Our Best Ally in the Fight Against Trump is… Trump?
When Trump won the White House — against all odds — the working assumption was that he had executed a plan so brilliant and so complex that only he (and the few advisers he let in on the plan) could see it. He was playing three-dimensional chess while the media, the Clinton campaign and virtually everyone else was still playing checkers.But as his first year in the White House has progressed, there’s mounting evidence that Trump may not be playing three-dimensional chess. In fact, he might just be playing zero-dimensional chess. As in, the only strategy Trump is pursuing is no strategy at all.What else could explain Trump’s decision to not only attack Flake but say he is a “no” on the tax cut package when a) Flake isn’t a “no” yet according to his office and b) Trump has virtually no margin for error in the Senate?Remember that Republicans only control 52 Senate seats. Meaning Trump can only afford to lose two Republicans on any vote. Maine Sen. Susan Collins, who opposed Trump’s attempt to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act earlier this year, seems disinclined to support the tax cut package. Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson has said he wouldn’t vote for the plan as currently constructed. Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker has raised concerns about the fact that the tax legislation would add more than $1 trillion to the deficit. It’s not clear whether Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul will be for the final bill either — particularly if the repeal of the health care individual mandate is stripped from it.You get the idea. There are lots of Republican senators with concerns about the bill.What Trump needs to do is find ways to convince the Flakes of the Senate to be for the tax legislation. What he is doing is attacking Flake for what he presumes to be a ‘”no” vote. Trump’s tweet is the literal definition of counterproductive.acting on impulse at all times isn’t a strategy. Which means that not only is Trump not playing three-dimensional chess, he isn’t playing chess at all.
Trump has notched at least one big foreign policy success: uniting senators of both parties against him on Capitol Hill.
That at least is the argument of Senator Ben Cardin, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who is now working in close partnership with the panel’s Republican chairman, Bob Corker, as the retiring Tennessee senator feuds openly with Trump, chides the president’s appointees, and holds hearings to criticize his policies. Call it a rare outpost of bipartisanship in an increasingly polarized moment — or at least an example of a surprising and unintended side effect of Trump’s disruptive approach to the world.
“I believe on foreign policy that there is little difference between the Democrats and Republicans on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee,” Cardin said in an interview for The Global Politico, our weekly podcast on world affairs. He ticked off a list of issues on which he said the committee now agrees across party lines—and over which it appears to be more or less in open conflict with the Trump administration. Among them are imposing mandatory new sanctions on Russia, which ultimately passed the Senate 98-2 over the White House’s objections, keeping the Iran nuclear deal in place and pursuing a peaceful solution to the nuclear standoff with North Korea.
It’s a striking list. In more than two decades of observing Capitol Hill, I can’t remember a comparable moment when the generally staid Foreign Relations panel has been so assertive toward the president, especially given that Congress and the White House are controlled by the same party. To do so, you’d probably have to reach all the way back to the Vietnam era, and the skeptical hearings about the war held by the late, legendary Chairman William Fulbright.
MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough said Monday that President Trump has been “great for the media” despite his attacks on prominent outlets.
“You can’t overstate this enough that the people that have prospered the most while Donald Trump’s ratings have collapsed to record lows are his enemies,” Scarborough said on “Morning Joe.”
“The New York Times is doing better than ever. The Washington Post is doing better than ever. Networks like CNN are doing great on revenue. We’re doing great,” he continued, referencing outlets that Trump has repeatedly criticized.
“All the people that he has attacked seem to actually be doing quite well. Donald Trump has been great for the media.”
Russia Russia Russia
The request for emails between the White House and the DOJ related to Sessions’ recusal could help Mueller determine why Trump has expressed anger at Sessions relinquishing control over the campaign-related investigations to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in March.
Sessions recused himself after it was revealed that he had failed to disclose that he had at least two meetings with Russia’s ambassador to the US during the campaign.
“Earlier reports indicated that Trump exploded when he found out about his recusal,” said Renato Mariotti, a former federal prosecutor. “That could be evidence of his state of mind because it is a highly unusual reaction to a recusal decision.
What appear to be obscure details in a court filing against Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman, may actually provide clues about what’s next for another target in the special counsel’s Russia investigation: former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
“While criminal charges under FARA are not often brought,” the prosecutors wrote in the passage about why Manafort and Gates were charged with violating the statute, “the facts set forth in the indictment indicate the gravity of the violation at issue based on the dollar volume of earning from the violation, its longevity, its maintenance through creation of a sham entity designed to evade FARA’s requirements, and its continuation through lies to the FARA unit.”
Jeff Cramer, a former federal prosecutor, said: “It’s odd language to have in there. This language could be a precursor to explain any future FARA violation charge, especially Flynn. If Flynn didn’t exist, you wouldn’t need that language in there. … You wouldn’t have to go through a lot of the machinations.”
Whatever Mueller’s prosecutors intended in laying out their criteria for a FARA prosecution of Manafort, Justice Department veterans said they were confident that it wasn’t an accident and that members of the team had given full consideration to how it would apply in any future cases.
“I think what’s being filed and what’s being said is exactly what the special counsel would like to be said,” McGriff added. “I don’t think any of it’s a mistake.”
This is a new level of peril for the administration in a couple of ways. First, in this case, there’s no way for them to argue that Mueller’s investigation is exceeding its mandate. Mueller has this job in the first place because the Congress was unsatisfied with the administration’s incoherent explanation for why Comey was fired. Second, if the relationship between Sessions and the president* is sufficiently poisoned, if only in the dark precincts of the presidential* mind, then Sessions might well wonder where his own self-interest lies—with the president who gets his mad on over the ingratitude of teenage shoplifters and their parents, or with the implacable investigator who can haul him into court every half-hour for the foreseeable future.
Travels by Trump campaign adviser Carter Page to meet with senior officials in Hungary during the 2016 presidential election are being closely examined by congressional investigators, given the increasingly close ties between Hungary and Russia and the role of the country as a hub for Russian intelligence activity. The Hungarian prime minister was the first foreign leader to endorse Donald Trump’s candidacy.
Page’s visit to Budapest drew notice from members of the House Intelligence Committee investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election. Orban, who was the first world leader to endorse then-candidate Trump, has become increasingly aligned with Russian President Vladamir Putin, and experts consider Budapest a hub for Russian intelligence activity.
When questioned by Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the ranking Democrat on the committee, during a hearing in early November, however, Page had only hazy memories of the trip. He said he remembered seeing a Hungarian official but could not recall who.
“You don’t remember the names of anyone you met with or what their positions were in the Hungarian government?” Schiff asked, according to a transcript of the closed-door session.
“Not right now,” Page replied. “I can’t recall.”
Page told the members he could only barely remember the visit, saying “the detailed specifics of that are a distant memory.”
But Schiff was incredulous. “You went all the way to Budapest, and you can’t remember who you met with and what you hoped to accomplish?” he asked.
Megyesy said no outsiders attended his meeting with Page, but when Schiff asked Page directly if he met with any Russians during his visit to Hungary, his answer was a bit more vague.
“There may have been one Russian person passing through there,” Page responded. “But I have no recollection because it was totally immaterial and nothing serious was discussed.”