REPUBS IN DISARRAY! Open Thread: “Lawmakers losing confidence in White House after Porter resignation”

Maybe it’s just that “don’t hit girls” is a really, really low bar to clear; even the dumbest most partisan Fox News watcher can understand why it’s a bad idea to get caught encouraging such behavior. Or maybe the professional Repubs are just fekkin’ desperate to sever themselves from this dumpster fire of an administration. Politico:

House Republicans raised questions Wednesday about the Trump administration’s security clearance process and an oversight panel launched an investigation, as the controversy surrounding former aide Rob Porter started to eat into their confidence in President Donald Trump’s White House.

Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) said his House Oversight Committee on Tuesday night kicked off an investigation into Trump’s employment of Porter — the White House staff secretary who resigned last week — and what White House officials knew about domestic abuse accusations against him…

Asked about Gowdy’s investigation into the Porter scandal Wednesday, Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said he had been informed of the probe and believes the White House has to improve its vetting system for employees.

“They have work to do to improve their vetting system,” Ryan told reporters on Wednesday. “I don’t know how exactly they’ll do that; I will leave that to them. But Chairman Gowdy is doing his proper job on oversight, and yes, he did give us a heads-up.”…

The Porter situation has heaped scrutiny particularly on the White House’s security clearance procedures. Many other White House aides have been operating on interim clearances because they have not gotten a permanent security signoff. The White House personnel security office said last fall it would stop issuing new interim clearances, but people who already had them were allowed to keep working.

Three Democrats plan to introduce legislation Wednesday to give Congress greater oversight of the White House’s security clearance process. Among other provisions, the legislation, co-sponsored by Reps. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) and Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), would limit the use of interim security clearances to a year and require the White House to submit a list of individuals with security clearances working in the Executive Office of the President to Congress every three months…

Gowdy denied a recent allegation from Cummings, the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, that the committee had avoided investigating the White House’s security clearance issues. But he said there were limits to his committee’s ability to compel the White House and FBI to answer questions — “unless you’re Jack Bauer, you can’t make people answer questions” — and urged the media and the public to put pressure on the executive branch to be more forthcoming…



Late Night Lounge Lizards Open Thread: “Desperate Republicans turn to Adelson”

He wasn’t even in Las Vegas, but if you believe Politico, every aspiring Repub was still busy trying to tongue-bathe Jabba the Mogul:

LAS VEGAS — Republicans made their annual sojourn to the lavish Venetian hotel here this weekend to kiss the ring of a benefactor they need more than ever: casino mogul Sheldon Adelson.

Confronting the potential loss of one or both chambers of Congress in the midterms, and struggling to raise money against an energized Democratic base, the party is desperate for Adelson’s millions. So the praise at the annual Republican Jewish Coalition conference he hosts overflowed, even though the billionaire, attending the funeral of a close friend in Israel, wasn’t on hand.

During a private appearance on Saturday morning, Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who is edging closer toward a run for Senate, led off his remarks by calling Adelson and his spouse, Miriam, “great friends” who he’d known for a long time. The Republican governor, himself tremendously wealthy, said he was saddened that the Adelsons couldn’t make it to this year’s event and that he was thinking of them.

The gushing underscored Adelson’s outsize influence in the party, which is expected only to grow this year as Republicans lean on him to help salvage their control of Congress. With energized Democratic candidates raising fistfuls of cash, party officials say they are depending on major givers like Adelson, a longtime bankroller of GOP causes, to close the gap.
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To hear the lamentations…

There’s an article in the current edition of “The Atlantic” authored by Jonathan Rauch and Benjamin Wittes (he of the baby cannon on Twitter). It’s called “Boycott the Republican Party,” and in it, Rauch and Wittes contend that the only way the GOP can be reformed and American democracy saved is if everyone outside the Trumpist base votes against Republicans:

[T]he most-important tasks in U.S. politics right now are to change the Republicans’ trajectory and to deprive them of power in the meantime. In our two-party system, the surest way to accomplish these things is to support the other party, in every race from president to dogcatcher. The goal is to make the Republican Party answerable at every level, exacting a political price so stinging as to force the party back into the democratic fold…

We understand why Republicans, even moderate ones, are reluctant to cross party lines. Party, today, is identity. But in the through-the-looking-glass era of Donald Trump, the best thing Republicans can do for their party is vote against it.

