign Adviser Close to Plea Deal

“Former Trump campaign adviser Rick Gates is finalizing a plea deal with special counsel Robert Mueller’s office, indicating he’s poised to cooperate in the investigation,” CNN reports.

“Gates has already spoken to Mueller’s team about his case and has been in plea negotiations for about a month. He’s had what criminal lawyers call a ‘Queen for a Day’ interview, in which a defendant answers any questions from the prosecutors’ team, including about his own case and other potential criminal activity he witnessed.”

“Once a plea deal is in place, Gates would become the third known cooperator in Mueller’s sprawling probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.”

Immigration Bills Die in the Senate

“The Republican-led Senate on Thursday blocked both President Trump’s immigration plan and a bipartisan alternative, a failure that cast doubt on whether Congress will ever resolve the fate of hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants,” the Washington Post reports.

“The failed votes could plunge the nation’s immigration system into further crisis, as millions of ‘dreamers’ are set to lose legal protections when the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program is set to end on March 5. Federal court challenges continue, meaning the program may continue under legal limbo until June.”

Trump’s immigration plan got 39 votes. The other three plans got 52, 54, and 54 votes,  despite the president’s veto threats.

Trump Revolving Door of Shame

Matt Bai: “The sad thing about Porter’s sudden implosion, aside from what it says about the culture of the place, is that he was probably one of Trump’s few truly qualified hires… Trump had a moment when he probably could have persuaded anyone he wanted to come serve at his side in Washington… There was a sense after Trump won in 2016 that he was unprepared for the job….that the patriotic thing was to help him succeed.”

“Now no one with a reputation still to lose wants to have anything to do with this calamity… Trump isn’t a guy who asks for help. He’s not inspired by talent and intellect; he’s threatened by it.”