Tuesday Evening Open Thread: It’s the McConnell Shutdown Now


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Cuz we already know why the Oval Office Squatter is pro-shutdown…



Sunday Evening Long Read: “‘In the White House waiting’”

Too long for Donny Dollhands to read, but presumably he’s gotten Ivanka or Jared to give him the highlowlights.

The president who pitched himself to voters as a world-class dealmaker has proven to be an unreliable negotiator. Grappling for the first time with a divided government, Trump has contradicted himself, sent miscues and spread falsehoods. He has zigzagged between proudly claiming ownership of the shutdown and blaming it on Democrats, and between nearly declaring a national emergency to construct the wall without congressional approval and backing off such a legally and politically perilous action…

The government could reopen if Trump agreed to sign legislation funding the government, versions of which already have passed both chambers of Congress, and table the polarizing debate over border security.

In the weeks leading up to December’s deadline to fund the government, Trump was warned repeatedly about the dangers of a shutdown but still opted to proceed, according to officials with knowledge of the conversations.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told the president that he had no leverage and that, without a clear strategy, he would be “boxed in a canyon.” He tried to make the case to Trump that even if Pelosi and Schumer were interested in cutting a deal with him, they would be constrained from compromising because of internal Democratic Party pressures to oppose Trump’s wall, these officials said.

Then-House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) talked with Trump by phone for 45 minutes the day before the shutdown, warning that he saw no way to win as he paced in a Capitol hallway just outside a conference room where House Republicans were meeting. Then-House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) warned about the perils of a shutdown during the Christmas season.

Inside, some of the more hard-line members urged a showdown over border wall funding, arguing that Trump’s core supporters would revolt otherwise. But McCarthy asked, “Tell me what happens when we get into a shutdown? I want to know what our next move is.”…

Trump’s advisers are scrambling to build an exit ramp while also bracing for the shutdown to last weeks longer. Current and former aides said there is little strategy in the White House; people are frustrated and, in the words of one, “freaking out.”

The shutdown was born out of frustration. Angry that he was stymied by party leaders and his own aides from getting more money for the wall in 2018, rattled by conservative criticism and stung by his party’s midterm defeats, Trump decided in late December to plunge into a border fight after being encouraged by Reps. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) and Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), both hard-line conservatives. It was a startling decision to McConnell and others, who thought they had White House assurances that a shutdown would be avoided.

“He has no choice here,” said Newt Gingrich, a Trump supporter who was House speaker in the Clinton administration and during the second-longest shutdown, an episode widely viewed as a disaster for Republicans. “He has to win. His entire reputation, his entire relationship with the base, it’s all a function of being committed on big things and not backing down. If he backs down on this, Pelosi will be so emboldened that the next two years will be a nightmare.”…

As another Post article helpfully reminds us, the last time Gingrich promoted a shutdown, it didn’t work out so well for him — or his GOP co-conspirators!

Which makes it all the more interesting that it sounds like McConnell just might be looking for an exit ramp now. McConnell’s only loyalty is to himself and his leadership position, so if he’s playing the ‘I tried, but whatcha gonna do?’ card, he’s decided Trump is more of a liability than a benefit.



Russiagate Open Thread: Happy New Year, Ms. Butina!

If I were Maria Butina, I’m not sure I’d be all that eager to return to the warm embrace of Mother Russia, but then what does an untravelled American like me know about true patriotism?

Per the Washington Post:

President Vladi­mir Putin, in his New Year’s greeting to President Trump, said he was open to a meeting of the two leaders. Trump canceled a formal meeting with Putin at the Group of 20 summit in Buenos Aires in December over Russia’s seizure of Ukrainian naval vessels and crew.

“Russia-U.S. relations are the most important factor behind ensuring strategic stability and international security,” Putin wrote to Trump on Sunday, in one of many messages to heads of state around the globe…

In December, Russian gun rights activist Maria Butina pleaded guilty to conspiring with a senior Russian official to infiltrate U.S. conservative groups. Butina, 30, is the first Russian national to be convicted of seeking to influence U.S. policy in the run-up to the 2016 election by acting as a foreign agent.

