New Peril From North Korea; Republicans Very Close To Handing Trump Big Win On Tax Cuts; And Matt Lauer Fired For “Inappropriate Sexual Behavior”

Trump Presidency May Very Well Be Defined By His Self-Proclaimed Ability To “Handle” North Korea Without Killing Thousands Upon Thousands Of Innocent People

North Korea launched what appears to be its longest-range missile yet. Trump responded by returning to a simple phrase he’s uttered before “we will handle it”.

That was immediately widely interpreted as a threat of unilateral military intervention on the part of the United States.

The missile was the first launched by the North after a 2-month pause, and it was shot almost directly straight up into the air.

Trajectory of latest North Korea missile launch

That’s left scientists to figure out how far it might’ve gone if it was launched at an attack trajectory. The Union of Concerned Scientists, and others, estimate it could’ve hit Washington, DC (although probably not that far if it was actually carrying a heavy nuclear payload).

In a meeting with Trump and Republican leaders at the White House, Defense Secretary James Mattis confirmed this. Watch clip here:

North Korea later stated the missile was a “new type ICBM Hwasong-15”. The BBC provides this chart of the types of missiles the North is now known to possess:

South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo newspaper reports sources in China say to expect North Korea to do another nuclear bomb test fairly soon on the heels of this latest missile test.

The Chaos Report in Korea recently and were surprised to find very little fear or concern on the part of everyday citizens. We’ve been in many places with high risk of sudden violence: Israel, Pakistan, Brazil, and in all those places we got the sense that it was always in the back of people’s minds, but they just found a way to push it aside so they could live their lives anyway. In South Korea we had no such feeling: an attack by the North didn’t seem to be a looming concern at all. We contacted some of our friends their this morning when the story of the launch and Trump’s response broke here. They still seemed similarly nonplussed. For several, our question was actually the first they’d heard of it.

Meanwhile, North Korean “ghost ships” with dead or no sailors continue to wash up on Japanese shores: 4 so far this month. This CNN report speculates North Korea is pressing people with no fishing experience–perhaps young military recruits–onto rickety fishing boats and setting them off into the often very treacherous sea between Korea and Japan.

CNN says it’s likely an effort to combat famine in the country. We think it may be a gruesome sign Trump’s increased economic sanctions on the North are actually working. Because the seafood trade with China and Russia, which is conducted almost exclusively in cash, is one area where sanctions are nearly impossible to enforce.



Tax Cuts: We Hate To Say We Told You So, But We Told You So

Remember yesterday we suggested Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson always gives in? He gave in. So did Bob Corker. Both voted “yes” on moving the Republican tax cut plan out of the Senate Budget Committee. That despite the fact Johnson earlier this week said he would not let the bill out of Committee without “a fix beforehand”. But he hasn’t gotten that “fix” yet and still he voted “yes”.

With that, the plan moves lickety-split to the floor for a full Senate vote probably by the end of this week.

The partial Obamacare repeal that was shoved in at the last minute is likely to stay in, because right now there’s only one Senator that we know of opposing it: Maine’s Susan Collins. And they’re promising her other stuff to make her forget about that.

One remaining hope (for those hoping for the bill not to pass) is that a couple of “deficit hawks” will get a backbone and go against a plan that adds $1.5-trillion dollars in deficit spending. But those in Congress who stood in the way of most economic stimulus President Obama wanted on the grounds that we couldn’t expand the deficit even $1 without equivalent cuts in spending (some of the most recalcitrant being current Budget Chief Mick Mulvaney and Vice President Mike Pence, back when they were in Congress), seem to be more like “deficit lemmings” now. Poised to accept a compromise allowing Congress to raise taxes in 5 years if the tax cuts don’t work out.

Another potential bump in the road is a report Republicans were hoping wouldn’t come out before they vote, but probably will. That’s the Joint Committee on Taxation’s forecast of the bill’s impact, which it now says it’ll have out by tonight.

And yes, there are significant differences between the Senate and House versions of the bill that still need to be hammered out: including terms of tax brackets, when corporate tax cuts kick in, whether the estate tax is eliminated or just made much more favorable for rich people, etc.

