ON THE RECORD. . .

“I don’t know how you can impeach somebody who’s done a great job. If I ever got impeached, I think the market would crash, I think everybody would be very poor. Because without this thinking [points to head] you would see, you would see numbers that you wouldn’t believe in reverse.” — Trump, in a Fox News interview.

This is what Trump] seems to see as his best defense: he is surrounded by liars, losers, and thieves, and liars lie. Trump’s supporters might say that he acts as though he had no consciousness of guilt; it would be more accurate to say that he acts as if he were very, very conscious of how compromised many of the people around him are—in many cases because of actions they took while working for him. -- Amy Davidson Sorkin

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“Social Media Giants are silencing millions of people. Can’t do this even if it means we must continue to hear Fake News like CNN, whose ratings have suffered gravely. People have to figure out what is real, and what is not, without censorship! -- Trump without offering evidence to support his claim.

“It is impossible to ignore the stench that is emanating from the White House and from Washington, and this week was a really alarming week.” — Democratic strategist David Axelrod, quoted by The Hill. http://thehill.com/homenews/media/403470-axelrod-it-is-impossible-to-ignore-the-stench-that-is-emanating-from-the-white

The next few months will tell us if enough Americans prefer a criminal president to a Democratic one. I’m genuinely afraid of what the answer may be. -- Andrew Sullivan in the Daily Intelligencer

“Well, you know, frankly I think that John McCain is partially to blame for that because he is very outspoken. He disagreed with the President in certain areas and wasn’t too courteous about it. “ -- Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) saying that John McCain was “partially to blame” for the back-and-forth over lowering the White House flags to half-staff.

"We weaken our greatness when we confuse our patriotism with tribal rivalries that have sown resentment and hatred and violence in all corners of the globe. We weaken it when we hide behind walls, rather than tear them down, when we doubt the power of our ideals rather than trust them to be the great force for change they have always been. Do not despair of our present difficulties but believe always in the promise and greatness of America, because nothing is inevitable here. Americans never quit. We never surrender. We never hide from history. We make history." -- John McCain’s moving message, a personal tribute to America and its people, was read to the public Monday by Rick Davis, a close friend of McCain's and the national campaign manager of the Arizona Republican's 2008 and 2000 presidential campaigns.

“The biggest crime you can commit in America today is to be associated with Donald Trump. They’re going to Manafort you, they’re going to Cohen you. They’re going to do all of these things to you.” -- Attorney Alan Dershowitz arguing that Americans are at risk of being targeted by Robert Mueller.

“That’s hard for me to answer. Because I never had a hero in my life until several months ago when I woke up after 75 years, and I found my hero. You know who that person is? Donald Trump.” — Arizona U.S. Senate candidate Joe Arpaio (R), when asked if Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) was a hero.

“You’re one election away from losing everything that you’ve got. ... They will overturn everything that we’ve done and they’ll do it quickly and violently, and violently. ... When you look at Antifa and you look at some of these groups — these are violent people.” -- Donald Trump to leaders of the evangelical Christian movement


IN THIS ISSUE

FYI
    OPINION
      FYI  

      1. Satire from The Borowitz Report: Trump Boasts That His Impeachment Will Get Higher TV Ratings Than All Other Impeachments

      In an interview with NBC’s Lester Holt, Donald Trump boasted that, if he is impeached, the television ratings will be higher than those of any other impeachment in history.

      “Everywhere I go, people tell me that if I am impeached, they’re going to watch it,” he said. “The ratings are going to be through the roof.”

      He said that he expected his impeachment ratings to be “many, many times” the size of the audience for Bill Clinton’s impeachment, in 1998.

      “It’s not even going to be close,” Trump said. “The ratings for Bill Clinton’s impeachment were a joke.”

      Asked about the recent impeachment of the former South Korean President Park Geun-hye, Trump said, “Did anyone even watch that one? That was Korea. Nobody cares.”

      As for the impeachment of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, he said, “I didn’t hear about that one. I don’t follow Brazil. I like Argentina. I saw ‘Evita’ many, many times. Andrew Lloyd Webber did a great job. Millions and millions of people loved it. But that was a Broadway show, not an impeachment.”

      Even though he anticipates “just terrific” ratings for his impeachment, Trump said that he did not expect the media to provide an honest accounting of his audience size.

      “They’re going to lie and say that a lot of people who watched my impeachment didn’t watch, and that’s going to be very bad and unfair, but it’s not going to change the fact that my impeachment will be a great impeachment, a really beautiful impeachment,” he said. https://www.newyorker.com/humor/borowitz-report/

      2. Fox News poll: ObamaCare more popular than GOP tax law

      The 2010 health-care law registered a 51 percent approval rating, compared with 40 percent for the 2017 Republican tax cuts, according to the survey released on Thursday. http://thehill.com/policy/healthcare/403235-fox-news-poll-obamacare-is-more-popular-than-gop-tax-law

      3. White House blocks bill that would protect elections

      A bill that would have significantly bolstered the nation’s defenses against electoral interference has been held up in the Senate at the behest of the White House, which opposed the proposed legislation, according to congressional sources.

      As it currently stands, the legislation would grant every state’s top election official security clearance to receive threat information. It would also formalize the practice of information-sharing between the federal government—in particular, the Department of Homeland Security—and states regarding threats to electoral infrastructure. A technical advisory board would establish best practices related to election cybersecurity. Perhaps most significantly, the law would mandate that every state conduct a statistically significant audit following a federal election. It would also incentivize the purchase of voting machines that leave a paper record of votes cast, as opposed to some all-electronic models that do not. This would signify a marked shift away from all-electronic voting, which was encouraged with the passage of the Help Americans Vote Act in 2002. https://www.yahoo.com/news/white-house-blocks-bill-protect-elections-173459278.html

      4. Trump's distorted view of justice: Reward friends, punish enemies

      Think about it: He praises and pardons friends/allies who have committed crimes (Manafort, Joe Arpaio, Dinesh D’Souza), but calls for the prosecution of enemies who haven’t been charged at all (Hillary Clinton, James Comey, Peter Strzok, Christopher Steele).

