ON THE RECORD. . .

“I just want my stuff back.” — Trump's lawyer Michael Cohen

“I don’t know what he was thinking. I think this was a huge miscalculation. I think this is the captain abandoning the sinking ship.” — ,Former Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA), about Speaker Paul Ryan’s retirement announcement.

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“I am absolutely floored by this. I hope to God it’s not true.” — Former Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA) on the indictment of former House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) who  has been charged with illegally “structuring” more than $950,000 in bank withdrawals in a way to avoid reporting requirements on such transactions and with lying to FBI agents when asked about the withdrawals. Hastert reportedly used those funds to help pay off an unnamed individual for unspecified “prior misconduct” against that person.

“It’s going to be a civil war. No one knows how bad this will get. Kevin [McCarthy] is such a f**king moron he’s going to get rolled by Pelosi every day. FML.” -- A top Ryan aide

“I’m very happy. I’ve not had a moment of regret or remorse. Every morning it’s hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, this is not my problem.” — Former Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), about his retirement.

“This whole thing is an absurdity. We’ve now had Paul Manafort and his wife in their pajamas at 3 in the morning having the FBI break down the door. Cohen, the lawyer, had the door taken off of the hinges at 6 in the morning. It ain’t the rule of law when they kick in your door at 3 in the morning and you’re faced with armed men. And you have had no reason to be told you’re going to have that kind of treatment. That’s Stalin. That’s the Gestapo in Germany. That shouldn’t be the American FBI.” -- Newt Gingrich comparing FBI raid of Trump lawyer to Nazi secret police.

Your kakistocracy* is collapsing after its lamentable journey. As the greatest Nation history has known, we have the opportunity to emerge from this nightmare stronger & more committed to ensuring a better life for all Americans, including those you have so tragically deceived. -- Former CIA Director John Brennan on Twitter. *Kakistocracy: Government by thieves.

“F**k Trump, and f**k these f**king people.” -- Infowars founder Alex Jones launched into several conspiratorial rants about the strike into Syria, breaking down in tears and railing against Trump and Secretary of Defense James Mattis.

Democracy is being tested. The rule of law and the press are under attack by a childish sociopathic liar. Congressional checks and balances have been obliterated. All it would take is one principled Republican, not on the way out, to stand up for the love of country. -- Rob Reiner on Twitter

“None of us have covered ourselves in glory. This Congress and this administration likely will go down as one of the most fiscally irresponsible administrations and Congresses that we’ve had.” -- Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) lamenting that his recent vote for the GOP bill could be one of the worst of his career if projections that it will add nearly $2 trillion to the deficit prove to be accurate.

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“The Republican Congress now represents a party with very few significant defining principles other then the promotion of the president’s impulses at that moment.” — Former Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH)

"Depending on what is contained within those documents, I think there is significant danger to the president. The president trusted Mr. Cohen as his fixer for years...and I think the chickens are about to come home to roost." -- Stormy Daniels lawyer Michael Avenatti

To adapt Churchill’s line about Russia, Trump’s approach to Syria is an impulse wrapped in indifference inside an incoherence. -- Bret Stephens in the NY TImes

“McConnell should not be in the U.S. Senate, let alone be the Republican Majority Leader. He is a Swamp captain. The Russians and McConnell should both stop interfering with elections outside their jurisdictions. West Virginians are aware that McConnell cannot vote in their election. They want him to mind his own business and do his job. A job he has not done now for over 30 years. Balance the budget Mitch and stay out of West Virginia.” -- West Virginia coal baron Don Blankenship telling the Senate leader to ‘stop interfering’ in his state’s Senate election.

“The president of the United States just tweeted that a private citizen should be jailed. And I think the reaction of most of us was: ‘Meh, it’s another one of those things.’ This is not normal. This is not OK. There is a danger that we will become numb to it and we will stop noticing the threats to our norms.” — Former FBI Director James Comey, in an interview with NPR.

Michael Cohen has spent his career making Donald Trump’s problems disappear. Now he’s the problem Trump can’t possibly make vanish. ” -- Mike Allen in Axios

“I’d say, ‘Hell no. Hell no — double hell no.'” -- Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) about voting on another tax package before the election,” The Hill reports.


IN THIS ISSUE

FYI
    OPINION
      FYI  

      1.  Andy Borowitz: Trump Sends National Guard to His Accountant’s Office

      In what some experts are calling an unprecedented use of military force, Donald J. Trump on Tuesday ordered four thousand National Guard troops to protect the midtown Manhattan offices of his accountant.

      According to those familiar with the National Guard’s deployment, the troops will secure the corridors and elevator banks in the vicinity of the accounting firm that prepares Trump’s taxes.

      The troops, whose mission is being called “Operation Safe Returns,” are expected to arrive on Wednesday, after making the two-thousand-mile journey from the Mexican border.

      At the White House, Trump defended his decision to use the nation’s military to protect his accountant’s offices. “Yesterday our country was attacked,” he said. “Never again.”

      Trump’s unilateral decision to invade Manhattan drew a muted response in diplomatic circles around the world, with many allies taking a cautious “wait and see” attitude.

