ON THE RECORD. . .
Fox News contributor Tomi Lahren referring to Rep. Joe Kennedy (D-MA) in a video posted to Instagram as “that little limp dick.” -- Josh Billinson @jbillinson
I had many fights with Congressional Dems over the years on national security matters. But I never witnessed the type of reckless partisan behavior I am now seeing from Nunes and House Republicans. Absence of moral and ethical leadership in WH is fueling this government crisis. -- Former CIA Director John O. Brennan@JohnBrennan
All should appreciate the FBI speaking up. I wish more of our leaders would. But take heart: American history shows that, in the long run, weasels and liars never hold the field, so long as good people stand up. Not a lot of schools or streets named for Joe McCarthy. -- James Comey @Comey
“An absolute disgrace. It is an embarrassment to the United States Congress. It is part of an effort to discredit the investigation of the president. That is its only purpose, and it doesn’t even work on those terms.” — Jeffrey Toobin, discussing on CNN the release of the Nunes memo.
“A home improvement contractor married to one of Donald and Melania Trump’s former household staffers is now working as an official at the Environmental Protection Agency, the latest example of someone with a personal connection to the Trump family finding work in the administration,” -- Andrew Restuccia in Politico
“Ever since Watergate, the standard for any scandal is whether there is a smoking gun left next to a corpse. In the case of the Nunes memo, we lack a body and the gun is a child’s toy pistol.” -- Walter Shapiro in The Guardian
That’s it? Dishonest and misleading memo wrecked the House intel committee, destroyed trust with Intelligence Community, damaged relationship with FISA court, and inexcusably exposed classified investigation of an American citizen. For what? DOJ & FBI must keep doing their jobs. -- James Comey✔@Comey
“So why isn’t the GOP going to do a budget? Because the vote on the 2019 budget — the last one Congress will consider before the 2018 midterm elections — will reveal that all the Republican promises on the deficit and debt, including its blind belief on dynamic scoring, were completely bogus.” -- Stan Collender in Forbes
“We’re thus driven to believe that the best hope of defending the country from Trump’s Republican enablers, and of saving the Republican Party from itself, is to do as Toren Beasley did: vote mindlessly and mechanically against Republicans at every opportunity, until the party either rights itself or implodes (very preferably the former).” -- Jonathan Rauch and Benjamin Wittes in The Atlantic
“Until now, we could only really accuse House Republicans of ignoring the President’s open attempts to block the Russia investigation. But with the release of the Nunes memo… we can only conclude that House Republicans are complicit in the effort to help the President avoid accountability for his actions and the actions of his campaign.” -- Six-page rebuttal to the Nunes memo by Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee.
You may have noticed by now, but I’m not one to pull any punches on Donald Trump. As a conservative, I see him (Trump) as a statist abomination, a plump, be-wattled authoritarian-wannabe man-baby with the intellectual horsepower of a toaster oven. -- Conservative Rick Wilson in the Daily Beast
“We don’t live in a dictatorship or a monarchy. I swore an oath—in the military and in the Senate—to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, not to mindlessly cater to the whims of Cadet Bone Spurs and clap when he demands I clap.” — Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), on Twitter, responding to Trump’s suggestion that not applauding at the State of the Union was treasonous.
“Is it treason for a presidential campaign to meet with a hostile foreign power to sell out our democracy and rig the election? Is it treason for a presidential campaign to meet with Russian spies who promised information that was negative about a political opponent, and then failed to report that meeting to law enforcement officials? Is it treason for your former national security adviser to be a Russian asset, sitting at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue doing the bidding of Vladimir Putin?” How dare you lecture us about treason! This is not a dictatorship, it’s a democracy, and we do not have to stand for a reality show host masquerading as president of the United States of America.” -- Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) responding to Trump’s calling Democrats who wouldn’t applaud him “treasonous.”
