May 18th, 2017

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ON THE RECORD.....

“When you’re attacking FBI agents because you’re under criminal investigation, you’re losing.” — Deputy White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, retweeting a Political Wire link several days before the November presidential election.

“Outside the realm of normal,” even “crazy,” -- Ousted FBI Director James Comey to associates about President Trump

“In a short period of time I understood everything there was to know about health care. And we did the right negotiating, and actually it’s a very interesting subject.” — Trump, in an interview with Time Magazine

“When you’re attacking FBI agents because you’re under criminal investigation, you’re losing.”— Deputy White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, retweeting a Political Wire link several days before the November presidential election.

“The policy announced today is not tough on crime. It is dumb on crime. -- Former Attorney General Eric Holder slamming AGl Jeff Sessions on Friday for reversing his directive that was aimed at easing mandatory minimum sentences for drug crimes.

“How does it all end? Not well for Trump. I’m not too good at the tea leaves, I don’t think anybody is. I just can’t believe that there isn’t something there on the Russia matter, with Trump doing all that he’s doing. He’s throwing every signal out that he’s got a problem, and he’s trying to make it go away. So that’s why I say I can’t imagine it ending real well for him.” — Former Nixon White House counsel John Dean

“Nothing is easier and more pathetic than being a critic, because they’re people that can’t get the job done.” --Trump at Liberty University. 5.13.1

“I think in many ways our institutions are under assault both externally — and that’s the big news here is the Russian interference in our election system — and I think as well our institutions are under assault internally.” — Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. 5/15/17

“The White House has got to do something soon to bring itself under control and in order. It’s got to happen. Obviously they’re in a downward spiral right now and they’ve got to figure out a way to come to grips with all that’s happening.” — Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN).

“The President will not take any internal criticism, no matter how politely it is given. He does not want advice, cannot be corrected, and is too insecure to see any constructive feedback as anything other than an attack.” -- Conservative commentator Eric Erickson

“We need to have immediate classified briefings on what occurred at this meeting so that Congress can at least know as much as Russian leaders.” — Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-VA) on Trump’s disclosure of classified information to the Russian foreign minister.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), when asked about the news (about Trump’s attempts to halt the Flynn probe) by a Politico reporter, looked her in the eye, gave her the middle finger and walked away. 5/16/17

“He’s nothing but a bullsh–ter.” -- Barack Obama describing an election night phone call with Trump, in which the businessman suddenly professed his “respect” and “admiration” for Obama—after years of hectoring. 5/17/17

IN THIS ISSUE

FYI

1. Andy Borowitz: Three Russian Spies Meet In The Oval Office
2. Trump Jr. shares tweet linking Clinton's firing of FBI director to death of Vince Foster
3. The DAILY GRILL
4. From MEDIA MATTERS (They watch Fox News so you don't have to)
5. Mark Fiore cartoon: Make the FBI Great Again
6. From the Late Shows
7. Polls
8. Political chaos in Washington is a return on investment for Moscow
9. Late Night Jokes for Dems
10. Trump Meltdown Sets Off Midterm Election Alarms
11. There are plenty of problems with our election system. Voter fraud isn't one of them
12. Donald Trump's Financial Ties to Russian Oligarchs and Mobsters Detailed In Explosive New Documentary from the Netherlands
13. Republicans plan massive cuts to programs for the poor
14. Wisconsin
Voter ID Law Stopped 300K from Voting
15. Wary Republicans scan potential Democratic Challengers to Trump
16. GOP Is Already in the Midterm Danger Zone
17. Voters Describe Trump As ‘Idiot’ and ‘Liar’ in Disastrous New Poll

OPINION

1. Chris Smith: Inside Trump’s Coming War With The F.B.I.
2. Ed Kilgore: The Complicated Politics of Impeachment Are Coming Into Play in Trump’s Washington
3. Ross Douthat: The 25th Amendment Solution for Removing Trump
4. John Cassidy: Donald Trump’s Craven Republican Enablers
5. Guardian Editorial: The Guardian view on Trump’s behavior: tyrannical not presidential
6. Paul Krugman: Judas, Tax Cuts and the Great Betrayal
7. James Fallows: Reasons the Comey Affair Is Worse Than Watergate
8. Jonathan Chait: Trump Has Sparked the Biggest Political Crisis Since Watergate
9. Peter Baker and Maggie Haberman: The Election Is Over, but Trump Can’t Seem to Get Past It
10. Alexandra Petri: The president is not a child. He’s something worse
11. Dan Balz:: Comey firing shows White House problems go far beyond communications strategy
12. Nicholas Kristof: Is President Trump Obstructing Justice?
13. Maureen Dowd: Trump Sticks a Fork in Comey
14. E.J. Dionne: The Autocrat Returns
15. Charles M. Blow: Trump’s Madness Invites Mutiny
16. David Brooks: When the World Is Led by a Child
17. Jonathan Chait: The Law Can’t Stop Trump. Only Impeachment Can

FYI

1. Andy Borowitz: Three Russian Spies Meet In The Oval Office

Three men alleged to be prominent Russian spies inexplicably gained access to the Oval Office last week and held a high-level meeting there, according to reports.

