The Hill

Not a Comedy (Write Your Own Ship of State and McMaster and Commander in Chief and Hand on the Tillerson Joke, Damn It—Why Do I Always Have To Do Everything?)

#PutiTrump | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Composite: President Donald Trump photo by Reuters, 2017; Puti-Toots protest image.

This is not supposed to be some manner of comedy. Or, several paragraphs from Reuters:

Tillerson and McMaster were present at the May 10 meeting where Trump discussed his firing of James Comey, the former director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, with Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister and Sergei Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the United States.

The New York Times, citing officials familiar with an internal White House summary of the meeting, reported that Trump referred to Comey as a “nut job” and said his removal would relieve “great pressure” coming from the agency’s probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

Lavrov denied that the subject of Comey came up during the meeting, according to Interfax news agency.

Russian President Vladimir Putin had offered to provide the U.S. Congress with transcripts of the same meeting to counter reports that Trump also disclosed classified information to Lavrov about a planned Islamic State operation.

However, neither McMaster nor Tillerson on Sunday disputed that the subject of Comey’s dismissal came up in the meeting with Russian officials. Both said that Trump’s remarks had been misinterpreted.

(more…)

Terrific (Even Spicier)

#SomethingTerrific | #WhatTheyVotedFor

White House press secretary Sean Spicer delivers his first statement in the Brady press briefing room at the White House in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 21, 2017. (Shawn Thew/EPA)

File under unknown unkowns:

White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Wednesday it is “literally impossible” to predict the effects of the House Republican plan to repeal and replace ObamaCare.

“There are so many variables that are unknown,” Spicer told reporters. “It seems almost impossible.”

(Fabian)

They aren’t really trying, are they?

(more…)

Some 2020 Democratic Presidential Speculation, Just Because

The sun rises near the White House on Nov. 8, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty Images)

It would be easy enough to overplay the drama in an early look toward the 2020 election by Alexander Burns and Jonathan Martin of the New York Times:

In a largely leaderless party, two distinct groups are emerging, defined mostly by age and national stature. On one side are three potential candidates approaching celebrity status who would all be over 70 years old on Election Day: Mr. Biden, and Senators Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

Competing against the Democrats’ senior cohort is a large and relatively shapeless set of younger candidates who span the ideological spectrum: governors, senators, mayors, wealthy executives and even members of the House. They are animated by the president’s turbulent debut and the recent history, from Barack Obama’s victory in 2008 to Mr. Trump’s last year, of upstart candidates’ catching fire.

In the Senate alone, as much as a quarter of the Democrats’ 48-member caucus are thought to be giving at least a measure of consideration to the 2020 race, among them Cory Booker of New Jersey, Kirsten E. Gillibrand of New York, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Kamala Harris of California. All are closer to 40 than 80.

For now, however, it is the party’s septuagenarian trio that is casting the longest shadow over 2020, and all three have taken steps to extend or expand their leadership status in the party.

In between, for good measure, is discussion of an amorphous non-faction we might consider as the collected other, including Rep. Seth Moulton (MA-06), Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, and New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu. Before booking the orchestra for a dramatic score, we should remember this is merely April, 2017; Democrats need to to read the midterm map, first. That is to say, it seems a bit early to see who lands where in relation to what. And, admittedly, it is hard to account for the proverbial known unknowns in the time of Trump; the unknown unknowns seem extraordinary at this time, too.α

(more…)

Your Quote of the Day (Pompeo and the Circumstance)

#trumpswindle | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Mike Pompeo (Photo by Getty Images)

“These officers have sworn an oath to uphold the Constitution. They have signed secrecy agreements. They quietly go about their work and try not to get too worked up over the headlines, including the fanciful notion that they spy on their fellow citizens via microwave ovens.”