      And as others have pointed out, Trump continues to use mob-boss language: Manafort "refused to break" … White House counsel Don McGahn must be a John Dean type "RAT" ... "Flipping" ought to be outlawed.


      This is the president of the United States of America. https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/first-read/trump-s-distorted-view-justice-reward-friends-punish-enemies-n903506

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      5. The DAILY GRILL

      My deepest sympathies and respect go out to the family of Senator John McCain. Our hearts and prayers are with you! -- Donald Trump, who couldn't make even the most cursory public show of respect on Sunday for Mr. McCain, against whom he had continued to indulge a personal grievance even as it was apparent that the Arizona Republican was losing his battle with brain cancer. The president spent much of Sunday golfing and attacking his usual enemies on Twitter.

      VERSUS

      .@SenJohnMcCain lived a life of service to his country, from his heroism in the Navy to 35 years in Congress. He was a tough politician, a trusted colleague, and there will simply never be another like him. My thoughts and prayers are with Cindy and his entire family. -- Hillary Clinton 

       

      “Martha McSally, running in the Arizona Primary for U.S. Senate, was endorsed by rejected Senator Jeff Flake….and turned it down – a first! Now Martha, a great U.S. Military fighter jet pilot and highly respected member of Congress, WINS BIG. Congratulations, and on to November!” -- Trump tweets

      VERSUS

      “Sorry, @realDonaldTrump. I made no endorsement in this race. I think the last endorsement I made was (for Doug Jones) in the Alabama race.” -- Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) responds

       

      “Hillary Clinton’s Emails, many of which are Classified Information, got hacked by China. Next move better be by the FBI & DOJ or, after all of their other missteps . . . their credibility will be forever gone!” -- Trump tweet posted shortly after midnight.

      VERSUS

      The FBI on the same day pushed back on the unfounded claim by Donald Trump that Hillary Clinton’s emails were hacked by China, saying it had found no evidence that the private servers she used while secretary of state had been compromised.

       

      Michael Cohen plead guilty to two counts of campaign finance violations that are not a crime. President Obama had a big campaign finance violation and it was easily settled! — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 22, 2018

      VERSUS

      There’s a reason that deliberate and knowing violations of campaign finance law are a criminal matter, punishable by arrest and imprisonment, while good-faith paperwork errors are handled civilly, with fines. — Nick Confessore (@nickconfessore) August 22, 2018

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

      The Fox News president: Trump confirms he's just repeating what he hears on TV. Trump spends his latest interview with Fox & Friends echoing the network's talking points. https://www.mediamatters.org/blog/2018/08/23/fox-news-president-trump-confirms-hes-just-repeating-what-he-hears-tv/221083

      With Trump’s South Africa tweet, Tucker Carlson has turned a white nationalist narrative into White House policy. White nationalists reacted in elation as the white-grievance narrative they’ve been pushing grabbed the president’s attention. This is how it happened. https://www.mediamatters.org/blog/2018/08/23/trump-s-south-africa-tweet-tucker-carlson-has-turned-white-nationalist-narrative-white-house-policy/221085

      Fox host: It is a "tragedy" that municipalities are raising the minimum wage to provide a living wage. Varney: "We're pricing out entry-level jobs. You know, there's no such thing as an entry-level job any longer." https://www.mediamatters.org/video/2018/08/23/fox-host-it-tragedy-municipalities-are-raising-minimum-wage-provide-living-wage/221082

      Tucker Carlson guest Alan Dershowitz compares Micheal Cohen's campaign finance violation to jaywalking. Dershowitz: "Every administration violates the election laws, every candidate violates the election laws." https://www.mediamatters.org/video/2018/08/21/tucker-carlson-guest-alan-dershowitz-compares-micheal-cohens-campaign-finance-violation-jaywalking/221059

      Fox & Friends hosts a QAnon conspiracy theorist who has claimed the Parkland mass shooting was fake. https://www.mediamatters.org/blog/2018/08/24/Fox---Friends-hosts-a-QAnon-conspiracy-theorist-who-has-claimed-the-Parkland-mass-shooting/221102

      No crime but a witch hunt: Pro-Trump media’s off-the-wall reactions to Manafort's conviction and Cohen's guilty plea. https://www.mediamatters.org/research/2018/08/24/no-crime-witch-hunt-pro-trump-media-s-wall-reactions-manaforts-conviction-and-cohens-guilty-plea/221099

      NRATV’s Grant Stinchfield: Mainstream media members should ask Trump to pardon their “treasonous” behavior. Stinchfield: Journalists "are enemies of the people because they’re trying to tear this nation up." https://www.mediamatters.org/video/2018/08/27/nratv-s-grant-stinchfield-mainstream-media-members-should-ask-trump-pardon-their-treasonous-behavior/221111

      RATV host: Guns for teachers is a better use of taxpayer money than textbooks or after-school programs. Grant Stinchfield suggests the Department of Education arming teachers is “more in the boundaries of what federal money should be used for than … textbooks or after-school programs.” https://www.mediamatters.org/video/2018/08/28/nratv-host-guns-teachers-better-use-taxpayer-money-textbooks-or-after-school-programs/221121

      7. ‘He’s Unraveling’: Why Cohen’s Betrayal Terrifies Trump

      He has called himself a “great loyalty freak.” He has said he values loyalty “above everything else—more than brains, more than drive.” And one of his greatest strengths, at least of a certain sort, always has been his ability to engender unwavering, slavish, even sycophantic allegiance. But it’s also been so brutally, consistently one-sided, and the Cohen flip brings to the fore the fragility of Trump’s transactional brand of loyalty and potentially its ultimate incompatibility with the presidency. This is not some tabloid or Twitter tit-for-tat. The stakes are of course incomparably higher. And Trump’s long span of quiet about Cohen was so out of character it suggested even he understands the reality of his legal jeopardy. For the first time, it appeared, a once biddable lapdog had turned around and bitten the boss—hard.

