In Defending His Whitaker Pick, Trump Attempts to Placate Both Republicans and Lawyers

President Trump flew all the way to Paris to (as far as we know) sit in the US Ambassador’s residence rather than attend the World War I remembrance he had flown all that way for. The stated reason was weather — basically some light drizzle in 50 degree temperatures.

I’m reminded that the other most prominent time Trump inexplicably blew off a high profile international event — when he had Ivanka sit in for him at the G-20 in July 2017 — he used the time instead scrambling with aides about how to craft a story about the June 9 meeting.

Given the way the Matt Whitaker appointment is blowing up — on top of persistent questions about the legality of the appointment, stories about the criminal investigation into his firm, (sketchy) claims that the White House knew nothing about his comments or past when they picked him, and additional reports of Whitaker’s radical legal belief, including that states can nullify federal law — I suspect he may similarly be huddled somewhere trying to prevent the Whitaker move from making his plight worse than it already was. (Though he’s demonstrably also working the phones in hopes of squeezing an extra Senate seat out of the process.)

Which is why I’m interested in the two tweets Trump made on the topic last night.

First, while also affirming his qualifications, Trump claimed (falsely) that he didn’t know Whitaker.

Yes, his claims here are narrower than the ones already debunked by his statements on Fox News the last time he tried to install Whitaker. He now admits to knowing Whitaker. But he falsely pretends that Sessions, not the White House, picked Whitaker. And he suggests, incorrectly, that he and others at the White House (including, per the NYT, Don McGahn when he was looking for an attack dog to work Trump’s defense) didn’t have direct contact with Whitaker.

President Trump first noticed Matthew G. Whitaker on CNN in the summer of 2017 and liked what he saw — a partisan defender who insisted there was no collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. So that July, the White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, interviewed Mr. Whitaker about joining the president’s team as a legal attack dog against the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III.


The decision to fire Mr. Sessions and replace him with Mr. Whitaker had been in the works since September, when the president began asking friends and associates if they thought it would be a good idea, according to people familiar with the discussions.

The goal was not unlike the first time the White House considered hiring Mr. Whitaker. As attorney general, he could wind down Mr. Mueller’s inquiry like the president wanted.

Mr. McGahn, for one, was a big proponent of the idea. So was Leonard A. Leo, the executive vice president of the Federalist Society who regularly advises Mr. Trump on judges and other legal matters. Mr. Whitaker had also developed a strong rapport with John F. Kelly, the White House chief of staff. Nick Ayers, Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff, was a fan, too.

A team that has spent over a year claiming intermittently that Robert Mueller has a conflict because he interviewed to be FBI Director the day before he got named Special Counsel has made a guy who interviewed to be part of his defense team Attorney General.

All this creates an overwhelming appearance of a conflict, one DOJ’s ethical advisors — if they get the opportunity — would surely say disqualifies Whitaker from overseeing the Russian investigation.

So Trump, with his first tweet, is making false claims to try to deny these conflicts. It’s an appeal to lawyers — ethics lawyers at DOJ, constitutional lawyers questioning the legality of the appointment, and probably Mueller’s lawyers, who’ve been Hoovering up evidence relating to this latest obstruction of justice. This is the kind of performance tweeting Trump does all the time. It has no legal value — the lawyers he’s trying to influence will instead work with actual evidence — but it might lead his supporters to overlook egregious conflicts.

I’m more interested in his second tweet, posted 12 minutes later, touting that Republicans — most who worked or fought campaigns with him in IA — think highly of him.

Along with selling lawyers a lie, it seems, Trump feels the need to assure fellow Republicans (in the wake of losing many suburban women voters in part because of the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation process) that it will be worth fighting for Whitaker. Sure, Iowa politicians matter for anyone thinking of running for office. It definitely helps that the Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee has driven to all Iowa’s counties with Whitaker.

But the key validator here, of course, is Leonard Leo, who has been pushing Whitaker as part of a defense strategy. That is, Leo is not (yet) pushing Whitaker to be a judge, though I think it likely that’s how he expects to be paid off, which makes Leo’s involvement even more suspect. For now, though, Leo is instead pushing Whitaker to help wind down the Mueller probe.

And Trump wants fellow Republicans, who just got shellacked in the House and may not even extend their advantage in the Senate, to risk political capital to defend Whitaker, all the while blowing up a half century of conservative beliefs about appointments.