Eyewitnesses to the meeting said that the three Russian agents spoke at length and shared sensitive intelligence material, at times laughing uproariously.

After approximately an hour, the meeting broke up, with two of the spies leaving the Oval Office and the third remaining behind.

News that agents of the Russian Federation had somehow eluded the Secret Service in order to hold a meeting in the Oval Office sent shock waves through Washington on Monday evening.

“The fact that three well-known Russian agents were able to hold a meeting in the Oval Office suggests that something has seriously broken down,” Harland Dorrinson, a national-security official who served in the Reagan and Bush Administrations, said. “None of these three men should be anywhere near the White House.” Read more at http://www.newyorker.com/humor/borowitz-report

2. Trump Jr. shares tweet linking Clinton's firing of FBI director to death of Vince Foster

Donald Trump Jr promoted a long-debunked, far-right conspiracy theory on Thursday by sharing a tweet that linked former President Bill Clinton's firing of an FBI director to the death of his then-aide, Vince Foster.

In an apparent effort to defend his father's firing of FBI Director James Comey, Trump Jr. retweeted @StockMonsterUSA, who wrote, "President Clinton fired his FBI director on July 19th, 1993, The Day before Vince Foster was found dead in Marcy Park." The tweet included a picture of Foster with the Clintons. http://www.cnn.com/2017/05/11/politics/kfile-don-jr-vince-foster-tweet/

3. The DAILY GRILL

“No politician in history, and I say this with great surety, has been treated worse or more unfairly.” -- Trump complained to cadets at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy commencement.

VERSUS

“Every single one of the president’s wounds is self-inflicted. Every single one. I don’t really understand the propensity for self-pity at a time like this.” -- Jake Tapper taking exception to Trump’s claim

 

President Trump revealed highly classified information to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador in a White House meeting last week, according to current and former U.S. officials, who said Trump’s disclosures jeopardized a critical source of intelligence on the Islamic State. -- Washington Post 5/15/17

VERSUS

Crooked Hillary Clinton and her team "were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information." Not fit! -- Donald J. Trump @realDonaldTrump 7/08/16

 

Tthe Trump team released a letter from his attorneys claiming that a review of the last 10 years of Trump’s tax returns does not show “any income of any type from Russian sources.” But the letter also notes that the statement has “a few exceptions.” -- Bradd Jaffy @BraddJaffy

VERSUS

The “exceptions” involve payments for holding the Miss Universe pageant in Moscow and profits from the sale of property to an undisclosed “Russian billionaire.” Those payments alone account for over $100 million in self-admitted Russian income, but the entire letter is a sham to convince Americans that Trump has no Russian business ties, without releasing his tax returns to prove it. -- Share Blue

4. From MEDIA MATTERS (They watch Fox News so you don't have to)

Fox News: "Current Issues" With Trump "Nowhere Near As Serious As Past Events" Like The Civil War https://www.mediamatters.org/video/2017/05/11/fox-news-current-issues-trump-nowhere-near-serious-past-events-civil-war/216417

Trump Lied About Why He Fired Comey, And Right-Wing Media Helped Him Sell It https://www.mediamatters.org/research/2017/05/11/trump-lied-about-why-he-fired-comey-and-right-wing-media-helped-him-sell-it/216415

For Right-Wing Media, The Big News From Trump's NBC Interview Is That Lester Holt Is Mean https://www.mediamatters.org/research/2017/05/12/right-wing-media-big-news-trumps-nbc-interview-lester-holt-mean/216427

Former FBI Official: If Trump's Thinks He Can Threaten Comey With A Tweet, He’s “Got Another Thing Coming” https://www.mediamatters.org/video/2017/05/12/former-fbi-official-if-trumps-thinks-he-can-threaten-comey-tweet-he-s-got-another-thing-coming/216428

Right-Wing Media Turn To Misinformers, Hacks, And Extremists To Defend Trump's Voter Suppression Commission https://www.mediamatters.org/research/2017/05/12/right-wing-media-turn-misinformers-hacks-and-extremists-defend-trumps-voter-suppression-commission/216429

5. Mark Fiore cartoon: Make the FBI Great Again

https://vimeo.com/216953685

6. From the Late Shows

SNL: Sean Spicer Returns: https://youtu.be/sbpUcfpbnrs

SNL Cold Open: Lester Holt: https://youtu.be/ZBPt335vcAQ

SNL: Weekend Update on James Comey's Firing: https://youtu.be/AbFpEMM1Pkk

Full Frontal with Samantha Bee: Our Weekly Constitutional Crisis:Edition, Pt. 1: https://youtu.be/3NxenCGfxEk on TBS: https://youtu.be/3NxenCGfxEk

Late Night with Seth Meyers: Trump's Shifting Story on Firing James Comey: A Closer Look: https://youtu.be/4YnupTif-dk