“I wish I could stand here today and say my words of last October have been proven wrong, that I had been unfair to inveigh against the daily sundering of our country, that I had been mistaken about the personal attacks, that I had exaggerated the threats against principles, freedoms and institutions, the flagrant disregard for truth and decency, the reckless provocations most often for the pettiest and most personal reasons, reasons that have nothing whatsoever to do with the fortunes of the people that we have been all been elected to serve. I wish I could say that I had been wrong, but I cannot,” -- Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ)
“It may seem cheap and low to mock Trump’s absurd efforts to conceal his hair loss. But Trump is a man obsessed with image in ways that go beyond the normal human concern with looking presentable. Image is Trump’s moral code. He dismisses his political rivals for being short… Trump’s absurd hair is of a piece with his lifelong attempt to market himself as a brilliant deal-maker and stable genius. So yes, it is okay to laugh when the ruse is exposed.” -- Jonathan Chiat (VIDEO)
IN THIS ISSUE
1. Andy Borowitz: Military Refuses to Participate in Trump’s Parade, Citing Bone Spurs
The Pentagon has turned down Donald J. Trump’s request for a grand military parade in Washington, D.C., citing a sudden outbreak of bone spurs that would prevent men and women in uniform from participating.
“In the history of the U.S. military, we have never experienced a bone-spur epidemic of this magnitude,” the spokesman said. “Regrettably, however, we have no choice but to issue thousands of deferments.”
A statement from the bone-spur sufferers said that they would continue to valiantly serve their country around the world in a non-marching capacity, and offered an alternative to their participation in Trump’s proposed pageant.
“President Trump is welcome to march in the parade all by himself if he would finally like to enlist,” the statement read.
EARLIER: “Sean Hannity has accused me of making the stock market go down,” Obama told reporters on Tuesday morning. “All I have to say is, ‘Guilty as charged.’ ”
Obama offered scant explanation for why he had made stocks crash on Monday. “I guess since leaving the White House I haven’t really found enough ways to fill my time, so tanking the stock market seemed like something to do,” he said. “But I know that’s not a good excuse. The fact is, I caused a lot of folks a lot of pain yesterday, and for that I am very, very sorry.” https://www.newyorker.com/humor/borowitz-report
2. In fight against Trump, Democratic AGs take a page from GOP
Democratic state attorneys general are bringing a growing string of lawsuits, complaints and other actions against the Trump administration on immigration, education policy, net neutrality, marijuana enforcement, offshore oil and gas drilling and more – and there’s no end in sight.
It’s a new look for Democratic state prosecutors, but it’s hardly a novel idea: The Democrats’ strategy is borne in part of a calculated decision to coordinate closely and emulate the way their Republican counterparts relentlessly battled the Obama administration over climate regulations, Obamacare and more. https://www.politico.com/story/2018/02/07/democratic-attorneys-general-trump-393651
3. State Partisanship Shifts Towards Democrats
For the first time in three years, more states can be considered Democratic than Republican, based on residents’ 2017 self-reported party preferences. 19 states, up from 14 in 2016, were solidly Democratic or leaned Democratic, while 16 states, down from 21 in 2016, were solidly Republican or leaned that way. http://news.gallup.com/poll/226556/state-partisanship-shifts-toward-democratic-party-2017.aspx
4. Statement By Senator John McCain On Partisan Attacks On The FBI & DOJ
“The latest attacks on the FBI and Department of Justice serve no American interests – no party’s, no president’s, only Putin’s. The American people deserve to know all of the facts surrounding Russia’s ongoing efforts to subvert our democracy, which is why Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation must proceed unimpeded. Our nation’s elected officials, including the president, must stop looking at this investigation through the warped lens of politics and manufacturing partisan sideshows. If we continue to undermine our own rule of law, we are doing Putin’s job for him.” https://www.mccain.senate.gov/public/index.cfm
5. Trump To Seek Massive Cuts In Clean Energy
The Trump administration is poised to ask Congress for deep budget cuts in the Energy Department’s renewable energy and energy efficiency programs, slashing them by 72 percent overall in fiscal 2019 according to draft budget documents obtained by the Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/white-house-seeks-72-percent-cut-to-clean-energy-research-underscoring-administrations-preference-for-fossil-fuelsv/2018/01/31/c2c69350-05f3-11e8-b48c-b07fea957bd5_story.html
6. The DAILY GRILL
Little Adam Schiff, who is desperate to run for higher office, is one of the biggest liars and leakers in Washington, right up there with Comey, Warner, Brennan and Clapper! Adam leaves closed committee hearings to illegally leak confidential information. Must be stopped! -- Donald J. Trump@realDonaldTrump
Mr. President, I see you’ve had a busy morning of “Executive Time.” Instead of tweeting false smears, the American people would appreciate it if you turned off the TV and helped solve the funding crisis, protected Dreamers or...really anything else. -- Adam Schiff✔@RepAdamSchiff
Pence attacked Manchin’s vote against the tax bill and then continued: “But it’s not just the tax cut. Senator Joe Manchin has voted no time and again on the policies that West Virginia needs. When the time came to repeal and replace the disaster of Obamacare, Joe voted no. When we empowered West Virginia to defund Planned Parenthood, Joe voted no.” -- VP Mike Pence in Lewisburg, WV
“The VP’s comments are exactly why Washington Sucks.” ... “I am shocked that after the @VP worked for almost a year in a divisive & partisan way to take healthcare away from almost 200k WVians, bankrupt our hospitals & push tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans & huge corporations that he would come to #WV & continue partisan attacks.” -- Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) taking aim at VP Pence.