      In North Korea, Kim Jong Un said that he still planned to have a May summit with the U.S. President, “whoever that is by then.” https://www.newyorker.com/humor/borowitz-report/

      2. Trump businesses made millions off Republican groups and federal agencies

      Trump’s U.S. businesses have received at least $15.1 million in revenue from political groups and federal agencies since 2015, according to a new report to be released Monday.

      The money went to Trump’s airplanes, hotels, golf courses, even a bottled water company during the presidential campaign and the first 15 months of his presidency, according to a compilation of known records of the spending by Public Citizen obtained by McClatchy. http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/politics-government/white-house/article208855534.html

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      3. On The Deficit, GOP Has Been Playing Us All For Suckers

      To say we're all being played by House and Senate Republicans and the Trump administration when it comes to the deficit is my polite way of saying that the GOP is operating the federal equivalent of a huge budget bunco game.

      Just a few months after the tax bill was signed, the GOP-controlled Congress agreed to increase federal spending and the budget deficit by another $130 billion or so.

      Think about this. The same congressional Republicans who over the previous eight years wanted everyone to believe they were fiscal conservatives hell bent on balancing the budget and not increasing the national debt, sponsored, passed and then danced around the fire because of legislation that will result in a permanent $1 trillion deficit and a debt that will soar to close to 100 percent of GDP by 2028.

      And...House and Senate Republicans were enabled by a GOP president who during his campaign said he would eliminate the deficit and completely pay off the debt. https://www.forbes.com/sites/stancollender/2018/04/15/on-the-deficit-gop-has-been-playing-us-all-for-suckers/#539875ec4694

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      4. Democracy in Crisis: Freedom House Releases "Freedom in the World 2018"

      “Democracy is facing its most serious crisis in decades,” said Michael J. Abramowitz, president of Freedom House. “Democracy’s basic tenets—including guarantees of free and fair elections, the rights of minorities, freedom of the press, and the rule of law—are under siege around the world.”

      “The core institutions of American democracy are being battered by an administration that has treated the country’s traditional checks and balances with disdain,” Abramowitz said.

      “The Trump administration has made a sharp break from the political consensus of the last 70 years by casting aside democracy as the animating force behind American foreign policy,” Abramowitz added. “The hastening withdrawal of the United States from its historical commitment to supporting democracy overseas makes the challenge posed by authoritarian regimes all the more powerful and threatening.” https://freedomhouse.org/article/democracy-crisis-freedom-house-releases-freedom-world-2018

      5. Explaining Support for Trump in the White Working Class: Race vs. Economics

      Data from the Pew Research Center show that six months into Donald Trump’s presidency, the gap between whites with and without college degrees in opinions of the president was enormous. Non-college whites were far more likely to approve of Trump’s performance than white college graduates.”

      This gap appears to have little or nothing to do with differences between the economic circumstances of these two groups. While whites without college degrees did experience far more economic distress than those with college degrees, economic distress itself appeared to have little relationship with opinions of Trump.

      The main explanation for the class divide in opinions of Trump among whites appeared to be differing views on race relations. White college graduates were much more likely than whites without college degrees to hold liberal views on the significance of racial discrimination, and opinions on the significance of racial discrimination were strongly related to opinions of Trump’s performance. Racial attitudes, not economics, appears to be the main factor producing strong support for Trump among members of the white working class. http://www.centerforpolitics.org/crystalball/articles/explaining-support-for-trump-in-the-white-working-class-race-vs-economics/

      6. Inside the GOP Plan to Discredit Comey

      President Trump’s allies “are preparing an extensive campaign to fight back against James Comey’s publicity tour, trying to undermine the credibility of the former FBI director by reviving the blistering Democratic criticism of him before he was fired nearly a year ago,” CNN reports.

      “The battle plan against Comey, obtained by CNN, calls for branding the nation’s former top law enforcement official as ‘Lyin’ Comey’ through a website, digital advertising and talking points to be sent to Republicans across the country before his memoir is released next week. The White House signed off on the plan, which is being overseen by the Republican National Committee. https://www.cnn.com/2018/04/12/politics/trump-comey-publicity-tour/index.html

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      7. The DAILY GRILL

      "After years of Comey, with the phony and dishonest Clinton investigation (and more), running the FBI, its reputation is in Tatters - worst in History! But fear not, we will bring it back to greatness." -- Trump in December.

      VERSUS

      "Now, the FBI is getting its revenge. All at once, Trump is being pounded by the bureau and its alumni, with a three-pronged threat." -- Mike Allen in Axios

       

      “In fact, when I decided to just do it (fire Comey). I said to myself, ‘you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story. It’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won.'” -- Trump in interview with Lester Holt on May 11, 2018

      VERSUS

      Slippery James Comey, the worst FBI Director in history, was not fired because of the phony Russia investigation where, by the way, there was NO COLLUSION (except by the Dems)! -- Trump on Twitter on April 18, 2018, contradicting his own comments that the Russia investigation was a key reason he fired FBI director James Comey

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

      Watch Hannity's unhinged rant over comparisons of Trump to a mobster at https://www.mediamatters.org/video/2018/04/11/watch-hannitys-unhinged-rant-over-comparisons-trump-mobster/219922