We understand, too, the many imperfections of the Democratic Party. Its left is extreme, its center is confused, and it has its share of bad apples. But the Democratic Party is not a threat to our democratic order. That is why we are rising above our independent predilections and behaving like dumb-ass partisans. It’s why we hope many smart people will do the same.

Brian Beutler answered that article with a great piece in Crooked Media yesterday: Boycotting Republicans Isn’t Enough. I urge everyone to read the whole thing, but here are some excerpts, which start from the premise that even if they lose two landslide elections in a row (as they did in 2006 and 2008), Republicans won’t take that as a mandate to reform but will instead become even more hypocritical and reactionary:

After years of engaging enthusiastically in corruption and fiscal profligacy, Obama-era Republicans adopted a pose of rectitude and austerity. Anyone who had been paying attention knew these were just poses. Their immediate jettisoning of Dick Cheney’s “deficits don’t matter” ethos and overnight embrace of hawkish budget rhetoric was nakedly insincere, but was nevertheless accepted in good faith by nearly the entire political elite. Just this week, in an otherwise astute assessment of Republican base voters, Axios’ Jonathan Swan asserted that Trump “has moved the party away from decades of orthodoxy on…deficits,” as if such an orthodoxy has existed in the post-Reagan era. As if Republicans’ re-embrace of expansionary fiscal policy after reclaiming power weren’t completely foreordained.

Republicans spent the full eight years of the Obama presidency making arguments they didn’t believe, claiming to be outraged about things that didn’t really outrage them, fabricating controversy out of things they knew to be uncontroversial. They spent four years pretending to believe an attack in Benghazi, Libya that killed four Americans was a historic scandal, eclipsed only by the revelation (which they also didn’t really care about) that Obama’s secretary of state used a private email account to do work. When they were rewarded for this plain-as-day bad faith with control of the entire federal government, they immediately forgot about Benghazi, ignored botched operations for which Trump bore responsibility, and continued to use private email and encrypted third-party communication applications with impunity.

Beutler makes the obvious point that the same cycle will repeat unless Democrats play hardball when they again control the government and — crucially — are supported in that effort by other elements of society:

After Trump, Democrats could adopt a more aggressive approach than they have in the past, on the fool-me-twice principle. They could abolish the filibuster, expedite legislation to widen the franchise and reform campaign finance laws, right Mitch McConnell’s theft of a Supreme Court seat, and conduct oversight of the institutions of government Trump corrupted. They could set up a commission to examine, the role of propaganda in American media, and report out how and why, under Trump, the Republican Party entered a de facto partnership with hostile foreign intelligence to influence American politics.

I think they can and should do all of these things and more, so long as they can be done on majoritarian and representative bases.

But to truly marginalize the GOP’s political style would require a level of cooperation from many conservatives that doesn’t exist, and a level of buy-in from generally non-partisan institutions—the media, the bureaucracy, corporate America, and civil society—which have proven ill-equipped to defend themselves from Republican efforts to coopt or discredit them.

Corporate America has giddily joined a banana republic-style public relations campaign to thank dear leader Trump for his corporate tax cuts, and portray them as a boon to workers. Mainstream journalists are so petrified of bad-faith accusations of liberal bias that many of them genuinely can’t grasp how hostile the American right is to the vocation of journalism, or how to report on bad-faith in the public square more generally.

Beutler is correct that the level of cooperation outlined above doesn’t exist. I don’t know how we solve that conundrum, but solve it we must. As horrible and destructive as the current Republican administration is, it is headed by a preening, addled, incompetent clown. After the Trump era, I’m not confident we’d survive a resurgent GOP headed by a more skilled fascist wannabe.