CIA Director Mike Pompeo

(more…)

Swamp Gas (Farting Contest)

#DrainTheSwamp | #WhatTheyVotedFor

The White House (Photo by Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Standing up for, well, someone, #NeverTrump consultant J. G. Collins tries an institutional twist:

The president should clarify the tone of U.S. trade policy and insist that his staff carry it out to ensure U.S. intentions and policies with respect to trade are clear to the world. Reports that Navarro’s influence is on the wane, should deeply trouble the Trump voters. It would mean that the nationalist “drain the swamp” “free but fair” trade rhetoric of the Trump campaign had become “just more of the same” trade policy in the Trump administration.

Let’s hope the latter is not true. It’s not what Americans voted for.

While there are plenty who will harrumph and remind that President Donald Trump is “not what Americans voted for”, that point is a distraction.

(more…)

Very Nearly Inexplicable (Twitterpated Intelligence)

#trumpswindle | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Roger Stone (@RogerJStoneJr): "It's only fair that I have a chance to respond 2 any smears or half truths about alleged 'Collusion with Russians' from 2day's Intel Hearing" [via Twitter, 20 March 2017]

The hardest part of explaining Roger Stone is the fact of trying to explain Roger Stone; it a dangerous venture best left to some sort of expert. And part of this really is that he does not seem to know when to not boast, and that ridiculous episode seems to have set the tone for Caroline O.’s unparalleled tweetstorm tracking Mr. Stone’s presence in the Russia scandal, which in turn ought to be required reading.

And, in truth, if you happened to be paying the slightest of attention, it just really was something absolutely special to see Mr. Stone ask for a chance to bring his genuinely unbelievable show to the House Intelligence Committee.

This is one of those offers they can’t refuse. At least, they shouldn’t. That is to say, really? Seriously? Roger Stone wants to testify before Congress?

A’ight, then.

____________________

Image note: Tweet by Roger Stone (@RogerJStoneJr), 20 March 2017: “It’s only fair that I have a chance to respond 2 any smears or half truths about alleged ‘Collusion with Russians’ from 2day’s Intel Hearing”.

Beavers, Olivia. “Roger Stone claims ‘legal back channel’ to Assange”. The Hill. 5 March 2017.

O., Caroline. “You ready to take a little trip down memory lane with our good friend Roger Stone and his buddy Guccifer 2.0?” Twitter. 19 March 2017.

Stone Jr., Roger J. “It’s only fair that I have a chance to respond 2 any smears or half truths about alleged ‘Collusion with Russians’ from 2day’s Intel Hearing”. Twitter. 20 March 2017.

A Headline That Should Not Be

#trumpfoil | #WhatTheyVotedFor

A Yoma feeds. (Detail of frame from 'Claymore the Series', episode 1, "Great Sword".)

‘Tis a grim headline: “Trump wiretapping controversy goes global”. The lede is pretty straightfoward: “President Trump can’t seem to get past the wiretapping controversy,” writes Niall Stanage. “It’s not even clear that he wants to do so, despite Republican lawmakers joining Democrats in rejecting his claims.”

U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump answers a question at a news conference before a campaign rally in Hampton, New Hampshire, 14 August 2015. (Detail of photo by Reuters/Brian Snyder)The whole thing is a mess. The Trump presidency, that is. To wit, the problem is not that Stanage, of all people, gets that headline, or anything like that. It has an iconic ring, and his coverage of Donald Trump for The Hill managed to pull that one out. Somebody eventually would have, and it’s easy enough to say Stanage deserves it.

During the previous day’s White House media briefing, Press Secretary Sean Spicer had read remarks from a Fox News commentator, Judge Andrew Napolitano, who claimed that GCHQ—a British intelligence facility—had been “used” by Obama to get “transcripts of conversations” involving Trump.

This has sparked fury in London. GCHQ itself, which generally refrains from public comment, called the allegations “nonsense.”

But Trump insisted on Friday that “we said nothing,” and instead sought to put full responsibility for the claim onto Fox News. “You should be talking to Fox,” he told the German reporter who had asked about the episode.