During the 2016 campaign, Trump repeatedly zeroed in on the trade deficit, hammering it as a cause of U.S. economic decline and blaming U.S. leaders, whom he accused of worshiping “globalism over Americanism. This is not some natural disaster, it’s a political and politician-made disaster. Very simple. And it can be corrected and we can correct it fast when we have people with the right thinking.” -- Trump in a June 2016 speech in Monessen, Pennsylvania. “
The U.S. trade deficit increased more than 12 percent in 2017, to $566 billion — its highest level since 2008, according to figures released on Tuesday by the Commerce Department. -- Doug Palmer in Politico
7. From MEDIA MATTERS (They watch Fox News so you don't have to)
Sean Hannity blames Obama for historic market crash. Hannity: "The era of cheap money at some point has to come to an end." https://www.mediamatters.org/video/2018/02/05/sean-hannity-blames-obama-historic-market-crash/219279
Far-right figures are saying the deep state is responsible for the stock market crash. https://www.mediamatters.org/blog/2018/02/06/far-right-figures-are-saying-deep-state-responsible-stock-market-crash/219281
8. From the Late Shows
Weekend Update on the Nunes Memo - SNL: https://youtu.be/LlyV-hvcFwA
Fox & Friends Cold Open - SNL: https://youtu.be/K45mFsyZxtU
Jimmy Kimmel on Trump Releasing Nunes Memo: https://youtu.be/ZhNThHNmUCQ
9. Late Night Jokes for Dems
Nunes says the FBI relied exclusively on the Steele dossier and never disclosed to the judge that the dossier was paid for by Trump's political opponents. Now, if true, that's a pretty damning charge. Spoiler alert: Not true. Turns out, the partisan nature of the dossier was mentioned in a footnote. Now, Nunes should learn how footnotes work. He's about to become one in history. -- Stephen Colbert
President Trump's legal team is now reportedly trying to put the brakes on a looming interview with special counsel Robert Mueller. According to the failing New York Times, Trump's lawyers are worried he could be lying too much to investigators, and they base this concern on... everything he's ever said and done over the course of his life. -- Jimmy Kimmel
Donald Trump is like the bus from "Speed" — if he doesn't tell 60 lies an hour he blows up. Fried chicken and cheeseburgers go everywhere. -- Jimmy Kimmel
If you’re Donald Trump’s lawyer, are you more worried about him lying or about him telling the truth? Because it’s kind of lose-lose, if you think about it. -- Jimmy Kimmel
According to a recent article, President Trump’s lawyers want him to skip an interview with the head of the Russia investigation because they're afraid he'll lie under oath. Here's my question: Why wouldn't his lawyers just tell him to plead insanity? Everyone in the world would be like, "Yep, he's nuts." -- James Corden
If his lawyers really wanted him NOT do it, then just tell him to do it! Trump is like a child — if you tell him not to do something, it only makes him want to do it more. You know? "Donald! Don't you touch that interview! Donald? No! Donald!" -- James Corden
After President Trump called Democrats "un-American" for not applauding him during the State of the Union speech, Democratic Sen. Tammy Duckworth tweeted at Trump about using his alleged bone spurs to get out of Vietnam. She tweeted, "I swore an oath to defend the Constitution... not to mindlessly cater to the whims of Cadet Bone Spurs." Which means now Trump is suffering from bone spurs AND third-degree burns. -- James Corden
People are still excited about the Philadelphia Eagles winning their first Super Bowl! And did you know this? I read that Eagles coach Doug Pederson was coaching high school football just 10 years ago. Which sounds crazy, until you remember that just FIVE years ago, our president was firing Clay Aiken from a TV show. -- Jimmy Fallon
Paul Ryan posted a tweet where he bragged about how the GOP tax bill helped a woman earn an extra $1.50 a week. He would’ve gotten a lot of angry letters, but nobody wanted to spend their entire bonus on a stamp. -- Jimmy Fallon
10. Trump administration strips consumer watchdog office of enforcement powers in lending discrimination cases
The Trump administration has stripped enforcement powers away from Consumer Financial Protection Bureau office that specializes in pursuing cases against financial firms for breaking discrimination laws.