      “He is terrified,” according to Trump biographer Michael D’Antonio. “This is 40 years of deceit coming home to torment him.” https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2018/08/22/michael-cohen-donald-trump-plea-betray-flip-219381

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      8. Duncan Hunter is Using Campaign Funds to Defend Himself Against ... Misusing Campaign Funds

      Rep. Duncan Hunter’s legal defense is coming from the same campaign coffers he and his wife are accused of misusing, so far amounting to more than $600,000 for the lawyers.

      Federal Election Commission filings show Hunter’s campaign made payments for “legal services” or “legal fees” to eight different law firms in excess of $600,000 during the 2018 election cycle. This includes disbursements of $182,000 to the San Diego-based law firm Seltzer Caplan McMahon Vitek, which is representing Hunter in the grand jury investigation. The five-term GOP incumbent and his wife were indicted for allegedly using $250,000 in campaign funds for personal use. https://www.rollcall.com/news/politics/duncan-hunter-using-campaign-funds-defend-misusing-campaign-funds-explained

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      9. Donald Trump, Paul Manafort and that Pesky Witness Tampering Statute

      Donald Trump is swimming in dangerous waters. The day after his former campaign manager was convicted by a federal jury on eight felony counts, the president of the United States made a sequence of public statements praising Paul Manafort for refusing to cooperate with a lawful federal law enforcement investigation and for not “flipping” on the president—and, conspicuously, did not rule out a pardon. 

      Before making any more comments that a reasonable person in Paul Manafort’s shoes—or Robert Mueller’s shoes—might construe as urging Manafort not to “flip” or dangling the possibility of a pardon, there is a federal statute Trump might want to consult: 18 U.S. Code § 1512(b). That law makes it a federal crime “knowingly” to “corruptly persuade[] another person ... with intent to ... influence, delay, or prevent the testimony of any person in an official proceeding” or “cause or induce any person to withhold testimony . . . from an official proceeding.” It also makes it a crime to attempt to do so. https://www.lawfareblog.com/donald-trump-paul-manafort-and-pesky-witness-tampering-statute

      10. Trump Organization Could Face Criminal Charges From Manhattan D.A.

      The Manhattan district attorney’s office is considering pursuing criminal charges against the Trump Organization and two senior company officials in connection with Michael D. Cohen’s hush money payment to an adult film actress, according to two officials with knowledge of the matter.

      A state investigation would center on how the company accounted for its reimbursement to Mr. Cohen for the $130,000 he paid to the actress, Stephanie Clifford, who has said she had an affair with President Trump, the officials said. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/23/nyregion/trump-organization-criminal-charges-vance.html

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      11. Fox News Poll: Democrats maintain lead in race for House

      Democrats are in a strong position for the midterms, according to the latest Fox News poll. 
      Several findings point to the potential for a blue map in November: 

      - President Trump’s job rating remains underwater.

      - Republicans alone say the economy is in positive shape. 

      - The GOP tax law is less popular (40 percent favorable) than Obamacare (51 percent favorable).

      - The Republican Party is less popular (39 percent favorable) than the Democratic Party (50 percent favorable). 

      - Optimism about life for the next generation of Americans is down eight points from last year. 

      - There is greater enthusiasm to vote in the midterms among out-of-power Democrats.

      http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2018/08/22/fox-news-poll-democrats-maintain-lead-in-race-for-house.html

      12. Trump Meets QAnon Kook Who Believes Democrats Run Pedophile Cult

      On Thursday, President Donald Trump posed for an Oval Office photo with one of the leading promoters of the QAnon conspiracy theory, which claims that top Democrats are part of a global pedophile cult.

      Lebron is one of the internet’s leading promoters of QAnon, the pro-Trump conspiracy theory based on a series of anonymous clues posted to internet forums. QAnon believers have interpreted the clues, which they claim without evidence are coming from a highly placed source in the Trump administration, to mean that Trump and the military are engaged in a high-stakes shadow war against a supposed globalist pedophile cult. The conspiracy theory has caught on with Trump supporters, who have held up QAnon-related signs and wear QAnon shirts to the president’s rallies. https://www.thedailybeast.com/trump-in-oval-office-meets-promoter-of-qanon-conspiracy-theory-that-says-democrats-run-pedophile-cult

      13. House Republicans Have a Secret List of Trump Scandals They’re Covering Up

      Axios has obtained a list of Trump administration scandals. The list hints at the overflowing sewer of Trumpian corruption and incompetence, and the refusal of congressional Republicans to investigate any of it. Oddly enough, this list is being circulated by Republicans in Congress. The list, composed of Democratic requests for hearings that Republicans have blocked, is meant to warn of what Congress would look into if Democrats win the midterms. Axios reports that Republican “stomachs are churning” at the mere thought that any of the items on the list could receive a public hearing. http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2018/08/republicans-congress-list-of-trump-scandals-covering-up.html

      14. Laying Out the Obstruction of Justice Case against Donald Trump

      Forget the Russians, the adult film stars, the Playboy bunnies, and the illegal payoffs covering up sexual misconduct. Forget the hotels full of foreigners enriching the president. And forget the convictions of his former campaign manager and his personal lawyer who may in the near future implicate the president himself in their wrongdoings.

      The clearest potential violation of the law so far has been around a much less sexy issue—the issue that got President Richard Nixon in the end—obstruction of justice. In an exhaustively documented, 167-page 2nd edition of their report, “Presidential Obstruction of Justice: The Case of Donald J. Trump,” Barry H. Berke, Noah Bookbinder and Norman L. Eisen lay out the historical and legal bases for the concept and the charge. If, at some point in the future, some young lawyers on the House Judiciary Committee are instructed to draft articles of impeachment they will, no doubt, read this paper first and put its analysis to use.

      For those who think obstruction of justice was something made up by the Democrats to get at President Trump, have a look at the Declaration of Independence. It begins with a long list of grievances against King George. Eighth in the list is the following: “He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.” https://www.brookings.edu/blog/fixgov/2018/08/22/laying-out-the-obstruction-of-justice-case-against-president-trump/

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      15. Nation’s Top Student Loan Official Resigns

      The top government official overseeing the $1.5 trillion student loan market resigned Monday, citing what he says is the White House’s open hostility toward protecting nation’s millions of student loan borrowers.

