Now They Tell Us Open Thread: Trump’s “Pure Madness”

CNN, “The Great Unraveling”:

Not since Richard Nixon started talking to the portraits on the walls of the West Wing has a president seemed so alone against the world.

One source — who is a presidential ally — is worried, really worried. The source says this past week is “different,” that advisers are scared the President is spiraling, lashing out, just out of control. For example: Demanding to hold a public session where he made promises on trade tariffs before his staff was ready, not to mention willing. “This has real economic impact,” says the source, as the Dow dropped 420 points after the President’s news Thursday. “Something is very wrong.”

Even by Trumpian standards, the chaos and the unraveling at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue are a stunning — and recurring — problem.

But there’s an up-against-the-wall quality to the past couple of weeks that is striking, and the crescendo is loud, clear, unhealthy, even dangerous…

It’s this magisterial Washington Post report that seems to be getting the most attention:

Inside the White House, aides over the past week have described an air of anxiety and volatility — with an uncontrollable commander in chief at its center.

These are the darkest days in at least half a year, they say, and they worry just how much farther President Trump and his administration may plunge into unrest and malaise before they start to recover. As one official put it: “We haven’t bottomed out.”

Trump is now a president in transition, at times angry and increasingly isolated. He fumes in private that just about every time he looks up at a television screen, the cable news headlines are trumpeting yet another scandal. He voices frustration that son-in-law Jared Kushner has few on-air defenders. He revives old grudges. And he confides to friends that he is uncertain about whom to trust…
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Russiagate Open Thread: The FBI “Secret Society” REVEALED!

On Friday, the Justice Department handed the Senate Homeland Security Committee and other committees a new batch of more than 1,000 messages sent between Strzok and Page. The messages newly obtained by ABC News were in that set.

Asked Wednesday whether he believes there’s a “secret society” inside the FBI to take down the president, the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., said, “That’s Strzok and Page’s term.”

“Everything I take with a grain of salt,” he added. “[But] I’ve heard from an individual that … there was a group of managers within the FBI that were holding meetings off site.”

So “when Strzok and Page had described a secret society, that didn’t surprise me because I had corroborating information,” Johnson said.

He declined to describe the “whistleblower” in any way, and he said he did not know what the FBI’s “off-site” meetings might have entailed.

Nevertheless, he said he is “trying to be as transparent as possible.” …

Oh, you’re certainly “transparent”, Sen. Johnson…

Just yesterday…

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Entertaining Read: “How Michael Wolff Got Into the White House for His Tell-All Book”

The Great Transition — much like the Great Hunger or the Great Depression. Jennifer Jacobs, at Bloomberg:

Author Michael Wolff’s pitch to the White House to win cooperation for his book included a working title that signaled a sympathetic view, a counter-narrative to a slew of negative news stories early in Donald Trump’s presidency.

He called it “The Great Transition: The First 100 Days of the Trump Administration.” And in part due to that title, Wolff was able to exploit an inexperienced White House staff who mistakenly believed they could shape the book to the president’s liking.

Nearly everyone who spoke with Wolff thought someone else in the White House had approved their participation. And it appears that not a single person in a position of authority to halt cooperation with the book — including Trump himself — raised any red flags, despite Wolff’s well documented history. His previous work included a critical book on Trump confidant Rupert Murdoch, the Twenty-First Century Fox Inc. co-chairman…

Wolff’s entree began with Trump himself, who phoned the author in early February to compliment him on a CNN appearance in which Wolff criticized media coverage of the new president.

Wolff told Trump during the call that he wanted to write a book on the president’s first 100 days in office. Many people want to write books about me, Trump replied — talk to my staff. Aides Kellyanne Conway and Hope Hicks listened to Wolff’s pitch in a West Wing meeting the next day, but were noncommittal.

Several aides said Hicks later informally endorsed talking with Wolff as long as they made “positive” comments for the book, which they said Wolff told them would counter the media’s unfair narrative.

It wasn’t until late August that alarm bells were raised in the White House — when Hicks, Jared Kushner and their allies realized that fellow aides who had spoken with Wolff, especially Bannon, may have provided damaging anecdotes about them…

Trump allies said they sought Hicks’s guidance on whether to speak with Wolff because they consider her to be the aide most familiar with Trump’s media preferences, having served as the White House director for strategic communications before moving into her current role as communications director. She previously was a top communications staffer for Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, and before that worked for the Trump Organization.

Hicks advised at least one Trump ally contacted by Wolff to cooperate with the author if he chose — and if he thought he could shape a positive narrative about the president.

In that regard, Hicks’s handling of Wolff’s book didn’t differ much from previous administrations. One official from former President Barack Obama’s White House said that his administration generally believed in engaging with authors, as long as they were serious journalists and not gadflies or partisan writers…

The concensus seems to be that Hicks is now being targeted by Trump defenders, possibly because she’s the only close Trump associate who hasn’t yet been implicated collaborating with Russia. But complaining that a twenty-something former fashion marketing assistant wasn’t up to the job of running media interference for the White House is like complaining about a diagnosis of Kaposi’s sarcoma — political ‘opportunist infections’ like Wolff indicate an administration with a seriously compromised immune system.

