April 26, 2018

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ON THE RECORD.....

“We had a hierarchy in my office in Congress. If you’re a lobbyist who never gave us money, I didn’t talk to you. If you’re a lobbyist who gave us money, I might talk to you.” — White House budget director Mick Mulvaney, quoted by the New York Times.

“The wind’s not at our back. It’s not at our side. It is firmly in our face. This election is going to be tougher than any one I have been involved with, including the recall.” — Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R), quoted by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

“I’d say, ‘Hell no. Hell no — double hell no.” -- Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) about voting on another tax package before the election,” -- Alexander Bolton in The Hill.

"Apparently Republicans think it's a good idea to tell voters that they really wanted to fully repeal health care but only got the first chunk, which will raise premiums 10%. Good luck with that. The only thing worse than voting for rate hikes is trying to convince voters it was a good thing."-- Jesse Ferguson, a Democratic consultant

“Their obsession with her (Hillary) is evidence that they have nothing to run on, and they’re scared of running with the president. It reminds me of the guy at the office who goes to the water cooler, and all he does is boast about his high school football championships.” -- Democratic strategist Jesse Ferguson, dismissing the Republican midterm strategy to feature Clinton as a central villain.

@ilduce2016: “It is better to live one day as a lion than 100 years as a sheep.” – Donald J. Trump@realDonaldTrump, quoting Benito Mussolini

“He really has been very open and, I think, very honorable from everything we’re seeing.” -- Trump calling North Korea’s leader a “very honorable” person and expressed hope their meeting will occur “as soon as possible."

IN THIS ISSUE

FYI

1. Andy Borowitz: Nation Shocked to Learn of Possible Bias at Fox News
2. Trump keeps saying he’s innocent. So why does he keep sounding like he’s guilty?
3. Special Trump tax provision gives $17 billion break to millionaires
4. Trump Has Taken Corruption to a Whole New Level
5. Cook Political Report: Risk Factors for 2018 GOP House Incumbents
6. GOP-Led Budget Committees Have Just One Job... And Are Refusing To Do It
7. John Bolton presided over anti-Muslim think tank
8. The DAILY GRILL
9. From MEDIA MATTERS (They watch Fox News so you don't have to)
10. From the Late Shows
11. Late Night Jokes for Dems
12. The Republican Party is organized around one man
13. Mitch McConnell plans longer weeks to keep vulnerable Democrats off campaign trail
14. Trump's "great man" play on North Korea
15. Republicans fear political risk in Senate races as House moves to extend tax cuts
16. New York Attorney General Seeks to Bypass Pardons
17. White Evangelical Support for Donald Trump at All-Time High
18. Hundreds of Immigrant Children Have Been Taken From Parents at U.S. Border
19. Flight Records Illuminate Mystery of Trump's Moscow Nights
20. Why Trump Is Winning and the Press Is Losing
21. “He Wants To Fight This”: Michael Cohen, Amid Bewildering Stormy Chaos, Is Still Holding Out Hope For Survival
22. Hannity’s Real Estate Venture Linked to Fraudulent Dealer
23. Trump’s false claims to Comey about Moscow stay could aid Mueller
24. The Russian Troll Factory is Recruiting English-Speaking Journalists to Fight “Political Censorship” After Facebook Ban

OPINION

1. John Cassidy: The G.O.P. Is Bowing and Scraping Its Way to Disaster
2. Jeffrey Toobin: The D.N.C.’s Lawsuit Against Russia and the Trump Campaign Isn’t a Bad Idea
3. Paul Waldman: Stormy Daniels is still running circles around President Trump
4. Frank Rich: Sean Hannity Will Remain Trump’s Shadow Chief of Staff
5.  Eugene Robinson: Trump's Foreign Policy Is More Like International Lurching
6. Bess Levin: Michael Cohen’s Raskolnikovian Nightmare Just Got Even Worse.
7. Joe Scarborough:  It’s becoming clear that Trump won’t run in 2020
8. Jonathan Chait: Trump’s Lawyer Forgets to Pretend He’s Innocent, Also Compares Him to Mobster
9.  Elizabeth Kolbert: How Do You Celebrate Earth Day When Scott Pruitt Is Still at the E.P.A.?
10. Paul Waldman: The GOP has finally figured out a 2018 strategy. Her name is Hillary Clinton.
11. Robert Kuttner:The Great Republican Tax Cut Backfire
12. John Cassidy: Trump’s History of Lying, from John Barron to @realDonaldTrump

FYI

1. Andy Borowitz: Nation Shocked to Learn of Possible Bias at Fox News

Millions of Americans were stunned and incredulous on Monday after learning of a possible incident of bias at Fox News Channel.

At a time when so many American institutions have been under attack, the possibility that Fox, one of the nation’s most respected news organizations, might be susceptible to hidden agendas was too much for many to take.

In interviews across the country, Fox viewers expressed disappointment, confusion, and shock that a news network known for its exacting standards had imperiled its hard-earned reputation for fairness.

“I’m devastated by this,” Carol Foyler, a viewer from Scottsdale, Arizona, said. “If we can’t trust Fox News, who can we trust?”

Tracy Klugian, a viewer from Akron, Ohio, said that he had been “walking around in a state of disbelief” since he learned of possible bias at the network. “I’m trying to be strong, but it’s tough,” he said. “I know I speak for a lot of people when I say that today was the day that America lost its innocence.”