      Mike Huckabee suggests Republicans order Capitol police to conduct a raid on the FBI. https://www.mediamatters.org/video/2018/04/12/mike-huckabee-suggests-republicans-order-capitol-police-conduct-raid-fbi/219924

      Fox guest says James Comey is "very disturbed" and "should be sitting in a prison somewhere." https://www.mediamatters.org/video/2018/04/13/fox-guest-says-james-comey-very-disturbed-and-should-be-sitting-prison-somewhere/219936

      Fox host: Taxation is "pretty darn close" to theft. The Weekly Standard's Stephen Hayes: "A lot of people do think that taxation is theft or have a problem paying taxes. https://www.mediamatters.org/video/2018/04/16/fox-host-taxation-pretty-darn-close-theft/219951

      For four days last week, Sean Hannity attacked the April 9 FBI raid of Trump attorney Michael Cohen’s office and hotel room, all without disclosing that he is also a legal client of Cohen, as Cohen’s lawyers disclosed in federal court on Monday. https://www.mediamatters.org/blog/2018/04/16/how-sean-hannity-has-talked-about-michael-cohen-fbi-raid/219961

      Sean Hannity, a client of Michael Cohen's, called the raid of his office "a threat to the constitutional foundation of this country."https://www.mediamatters.org/video/2018/04/16/sean-hannity-client-michael-cohens-called-raid-his-office-threat-constitutional-foundation-country/219955

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      9. From the Late Shows

      The Late Show with Stephen Colbert: Leaks From Comey's Book And A Trump Tower Doorman: https://youtu.be/UirzdrCr5zI

      Meet the Parents Cold Open - SNL: https://youtu.be/kXIF2FQpgjM

      Weekend Update on Michael Cohen Raid - SNL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a9K8wG_M06Y

      Weekend Update: Laura Ingraham - SNL: https://youtu.be/nybyEtN3kyc

      10. Late Night Jokes for Dems

      Last night was the ABC News interview with former FBI Director James Comey where he promoted his new book. But before the interview, Trump got on Twitter yesterday morning and called Comey a liar and attacked his reputation. So, congratulations to Donald Trump for sending Comey's book straight to No. 1. -- James Corden

      Former FBI Director James Comey was interviewed on ABC last night, and he said that Trump often changes his story and contradicts himself. In response, Trump said, "Yes, I don't." -- Jimmy Fallon

      The president has been very busy. This morning he tweeted that an attack on Syria could happen "very soon or not so soon at all." When asked if he's using a Magic 8-Ball, Trump said, "Ask again later." -- Jimmy Fallon

      It has come out today that President Trump's lawyer Michael Cohen also represents Fox News host Sean Hannity. Apparently, Cohen would pay women $130,000 to watch Hannity’s show. -- Conan O’Brien

      The National Enquirer paid $30,000 for a story about President Trump having a love child but then buried the story. The Enquirer said, "We did it to protect the child from finding out his father is Donald Trump." -- Conan O’Brien

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      11. Trump chooses impulse over strategy as crises mount

      The Twitter disruptions were emblematic of a president operating on a tornado of impulses — and with no clear strategy — as he faces some of the most consequential decisions of his presidency, including Syria, trade policy and the Russian interference probe that threatens to overwhelm his administration.”

      “Many of the guardrails that previously helped stabilize the president — from West Wing aides to clear policy processes — have been cast aside, with little evident organization or long-term strategy emanating from the White House.

      Said one West Wing aide: “It’s just like everybody wakes up every morning and does whatever is right in front of them. Oh, my God, Trump Tower is on fire. Oh, my God, they raided Michael Cohen’s office. Oh, my God, we’re going to bomb Syria. Whatever is there is what people respond to, and there is no proactive strategic thinking.” https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-chooses-impulse-over-strategy-as-crises-mount/2018/04/11/884e33c2-3d9d-11e8-974f-aacd97698cef_story.html

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      12. Trump’s push to redo $1.3T spending bill he signed sparks GOP revolt

      Trump wants to roll back spending in a massive omnibus bill he signed into law, but Republicans who helped craft the legislation are in open revolt.

      Said House Appropriations Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ): “My attitude is, your word is your bond.”

      Frelinghuysen is among more than a half-dozen appropriators who have voiced skepticism about the Trump administration’s proposal to cancel billions in spending. Nearly all said they feared that it could erode the GOP’s bargaining power in future budget talks. Their objections represented another low point in an often-tense relationship between the cost-cutting White House and GOP members of Congress who write spending bills. https://www.politico.com/story/2018/04/12/trump-congress-trillions-republicans-516856

      13. Trapped In The White House: Many Trump Aides Are Too “Toxic” To Get Jobs

      “Trump administration officials looking to escape to the private sector are getting a rude awakening: No one wants to hire them,” BuzzFeed News reports.

      Companies and firms who used to recruit from presidential administrations and brag when they were successful in poaching an aide are making the calculation that the risks of bringing on a Trump administration official outweigh the rewards, according to interviews with 10 current and former administration officials, top recruiters, and lobbyists who did not want to be named to talk candidly. https://www.buzzfeed.com/tariniparti/trump-aides-jobs

      14. Republicans lose their favorite campaign message: Repealing Obamacare

      For the first time in nearly a decade, Republican candidates across the country find themselves bereft of what was once their favorite talking point: repealing and replacing President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act — and all the havoc they alleged it has wreaked.