Yet, even with these two bids to placate two different audiences about the Whitaker move (and all the related bullshit about not knowing what a hack Whitaker is), Trump simply doesn’t address all the glaring problems with Whitaker, starting with the question about whether the appointment is even legal.

It’s always a mistake to underestimate Trump’s survival ability, and it may be that he’ll find a way to persuade the two audiences he’s trying to reassure that Whitaker is worth the risk.

But these tweets suggest a heavy-handed move he probably imagined would bring him salvation has just added to his headaches.

97 replies
  1. David Lewis says:

    So much that eventually turned what might have been a survivable screw up (Watergate burglary) into jail time for many and certain impeachment and conviction for Nixon if he hadn’t resigned occurred in the first 6 months of 1973.

    Once the trial got underway in Jan 73, Nixon, who won in a landslide, saw his approval rate drop from 67 to 27 by Nov.

    Mark Felt must have loved watching the Nixon boys scrambling around after each “scoop” was revealed to Woodward. Each scoop pushing Nixon into greater and greater legal peril committing crimes to cover up crimes.

    So you say you want Whitaker to be acting AG? “Great idea” says Rosenstein. So he defrauded veterans? You don’t say?

    Time for me to put a flag in the potted plant on my balcony.

    Back then the FBI didn’t have the surveillance capabilities they do now.

    With the Dems in charge of the House, I suspect this deck is stacked against POTUS. He’s drawing against a made hand and he can’t fold.

    The list of names to end the Latin phrase “Et tu …..” will be lo-o-ong.

    • Avattoir says:

      By “trial”, do you mean Congressional hearings? Nixon never faced the Senate in a trial on impeachment by the House. The hearings that dominated TV day after day for months were Congressional committee hearings, House and Senate. I know: I watched I don’t know how many hours of them live.

      • David Lewis says:

        Watergate burglary trial in front of Sirica, DC circuit.

        Possible analog: Trump Org. trial in SDNY…we will see.

        • Avattoir says:

          That trial, as Sirica kept saying through-out, simply posed more questions and otherwise was largely a big nothingburger. But the pressure of those questions coincided with a brand new Congress, eager to exercise oversight, and having a big ol’ platter of Sirica’s questions to draw on.

        • David Lewis says:

          My point about the trial was that when it began Nixon’s approval rating was 67. By November it was 27. There were many other issues in play, of course. As you note- a new Congress which was, well let’s go to the NYTimes of Jan21, 73:
          WASHINGTON, Jan. 21—Senator George McGovern said today that liberals must help to resurrect Congress if the United States is to escape “one‐man rule.”
          Eleven weeks after his own Presidential candidacy was buried in a political landslide and one day after the inauguration of President Nixon for a second term, the Democratic Senator said, “Now is the time for a determined effort to change not the person in the White House, but the powers of the Presidency.”

        • orionATL says:

          “… one day after the inauguration of President Nixon for a second term, senator [mcgovern] said, “Now is the time for a determined effort to change not the person in the White House, but the powers of the Presidency.”

          and here we are 55 years later and we as a nation – our citizen-voters and politicians – have failed to limit the powers of the presidency, in fact, decade by decade, have added enormously to those powers. because of that failure on our parts as citizens and political leaders, we are now burdened with the presidential apotheosis of the illegitimate donald j. trump who, nearly 250 years later, is crowning his presidency with the powers of a george III, which prominently includes attacking our long tradition of “the rule of laws not men” in order to protect his illegitimacy from discovery.

  2. BobCon says:

    Based on a Fresh Air interview with Robert Draper in April about Trump’s tweets that I just got around to hearing, I am guessing neither Trump nor Dan Scavino touched those two tweets. The coherence, lack of caps and weird punctuation, and proper spelling (but particularly the coherence) make me think those are lawyer-written. Dowd supposedly had access to the account before he was out, so this seems pretty likely to me.

    • KG says:

      The problem is, the courts and WH itself already stated anything from trump’s account is official presidential correspondence and communication, so if he lets someone have access to it, it is trump’s word on the record, not his lawyer’s or anyone else’s.

  3. Trip says:

    He’s spending all of his energy polishing a turd.

    Meanwhile, he blames CA for the fires and threatens to pull money (never mind that people died, some lost everything and it may have been sparked by PSE&G wires). He doesn’t bother honoring lost soldiers because he’s too busy polishing a turd and being worried about his hideous hair getting wet (or whatever you call that thing). He’ll condemn those who kneel at football games, but it’s okay for him to travel to Paris, sit his room sucking up fox news vapors or huffing some aide’s bad advice pulled from an ass, and dithering away on twitter while disregarding the ceremonial reverence of lost troops.