      Seth Frotman is the latest high-level departure from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau since Mick Mulvaney took over in late November. Under Mulvaney, the bureau has scaled back its enforcement work and has proposed revising or rescinding all of the rules and regulations it put into place under the Obama administration. https://apnews.com/5fa24ab9eafb456089fb9ff1a22ec694

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      16. Trump's NAFTA stunt

      For all of Trump's bluster, he's never had the unilateral power to "cancel" NAFTA. Yes, as the executive, he could declare the agreement itself dead. But NAFTA isn't just the treaty, it's also the domestic laws Congress passed to enforce it. Getting rid of those would require a vote in the legislature, and the chances that Trump could round up the necessary majorities are slim, to put it kindly. Meanwhile, ending the agreement but not the implementing law would plunge the U.S. into a whole morass of violations with the rest of the World Trade Organization.

      The dirty secret of Trump's whole anti-NAFTA crusade is that he's actually bargaining from an incredibly weak position. A mere rebranding stunt is probably the best he could've hoped for. http://theweek.com/articles/792561/trumps-nafta-stunt

      OPINION  

      1. Max Boot: Trump is an illegitimate president whose election is tainted by fraud

      there is growing evidence that the president is, to use the word favored by Richard Nixon, “a crook.” Even buying the silence of his reputed playmates could by itself have been enough to swing an exceedingly close election decided by fewer than 80,000 votes in three states. Trump certainly would not have authorized the payments unless he thought it was politically imperative to do so. There is also considerable evidence, as I previously argued, that Russia’s intervention on Trump’s behalf affected the outcome. Even more than Nixon,

      Trump is now an illegitimate president whose election is tainted by fraud.

      The inevitable question is: Now what? If Trump had an iota of decency, he would resign — but he doesn’t, and prevailing Justice Department guidelines hold that a president can’t be indicted while in office. So the onus is on Congress to act. A responsible Congress would have by now already convened an impeachment inquiry. But that is not the Congress we have. We have a Congress dominated by political hacks and moral invertebrates who are determined to act as the president’s enablers and legitimizers at all costs. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/global-opinions/trump-is-now-an-illegitimate-president/2018/08/22/d1c9271c-a613-11e8-97ce-cc9042272f07_story.html

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      2. Peter Wehner: The Full-Spectrum Corruption of Donald Trump

      Everyone and everything he touches rots.

      A party that once spoke with urgency and apparent conviction about the importance of ethical leadership — fidelity, honesty, honor, decency, good manners, setting a good example — has hitched its wagon to the most thoroughly and comprehensively corrupt individual who has ever been elected president. Some of the men who have been elected president have been unscrupulous in certain areas — infidelity, lying, dirty tricks, financial misdeeds — but we’ve never before had the full-spectrum corruption we see in the life of Donald Trump.

      For many Republicans, this reality still hasn’t broken through. But facts that don’t penetrate the walls of an ideological silo are facts nonetheless. And the moral indictment against Mr. Trump is obvious and overwhelming. Corruption has been evident in Mr. Trump’s private and public life, in how he has treated his wives, in his business dealings and scams, in his pathological lying and cruelty, in his bullying and shamelessness, in his conspiracy-mongering and appeals to the darkest impulses of Americans. (Senator Bob Corker, a Republican, refers to the president’s race-based comments as a “base stimulator.”) Mr. Trump’s corruptions are ingrained, the result of a lifetime of habits. It was delusional to think he would change for the better once he became president.

      A warning to my Republican friends: The worst is yet to come. Thanks to the work of Robert Mueller — a distinguished public servant, not the leader of a “group of Angry Democrat Thugs” — we are going to discover deeper and deeper layers to Mr. Trump’s corruption. When we do, I expect Mr. Trump will unravel further as he feels more cornered, more desperate, more enraged; his behavior will become ever more erratic, disordered and crazed.

      Most Republicans, having thrown their MAGA hats over the Trump wall, will stay with him until the end. Was a tax cut, deregulation and court appointments really worth all this? https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/25/opinion/sunday/corruption-donald-trump.html

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      3. Michael D. Shear and Katie Benner: Trump’s War on the Justice System Threatens to Erode Trust in the Law

      It is a once-unimaginable scenario: Sometime soon in an American courtroom, a criminal defense lawyer may argue that the prosecution of an MS-13 gang member is a politically motivated “witch hunt” built around a witness who has “flipped” and taken what the lawyer calls a plea deal of dubious legality.

      He will be quoting the president of the United States.

      That is potentially the gravest danger of President Trump’s sustained verbal assault on the country’s justice system, legal experts say. In his attempt at self-defense amid the swirl of legal cases and investigations involving himself, his aides and his associates, Mr. Trump is directly undermining the people and processes that are the foundation of the nation’s administration of justice.

      The result is a president at war with the law.

      “You are dealing with a potentially indelible smearing of our law enforcement institutions,” said Neal K. Katyal, who was acting solicitor general under President Barack Obama. “If Trump’s views were actually accepted, there would be thousands of criminals who are out on the streets right now.”

      The president’s public judgments about the country’s top law enforcement agencies revolve largely around how their actions affect him personally — a vision that would recast the traditionally independent justice system as a guardian of the president and an attack dog against his adversaries. For more than a year, he has criticized the Justice Department, questioned the integrity of the prosecutors leading the Russia investigation, and mercilessly mocked Jeff Sessions, his own attorney general.

      Mr. Trump continued that pattern on Twitter on Saturday morning, seizing on disputed reports in the conservative news media that the F.B.I. had ignored “thousands of Crooked Hillary Emails” and vowing to get “to the bottom of all of this corruption.” https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/25/us/politics/trump-justice-legal-system.html

      4. Gabriel Sherman: “Trump Is Nuts. This Time Really Feels Different”: Trump Rejects “War Council” Intervention, Goes It Alone

      More than ever, Trump is acting by feeling and instinct. “Trump is nuts,” said one former West Wing official. “This time really feels different.” Deputy Chief of Staff Bill Shine has privately expressed concern, a source said, telling a friend that Trump’s emotional state is “very tender.” Even Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump are unsettled that Trump is so gleefully acting on his most self-destructive impulses as his legal peril grows. According to a source, Jared and Ivanka told Trump that stripping security clearances from former intelligence officials would backfire, but Trump ignored them. Kushner later told a friend Trump “got joy” out of taking away John Brennan’s clearance. His reaction to the death of John McCain—quashing a White House statement in praise of the senator, and restoring White House flags to full staff—falls into the same self-indulgent category.