Late Night [Head*Desk] Open Thread: Kelly’s “War”

Honest to Murphy, I thought Kelly’s anti-immigrant comments yesterday would finally move some dials on the “General Kelly, Strong Man Upon Whom We Depend for Sanity” media meters. But NOOOO! What’s gonna drive Kelly out of the White House — should it happen — will be Javanka’s campaign to poison Daddy’s mind against him, because we’re living in Redneck Versailles World now…

For weeks, Donald Trump has been souring on his Chief of Staff John Kelly because of his controlling ways and rising public profile. And now Kelly is in the midst of a bonafide crisis, one that exacerbates the president’s own #MeToo problems. On Tuesday, Kelly strongly defended White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter against disturbing allegations, first published in the Daily Mail, that he abused his ex-wives. Kelly’s decision to back Porter has left many people inside the White House angry, two sources with knowledge of the matter said. On Wednesday afternoon, Porter resigned. Axios reported Kelly wanted Porter to “stay and fight.”…

Kelly’s decision to go to bat for Porter deeply frustrated White House staffers, sources told me. He was supposed to be the West Wing’s resident grown-up, but staffers are increasingly questioning Kelly’s judgment, four Republicans close to the White House told me. “It’s beyond disbelief. Everyone is trying to figure out why Kelly is leading the charge to save him,” one former West Wing official said. Another Republican said: “How many times has Kelly put out a statement defending Trump?”

Sources said Kelly was so quick to defend Porter because the two have grown very close since Trump appointed Kelly chief of staff last summer. Porter, a Rhodes scholar, has helped Kelly instill discipline in the West Wing. Kelly has told people that Porter has a “calming effect” on White House operations. For instance, it’s Porter who screens all the information that gets to Trump’s desk. Porter also helped Kelly conduct a West Wing organizational study that provided Kelly with a cudgel to sideline Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, two former West Wing officials told me. The officials also said Kelly supported Porter even after the F.B.I. delayed granting Porter’s security clearance because they uncovered his alleged history of spousal abuse.

Until now, Porter has been a low-profile player, publicly absent from the West Wing dramas. But last week, he emerged when the Daily Mail reported he’s dating White House Communications Director Hope Hicks…

Senior aides to President Donald Trump knew for months about allegations of domestic abuse levied against top White House staffer Rob Porter by his ex-wives, even as Porter’s stock in the West Wing continued to rise, multiple sources told CNN on Wednesday…

A scramble ensued inside the West Wing to defend him when the claims became public this week, the sources said. That effort continues even after his resignation.

Trump himself first learned of the allegations this week, two sources familiar with the matter said. He was upset when shown reports of the abuse, which first emerged on Tuesday. His daughter Ivanka Trump, serving as a White House senior adviser, was also deeply disturbed by the allegations, particularly by photographs of the alleged abuse, the sources said…

By early fall, it was widely known among Trump’s top aides — including chief of staff John Kelly — both that Porter was facing troubles in obtaining the clearance and that his ex-wives claimed he had abused them. No action was taken to remove him from the staff.

Instead, Kelly and others oversaw an elevation in Porter’s standing. He was one of a handful of aides who helped draft last week’s State of the Union address. He traveled instead of Kelly to the World Economic Forum in Davos last month. And he was one of a select group of aides who shook Chinese President Xi Jinping’s hand during a state visit to Beijing in November…

Kelly, who has relied on Porter to execute a strict system of information control to the President, insisted that he’d be able to weather the allegations and remain in his job, according to a White House official. But Porter resigned anyway, over Kelly’s objections. Kelly has long insisted that Porter stay in his job, even as he considered approaches from the private sector, including from Uber, according to one administration source…

Of course, we’re told, the King didn’t know about these ‘troubling allegations’ — in Versailles World, the King never knows! (To be fair, Trump ‘not knowing’ is usually a pretty safe bet… )



Late Night Open Thread: “The Godfather”, But As An Off-Broadway Farce!