    And the cult will still gush and say, “Ain’t he great?”. The GOP, too, won’t say one negative word about the behavior either. This is not a president.

    • Trip says:

      I think the fetishism and worship of the military, in general, is overblown and dangerous, and the flag shouldn’t represent it (or never ending war), instead of ‘the people’. But Trump wants to dictate how other people are supposed to behave in terms of patriotic symbols while he actively shits on them.

      Please, please let the Mueller hammer drop next week.

      • David Lewis says:

        Based on nothing but a guess if a Mueller hammer drops on Trump or his family before the new House is seated that tells me the GOP has decided to drop Trump.

        The SDNY or NY AG are different animals.

        Alternatively, if the Whitaker appointment was the trap (if Trump truly believed he could pull a fast one with some football playing thug against DC veterans- well, that’s just funny) and not part of a longer string thereof things might progress very quickly.

        Been reading the NYTimes Time Machine archive which lets you quickly browse the daily front pages. I cruised through Oct. 72 through Mar 73 and the respect Nixon was accorded until Jan 73 was amazing.

        Sentiment can truly turn on a dime (or a few…dropped, that is).

        • BobCon says:

          What was interesting about the Times’s Watergate coverage is how slow they were to pick up on the scandal. The Washington Post, of course, was on it right away. Walter Cronkite threw his weight against the White House in October 1972. Then, as now, the Times was wilfully blind and focused on Democratic Party struggles until events (and the work of others) forced their hands.

        • General Sternwood says:

          The WSJ story linking Trump more directly to the Enquirer payoffs, and today’s critical FoxNews story about Trump’s not visiting the graves in France (read it — it doesn’t read like a Fox story about Trump at all) make me wonder if, as you put it, the GOP has decided to drop Trump.

          The GOP would much rather see Trump fail for a non-Mueller reason. We can’t expect them to stop trying to suppress Mueller because that would probably do irreparable harm to the party, but if they can pressure him out in some other way, suddenly the Mueller probe might be more manageable because the 2020 stakes have suddenly changed.

        • Avattoir says:

          On Twitter, fearless leader notes that the dum-dummisest of the Free Dumbers, Meadows of NC and Jordan of Ohio, are in Paris with Toad (having flown there with him on AF1, presumably above all rain clouds?). It’s difficult to get into the head of someone as feral as the emotionally stunted & bent TOADUS, but could this because, with the House R Caucus down 30 plus members, the hardest nuts in the hard core FD caucus would be seen – rationally, if such a word can be used in relation to that mob – as key to getting the FreeDumbers to act as enforcers in holding the MAGA-NO line as coming House committee meetings tack – I think inevitably  – towards impeachment?

          Related to this is the ridiculous effort by McConnell to show solidarity with Toad in threatening Dem House members with ‘Senate vengeance’. The next election will have the Senate R Caucus almost as vulnerable as the Senate D Caucus was going into last Tuesday, right now looking to set up some fate worse for them than decimation. Senate majority power doesn’t have anything like the sort of bully power that Toad projected & Turtle trumped up in support, but IAE there’s no way any of the dozen or so most vulnerable members of the Senate R Caucus will want to enter 2020 in target warpaint.

        • Trip says:

          the Free Dumbers, Meadows of NC and Jordan of Ohio, are in Paris with Toad (having flown there with him on AF1, presumably above all rain clouds?).

          Hahaha. You’re a gem. Amazing how Trump made it to the ceremony that included Putin in the same type of weather. Makes me start humming in my head, “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine, you make me happy, when skies are grey…”

    • Jenny says:

      Trip, it takes one turd to know a turd.  We are witnessing the worst of humanity being unearthed.  He is the poster boy for toxicity buried for eons now being exposed.  Exposure is good; however exhausting with this insecure, immature, insensitive and incompetent man.  Bob Woodward said, “His presidency is a projection of his personality.”  Yes, vile, vicious and vindictive.

      • Trip says:

        I wasn’t completely sure by the way this was phrased, when I first read it, if it meant that I was I turd, lol*. If I am, my turdiness no where reaches trump tremendous turdiness.

        * I didn’t actually take it that way.*

  4. tony prost says:

    The House Judiciary Committee will just pick up where Mueller leaves off. All the money comes from the House, anyway. They could fund it by themselves, if Whittacker tries to strangle funds.