      The news of Cohen’s plea and Paul Manafort’s conviction, which were followed by revelations that Trump Organization C.F.O. Allen Weisselberg and National Enquirerpublisher David Pecker are cooperating with federal prosecutors, have rattled Trump like few other turns in the investigation have, sources said. Flying on Air Force One to his West Virginia rally last week, Trump seemed “bummed” and “down and out,” a person briefed on his mood told me. “He was acting like, ‘I know the news is bad, but I don’t know what to do about it,’” the source said. At the rally, an uncharacteristically subdued Trump barely mentioned Cohen or Manafort.

      By the weekend, though, his anger had returned. “He spent the weekend calling people and screaming,” one former White House official said. According to sources, the president feels cornered with no clear way out. His months-long campaign to get Sessions to resign—so that Trump could appoint a new A.G. who would shut down the Russia probe—not only failed to get Sessions to step down, but it’s caused him to dig in, as evidenced by Sessions’s rare statement asserting the independence of the Justice Department. “Trump knows at least through the midterms he won’t get another A.G.,” a former White House official said. https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2018/08/donald-trump-nuts-rejects-war-council-intervention-goes-it-alone

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      5. Garrett Graff: Big Questions After The Cohen And Manafort Bombshells

      Just minutes apart, in courtrooms in New York and outside Washington, DC, two of Trump’s closest aides—his longtime personal lawyer and his former campaign chairman—became felons, as the former pleaded guilty to eight criminal charges, and the latter was found guilty by a jury on eight other charges.
      For the better part of two years, Trump has remained by all accounts obsessed with his narrow, unlikely campaign victory, bragging about his electoral college totals in numerous settings, including to foreign leaders like Vladimir Putin, even as he lost the popular vote by 3 million votes. Yet after Tuesday, the victory appears increasingly tainted, the American presidency as the spoils of ill-gotten gains, an election whose pivotal moments were shaped—potentially decisively—by Russian attacks overseas and hush money cover-ups at home.

      After all, the question, following Tuesday’s back-to-back bombshells, is no longer whether Trump’s surprise victory was aided by criminal acts—that much has been made clear both by Robert Mueller’s sweeping indictments against two dozen Russians, working for Vladimir Putin’s military intelligence as well as for the Internet Research Agency, as well as by Michael Cohen’s decision to plead guilty to campaign finance violations.

      To state that more simply: At least two separate criminal conspiracies helped elect Donald Trump president in 2016, one executed by the Russian government, another by Trump’s personal lawyer. https://www.wired.com/story/manafort-cohen-guilty-trump-mueller-investigation

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      6.  Jonathan Chait: Trump Wants to Ban Flipping Because He Is Almost Literally a Mob Boss

      The failing @nytimes wrote a Fake piece today implying that because White House Councel Don McGahn was giving hours of testimony to the Special Councel, he must be a John Dean type “RAT.” But I allowed him and all others to testify - I didn’t have to. I have nothing to hide......— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 19, 2018

      Dean famously testified about Nixon’s obstruction of justice. Nobody claims Dean lied about Nixon. The sin in Trump’s eyes is that he flipped, violating the omerta. Trump even uses Mafia lingo, “rat,” to describe Dean’s cooperation with law enforcement. To gangsters, a rat is considered the worst kind of person because they pose the greatest danger to their ability to escape prosecution.

      It is obviously quite rare to hear a high-ranking elected official openly embrace the terminology and moral logic of La Cosa Nostra. But Trump is not just a guy who has seen a lot of mob movies. He has worked closely with Mafia figures throughout his business career. “I know all about flipping, for 30, 40 years I’ve been watching flippers,” he tells Fox News. “Everything’s wonderful, and then they get ten years in jail and they flip on whoever the next-highest one is, or as high as you can go.”

      Trump’s claim of expertise in his area is not some idle boast. He hired Roy Cohn, by that point a mob lawyer, worked closely with figures linked to the Russian-American mafia, Felix Sater and Michael Cohen, and made money in his properties attracting money launderers.

      Like a mobster, Trump takes an extremely cynical view of almost every moral principle in public life, assuming that everybody in politics is corrupt and hypocritical. (Hence his defense of Vladimir Putin’s murdering journalists: “There are a lot of killers. You think our country’s so innocent?”) He also follows mafia practice of surrounding himself with associates chosen on the basis of loyalty rather than traditional qualifications. Since the greatest threat to a mafia don’s business is that subordinates will betray him, he typically surrounds himself with family members, even if they are not the smartest or best criminals. Trump has accordingly surrounded himself with his children, or demonstrated loyalists who would have trouble finding remotely comparable jobs at another business. http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2018/08/almost-literal-mob-boss-donald-trump-wants-to-ban-flipping.html

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      7. Eric Levitz: The President Is Getting Away With Blatant Crimes. That’s Normal.

      If Cohen’s testimony did little to illuminate the nature of Trump’s malfeasance, it did throw the congressional GOP’s complicity in that malfeasance into sharp relief. The president might be immune from criminal indictment, but he is not supposed to be immune from legal culpability of any kind. Rather, Congress is supposed to police the Executive branch’s alleged crimes and misdemeanors. It is now clear that there is probable cause to believe that the president has committed a felony. If we are “a nation of laws,” then Congress must now mount an investigation into Trump’s alleged campaign finance violations — and, if evidence substantiates that allegation, impeach the president so that he can then be held accountable for his crime in a federal court, just as any other American would be.