7. Polls

Just 23% Like the GOP Health Plan: By a 2-to-1 ratio, Americans say the health care legislation that was recently passed by the House and supported by President Donald Trump is a bad idea instead of a good idea, according to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll - with just 23% calingl the legislation a good idea.. 5/14/17 Read more at http://www.nbcnews.com/politics/congress/poll-48-percent-say-house-gop-health-care-bill-bad-n759201?cid=par-twitter-feed_20170514

Just 29 Percent Approve of Trump’s Firing of James Comey: A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll finds just 29% of Americans say they approve of President Trump’s decision to fire FBI Director James Comey, while 38% disapprove. Another 32% of respondents don’t have enough to say on the matter. http://www.nbcnews.com/politics/donald-trump/nbc-wsj-poll-just-29-percent-approve-trump-s-firing-n759196

Voters disappreove of Trump's tax plan: American voters disapprove 54 - 34 percent of the way President Trump is handling taxes and disapprove 52 - 30 percent of his tax plan. https://poll.qu.edu/national/release-detail?ReleaseID=2457

8. Political chaos in Washington is a return on investment for Moscow

Russia has yet to collect much of what it hoped for from the Trump administration, including the lifting of U.S. sanctions and recognition of its annexation of Crimea. But the Kremlin has gotten a different return on its effort to help elect Trump in last year’s election: chaos in Washington.

The president’s decision to fire FBI Director James B. Comey was the latest destabilizing jolt to a core institution of the U.S. government. The nation’s top law enforcement agency joined a list of entities that Trump has targeted, including federal judges, U.S. spy services, news organizations and military alliances.

The instability, although driven by Trump, has in some ways extended and amplified the effect Russia sought to achieve with its unprecedented campaign to undermine the 2016 presidential race. https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/political-chaos-in-washington-is-a-return-on-investment-for-moscow/2017/05/14/2b4aa842-3653-11e7-b412-62beef8121f7_story.html

9. Late Night Jokes for Dems

"Donald Trump, who maybe you haven't heard is president now, a few hours ago fired James Comey, the director of the FBI — which is kind of like O.J. firing Judge Ito halfway through the trial." –Jimmy Kimmel

"Yesterday, FBI Director James Comey got a letter from President Trump informing him that his services were no longer needed. After hearing this, Melania Trump said, 'I would kill for one of those letters.'" –Conan O'Brien

"The fallout continues after the surprise firing of FBI Director James Comey yesterday. Apparently Comey was in Los Angeles and found out that he was fired when he saw it on television. Which basically means Trump fired the head of the FBI the same way he fired Gary Busey — on television." –James Corden

"This morning Trump attacked his critics on Twitter and in one tweet referred to Sen. Chuck Schumer as Cryin' Chuck Schumer. Now you remember he does this, there was also Lyin' Ted Cruz and Crooked Hillary. I'm starting to think the only job Trump is really qualified for is coming up with catchy stage names for professional wrestlers." –James Corden

"The whole administration is facing questions about this firing. After reporters were hounding Press Secretary Sean Spicer for comments, he did what any professional White House press secretary would do: He hid in the bushes. "–James Corden

"Think about that for a second — a grown man hiding in the bushes from doing his job. That's like when I hide in the gym toilets to avoid my personal trainer. 'Get your feet up, he won't know I'm in here!'" –James Corden

"Yesterday when the Comey firing happened, White House 'stress secretary' Sean Spicer was about to leave for his Navy Reserve duty. And he didn't want to answer questions, so he hid in the bushes outside the White House. For real. Sometimes you've got to stop and smell the Rose Garden, you know?" –Jimmy Kimmel

"The White House announced yesterday that President Trump fired FBI Director James Comey. Yet another long-time dream that Trump stole from Hillary." –Seth Meyers

"The word is Trump has been planning to fire Comey for at least a week. And he evidently asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions to come up with reasons to fire him. So now the Department of Justice is the Department of Justification." –Stephen Colbert

"So Comey has been fired, or as Fox News put it, 'James Comey resigns.'" –Stephen Colbert

"When Hillary heard Comey was fired, she called him and said, 'Aw, did someone take away a job that was rightfully yours? Ah, too bad!'" –Jimmy Fallon

"Yesterday, Kim Jong Un hurled a series of insults at Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. In a related story, Fox News has finally found its replacement for Bill O'Reilly." –Conan O'Brien

"A few hours ago, President Trump fired FBI Director James Comey. Apparently Trump still hasn't forgiven Comey for making him president. –Conan O'Brien

10. Trump Meltdown Sets Off Midterm Election Alarms

Private talks during the Republican National Committee’s spring meeting pulled back the curtain on a Republican Party leadership grappling with a profoundly unstable White House. While some attendees shrugged off the firestorm surrounding the firing of FBI Director James Comey and put a positive spin on the latest Trump controversy, others conceded they were struggling to adapt to a a political moment without precedent. 5/13/17 Read more at http://www.politico.com/story/2017/05/13/trump-2018-midterms-gop-alarm-238342

11. There are plenty of problems with our election system. Voter fraud isn't one of them

A sober and detached assessment of the voting system is the last thing Trump is looking for. Rather, he hopes to find excuses for his failure to win the popular vote in November (a loss he blamed at the time on “millions of people who voted illegally”). And in the process, he will inflate a non-existent problem into a threat, presumably as a prelude to policies aimed at suppressing votes by people more likely to support Democrats than Republicans. That could well be the greatest peril that Trump poses to the nation — hijacking democracy by stealing the fundamental right to vote from people who have few other options for making their voices heard. http://www.latimes.com/opinion/editorials/la-ed-voter-fraud-commission-20170511-story.html

12. Donald Trump's Financial Ties to Russian Oligarchs and Mobsters Detailed In Explosive New Documentary from the Netherlands

Dutch TV did what no American TV network dares, suggesting Trump's past includes illegal racketeering.