But some Fox viewers, like Harland Dorrinson, of Topeka, Kansas, warned of a “rush to judgment” against Fox, urging people to remember the network’s stellar record of journalistic accomplishments.

“Whenever there was a national emergency, whether it was Benghazi, Hillary’s e-mails, or Obama’s birth certificate, Fox News was there,” he said. “One little mistake doesn’t wash all that away.” https://www.newyorker.com/humor/borowitz-report/

2. Trump keeps saying he’s innocent. So why does he keep sounding like he’s guilty?

By asserting that the government would not be able to “flip” Cohen, Trump invited a question: If the Russia probe is the “witch hunt” the president says it is — and if he is as innocent as he so often proclaims — what incriminating evidence would Cohen have on Trump that would give him leverage to flip?

It was only the latest instance of the president adopting a posture vis-a-vis his legal troubles that is both combative and defensive — and, perhaps unwittingly, seems to assume guilt.

“Trump accused the FBI of going rogue by seizing Cohen’s records. He went to court to try to deny investigators access to his communications with Cohen. And he threatened to fire Justice Department officials, protesting overreach. Again and again, many lTrump accused the FBI of going rogue by seizing Cohen’s records. He went to court to try to deny investigators access to his communications with Cohen. And he threatened to fire Justice Department officials, protesting overreach. Again and again, many legal experts say, the president has taken the steps of a subject who has something to hide, creating the appearance of a coverup even if there is no crime to cover up. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-keeps-saying-hes-innocent-so-why-does-he-keep-sounding-like-hes-guilty/2018/04/24/c50196be-4712-11e8-9072-f6d4bc32f223_story.html

3. Special Trump tax provision gives $17 billion break to millionaires

The wealthiest Americans will benefit the most from President Donald Trump's tax deduction for owners of "pass-through" businesses, according to a congressional report released Monday.

The deduction, which ranges up to 20 percent, will shower $40.2 billion in tax breaks on owners of pass-throughs — largely businesses owned by an individual or a partnership, or those "S" corporations that kick income and losses to shareholders for tax purposes — in 2018, the Joint Committee on Taxation estimated. The provision was included in the larger overhaul of tax rates enacted in December.

In 2018, the lion's share of the benefit — $17.4 billion, or 44.3 percent of the total — will go to roughly 200,000 Americans making $1 million or more who claim the pass-through deduction, the committee said. Another $3.6 billion, or 8.9 percent, will go to a similar number of taxpayers who earn $500,000 to $1 million. https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/politics-news/special-trump-tax-provision-gives-17-billion-break-millionaires-gov-n868511

4. Trump Has Taken Corruption to a Whole New Level

People in government might have always given their donors more influence over their decisions, but they at least pretended that was not the case in public. The Trump administration is not even bothering to put up a facade.

The levels of corruption in this administration are simply staggering, and they range from open self-enrichment to openly selling policy to the highest bidder. The completely accurate sense that Trump and his party are out to get themselves and their friends rich is the administration’s gaping vulnerability. What’s especially odd is that nobody in the administration seems to have taken even cursory steps to address or paper over this weakness. They’re all just grabbing as much cash for themselves and their allies as they can, while, while they can. http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2018/04/mulvaney-tells-bankers-pay-up-if-you-want-favors-from-trump.html

5. Cook Political Report: Risk Factors for 2018 GOP House Incumbents

“Multiple indicators, including generic ballot polls , President Trump’s approval ratings and recent special election results, point to midterm danger for Republicans. But without robust race-by-race polling, it’s trickier to predict individual races six months out.”

“Our latest ratings point to 56 vulnerable GOP-held seats, versus six vulnerable Democratic seats. Of the 56 GOP seats at risk, 15 are open seats created by retirements. Even if Democrats were to pick up two-thirds of those seats, they would still need to hold all their own seats and defeat 13 Republican incumbents to reach the magic number of 218. Today, there are 18 GOP incumbents in our Toss Up column.”

“That Toss Up list is likely to grow as the cycle progresses. Out of the 65 GOP incumbents rated as less than ‘Solid,’ 49 were first elected in 2010 or after, meaning more than three quarters have never had to face this kind of political climate before. And, Democrats have a donor enthusiasm edge: in the first quarter of 2018, at least 43 sitting Republicans were out-raised by at least one Democratic opponent.” https://cookpolitical.com/analysis/house/house-overview/risk-factors-2018-gop-house-incumbents-0

6. GOP-Led Budget Committees Have Just One Job... And Are Refusing To Do It

It’s fairly typical for the House and Senate to miss the April 15 deadline set in federal law for Congress to adopt the budget for the coming year.

But what’s not typical is what’s happening now: The GOP-controlled House and Senate Budget Committees are flatly refusing to comply with the law (and fulfill their only real statutory responsibility) by not even trying to do a budget for the fiscal year that starts this October 1.

Yes, you read that right. The House and Senate Budget Committees only have one job — to adopt a budget resolution — and this year they are unwilling, incapable or just stomping their feet and refusing to do what the Congressional Budget Act specifically requires of them.

