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Friday, June 09, 2017


While you were busy watching James Comey ...

by Tom Sullivan

... all hell was breaking loose in England. But first Comey.

Former FBI chief James Comey gave stunning testimony under oath yesterday before the Senate Intelligence Committee. He described in detail his conversations with Donald Trump before and after Trump became president, prior to Trump firing him. Comey explained for the first time in his career he felt compelled to document their conversations because of "the nature of the person." That's Comey-speak for saying his lawman's gut told him the president is an unprincipled, manipulative liar. "I was honestly concerned he might lie about the nature of our meeting so I thought it important to document."

The New York Times editorial board describes those encounters as "a clash between the legal principles at the foundation of American democracy, and a venal, self-interested politician who does not recognize, let alone uphold, them."

The Republican response to Comey's testimony reflected Speaker Paul Ryan's: What do you expect? He's a noob. Others chimed in on that theme:

“The Comey memo paints a picture of a political neophyte frustrated with and unaware of the way Washington works,” Matthew Continetti, editor of the Washington Free Beacon, wrote on Twitter. New York Times columnist Ross Douthat offered a variation of this argument: “Trump’s weird behavior re: Comey seems to reflect a man accustomed to being a boss, unprepared to be a president.”
That's their idea of a defense.

There are volumes of commentary on that hearing and what they might mean for the Trump presidency. Not to mention what Comey's closed session in the afternoon might mean for Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, the other notable elephant not in the room. There was clearly more story to tell on Sessions.

But yesterday was also a busy news day outside the Senate hearing room. While we were watching the Comey hearing, Republicans inside the Capitol were busy killing off Dodd-Frank:
The House of Representatives pushed through a bill Thursday that would gut many of the key banking reforms implemented after the financial crisis.

In a primarily partisan vote, the House passed the Financial Creating Hope and Opportunity for Investors, Consumers and Entrepreneurs Act, a highly controversial measure that stands virtually no chance to pass the Senate.

Among the most significant provisions are measures that allow banks to escape heightened regulatory requirements and cut stress tests back from their current annual schedule, while the bill also eviscerates the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
That sets up a showdown with Sen. Elizabeth Warren, the original force behind the bureau. Where Comey chose his words carefully, Warren will forcefully excoriate colleagues who try to dismantle her agency with what Charlie Pierce called the Let's Let The Bankers Steal What's Left Act of 2017.

Proving once again their skill at demolishing things, Republicans in the Senate now have plans to fast-track their version of the American Health Care Act, having first frowned upon the version forwarded by their House brethren. But, Josh Marshall wrote:
The fix seemed to be in when Sen. Cassidy of Louisiana signaled that he was going the direction of the purported ‘GOP moderates’ in the House. Cassidy had been making a big show of how he wouldn’t accept a bill that injured people in various ways. But when Senate GOPs a few days ago rolled out the framework for a bill which was substantively similar to the House bill, Cassidy’s response was more or less: ” Okay, cool.”

The pattern is the same one from the House. The GOP moderates always cave. In this case, Cassidy was the moderate or spoke for them. So he’s signaled what’s coming.
That being Mitch McConnell invoking Rule 14 to bypass the committee process and bum's rush the Obamacare repeal onto the floor for a vote before the July 4th recess. (Your senators are just waiting to hear from you on that. I like e-faxing them, myself. I get a warm feeling knowing a physical piece of paper someone has to handle and log spits out in their offices.)

Across the Atlantic, British Prime Minister Theresa May's Conservatives lost their parliamentary majority. With the vote still coming in last night, exit polls showed an unexpected tilt toward Labour when pundits expected a drubbing. In the snap election called by May three years ahead of schedule, Corbyn's Labour Party picked up 31 seats, in part on the strength of turnout by younger voters. BBC commentators last night called May's decision a political disaster. May had hoped to strengthen her hand ahead of Brexit negotiations, but now faces a hung parliament. (I don't pretend to understand the intricacies of the British system, but there is an explainer here.)

"It will be seen as a triumph for Jeremy Corbyn," YouGov pollster Marcus Roberts told CNN. Bettors are putting odds on Corbyn being the next prime minister, according to Business Insider:
While everyone else was making assumptions, Corbyn’s machine went directly to its core constituency: Young people and former Labour voters who were alienated by Tony Blair. He went direct to them on Facebook and Twitter, gathering audiences that vastly exceed those who watch the BBC or read the Daily Mail. (One million people alone follow his Facebook page.)

And while the newspaper editors inside the Westminster Bubble just assumed that the man wearing a John Lennon hat and riding a bicycle couldn't possibly appeal to ordinary voters, Corbyn's Momentum activists were busy registering new voters.
Turnout by young, disillusioned voters gave a big boost to Corbyn, who was opposed from his ascendance in 2015 as too far left by many in his own party. Business Insider continues:
Corbyn often stood alone. A huge majority of his own MPs voted no confidence in him. The polls — which are based on real voters, after all — painted him as a loser. But he stood firm, and stuck to his principles.
It's a new dawn. The public has had quite enough of austerity and are "voting for hope, hope for the future," Corbyn told supporters upon winning reelection last night.

Corbyn's party ran on this:

Let Democrats inside the Beltway take note.