The move comes about two months after President Trump installed his budget chief Mick Mulvaney at the head of an agency that has long been in the cross-hairs of Republicans. The Office of Fair Lending and Equal Opportunity had imposed penalties on lenders that it said had systematically imposed higher interest rates on minorities than whites. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/business/wp/2018/02/01/trump-administration-strips-consumer-watchdog-office-of-enforcement-powers-against-financial-firms-in-lending-discrimination-cases/
11. The Key Players In Trump’s ‘Deep State’ Conspiracy Theory Are All Republicans
The key law enforcement figures in what President Donald Trump and his allies have characterized as a “deep state” conspiracy against him are not lefties or even Democrats: They are Republicans. And Trump picked a number of them himself.
Trump and Republicans are continuing to attack the nation’s top law enforcement organizations to undermine the special counsel investigation into his campaign, which has already resulted in criminal charges against four Trump associates. But factually speaking, it’s really tough for Trump backers to credibly argue that the deck has been stacked against the president, simply based on the political leanings of the key figures in the case. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/trump-russia-probe-republicans-deep-state_us_5a737d6ee4b06ee97af0d4dd
12. Trump’s Unparalleled War on a Pillar of Society: Law Enforcement
The war between the president and the nation’s law enforcement apparatus is unlike anything America has seen in modern times. With a special counsel investigating whether his campaign collaborated with Russia in 2016 and whether Mr. Trump obstructed justice in 2017, the president has engaged in a scorched-earth assault on the pillars of the criminal justice system in a way that no other occupant of the White House has done.
In his telling, that bureaucracy, now run by his own appointees, is a nest of political saboteurs out to undermine him — an accusation that raised fears that he was tearing at the credibility of some of the most important institutions in American life to save himself. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/03/us/politics/trump-fbi-justice.html
13. Most Think Trump Is Obstructing Russia Investigation
A new Quinnipiac poll finds American voters think President Trump has attempted to “derail or obstruct” the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election by a 53% to 41%. https://poll.qu.edu/national/release-detail?ReleaseID=2517
14. Junk’ political news shared more widely by Trump backers, study finds
Backers of President Donald Trump are sharing more “junk” political news – ideologically extreme, conspiratorial, sensationalist and phony information – over Twitter and Facebook than all other groups combined, significantly magnifying the polarization in the American electorate, according to an analysis by British researchers.
Although the “junk” news sites considered in the analysis included those on both the left and right, lead researcher Philip Howard said the findings suggest "that most of the junk news that people share over social media ends up with Trump’s fans, the far right. They’re playing with different facts, and they think they have the inside scoop on conspiracies." http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/politics-government/white-house/article198556159.html
15. Trump Turns Republicans Against the FBI
Trump's hammering on the FBI — and green-lighting yesterday of the Russia memo's release over Bureau objections — is having a profound effect. A SurveyMonkey poll for Axios finds that not even 40% of Republicans approve of America's main federal law enforcement agency — a stunning turn for the law-and-order party. https://www.axios.com/gop-turns-on-fbi-survey-78c4f486-8755-4c9e-be99-a1567bd3a625.html
1. Charles Blow: Constitutional Crisis in Slow Motion
Donald Trump will destroy this entire country — its institutions and its safeguards, the rule of law and the customs of civility, the concept of truth and the inviolable nature of valor — to protect his own skin.
We are not dealing with a normal person here, let alone a normal president.