  5. greengiant says:

    Regarding Paris, the lunch/dinner date with Vlad will be announced after the fact no? Or was that just more chaos and distraction.

  6. Someguy says:

    If we assume, correctly, that Whitaker is clearly conflicted and that DOJ career ethics employees will certainly take the position that he has to recuse, then that would explain Rosenstein’s profuse complimenting of Whitaker.  He’s happy having Whitaker as AG because he knows that he has to recuse, which means that Rosenstein will remain in charge of overseeing Mueller.  I would think he’d be more concerned about somebody who does not have to recuse coming in, and stripping Rosenstein of his oversight role.

    Of course, that assumes that whatever Whitaker “must” do, he will end up doing.

      • Someguy says:

        You’re right, that’s the problem, but still, there would be much less controversy if Trump had brought in somebody who actually didn’t “have” to recuse.  So I still think that Rosenstein is at least happy that Whitaker is creating huge backlash, because it gives the investigation additional time.  I could see Rosenstein taking the position internally that Whitaker has no legal authority, so continuing to authorize Mueller’s investigatory steps, indictments, etc. as needed.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Predicting that Whitaker will do whatever it takes to protect Trump is the easy part.  It’s not clear whether DoJ ethics lawyers will be asked the right questions so that they could put on record any adverse advice.

      Also not predictable is what the fallout would be when Whitaker rids the king of his meddlesome priest.  It won’t solve most of his criminal problems.  It disperses them, which could make the PR and electoral problems harder to handle.

  7. Marinela says:

    David, regarding: He’s drawing against a made hand and he can’t fold.

    So true, he is all in, and drawing dead, and he knows it. Resigning at this point, may just get him indicted earlier, because you cannot indict a sitting president.

  8. Rusharuse says:

    We are here aren’t we, that place where a President becomes El Presidente. AG sacked and stooge appointed, laws bent and destroyed, constitution shredded. Strangely it doesn’t quite feel like I thought it would, just another “thing” happening followed by another “thing” happening. Conditioning, adaption, acceptance, emotional flatline . . whatever. Two years of outrage takes a toll!

    • Robert Spottswood says:

      Well said!  Thanks for itemizing our inner defenses —

      Cognitive dissonance, compartmentalization, dissociation…..some P.R. flacks really did their homework on what works to promote acceptance and adaptation.

  9. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Trump needs to reassure both these audiences that Trump is worth the political and electoral risk.

    The purpose of appointing a Republican knee-capper like Whitaker is that he is expected to do whatever it takes to protect Trump, rules and norms be damned.  And only a hack would care so little as to disregard them to the extent needed to do that.

    Whitaker appears to fit that role to a T. But will the GOP Senate fall in line, knowing that it is they who will be confronted with the fallout?

  10. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Good bet that Trump arranged his schedule to protect himself rather than attend to his job as president.

    That Trump or his handlers chose “bad weather” as his excuse not to appear at the cemetery for the American war dead is an own goal.  The weather was predictable and mild for November.  Justin Trudeau has already skewered him in his speech.  He ignored an offered umbrella and spoke in the rain to make his point: the war dead the assembled luminaries came to honor died in hails of shrapnel and bullets, not mild 50 degree F. rain.

    The conditions that Trump claimed forced him to miss the event pale when compared to the conditions the men buried in that cemetery lived through and died in.  That will cost him lost credibility, as if that were possible, with his international counterparts.  It will cost him with the military, and by extension, law enforcement.  And it illustrates nicely that the only thing Trump cares about is his own ass.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Maybe what really caused Donald Trump to avoid standing in a mild rain to honor the war dead is that he was standing in line at Le McDonalds, and they kept messing up his order because the staff knew who it was for.

    • Desider says:

      Trump was just worried he’d have another umbrella malfunction. And he stayed in his hotel so he wouldn’t be criticized like Melania for not using hers. Sayeth the Blog Whisperer.

    • Fishmanxxx says:

      Bone spurs kept t out of military duty, rain kept t out of respecting those that fought for his privileged a—. What a truly pathetic leader!