Donald Trump's business partners have included Russian oligarchs and convicted mobsters, which could make the president guilty of criminal racketeering charges.

That's one of the eyebrow-raising takeaways from a 45-minute Dutch documentary that aired last week, titled The Dubious Friends of Donald Trump, Part 1: The Russians. The first installment of the investigative reporting series, produced by Zembla, does what no American TV network has yet dared to do—take a deep look at the organized crime links and corrupt international business strategies used by Trump and his partners in his properties. http://www.alternet.org/video/donald-trumps-financial-ties-russian-oligarchs-and-mobsters-detailed-new-documentary

Watch the video,“The Dubious Friends of Donald Trump - Parts 1 & 2, at https://youtu.be/hdZ-RbL7pmw

13. Republicans plan massive cuts to programs for the poor

House Republicans just voted to slash hundreds of billions of dollars in health care for the poor as part of their Obamacare replacement. Now, they’re weighing a plan to take the scalpel to programs that provide meals to needy kids and housing and education assistance for low-income families. 5/14/17 Read more at http://www.politico.com/story/2017/05/14/republicans-cuts-programs-food-stamps-welfare-veterans-238314

14. Wisconsin Voter ID Law Stopped 300K from Voting

By one estimate, 300,000 eligible voters in the state lacked valid photo IDs heading into the election; it is unknown how many people did not vote because they didn’t have proper identification. But it is not hard to find the Navy veteran whose out-of-state driver’s license did not suffice, or the dying woman whose license had expired, or the recent graduate whose student ID was deficient .

“Under the Wisconsin law, voters must present a driver’s license, state ID, passport, military ID, naturalization papers or tribal ID to vote. A student ID is acceptable only if it has a signature and a two-year expiration date. Those who do not have their ID can cast a provisional ballot that will be counted only if they return with the proper ID within a few days of the election. 5/14/17 Read more at https://www.apnews.com/dafac088c90242ef8b282fbebddf5b56

15. Wary Republicans scan potential Democratic Challengers to Trump

In interviews with two dozen GOP operatives, strategists and officials around the country, Republicans placed the most credible Democratic candidates into categories: the rising congressional stars (Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand and Amy Klobuchar) and the pure political outsiders (Mark Cuban), the fiery progressives (Elizabeth Warren) and the pragmatic moderates (John Hickenlooper). 5/15/17 Read more at http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/politics-government/white-house/article150243507.html

16. GOP Is Already in the Midterm Danger Zone

Trump’s 39% job rating is a screaming alarm bell for the Republican Party when you think about the midterms, which are still more than 500 days away. To put Trump’s 39% into perspective, George W. Bush didn’t reach that level in the NBC/WSJ poll until October 2005, so after the Social Security debacle, after the Iraq war turned south, and after Hurricane Katrina. And the GOP lost the House and Senate the following year. And Barack Obama NEVER reached 39% in our poll — his lowest approval rating was 40% in September 2014, right before Democrats lost the Senate (after losing the House in 2010). http://www.nbcnews.com/politics/first-read/it-s-early-gop-already-midterm-danger-zone-n759441?cid=eml_pol_20170515

17. Voters Describe Trump As ‘Idiot’ and ‘Liar’ in Disastrous New Poll

Over the last week, Quinnipiac University asked Americans for the first word that comes to mind when they think of President Trump. The answer given more times than any other was “idiot,” followed by “incompetent” and “liar.”

Given this sentiment, there’s little surprise that Trump is down to a 36 percent approval rating in the university’s latest national poll. The mark sits just one percentage point above the 35 percent approval rating he got on April 4, his lowest since taking office. http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2017/05/voters-call-trump-idiot-and-liar-in-disastrous-new-poll.html

OPINION

1. Chris Smith: Inside Trump’s Coming War With The F.B.I.

There were agents who found Comey priggish; within the bureau’s New York office, there was a faction that thought he’d soft-peddled the investigation of the Clinton Foundation. But those complaints have now been dwarfed by shock and revulsion at how Comey was fired—and how it reflects on them. “The statements from the White House that he’d lost the faith of the rank and file—they’re making that up,” says Jeff Ringel, a 21-year F.B.I. veteran who retired in May 2016 and is now director of the Soufan Group. “Agents may not have agreed with everything he did. I was one of the people who thought the director shouldn’t have stepped up and made those public statements about Hillary Clinton. But Director Comey was one of the last honest brokers in D.C. Agents are pissed off at the way he was fired, the total disrespect with which it was handled. It was a slap in the face to the F.B.I., to everybody in the F.B.I. The director being treated terribly, being called incompetent, is a signal that Trump has disdain for the bureau.”

