The President Holds Kind Of A Wild, Invigorating Event:
An unscripted bipartisan sit-down with Congressional leaders in which he moderated a nearly hour-long conversation, mostly about immigration. The President seemed to be intent on accomplishing two things: showing compassion, and showing he could be incisive and lead a meeting. Did he accomplish this? Depends who you ask. The Washington Post says he failed miserably. While the BBC seemed pleasantly surprised.
We watched the entire thing and think it falls somewhere in between. Trump proved he’s capable of carrying on a somewhat substantive conversation, and listening, a little. He did need some guidance at times, including in the clip we’ve linked to below, where House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy appears to be “mansplaining” the history of immigration reform in this country to Democratic Senator Diane Feinstein, who’s been in Congress more than a decade longer than he has. But really, he’s explaining it to Trump.
We do think the New York Times headline: “Trump Appears to Endorse Path to Citizenship for Millions of Immigrants” vastly overstates what Trump indicated. Yes, the President does say he’d like to see broad immigration reform after Congress first reaches agreement on DACA. That’s the now-ended program that allowed the children of undocumented immigrants to stay in the U.S., since many of them have been here since they were children. And he says once DACA is done, a comprehensive immigration package would not be “that complicated”. (Which it will be.) Does all this sound familiar?
How about this? The President: “I think what we’re all saying is we’ll do DACA, and we can certainly start comprehensive immigration reform the following afternoon: we’ll take an hour off, and then we’ll start.”
By later in the day Trump’s backtracked a bit, Tweeting to clarify that his “wall” is the price Democrats are going to have to pay to get just DACA, not a broader immigration package.
Meanwhile, late last night a federal judge in California ruled Trump can’t end DACA anyway. At least not until legal challenges work their way through the courts. Under Trump’s action to rescind DACA (which if you remember, was actually announced by Attorney General Jeff Sessions), anyone with protection that expired after March 5th of this year would not be eligible to renew. Under the judge’s just-issued injunction, anybody who was covered by the program on the day Trump/Sessions announced they were ending it, can still renew. The suit leading to the ruling was brought by the Attorney General of California, along with Attorneys General from a handful of other states. California by far has the largest number of immigrants covered under DACA, more than 200,000.
The Justice Department has not yet responded. It’s very likely it’ll do what it did with the travel ban: get it before the Supreme Court as quickly as possible, and try to get a ruling from the Supreme Court to meanwhile support the President’s action.
Meanwhile, The Trump Administration Pushes Ahead With Its Otherwise Dastardly Agenda
• Remember Trump’s plan we told you about last week to sell offshore oil leases in places where drilling hasn’t been allowed in years? Well, Florida’s off the hook, at least for now. After meeting with its Republican Governor Rick Scott, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said not to worry; won’t be drilling there. Scott is likely to be running for Senate later this year, and can now put on his resume that he “saved” Florida from offshore oil rigs. Think California will be extended the same courtesy? And while the Trump Administration won’t sell oil leases off Florida, they will still move ahead with feasibility studies. Would that be just in case a Democrat wins and they suddenly feel the need to punish somebody?
• The Washington Examiner reports the Environmental Protection Agency has cut its staff to the lowest number since President Reagan was in office, and is well on its way to a goal of nearly halving it. Right now, the EPA has just over 14,000 employees. Through retirements and buyouts Administrator Scott Pruitt expects to get that number below 8,000 by the end of 2021. Turns out getting people to leave is not a problem if you offer them some cash and make their work something they really don’t want to do.
• And Reuters reports the head of refugee admissions at the State Department has been “temporarily reassigned”. Lawrence Bartlett has been moved over to the part of the State Department that handles Freedom of Information requests. Trump’s been aggressively advocating and enacting a sharp reduction in the number of refugees admitted every year.
Anti-Globalist, Anti-Elitist Trump Will Travel To The Most Globalist, Elitist Place On Earth
Trump will make an appearance in the snake pit of globalism, more commonly known as the World Economic Forum, even more commonly known as “Davos”.
That refers to the ski resort in Switzerland where the annual conference of bankers, economists, financiers and just general super-rich people is held. It starts in 2 weeks. As Politico points out, Davos was featured prominently, and negatively in the “closing ad” of Trump’s Presidential campaign, which featured global financier George Soros speaking there.
No U.S. President has attended the conference since Bill Clinton did 20 years ago. Although China’s President Xi attended last year, which might help explain Trump’s decision.
Although we feel this is actually a good move for Trump, whatever message he brings, it hardly fits with his obsessive playing to his base. But then again, neither does hanging out at Mar-A-Lago, and that hasn’t seemed to hurt him with his supporters.
Also, if you haven’t noticed, Trump really seems to love shmoozing with the global elite, even if he doesn’t exactly favor their politics or haunts. Remember how he just kinda hung out for days at the U.N. General Assembly? We still have yet to see Trump look happier or more pleased with himself…
A Confusing, But Potentially Very Significant Story Concerning The Infamous “Trump Dossier”
Senator Diane Feinstein, the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee took the highly unusual step of unilaterally releasing a transcript of closed-door testimony by Glenn Simpson, one of the founders of the firm that put out the dossier. That’s after the Committee’s Republican Chairman Chuck Grassley last week made a criminal referral to the Justice Department to investigate the person who compiled it, Michael Steele.
Republicans have been increasingly using the dossier as a foil to Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. They argue the FBI relied on it too heavily in its decision to launch an investigation into Trump-Russia ties. The people behind the dossier say the FBI had several other leads.
Trump has frequently Tweeted about the dossier (often quoting Fox & Friends about it). In one single Tweet he managed to call it “bogus”, “tainted” and “garbage”!
Court Strikes Down North Carolina’s Gerrymandered Election Districts
A panel of 3 federal judges says North Carolina’s 2016 electoral map is a no-go for this year’s Congressional elections, and it’s given state legislators just 2 weeks to redraw it, or have it redrawn for them.
It’s likely they won’t, and instead appeal the decision, which would likely to go to the Supreme Court. In the meantime, they are likely to ask for a stay, which would probably keep the current districts in place for 2018 (sorry!)
The Supreme Court is already considering 2 similar cases. So far, the Supreme Court has ruled against gerrymandering on the basis of racial discrimination, but never when it was proven to be undertaken purely for partisan political gain.
Bannon Out At Brietbart
This should surprise nobody… While we seldom link to Breitbart, they covered it in the milquetoasty-ish way possible, even finding a (relatively) flattering photo of Bannon (below), in his trademark outfit of 2 shirts and a rumpled, possibly stained blazer.
He’s already been abandoned by his main benefactors, the Mercer family, who also happen to be a big shareholder in the Radical right-wing news service.
Of course the obvious cause being his decision to, in effect, let Michael Wolff ghost-write Bannon’s White House memoir.
Though as we’ve argued previously, we also think Bannon’s magnificent hubris on display in the Alabama special Senate election had more to do with his ouster than it’s getting credit for. He was so sure his candidate, Roy Moore, was going to win Alabama. And that victory would springboard him into the Supreme Leadership position of the most powerful faction in the Republican party. Bannon, a former Navy officer, dreamed he’d operate like Admiral Nimitz’ unstoppable Pacific Fleet, with or without Trump.
So what next? We’re not entirely facetious when we ask will CNN bring Bannon on as a commentator a la Corey Lewandowski?
California Continues To Be Devastated By Severe Weather
This time it’s not fire, it’s rain. With parts of the state hit with record single day rainfall totals, leading to mudslides. At least 13 people have been killed in the area between Santa Barbara and Los Angeles. Thousands have been evacuated. There were also dramatic rescues. The rains have now moved on.