Open Thread: Trump’s Willing Accomplices

NYMag‘s The Cut, December 6, 2017:

When Chris Cuomo questioned [Kellyanne] Conway about Trump’s endorsement of Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore, who has been accused of sexual misconduct by eight women, she defended him by saying, “The president has tremendous moral standards.”….

Every unmothered child needs a nanny, or a team of them — none more so than a 70-year-old child who refuses to mature beyond the nursery. Who better to understand this than British GQ, whose authorized Fire and Fury excerpt focuses on two of the Trump campaign’s most high-profile women — “How Donald Trump’s White House team handles his giant ego”:

Not long after the Trump team’s arrival to the White House, the Correspondents’ Dinner became a cause for worry. On a winter afternoon in Kellyanne Conway’s upstairs West Wing office, Conway and director of strategic communications Hope Hicks engaged in a pained discussion about what to do.

The central problem was that the president was neither inclined to make fun of himself, nor particularly funny himself – at least not, in Conway’s description, “in that kind of humorous way”.

George W Bush had famously tried to resist the Correspondents’ Dinner and suffered greatly at it, but he had prepped extensively and every year he pulled out an acceptable performance. But neither woman, confiding their concerns around the table in Conway’s office to a journalist they regarded as sympathetic, thought Trump had a realistic chance of making the dinner anything like a success.

“He doesn’t appreciate cruel humour,” said Conway. “His style is more old-fashioned,” said Hicks.

Both women, clearly seeing the Correspondents’ Dinner as an intractable problem, kept characterising the event as “unfair”, which, more generally, is how they characterised the media’s view of Trump. “He’s unfairly portrayed.” “They don’t give him the benefit of the doubt.” “He’s just not treated the way other presidents have been treated.”

The burden here for Conway and Hicks was their understanding that the president did not see the media’s lack of regard for him as part of a political divide on which he stood on a particular side. Instead, he perceived it as a deep personal attack on him: for ­entirely unfair reasons, ad hominem reasons, the media just did not like him. Ridiculed him. Cruelly. Why?…
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Wolff and Press 101

Axios reported yesterday that Michael Wolff taped the conversations that he used for his book:

Michael Wolff has tapes to back up quotes in his incendiary book — dozens of hours of them….

  • In some cases, the officials thought they were talking off the record. But what are they going to do now?

I am a relative nobody. But I know better.

I talk with the press fairly frequently. I have reporters that I talk with a lot because they are honestly striving to tell complex stories with the intent of making their readers smarter by the end of the piece. I assume that any interaction I have with any reporter is on the record and highly likely to be recorded.

On Wednesday evening, a reporter that I have talked with in the past e-mailed me to ask for some background on a long term policy issue. I said I could callback in 10 minutes. The initial chunk of the conversation was like this:

“Hi, this is John Doe of the XXX News”

“Hi John, this is Dave from Duke, responding to your e-mail, still got time?”

“Yep, let me get my recorder going…”

“Everything on the record unless we both agree before hand?”

“Sounds good, so tell me about X and Y and how they interact?”

And then we talked for a while.

This is not hard. You assume that you are on the record and a good memorization will occur unless there is a specific guarantee that is previously agreed upon that says a conversation is either off the record, deep background, not for attribution or any other restriction including no notes/recordings. I’m a nobody who will never work in the White House and I know that.

Wednesday Evening Open Thread: Easy Targets

Maggie Haberman, of course:

President Trump projected an air of calm on Wednesday after charges against his former campaign chief and a foreign policy aide roiled Washington, insisting to The New York Times that he was not “angry at anybody” and that investigations into his campaign’s links to Russia had not come near him personally.

“I’m not under investigation, as you know,” Mr. Trump said in a brief telephone call to The Times late Wednesday afternoon. Pointing to the indictment of his former campaign chief, Paul Manafort, the president said, “And even if you look at that, there’s not even a mention of Trump in there.”

“It has nothing to do with us,” Mr. Trump said…


Apart from pointing & mocking, what’s on the agenda for the evening?

My personal ‘And what was your first clue, Sherlock?’ fave-of-the-day…

Russiagate Open Thread: Cambridge Analytica Apocrylyptica

Alexander Nix, who heads a controversial data-analytics firm that worked for President Donald Trump’s campaign, wrote in an email last year that he reached out to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange about Hillary Clinton’s missing 33,000 emails.

Nix, who heads Cambridge Analytica, told a third party that he reached out to Assange about his firm somehow helping the WikiLeaks editor release Clinton’s missing emails, according to two sources familiar with a congressional investigation into interactions between Trump associates and the Kremlin. Those sources also relayed that, according to Nix’s email, Assange told the Cambridge Analytica CEO that he didn’t want his help, and preferred to do the work on his own.

If the claims Nix made in that email are true, this would be the closest known connection between Trump’s campaign and Assange…

Those 33,000 messages were a central focus of Trump and his allies during the campaign. At least one Republican operative tried to recruit hackers to obtain those emails, according to The Wall Street Journal. And at a press conference on July 27, 2016, while the Democratic National Convention was underway, Trump—then the Republican nominee—said he hoped the Kremlin would recover those emails.

“Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’ll be able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” he said.

And on the campaign trail, Trump praised WikiLeaks and tweeted about its findings. Politifact calculated that he mentioned the site about 137 times during the campaign….
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