Kushnergate Open Thread: The Trickster God Is Not A Subtle Scripter

As Donald Trump surged in the Republican primary polls in the early months of 2016, his outsider campaign faced growing pressure to show that the former reality-TV star and noted provocateur was forming a coherent and credible world view.

So when Carter Page, an international businessman with an office near Trump Tower, volunteered his services, former officials recall, Trump aides were quick to make him feel welcome.
 
He had come with a referral from the son-in-law of Richard Nixon, New York state Republican Party Chairman Ed Cox, who had conveyed Page’s interest to the campaign, Cox said.

A top Trump adviser, Sam Clovis, then employed what campaign aides now acknowledge was their go-to vetting process — a quick Google search — to check out the newcomer. He seemed to have the right qualifications, according to former campaign officials — head of an energy investment firm, business degree from New York University, doctorate from the University of London.

But what the Google search had not shown was that Page had been on the FBI’s radar since at least 2013, when Russian officials allegedly tried to use him to get information about the energy business…

The circumstances that led to Page’s easy access to the Trump campaign represent one of the main questions facing investigators: Were Trump’s connections to multiple Russia-friendly advisers mere coincidence, or evidence of a coordinated attempt to collude with a foreign government? Or were they the result of incompetent vetting that left a neophyte candidate vulnerable to influence from people with nefarious agendas?…


(Spoiler: That ‘crack idea’ is how Chris Christie eventually put Kushner Senior in federal prison)



Trump Crime Cartel Open Thread: They Went to Jared

The Washington Post, under its ‘National Security’ subhead:

Investigators are focusing on a series of meetings held by Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and an influential White House adviser, as part of their probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and related matters, according to people familiar with the investigation.

Kushner, who held meetings in December with the Russian ambassador and a banker from Moscow, is being investigated because of the extent and nature of his interactions with the Russians, the people said…

FBI agents also remain keenly interested in former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, but Kushner is the only current White House official known to be considered a key person in the probe…

Kushner has agreed to discuss his Russian contacts with the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is conducting one of several investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

In many ways, Kushner is a unique figure inside the White House.

He is arguably the president’s most trusted adviser, and he is also a close member of the president’s family. His list of policy responsibilities is vast — his foreign policy portfolio alone includes Canada and Mexico, China, and peace in the Middle East — yet he rarely speaks publicly about any of them…


 
As far as those who’ve dealt with him longest can tell, Jared Kushner is a slumlord and a legal corner-cutter who’ll make a deal with anyone who’s got money, ethics be damned. He’s a spoilt-rich-kid MBA whose commitment to screwing every last dollar out of his “investments” is rivaled only by his family attachments — to his father, real-estate developer & convicted felon; his father-in-law, real-estate performance artist / politician; and his spoilt-rich-kid MBA wife. And I wouldn’t bet a broken cookie on the odds that, should it come down to Jared suffering or his daddy/sponsor-daddy/wifey going to jail, that trio should be ready to get their affairs in order before the authorities show up. Just business, Ivanka — you of all people know how it is!

Tidbit from Vanity Fair:

Last week, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie told people that Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s 36-year-old senior adviser and son-in-law, asked him if Trump should hire a lawyer, according to two people familiar with the conversation. A spokesman for Christie, who was responsible for prosecuting Kushner’s father, denied that the governor talked to Kushner about anything related to seeking outside counsel. An administration source said that the conversation about retaining counsel “simply did not happen.” Both sides confirmed that a phone call between them took place, as the two talk frequently…

How hard was Christie laughing?



Nowhere to hide

In 2010, there were over 100 House seats that Cook Political report rated as competitive. I expect that number to be at least as high in 2018. I have nothing against the DCCC but they tend to spend a lot of money in a small number of races that are winnable.

Not to get all Nassim Nicholas Taleb on you, but the probability tails here are fatter than most people think. Last night, a Montana Republican running for House choked, punched, and body-slammed a reporter, and is now facing misdemeanor assault charges. That race was close already, and the assault occurred so near to the election that it may not have a massive effect, but let’s be honest: we’ve got 238 Republican incumbent assholes running in 2018, at least a few are going to pull some kind of similar shit, and we’ve got to have Democratic candidates who can take advantage when that happens.

So this year we will be raising district funds for the eventual Deocratic nominee in all 238 districts with Republican incumbents. No quarter, nowhere to hide. If a Republican Congressman goes to Indochina…..

Goal Thermometer








ACHA review

Here are a few lowlights of the AHCA Congressional Budget Office score. I’ll try to keep this non-technical.

  • Medicaid is still getting changed from an entitlement that is responsive to changing needs to a block grant
  • 23 million people will lose coverage compared to current law projections
  • The MacArthur/Upton waivers are expected to destroy the individual markets that cover 15% of the country
  • Most of the premium decreases are due to older and sicker people being priced out of the market
    • Real easy to have low premiums when you don’t cover anyone who is likely to need services
  • Pre-existing condition protection is effectively destroyed by splitting the risk pool.

Relevant tweets below the fold:
Read more



Thursday Morning Open Thread: The Great War Is Here

Paul Ryan and Mick Mulvaney are gonna get matching Blood for the Blood God tattoos…

Released Wednesday, the CBO’s scoring of the new bill finds that a few cosmetic tweaks don’t change the fact that the AHCA remains a breathtakingly cruel bill…

The AHCA is cruel. There is no other word for it. If the law is enacted, people will die because of it.