    • Tracy says:

      Earl, you are right, it SHOULD cost him, if it were a Democrat it would be the end (as it would have been many other times, but oh, the double standards for the two parties!!); but I am waiting to see which of Trump’s endless transgressions actually hurts him w/ veterans, and overall his base (i.e. not suburban women – btw, no slight to suburban women – at least a fair bit of the Trumpy and independent ones have awoke from any complacency they may’ve been in w/ a vengeance, just in time, thank heavens – let’s remember that some suburban women have always been woke to this! Just thinking about T’s path to reelection in 2020… I’d feel better if one of his transgressions finally did him some damage and cut into his “base!!”)

    • stephanieb says:

      How can Trump have not a care about these appearances?

      How can we continue to allow his shameful public treatment of people of color?

      How can anyone survive in his personal space?

      How long will it be until someone takes Trump to the mats?!?

    • William Bennett says:

      Only an anti-American lefty would fail to see that what was at risk due to this George Soros bought-and-paid-for “rain” was the Presidential Coiffure itself. A national security issue of the highest order. I have argued all along that it needs its own security force, and yet nothing has been done, thanks to Deep State intransigence. Thank god our quick-witted president saw through the ruse and took steps to protect it himself.

  11. Jenny says:

    My prediction is Trump will resign if/when his children are indicted. Junior has the Russian meeting issue and Eric has the Stormy payment issue. As for Ivanka, she has issues too because she is part of the company. This family has lots of issues in the tissues.

    His children/family are his achilles heel. Underneath all his public machismo and self-assurance is fear. Fear of losing. Cover ups and hiding the truth are his method. His hair is the perfect metaphor for loss, cover up and concealment. “Hidden truths are unspoken lies.”

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Trump will never resign.  He’ll blow the house down first and blame it on the three little pigs.

    • Taxidermist says:

      He’d make Ivanka veep and defect to the motherland before he’d ever resign, and he’s too narcissistic to give up that easy.

    • Bobby Gladd says:

      My concern is that Trump will continue to double down, triple down, quadruple down, etc as long as and by whatever means it takes — all the way up to declaration of Martial Law. His entire life’s M.O. has been nothing but bullshitting and slipping past his obligations and pretty much getting away with it. I’m still just not seeing the GOP stepping up.

      Ya dance wit’ the one what brung ya. He bullies and lies with utter abandon because he simply does not care how absurd it is. He thinks he’s — well — “bulletproof.”

      • David Lewis says:

        a valid and sobering concern…the only saving grace…assuming he hasn’t grown a pair since his days in NY (I was a banker at Chase when Trump was just a NY Prop Developer who went bankrupt). He is ultimately a coward. When the deck is stacked with him he acts tough. Once he went through bankruptcy reorg. he NEVER fought the provisions.

    • Tracy says:

      Me too – if this hasn’t happened already (may be the reason why Trump was exploding to reporters Friday and is holed up with the R caucus this weekend).

      If he hasn’t gotten debriefed yet, I’d think it would be immanent before his mole is out.

  12. DW says:

    Trump, of course, expected Democrats to be grateful to him for firing Jim Comey.  His political crystal ball tends to be somewhat cloudy.

  13. Rusharuse says:

    People (many) are saying Whittaker is actually Trump sans wig and fake tan. No pics exist of the two together, plus experts say evolutionary processes could only conjure one human blancmange per millenia. If true this is the greatest masquerade since Danny Kaye’s ‘Court Jester’ or Elvis in ‘Kissin Cousins’ or Lil Dustan as ‘Tootsie’, even Lindsey Graham’s efforts (any Ol’ Saturday nite) are no match. BIG story, unbelievable story . . stay tuned!

  14. Kevin Finnerty says:

    There’s been a persistent dynamic at play throughout Trump’s entire political ascent: elected republicans are the only ones with the leverage to stop him, but instead they have agreed to participate in a cover up without actually knowing how bad the underlying crimes are. At this point, I think it’s safe to assume that they are on board no matter what. I think the party is so overrun with conspiracy theorists that disclosing the ugly truth will have no effect whatsoever on republican support for Trump. I also think the republican party as a whole is so dependent on anti-democratic tactics to maintain power (voter suppression, gerrymandering, electoral college wins at the expense of popular vote victories) that the party apparatus will fully support some combination of shutting down investigations, issuing pardons, and investigating political opponents as a distraction. If republicans are willing to engage in systematic disenfranchisement to win an election, why wouldn’t they be ok with smashing the Justice Department to keep their hold on power?