      But Congress (or, more precisely, the GOP majority that controls it) has no intention of doing that. Why don’t congressional Republican feel compelled to uphold the principle of equality before the law — a principle that their own standard-bearer described as “foundational” to our “constitutional system”? http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2018/08/trump-indictment-impeachment-michael-cohen-campaign-finance-violations.html

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      8. Gracy Olmstead: How's that swamp draining going?

      Indeed, GOP lawmakers have long intoned against "waste, fraud, and abuse," claiming the corruption, bloat, and thoughtlessness of big government represents a gross injustice to U.S. taxpayers. Are they ready to drain the swamp and be responsible stewards of public money and trust?

      Nope.

      As but one example: This week, party leaders decided to sidestep any attempt at farm bill subsidy reform — efforts that would have limited the amount of taxpayer dollars that go to the nation's wealthiest farmers — so that they could instead focus on putting additional work requirements on the bill's food stamp beneficiaries. Those requirements could reduce benefits by $9.2 billion between 2018 and 2028, and cause as many as 2 million food stamp recipients to see their benefits reduced or eliminated.

      Let's be clear about what this means: Our government is literally taking food out of the mouths of America's poorest citizens to lavish excessive taxpayer money on the rich.

      The top 10 percent of the nation's wealthiest farms receive 77 percent of the farm bill's commodity subsidies. Meanwhile, as Caroline Kitchens wrote for the R Street Institute earlier this year:

      To be eligible for [food stamps], Americans must show their gross monthly household income is below 130 percent of the poverty line. For a family of three in 2018, that means making less than $2,213 a month, for an annual income of just $26,600 a year.

      By contrast, farmers are able to rake in taxpayer handouts regardless of the size and profitability of their operation. The federal crop insurance program subsidizes, on average, 62 percent of farmers' insurance premiums, with no means test whatsoever. This allows the largest farm operations to receive virtually unlimited subsidies. Owners of mega-farms have received more than $1 million in subsidies from taxpayers. [R Street]

      What kind of swamp draining is this? The Republican Party wants to make it harder for America's poorest citizens to receive basic food stamp support — but they have no problem dishing out millions in taxpayer money, no strings attached, to the nation's largest agribusinessesl.

      As long as Trump and his entrenched, elitist colleagues lead the GOP, not an ounce of muck will be drained from the swamp that is our nation's capital. http://theweek.com/articles/791675/hows-that-swamp-draining-going

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      9.  Eugene Robinson: Trump the mob boss wants protection

      There’s a reason President Trump increasingly sounds like the mob boss in a cliche-ridden gangster film: That’s basically what he is — and he must know how such movies usually end.

      Trump referred to John Dean, the White House counsel whose truth-telling was instrumental in President Richard M. Nixon’s downfall, as a “RAT.” And during a Fox News interview broadcast Thursday, he complained at length about defendants who “flip” and inform on higher-ups in exchange for leniency at sentencing: “This whole thing about flipping, they call it, I know all about flipping. For 30, 40 years I have been watching flippers. Everything’s wonderful and then they get 10 years in jail and they flip on whoever the next highest one is, or as high as you can go. It almost ought to be outlawed.”

      Those are not the words of some two-bit hoodlum who feels the law closing in. They are the words of the president of the United States — who apparently feels the law closing in.

      Trump speaks as though the Trump Organization, the Trump campaign and the Trump administration were one long continuing criminal enterprise. The man charged with faithfully executing the nation’s laws paints his own Justice Department as a villain and celebrates criminals who stoically go to prison rather than inform on higher-ups. Nixon talked that way in private, among friends and co-conspirators; Trump just blurts it out. He makes no bones about valuing loyalty over respect for the law. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/trump-the-mob-boss-wants-protection/2018/08/23/55882f5a-a70c-11e8-8fac-12e98c13528d_story.html

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      10.  Jonathan Chait: NRA Says FBI Is Treating Trump As Unfairly As Al Capone

      You’re nothin’ but talk and a badge! Photo-Illustration: Daily Intelligencer; Photos: Olivier Douliery/AFP/Getty Images (Trump); Paramount Pictures

      President Trump has drawn upon his vast knowledge of American history and used the case of Al Capone as a point of comparison to defend his former campaign manager Paul Manafort. (Trump reportedly considered the Capone line especially clever, and expressed pride in his handiwork to advisers.)

      But why waste such a clever historical analogy on a mere underling when it can be used on the boss himself? NRA spokesperson Dana Loesch informs her audience that the FBI is trying to pull the same tricks on Trump that they used to entrap the beloved Prohibition-era Chicago gang leader:

      They’re trying to Al Capone the president. I mean, you remember. Capone didn’t go down for murder. Elliot Ness didn’t put him in for murder. He went in for tax fraud. Prosecutors didn’t care how he went down as long as he went down.

      You might wonder why Trump’s supporters believe his legal defense is aided by analogizing him to a murderous criminal. Perhaps the answer is that Capone had several qualities that recommend him to the Republican grassroots base. He was a business owner — or, in modern Republican lingo, a Job Creator. He was an avid Second Amendment enthusiast. And, most importantly, Capone, like Trump, was a victim of the deep state. http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2018/08/nras-dana-loesch-compares-trump-to-al-capone.html

      11.  Paul Krugman: The Tax-Cut Con Goes On

      In a recent interview with CNBC’s John Harwood, Representative Steve Stivers, the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee — in effect, the man charged with containing the blue wave — declared that, given the size of the budget deficit, the federal government needs to save money by cutting spending on social programs. When pressed about whether that included Social Security and Medicare, he admitted that it did.

      And he’s not alone in seeing major cuts in core programs for older Americans as the next step if Republicans win in November. Many major figures in the G.O.P., including the departing speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, and multiple senators, have said the same thing. (Meanwhile, groups tied to Ryan have been running attack ads accusing Democrats of planning to cut Medicare funding — but hey, consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds. So, apparently, is honesty.)