This is a damaged man, a man who has always lived in his own reality and played by his own rules. When the truth didn’t suit him, he simply, with a devilish ease, invented an alternate reality. There were no hard and fast absolutes in his realm of rubber. Everything was malleable, and he had an abundance of gall and a deficit of integrity to push everything until it bent. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/04/opinion/constitutional-crisis-in-slow-motion.html
2. David Rothkoff: Who's worse, Trump or Nixon?
As Watergate unfolded, Republican Party leaders stepped up and began to challenge Nixon. They eventually forced his resignation. Except for a very small minority, today's Republicans have actively joined in the president's war on the justice and intelligence professionals. They are behaving much like an autoimmune disorder in which cells that are supposed to protect the body politic turn against it.
Nixon lied; Trump lies pathologically. Fact-checkers have documented more than 2,000 falsehoods in his first year in office. Nixon offered racist slurs in private; Trump has made racism and misogyny a leitmotif in his administration.
Nixon was an experienced politician and in many respects an effective president. Trump, despite majorities in both houses of Congress, has gotten precious little done and in some areas — such as environmental, immigration, trade and foreign policy — he has been a disaster. Above and beyond this, however, he manages to constantly debase the office daily in ways Nixon, for all his flaws, would never have dreamed of doing.
We congratulate ourselves that the republic and its system of checks and balances withstood the likes of Nixon. Will it survive Trump? http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-rothkopf-watergate-trump-20180205-story.html
3. Andrew Sullivan: When Two Tribes Go to War
The problem with tribalism is that it knows no real limiting principle.
It triggers a deep and visceral response: a defense of the tribe before all other considerations. That means, in its modern manifestation, that the tribe comes before the country as a whole, before any neutral institutions that get in its way, before reason and empiricism, and before the rule of law. It means loyalty to the tribe — and its current chief — is enforced relentlessly. And this, it seems to me, is the underlying reason why the investigation into Russian interference in the last election is now under such attack and in such trouble. In a tribalized society, there can be no legitimacy for an independent inquiry, indifferent to tribal politics. In this fray, no one is allowed to be above it.
The release of the Nunes memo is just the latest, deeply dangerous manifestation of this. Congressman Nunes saw his task, from the get-go, not as investigating the underlying issue as a congressman concerned with the integrity of elections, but as finding a way to protect his tribal chieftain, Donald Trump, from suspicions that his own campaign might have invited such intervention, or that he might have obstructed justice to stymie Mueller’s inquiry. The entire concept of digging fairly into the facts to discover exactly what relationship, if any, the Trump campaign had with agents of the Russian government is close to meaningless to Nunes. So is any cooperation with Democrats or waiting until the full investigation is finished. More to the point, all this is meaningless to the Republican base as well. Their tribal chief has said there was no Russian interference and no collusion, and that’s all they need to know. http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2018/02/andrew-sullivan-when-two-tribes-go-to-war.html
4. Norman Eisen, Caroline Fredrickson And Noah Bookbinder: Trump’s Saturday Night Massacre Is Happening Right Before Our Eyes
The aim of the campaign against the Mueller investigation and the FBI is clear: Obstructing justice.
The FBI issued an extraordinary statement on Wednesday, pushing back on the release of a partisan congressional memo alleging the bureau used improper evidence to obtain legal permission to surveil a Trump campaign adviser. We’ve never seen anything like it. “[T]he FBI was provided a limited opportunity to review this memo the day before the committee voted to release it,” the bureau said. “As expressed during our initial review, we have grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy.”
Let’s be clear about what’s happening here: This memo is the latest escalation in an eight-month effort to tarnish the Russia investigation that might be the most significant smear campaign against the executive branch since Joe McCarthy—only here, the effort is being led by the head of that branch himself. As the New York Times reported, the Nunes memo seems like a dagger aimed by President Trump at Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who is supervising the Russia probe for the Justice Department.
