Monday Morning Open Thread: Fireball

Meteor entering the Earths Atmosphere over Italy in the Dolomites


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From the Astronomy Picture of the Day website (Image Credit & Copyright: Ollie Taylor)… because we all miss Alain’s wonderful morning posts.
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Apart from Thanksgiving prep/travel, what’s on the agenda for the start of another week?

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Also entertaining, though on a far less elevated plane — from the Washington Post, “‘A long winter’: White House aides divided over scope, risks of Russia probe”:

Six months into a special counsel’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, White House aides and others in President Trump’s close orbit are increasingly divided in their assessments of the expanding probe and how worried administration officials and campaign aides should be about their potential legal peril, according to numerous people familiar with the debate…

The investigation reached a critical turning point in recent weeks, with a formal subpoena to the campaign, an expanding list of potential witnesses and the indictments of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his deputy, Rick Gates. Some within Trump’s circle, including former chief of staff Reince Priebus, have already been interviewed by Mueller’s investigators, while others such as Hope Hicks — the White House communications director and trusted confidant of the president — and White House counsel Donald McGahn are expected in coming weeks.

One Republican operative in frequent contact with the White House described Mueller’s team “working through the staff like Pac-Man.”

“Of course they are worried,” said the Republican, who insisted on anonymity to offer a candid assessment. “Anybody that ever had the words ‘Russia’ come out of their lips or in an email, they’re going to get talked to. These things are thorough and deep. It’s going to be a long winter.” …

The president himself, however, has warmed to Cobb’s optimistic message on Mueller’s probe. Cobb had initially said he hoped the focus on the White House would conclude by Thanksgiving, but adjusted the timeline slightly in an interview last week, saying he remains optimistic that it will wrap up by the end of the year, if not shortly thereafter…

But the reassurances from Cobb and others — which seem at least partially aimed at keeping the president calm and focused on governing — are viewed by others as naive.

“The president says, ‘This is all just an annoyance. I did nothing,’ ” said one person close to the administration. “He is somewhat arrogant about it. But this investigation is a classic Gambino-style roll-up. You have to anticipate this roll-up will reach everyone in this administration.”…

In fact, legal experts and private defense lawyers monitoring the case believe that Mueller’s investigation — which officially began in May and resulted in its first charges against three former campaign aides last month — is still in its early stages.

They expect that the prosecutors have considerable investigative work still to do, and they predict more campaign officials, among others, will face charges. They expect the probe to extend deep into 2018 and possibly longer…



Late Night Russiagate Open Thread: Sometimes It’s What Doesn’t Get Said…

The RNC discovers the sunk cost fallacy, will stop throwing good money after bad:

Trump defense lawyer John Dowd said that following payments by the Republican National Committee, the president began paying the bills and now wants to make the party “even.” The RNC confirmed it is no longer paying the bills…

Also, they’re not tearing up the IOUs until Trump’s check clears — assuming it ever arrives. Do newspaper classified columns still include those post-divorce announcements that Mr./Ms. X “will no longer be held responsible for any bills charged to [his/her] former spouse Y”?

The expenses cover personal lawyers representing Trump in special prosecutor Robert Mueller’s probe of possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia in last year’s election…

Special White House counsel Ty Cobb said the administration was working with others to establish a legal fund for current and former staffers. Dowd said White House counsel Don McGahn and campaign lawyer Ben Ginsberg of Jones Day are working to structure that fund, which would be subject to rules that prohibit staff from receiving gifts or pro bono legal service.

The president is exempt from those rules, Dowd said.

“The geniuses are working on it,” Dowd said. “If it passes muster with the tax lawyers and accountants, then it has to pass muster with the Office of Government Ethics.”

During former President Bill Clinton’s administration, private funds were raised to cover Clinton’s legal expenses related to the Whitewater investigation

I think we may have uncovered the spark behind last week’s BUT WHAT ABOUT TEH CLENIS!!! noisy public kabuki. It’s not as though Donald “I Am So A Billionaire” Trump could count on his base to chip in for his legal bills… and his usual donors don’t want to draw further attention to themselves.