The desire to defend the F.B.I.’s honor, and to set the record straight, appears to be already motivating law-enforcement sources to try to punch holes in Trump’s version of events. On Thursday afternoon, acting F.B.I. director Andrew McCabe contradicted the White House’s account that Comey had lost the support of the agency. Others dispute the president’s claim that Comey informed him, “on three separate occasions,” that he was not under investigation. “That makes no sense,” one bureau veteran says. “I wasn’t in those meetings. But no prosecutor would make that statement to someone who could conceivably become the subject of an investigation. Jim wouldn’t have done it.” http://www.vanityfair.com/news/2017/05/trumps-coming-war-with-the-fbi

2. Ed Kilgore: The Complicated Politics of Impeachment Are Coming Into Play in Trump’s Washington

If the situation we are in right now gets worse for the White House, and the rest of 2017 unfolds under the shadow of unresolved allegations about Russian collusion, then serious impeachment talk will become unavoidable. One might assume that the talk would go nowhere, since the president’s party controls the congressional levers that would have to be used to formally begin proceedings. But what could ensue, though, is the realization that Republicans might privately crave impeachment more than Democrats.

Why? Absent normal legal proceedings and without the safety valve of impeachment, the only way for an aroused public to hold Trump accountable is by spanking his political party in the 2018 midterms, an election in which the White House party is almost certain to lose ground even in normal conditions. And after that, if Trump stubbornly resists any independent scrutiny of his past and present behavior, Republicans could have a nightmarish 2020 cycle in which efforts to retire Trump after one term collide with his hard kernel of GOP grassroots support, strongest among people who know little and care less about their hero’s compliance with legal and political traditions for presidential accountability. You could definitely envision a vicious primary fight followed by a difficult general election. http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2017/05/the-politics-of-impeachment-come-into-play-in-trumps-d-c.html

3. Ross Douthat: The 25th Amendment Solution for Removing Trump

One does not need to be a Marvel superhero or Nietzschean Übermensch to be president. But one needs some basic attributes: a reasonable level of intellectual curiosity, a certain seriousness of purpose, a basic level of managerial competence, a decent attention span, a functional moral compass, a measure of restraint and self-control. And if a president is deficient in one or more of them, you can be sure it will be exposed.

Trump is seemingly deficient in them all. Some he perhaps never had, others have presumably atrophied with age. He certainly has political talent — charisma, a raw cunning, an instinct for the jugular, a form of the common touch, a certain creativity that normal politicians lack. He would not have been elected without these qualities. But they are not enough, they cannot fill the void where other, very normal human gifts should be.

There is, as my colleague David Brooks wrote Tuesday, a basic childishness to the man who now occupies the presidency. That is the simplest way of understanding what has come tumbling into light in the last few days: The presidency now has kinglike qualities, and we have a child upon the throne. 5/16/17 Read more at https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/16/opinion/25th-amendment-trump.html

4. John Cassidy: Donald Trump’s Craven Republican Enablers

A President enabled by a spineless and supine Congress that fails to exercise its oversight powers isn’t a weak executive at all: he is a potential despot. Using his authority to hire and fire federal officials, he can rapidly remake the government to his own design, appointing loyalists to key positions, eliminating potential threats, and undermining alternative repositories of power.

Authoritarian leaders in foreign countries seize and maintain power this way. And, despite his bungling start, this is the project that Donald Trump appears to have embarked upon. Since the end of January, he has appointed one of his closest political allies, Jeff Sessions, to run the Justice Department; fired an acting Attorney General, Sally Yates, who had warned the White House that the national-security adviser was compromised; and axed forty-six U.S. Attorneys, one of whom, Preet Bharara, had jurisdiction over Trump’s business empire. Now the head of the F.B.I., James Comey, has been ousted, at a time when the agency is conducting an investigation into possible collusion between Trump’s election campaign and the Russian government.

Trump’s willingness to say and do things that most people would shy away from because they are constrained by social norms, or ethics, helped carry him to where he is today. “He gets an idea in his head and just says, ‘Do it,’ “ Barbara Res, a former vice-president in the Trump Organization, told Politico’s Michael Kruse. Artie Nusbaum, one of the managers of the construction firm that built Trump Tower, said, “This is who he is. No morals, no nothing. He does what he does.” That is who the Republicans are enabling. Until they stop doing it, they will be complicit in the erosion of American democracy. http://www.newyorker.com/news/john-cassidy/donald-trumps-craven-republican-enablers


5. Guardian Editorial: The Guardian view on Trump’s behavior: tyrannical not presidential

Mr Trump’s act is a threat to US governance. It looks ominously part of a pattern of trespassing beyond constitutional boundaries. Mr Trump fires officials who cross him. He attacks judges when they find his policies unlawful. He refuses to release his tax returns, which might reveal conflicts of interest. He uses blind trusts that are not blind, while his children comingle private and public business. Power in the Trump presidency is held by the president’s family, and what appears to be incompetent followers whose main contribution is loyalty rather than expertise. In claiming that Mr Comey had given him three private assurances that he wasn’t under investigation, Mr Trump broke a protocol long-observed: that presidents do not publicly comment on an ongoing investigation. Especially one that centres on them. In short, Mr Trump is governing like he is the president of a banana republic, not the leader of the oldest constitutional government of modern times.