A vote on a budget resolution would either force congressional Republicans to go on record in favor of the bigger-than-life deficits or vote against a budget that authoritatively projects the impact of the tax cuts and spending increases most of them just approved, both of which would be politically problematic. Their third choice -- vote for a budget with greatly reduced deficits because of proposed cuts in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid -- would be even more politically unpalatable. https://www.forbes.com/sites/stancollender/2018/04/22/gop-led-budget-committees-have-just-one-job-and-are-refusing-to-do-it/#2e17df755fb1

7. John Bolton presided over anti-Muslim think tank

 John Bolton, President Donald Trump’s new national security adviser, chaired a nonprofit that has promoted misleading and false anti-Muslim news, some of which was amplified by a Russian troll factory, an NBC News review found.

The group’s authors also appeared on Russian media, including Sputnik and RT News, criticizing mainstream European leaders like French President Emmanuel Macron.

From 2013 until last month, Bolton was chairman of the Gatestone Institute, a New York-based advocacy group that warns of a looming “jihadist takeover” of Europe leading to a “Great White Death.”

The group has published numerous stories and headlines on its website with similar themes. “Germany Confiscating Homes to Use for Migrants,” warned one from May 2017, about a single apartment rental property in Hamburg that had gone into temporary trusteeship. Another from February 2015 claimed the immigrants, for instance Somalis, in Sweden were turning that country into the “Rape Capital of the West." https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/white-house/john-bolton-chaired-anti-muslim-think-tank-n868171

8. The DAILY GRILL

"Wow, we haven't given up anything & they have agreed to denuclearization (so great for World), site closure, & no more testing!" -- Trump on Twitter Sunday about the U.S.-North nuclear negotiations. 

VERSUS

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un  Kim gave no indication he is willing to surrender his current nuclear arsenal, which he views as a bulwark against forcible regime change. -- The Week 

9. From MEDIA MATTERS (They watch Fox News so you don't have to)

Racist Russian propaganda is still going viral on conservative Facebook pages: Media Matters found 24 posts dating back to December 2017 from 11 right-wing pages that contained memes bearing watermarks from Russian troll-run social media accounts. Ten of these posts have earned over 20,000 interactions, with the two most popular crossing 70,000. These 28 posts appear to be Russian propaganda because they contained watermarks of logos from Russian troll-run accounts like South United, most of which pushed racist and anti-immigrant propaganda. https://www.mediamatters.org/blog/2018/04/19/racist-russian-propaganda-still-going-viral-conservative-facebook-pages/220001

NRATV blames President Obama for the Parkland shooting because he didn't put every U.S. student under Secret Service protection. NRATV's Grant Stinchfield to Obama: “Had every child been given the same armed security yours were protected by, there never would have been a Parkland massacre.” https://www.mediamatters.org/video/2018/04/20/nratv-blames-president-obama-parkland-shooting-because-he-didnt-put-every-us-student-under-secret/220010

Fox panel panics over public disapproval of Trump's tax law: "Socialism is back, socialism is now acceptable" Meanwhile, Wall Street banks saved $3.6 billion in taxes under the new law. https://www.mediamatters.org/video/2018/04/20/fox-panel-panics-over-public-disapproval-trumps-tax-law-socialism-back-socialism-now-acceptable/220008

Fox guest Candace Owens: "Police brutality is not an issue that is facing the black community whatsoever."https://www.mediamatters.org/video/2018/04/22/fox-guest-candace-owens-police-brutality-not-issue-facing-black-community-whatsoever/220014

Alex Jones: “The real KKK at the midlevel is a bunch of racist black people who hate black people.” Jones: “Finally Trump tries to build industry in your neighborhoods and the plantation owners, most of them who are black, are shitting their KKK pants.” https://www.mediamatters.org/video/2018/04/24/alex-jones-real-kkk-midlevel-bunch-racist-black-people-who-hate-black-people/220027

10. From the Late Shows

Michael Avenatti | Real Time with Bill Maher (HBO): https://youtu.be/-vYVDPbL_EA

The Late Show with Stephen Colbert: Trump's Cringeworthy Day With Emmanuel Macron: https://youtu.be/nsM-ANBZY2Y

11. Late Night Jokes for Dems

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said today that President Trump has no intention of firing special counsel Robert Mueller. Instead, Trump's plan is to be so guilty of so many things that Mueller just works himself to death. -- Seth Meyers

Two Republican Colorado lawmakers have introduced a bill that would punish teachers with jail time if they go on strike. Hey, these are public schoolteachers. You can't scare them with jail. “So wait, no kids AND there's a place to lie down? Sign me up.” -- Seth Meyers

The president had a busy weekend, or rather his thumbs did, because the leader of the free world tweeted 25 times. I never thought I'd say this, but he should golf more. Trump hit on a variety of subjects, but the one that really seems to have stuck in his craw was a New York Times article called, "Michael Cohen has said he would take a bullet for Trump. Maybe not anymore." Yeah, I don't think he'll take a bullet. At this point, my money is on Russian poisoning. -- Stephen Colbert

The Times believes Cohen might flip because, according to long-time Trump associate Roger Stone, "Donald goes out of his way to treat Cohen like garbage." Yes, Trump treats his friends like garbage — as opposed to his wives, who go into the recycling bin. -- Stephen Colbert

Now, the Times says that "particularly hurtful to Mr. Cohen was the way Mr. Trump lavished approval on Corey Lewandowski in a way he never did for Mr. Cohen." Making it the first time anyone has ever said, "I wish I was more like Corey Lewandowski."-- Stephen Colbert