Given recent headlines, Democrats naturally have been focused on ties between Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia and his related actions as president. But Democrats have to make the AHCA central to their plans for 2018 and beyond. In recent polling by the Kaiser Family Foundation, only 24 percent of Trump voters want him to decrease Medicaid spending, and 42 percent say that the program is somewhat or very important to them. Independents and Democrats are overwhelmingly against the bill. And for the vast majority of Americans, health care is a visceral issue, something that affects their everyday lives. We’ve seen this reflected in the sharp confrontations between GOP members of Congress and their constituents, who are furious at their representatives’ support for a bill that voters do not want. For moral — not just political — reasons, Republicans must be made to regret their AHCA vote.

Jeanne Lambrew, in the NYTimes, “Republicans, Get Ready for the Trumpcare Headlines”:

If the Senate makes this flawed bill law, Republicans will have the chance to watch, all the way up to the midterm elections, as Americans pay higher premiums and lose coverage. By the time the bill’s full changes went into effect in 2020, many of those who voted for it could be long gone…

President Trump has repeatedly said that Obamacare should be blamed for any problems in the individual market this year and next. Yet many of the predicted premium increases are actually a reaction to the attempts to repeal Obamacare, an attempt on the part of insurance companies to protect themselves from the uncertainty induced by the congressional debate and President Trump’s executive actions. And poll after poll shows a majority of Americans dislike the Republican approach and will hold Republicans responsible for any future problems.

So Republicans citing Obamacare headlines should take a moment to imagine the likely Trumpcare headlines and what they will mean for their job security.

Since Mormons aren’t supposed to ‘disfigure their bodies’ with tattoos, the First Rat Off the GOP House Ship is feeling pretty good about his latest career choice…

Apart from that freighted discussion, what’s on the agenda for the day?



Wednesday Morning Open Thread: Another Battle Begins

(Jeff Danziger’s website)
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As if Lord Smallgloves could tell you what was in “his” budget… Greg Sargent, in the Washington Post, “Even some Republicans balk at Trump’s plan for steep budget cuts”:

While some fiscally conservative lawmakers, particularly in the House, found a lot to praise in Trump’s plan to balance the budget within 10 years, most Republicans flatly rejected the White House proposal. The divide sets up a clash between House conservatives and a growing number of Senate Republicans who would rather work with Democrats on a spending deal than entertain Trump’s deep cuts.

“This is kind of the game,” said Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Tex.). “We know that the president’s budget won’t pass as proposed.”

Instead, Cornyn said he believes conversations are already underway about how Republicans can negotiate with Democrats to avoid across-the-board spending cuts that are scheduled to go into effect in October. Those talks could include broad spending increases for domestic and military programs that break from Trump’s plan for deep cuts in education, housing, research and health care…

Budget experts questioned many of the economic assumptions that the White House put into its plan, saying it was preposterous to claim that massive tax cuts and spending reductions will lead to a surge in economic growth…

“Even some Republicans” plan on a political career that lasts beyond the next election — maybe even one that doesn’t involve people spitting on them in the street. This ain’t a budget proposal, it’s a new chapter in a cultists’ holy book. Or a performance-art script for grifters hoping to massage the plutocrats’ greed glands…



Tuesday Morning Open Thread: The Kleptocracy

It used to be third-world shiteholes and banana republics where the ruling autocrat was brought low by the thieving ways of his inept relatives. Thanks, GOP, for making this comic trope AMERICAN!

Within the warped internal logic of the Trump presidency — where it is taken as a given by essentially everybody around him that the president is impulsive and grotesquely ignorant — his shocking actions and statements have a more understandable basis.

A week ago, it appeared that the probe would center around the activities of a handful of figures who are now marginal within Trumpworld: former campaign manager Paul Manafort, foreign policy adviser Carter Page, and deposed National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. That has changed. The Washington Post reported Friday that investigators have identified a current White House official as a person of interest in its financial probe. (The story hinted, and New York Magazine contributor Yashar Ali confirmed, that the person is Jared Kushner.)…

All this implies that the probe is scrutinizing the financial aspects of Trump’s business, which is a family operation. While some Trump advisers opposed the firing of Comey, Kushner reportedly advocated for it. That fact may seem strange if one thinks of Kushner as a voice of pragmatism. But it is easier to understand if you think of him as a figure sitting near the heart of a financial scandal, who harbors a strong interest in suppressing the investigation…
 
The official White House line maintains — or has tried to maintain — that the administration welcomes special prosecutor Robert Mueller and sees his work as a chance to dispel the cloud of suspicion needlessly hanging over the presidency. Their actions suggest a very different calculation. From Trump’s campaign to ensure the loyalty of his FBI director, to his subsequent firing of him, to his tweet-rages against the special prosecutor as an unfair witch hunt — all of this indicates high levels of panic in the Oval Office. Trump has almost certainly engaged in obstruction of justice for the simple reason that there is a lot of justice to obstruct.

Of course, like every other aging crime family capo, the old man can’t resist going back to his known accomplices…