    • Tracy says:

      “the republican party as a whole is so dependent on anti-democratic tactics to maintain power” – true!! and how far they feel they will push things remains to be seen – so far, as far as actions to stop corruption and usurption of power, it’s been bottomless, apart from Jeff Flake standing up for a moment re: Kavanaugh – apart from that, nothing, from their whole party.

    • Tracy says:

      Yeah, I just made the comment above that Republicans have done zero meaningful actions to thwart the raw power grab that IS the Republican party these days – they have no policy agenda, apart from tax cuts for the wealthy, and are defined by using all sorts of dirty tricks to stay in power.

  15. Tom says:

    Is it possible that some of President Trump’s recent actions are evidence of the White House Resistance at work (as per the September NYT anonymous opinion piece), not only blocking or sidetracking some of his plans but actively encouraging him to make decisions that are bound to turn out badly for him?    I realize that Trump is stubborn and not prone to accepting advice, and he may have gone ahead and selected Matt Whitaker (looks like his surname has one ‘t’ not two) as acting AG no matter who may have recommended against it.     But if you’re the President, what are you to make of Rod Rosenstein declaring that Whitaker is “a superb choice” for acting AG?   (I can imagine Rosenstein uttering a loud inward “NOT!” after saying those words.)     Do you accept this comment at face value as an expression of the Deputy AG’s loyalty and support, or do you consider whether he might be playing head games with you, and that if Rosenstein thinks that Whitaker is a good choice then there must be something wrong with him (Whitaker) that I, the President, haven’t clued into yet.     Whoever comprises the White House Resistance may decide that, in some situations, the best way to sabotage Trump is to allow him to pursue his own worst instincts and ideas, such as firing Jeff Sessions so precipitously and selecting a entirely unsuitable acting replacement.     The same may hold true for the President’s decision to cancel his visit to the American WW1 military cemetery yesterday.     Did someone advise him:  “Sure, Mr. President, it’s entirely understandable that you would want to avoid getting wet in the rain.   Yes, the American people will understand.”     Of course, the number of people around Trump who are willing to disagree with him has diminished and those that remain have likely become exhausted with this Sisyphean task.

    • David Lewis says:

      I suspect elements of this are at work. Fortunately for us what seems by most accounts to be hard is keeping Trump in line (how difficult it must have been to keep him from lashing out at Prof. Ford those first few days).

      That is, the absence of positive corrections is enough to send him off in dangerous territory.

      From what I hear (not from within the executive branch) Trump has overstayed his welcome. DC is unpleasant when you have friends and some power- it’s downright nasty when you have none of the former and are losing the latter.

      Good catch.

    • Trip says:

      I don’t think it’s proceeding as obviously as you surmise, but the tide may be turning. The McConnell/Murdoch meeting was, no doubt, a huddle for future plots on spin or on cutting him loose. Cocaine Mitch is as evil as they come, and he had no qualms using the ‘blunt object’ as a way to divert attention, and to get support of policy/judges etc, while he checked off his bucket list. He used Trump for his own devises, and if Trump is no longer useful (all of the loses), he’ll dump him beaten and battered by the side of the road. Trump and McConnell are both devious and will stop at nothing for a power grab, but McConnell is much more competent in this arena.

      The sneaking negative Fox “News” stories on Trump will be the big indicator of this direction. If (or when) that happens, I hope no one pretends that the GOP finally found a conscience, because that will not be the motive.

      And I hope the Dems stop with the passive begging of the GOP to do something, because when they (GOP) turn on Trump, it will be for their own benefit only, not the country’s. They shouldn’t get to look like heroes, which will work for them in future elections. The Dems will have to begin to push strongly on their own.

  16. skua says:

    So what steps would Trump take if he wanted to resign and be clear free before the Dems get control of the House?

    Sideline the DoJ?
    Issue pardons?
    Get pardoned?
    Deal with succession?
    Insulate as much wealth as possible from possible fines, seizures and forfeitures?
    Protect his fantastic “legacy”?

  17. David Lewis says:

    Trump, being Trump, is not going to resign. I’d bet on self-harm before that.

    More germane, just as it was with Nixon, is what to do about the VP?

    Pence isn’t a crook like Agnew, which presents problems in that neither would ever be allowed to become POTUS (something both Nixon and Trump know).

    Recalling the late 90s when the Neo-Cons used the impeachment levers against Clinton and got him to dance their way, I wonder if that is the play. But Trump is Trump and he is acting like a wounded animal in a trap at the moment.

    Dangerous game we are all living through.