      That’s because the GOP failed dramatically in its efforts last year to roll back the ACA as its first big legislative delivery on the promise of single-party control of Washington from Congress to the White House. That defeat has quickly turned attacks on Obamacare from centerpiece into pariah on the campaign trail, a sudden disappearing act that Democrats are looking to exploit as they seek to regain power in the midterms. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/republicans-lost-their-favorite-campaign-message-repealing-obamacare/2018/04/14/c81f3dcc-3dbe-11e8-974f-aacd97698cef_story.html

      15. HHS official shared post saying 'forefathers' would have 'hung' Obama, Clinton for treason

      A political appointee at the Department of Health and Human Services shared an image in 2017 that said ‘our forefathers would have hung’ Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton for treason..

      Ximena Barreto is a far-right political pundit who in December 2017 joined the Trump administration as deputy director of communications at the department.

      Barreto was placed on leave by the department on Monday after the liberal watchdog Media Matters reported that Barreto called Islam ‘a cult’ and pushed the false Pizzagate conspiracy theory, which alleged that Clinton was part of a child-sex ring based in part at a Washington, DC, pizza restaurant. https://www.cnn.com/2018/04/13/politics/kfile-hhs-official-obama-clinton-treason/index.html

      16. Economy helps Trump approval; his personality, especially among women, not so much

      The thriving economy looks to be bolstering Donald Trump’s approval rating -– but his personal unpopularity, especially among women, may be putting a ceiling on it.

      The president remains poorly rated overall in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll -– 56 percent of Americans disapprove of his job performance, versus 40 percent who approve, and “strong” disapprovers outnumber strong approvers by nearly 2-1.

      His average approval rating after 15 months in office (38-57 percent approve/disapprove) is the lowest on record in polls dating to the Truman administration.

      If the economy helps Trump, his personal style appears to hurt him. By a nearly 2-1 margin (61-32 percent), the public sees him unfavorably “as a person” in this poll, produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates. There’s a close link between this view and his job rating: Among those who dislike him personally, 84 percent also disapprove of his work in office. http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/economy-helps-trump-approval-personality-women-poll/story?id=54445035

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      17. In the era of Donald Trump, New England’s biggest GOP donor is funding Democrats

      Boston hedge fund billionaire Seth Klarman lavished more than $7 million on Republican candidates and political committees during the Obama administration, using his fortune to help underwrite a GOP takeover of the federal government.

      But the rise of Donald Trump shocked and dismayed Klarman, as did the timid response from the Republican-controlled House and Senate, which have acquiesced rather than challenge the president’s erratic and divisive ways. So, in an astonishing flip, Klarman, at one point New England’s most generous donor to Republicans, is taking his money elsewhere: He’s heaping cash on Democrats. http://www.bostonglobe.com/news/politics/2018/04/14/era-donald-trump-new-england-biggest-gop-donor-funding-democrats/QzyFs3i3Yq3o6Ae7QIkhVP/story.html

      18. GOP tax cuts have gotten less popular with voters, new NBC/WSJ poll says

      A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll finds that the tax-cut law, never broadly popular, has sagged in public esteem lately. Just 27% of Americans call it a good idea, while 36% call it a bad idea and the rest have no opinion.

      Moreover, a majority gives thumbs-down on the plan when asked to consider its potential effects. Just 39% foresee a positive impact from a stronger economy, more jobs and more money in their pockets; 53% foresee a negative impact from higher deficits and disproportionate benefits for the wealthy and big corporations. https://www.cnbc.com/2018/04/16/gop-tax-cuts-have-gotten-less-popular-with-voters-nbc-wsj-poll.html

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      OPINION  

      1.  Adam Davidson: Michael Cohen and the End Stage of the Trump Presidency

      This is the week we know, with increasing certainty, that we are entering the last phase of the Trump Presidency. This doesn’t feel like a prophecy; it feels like a simple statement of the apparent truth. I know dozens of reporters and other investigators who have studied Donald Trump and his business and political ties. Some have been skeptical of the idea that President Trump himself knowingly colluded with Russian officials. It seems not at all Trumpian to participate in a complex plan with a long-term, uncertain payoff. Collusion is an imprecise word, but it does seem close to certain that his son Donald, Jr., and several people who worked for him colluded with people close to the Kremlin; it is up to prosecutors and then the courts to figure out if this was illegal or merely deceitful. We may have a hard time finding out what President Trump himself knew and approved.

      However, I am unaware of anybody who has taken a serious look at Trump’s business who doesn’t believe that there is a high likelihood of rampant criminality. In Azerbaijan, he did business with a likely money launderer for Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. In the Republic of Georgia, he partnered with a group that was being investigated for a possible role in the largest known bank-fraud and money-laundering case in history. In Indonesia, his development partner is “knee-deep in dirty politics”; there are criminal investigations of his deals in Brazil; the F.B.I. is reportedly looking into his daughter Ivanka’s role in the Trump hotel in Vancouver, for which she worked with a Malaysian family that has admitted to financial fraud. Back home, Donald, Jr., and Ivanka were investigated for financial crimes associated with the Trump hotel in SoHo—an investigation that was halted suspiciously. His Taj Mahal casino received what was then the largest fine in history for money-laundering violations. https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/michael-cohen-and-the-end-stage-of-the-trump-presidency

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      2. Paul Krugman: The Paul Story: From Flimflam to Fascism

      Some commentators seem surprised at the way men who talked nonstop about fiscal probity under Barack Obama cheerfully supported tax cuts that will explode the deficit under Trump. They also seem shocked at the apparent indifference of Ryan and his colleagues to Trump’s corruption and contempt for the rule of law. What happened to their principles?