      Now, Republicans who call for cuts in social spending to balance the budget are showing extraordinary chutzpah, which is traditionally defined as what you exhibit when you kill your parents, then plead for mercy because you’re an orphan. After all, the same Republicans now wringing their hands over budget deficits just blew up that same deficit by enacting a huge tax cut for corporations and the wealthy. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/23/opinion/obamacare-medicare-social-security-midterms-republicans.html

      12  Andrew Sullivan: Here’s Where Things Get Dangerous With Trump

      There was a sense among some this week that we had at last reached that golden “inflection point” when all of Trump’s lies, scams, cons, and crimes finally sink in with Republicans, and the cult begins to crack.

      I tend to think something else is happening: that we are entering the most dangerous phase of Donald Trump’s presidency. We always knew this would happen — that the rule of law and Trump would at some point be unable to coexist — but we had no idea how it would specifically play out. Now we see the lay of the land a little more clearly.

      Four Trump campaign officials and his longtime lawyer and fixer have now pleaded to or been convicted of felonies; Trump’s now-convicted campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, faces another trial shortly; his media fixer, David Pecker, is now cooperating with authorities, and has, The Wall Street Journal reported, been granted immunity; Trump’s White House counsel talked to the special counsel’s office for 30 hours, without Trump’s knowledge, and, according to the New York Times, because he feared Trump might try to make him a fall guy for obstruction of justice; and his chief fixer for years, Michael Cohen, has every interest in telling law enforcement everything he knows about Trump’s past mafia boss–style behavior.

      What we’re about to find out is if Trump can pull off all his usual tricks, and face no serious political or legal consequences for this. I’d say that question remains nerve-rackingly open. http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2018/08/andrew-sullivan-trump-is-more-dangerous-than-ever.html

      13. Ryan Cooper: How the New York attorney general can take down the president

      In his trial for an enormous spree of tax fraud and other financial crimes, which ended in a conviction on eight counts, President Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort was clearly angling for a pardon. Unlike several of Trump's other criminal associates (Michael Cohen, Rick Gates, Michael Flynn, George Papadopoulos) Manafort did not plead guilty and turn state's evidence for a reduced sentence, and didn't even mount a defense in his trial.

      In return, Trump hinted to Fox & Friends host Ainsley Earhardt that he might well pardon Manafort for being a loyal stooge. In classic Mafia don fashion, Trump is signaling he might abuse his powers of office to protect criminals who refuse to implicate the leader (he even argued in the interview that flipping lower-level mobsters to get them to testify against kingpins should be illegal). Because the Constitution makes it so difficult to remove a president from office, he will almost certainly continue to be able to dangle this power in front of anyone who is brought up on federal charges.

      However, the president's pardon power extends only to federal crimes. Governors, not the president, have pardon power over state crimes. It follows that state attorneys general could use their prosecutorial power to investigate Trump's criminal empire free of the mafioso abuse of pardons. By far the most important of these is the New York attorney general, for which there is a primary election on Sept. 13. Zephyr Teachout in particular — who recently released a book on the history of American corruption — is making an all-out attack on abuse of power the primary argument for her candidacy. http://theweek.com/articles/791950/how-new-york-attorney-general-take-down-president

      14. Glenn Kessler: Not just misleading. Not merely false. A lie.

      The first denial that Donald Trump knew about hush-money payments to silence women came four days before he was elected president, when his spokeswoman Hope Hicks said, without hedging, “we have no knowledge of any of this.”

      The second came in January of this year, when his attorney Michael Cohen said the allegations were “outlandish.” By March, two of the president’s spokesmen — Raj Shah and Sarah Huckabee Sanders — said publicly that Trump denied all the allegations and any payments. Even Cohen’s attorney, David Schwartz, got in on the action, saying the president “was not aware of any of it.”

      In April, Trump finally weighed in, answering a question about whether he knew about a payment to porn star Stephanie Clifford, who uses the stage name Stormy Daniels, with a flat “no.”

      It’s now clear that the president’s statement was a lie — and that the people speaking for him repeated it.

      One of the distinguishing characteristics of Donald Trump’s presidency has been his loose relationship with facts. As of the beginning of this month, The Washington Post’s Fact Checker had documented 4,229 false or misleading claims from the president — an average of nearly 7.6 a day.

      How to characterize Trump’s statements has become its own pitched political battle, with many of the president’s critics demanding that they be called “lies.” The Fact Checker has been hesitant to go that far, as it is difficult to document whether the president knows he is not telling the truth.

      On Wednesday, Sanders said during a White House briefing that it was “a ridiculous accusation” to say the president has lied to the American people.

      But this week’s guilty plea by Cohen, offers indisputable evidence that Trump and his allies have been deliberately dishonest at every turn in their statements regarding payments to Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2018/08/23/not-just-misleading-not-merely-false-lie/

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      15. Peter Wehner: The Full-Spectrum Corruption of Donald Trump

      Everyone and everything he touches rots.

      A party that once spoke with urgency and apparent conviction about the importance of ethical leadership — fidelity, honesty, honor, decency, good manners, setting a good example — has hitched its wagon to the most thoroughly and comprehensively corrupt individual who has ever been elected president. Some of the men who have been elected president have been unscrupulous in certain areas — infidelity, lying, dirty tricks, financial misdeeds — but we’ve never before had the full-spectrum corruption we see in the life of Donald Trump.

      For many Republicans, this reality still hasn’t broken through. But facts that don’t penetrate the walls of an ideological silo are facts nonetheless. And the moral indictment against Mr. Trump is obvious and overwhelming. Corruption has been evident in Mr. Trump’s private and public life, in how he has treated his wives, in his business dealings and scams, in his pathological lying and cruelty, in his bullying and shamelessness, in his conspiracy-mongering and appeals to the darkest impulses of Americans. (Senator Bob Corker, a Republican, refers to the president’s race-based comments as a “base stimulator.”) Mr. Trump’s corruptions are ingrained, the result of a lifetime of habits. It was delusional to think he would change for the better once he became president.

      A warning to my Republican friends: The worst is yet to come. Thanks to the work of Robert Mueller — a distinguished public servant, not the leader of a “group of Angry Democrat Thugs” — we are going to discover deeper and deeper layers to Mr. Trump’s corruption. When we do, I expect Mr. Trump will unravel further as he feels more cornered, more desperate, more enraged; his behavior will become ever more erratic, disordered and crazed.

