In his epic Presidents Day Weekend Tweetstorm, which continues into this morning, Trump asserts he never said Russia had nothing to do with meddling in U.S. elections, just that it could’ve also been a bunch of other governments/people, including that 400 lb. hacker sitting on his bed.
But none of that makes any difference anymore: because it is Russia. The Justice Department’s indictment late last week demonstrates that unequivocally. As we previously suggested, the Russian strike was surgical, targeting voters in swing states who were at a tipping point.
While the Justice Department pointedly says there’s no way of determining whether Russia’s efforts had an impact on the outcome of the election, the sabotage operation Special Counsel Mueller’s team depicts is far deeper, better organized, and well-financed than anything we’d been shown before: operating with audacity and a budget of $1.25-million a month. (Even though it’s a legal document, it’s only 37 pages, and a good and necessary read. Which is why we’re linking to it again here).
So the logical question is what’s the President going to do about it?
Beyond blaming (in separate Tweets, some of them more than once): the Russia investigation itself (and Committee Hearings), Hillary, Obama, the F.B.I., Democrats in general, a response by his own National Security Adviser, Oprah, and “leakin’ monster of no control Liddle’ Adam Schiff“? And alleging “they are laughing their assess off in Moscow“?
So far, nothing.
Not even a simple statement condemning Russia. Much less a plan for retaliation, or steps to ensure it doesn’t happen again. Or a decisive move to kick certain people out of the country, while forbidding entry to others (something Trump usually really seems to enjoy doing).
We’re not the only ones who noticed this. Here are some good pieces in the Washington Post, and the New York Times. Or, University of Texas Law Professor Steve Vladeck sums it up succinctly in this Tweet:
Florida Massacre Aftermath
• On Friday we asked for your visions for a way forward on gun control. We received a wide variety of answers and shared Tweets and posts, most of them favoring massive protests by students along with their parents and teachers. But also quite a few that deviated from that. One reader suggested that rather than banning assault weapons we look into violent TV shows and movies, and video games, and rap music, and gang violence, concluding: “Guns haven’t changed folks. We, as a society, have”. Another of our readers shared something we saw around a lot: “Nationwide must be 21…14 day waiting period…restrictions on ammunition…ban AR”, and said: “I have not protested willingly since 1968, but I will willingly march to protect living children.”
• And perhaps not surprisingly, protests have already begun. 17 students staged a “die in” outside the White House this Presidents Day. Several other far bigger actions are in the works in the coming weeks. Mark March 24 and April 20 in your calendars. In addition, organizers are calling for a 17 minute long national school walkout on March 14. 17 a key number in all these protests because it represents the number of people killed in the Florida shooting.
• Meanwhile the President this week will hold what the White House is calling “listening sessions”. Tomorrow he’ll meet with students, Thursday with law enforcement and state officials. This follows a brief visit with victims of the shooting at a Florida hospital Friday. On his way out, he took this ill-advised, but not uncharacteristic photo with hospital staff.
Out of respect, the Hill reports, the President didn’t play golf until Monday.
• According to the White House, Trump is also looking at reviving a bill introduced after the church shooting last year in Texas in which 26 people were killed, that would improve background checks for gun buyers. That bill was co-sponsored by Texas Republican John Cornyn and Connecticut Democrat Chris Murphy. It was also supported by the N.R.A. in the wake of that shooting, when it looked for a brief period like Congress was going to have to do something. Then when it became clear they wouldn’t, it was quietly dropped.
• How about this idea, from Andrew Ross Sorkin in the New York Times: the finance industry, Visa, Mastercard, American Express, and banks and credit card processors as good corporate citizens, stop allowing purchases of assault weapons, bump stocks, etc.? Seem farfetched? According to Sorkin, PayPal, Stripe, Apple Pay and Square already do not allow it. The only problem we see is since it’s not federal law to prohibit it, sellers might find ways around it by labeling the items something else.
• There seems to be a new hashtag emerging for the student protest movement: #menext?
• Finally, one ugly but strong sign the kids speaking out in Florida and elsewhere are having an impact: radical Right wing media is coming after them with smear campaigns. Most specifically, 17-year old outspoken Parkland student David Hogg. He’s been “exposed” as the son of an F.B.I. agent by a site called the Gateway Pundit, which we will not link to. The source of their ‘scoop’: he’s said he’s the son of an F.B.I. agent in public interviews. Apparently the fact that he’s intelligent and well spoken, or should we say “astonishingly articulate” is evidence he’s being coached by the F.B.I. do discredit Trump. The only reason we’re bringing this up is the last far Right theory we reported was making the rounds: that the F.B.I. would’ve stopped the Florida killer if they hadn’t been so gung-ho about “nailing Trump”, was immediately “liked” by Donald Trump Jr., and picked up by the President himself in a weekend Tweet.
The White House Has A Short Memory, It’s Hoping You Do Too
“Bizarro” Trump late last night Tweeted in praise of Mitt Romney, who’s running for Senate in Utah, despite savaging him (and publicly humiliating him) in the past.
Compare and contrast:
Trump’s also called Romney a “fool” and a “joke” and a “dog”.
In response to Trump’s Presidents Day endorsement, Romney said “thank you”.
Meanwhile, we wanted to remind you that a week ago, the Trump Administration was embroiled in 2 major scandals involving top-level personnel (3 if you include payoffs to porn stars and playmates):
- Ex-Staff Secretary Rob Porter who resigned after damning photographic evidence emerged that he beat his ex-wives, and who Trump defended even though the White House was informed of Porter’s past long long ago (which prevented Porter from gaining security clearance). Separately, Utah Republican Senator Orrin Hatch, who used to be Porter’s boss and initially vigorously defended him, sent letters of apology to Porter’s ex-wives, according to the Washington Post’s Erik Wemple.
- And VA Chief David Shulkin, considered one of the “good guys” in the Trump administration, who seems to have caught the same bug as Tom Price, Scott Pruitt and Ryan Zinke, fudging reports to get taxpayers to cover thousands of dollars worth of travel expenses. Only Price, who was on the outs anyway after Congress repeatedly failed to repeal Obamacare under his watch, is gone from Trump’s team.
But now both those stories are quickly fading from sight. And the White House would like to keep it that way.
Pennsylvania Gets Un-Gerrymandered
The State Supreme Court narrowly approved new election districts for Pennsylvania, which will go into effect in time for the 2018 midterm elections unless the Supreme Court blocks it. Republicans will challenge, but it’s considered a long shot, especially since Justice Alito already denied a stay intended to block the districts from being redrawn in the first place.
Here’s the old and new map, side-by-side:
The districts were drawn under the guidance of Stanford Law Professor Nate Persily. He’s an expert in election law, and is familiar with Pennsylvania having previously taught at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. The new districts certainly look more even, and experts say it could mean Democrats more easily winning a couple of more seats, which is why Republicans are challenging it.
As we’ve mentioned, even though Pennsylvania has 800,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans, Republicans control 13 or 18 Congressional districts.