… In August, Reuters first reported that the RNC was paying Trump’s legal bills, which amounted to more than $230,000 that month. The payments were made to Trump’s outside legal team, which includes Dowd.

Additionally, Trump’s re-election campaign paid more than $300,000 this year in bills to lawyers representing his son, Donald Trump Jr., according to public disclosures. The campaign did not respond to a request for comment on whether it will continue to pay for Trump Jr’s legal expenses…

While previous presidential campaigns have used these funds to pay for routine legal matters such as ballot access disputes and compliance requirements, Trump is the first president in the modern campaign finance era to use such funds on the costs of responding to a criminal probe, said election law experts.

Upcoming Trump tweet: Once Again I have acheived UNPRESIDENTED accomplishment!!! — not like Crooked Hillary who had to Pay for Her own … (1/x)



Open Thread: What Kayla Moore “Knew”

It is not, so I’ve read, uncommon for men with socially-unsanctioned sexual urges, once they approach forty, to “settle down” with a wife… who may, or may not, be aware of her spouse’s proclivities. Of course the hormones are less urgent as one ages, but just as importantly, an older man has much more to lose if his undercover activities are exposed; his credentials, his career, his network of social contacts become more valuable than the young man’s fantasy of escaping to a fresh start and a new identity. Frequently such men — such couples — become dependent, even to a cult-like degree, upon a rigid religious or ethical text that will “protect” them from the vile temptations of our sinful world. Roy Moore seems to have been a “social Christian” before his marriage; his determination to drag the rest of us into his interpretation of “Bible-based law” came with his… maturity.

Did Kayla Kisor know about her prospective husband’s dubious habits, back in 1985? She was in the same class as the woman who Roy called out of trig class to ask on a date. And she was sufficiently aware of possible embarrassment that she claimed they met at Bible study — when in reality, Roy would say that he first noticed her when she was 17 and performing at a junior college dance recital.

But what she knows now, for certain sure, is that she’s put 32 years into a fruitful working relationship, and suddenly it’s all coming undone, because Godless liberals:

“He has never one time lifted a finger to me. He is the most gentle, most kind man that I have ever known in my life. He’s godly. He’s loving — and everybody in this community knows it,” Kayla Moore, 56, said, looking around at the people gathered that night. “These are our church members, these are our family, these are our friends, these are people that know him just like I do.”

Over the past week, as several women have come forward to publicly accuse Roy Moore, 70, of pursuing them when they were teenagers and he was in his 30s, Kayla Moore has become her husband’s most visible and aggressive defender. In addition to her defense on Monday night, she has used Facebook to question the credibility of her husband’s accusers, threaten lawsuits and spread information that sometimes turns out to be false…

Friends describe Kayla Moore as a deeply religious wife, mother and grandmother who has devoted her life to her family and gushes lovingly about her four children and five grandchildren. She served on the board of her husband’s Foundation for Moral Law, which he founded to promote Christian values, and then took over the nonprofit as president in January 2013, when Roy Moore was elected to a second term on the state Supreme Court.

For years, Moore has helped coordinate her husband’s political campaigns. In his race for the Senate this year, the two have traveled nearly everywhere together — with him often at the wheel as she navigates…

The FML also paid Kayla Moore a total of $195,000 over three years through 2015″, on top of Roy’s “salary of $180,000 a year for part-time work.” (And of course when she’s right by his side, it’s that much easier to be sure ol’ Roy doesn’t let his eyes or his hands wander.)
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Repubs in Disarray Open Thread: More Moore (Of Course)

If ya let yer wimmen forget their place in God’s plan, then the coloreds are gonna get uppity! And if ya let the coloreds get uppity, next thing ya know yer wimmen will forget their place!

The ugly truth, of course, is that Roy Moore’s current candidacy is the distilled end product of the GOP’s forty-plus years’ refining a message that would resonant with all the worst instincts and practices of “true American” clannishness, misogyny, authoritarianism, and xenophobia. And the embodied sludge that is “Judge” Roy Moore is now… an embarrassment to his enablers.

McConnell aides express caution, saying they’re uncertain whether such a move, one of several options being discussed, is even possible. Yet the talks underscore the despair among top Republicans over relinquishing a seat in deep-red Alabama, further diminishing their slim Senate majority.