Soon afterward, a Fox anchor, Shepard Smith, said on-air that the network “cannot confirm” what Napolitano had alleged, and added, “Fox News knows of no evidence of any kind that the now-president of the United States was surveilled at any time, any way. Full stop.”

Or, rather: Whatever. The problem is that anyone gets to write that headline. It is some manner of thing that should not be.

____________________

Image notes: Top ― A Yoma feeds: Detail of frame from Claymore the Series. Right ― Detail of photo by Reuters/Brian Snyder.

Stanage, Niall. “Trump wiretapping controversy goes global”. The Hill. 17 March 2017.

A Brief Sketch (Not Quite Caviar)

#nihil | #WhatTheyVotedFor

U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), January, 2014. (AP Photo)

We should probably sketch this detail of the cycle:

• Press Secretary defends Attorney General:

Sessions called the report “false” in a statement last night, saying he “never met with any Russian officials to discuss issues of the campaign.” He repeated this morning that he would recuse himself wherever it is appropriate to do so.

However, Spicer said that would not apply in this case.

“There’s nothing to recuse himself [from]. He was 100% straight with the committee,” said Spicer, adding that Democrats should be “ashamed of themselves” for playing “partisan politics” on this issue.

(FOX News)

• President defends Attorney General:

President Trump defended Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Thursday night, insisting that the former Alabama senator “did not say anything wrong” amid swirling criticism over his testimony earlier this year about contacts with Russian officials.

Trump appeared to be referring to Sessions’ statements before the Senate Judiciary Committee during his confirmation, when Sessions said he had not spoken to Russian officials. It was revealed this week that Sessions twice spoke with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. last year.

“Jeff Sessions is an honest man. He did not say anything wrong,” Trump said in a statement posted on Facebook. “He could have stated his response more accurately, but it was clearly not intentional.”

(Greenwood)

• The Attorney General runs to FOX News for a friendly interview:

Sessions explained that the question he received from Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) at his January confirmation hearing focused specifically on whether he had spoken with Russia continually about the presidential campaign. While Sessions has now admitted he met twice with the Russian ambassador last year, he said they did not have any such conversations about political campaigns.

Why, though, Carlson wondered, did former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn’s own Russian scandal not raise any red flags with him? After all, Flynn was eventually pressured to resign.

“It was never a thought,” Sessions insisted. It was “unrelated.”

The Russian officials and any one else in the room at the times of his meetings would corroborate that he “did not say one thing that was improper.”

(O’Brien)

(more…)

The Trump Fantastic (#trumpstyle)

#trippingthetrumpfantastic | #WhatTheyVotedFor

U.S. President Donald Trump addresses the Central Intelligence Agency, 21 January 2016, in Langley, Virginia. (Photo: Olivier Doulier/Pool/Getty Images)

“Usually, even the laziest of partisans aren’t quite so ridiculous when dealing with the legislative branch’s oversight role over the executive branch.”

Steve Benen

Something goes here about striking decay. And something unfortunate about how that sounds about right. No, really: In what universe?

(more…)

Probably Not Helpful (#trumpstyle)

#trumpswindle | #WhatTheyVotedFor

President Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump): "I will not be attending the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner this year. Please wish everyone well and have a great evening!" [via Twitter, 25 February 2017]

Frankly, this just won’t help. Meanwhile, The Hill reports on deteriorating relations between White House and press:

Bloomberg L.P., which hosts a high-profile after-party for the dinner, had pulled the plug on the event. Vanity Fair, which usually partners with Bloomberg in throwing the party, announced earlier this month that it would not participate.

The New Yorker, the magazine that hosts a kickoff party before the dinner, cancelled its event earlier this month, while CNN and MSNBC are also reportedly deliberating whether they will pull out of the annual dinner.

Trump’s announcement comes a day after his administration’s latest clash with the media.

(more…)