Republican huzzahs over Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s appointment were still echoing when the opening salvo of this shocking campaign was launched: the claim that Mueller had disqualifying “conflicts.” Never mind that the Justice Department cleared Mueller of conflicts before he was appointed. Or that ethical standards do not remotely support disqualification over issues like Mueller’s professional acquaintance with James Comey, his employment at a firm that represented Trump associates, or even a long-ago dispute over the amount of fees Mueller owed at a Trump golf course. These meritless conflicts claims have continued to resurface like a game of whack-a-mole, popping up elsewhere after they are knocked down. https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2018/01/31/trumps-saturday-night-massacre-is-happening-right-before-our-eyes-216560
5. Tom Nichols: Trump’s first year: A damage assessment
Trump has made good on the prediction that he would lead the conservative movement to disgrace, and he has gravely — perhaps even mortally — wounded the Republican Party. His endorsement of an accused child molester in Alabama’s Senate race coaxed a final humiliation of evangelical and “family values” conservatives that was a long time coming — and for many of us who are more moderate conservatives, our only regret is that it didn’t happen sooner. Yet the Trump effect has rippled further, attaching a repulsive hypocrisy to anything involving the word “conservative.” People who once insisted on religious beliefs and a sterling character as paramount in their evaluation of a president now wave away alleged payoffs to porn stars; fiscal conservatives now blithely applaud the addition of $1 trillion in debt; foreign policy hawks now mumble quietly as the president draws moral equivalences between the United States and Russia.
All of this means the next president will have to rebuild the office almost from the ground up. Americans will have to learn once again to take the presidency seriously. Congress will have to return to the assumption that the president understands — and cares about — policy. International alliances will have to be healed. Foreign enemies will have to be reminded that the word of the commander in chief matters. An entire branch of government will have to be reestablished at home and abroad.
Will Americans and their next president be up to the task? Three more years of this, and any such restoration of the republic may be out of reach. https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/trumps-first-year-a-damage-assessment/2018/01/19/0b410f3c-fa66-11e7-a46b-a3614530bd87_story.html
6. Jennifer Rubin: More bread crumbs for Mueller to follow
Republican antics concerning the memo drafted by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) threaten to damage our national security, the FBI and the entire congressional oversight process. Meanwhile, President Trump faces a constant drip-drip-drip of new revelations giving heft to a possible obstruction-of-justice charge.
Collectively, they amount to one of the most sustained smear campaigns against honest government officials since Senator Joe McCarthy’s attacks of the 1950’s. We address them collectively in this report because a pattern has emerged of the President and/or his enablers making wild allegations, dominating a media cycle, then pivoting away as the falsity of the claims emerge. Rather than defending the spurious attacks, after a short interval, a new and baseless charge is launched, and the vicious cycle is repeated. We think the pattern is highly relevant to the credibility of each new charge relating to the [special counsel]–the latest coming in the form of the Nunes memo—and that it is important for a rebuttal of them all to be on the record.
Trump and Nunes can create a cloud of confusion and feed the Fox News state TV programming beast, but Trump has left himself wide open (with a slew of witnesses) to a charge of obstruction. Nunes is making Trump’s predicament worse in that regard; he’s inadvertently demonstrating the lengths to which Republicans, and not only Trump, will go to protect Trump from legal and political peril. This is unlikely to end well for Nunes, Trump or the GOP. https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/right-turn/wp/2018/02/01/more-bread-crumbs-for-mueller-to-follow/
7. Margaret Carlson: The GOP’s Sad Stockholm Syndrome
What was a hostile takeover of the GOP by an outsider is now a merger, accepted by a group with a serious case of Stockholm Syndrome. Trump can insult the old GOP, threaten to primary them, libel and tweet-shame them and all that has gone to show that they need him more than he needs them.
The newfound devotion is crucial given the rough times ahead. Nothing Trump tweets or does—getting funding for a smart, or dumb, wall; becoming consoler-in-chief after a national tragedy as he hinted at a pre-SOTU lunch for TV anchors—will divert attention from the Trump vs. Mueller drama that’s coming to a theater near you. In one form or another Trump is going to have to appear before Mueller where honesty is the best policy under penalty of perjury. At least one son and one son-in-law are witnesses if not targets. Former national security adviser Michael Flynn is testifying reluctantly and former chief strategist Steve Bannon seems happy to sing like a bird if executive privilege doesn’t interfere. Just a cursory look at Trump’s own words and tweets shows obstruction of justice.