      The answer, of course, is that the principles they claimed to have never had anything to do with their actual goals. In particular, Republicans haven’t abandoned their concerns about budget deficits, because they never cared about deficits; they only faked concern as an excuse to cut social programs.

      And if you ask why Ryan never took a stand against Trumpian corruption, why he never showed any concern about Trump’s authoritarian tendencies, what ever made you think he would take such a stand? Again, if you look at Ryan’s actions, not the character he played to gullible audiences, he has never shown himself willing to sacrifice anything he wants — not one dime — on behalf of his professed principles. Why on earth would you expect him to stick his neck out to defend the rule of law?

      So now Ryan is leaving. Good riddance. But hold the celebrations: If he was no better than the rest of his party, he was also no worse. It’s possible that his successor as speaker will show more backbone than he has — but only if that successor is, well, a Democrat. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/12/opinion/paul-ryan-fascism.html

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      3. Charles M. Blow: Signs of a Political Armageddon

      Donald Trump can feel the breath on the back of his neck. Aggressive federal investigators — in the Russia case and a separate inquiry of his lawyer’s behavior related to women who have alleged consensual sexual relationships with Trump — are taking ever more bold actions.

      They are getting closer to knowing things that I am sure Trump thought no one but the parties involved would ever know.

      This has frightened and enraged the president.

      The country is in a perilous position. It is in the hands and under the thumb of a man now motivated by a primal survival instinct, a consuming egotism and a petrifying fear of ignominy.

      At this point, nothing is beyond the possible, no matter how ill advised and how ultimately destructive. In Trump’s mind, I can only imagine, he has settled on a strategy in the case of his own administration’s Armageddon: If he’s going down, the whole system is going down with him. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/12/opinion/trump-mueller-secrets.html

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      4. Rick Wilson: Everything Trump touches dies, and the speaker’s legacy is no exception.

      The collapse of the economic leg of the GOP’s coalition is complete. We’re now the party of Credit Card Don, the King of Debt. Our base worships a man whose own Bhagavad Gita reads: “Now I become Debt, destroyer of Republicans.”

      The trillions in new spending, the blowout tax bill’s monstrous costs, and Trump’s moron-grade nationalism and state capitalism mean the ideal of making government smaller, smarter, and better is over. It was one thing to talk about dynamic scoring and positive job growth based on the tax cut. It was quite another to predict levels of growth approaching asymptotic.

      The grunting, pig-ignorant Trumpentariat types are doing their usual ranting street-preacher genius analysis of the situation, declaring you’ve triggered duh libs and now Ryan will be replaced with a speaker who, as the Trump Constitution clearly states, will behave with properly knee-padded deference to President for Life Kim Jong Don. They see this as the greatest possible loss for the hated establishment, a draining of the swamp.

      Those poor, dumb bastards. https://www.thedailybeast.com/donald-trump-takes-out-paul-ryan-and-its-going-to-be-a-civil-war

      5. Eric Levitz: Why the GOP’s Campaign Against ‘Lyin’ Comey’ Makes No Sense

      With the White House’s blessing, the Republican National Committee is launching a multifaceted campaign to rebrand George W. Bush’s deputy attorney general as “Lyin’ Comey.” The party is airing digital ads and dispersing talking points to Republican officials across the country.

      This case is, of course, mendacious and absurd. Yes, Democrats (rightly) criticized Comey’s handling of the Clinton email investigation. But that is only relevant if Trump can credibly claim that he fired Comey in response to those complaints. And he can’t — both because he applauded the very action that Democrats criticized most, and because Trump has already said, on national television, that he fired Comey because he disapproved of the FBI’s Russia probe.

      There is no “he said-he said” here. Trump might officially deny that he pressured Comey to drop his investigation into Flynn. But he’s made it perfectly clear that he thinks he had the right to do so. The substance of Trump’s dispute with Comey is not about whether he has tried to compromise the independence of federal law enforcement; it’s about whether federal law enforcement should be independent of his will. For legal and political reasons, Trump’s allies have tried to pretend they’re having the former argument. And to an extent, the mainstream media has followed suit — because if we all stopped pretending that there was any mystery about the president’s contempt for the rule of law, we’d have to confront the fact that one of America’s major political parties is actively helping a would-be authoritarian consolidate power over the Justice Department. And acknowledging that objective fact would make it quite difficult for mainstream news outlets to maintain their “objectivity.” http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2018/04/why-the-gops-campaign-against-lyin-comey-makes-no-sense.html

      6. Jennifer Rubin: Paul Ryan is abandoning the ship before it sinks

      House Speaker Paul Ryan’s departure makes his refusal to remove from committees characters such as Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) — who colluded with the White House in smearing the FBI and wrecking the intelligence-oversight system — all the more inexplicable. Why not take the heat to do the right thing, especially if Ryan is not going to run anyway? The lack of political courage still stuns onlookers who regarded Ryan at one time as a genuine policy wonk and serious leader.