But who are we kidding? We’re likely headed toward Trump’s 1st big “win”.  And Republicans’ 1st big validation of not pushing back too hard, even in the face of his disgusting Tweets, statements and behavior.

They’ve learned one very important thing that’s very much to their benefit: Trump doesn’t care very much about policy, except in broad strokes. He’s the “pen in hand” President, which can come in very handy as long as Republicans keep putting stuff on his desk to sign, since he really doesn’t care much care what’s in it, as long as he gets the “win”. Could they really ask for anything more?

Oh, and if you’re sick of hearing him brag about beating Hillary, appointing Neil Gorsuch, etc., just wait til he adds “biggest tax cut in history” to his routine.

And remember when we suggested Trump’s intimate Chinese dinner with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer was just a tactic to light a fire under Republicans’ asses and clear the decks to get tax cuts done by the end of the year? Seems like they weren’t really BFFs after all…



Pelosi And Schumer’s No-Show For Tete-A-Tete With Trump Makes Them Look Bad, Not Him

Now Trump and Republicans seem eager to use their newfound momentum to move on the next fight: the budget, which could shut the government down by early December unless an agreement is reached with Democrats. And Democratic Leadership managed to bungle the first battle by deciding not to show up for a White House meeting after Trump Tweeted nasty at them:

Of course Trump started it, but Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer didn’t have to take the bait. Because they played right into the President’s hands. Now if we’re headed for a government shutdown, for the first time is does kinda look like it’s on them.

Meanwhile, their absence gave Trump the ability to turn the tables. To say–unchallenged–things like: “If it happens I will absolutely blame the Democrats” and “They’ve been all talk and they’ve been no action. And now it’s even worse: now it’s not even talk.” And be at least partly right.

Making it look even worse, the meeting they bailed on came just a few hours after North Korea launched their longest-range missile yet, allowing Trump to suggest Democratic Leadership doesn’t even care about that.

So even the timing of that launch turned out to be propitious for Trump, because it gave him the opportunity to look even tougher at a time when he was trying to look tough.

And of course the White House made the most of it, seating Trump, arms crossed, between two empty chairs with Pelosi and Schumer’s name cards in front, while Ryan and McConnell sat some distance away. As if that’s what the seating chart really would’ve been had they shown…And yes, it allowed self-satisfied Dems to chortle and create a new meme and claim the stunt backfired. Except that doesn’t change the fact it’s still an effective visual.


Trump Wins Battle For Consumer Financial Protection Board Too

A federal judge (who Trump recently appointed) ruling the President has the authority to overrule the outgoing Director of the CFPB and appoint his own Acting Director, who is Trump’s Budget Chief, Mick Mulvaney.

As we mentioned yesterday, the danger here is Trump delays nominating a new director, which would require Senate approval, and instead just lets Mulvaney go to town on dismantling the Board which protects consumers from predatory and fraudulent practices by banks and credit card companies. Trump calls it a “total disaster”.

Mulvaney insists he’s not going to “blow it up”, but at the same time it will be “dramatically different”. You can watch that here:

Mick Mulvaney, Acting Director, CFPB



Foiled Washington Post “Sting” May Be Succeeding After All…

Not in the way the provocateurs at “Project Veritas” intended: but since the Washington Post broke the story of a phony Roy Moore “victim” trying to unsuccessfully con its reporters, all the focus has shifted to that, lifting pressure off Moore himself.

And that’s been helpful to Moore, as a new poll show the Republican candidate for Senate in Alabama regaining some momentum.

That, as we’ve said before, is why we need a photo! (Not that there is a photo of a thirtysomething Roy Moore making time with a teenage girl). But it’s not a total long-shot either. And that would finally put an end to his candidacy.



NBC’s Matt Lauer Fired Early This Morning For “Inappropriate Sexual Behavior”

The sudden announcement coming at the open of this morning’s Today show, which Lauer has anchored for 2 decades. Nothing yet from Lauer. NBC Tweeted this, which includes the on-air announcement: