Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Leaky, Leaky

The latest and most glaring sign of President Donald Trump’s growing isolation in the West Wing is his rift with Jeff Sessions, who prior to taking the helm at the Justice Department served as a critical bridge between Trump and Congress as one of the earliest, most vocal supporters of his presidential campaign.


Trump’s slow-burning fury apparently stems from Sessions’ voluntary recusal from the sprawling federal investigation into Russian interference in the U.S. election, as well as any matters concerning the Trump campaign, according to a bevy of fresh reports from CNN, ABC News, the Washington Post and Politico. The President felt that move was unnecessary, and anonymous sources close to the administration told news outlets that he blames Sessions both for the expansion of the Russia probe and the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller to oversee it.

God forbid he should shoulder any of the responsibility himself having fired Comey.
Trump also lashed out at Sessions’ Justice Department this week, blaming the agency for the “watered down” second iteration of his executive order temporarily barring immigration from a handful of majority-Muslim countries.
Is Sessions going to be fired?
As New York Times reporter Adam Goldman noted on Twitter, Sessions’ resignation would allow Trump to appoint a new attorney general who would not have to recuse themselves from the Russia probe. Mueller, the special counsel, would have to answer to that new appointee.

But the Trump administration has had a difficult time finding candidates interested in attaching themselves to a White House that appears to be in free fall. And confirming a new attorney general in the middle of such a fraught political environment would be no easy task.
Alone in the White House in recent days, President Trump — frustrated and defiant — has been spoiling for a fight, according to his confidants and associates.

Glued even more than usual to the cable news shows that blare from the televisions in his private living quarters, or from the 60-inch flat screen he had installed in his cramped study off the Oval Office, he has fumed about “fake news.” Trump has seethed as his agenda has stalled in Congress and the courts. He has chafed against the pleas for caution from his lawyers and political advisers, tweeting whatever he wants, whenever he wants.

I assume this is why he's gone on a campaign trip to Ohio. He's happy when he's spouting bull to a crowd of his supporters.
Comey’s testimony [before the Senate Intel Committee on Thursday] is a political Super Bowl — with television networks interrupting regular programming to air it, and some Washington offices and bars making plans for special viewings.

Trump is keen to be a participant rather than just another viewer, two senior White House officials said, including the possibility of taking to Twitter to offer acerbic commentary during the hearing.
Which is probably why he's been scheduled to speak at a Christian conference at the same time.
As of now, Trump’s Thursday morning — when Comey is scheduled to start testifying — is open. He plans to deliver a 12:30 p.m. speech at the Faith and Freedom Coalition’s conference in Washington, followed by a 3:30 p.m. meeting with governors and mayors on infrastructure projects.
So, they're smart enough to keep him busy all day. But look out when they finally turn him loose. He'll be trying to catch up on Twitter.
“He’s infuriated at a deep-gut, personal level that the elite media has tolerated [the Russia story] and praised Comey,” former House speaker Newt Gingrich said. “He’s not going to let some guy like that smear him without punching him as hard as he can.”
Not exactly. He'll punch, but it won't be within arms reach. He's scared of Comey. That's why he fired him. And then that highly public and international loss of a bout with Macron. He's got to be feeling deflated. That can make him dangerous, but not to Comey or Macron. They've both called the bully out.
“He’s not going to take an attack by James Comey laying down,” said Roger Stone, a longtime Trump friend and former political adviser. “Trump is a fighter, he’s a brawler and he’s the best counterpuncher in American politics.”
Yeah, we've seen his brawling skills. Real impressive.

Jesus what a lardass.

But I digress.
The West Wing, meanwhile, has taken on an atmosphere of legal uncertainty.


Some staffers nervous about their own personal liability are contemplating hiring lawyers and have become more rigorous about not putting things in text messages or emails that they would not want to be subpoenaed, one person familiar with the situation said.


White House counsel Donald F. McGahn has told staff to hold onto emails, documents and phone records, officials said, a move of caution designed to prepare the staff for future legal requests, should they come. McGahn has specifically advised staffers to avoid what are known as the “burn bags” in the executive branch that are often used to discard papers.
Burn bags?

In the weeks leading up to Comey’s testimony, the White House had privately tried to erect a war room that would handle the communications and legal strategies for responding to the Russia matter. Former Trump campaign aides Corey Lewandowski and David Bossie were in discussions to lead it.

But the plan was scuttled, as with so much else in Trump’s administration, because of internal disagreements, according to multiple officials.
Jesus, they can't even get on the same page. No wonder staff is nervous.
[Marc Kasowitz, Trump’s outside counsel,] whose combative personality mirrors Trump’s, has not found it easy to entice other big-name lawyers with Washington experience to join the cause because many prominent attorneys are reluctant to have him giving them direction and wonder whether he will be able to keep Trump from stumbling, one official said.


Trump’s team is preparing a campaign-style line of attack aimed at undercutting Comey’s reputation.


The Republican National Committee has lined up a roster of surrogates to appear on conservative news stations nationwide to defend Trump. But a list the RNC distributed on Tuesday could hardly be described as star-studded: The names include Bob Paduchik, an RNC co-chair who worked on Trump’s Ohio campaign; Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi (R); and Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge (R).


Some Trump loyalists outside the White House who are preparing to go on television news shows Thursday to defend the president and undermine Comey’s testimony said they have been given no talking points, nor seen any evidence of a strategy taking shape. One such loyalist said external supporters are afraid to coordinate too closely with the White House because they fear they could be accused of obstructing justice.


In the West Wing, people close to the president and junior aides fear that the president’s erratic behavior could have sweeping legal and political consequences, and they are beleaguered by how he has not proved able to concentrate fully on his agenda — this was supposed to be “infrastructure week,” for instance. Many are also resigned to the idea that there is little they can do to moderate or thwart Trump’s moves, so instead they are focused on managing the fallout.

One Republican close to the White House summed up the staff’s mantra as: “Please, don’t, you’re not helping things.”
...but hey, do what you will anyway.

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