French President Emmanuel Macron is visiting Trump in Washington. They planted a tree together. Out of habit, after they dug the hole, Trump threw in his tax returns. -- Jimmy Fallon

Over the weekend Trump tweeted about James Comey and Robert Mueller but he misspelled the words "counsel" and "shady." Trump doesn't know the red underline means spell check — he thinks it's his phone telling him that it loves that part of the tweet. -- Jimmy Fallon

According to James Comey's memos, over dinner President Trump vigorously denied that he spent a night in Moscow during the 2013 Miss Universe pageant. Which is weird because all Comey asked him was, "Can you pass the salt?” -- Conan O’Brien

A video of former President Obama making Melania Trump smile has gone viral. It’s historic — the first time a president has brought joy to Melania. -- Conan O’Brien

President Trump tweeted that he may pardon someone because Sylvester Stallone asked him to. The pardon is for the guy who wrote "Rocky V." -- Conan O’Brien

12. The Republican Party is organized around one man

All presidents, Republican and Democrat, seek to remake their party in their own image. Donald Trump has been more successful than most. From the start, the voters he mesmerized in the campaign embraced him more fervently than congressional Republicans were ready to admit. After 15 months in power, as our briefing explains, he has taken ownership of their party. It is an extraordinary achievement from a man who had never lived in Washington, DC, never held public office, who boasted of groping women and who, as recently as 2014, was a donor to the hated Democrats.

“The organizing principle of Mr Trump’s Republican Party is loyalty. Not, as with the best presidents, loyalty to an ideal, a vision or a legislative program, but to just one man—Donald J. Trump—and to the prejudice and rage which consume the voter base that, on occasion, even he struggles to control. In America that is unprecedented and it is dangerous.” https://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21740741-dangerous-republican-party-organised-around-one-man

13. Mitch McConnell plans longer weeks to keep vulnerable Democrats off campaign trail

Marc Short, White House point man for legislative affairs, told a small gathering of Republican donors this week that the majority leader plans to use this tactic in the weeks ahead to squeeze Democrats running for re-election in red states.

This approach could assuage a GOP base that believes Senate Republicans have been too passive in pushing Trump’s nominees past Democratic obstruction. Action on this front could help motivate the party’s committed voters, who are particularly supportive of the president, to turn out in the midterm. https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/news/campaigns/mitch-mcconnell-plans-longer-weeks-to-keep-vulnerable-democrats-off-campaign-trail

14. Trump's "great man" play on North Korea

He came into office thinking he could be the historic deal maker to bring peace to the Middle East. He’s stopped talking about that. There’s very little point. The peace deal looks dead and cremated. But Trump wants to sign his name even larger into the history books, and he views North Korea as his moment.

Sources close to him say he genuinely believes he — and he alone — can overcome the seemingly intractable disaster on the Korean Peninsula.

Said a source who has discussed North Korea with Trump: “He thinks, ‘Just get me in the room with the guy and I’ll figure it out.”

But is aides are much more skeptical, and some believe the idea of meeting with Kim Jong-un is naive and guaranteed to be fruitless. https://www.axios.com/trump-north-korea-kim-jong-un-summit-1f641f39-a162-4311-be7b-c796daa11e67.html

15. Republicans fear political risk in Senate races as House moves to extend tax cuts

“Heading into a contentious campaign for control of Congress, Republicans are increasingly divided over how to bolster their signature legislative achievement — a $1.5 trillion tax cut — amid signs it is not the political gift they had expected it to be last year,” the Washington Post reports.

“House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-WI) aims to pass another massive tax cut this summer, which Republicans hope will rev up the GOP base and improve the standing of Republicans at the polls.”

“But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is under pressure to block a vote, which Republican campaign strategists worry could allow red-state Democrats to vote for additional tax cuts and undermine one of the GOP’s most effective lines of attack in conservative-leaning states: that Democrats voted against a big tax cut last December.” https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/republicans-fear-political-risk-in-senate-races-as-house-moves-to-extend-tax-cuts/2018/04/18/5eb250a4-4313-11e8-ad8f-27a8c409298b_story.html

16. New York Attorney General Seeks to Bypass Pardons

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman of New York is moving to change New York state law so that he and other local prosecutors would have the power to bring criminal charges against aides to President Trump who have been pardoned, according to a letter Mr. Schneiderman sent to the governor and state lawmakers on Wednesday. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/04/18/nyregion/document-Eric-Schneiderman-Letter-to-Lawmakers.html

17. White Evangelical Support for Donald Trump at All-Time High

A new PRRI survey finds white evangelical support for President Trump at an all-time high, with 75 percent holding a favorable view of the president and just 22 percent holding an unfavorable view. This level of support is far above support in the general population, where Trump’s favorability is at 42 percent. https://www.prri.org/spotlight/white-evangelical-support-for-donald-trump-at-all-time-high/

18. Hundreds of Immigrant Children Have Been Taken From Parents at U.S. Border

For months, members of Congress have been demanding answers about how many families are being separated as they are processed at stations along the southwest border, in part because the Trump administration has in the past said it was considering taking children from their parents as a way to deter migrants from coming here.

Officials have repeatedly declined to provide data on how many families have been separated, but suggested that the number was relatively low.