    • David Lewis says:

      I saw that on Twitter earlier…hours after telling California Forest Mgmt to “Get Smart” he goes all puppy dog on Putin.

      He’ll be in the air from 10:30 thru 5-6 so the Tweets should be coming fast and furious.

  18. Tom says:

    I once suggested on this blog that Trump might defect to Russia if things got too hot for him in the U.S.     Sounds far-fetched, I know, but then there was that two-hour private meeting with Putin in Helsinki, plus the lunch Trump is having with Putin today.   During the mid-term election campaign, I also saw photos of Trump supporters wearing t-shirts with the slogan “I’d rather be a Russian than a Democrat”.     As the President is fond of saying, “We’ll see what happens.”

    • Rajpier says:

      American’s don’t like Slavs.  I know you have never heard this idea, that American’s animus towards Russia is ‘racial’ but it’s true. On the other hand Slavs were never too keen on classic liberalism or liberal democracy if you will.

      Anyway one of Trumps oddities is he loves Slavs, he married one for cripes sake.

      I don’t know where to take this thought, but there is was.

      • Neon Vincent says:

        “[O]ne of Trumps oddities is he loves Slavs, he married one for cripes sake.”

        Worse yet, from that perspective, he’s married *two* of them.  Don’t forget that Ivana is Czech in addition to Melania being Slovenian, both Slavs.

    • Rapier says:

      Americans don’t like Slavs. I am sure you never heard our animus  to Russia is based upon ‘racial’ bias but if you now think about it for awhile it may become plain to you. On the other hand Slavs were never too keen on liberal democracy either.

      At any rate one of Trump’s oddities is that for all his seemingly bottomless wellspring of racial/cultural bias he loves Slavs. He married one for cripes sake.

      I don’t know where to go with this thought but figured I would throw it against the wall.

      • Tom says:

        That’s what I’ve found so surprising about Americans’ generally passive reaction to Russia’s efforts to sabotage the 2016 election, as well as their continuing efforts to hack into the country’s cyber-innards.   I remember the days when the saying was “Better Dead than Red” and I would have thought Russia’s attack on the Presidential election would have been just the thing to spark off those traditional “Don’t Tread on Me!” sentiments among the populace, with picketers outside the Russian embassy and consulate buildings, boycotts of vodka and caviar, and productions of “The Nutcracker” playing to empty houses.    But instead, there has been a collective shrug …

        • cat herder says:

          The White Right in the US have been told for a long time that they are under existential threat from invading immigrant hordes, queers, socialists, welfare queens and big bucks with their free t-bone steaks, etc. They chose an ally based solely on who they think the enemy is. They see the right shade of skin color, hear some propaganda from the potential ally that sounds right, invented the rest in their heads, and they’re sold. You could almost say they fell for a honey pot.

        • Watson says:

          Someone opined ominously that the determining factor in the outcome of the 20th century was that Americans speak English, and in the 21st century it will be that Russians are ‘white’.

          (Let’s hope that’s not the determining factor!)

        • William Bennett says:

          Russia started looking a lot less like the adversary and a lot more like the ideal to those people once it became a right-wing, oligarch-backed thugocracy. A society run for the benefit of billionaire untouchables, where opposition leaders are murdered, government and the religious orthodoxy are aligned, the media are cowed into submission, and liberals and gays (especially the latter) are beaten in the streets–what’s not to like?

    • General Sternwood says:

      So did that lunch happen? I haven’t read about it, but there is this item from Reuters:

      PARIS (Reuters) – Russian President Vladimir Putin talked to his U.S. counterpart Donald Trump in Paris on Sunday, Russian news agencies cited Putin as saying.

      Putin, who attended Armistice commemorations in the French capital, said the conversation was good, RIA reported.

      • Willis Warren says:

        I’d say there’s about three possibilities.  One, it’s being leaked by Manfort’s lawyers to keep him from getting killed.  Two, it’s being leaked by Rudy to keep trump from going nuts and it’s not true.  Three, it’s true (although why would it be leaked?)

        • Tracy says:

          There have been zero signs that Manafort has been cooperating properly. I don’t know what that says or shows, if anything, but ALL indications have reinforced the other side: that Manafort has not yet given up Trump, that he’s still involved in a JDA that includes only people who can mutually benefit (meanwhile other significant cooperators: Cohen, Gates, Flynn, are out), albeit purported by Ghouliani, and some leaker/s.

          I’m very interested in Marcy’s take on all of this!