The US system of checks and balances is a metaphor, not a mechanism. There is a separation of powers and judicial independence. But it relies on the right people making the right choices at the right time. A US president is restrained largely by conscience, training and the desire to be judged well by history. Mr Trump appears to lack those qualities. Senators have to approve Mr Trump’s new FBI director. They should only do so if Mr Trump’s White House appoints a special prosecutor. They may prefer to keep quiet, opting not to rock the boat. But that will let presidential tyranny take hold. It won’t occur instantly. But it will, like dusk, draw in without us realising. 5/10/17 Read more at https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/may/10/the-guardian-view-on-trumps-behaviour-tyrannical-not-presidential

6. Paul Krugman: Judas, Tax Cuts and the Great Betrayal

For generations, Republicans have impugned their opponents’ patriotism. During the Cold War, they claimed that Democrats were soft on Communism; after 9/11, that they were soft on terrorism.

But now we have what may be the real thing: circumstantial evidence that a hostile foreign power may have colluded with a U.S. presidential campaign, and may retain undue influence at the highest levels of our government. And all those self-proclaimed patriots have gone silent, or worse.

It’s time to face up to the scary reality here. Most people now realize, I think, that Donald Trump holds basic American political values in contempt. What we need to realize is that much of his party shares that contempt. 5/12/17 Read more at https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/12/opinion/judas-tax-cuts-and-the-great-betrayal.html

7. James Fallows: Reasons the Comey Affair Is Worse Than Watergate

The tangled affair now known as Watergate began 45 years ago, before most of today’s U.S. population had even been born. (The median age of Americans is about 38, so most people in the country were born in 1979 or thereafter.) Thus for most people “Watergate” is a historical allusion—obviously negative in its implications, since it led to the only presidential resignation in American history, but probably hazy in its details.

Based simply on what is known so far, this scandal looks worse than Watergate. Worse for and about the president. Worse for the overall national interest. Worse in what it suggests about the American democratic system’s ability to defend itself. Somewhere a 24-year-old is watching and preparing to remember the choices our leaders are making now. Because of the current lineup of legislative and executive power, the leaders whose choices matter are all Republicans.

I hope some of their choices, soon, allow them to be remembered as positively as are the GOP’s defenders of constitutional process from the Watergate days. But as of this moment, the challenge to the American system seems more extreme than in that era, and the protective resources weaker. https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/05/comey-watergate/526443/

8. Jonathan Chait: Trump Has Sparked the Biggest Political Crisis Since Watergate

Trump continues to surround himself with family and personal loyalists, and judges his and his employees’ performance by the quality and (especially) quantity of free media they generate. That he is leveraging the office to enrich himself and his family strikes him as a perfectly obvious course of action. He casually refers to “my generals” and “my military.” He sent his longtime personal bodyguard to fire Comey. To Trump, the notion that his FBI director would investigate him and his associates is as outrageous as having a doorman at Mar-a-Lago greet him with insults.

What has enabled Trump to persist in this belief is a government controlled by a party willing to accommodate his vision. Whether or not Trump asked for the same kind of loyalty oath of the congressional leadership that he demanded of Comey, they have acted as though they have given one. The Republican Congress has quashed demands for his tax returns, blocked independent investigations of Russian hacking, and mostly refrained from condemning his of Comey. So deeply have Republicans internalized their dereliction of the traditional oversight function that New Jersey Republican representative Tom MacArthur recently told a gathering of upset constituents, “We don’t oversee the Executive … Congress is not the board of directors of the White House.”

Trump has governed like a child monarch. The only clear detail in his mind from the night he ordered a military strike is the cake he was eating at the time. He watches far too much television, sometimes shouting angrily at the screen. His butlers are instructed to give him two scoops of ice cream while White House guests receive just one. He is captive to simplistic notions and ignorant of the extent of his own ignorance. He is surrounded by patronizing advisers who fearfully monitor his turbulent moods, please him with flattery, steer clear of upsetting news, and try to talk him out of impulsive actions. Since January, his immaturity has been most in evidence. Now he is acting not only like a child but also like a monarch. http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2017/05/trump-firing-comey-biggest-political-crisis-since-watergate.html

9. Peter Baker and Maggie Haberman: The Election Is Over, but Trump Can’t Seem to Get Past It

In the small dining room next to the Oval Office where he works much of the time, President Trump keeps a stack of color-coded maps of the United States representing the results of the 2016 election. The counties he won are blotchy red and span most of the nation.

Mr. Trump sometimes hands the maps out to visitors as a kind of parting gift, and a framed portrait-size version was hung on a wall in the West Wing last week. In conversations, the president dwells on the map and its import, reminding visitors about how wrong the polls were and inflating the scope of his victory.

