A Cascade Of Revelations Shower Down On The President On A Snowy Winter Weekend
That quote above is how Peter Baker in the New York Times describes it. Baker goes on to say:
“The border wall fight is just the preliminary skirmish in this new era of divided government. The real battle has yet to begin.”
Here are a few bullets from us of a few of many things to look for in the coming week:
• Confirmation hearings in the Senate start tomorrow for William Barr, Trump’s choice to permanently replace Jeff Sessions as Attorney General. Barr will be questioned about an apparently unsolicited memo he wrote questioning whether parts of the Mueller investigation may have been “fatally misconceived”. What’s perhaps more significant is with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein expected to leave when Barr moves into the post, that’ll leave no major player who was involved in initiating the Mueller investigation at the Justice Department or F.B.I. except for Robert Mueller himself.
Since only the Senate approves Presidential nominees, the fact that the House is now controlled by Democrats will have zero influence on the outcome of these hearings.
• Dual blockbuster stories in the Times and the Washington Post. The Times reporting the F.B.I. launched a counterintelligence investigation to determine if President Trump was a Russian agent. And the Post reporting Trump was extraordinarily secretive about his one-on-one discussions with Russian President Putin, to the point at which he demanded his interpreter’s notes be turned over to him, presumably so he could destroy them.
Of course, these stories will, and already have cut both ways: Trump supporters (and Trump himself) are arguing this adds to a pile of evidence that the F.B.I. and “Deep State” were out to get him from day one, while to Trump critics it’ll add to a pile of evidence that Putin’s got something on Trump.
We don’t make so much as others have of Trump’s non-denial denial of the Post story during an interview on Fox. When asked point blank by one of his Fox favorites, Jeanine Pirro:
“Are you now or have you ever worked for Russia?”
Trump never said “no”. Instead, he went into a long commentary about how insulting that question is and how horrible the New York Times is. Why did he take that approach instead of saying “no”? Was he caught off guard? Because since when was Trump ever shy about telling a baldfaced lie?
See for yourself. Here’s the clip (click on the photo to watch):
• The government shutdown enters its 24th day today, becoming by far a record. And no new movement there except for a suggestion by Senator Lindsey Graham that Trump could reopen the government while keeping his threat of taking “emergency action” to finance and build his wall in his back pocket. Now why didn’t somebody think of that before? Also, why is it Graham leading this effort and not Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who usually has a lot to say, but on this has been mostly silent and absent? Because Graham plays golf with the President occasionally?
Also a lot of people began asking a question we’ve been asking for weeks: if building the wall is such an emergency, why didn’t Republicans get it funded for the President when they controlled both the House and Senate and absolutely could’ve? The only answer seems to be Trump wanted to create a crisis to greet the new Democrat-controlled house, firing heavy weapons at them from day one. Only so far it’s not working.
• One other story we also thought we’d mention that we’ve seen almost no coverage of in the U.S.: news sources we follow in Asia, seem to think Trump will have a second summit with North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un as early as next month, in Vietnam. Kim recently visited China’s President Xi in Beijing, and Xi is expected to visit North Korea in April. The big problem we see with this is why would Trump meet again with the North Korean leader unless he can come away with something substantive on denuclearization (which may be what Kim and Xi have been discussing)? Generic statements of good-faith and “beautiful letters” only go so far.
• Finally, Trump himself took to Twitter to comment on the substantial snowfall in Washington, D.C. Not to debunk global warming as he’s done in the past, but to wax poetic:
The Washington Post’s Ishaan Tharoor responded snarkily but perhaps appropriately considering Trump also recently Tweeted “I know tech better than anyone”.