Thursday ReadsPosted: January 11, 2018
I finished reading Glenn Simpson’s testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday. Senator Diane Feinstein is a true shero for releasing it to the public. The contrast between the questioning by the Republican and Democratic staffs is truly shocking. The Democrats focused on the Steele dossier itself and the process by which it was produced, and the Republicans spent their time trying to find ways to undermine and smear Steele, Simpson, and his company Fusion GPS.
Brian Buetler at Crooked has a great summary of the testimony and as well as a description of the partisan questioning by Senator Chuck Grassley’s staff:
By my count, over the course of about five hours, Chuck Grassley’s lawyers asked Simpson literally zero questions designed to increase their own understanding of Russian efforts to disrupt the election. They likewise asked no questions aimed at establishing Simpsons’ level of confidence in the information in the dossier, or in documentary evidence he compiled of Trump’s involvement in money laundering and his ties to organized crime.
They spent their hours instead trying without much success to impeach Simpson’s credibility and paint him as a partisan. They were particularly interested in skewing the composition of Simpsons’ client base to make it seem tilted to Democrats (it isn’t), and in getting Simpson to testify that he had a financial interest in triggering an FBI investigation of the Trump campaign (he didn’t). Confronted with the allegation that the Trump campaign was complicit in a criminal plot to sabotage the Clinton campaign, Grassley’s representatives wanted to know why Simpson had the nerve to try to alert the public, through the media.
Grassley doesn’t work for Trump and neither do his aides, but their conduct blends seamlessly into the obstructive behavior Trump and his advisers exhibited during the campaign and after, and thus represents a total abdication of their Constitutional roles. Rather than alert the FBI, as requested, about Russian meddling, the Trump campaign cooperated with Russian hackers, and used their stolen materials to maximum benefit. When the FBI acknowledged the existence of its investigation of the Trump campaign, Trump called it a witch hunt and tried to quash it, along with parallel investigations limping along on Capitol Hill. Grassley’s efforts began where Trump’s left off. The special counsel’s investigation of the Trump campaign continues, so Grassley has devoted himself to proving that it is the fruit of poisonous partisanship. First, they hoped Simpson would melt and confess to being a high-rent version of Roger Stone. When they failed to discredit Simpson, Steele, and the dossier, or to establish that the dossier triggered the FBI’s investigation, Grassley tried to bury the testimony, and then to discredit the dossier by proxy with a baseless accusation that Steele is a criminal.
Trump’s lickspittle propagandists remain as determined as ever to manufacture a scandal out of the nexus between law enforcement and the private investigators who tipped them off, based solely on the identities of the investigators’ clients. Before Feinstein posted Simpson’s testimony, they alleged, without evidence, that Steele’s dossier was the progenitor of the FBI’s Trump investigation. Amid the ruins of that theory, they have unblinkingly adopted the incompatible view that the real outrage is that the FBI tipped its hand to a witness that an investigation was already underway.
Click on the link to read a summary of what questioning by Sen. Feinstein’s staff revealed.
Did you watch that ridiculous “immigration meeting” that Trump held a couple of days ago? The purpose obviously was to demonstrate that Trump is not the raving lunatic described in the book Fire and Fury by Michael Wolff. Then yesterday he had another photo op “cabinet meeting” in which he bragged that he “got great reviews from everybody” on his “performance.” Mediaite reports:
Welcome back to the studio,” Trump said as he began his address from the Cabinet Room. He proceeded to revisit his list of triumphs — as he perceives them — such as the GOP tax reform bill, the stock market’s performance, and jobs creation.
Eventually, Trump bragged about how allowing the media to film his bipartisan immigration negotiations yesterday with several members of Congress. The discussions drew rare praise from his critics and complaints fromhis base. Naturally, Trump was more focused today on the former.
“It was a tremendous meeting, actually. It was reported as incredibly good, and my performance…got great reviews from everybody other than two networks who were phenomenal for about two hours. Then after that they were called by their bosses who said “oh, wait a minute” and unfortunately, a lot of those anchors sent us letters saying that was one of the greatest meetings they’ve ever witnessed.”
Trump also claimed he had received letters from news anchors praising his handling of the immigration discussion. Last night Anderson Cooper had a little fun with that. The Hill: Anderson Cooper mocks Trump’s claim that news anchors sent him letters of praise.
“So fast, it’s almost like it wouldn’t even be humanly possible,” Cooper said.