Shortly before Butina pleaded guilty, Putin said she was not known to any of his spy agencies. The Foreign Ministry has gone to great lengths to paint Butina as a political prisoner, notably by launching a wide-ranging social media campaign.

(For the pedants, yes I understand that Orthodox Russia’s real New Year isn’t for another two weeks. But the ‘Relect Trump’ campaign needs a media distraction for when it’s discovered that Lord Smallgloves attended tonight’s big donor party at Mar-A-Largofvckyourself.)



Russiagate Open Thread: Never Trust Turks Bearing Gifts

Just yesterday, the Turkish government was bragging that the Trump administration was about to extradite Gulen. (Trump’s agents have denied this, at least once news of the Kian indictment broke.)

Granted that Fethullah Gulen may be a cult leader and a very bad person (although foreign policy experts say not responsible for that coup), but it’s never a good idea for the titular head of the American government to give other countries the impression that extraditions are available if the right ‘fixers’ are employed.


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Today’s Big Read: Russia’s Comprehensive Disinformation Campaign

Pushing ten thousand comments on the Post’s online story, as of 6am:

The report, a draft of which was obtained by The Washington Post, is the first to study the millions of posts provided by major technology firms to the Senate Intelligence Committee, led by Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), its chairman, and Sen. Mark Warner (Va.), its ranking Democrat. The bipartisan panel hasn’t said whether it endorses the findings. It plans to release it publicly along with another study later this week.

The research — by Oxford University’s Computational Propaganda Project and Graphika, a network analysis firm — offers new details of how Russians working at the Internet Research Agency, which U.S. officials have charged with criminal offenses for interfering in the 2016 campaign, sliced Americans into key interest groups for targeted messaging. These efforts shifted over time, peaking at key political moments, such as presidential debates or party conventions, the report found.

The data sets used by the researchers were provided by Facebook, Twitter and Google and covered several years up to mid-2017, when the social media companies cracked down on the known Russian accounts. The report, which also analyzed data separately provided to House Intelligence Committee members, contains no information on more recent political moments, such as November’s midterm elections.

“What is clear is that all of the messaging clearly sought to benefit the Republican Party — and specifically Donald Trump,” the report says. “Trump is mentioned most in campaigns targeting conservatives and right-wing voters, where the messaging encouraged these groups to support his campaign. The main groups that could challenge Trump were then provided messaging that sought to confuse, distract and ultimately discourage members from voting.”…
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Russiagate Open Thread: Maria Butina’s Handlers, Owning the GOP, One Dirty Old Man At A Time

It’d make a great movie farce, if not for the treason, not to mention all the ancillary dead people…


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Late Night Overamped Reboot Open Thread: Lies Within Lies Within Lies

“Trump confides to friends he’s concerned about impeachment”. Donny Dollhand has no friends, just accomplices. And he’s reached the talking-to-the-WH-portraits stage:

Despite President Donald Trump’s public declaration that he isn’t concerned about impeachment, he has told people close to him in recent days that he is alarmed by the prospect, according to multiple sources.

Trump’s fear about the possibility has escalated as the consequences of federal investigations involving his associates and Democratic control of the House sink in, the sources said, and his allies believe maintaining the support of establishment Republicans he bucked to win election is now critical to saving his presidency…

The president has been on a days-long tirade, sources tell NBC News, lashing out at his own staff and lawmakers on Capitol Hill, frustrated by the threat of a Democratic House with subpoena power, an array of looming congressional investigations, multiple intensifying federal probes, a botched effort to find a new chief of staff and a potential partial government shutdown over a lack of funding for his top campaign promise — a border wall.

Trump has ranted about why no one around him is doing anything to stop any of it and vented about the lack of support he believes he has in Congress and within his own White House, the sources tell NBC News…

Nixon had strong support from every member of the GOP caucus… until he didn’t.


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