Russiagate Open Thread: It’s Corruption, All the Way Down

And here we always assumed ol’ Chuck was too dumb stubborn to be successfully corrupted!:

Grassley announced Tuesday he has sent a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly asking for additional visa records and immigration information on Akhmetshin, who became a U.S. citizen in 2009…

The Iowa Republican was set to chair a hearing Wednesday on enforcement of FARA, but the session was postponed. Glenn Simpson, co-founder of the firm Fusion GPS, which commissioned a British intelligence officer to compile a now-infamous dossier on President Donald Trump, was originally slated to testify. Grassley had also said he wanted Manafort to appear at Wednesday’s hearing…

Yeah, he’s probably not implicated in this particular scandal — just deeply committed to ensuring 100% Repub rule, laws and regulations be damned. The Hill, last week:

Grassley’s main questions for Simpson involve who hired Fusion GPS to produce opposition research against Trump, and whether the firm shared the document with the FBI.

“When political opposition research becomes the basis for law enforcement or intelligence efforts, it raises substantial questions about the independence of law enforcement and intelligence from politics,” Grassley wrote in March…

“It’s only a crime when a Democrat does it, y’know.”

This was supposed to be a Fox-News-friendly kangaroo court where every aspiring Repub congresscritter could pose for the cameras while hammering on “Democrat venality” in regards to oppo research. Then Don’s idiot kids (by birth and marriage) had to get caught with their hand in the cookie jar and half a dozen Russian “patriots of the state” standing around with recording devices…

Looks like some not-technically-guilty-of-this-particular-crime might just end up involved to their misfortune, and I can’t think of a more deserving bunch of targets.

Open Thread: Mitch McConnell, Master of… Disaster

Impeach Earl Warren! always did fire up the base — back in the 1960s. Those voters can’t all have died of old age yet, right?

(Ah, yes, the John Birch Society, of which the Kochs’ father was a founding member.)

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Open Thread: NOT HIS FAULT! (Nothing Ever Is)

Your “president”, Republicans! Worthy of a Qaddafi or a Mobute…

A disturbing scene unfolded at the White House on Monday afternoon. A hook-and-ladder firetruck and a utility bucket truck pulled up to the South Portico and extended their rescue arms in the vicinity of the Truman Balcony…

… The Trump White House had invited the makers of the trucks — and manufacturers of all stripes — to bring their wares to Washington to show that Trump was making good on his promise to revive manufacturing jobs in America.

The president admired baseball bats and golf clubs, tried on a Stetson, asserted that the representative from an Omaha beef producer “wanted to kiss me so badly,” gave a thumbs-up from the driver’s seat of the firetruck and admired a Sikorsky helicopter. “I have three of them,” this champion of the little guy reported. Trump, whose businesses fill hotel rooms with mostly imported goods and whose daughter manufactures her clothing line entirely overseas, proclaimed this “Made in America” week.

That Trump would attempt to give the impression that he is leading a manufacturing revival makes sense: In the otherwise dismal new Washington Post-ABC poll, Trump’s handling of the economy is the only area in which he is viewed favorably by the public, by a narrow 43 percent to 41 percent.

But if Americans were to discover Trump can’t make good on his promise to lead a resurgence in manufacturing jobs— then, well, it might be time for him to call in a five-alarm blaze and ride that hook-and-ladder into exile at Mar-a-Lago…

Schadenfreude Read: “Whose side are you on? Separate lawyers defend Trump, aides”

From the AP:

As the government’s Russia investigations heat up, a growing cast of lawyers is signing up to defend President Donald Trump and his associates. But the interests of those lawyers — and their clients — don’t always align, adding a new layer of drama and suspicion in a White House already rife with internal rivalries.

Trump himself has both an outside legal team and a new in-house special counsel, Ty Cobb, for Russia-related matters. White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, who is also Trump’s son-in-law, has a pair of high-powered attorneys working for him. The president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., recently hired his own lawyer. And former campaign aides who expect to be caught up in the expanding probes are also shopping for representation — and dealing with sticker-shock over the price tags.

The result is a crowded group of high-priced attorneys bent on defending their own clients, even if it means elbowing those clients’ colleagues…

In Trump’s inner circle, a group long split into factions, the potential for fueling other officials’ legal difficulties could be high.
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Orangemandias II (Open Thread)

I had to run an errand a while ago and was listening to an interview with Bloomberg’s Josh Green on public radio. Green just released a book on Steve Bannon called “Devil’s Bargain,” and in the segment I heard, Green described Bannon’s worldview, allowed as how only a maroon like Trump would have given Bannon the time of day and detailed how Bannon harnessed Trump’s, uh, unique qualities to win.

I assume most here are familiar with Bannon’s white nationalist views. One insight Green attributes to Bannon is that the GOP could win at the presidential level in 2016 if it focused on concerns (read: prejudices) prevalent in the South. That is the exact opposite of what GOP establishment types were saying after the defeat of Romney. Turns out Bannon was right, with dumb luck and more than a little help from his friends (Russians, voter suppression, media incompetence, Comey, etc.).

I almost switched stations because hearing a rehash of the 2016 election is about as appealing to me these days as a double root canal. But then the interviewer asked Green if he thinks Bannon is pleased with how things are panning out now. Green replied that Bannon is almost certainly frustrated as hell to have overcome huge odds to get a shot at enacting his agenda, only to discover that Trump doesn’t have the focus or discipline to do the job.

That sounds about right. Bannon is a kook, but he is also a true believer, and to have labored mightily to construct the levers and weights necessary to smash the state, only to have the recalcitrant child who must push the buttons lose interest and wander off to watch Fox News and rage-tweet, must be absolutely enraging.

Trump is crooked enough to swallow a nail and shit a corkscrew, but beyond a talent for grift, he just isn’t very bright. He’s a bigot, so Bannon’s views of a glorious Aryan past and future are no doubt appealing. Trump’s a crook, so the possibility of fleecing marks on a global scale is irresistible. But he’s also susceptible to flattery and dependent on family enablers, so he surrounds himself with schemers and hangers-on who can’t coalesce around a coherent approach.

It’s an ongoing outrage and horror that such a person is president of the United States. But in a way, we may have, if not dodged a bullet, at least sustained a wound that is likely survivable. A competent person in Trump’s position almost certainly would have successfully swept the Russia investigation under the rug. A focused and disciplined person would have made the effort to understand and advocate for his own healthcare reform plan.

The best-case scenario in the short term is that Trump keeps stepping on his own dick. The best-case scenario in the long term is that he utterly discredits GOP “populism.” Forever, hopefully, or at least until after I’m dead. Open thread!

Late Night Open Thread: Shameless (But Stupid — Very Stupid)

It’s gone beyond the usual IOKIYAR clannishness to pure cultism, at this point. But some of the slightly more experienced partisans are beginning to look for an inconspicuous exit…

So all that prosecutorial experience didn’t quite go to waste, eh, Mr. Christie?
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Exclusive Video: Obamacare Repeal

Balloon Juice has obtained exclusive, behind-the-scenes video depicting Obamacare repeal attempts by Donald J. Trump and the Republicans in Congress:

New Repeal-O-Meter should arrive from ACME Corporation later this week. Hope the results are consistent with prior attempts.

Open thread!