      Most Republicans, having thrown their MAGA hats over the Trump wall, will stay with him until the end. Was a tax cut, deregulation and court appointments really worth all this? https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/25/opinion/sunday/corruption-donald-trump.html

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      16. Michael D. Shear and Katie Benner: Trump’s War on the Justice System Threatens to Erode Trust in the Law

      It is a once-unimaginable scenario: Sometime soon in an American courtroom, a criminal defense lawyer may argue that the prosecution of an MS-13 gang member is a politically motivated “witch hunt” built around a witness who has “flipped” and taken what the lawyer calls a plea deal of dubious legality.

      He will be quoting the president of the United States.

      That is potentially the gravest danger of President Trump’s sustained verbal assault on the country’s justice system, legal experts say. In his attempt at self-defense amid the swirl of legal cases and investigations involving himself, his aides and his associates, Mr. Trump is directly undermining the people and processes that are the foundation of the nation’s administration of justice.

      The result is a president at war with the law.

      The president’s public judgments about the country’s top law enforcement agencies revolve largely around how their actions affect him personally — a vision that would recast the traditionally independent justice system as a guardian of the president and an attack dog against his adversaries. For more than a year, he has criticized the Justice Department, questioned the integrity of the prosecutors leading the Russia investigation, and mercilessly mocked Jeff Sessions, his own attorney general.

      Mr. Trump continued that pattern on Twitter on Saturday morning, seizing on disputed reports in the conservative news media that the F.B.I. had ignored “thousands of Crooked Hillary emails” and vowing to get “to the bottom of all of this corruption.” https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/25/us/politics/trump-justice-legal-system.html

      17. Gabriel Sherman: “Trump Is Nuts. This Time Really Feels Different”: Trump Rejects “War Council” Intervention, Goes It Alone

      After Michael Cohen’s plea deal last week, Donald Trump spiraled out of control, firing wildly in all directions. He railed against “flippers” in a rambling Fox & Friends interview, and lashed out on Twitter at Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the Justice Department, and Robert Mueller. In the wake of his outbursts, White House officials have discussed whether Trump would listen to his closest New York City friends in an effort to rein him in. Two sources briefed on the matter told me that senior officials talked about inviting Rudy Giuliani and a group of Trump’s New York real-estate friends including Tom Barrack, Richard LeFrak, and Howard Lorber to the White House to stage an “intervention” last week. “It was supposed to be a war council,” one source explained. But Trump refused to take the meeting, sources said. “You know Trump—he hates being lectured to,” the source added. (Spokespeople for LeFrak and Lorber say they have no knowledge of a meeting. A spokesperson for Barrack didn’t comment.)

      More than ever, Trump is acting by feeling and instinct. “Trump is nuts,” said one former West Wing official. “This time really feels different.” Deputy Chief of Staff Bill Shine has privately expressed concern, a source said, telling a friend that Trump’s emotional state is “very tender.” Even Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump are unsettled that Trump is so gleefully acting on his most self-destructive impulses as his legal peril grows. According to a source, Jared and Ivanka told Trump that stripping security clearances from former intelligence officials would backfire, but Trump ignored them. Kushner later told a friend Trump “got joy” out of taking away John Brennan’s clearance. His reaction to the death of John McCain—quashing a White House statement in praise of the senator, and restoring White House flags to full staff—falls into the same self-indulgent category. https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2018/08/donald-trump-nuts-rejects-war-council-intervention-goes-it-alone

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      18. Dana Milbank: Donald Trump, constitutional scholar

      The bedrock principles of Trumpian jurisprudence can be summarized in his own words:

      “No. 1, there is no collusion.”

      “No. 2, collusion is not a crime, but even if it was a crime, there was no collusion.”

      A corollary holds that obstruction of justice is also not a crime because “it would seem very hard to obstruct justice for a crime that never happened! Witch Hunt!”

      By contrast, everything done by special prosecutor Robert Mueller can be placed in one of three baskets of criminal offenses: “illegal,” “ILLEGAL!” or “SO ILLEGAL!”

      First-year students of Trumpian jurisprudence are puzzled to learn that some crimes are legal and some legal acts are criminal. This confusion comes from a textual discrepancy. The U.S. Constitution, as written, has seven articles. But Trump’s Constitution has 12.

      During the campaign, Trump informed a group of lawmakers who asked for his views of Congress’s Article I powers: “I’m for Article I. I’m for Article II. I’m for Article XII.”

      Trump’s discovery of five previously nonexistent articles in the Constitution gives him broad leeway in interpreting law — making him a modern-day Hammurabi, or Confucius.

      The common thread to Trumpian law: Stuff he and his allies do is legal, even if previously outlawed; stuff his opponents do is illegal, even if previously kosher. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/whatever-trump-dislikes-should-be-illegal/2018/08/28/9a689962-aaf8-11e8-a8d7-0f63ab8b1370_story.html

      19. Walter Shapiro: A Post-McCain Mystery: Why Does the GOP Put Up With Trump’s Graceless Vulgarity?

      The central mystery of the Trump presidency: Why do his supporters put up with it?

      Any generic Republican president (say, Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio) would have slashed taxes, rolled back regulations and appointed conservative judges. But no honorable man or woman in public life would have ... hang on, it’s a long list:

      Ridiculed a Vietnam POW. Lied compulsively about everything. Trusted felons like Paul Manafort, Michael Flynn and Michael Cohen. Viciously and repeatedly attacked the integrity of the FBI, the Justice Department and the national security establishment.

      Declared war on a free press. Cozied up to authoritarian leaders like Vladimir Putin. Kept secret what happened at the Helsinki summit.

      And continually treated Canada (yes, Canada) like a major enemy.
      The list is far from comprehensive and skips pre-presidential actions like approving hush money for a porn star. But, to steal a line from Bob Dole’s 1996 presidential campaign, “Where’s the outrage?”

      What is it about Trump that has the power to cloud the minds of Republicans who should know better? https://www.rollcall.com/news/opinion/post-mccain-mystery-gop-put-trumps-graceless-vulgarity

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