But new data reviewed by The New York Times shows that more than 700 children have been taken from adults claiming to be their parents since October, including more than 100 children under the age of 4. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/20/us/immigrant-children-separation-ice.html

19. Flight Records Illuminate Mystery of Trump's Moscow Nights

President Donald Trump twice gave James Comey an alibi for why a salacious report about the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow couldn’t be true: He never even spent the night in Russia during that trip, Trump told the former FBI director, according to Comey’s memos about the conversations.

Yet the broad timeline of Trump’s stay, stretching from Friday, Nov. 8, 2013, through the following Sunday morning, has been widely reported. And it’s substantiated by social media posts that show he slept in Moscow the night before the Miss Universe contest.

Now, flight records obtained by Bloomberg provide fresh details. Combined with existing accounts and Trump’s own social-media posts, they capture two days that, nearly five years later, loom large in the controversy engulfing the White House and at the heart of the Comey memos, which the Justice Department turned over last week to Congress. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-04-23/flight-records-illuminate-mystery-of-trump-s-moscow-nights

20. Why Trump Is Winning and the Press Is Losing

There is a risk that one third of the electorate will be isolated in an information loop of its own, where Trump becomes the major source of information about Trump, because independent sources are rejected on principle. That has already happened. An authoritarian system is up and running for a portion of the polity. Another way to say this is that before journalists log on in the morning, one third of their potential public is already gone.

There is a risk that journalists could do their job brilliantly, and it won’t really matter, because Trump supporters categorically reject it, Trump opponents already believed it, and the neither-nors aren’t paying close enough attention.  http://www.nybooks.com/daily/2018/04/25/why-trump-is-winning-and-the-press-is-losing/

21. “He Wants To Fight This”: Michael Cohen, Amid Bewildering Stormy Chaos, Is Still Holding Out Hope For Survival

Things have been different since the raid. With no office to occupy, Cohen goes to the gym and restaurants. He watches television and meets with his lawyers. His e-mail signature still reads Michael D. Cohen, Esq., Personal Attorney to President Donald J. Trump. His moods oscillate along with the news cycle and the time of day. “He wants to fight this,” one person familiar with Cohen’s thinking told me over the weekend. “There’s nothing in him that wants to hide or back down.” There are moments when he is convinced that he is collateral damage in the Mueller probe and that he will beat this. There are times when he is overwhelmed by the mounting legal bills he already faces, and how they could balloon if he is indicted. “He is really confused. He doesn’t know what they could charge him with, but he’s on the edge of his seat,” another person familiar with his thinking told me. “I hope it’s sooner rather than later, so that he can stop this wondering. It’s a depressing state.”

It’s a state that is not allowing him much sleep. According to a source familiar with the situation, Cohen broods at night, pacing in his hotel room, worrying about how his legal nightmare is impacting his family. He wonders if there are people within Trump’s orbit who might have wanted to see him go down. https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2018/04/michael-cohen-fight

22. Hannity’s Real Estate Venture Linked to Fraudulent Dealer

Sean Hannity’s real estate venture bought houses through a property dealer who was involved in a criminal conspiracy to fraudulently obtain foreclosed homes, according to records reviewed by the Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/media/2018/apr/24/sean-hannity-real-estate-property-dealer-jeff-brock-fraud-foreclosures

23. Trump’s false claims to Comey about Moscow stay could aid Mueller

A conscious effort by Trump to mislead the FBI director could lend weight to the allegation—contained in a largely unverified private research dossier compiled by a former British spy in 2016—that Trump engaged in compromising activity during the trip that exposed him to Russian government blackmail.

It has also likely caught the eye of special counsel Robert Mueller, legal analysts say. False statements to Comey about the trip could demonstrate that Trump has “consciousness of guilt,” according Pete Zeidenberg, a former federal prosecutor who worked for special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald’s investigation of national security-related leaks during the George W. Bush administration.

That could bolster a legal case against Trump. https://www.politico.com/story/2018/04/23/trump-moscow-overnight-stay-mueller-comey-545834

24. The Russian Troll Factory is Recruiting English-Speaking Journalists to Fight “Political Censorship” After Facebook Ban

Due to the growing political censorship imposed by the United States, there remains less and less of information sources that are not under control of the U.S. authorities. In this regard, U.S. citizens cannot receive objective and independent information about events occurring on the territory of America and throughout the world. -- The Federal News Agency, a pro-Russian website linked to the Internet Research Agency, has been recruiting “English-speaking journalists” to work on its “Wake Up, America!” campaign, according to Shooting the Messenger. https://shootingthemessenger.blog/2018/04/19/the-russian-troll-factory-is-recruiting-english-speaking-journalists-to-fight-political-censorship-after-facebook-ban/

 

OPINION

1. John Cassidy: The G.O.P. Is Bowing and Scraping Its Way to Disaster

Just six House Republicans have summoned up the gumption to support a bill that would grant the special counsel, Robert Mueller, in the event that he is dismissed from his role by Trump and the Justice Department, the right to contest his firing in court. A measly half dozen out of a total of two hundred and thirty-seven Republicans. The entire Republican leadership, including Ryan, insisted that no such bill was necessary.

The explanation is straightforward, of course. Most G.O.P. politicians are still frightened silly of Trump, whose approval rating among Republican voters is eighty-nine per cent, according to a new poll by Marist College/NPR/PBS. Despite the President’s unpopularity in the country at large, most elected Republicans still occupy districts containing larger numbers of Trump supporters. Rather than risk incurring the wrath of these voters, most Republicans are content to bow and scrape to the President, virtually regardless of what he does and says.