  19. Trip says:


    Top Obama administration officials have drafted a letter acknowledging their responsibility for initiating U.S. involvement in Yemen’s destructive civil war and calling for the Trump administration to halt America’s role in the conflict.

    • Trip says:

      It’s a bit similar in some ways, you have Cheney, the evil penguin behind the dopey Dubya, and then McConnell and others (including Bolton again with Nazis) behind the tantrum-ing Trump.

      The very same Republicans who eroded America’s moral authority in the 2000s are, staggeringly, being treated as the new guardians of America’s moral authority.

      Um, Speak for yourself Maureen. Some us still hate Bush, Cheney and (Judith Miller BTW) every bit as much as we do Trump, and for cause. Many of us are sick of the whitewashing of their crew on TV.

      • Tracy says:

        Just was listening to the weekly 1A news roundup from NPR (Joshua Johnson) and heard a report about the mass graves uncovered in Iraq outside Mosul, and how devastated and traumatized that country is. US foreign policy has been off the rails for some time now, but nothing has been the same since 9/11 and going in for the Iraq War.

  20. TravisV says:

    John R. Schindler:

    ”An Intelligence Community official who assisted the Special Counsel’s investigation told me this week that Team Mueller is holding “dozens of sealed indictments” of people associated with the president, his 2015-16 campaign, and his administration. “Nobody who’s close to the Russians is getting out of this,” said the IC official. When will those indictments start being unsealed? Watch this space.”

    • Jose says:

      I suspect this is not false, but this sounds like immediate action will be taken: arrests any day now.

      But that doesn’t seem to be the way Mueller and his team have operated: Mueller’s team hasn’t indicted everybody they could. Instead, they have indicted the people they most wanted cooperation from. That is why Roger Stone hasn’t been charged, or Jared Kushner for that matter.

      Now, I’m also not saying they got the kind of cooperation they wanted from all these people. The ABC report on Manafort’s cooperation breaking down probably has like 30-50% odds of being true, assuming all possible sources are equally likely. But still, Mueller seems to have only gone after either the Russians or people he was willing to cut deals with.

      There are many others involved, and so I suspect that until the critical issue of the role of the President has been made into at least a preliminary report, they will refrain from indicting his son, son in law, him(?) or others involved in an American conspiracy to aid and coordinate with the Russians.

  21. Tracy says:

    Just looking at EW twitter feed, and the quotes by Lindsey Graham, re: how he thinks that a new AG will be appointed early next year – I’m thinking more and more that a short-term Whitaker appointment is just long enough to give Trump a clear view into all that Mueller knows, from which he can plan his strategy. He can then appoint a long-term AG who will also be a stooge but not nearly so riddled with conflicts. Whitaker is and has been the mole for a long time now.

  22. Barry Wasserman says:

    I certainly hope Trump does not get away with this latest attempt to obstruct. But looking at it from his perspective, I’d say he made the best choice given the very poor options he faced.  I mean, if  Team Trump’s assessment is the same as expressed here – i.e. that conspiracy indictments of those close to Trump are in the offing, and not merely some final report as I keep reading about elsewhere, then he HAD to do something to try and stop this. Firing Mueller, the option most frequently discussed and worried over publicly, never has made sense to me. This option would create the biggest backlash as it could not be construed as anything other than an assault on the investigation. Furthermore, firing Mueller wouldn’t stop the investigation unless Trump also tried to replace Mueller with some loyalist like Whitaker, and this would increase the backlash tenfold while also being legally suspect.  Firing and replacing Rosenstein with a Whitaker would be a far better option, but better yet would be to convince Sessions to write an undated, half-hearted “resignation” letter, and then appoint a stooge like Whitaker in charge of everything at DOJ.  Of course there are lots of legal and political downsides to going this Sessions/Whitaker route, but as I said, Trump only has poor options to choose from, and doing nothing was looking more and more like the worst option. I think we’re already seeing that the Sessions/Whitaker gambit is no red line for Republicans. Amid the contested elections results, mass murders, and deadly fires, the “resignation” of Sessions is already well off the front page, and Republican officials can plausibly say things like, “The President has the right to have an AG he trusts.”

    Like others here, I sure do hope Mueller has anticipated this well-reasoned chess move and has his own effective counter-moves.

    • Tracy says:

      Yes, and we have yet to know whether and where a red line might exist for Republicans, and my suspicions are increasingly – nowhere, b/c the only way they can win is deviously.

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