New GOP polling obtained by POLITICO suggests that Moore is cratering. A survey conducted by the National Republican Senatorial Committee after allegations emerged that Moore had engaged in sexual misconduct with teenagers showed him trailing Democratic candidate Doug Jones by 12 points. Other recent polling has the race closer.
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Thursday Morning Open Thread


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Apart from working together to lift everyone up, what’s on the agenda for the day?

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Open Thread: Steve Bannon, the New Karl Rove?

As in “the guy who’s about to have a major meltdown, live and on camera”? Somebody has it out for the man, because one doesn’t bring in professional assassin Olivia Nuzzi for just a puff piece…

When Steve Bannon was the chief strategist and senior counselor to President Donald Trump, he spent his days and often long into his nights in an office on the first floor of the West Wing, separated from the Oval Office only by his neighbor Jared Kushner and the presidential study…

The last time I saw him before he was fired in August, West Wing construction had forced him across the driveway into a temporary office in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. His central whiteboard had been relocated to basement storage, and a smaller version had been wheeled in and positioned by the desk. Anywhere Bannon is existing, it seems, becomes a kind of pop-up war room.

Since leaving the White House and its adjacent properties altogether, he’s moved his operation back into a war townhouse he calls the Breitbart Embassy. Breitbart News, where he’s the executive chairman, is headquartered in the basement; upstairs, he hosts glitzy parties and plans his hostile takeover of the GOP. And, depending on which sources you believe, the Breitbart Embassy is also where he happens to live…

During his time in the White House, rumors circulated in D.C. about the Breitbart Embassy; he was thought by many in the White House press corps to be living there despite having claimed to put a barrier between himself and the website he ran that served, during the campaign and thereafter, as Trump’s very own Russia Today. During the campaign and into the current administration, there was little meaningful difference between Breitbart’s coverage of Trump and Trump’s own press releases. Under Bannon, Breitbart also incubated and amplified voices that played at the edges of right-wing extremism. In 2016, Bannon referred to it as “the platform of the alt-right,” but attempted to move closer to the middle — by hiring staff with traditional journalism backgrounds — once the alt-right became synonymous with neo-Nazism.

Even now, with ethical constraints in the rearview mirror, Bannon is unwilling to admit that he calls the Breitbart Embassy home. A source with knowledge of his real-estate holdings told me he lives in Northern Virginia and stays at the Embassy when his schedule demands it, but provided no further details or proof. Another source close to Bannon told me that wasn’t true, and for what it’s worth, the general consensus here in D.C. is the same. “Steve lives on the top two floors,” this source explained, “so Steve will do his meetings at the second-floor dining-room table.”…
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REPUBS IN DISARRAY! Open Thread: When Did Mitch McConnell Turn Anti-Child-Molestor?

I don’t remember him having a problem with Denny Hastert, although of course Hastert wasn’t “his” responsiblity…

Trump spoke with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell from Asia last week, and the Senate leader made an urgent plea: Please help push Moore out of the contest. On Monday, as a new female accuser emerged, the Republican leader discussed the Alabama situation with White House chief of staff John Kelly and Vice President Mike Pence. The conversation centered on tax reform, but the Senate Republican leader also proposed a dramatic idea: that Sessions run as a write-in candidate or be appointed to the seat he held for two decades.

White House officials plan to convene a meeting to talk through their options soon, and Trump is widely expected to address the predicament publicly when he returns from abroad. In order for the president to get involved, some aides to the president say, he would need an airtight plan that limits his political exposure to any fallout.

It’s a vexing call for Trump. If he tries to pressure Moore out of the race, as some people close to the White House expect him to do, there’s no guarantee that the candidate will oblige. During the GOP nomination battle, Trump aggressively backed Moore’s opponent, appointed Sen. Luther Strange…

Since the allegations surfaced on Thursday, the White House has been quietly examining its options. Counselor Kellyanne Conway has been in touch with Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey’s office to discuss possible paths forward. And political director Bill Stepien has spoken with Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel.

On Tuesday, the RNC withdrew its support from Moore…

(But not till Tuesday. Keep that in mind, for future use.)

Anyways, ol’ Roy ain’t going without a fight…


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