But while this supine behavior may make sense on the narrow grounds of short-term self-interest, it is leading the Republican Party as a whole to electoral disaster. Even in a corrupt and gerrymandered political system such as this one, elections are ultimately decided at the margins rather than in the party heartlands. And right now everything indicates that in competitive areas of the country the G.O.P. will be crushed. The disaster, if it comes, will be fully deserved. https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/the-gop-is-bowing-and-scraping-its-way-to-disaster

2. Jeffrey Toobin: The D.N.C.’s Lawsuit Against Russia and the Trump Campaign Isn’t a Bad Idea

Can the Democrats sue their way back into power? Probably not. But a new lawsuit, based on Russian interference in the 2016 Presidential election, suggests the presence of a new fighting spirit in the Party—and provides a chance to make a few important discoveries.

Last week, the Democratic National Committee filed a multimillion-dollar suit against more than a dozen people, entities, and countries (well, one country), charging that “Russia mounted a brazen attack on American democracy” with the goal of “destabilizing the U.S. political environment, denigrating the Democratic presidential nominee, and supporting the campaign of Donald J. Trump, whose policies would benefit the Kremlin.” The defendants in the case include the Russian Federation, Russian military intelligence, the Trump campaign, WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, Paul Manafort, Jared Kushner, Roger Stone, George Papadopoulos, and Donald J. Trump, Jr. The candidate who was the beneficiary of this alleged conspiracy, who is now the President of the United States, is not a defendant—yet.

The complaint, in sixty-six pages, tells a familiar story, largely because it is, at this point, drawn mostly from media reports. Russian interference in the election has become so well known that it is easy to forget a truth that is distilled in the complaint:the intervention was, in significant part, a crime—and one with a clear victim, the D.N.C. itself. As the complaint notes, “Russia’s cyberattack on the DNC began only weeks after Trump announced his candidacy for President of the United States in June of 2015. . . . By June of 2016, Russia had stolen thousands of DNC documents and emails.” The e-mails of John Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, and those of a handful of subordinates were also hacked and disseminated. To date, no person or entity has been held accountable for these crimes. https://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/the-dncs-lawsuit-against-russia-and-the-trump-campaign-isnt-a-bad-idea

3. Paul Waldman: Stormy Daniels is still running circles around President Trump

Let's face it: With the Stormy Daniels story, everybody — those who produce the news and those who consume it — gets to indulge in a bit of harmless prurience. Articles about her are illustrated with shots of her in revealing clothing. Titles of her films are dropped in for comic effect. Respectable people who would never publicly admit to using "incognito" mode on their browsers get the little thrill, conscious or unconscious, of having a serious political discussion that just happens to also be about porn, if only indirectly. It appeals to that part of your brain where the pubescent 13-year-old you once were still resides.

I'm guessing that Stormy Daniels understands that well, how the adult film industry is the subject of both scorn and endless fascination. But she is also executing a brilliant PR strategy, part of which involves spreading the story out enough to keep it alive but not so thinly that people will lose interest. She told the story of the parking lot threat in an interview on 60 Minutesthat aired three weeks ago: "'Leave Trump alone. Forget the story.' And then he leaned around and looked at my daughter and said, 'That's a beautiful little girl. It'd be a shame if something happened to her mom.' And then he was gone." But it's only now that she released the sketch, hooked to another high-profile media appearance. People will naturally now try to find the person in the sketch, which could produce another round of dramatic stories.

At moments like that, the Trump team seems terribly overmatched, frustrated, and put on the defensive by an adult film actress and her lawyer, who are having the time of their lives. Something tells me this isn't the last time we'll see the president rage-tweet about Stormy Daniels. http://theweek.com/articles/768273/stormy-daniels-still-running-circles-around-president-trump

4. Frank Rich: Sean Hannity Will Remain Trump’s Shadow Chief of Staff

If there turns out to be a Michael Cohen dossier proving that it was Hannity and Trump who had urinated on each other in that Moscow Ritz-Carlton bedroom, Hannity’s audience would still remain loyal to him, and Fox News would still remain loyal to its biggest star. The notion that journalistic rules or ethics have any meaning at a Murdoch outfit, or that its audience wants them to apply, is a fantasy. Fox News doesn’t give a damn about press watchdogs and Pulitzers. It cares about money and power. That’s all Hannity cares about too, and, as the Washington Post reported this week, he is delighted to function as Trump’s shadow chief of staff even while posing as an honest broker on television: “Basically he has a desk” in the White House, according to one presidential adviser.

But please, let’s pause a moment to appreciate the sheer farce — and sheer joy — of Monday’s moment in Judge Kimba Wood’s New York courtroom when, to audible gasps, it was revealed that Hannity was Cohen’s mystery client No. 3. Since then, in an apparent desire to convince his family that he is the only Cohen client not involved in paying off a porn star or Playboy model, Hannity has changed his story so many times it’s head-spinning. He has claimed that Cohen has never represented him as a lawyer, and yet argues that he is still entitled to attorney-client privilege because they have occasionally chatted about some legal matters. What legal matters? Not any involving a “third party,” says Hannity. Which in turn gives rise to Jimmy Kimmel’s perfectly logical question, “Maybe Sean Hannity was thinking about suing himself?” http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2018/04/sean-hannity-will-remain-trumps-shadow-chief-of-staff.html

5.  Eugene Robinson: Trump's Foreign Policy Is More Like International Lurching

The Trump administration is succeeding wildly at one thing: sowing utter confusion about its foreign policy.