      In sum, Ryan retreats from the scene after loading the country up with debt and leaving virtually every other agenda item save tax cuts undone. He fantasized that in backing Trump, who lacks conservative principles (or any principles), he’d have carte blanche to enact the entire GOP agenda. He made his Faustian bargain with Trump on the false assumption that Trump would be compliant, take direction from House Republicans and demonstrate enough discipline to get through a slew of initiatives. That did not come to pass, because Ryan, in making his disastrous decision to place party over country and corporate tax cuts over defense of democratic values, failed to comprehend the depth of Trump’s unfitness and the centrality of character in determining a president’s success.

      Instead of achieving the entire GOP agenda, Ryan will leave a besmirched legacy defined by his decision to back, enable and defend Trump, no matter how objectionable Trump’s rhetoric and conduct. Ryan has come to embody the nasty scourge of tribalism that dominates our politics. The inability to separate partisan loyalty from patriotic obligation — or to assess the interests of the country and the need to defend democratic norms and institutions — is proving to be the downfall of the Republican Party and the principal threat to our liberal (small “l”) democracy. And no one is more responsible for this than Ryan. No one. https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/right-turn/wp/2018/04/11/paul-ryan-is-abandoning-the-ship-before-it-sinks/

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      7. Paul Waldman: Trump's careening presidency

      We've been told many times that "President Trump thrives on chaos." He likes things unpredictable, freewheeling, fast and loose. You never know what will happen, it's a crazy ride, but in the end everybody gets rich.

      Except there's one person who doesn't want people to believe it. "So much Fake News about what is going on in the White House," the president tweeted at 6:38 a.m. Wednesday morning. "Very calm and calculated with a big focus on open and fair trade with China, the coming North Korea meeting and, of course, the vicious gas attack in Syria." Yes, if there's anything that characterizes this White House, it's that it's "Very calm and calculated." It may have sounded familiar, because a month ago Trump tweeted, "The new Fake News narrative is that there is CHAOS in the White House. Wrong! People will always come & go, and I want strong dialogue before making a final decision. I still have some people that I want to change (always seeking perfection). There is no Chaos, only great Energy!"

      If that's the case, there is some seriously great "Energy" coming out of the White House right now. Recent departures include Trump's communications director, his national security adviser, his secretary of veterans affairs, his homeland security adviser, and probably a few more people nobody ever heard of. Meanwhile, his personal lawyer just had his home and office raided by federal agents, Trump's starting a trade war almost everybody thinks is a terrible idea, he's about to bomb Syria, and he's trying to figure out how to fire the special counsel while members of his own party tell him doing so would be "suicide" and "the beginning of the end of his presidency."

      Funny how this pattern keeps repeating itself: Stories portraying the White House as a cauldron of backstabbing, resentment, and incompetence, where barely a week goes by without the departure of one or more senior aides, followed by the president's insistence that in fact everything is going great. http://theweek.com/articles/766728/trumps-careening-presidency

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      8. Joel Dodge: Paul 's final surrender

      House Speaker Paul Ryan is retiring from Congress. In the process, he's throwing in the towel in one final act of reckoning with President Trump's takeover of the Republican Party.

      Ryan's retirement can be seen through several lenses. Through one, he's taking his tax cut and going home. Cutting taxes on the rich had long been the motivating force in Ryan's political career. With that achieved, he can happily exit the stage. (Ryan's other wish to eviscerate health care and food stamps for the poor will remain a dream deferred.)

      Through another lens, Ryan is running from the blue wave gathering across the country before this year's midterm election. Ryan was facing an unusually tough re-election challenge from Democrat Randy Bryce, an iron worker who goes by the Twitter handle "Iron Stache." Rather than face a humiliating career-ending loss, Ryan is quitting preemptively.

      But perhaps most significantly, Ryan's retirement signals a surrender in an intra-party fight against Trumpism that had establishment conservatives already barely on life support. Throughout the 2016 campaign, Ryan agonized over Trump and kept him at arm's length, demanding that the wrecking ball candidate win Ryan's endorsement by demonstrating a commitment to small-government conservative principles. http://theweek.com/articles/766655/paul-ryans-final-surrender

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      9. Jennifer Rubin Newt Gingrich’s shameless smear of the FBI

      Appearing on Fox News, Gingrich condemned the no-knock raids at Paul Manafort’s home and at the office, hotel and home of Michael Cohen, President Trump’s lawyer. The former speaker of the House declared, “It ain’t the rule of law when they kick in your door at 3 o’clock in the morning and you’re faced with armed men. And you have had no reason to be told you’re going to have that kind of treatment. That’s Stalin. That’s the Gestapo in Germany. That shouldn’t be the American FBI.”

      That’s a disgraceful statement for two reasons. Let’s take the Gestapo part of it first.