At the root of Mr. Trump’s unpredictable presidency, according to people close to him, is a deep frustration about attacks on his legitimacy, and a worry that Washington does not see him as he sees himself.

As he careens from one controversy to another, many of them of his own making — like his abrupt decision to fire the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, who was leading an investigation into the president’s associates — Mr. Trump seems determined to prove that he won the election on his own. It was not Russian interference. It was not Mr. Comey’s actions in the case involving Hillary Clinton’s emails. It was not a fluke of the Electoral College system. It was all him. 5/13/17 Read more at https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/13/us/politics/election-is-over-but-trump-still-cant-seem-to-get-past-it.html

10. Alexandra Petri: The president is not a child. He’s something worse

We were wrong, it turns out. Anyone cannot be president. Anyone can be elected president (any man, that is), but not anyone can be president.

After the careless, boastful revelations of his great intelligence to Russia, the firing of the FBI director, the new allegations that he asked James B. Comeyto just “let this [Michael Flynn investigation] go” and the months of conducting himself without any curiosity, reverence for history, or ability to avoid mistakes, many columnists lately have been calling President Trump a child, or a bull in a china shop. This is, I think, unfair to children, and to bulls. Bulls have done a good job running Wall Street. Sometimes children are not cruel on purpose. Children can sit still and are often unable to stick their feet into their mouths, and sometimes will let you get more ice cream than they get.

He is something more terrifying than a child. Children can learn.

The president is not a child. Children can improve. Children speak with inside voices. Children ask for help when there are things they cannot reach.

He’s a human Failure to Read the User’s Manual.

He’s a cartoon character. He only looks real on TV. When real things are put into his hands he drops them, and people get hurt.
Confidence is good, up to a point. Now here is someone who thinks juggling hand-painted Fabergé eggs will impress you. Not because he is so supremely confident in his ability to juggle, but because he literally doesn’t know what they are. That they’re breakable. Only your house is in the egg. You are in the egg. Everything you care about is in the egg. 5/17/17 Read more at https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/compost/wp/2017/05/17/the-president-is-not-a-child-hes-something-worse/

11. Dan Balz: Comey firing shows White House problems go far beyond communications strategy

The firing of James Comey as director of the FBI has left the credibility of President Trump’s White House in tatters. The White House now appears to be an institution where truth struggles to keep up with events, led by a president capable at any moment of undercutting those who serve him.

This past week wasn’t the first time that the president’s spokespeople have been asked to explain the inexplicable or defend the indefensible. But what it showed is that this is far more than a problem with the White House communications team, which initially bore the brunt of criticism for offering what turned out to be an inaccurate description of how the president came to dismiss Comey. Whether the communications team is or isn’t fully in the loop is not the pertinent issue.”

Instead, the responsibility for what has been one of the most explosive weeks of the Trump presidency begins at the top, with the president, whose statements and tweets regularly shatter whatever plans have been laid for the day or week. 5/13/17 Read more at https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/comey-firing-shows-white-house-problems-go-far-beyond-communications-strategy/2017/05/13/b00e0bfe-375d-11e7-b412-62beef8121f7_story.html

12. Nicholas Kristof: Is President Trump Obstructing Justice?

Trump challenges the legitimacy of checks on his governance, bullies critics and obfuscates everything. Trump reminds me less of past American presidents than of the “big men” rulers I covered in Asia and Africa, who saw laws simply as instruments with which to punish rivals.

It’s reported that Trump sought a pledge of loyalty from Comey. That is what kings seek; the failure to provide one got Thomas More beheaded. But in a nation of laws, we must be loyal to laws, norms and institutions, not to a passing autocrat.

Trump acknowledges that he was frustrated by the Russia investigation and that it was a factor in firing Comey. This may not meet the legal test for obstruction of justice, but step back and you see that Trump’s entire pattern of behavior is obstruction of the rule of law and democratic norms. 5/13/17 Read more at https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/13/opinion/sunday/is-president-trump-obstructing-justice.html

13. Maureen Dowd: Trump Sticks a Fork in Comey

Transcript from that fateful wintry meeting between F.B.I. Director James Comey and Donald Trump at the White House, seven days after the president was sworn in:

COMEY It makes me mildly nauseous to think I could have helped make you president.

TRUMP You didn’t. I made myself president. Did you see the 1.5 million people at my inauguration? I have a picture of the crowd on the wall here. The dishonest press would never admit it. Now, James, I need you to eat your meatloaf and forget about this Russia thing with Trump. Russia is a made-up story — with a few exceptions. I need you to drop that goofy investigation and start priming the pump on investigating the leaks in your shop and in the C.I.A. that hurt Trump. You could also check the files on Ted Cruz’s dad and Lee Harvey Oswald while you’re at it.

COMEY But no one leaks more than you. You are your own Deep Throat. There have been rumors that you have been taping people since the ’80s. Are you taping this conversation?

