The President Spends Weekend At Mar-a-Lago, Reflecting. Here’s His Key Tweet So Far:
- “The memo” has nothing to do with “Collusion” or “Obstruction” on the part of Trump and his team, or Russians. It has nothing to do with that at all. Not one bit.
- “Looking endlessly and finding NOTHING?” How about 4 indictments and 2 guilty pleas? So far…
And that’s just scratching the surface. Politico has an extremely comprehensive, scholarly piece about why “the memo” itself “makes no sense”, much less Trump’s assertions about its significance.
But none of that matters. This is no longer about content; never really was. It’s all about messaging. And that’s all on Trump. The validity and lasting importance of the memo will now be completely determined by how good the President is at promoting a pet conspiracy theory: that agents in the F.B.I. and Justice Department are dead set on doing him in. And “the memo”, Trump will argue, provides firm documentation of that.
Of course that same F.B.I. announced it was reopening the investigation into Hillary’s emails 10 days before the election, providing the “October surprise” that helped Trump win.
But don’t underestimate the President: this is one thing he’s very good at, so it could work, at least to some degree.
Especially if we keep in mind very few people are going to take the time to read “the memo” prepared by Devin Nunes, Chair of the House Intelligence Committee, even though it’s only 4 pages long (here’s a link to it, if you haven’t read it yet). So they’re not going to know what’s actually in it. And what’s actually in it is very little that we didn’t know about already. And nothing that refutes in any way the validity of the Russia investigation itself, or alleges any misdeeds on the part of Special Counsel Mueller in conducting the investigation.
It only addresses what it characterizes as a potentially questionable partly Hillary-funded document (the so-called “Steele dossier”) which at least in part may have been used to justify surveillance of Trump campaign associate Carter Page.
Even some Trump supporters and Republican leaders (for instance former Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci, appearing on Bill Maher’s HBO show) attempted to shift significance from the contents of “the memo” itself to a broader picture it supposedly paints of the maleficent “spirit” in which the F.B.I. and Justice Department are conducting the Russia investigation.
We did get through the weekend with no firings or resignations, which is a good thing. But this thing is far from over.
Democrats Push To Get Their “Rebuttal” Released; They Shouldn’t…
“The Memo” is such an underwhelming document that the continued energy Democratic leadership is expending on getting their response released is unnecessary. They should just leave “the memo” alone to sit out there by itself, just a piece of paper flapping in the wind…
By insisting on a public rebuttal, they are in fact adding an air of legitimacy to “the memo”, which is exactly the opposite of what they are trying to accomplish. Because after all, a rebuttal is a tacit acknowledgement that there is something substantial to rebut. In addition, since “the memo” was such a dud, the rebuttal is likely to be pretty lackluster itself.
Which is why we’re guessing the Republican-controlled House Intelligence Committee will now agree to release the rebuttal. They’ll probably vote on it today.
Democrats could’ve played this much better by complaining their rebuttal’s being blocked, but then not doing anything to get it released. That would make it look like Republicans on the Committee have got something to hide.
In short: fight conspiracy theory with conspiracy theory.
Government Could Shut Down Again Next Weekend
The last “Continuing Resolution” to keep the government running runs out at the end of this week, with no budget agreement in sight. The most likely outcome: another extension, the 5th so far.
Do Republicans have anything up their sleeve to make Democrats look bad if they don’t go along with it? You bet they do.
Last time, Republicans wrapped a 6-year extension of a health program for children in with their temporary measure to make it harder for Democrats to oppose it. This time it’s a long-standing Community Health Program that’s already run out of funding.
And what about DACA? Debate over the fate of undocumented immigrants who have been here since children seems to have been partly unhitched from the Continuing Resolutions. But that doesn’t change the more firm deadline in early March, when DACA protections start running out. Republican Senator John McCain and Democrat Chris Coons are expected today to introduce new bipartisan immigration legislation, without “Trump’s wall” attached. Under their proposal, DACA would be extended in exchange for a study of how best to accomplish enhanced security along the Southern border. Doesn’t seem likely Trump would go for it…
Some Other Things To Watch For This Week
• Vice-President Mike Pence will be in Pyongchang, South Korea late this week for the opening of the Winter Olympics, with a stated goal of, in effect, disrupting the games. The Guardian reporting the Vice-President’s intent will be to prevent North Korea from “hijacking” the Olympics. In service of that goal, the Washington Post reports Pence will bring Fred Warmbier along with him on the trip. He’s the father of Otto Warmbier, the college student who was arrested for stealing a banner from a North Korean hotel, sentenced to hard labor, then suddenly returned to the U.S. last year in horrific physical condition, shortly after which he died. Trump featured Warmbier’s parents during his State of the Union address last week.
A surprising level of cooperation between South and North Korea has emerged ahead of the games, paving the way for North Korean participation and both Koreas marching under a single flag.
Meanwhile, North Korea is set to stage a huge military parade involving tens of thousands of troops a day before the opening ceremony at the Olympics.
• The New York Times reports payday lending companies are really looking forward to their industry’s annual conference at a Trump resort outside Miami. What they’ll be celebrating is relaxed regulations on their business since Trump’s Budget Director, Mick Mulvaney took over the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. One of Mulvaney’s first moves? Ending a CFPB case against payday lenders in Kansas who were accused of charging interest of nearly 1,000%.
• Jerome Powell will be sworn in today as the Chair of the Federal Reserve, taking over from outgoing Chief Janet Yellen. Once a critic of Yellen, Trump’s had only nice things to say about her since assuming the Presidency, but didn’t reappoint her because he said he wanted to make “his own mark” on the Central Bank.
Powell got an unwelcome “welcoming gift” Friday in the form of a 666 point drop in the Dow Jones Industrial average, mainly on the fear of rising inflation, probably caused by all the extra dollars pumped into an already robust economy by Trump/Republican’s recent tax law. While Powell likely won’t be, the President seems very sensitive to day-to-day gyrations in the market, and has given himself a lot of credit for the overall strong rise in stocks over the past year. It’ll be interesting to see if the President will try to intervene in the Fed’s day-to-day business should there be a sustained market decline.
• And do keep an eye on the stock market. Because Trump is. And what the market does could shape a lot of the President’s near-term moves. Although we agree the primary reason for Friday’s huge plunge was looming inflation, and reports the Treasury might have to borrow as much as $1-trillion this year, just as interest rates are going up, an 84% increase over last year, it’s possible the sharpness of the decline also had something to do with the looming Constitutional crisis that might be caused by Trump taking some rash action as a result of “the memo”.
While this may seem a bit far-fetched, we believe that a speedy recovery and more big increases in stock prices could embolden the President to take more drastic actions on a wide range of issues both domestic and international, while a sustained slump could prove more effective at reining Trump in than any person or outside influence.