Bloomberg Politics

The Pruitt Watch (#swampstyle)

#DrainTheSwamp | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt speaks to employees in Washington, D.C., 21 February 2017. (Photo: Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

The lede from Bloomberg ought to be enough—

President Donald Trump called his embattled environmental chief Monday to assure him his job is safe amid mounting scrutiny of Scott Pruitt’s travel, hiring practices and an unorthodox condo rental arrangement last year, according to two administration officials.

—to beg the question: So, the clock is ticking, then, right?

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What Rosenstein Said

#PutiPoodle | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein testifies to the House Judiciary Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., 13 December 2017. (Photo: Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

Via Bloomberg:

Beyond the 13 people indicted, Mueller announced the Feb. 12 guilty plea of a California man for identity theft, Richard Pinedo, who is cooperating with prosecutors. The indictment of Russian individuals and companies also suggests a broader conspiracy than Mueller charged, saying grand jurors heard about others involved in the scheme.

Richard Painter, who was the chief ethics adviser in the George W. Bush administration, said the lack of any evidence of collusion in the indictment wasn’t the final word by prosecutors.

“They’re charging what they know,” he said. “The contact with the Trump campaign might be unwitting in this case, but that doesn’t mean that the collaboration issue is finished.”

Now, just to make certain: We should probably bear in mind that neither, really is the question of this or that contact being unwitting truly closed. It seems a tawdry hair to split, except there is also the part about how—

This “information warfare” by the Russians didn’t affect the outcome of the presidential election, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein told reporters. Trump and his Republican supporters have repeatedly denounced the Mueller investigation as a “witch hunt” and have denied any collusion. The indictment cites no instances of Russians coordinating directly with the Trump campaign.

—and this is important: Rosenstein did not say the information warfare “didn’t affect the outcome of the presidential election”.

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A Steady Drip (Carter Page)

#PutiTrump | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Composite — Donald Trump: Detail of photo by Mark Peterson/Redux for msnbc; Carter Page: AP Photo; Puti-Toots: Artist unknown.

Something goes here about the headlines that drop in the evening; in the week before President Trump’s infamous tweetstorm accusing President Obama of wiretapping him, evening headlines kept the White House running ragged night after night. And, yes, there is some irony that we have now come far enough ’round the circle that Carter Page might well be the answer to what the president was on about. Or, as the evening headline from the Washington Post has it, “FBI obtained FISA warrant to monitor Trump adviser Carter Page”:

This is the clearest evidence so far that the FBI had reason to believe during the 2016 presidential campaign that a Trump campaign adviser was in touch with Russian agents. Such contacts are now at the center of an investigation into whether the campaign coordinated with the Russian government to swing the election in Trump’s favor.

Page has not been accused of any crimes, and it is unclear whether the Justice Department might later seek charges against him or others in connection with Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election. The counterintelligence investigation into Russian efforts to influence U.S. elections began in July, officials have said. Most such investigations don’t result in criminal charges.

Rachel Maddow spent some effort on msnbc last night driving a point about how unusual it is that we should see leaked such details of a FISA warrant. In that context perhaps it behooves us to consider whether or not the prospect of leaking this FISA warrant would come about at all were it not for President Trump’s twitterpated tantrum after a week of bad evening headlines.

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Carter Page

#NoPuppetNoPuppet | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Composite — Donald Trump: Detail of photo by Mark Peterson/Redux for msnbc; Carter Page: AP Photo; Puti-Toots: Artist unknown.

This is Carter Page. Honestly, it is pretty much what it looks like. The headlines can tell you quite a bit, and either read along or don’t; there is a lot there, and the tale really is as clumsy and ridiculous as it seems.

• Milder, Zachary. “Trump’s New Russia Adviser Has Deep Ties to Kremlin’s Gazprom”. Bloomberg. 30 March 2016.

• Ioffe, Julia. “The Mystery of Trump’s Man in Moscow”. Politico. 23 September 2016.

• Nechepurenko, Ivan. “Carter Page, Ex-Trump Adviser With Russian Ties, Visits Moscow”. The New York Times. 8 December 2016.

• Schwarz, Jon. “Carter Page, at Center of Trump Russian Investigation, Writes Bizarre Letter to DOJ Blaming Hillary Clinton”. The Intercept. 15 February 2017.

• Woodruff, Judy. “Former Trump adviser says he had no Russian meetings in the last year”. News Hour. 15 February 2017.

• Reilly, Steve. “Two other Trump advisers also spoke with Russian envoy during GOP convention”. USA Today. 2 March 2017.

• Helsel, Phil. “Carter Page, Adviser Once Linked to Trump Campaign, Met With Russian Ambassador”. NBC News. 3 March 2017.

• Herridge, Catherine, Pamela K. Browne, and Christopher Wallace. “Ex-Trump adviser Carter Page rips ‘false narrative’ on Russia collusion”. FOX News. 30 March 2017.