Perhaps "foreign policy" is the wrong term. "International lurchings" might be more apt. Allies and adversaries alike are having to learn which pronouncements to take seriously, which to ignore and which are likely to be countermanded by presidential tweet.

Trump announces he has accepted an invitation to meet with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, whose nuclear arms and ballistic missiles have provoked a dangerous crisis. No groundwork for such a meeting has been laid, so the president dispatches an envoy on a secret mission to Pyongyang -- not a diplomat but CIA Director Mike Pompeo. Trump couldn't send his secretary of state since, at the moment, he doesn't have one. Pompeo is his nominee for the job.

On Wednesday, the president says he really, truly intends to go through with the meeting -- unless it seems the encounter will not be productive, in which case he won't meet with Kim after all. If there is a meeting but it doesn't seem sufficiently "fruitful," Trump says, "I will respectfully leave the meeting and we'll continue what we're doing or whatever it is that we'll continue, but something will happen."

Got that? "Something will happen." The possible outcomes range from hurt feelings to nuclear war. https://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/
2018/04/20/trumps_foreign_policy_is_more_like_international_lurching_136861.html

6. Bess Levin: Michael Cohen’s Raskolnikovian Nightmare Just Got Even Worse.

There is a saying in Russian, Пья́ному мо́ре по коле́но, which translates to something like, “to a drunk, the sea is only knee-deep.” When you think about it, that’s a pretty fitting way to describe the oceanic mess into which Thomas M. Cooley Law School alumnus Michael Cohen appears to have waded without a life vest or, really, even knowing how to swim. Last year, Cohen told my colleague Emily Jane Foxthat he would “take a bullet” for Donald Trump. Now, in the wake of three simultaneous F.B.I. raids that resulted in investigators carting off his computer, phone, thousands of documents, and a safe-deposit box, virtually all of Trump’s allies seem more worried that Cohen will take whatever deal the Southern District of New York (or, if he’s particularly screwed, even Robert Mueller) has to offer him. “When anybody is faced with spending a long time in jail, they start to re-evaluate their priorities, and cooperation can’t be ruled out,” one Trump ally recently said. Again, that’s a Trump ally.

In the days since the raid, things have only gotten worse for the president and his once-loyal fixer. On Friday, The New York Timessuggested that Trump’s past treatment of Cohen, which Trump ally Roger Stone characterized as “like garbage,” may inspire him to talk. The night prior, Trump’s longtime divorce lawyer, Jay Goldberg, told CNN that Cohen would flip in order to avoid becoming someone’s “wife” in prison. Under investigation for potential wire fraud, bank fraud, and campaign violations, Cohen is facing years in prison, should he decide to take a metaphoric bullet for Trump. So at the moment, the fact that he owes hundreds of thousands of dollars in unpaid taxes related to his taxi company is probably not top of mind. Given that he’s likely going to owe millions in legal fees, however, his deteriorating financial situation is certainly worth mentioning: https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2018/04/michael-cohn-taxi-taxes

7. Joe Scarborough:  It’s becoming clear that Trump won’t run in 2020

It has been nearly three years since Donald Trump descended his faux-gold escalator to announce an improbable run for president, and Republican politicians seem just as baffled by the reality TV star’s future as they were the day he first launched this publicity stunt gone wildly wrong.

It is true that GOP leaders stand silent as President Trump trashes the rule of law, attacks federal judges and declares America’s free press the “enemy of the people.” These lap dogs even remain muzzled as younger Americans are chained to a future of crippling debt. And they shame the memory of the first Republican president — who gave his life ending slavery — by marching alongside a bumbling bigot who labels Hispanics “breeders” and “rapists,” seeks to bar tens of millions of Muslims from entering the country, and defends white supremacy in the ugly aftermath of Charlottesville.

And yet these same morally enfeebled enablers have become muted when asked whether they’ll support their fearless leader’s reelection bid.

While the president and his team of misfit lawyers have reason to tread carefully under stormy legal skies, Republicans on Capitol Hill can relax. It’s becoming clear that Trump will not be running for president in 2020. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/this-emperor-is-running-short-on-clothes/2018/04/20/b243b09a-44c7-11e8-ad8f-27a8c409298b_story.html

8. Jonathan Chait: Trump’s Lawyer Forgets to Pretend He’s Innocent, Also Compares Him to Mobster

Not all of Trump’s supporters feel confident that Cohen will respect the omertà. In a conversation with Trump last Friday, Jay Goldberg, one of Trump’s lawyers, warned the president, “Michael will never stand up [for you]” if charged by the government, according to TheWall Street Journal. But why would Trump have anything to worry about, unless … Trump committed a crime that Cohen knows about?

In an interview with the Journal, Goldberg elucidated his concerns about Cohen’s loyalty and the devastating impact it would have if he cooperated with the government. “The mob was broken by Sammy ‘The Bull’ Gravano caving in out of the prospect of a jail sentence,” Goldberg explained.