      Jonathan Greenblatt, the chief executive of the Anti-Defamation League, told me, “Newt Gingrich’s remarks comparing the Justice Department’s actions in executing a search warrant to ‘the Gestapo in Germany’ are deeply offensive, especially coming on Holocaust Remembrance Day, when we recall the campaign of Nazi atrocities against the Jewish people. There’s simply no comparing the actions of the Gestapo with America’s criminal justice system. This is an inappropriate trivialization of history.”

      Gingrich says many foolish things, but the danger here is that the slavish viewers of Fox News, which includes the president, will absorb that Nazi-themed message and adopt it as their own. Soon, an entirely inappropriate analogy gets normalized. https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/right-turn/wp/2018/04/13/newt-gingrichs-shameless-smear-of-the-fbi/

      10. Bess Levin: Trump Begs World Leaders To Let Him Back In Their Club

      World leaders could be forgiven for sneering at Mr. Johnny-Come-Lately. It was not long ago that President Art of the Deal was raging against the T.P.P. deal as “a rape of our country” that he was as likely to join as to admit to golden showers with Russian prostitutes. Trump only seemed to undergo a change of heart after receiving a rude awakening last week—one that literally everyone warned would happen—when China responded to his tariff threat with its own tariffs targeting Trump-country products like soybeans and whiskey. With those constituents and congressional Republicans livid over this completely predictable turn of events, he’s now hoping that rejoining T.P.P. will help exert pressure on China, which was the point all along. Now, of course, the C.E.O. president is in a significantly worse negotiating position, though that hasn’t stopped him from acting like the 11 countries who’ve already struck a deal without the U.S. might suddenly come crawling back.

      The Great Negotiator, in fact, seems to be making a habit of misunderstanding deals, making a hasty decision, and then trying to reverse course. According to Politico, Trump is so upset by the omnibus spending bill—which he reportedly didn’t read before signing—that he is “moving ahead with plans” to reopen the legislation to claw back some $60 billion. It’s unlikely to happen, and would barely put a dent in the $1.3 trillion bill, anyway, but that’s Trump: begging your negotiating partners to give you concessions after you’ve already given away the farm. Just like in The Art of the Deal. https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2018/04/trump-begs-world-leaders-to-let-him-back-in-their-club

      11.  Joe Scarborough: Trump’s miserable crew has never been so desperate

      These are desperate times for the quislings of Trump. The cost of collaborating with President Trump in the continued debasement of American democracy is becoming far too high. Fifteen months into his presidency, Trump has seen a national security adviser, a former campaign chairman, a foreign policy adviser and another high-ranking campaign official face charges of serious crimes. This week, the president must have felt the walls closing in even more tightly around him when FBI agents searched the home, office and hotel room of his longtime personal lawyer, whom associates call Trump’s “fixer.”

      The president’s response to the Michael Cohen search, duly authorized by an independent federal judge, was to reflexively trash law-enforcement officers, undermine the rule of law and slander a Vietnam War hero who has committed his adult life to the service of America. By now, of course, few should be surprised by the depths to which Trump sinks when attacking law enforcement personnel. But this week provided insight into just how desperate Trump and his courtiers have become in their defenses of an indefensible administration. The president promoted a Fox News show via Twitter that starred a steady stream of sycophants who slandered special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.

      Regardless how Mueller’s investigation ends, Trump will one day leave Washington. And when he does, the steady stream of attacks on Justice Department professionals, FBI agents and all the honorable men and women who daily defend Americans against enemies foreign and domestic will forever stain the reputations of Trump’s most shameless apologists. All this for a man who has spent decades showing loyalty to little else but his ravenous pursuit of money and fame. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/trumps-miserable-crew-has-never-been-so-desperate/2018/04/13/23198a90-3f43-11e8-974f-aacd97698cef_story.html

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      12.  John Cassidy: James Comey and Donald Trump Go to War

      Referring to his one-on-one dinner with Trump on January 27, 2017, during which the new President told him, “I need loyalty, I expect loyalty,” Comey recalls that it brought him right back to “The Ravenite. The Palma Boys. Café Giardino.” He writes, “To my mind, the demand was like Sammy the Bull’s Cosa Nostra induction ceremony—with Trump in the role of the family boss, asking me if I have what it takes to be a ‘made man’.”

      The comparison between the Trump White House and an organized-crime family doesn’t end there. Comey recounts two more White House meetings that also left him feeling compromised. At a White House meeting that was attended by representatives of the intelligence agencies, Trump and his political advisers instigated a discussion about how to respond to the charges against Trump in the infamous dossier compiled by the former British spy Christopher Steele. “Holy crap,” Comey writes, “they are trying to make each of us an ‘amica nostra’—a friend of ours. To draw us in. As crazy as it sounds, I suddenly had the feeling that, in the blink of an eye, the president-elect was trying to make us all part of the same family.”

      With the Republican National Committee’s new “Lyin Comey” Web site, the Party’s media outriders at Fox News and elsewhere, and the tweets of the Commander-in-Chief, Trump and his circle will do all they can to discredit Comey in the coming days. But Trump’s approval ratings and the recent elections in Virginia and Pennsylvania suggest that the majority of the American public has already taken Comey’s message to heart, because it is so obviously true: “What is happening now is not normal. It is not fake news. It is not okay.” https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/james-comey-and-donald-trump-go-to-war

      13. Michael D’Antonio: Trump’s mob mentality: Comey’s description of Trump is actually quite apt

      Shockingly, the fact that we have reached the point where the nation's former top cop is publicly discussing the mob-like behavior of a sitting President became inevitable on election night 2016. And though the right-wing media is working overtime to call the Trump-godfather comparison obscene and histrionic, my time studying the Donald has taught me it's actually quite apt.

