Political History

Trump Angled for Soviet Posting In the 1980s

“Donald Trump, in the mid-1980s, aggressively pursued an official government post to the USSR, according to a Nobel Peace Prize winner with whom Trump interacted at the time,” according to the Hollywood Reporter.

Said Bernard Lown: “He already had Russia mania in 1986, 31 years ago. He said to me, ‘I hear you met with Gorbachev, and you had a long interview with him, and you’re a doctor, so you have a good assessment of who he is.’ So I asked, ‘Why would you want to know?’ And he responded, ‘I intend to call my good friend Ronnie,’ meaning Reagan, ‘to make me a plenipotentiary ambassador for the United States with Gorbachev.'”

He added: “Those are the words he used. And he said he would go to Moscow and he’d sit down with Gorbachev, and then he took his thumb and he hit the desk and he said, ‘And within one hour the Cold War would be over!’ I sat there dumbfounded. ‘Who is this self-inflated individual? Is he sane or what?'”

McCain Walks Back Watergate Comparison

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) walked back earlier comments that the controversy surrounding investigations into potential collusion between associates of President Trump and the Russian government had reached “Watergate size and scale,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

Said McCain: “Now the question is, how is it handled? Is it handled the way Watergate was where it’s drip, drip, drip, every day more, or do we handle it like the—like Ronald Reagan handled Iran Contra? It was a scandal. He fired people. He went on national television and said, we made mistakes, we did wrong and we’re not going to do it again and the American people let him move forward.”

Not Really Like Nixon

Rick Pearlstein, author of Nixonland, talks to David Remnick:

I actually think the comparisons at this point obscure more than they reveal. Nixon was just so shrewd, so strategic: it’s simply inconceivable he would get caught with his pants down implicating himself on the record, like Trump now does almost daily.

My favorite Nixon maxim was “Never get mad unless it’s on purpose.” But the words “on purpose” and “Donald Trump” now feel like matter and anti-matter; with him, it’s all impulse. Nixon was so obsessed with preparation he used to memorize answers to likely press conference questions, questions he’d delegate to staffers like Pat Buchanan to dream up. Can you imagine!?

Trump Embraces Nixon Comparison

Financial Times: “While other U.S. leaders have shied away from Nixon parallels given the politician’s fateful end, Mr Trump appears to have embraced the comparison, in some ways taking up Nixon’s mantle, the Nixon scholar Douglas Brinkley said.”

“Mr Trump met Nixon in 1989 when the two men attended a gala together in Houston and the New York real estate scion gave the former president a ride back on his plane to New York. The current and former president share a fondness for folksy, salty language — with similarly negative views of the Washington elite and media.”

Said Brinkley: “He’s long been Nixon inspired. During his seminal years, Nixon was a powerful man.”

Flashback of the Day

From the Articles of Impeachment adopted by House Judiciary Committee on July 27, 1974:

Richard M. Nixon, using the powers of his high office, engaged personally and through his close subordinates and agents, in a course of conduct or plan designed to delay, impede, and obstruct the investigation of such illegal entry; to cover up, conceal and protect those responsible; and to conceal the existence and scope of other unlawful covert activities.

The means used to implement this course of conduct or plan included one or more of the following… interfering or endeavouring to interfere with the conduct of investigations by the Department of Justice of the United States, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the office of Watergate Special Prosecution Force, and Congressional Committees.”

Echoes of Watergate

New York Times: “Not since Watergate has a president dismissed the person leading an investigation bearing on him, and Mr. Trump’s decision late Tuesday afternoon drew instant comparisons to the ‘Saturday Night Massacre’ in October 1973, when President Richard M. Nixon ordered the firing of Archibald Cox, the special prosecutor looking into the so-called third-rate burglary that would eventually bring Nixon down.”

“The decision stunned members of both parties, who saw it as a brazen act sure to inflame an already politically explosive investigation.”

“Trump may have assumed that Democrats so loathed Mr. Comey because of his actions last year in the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s private email server that they would support or at least acquiesce to the dismissal. But if so, he miscalculated.”

Axios lists the people comparing Trump to Nixon.

For members: ‘Impeach the Cox Sacker’

Exchange of the Day

From an interview on Sirius XM airing later today:

PRESIDENT TRUMP: His wife died. They destroyed his wife and she died. He was a swashbuckler, but when his wife died you know he visited her grave everyday? I visited her grave actually because I was in Tennessee.

SALENA ZITO: That’s right, you were in Tennessee.

TRUMP: And it was amazing. The people of Tennessee are amazing people. They love Andrew Jackson. They love Andrew Jackson in Tennessee…

ZITO: He’s a fascinating…

TRUMP: I mean had Andrew Jackson been a little later you wouldn’t have had the Civil War. He was a very tough person, but he had a big heart. He was really angry that he saw what was happening with regard to the Civil War, he said “There’s no reason for this.” People don’t realize, you know, the Civil War, if you think about it, why? People don’t ask that question, but why was there the Civil War? Why could that one not have been worked out?

Will Trump Release the Missing JFK Files?

Politico: “The nation’s conspiracy-theorist-in-chief is facing a momentous decision. Will President Donald Trump allow the public to see a trove of thousands of long-secret government files about the event that, more than any other in modern American history, has fueled conspiracy theories – the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy?”

“The answer must come within months. And, according to a new timeline offered by the National Archives, it could come within weeks.”

Jared Kushner Is No Robert Kennedy

Matt Bai: “It was Joseph Kennedy, the president’s father, who decreed that another of his sons, Robert, would be the attorney general. No one spoke to John Kennedy more, or had more influence across the entire spectrum of policy, than his brother. So blatant was it, in fact, that in 1967 Congress passed a law barring any president from naming a relative to the Cabinet or to the helm of any federal agency… This is why Jared can’t actually have the jobs of all the Cabinet secretaries he’s displacing.”

“But let’s be real: Drawing a line from RFK to Jared Kushner is like trying to compare B.B. King to Drake. By the time he became attorney general at 35, Kennedy — again, with some assistance from his father — had already achieved notoriety as the unflinching lead counsel for a mob-busting Senate committee. He’d been a government prosecutor for a decade.”

“Kushner hadn’t served a day on a school board before Trump put him in charge of, you know, America. Near as I can tell, his sole achievement in his young life — much like his wife’s — is to have spent his parents’ money on cool stuff, like some buildings and a once trendy newspaper you’ve never read.”

Odds Don’t Look Good for Tax Reform

Jeffrey Birnbaum, co-author of The Showdown at Gucci Gulch on the 1986 tax reform effort, sees little chance to repeat the feat this year.

“If history is an indication, the road to full-scale reform will be tortuous and lengthy. The Tax Reform Act of 1986 was debated in concept long before taking two years to wend its way through Congress. It died several times before public opinion and extraordinary political leadership revived it. Few veterans of ’86 believe Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s prediction that tax reform will be completed by this fall.”

Also instructive: “Tax reform was launched in 1985 with a scene that’s almost unimaginable today: a televised speech by Reagan, a Republican, followed by a Democratic response by Dan Rostenkowski, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, endorsing the president’s initiative.”

Trump Has Had the Worst Start Ever

Presidential historian Douglas Brinkley told the Washington Post that, “This is the most failed first 100 days of any president.”

Said Brinkley: “To be as low as he is in the polls, in the 30s, while the FBI director is on television saying they launched an investigation into your ties with Russia, I don’t know how it can get much worse.”

He added: “There’s a smell of treason in the air. Imagine if J. Edgar Hoover or any other FBI director would have testified against a sitting president? It would have been a mind-boggling event.”