Originality is overrated. A touch of Guys & Dolls, some razzle-dazzle from The Music Man — the old standbys always lure the bridge & tunnel crowd. I can remember when it was vaguely scandalous that the GOP was using Vanity Fair as the Reagans’ semi-official promotional organ. Now Gabriel Sherman is one of our better political reporters. “‘He Wants a Killer’: Post-Bannon, Post-Nunes, Post-Kelly Friction, a Frustrated Trump Searches for a West Wing Reset”:

After the much-hyped Nunes memo failed to deliver the narrative reset that the White House hoped for, Donald Trump is discussing a shake-up to his West Wing, three sources familiar with the president’s thinking told me. These people say the president is increasingly frustrated that members of his administration aren’t going to war for him, and he’s being encouraged by his daughter Ivanka to bring in new blood. “The president’s view is that allies on the outside are doing a better job defending him than his political shop,” one Republican close to the White House told me. Another outside adviser who regularly speaks with Trump said that the president is regretting some of his Cabinet choices. “He’s saying he should have put Rudy [Giuliani] at State and Chris Christie at Justice.”

Trump has recently told advisers he wants a “killer” to steer the White House’s response to Robert Mueller’s investigation and craft a midterm election message for him to stump on this fall. For Trump, there’s a growing urgency to fill the role. His efforts to stymie Mueller’s probe have so far failed, and the specter of impeachment looms if Democrats win back the House in November. Ivanka, who’s been frustrated with Chief of Staff John Kelly, has told her father that he needs people around him that will put his interests above their own. “She wants to clean house,” a Trump friend told me. “Her view is J.F.K. had Bobby there to have his back.”

The president’s top choice for the strategist position is Jason Miller, who served as communications director for Trump’s presidential campaign. “He wants a killer, and Jason is a killer,” an outside adviser to the White House told me. Trump had wanted Miller to join the administration during the transition, but Miller withdrew after it was revealed he had an extramarital affair during the campaign with former Trump aide A.J. Delgado…

Without a close confidant on the inside with whom he can plot strategy, Trump has turned to outside advisers for counsel. According to sources, Trump speaks regularly by phone with a braintrust that includes Sean Hannity, Jason Miller, Corey Lewandowski, Reince Priebus, and R.N.C. Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel. According to sources, Miller has advised Trump to push for an immigration deal that shows real progress towards building the Wall, the theory being that getting a win on immigration will mobilize the base in November. Instead, they want him to sign an extension for DACA so that immigration is a midterm election issue (the theory being that putting immigration on the ballot will mobilize the base)…

If Miller doesn’t go to the White House, another scenario being discussed is that Trump could fill the strategist role with Lewandowski and former deputy campaign manager Dave Bossie. Both have the aggressive personality Trump favors. But neither one has anything resembling West Wing experience, and both face stiff opposition from Ivanka and Jared Kushner. “They have blocked Corey at every turn. They kept him from going into [the] family box at the inaugural,” one former campaign staffer told me. “If Corey gets back in, they’re not long for the place…

Open warfare between the Beloved Children and the Fat-Necked White Thugs, with Sean Hannity as The Stage Announcer — there’s a tragicomedy scenario that’s gotta have Pelosi & Schumer quietly chuckling into their lattes…



Russiagate Open Thread: A Dish Served Cold

Ooo, look, so many Very Serious People using words like “treason”, this time against Republicans, most especially the Repubs who worked on Trump’s 2016 campaign! Could not be happening to a more deserving gang of revanchists and revenants…


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There’s TALK…


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Anybody heard from Rudy lately?


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And what of James Comey, (newly) Brave Truth-Tweeter?…



Saturday Cartoon Characters Open Thread: Bad Craziness

It’d be more entertaining if we knew for sure that the ending… well, that we’d be around to laugh about the clownishness of the current GOP Klown Kartel…