      Seventy years old when he took office, Trump has long projected a menacing mobster/executive style. It was in the air all around him when we sat for eight hours of interviews in 2014 as I wrote my book, "Never Enough: Donald Trump and the Pursuit of Success."

      It starts with the look — the suits, the hair, the bodyguards — and extends to his penchant for tough-guy talk. Opponents get nasty nicknames like Crooked Hillary or Lyin' Ted or Crying Chuck and critics become assailants whom he promises to "hit back 10 times harder."

      Though Trump considers this stance righteous, it is the attitude of a thug who intends to intimidate. Especially when the man doing the threatening is the most powerful person in the world.

      In his life before the White House, Trump operated with the impulsive unpredictability of a Tony Soprano and prized, above all else, secrecy and loyalty.

      And like a mobster, Trump surrounded himself not with top talent, as he has often claimed, but with a circle of needy sycophants who owed their existence, and their futures, to him. http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/trump-mob-mentality-article-1.3932779

      14. Robert Reich: The truth about an untethered President Trump

      The petulant adolescent in the White House — who has replaced most of the adults around him with raging sycophants and has demoted his chief of staff, John Kelly, to lapdog — lacks adequate supervision.

      Before, he was merely petty and vindictive. He’d tweet nasty things about people he wanted to humiliate, like former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

      Now his vindictiveness has turned cruel. After smearing FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe with unfounded allegations that he lied to investigators, the new Trump made sure McCabe was fired just days before he would have been eligible for a pension after more than twenty-one years of service.

      Before, he was merely xenophobic. He’d call Mexicans murderers and rapists.

      Now his xenophobia has turned belligerent. He’s sending thousands of National Guard troops to the Mexican border, even though illegal border crossings are at a record low.

      And he’s starting a trade war against China.

      China has been expropriating American intellectual property for years. But Trump isn’t even trying to negotiate a way out of this jam or build a coalition of other trading partners to pressure China. He’s just upping the ante — and, not incidentally, causing the stock market to go nuts.

      But the most dangerous thing about the new Trump is his increased attacks on American democracy itself.

      Start with a free press. Before, he just threw rhetorical bombshells at the Washington Post, CNN, and other outlets that criticized him.

      Now he’s trying to penalize them financially, while bestowing benefits on outlets that praise him. https://www.salon.com/2018/04/16/the-truth-about-an-untethered-trump_partner/

      15 Jonathan Chait: Michael Cohen and the Busting of the Trump Crime Family

      One of the ways in which Trump’s business closely resembles organized crime is that, because it relies so heavily on morally and legally dubious business ventures, its human-resource strategy de-emphasizes qualifications and relies heavily on loyalty. Or, to put it differently, a person’s willingness to engage in, and keep one’s mouth shut about, Trump’s dubious activities is the most important qualification. This explains why Trump is not known for hiring bright young minds from leading business schools and relies so heavily on his children, as a mafia boss would. It also explains why he retained the legal (or quasi-legal) services of Michael Cohen, a graduate of the worst law school in the United States.

      Trump has run his business like a mafia operation because maintaining secrecy is the paramount value. Despite the vast trove of public access to Trump’s endless public statements and colorful marital life, a huge amount of his work remains shrouded in secrecy, from his ties to La Cosa Nostra in the New York real-estate world to his casino business in Atlantic City, to his overseas business dealings and the tax returns he refuses to disclose. Mueller’s investigation probably will not result in the literal end of Trump’s presidency. (That would require 67 Senate votes to impeach, a highly improbable outcome.) But it will probably reveal whether he has run his business merely like a crime family or literally as one. http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2018/04/michael-cohen-and-the-busting-of-the-trump-crime-family.html

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      16.  George Packer: Trump’s Erratic Threats to Bashar al-Assad

      A few days before the latest gas attack, the President declared victory over the Islamic State and announced that the two thousand U.S. troops in would soon come home. Maybe he will have them march down Pennsylvania Avenue, past his reviewing stand, in the military parade planned for later this year. Trump had nothing to say about the fate of the Syrian Kurds and our other partner, the Free Syrian Army, or about the possible return of isis, or about the regional ambitions of Russia and Iran. The announcement came as a surprise to his generals. After nearly two decades of inconclusive wars in collapsed states, against elusive enemies backed by complex arrays of actors, our military leaders no longer think in terms of victory parades. They use phrases like “staying in the game” and “pursuing your objectives.” They are far too wised up to suit their shallow, fragile, ignorant Commander-in-Chief.

      Trump’s taunts and reversals of the past week are the product of a character that we know too well. They also reflect deep American frustration with the limits of our power to win these wars or to end them. Hitting Assad now might bring a momentary sense of just deserts, but there is nothing to be proud of in Syria, and no American solution—not even for the gassing of children.  https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/04/23/trumps-erratic-threats-to-bashar-al-assad

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