Someday the Grand Old Party may see that by normalizing Trump they’ve violated every traditional and constitutional norm. If that’s the price of power, for now they are willing to pay it. https://www.thedailybeast.com/the-gops-sad-stockholm-syndrome
8. NY Times Editorial: The Republican Plot Against the F.B.I.
First, Mr. Nunes and his fellow Republicans have treated the dossier like the holy grail for the Russia investigation, but it didn’t reach the F.B.I. until the inquiry was already underway — prompted in mid-2016 by suspicious contacts between Russians and George Papadopoulos, a foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign. Mr. Papadopoulos has pleaded guilty to lying about those contacts and is now cooperating with the special counsel’s investigation.
Second, the F.B.I. didn’t zero in on Mr. Page for the hell of it. He has been in the government’s sights since 2013, when investigators learned he was being targeted for recruitment by a Russian agent. To obtain a warrant to spy on someone like Mr. Page, an American citizen, investigators must show probable cause that he is working as a foreign intelligence agent. This would require reams of documentary and other evidence gathered over the years, of which the dossier would have been only one part. In addition, the 90-day warrant for Mr. Page has already been extended at least once, which means investigators had to show the intelligence court new information, beyond the dossier, justifying the basis of the original warrant.
Third, even if Mr. Nunes shows that investigators did not tell the court who financed the dossier — which originated as a Republican-backed effortduring the primaries — that is hardly a scandal. It’s not clear that the court, in Mr. Page’s case, relied on the dossier at all, but even if it did, courts rarely deny warrants on the grounds that an informant had some bias. They always assume some bias exists, as it frequently does, and then weigh the information in light of that assumption.
Finally, the idea that investigators were out to fool a federal judge shows a profound ignorance of how the intelligence courts actually work, and of the degree of vetting that precedes every warrant application. As one former F.B.I. agent explained, a conspiracy to obtain a warrant based on bad information would have required the involvement of at least a dozen agents and prosecutors, a corrupt or incompetent federal judge and the director of the F.B.I. — all working in concert to undermine Donald Trump. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/01/opinion/nunes-memo-fbi-trump.html
9. Roger Cohen: Trump’s Corruption of the American Republic
President Trump’s most significant, and ominous, achievement in his first year in office is the corruption of the Republic. I don’t mean that he has succeeded in destroying the checks and balances on which American freedom rests. I mean that he has so soiled the discourse that a kind of numbness has set in, an exhaustion of outrage that allows him to proceed with the unthinkable.
The greatest danger from a man so unerring in his detection of human weakness, so attuned to the thrill of cruelty, so aware of the manipulative powers of entertainment, so unrelenting in his disregard for truth, so contemptuous of ethics and culture, so attracted to blood and soil, was always that he would use the immense powers of his office to drag Americans down with him into the vortex.
Trump is succeeding in this. He is having his way, for all the investigative vigor of the free press he derides, for all the honor of the judiciary that has pushed back against his attempts to stain with bigotry the law of the land. Slowly but surely, the president is getting people to shrug.
The appalling becomes excusable, the heinous becomes debatable, the outrageous becomes comical, lies become fibs, spite becomes banal, and hymns to American might become cause for giddy chants of national greatness. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/02/opinion/trump-corruption-republic.html
10. Paul Waldman: Can Trump's battalion of buffoons really defeat the FBI?
In 1962, as the hapless New York Mets headed for yet another loss, their manager Casey Stengel supposedly cried out, "Can't anybody here play this game?" Which may be what President Trump is asking himself as he watches the battalion of buffoons charged with protecting him from the Russia investigation tripping all over themselves as they scuttle around Washington trying to make the whole thing go away.
Or that would be what he would ask, were Trump not himself the biggest fool of all. For all we know, he may think they're doing a bang-up job.
But to quote a certain someone, when the GOP sends out people to dismantle the case against Trump, they aren't sending their best. You only have to look at Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, who is engaged in an extended clown routine over a four-page he had staffers prepare, supposedly proving that the FBI is the site of a nefarious anti-Trump conspiracy. With the help of his Republican colleagues and an eager conservative media, Nunes has built the memo up to be an earth-shaking blockbuster, raising expectations beyond what can possibly be fulfilled. And according to the committee's ranking Democrat, after the committee voted on party lines to release it to the public, Nunes made alterations to it before giving it to the White House, apparently thinking no one would notice; that might mean they'd have to vote all over again to release his new version. It may not be surprising that Nunes' hometown paper calls him "Trump's stooge" and says his performance "has been nothing short of embarrassing." http://theweek.com/articles/752524/trumps-battalion-buffoons-really-defeat-fbi
11. Jeet Heer: Trump’s Brazen War on the FBI Defies History
Trump claims the FBI has “politicized the sacred investigative process in favor of Democrats and against Republicans,” but historically, the FBI has been a very conservative, and often reactionary, institution. The first and longest-serving head of the agency, J. Edgar Hoover, was notorious for his right-wing politics, often using the agency to target Civil Rights leaders like Martin Luther King and other political radicals. The FBI reformed itself, but remains conservative in orientation. Every non-interim director of the agency has been a Republican, even those appointed by Democratic presidents.