TRUMP I have nothing further to add on that. Ah, here’s dessert. The most beautiful chocolate cake that you’ve ever seen. I get two scoops of ice cream and you only get one. Because I’m the president. Can you believe it? 5/13/17 Read more at https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/13/opinion/sunday/trump-sticks-a-fork-in-comey.html

14. E.J. Dionne: The Autocrat Returns

Not one word out of Trump's White House is believable on its face, and sowing convenient untruth is another mark of autocracy. So is Trump's effort to rig future elections, which is what his commission on "election integrity" is really all about. It will seek to justify making it as hard as possible for Trump's opponents, particularly in the minority community, to vote.

And like authoritarians everywhere, he aims not simply to defeat his enemies but to humiliate them. Thus his assault on Comey in the Holt interview as a "showboat" and "a grandstander" -- talk about a lack of self-awareness -- and his Twitter threat Friday: "James Comey better hope that there are no 'tapes' of our conversation before he starts leaking to the press!" Presidential obsessions with "tapes" are perilous.

Trump clearly realized that reports of his demanding Comey's loyalty made him sound like a mafia don or a two-bit despot.

It was fitting that Trump's jolliness with the

n ambassador and foreign minister was photographically captured last week by Tass, Vladimir Putin's government news agency. The pesky American media were excluded from this happy meeting of minds. It can no longer be seen as outlandish to suspect that Trump's role model is Putin, a man he has praised for having "very strong control over a country." This should scare us all to death. 5/15/17 Read more at http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2017/05/15/the_autocrat_returns_133880.html

15. Charles M. Blow: Trump’s Madness Invites Mutiny

He is talking and tweeting himself into legal jeopardy. He can’t seem to help himself. Something in the man is broken.

He is insecure, paranoid and brittle, jostling between egomania and narcissism, intoxicated with a power beyond his meager comprehension and indulging in it beyond the point of abuse.

Some people are ebulliently optimistic that the abomination is coming undone and may soon be at an end.

But I would caution that this is a moment pregnant with calamity.

The man we see unraveling before our eyes still retains the power of the presidency until such time as he doesn’t, and that time of termination is by no means assured.

Trump is now a wounded animal, desperate and dangerous. Survival is an overwhelming, instinctual impulse, and one should put nothing beyond a being who is bent on ensuring it.

Banking on an easy impeachment or resignation or a shiny set of handcuffs is incredibly tempting for those drained and depressed by Trump’s unabated absurdities, perversions of truth and facts and assaults on custom, normalcy and civility. 5/15/17 Read more at https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/15/opinion/trumps-madness-invites-mutiny.html

16. David Brooks: When the World Is Led by a Child

At base, Trump is an infantalist. There are three tasks that most mature adults have sort of figured out by the time they hit 25. Trump has mastered none of them. Immaturity is becoming the dominant note of his presidency, lack of self-control his leitmotif.

First, most adults have learned to sit still. But mentally, Trump is still a 7-year-old boy who is bouncing around the classroom. Trump’s answers in these interviews are not very long — 200 words at the high end — but he will typically flit through four or five topics before ending up with how unfair the press is to him.

His inability to focus his attention makes it hard for him to learn and master facts. He is ill informed about his own policies and tramples his own talking points. It makes it hard to control his mouth. On an impulse, he will promise a tax reform when his staff has done little of the actual work.

Most people of drinking age have achieved some accurate sense of themselves, some internal criteria to measure their own merits and demerits. But Trump seems to need perpetual outside approval to stabilize his sense of self, so he is perpetually desperate for approval, telling heroic fabulist tales about himself.

And out of that void comes a carelessness that quite possibly betrayed an intelligence source, and endangered a country. 5/15/17 Read more at https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/15/opinion/trump-classified-data.html

17. Jonathan Chait: The Law Can’t Stop Trump. Only Impeachment Can

One of the oddities of the moment is that Republican officials who work closely with Trump almost uniformly regard him as wildly unfit for office. Trump’s gross unsuitability for office is the subtext of the constant stream of leaks that have emanated from his administration (and, before that, his campaign). James Comey told associates he found the president “outside the realm of normal,” even “crazy,” reported the New York Times recently. A Republican close to the White House told the Washington Post Trump is “in the grip of some kind of paranoid delusion.” A friend of Trump, trying to spin the latest debacle in the most forgiving way, tells Politico, “He doesn’t really know any boundaries. He doesn’t think in those terms … He doesn’t sometimes realize the implications of what he’s saying. I don’t think it was his intention in any way to share any classified information. He wouldn’t want to do that.” (This was offered as an alternative to the suspicion that Trump is deliberately undermining U.S. intelligence to benefit his Russian friends.)

And yet, outside the inner circle of Republicans with access to the commander-in-chief, Trump’s popularity remains respectable, even solid. The conservative base is largely unaware of the constant revelations of Trump’s gross incompetence, or has been trained to ignore them as propaganda emanating from the administration’s enemies in the deep state or the liberal media. In red America, Trump remains a hero at best, and a competent, normal president at worst. 5/15/17 Read more at http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2017/05/the-law-cant-stop-trump-only-impeachment-can.html

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