• Ross, Brian and Matthew Mosk. “Trump campaign adviser Carter Page targeted for recruitment by Russian spies”. ABC News. 4 April 2017.

• Groll, Elias. “Russian Spy Met Trump Adviser Carter Page and Thought He Was an ‘Idiot'”. Foreign Policy. 4 April 2017.

• Kaczynski, Andrew. “Former Trump adviser Carter Page says he didn’t disclose Russian spy contacts to campaign”. CNN. 5 April 2017.

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The Donald Trump Show (Boffo)

Donald Trump awaits his introduction at the 2005 launch of Trump University. (Detail of photo by Bebeto Matthews/Associated Press.)

Again we hear the refrain wondering whether presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has finally gone too far. The answer, of course, is invested in who marks the threshold, and in the end voters have the final word, or so to speak. GOP consultant and fierce Trump critic Rick Wilson appears quite correct when he says a leaked conference call tells us the Trump Univesity lawsuit “really bothers” his party’s apparent nominee. And while Wilson’s critique that “there is no campaign” actually sounds about right under the circumstances―hint: more than the conference call, perhaps the msnbc article with the straightforward title, “Donald Trump does not have a campaign”, explains the problem better― NYT deputy Washington editor Jon Weisman is even more blunt: “The leaks in this boffo @bpolitics piece,” he tweets, “show @RealDonaldTrump doesn’t understand he’s playing in the majors now.”

And boffo fits well enough; the Bloomberg Politics piece describes a Monday conference call between Mr. Trump and prominent supporters:

An embattled Donald Trump urgently rallied his most visible supporters to defend his attacks on a federal judge’s Mexican ancestry during a conference call on Monday in which he ordered them to question the judge’s credibility and impugn reporters as racists.

Which sounds about right, all things considered, except that’s when things start to go off the rails:

When former Arizona Governor Jan Brewer interrupted the discussion to inform Trump that his own campaign had asked surrogates to stop talking about the lawsuit in an e-mail on Sunday, Trump repeatedly demanded to know who sent the memo, and immediately overruled his staff.

“Take that order and throw it the hell out,” Trump said.

Told the memo was sent by Erica Freeman, a staffer who circulates information to surrogates, Trump said he didn’t know her. He openly questioned how the campaign could defend itself if supporters weren’t allowed to talk.

“Are there any other stupid letters that were sent to you folks?” Trump said. “That’s one of the reasons I want to have this call, because you guys are getting sometimes stupid information from people that aren’t so smart.”

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The Marco Rubio Show (Fadeout)

U.S. Republican presidential candidate Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) listens to a question at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, 13 May 2015. (Photo: Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)

One of the interesting things about the Trumpapalooza going on in the GOP nomination contest has to do with the cover lesser candidates are getting. Then again, this is the GOP nomination contest, so taking cover from seemingly inevitable flak has its drawbacks; rhetorical martyrdom is the way to score points with the conservative base, so perhaps Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) was hoping for louder criticism:

Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio sounded the alarm about the state of U.S. armed forces in a foreign-policy speech today. But his claims and campaign promises don’t account for the impact of improvements in U.S. military technology or in some cases their production schedule.

Rubio, a Florida senator, said the U.S. Navy is “now smaller than at any time since before World War I” and the Air Force “has the smallest and oldest combat force in its history.”

Yet the numbers of ships and planes don’t define U.S. military capabilities.

Mike Dorning and John Walcott of Bloomberg Politics consider the issue, and let us simply pause for a moment to appreciate the magnitude of Mr. Rubio’s utter stupidity.

When Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney made the same argument — that the U.S. Navy is smaller than at any time since 1917 — during a 2012 campaign debate, President Barack Obama responded with a mocking rejoinder.

“We also have fewer horses and bayonets, because the nature of our military’s changed,” Obama said. “We have these things called aircraft carriers, where planes land on them. We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines.”

Yes, really. Mr. Rubio hoped to get attention by recycling a damaging argumentative failure from Mitt Romney’s disastrous 2012 presidential campaign.

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Leadership (Scott Walker Bone Dry Remix)

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (Image via Facebook)

This is something of a challenge: “Michigan has voted Democratic for presidents since Bill Clinton in 1992”, reports Bloomberg’s Chris Christoff. And this week? Well, this is not what we would call the strongest of pitches:

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker on Monday joined the list of politicians who’ve deflected this question from Michigan reporters: Would you have supported the U.S. loans to General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC to get through their 2009 bankruptcies?

“That’s a hypothetical question in the past. We’re going to talk about the future,” Walker said after speaking to 120 Lansing Republicans in an Oldsmobile car museum where he touted less government, less taxation, and more U.S. aggression toward Islamists in the Middle East. It was the first of two appearances Walker planned in Michigan as part of a national tour to build support and money as he explores a presidential run.