Waging war against the FBI might seem a risky proposition for a Republican president, but here as elsewhere, Trump is proving that partisanship triumphs over older allegiances. As HuffPost reports, there has been a steep decline in Republicans saying they have faith in the FBI in the last two years. Only 10 percent of Republicanssay they have a “great deal” of trust in the FBI, versus 30 percent of Democrats. In this topsy-turvy world under Trump, hating the FBI could soon be a core part of Republican identity. https://newrepublic.com/article/146932/trumps-brazen-war-fbi-defies-history
12. Dana Milbank: U.S. history, as taught by Devin Nunes
Wouldn’t it be great to be Devin Nunes?
Not only does the California Republican get to be chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, but he simultaneously gets to serve President Trump by making public tidbits of classified information given to him by the White House. He is recused from the Russia investigation but still gets to use committee staff to undermine the Russia investigation.
Now, best of all, he gets to release a memo (possibly written with White House help) to exonerate Trump in the Russia probe by using cherry-picked information implying wrongdoing by the FBI — while at the same time blocking declassification of a memo from committee Democrats providing context and exculpatory information that Nunes omitted. And the FBI, which under its Trump-appointed director says it has “grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy,” can’t defend itself because, well, the information is classified.
In essence, Nunes is free to allege whatever he wants, even if false, and nobody, by law, can contradict him. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/us-history-abridged-by-devin-nunes/2018/02/02/a8fb6818-084d-11e8-b48c-b07fea957bd5_story.html
13. Jonathan Chait: The Backward Logic of the Nunes Memo
The newly released memo by Republican staff contends that the FBI used the work of a biased source (Christopher Steele, a British intelligence agent with expertise in Russia) to justify surveillance of Carter Page, a Trump campaign adviser. The memo highlights Steele’s opposition to Trump (he “was desperate that Donald Trump not get elected”), along with the beliefs of FBI agents Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, both of whom “demonstrated a clear bias against Trump and in favor of Clinton.”
As a legal matter, as law professor Orin Kerr has explained, there is no merit to the argument that a politically biased source cannot be used to obtain a warrant. Indeed, the FBI used journalism funded by Steve Bannon to investigate Hillary Clinton. In the place of any strong legal claim, the memo substitutes the assumption that intelligence sources who don’t want Trump to be president must be up to no good.
Trump believes to his core that he is entitled to federal law enforcement run by personal loyalists, and that any investigation of him is per se evidence of disqualifying bias. Nunes’s memo places the House Republicans foursquare behind that grotesquely authoritarian belief. http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2018/02/the-backward-logic-of-the-nunes-memo.html
14. Michael Gerson: The Cowardice Among Republicans Is Staggering
With the blessing of Republican leaders, the lickspittle wing of the GOP is now firmly in charge. The existence of reckless partisans such as Nunes is hardly surprising. The nearly uniform cowardice among elected Republicans is staggering. One is left wishing that Obamacare covered spine transplants. The Republican-led Congress is now an adjunct of the White House. The White House is now an adjunct of Trump’s chaotic will.”
And what to make of Ryan (R-WI)? I have been a consistent defender of his good intentions. But after the 17th time saying “He knows better,” it dawns that he may not. By his recent actions, the speaker has provided political cover for a weakening of the constitutional order. He has been used as a tool while loudly insisting he is not a tool. The way Ryan is headed, history offers two possible verdicts: Either he enabled an autocrat, or he was intimidated by a fool. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-cowardice-among-republicans-is-staggering/2018/02/05/41852454-0aa9-11e8-8890-372e2047c935_story.html