“Quick question though: Who are these anchors who wrote letters congratulating the president on one of the greatest meetings they’ve ever witnessed, which is a highly believable, totally normal thing that would absolutely happen?”
Cooper joked that letter writing is one of the first things taught in “anchor school.”
He said he did not send the president a letter of congratulations on his meeting.
“Everyone knows when I want to do something totally normal, I send the president one of those big cookies with ‘congratulations on the meeting’ in icing or one of those edible arrangements,” he said.
Cooper added that when CNN asked the White House to back up its claim that Trump received letters of praise for the meeting from anchors, the White House gave the network a list of “two CNN videos and 19 tweets.”
“To be fair, this list does have words on it and those words are actually made up of letters,” the CNN anchor added, “but that’s not generally accepted in reality to mean the same thing as ‘letters of congratulation that anchors sent to the president.'”
Video at The Hill.
What the televised meetings showed was that the “president” is completely clueless about his own supposed policies. He simply agreed with the last person who spoke to him and then had to be bailed out by nervous Republicans who explained tried to explain his positions to him.
The Atlantic: The President Who Doesn’t Understand His Own Positions.
The president was able to garner some positive reviews for his session with congressional leaders on Tuesday—though as one of those reviewers, Peter Baker of The New York Times, acknowledged, “The bar, of course, was historically low given that Democrats and even some Republicans have been describing him as so unstable that he should be removed from office.”
But at the same time—in that Tuesday meeting, over the weekend at Camp David, and on Twitter Thursday morning—Trump has demonstrated that he continues to have no functional grasp of policy, including the putative positions of his administration. He demonstrated this Thursday with regards to the FISA Amendments Act, which Congress is preparing to reauthorize before it expires. But reformers, including libertarian-leaning Republicans like Representative Justin Amash and Senator Rand Paul and Democrats like Representative Zoe Lofgren and Senator Ron Wyden, have sought new privacy safeguards in response to the revelations produced by Edward Snowden.
Here are the conflicting tweets from this morning:
The tweets were two hours apart, so someone in the WH must have explained to Trump that he was disagreeing with his own policy in the first one.
Read more at The Atlantic.
Bradley P. Moss has an interesting piece at Politico on the upcoming interview Trump will have to have with the Special Counsel: This is How Trump’s Lawyers Are Probably Prepping Him for the Mueller Showdown.
First things first: Even putting aside his constitutional title, the president is no ordinary client. He is in his 70s, has a healthy (albeit fragile) ego, and, after decades in the business world, is largely set in his ways about how he likes to do things. He is not a deeply analytical person, and he doesn’t like to get bogged down in details. He will not, for example—no matter how much his lawyers would like him to—be able to replicate the document-specific preparedness Hillary Clinton brought to her marathon, 11-hour congressional testimony concerning the tragedy in Benghazi, Libya. That has not been and will never be who Trump is and trying to prepare him in that manner would be a disservice to him, as it would only irritate and confuse him.
That aside, if the president is going to navigate this interview without stepping on any legal or political land mines, he absolutely must listen to the advice his lawyers are likely giving him and take this seriously….
The stakes are high: I am assuming that Mueller does not primarily intend to use the interview of the president, which he reportedly told Trump’s lawyers on Monday that he was likely to request, as a fact-finding inquiry. (Trump countered on Wednesday that an interview with Mueller “seems unlikely.”) If there are relevant and material facts to be found, Mueller’s team has likely already obtained them through the plethora of subpoenas, interviews and grand jury testimony that have already occurred. Mueller’s objective is more likely to evaluate the president’s demeanor when answering questions, particularly when he’s addressing allegations that he tried on more than one occasion to obstruct the Russia investigation. The president’s motivation—particularly whether he had “corrupt intent”—in taking steps like firing FBI Director James Comey is something that can more easily be extrapolated by observing how Trump explains the context of those actions under pressure from a prosecutor than through a dry review of factual information in and of itself.
This means that the president’s lawyers must prepare him to address any number of potential topics, and also thoroughly coach him on how he will talk about them. They’ll do this with mock interviews. A standard mock session could consist of multiple lawyers jumping in with questions at different times, placing documents in front of Trump and seeking to trip him up on the facts. It would be advisable—although it is debatable whether the president would agree to it—for several mock interview sessions to be conducted before the president sits down with Mueller.
Read the rest at Politico. It’s fascinating. No wonder Trump is freaking out.
I know much more is happening. What stories are you following today?