Again, this makes a lot of sense as a legal defense strategy for a businessman who has probably done a lot of illegal stuff. But as a public-relations strategy, isn’t Trump’s lawyer supposed to say he believes Cohen is innocent, and would be shocked to learn if he did something wrong, because of course Trump has never engaged in any illegal behavior and would never tolerate it among his employees? He’s probably not supposed to casually liken the president of the United States to the boss of a criminal syndicate. http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2018/04/trumps-lawyer-cohen-forgets-to-pretend-trump-is-innocent.html

9.  Elizabeth Kolbert: How Do You Celebrate Earth Day When Scott Pruitt Is Still at the E.P.A.?

In his relatively brief time in office— Scott Pruitt has headed the E.P.A. for just over a year—he has announced his intention to undo just about every major environmental regulation enacted over the past decade.

Meanwhile, drought conditions, almost certainly exacerbated by climate change, have turned Pruitt’s home state into a tinder box; at least two people have been killed in recent wildfires there. More—much more—of this lies in store in a warming world, and Pruitt bears responsibility for not helping Oklahomans, or anyone else, prepare for the threat. Let him slink back to Oklahoma, on an economy-class fare, and contemplate that. https://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/how-do-you-celebrate-earth-day-when-scott-pruitt-is-still-at-the-epa

10. Paul Waldman: The GOP has finally figured out a 2018 strategy. Her name is Hillary Clinton.

If you're a Republican political consultant, this year you've probably had your clients look into your eyes, fear and desperation on their faces, and ask, "What are we going to do?" It's not an easy question to answer, given that we may be headed for a wave election. The thing about waves is that they push past everything before them, which in a political context means that the characteristics of individual districts and candidates matter less and less as the wave sweeps over.

But Republicans have a plan, in the form of two magic words that will turn the electorate back their way: Hillary Clinton.

You remember her, right? Wrote a book, makes the occasional public appearance, not actually president of the United States, and exceedingly unlikely to destroy your life?

No matter. "With control of Congress up for grabs this fall, the GOP's most powerful players are preparing to spend big on plans to feature Clinton as a central villain in attack ads against vulnerable Democrats nationwide," reports the Associated Press. "We're going to make them own her," says a Republican Party spokesperson.

So get your "Trump That Bitch" T-shirt out from the bottom of the drawer, because it's time to stoke those fires of hate once more. Sometimes it'll just be "My opponent loves Hillary. Well, I say we don't need more Hillary here in West Flurdburt!" At other times, it'll be about defending President Trump. "Nothing's been turned up except that Hillary Clinton is the real guilty party here," says a Senate candidate in Indiana about Robert Mueller's probe. "We don't need to investigate our president, we need to arrest Hillary," says an ad for West Virginia Senate candidate Don Blankenship, who may be the most despicable human being running for office this year. http://theweek.com/articles/769120/gop-finally-figured-2018-strategy-name-hillary-clinton

11. Robert Kuttner:The Great Republican Tax Cut Backfire

In a sublime case of poetic justice, the so-called Tax Cut and Jobs Act is backfiring on the Republicans big time. Most voters are unimpressed, and Republicans themselves are ceasing to emphasize it in their campaign material. 

Republicans are supposed to be for fiscal balance. But when there is an opportunity to deliver trillion-dollar favors for corporations and the rich, deficits are no problem.

Republicans are allegedly for states’ rights. But this law greatly limits the ability of states to make their own choices about taxing and spending.

Republicans are supposed to be for economic efficiency. But this tax bill creates incentives for economically perverse activity, such as stock buybacks and sheer gimmicks such as “pass-through” entities where the point is not to improve the economy, but to merely to give the wealthy a break.

Trump promised to Make America Great Again. This law promotes more offshoring.

The law is such a political loser for Republicans, and the hypocrisy is so ripe, that one has to believe that Republicans sensed this was going to be their last chance for a long while to grab whatever they could. They made few concessions to political realism.

Now, they brace themselves for a long period in the political wilderness, knowing this law has helped to seal their fate. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/opinion-kuttner-republicans-tax-cut_us_5add0678e4b089e33c8945fc

12. John Cassidy: Trump’s History of Lying, from John Barron to @realDonaldTrump

At practically any other time in American history, public confirmation that the occupant of the Oval Office is a serial con man who lied, schemed, and impersonated his way to public prominence would have dominated the news for weeks. These days, though, the media is virtually overwhelmed by the sheer number of Trump stories.

One lesson that Trump seems to have learned early is that, if you are going to make things up, there’s no point underdoing it. When he was running for President, he claimed to be worth more than ten billion dollars, even though most independent analysts reckoned the true figure was less than half that. “Trump has latched onto such fanciful figures not simply because he’s insecure about his wealth but because he knows that pretending he has that kind of money keeps him in the media’s eye and keeps potential business partners interested in him,” Timothy L. O’Brien, the author of a critical 2005 biography of Trump, noted at Bloomberg View on Monday. “It’s all part of the long con.”

A long con, indeed. And a tactic that Trump continues to use. In the past few days alone, the President has claimed that North Korea has already “agreed to denuclearization.” (It hasn’t). He has described his Mar-a-Lago resort as “the Southern White House.” (It’s a Trump enterprise, not a public building.) And he’s said that his poll numbers are the highest ever. (The latest Gallup survey puts his job approval at just thirty-eight per cent.) About the only difference, these days, is that when Trump has a self-serving whopper to spread around, he goes on Twitter and attaches his own name to it. In the age of @realDonaldTrump, there is no longer any need for John Barron. https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/trumps-history-of-lying-from-john-barron-to-realdonaldtrump

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