And then there is also the question of what a primary fight demands. Perhaps the best thing we might say about Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) whining half-heartedly about Hillary Clinton, polls, and principles is that it didn’t look or sound very good. We might suggest state Rep. Rick Jones (R-24) take the note, as quotes like, “I believe there’s Bush fatigue in this country”, neither count as ringing endorsements nor actually help anyone or anything.

Then again, when it comes right down to it, look at what is about to happen. This might actually turn out to be the one cycle in which the parties get to burn off all that self-destructive extraneity without it really making much difference. Let them borrow each other’s lines all they want.

____________________

Christoff, Chris. “Scott Walker Tiptoes Past Michigan Reporters’ Most Common Question”. Bloomberg Politics. 4 May 2015.

Terkel, Amanda. “Martin O’Malley Goes After Hillary Clinton For Leading By ‘Polls,’ Not ‘Principles'”. The Huffington Post. 16 April 2015.

The Ted Cruz Show (Epistemic Closure Loop Mix)

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, during the Iowa Agriculture Summit, Saturday, March 7, 2015, in Des Moines, Iowa. (Photo by Mark Peterson/Redux for MSNBC)

It would be wrong to start with, “One of the comforts of life …”. After all, that’s a low standard for comfort. Still, though, we can rest assured that in today’s political climate, time is on … uh … the side of … er … well, I guess reality, but that is so self-evident as to be anti-climactic.

Right.

Let us start, then, with Dave Weigel for Bloomberg:

After Texas Senator Ted Cruz addressed the First in the Nation summit in Nashua, New Hampshire, on Saturday, he headed to a basement conference room for a conversation with young Republicans. There was no filming of the speech, but reporters were allowed to sit in as Cruz fielded questions about Iran, millennials, and his own fitness for president. When one audience member asked Cruz what executive experience he could bring to the job, Cruz lambasted the “greybeards” in Washington for coming up with the “senator versus governor” framework in the first place.

“Obama is not a disaster because he was a senator,” said Cruz. “Obama is a disaster because he’s an unmitigated socialist, what he believes is profoundly dangerous, and he’s undermined the Constitution and the role of America in the world.”

Remember, this is Sen. Cruz’s response to a question about executive experience, and his answer was to reframe the issue as one of Republican moderates versus hardliners:

According to Cruz, the only reason that pundits were saying the GOP needed to run a governor, not a senator, was that “most of the establishment moderates” in the field were governors. “In 1980, the strong conservative running in the race was Ronald Reagan,” Cruz said. “You didn’t hear ‘we need a governor’ then, because he was a governor. So none of those voices said, ‘We need a governor.’ They said, ‘You know what? We need a former congressman, named George Herbert Walker Bush. Likewise, in 2008, the moderate choice was a senator, John McCain. Go back and look at the TV discussions to find any of these voices going on television, saying ‘we need a governor’ in 2008. Then, the choice of those voices was that candidate, so that argument didn’t get used.”

Still, in the middle of it all, Cruz needs to take a moment to beat a dead horse.

Thus, something completely different―a backstory.

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A Delicate Question (Hashtag GOP Forty-Seven Paultopian Mess Mix)

Somebody stop him.

Any number of political thoughts occur. This man wants to be president, for instance. Or, Why are you still trying that line? Better yet: You still don’t get the point you’re trying to make?

Start with Dave Weigel for Bloomberg:

During a town-hall meeting with employees of a cloud computing company, Kentucky senator and potential 2016 presidential candidate Rand Paul said he signed Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton’s letter to Iran’s leaders to help the Obama administration craft a better deal.

Which is pretty much what he had said a week before, but as we noted then, it took him a couple days. And after this much time, Sen. Paul (R-KY) still does not seem to comprehend the point he is trying to make. Steve Benen tries to put it into context:

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), looking thoughtful.  (Photo credit: Unknown)As we talked about the other day, the senator’s posture is arguably the worst of both worlds. For far-right politicians like Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), last week’s unprecedented stunt was at least coherent – he and other Republicans wanted to derail the diplomatic efforts, betray President Obama, undermine American foreign policy, and push the world closer to a military confrontation with Iran. Putting aside whether or not the letter was disgusting, there was at least an obvious parallel between the letter and its objectives.

There is no similar logic to Rand Paul’s argument. He’s opposed to a war with Iran, so he signed on to a letter than would push us closer to a war with Iran. He wanted to help the White House “negotiate from a position of strength,” so he put his signature on a letter designed to weaken the administration’s negotiating position.

The fact that Rand Paul signed the letter is a problem. The fact that Rand Paul apparently didn’t understand the point of the letter he signed is a much more alarming problem.

It might be hard to ignore the amount of failing to comprehend people are willing to attribute to the Kentucky junior.

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