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Wednesday, May 23, 2018

At least they aren't going to ignore it

by digby

Apparently, the Democrats have been trying to find the right way to address the Mueller investigation in the election. Lo and behold, they found one:

The report found that when presented with two arguments — one that the year-old investigation should be ended and another that the multitude of indictments is proof it should continue — 59 percent of the public (and 63 percent of independents) side with the argument that the probe should keep going.

That’s a far better result for Democrats than other messages tested, including that ending the investigation would let the Russians win after interfering with the last presidential election and that an experienced official such as Mueller deserved to finish the investigation.

The only message that tested better was arguing that nobody, including the president of the United States, was above the law: 63 percent of the public sided with that argument, including 64 percent of independents.

It’s less convincing to counter that ending the investigation would encourage more Russian meddling, or to simply appeal to the credentials of the investigator, special counsel Robert Mueller, the report found.

The special counsel’s investigation has thus far yielded charges against 22 people or companies, including former Trump campaign Chairman Paul Manafort.


But congressional Republicans fare even worse in the public’s view: Just 16 percent of people think GOP lawmakers have handled Mueller’s probe into Trump well, while 58 percent said they have not handled it well.

Overall, only 27 percent of Americans say they approve of the job congressional Republicans are doing to hold the Trump Administration accountable, compared to 53 percent who disapprove.

Asked what concerned them the most about congressional Republicans response to the Mueller probe, 47 percent of people said it was “putting politics over country.”

It should be obvious to anyone that the Trump Tower meeting and the hiring of Paul Manafort show that Trump's judgment was, at best, seriously impaired when it came to the Russian interference. But I understand that this is complicated. I get lost in the arcana too. But it's a very serious. And the Democrats have to find a way to inform the public about this not just because it politically useful but because it's important.

A tiny bit of hope

by digby

I don't know what to make of this, but perhaps it will give you something to hope for:

Just 36 percent of voters say they would vote for Trump over a generic Democratic candidate in 2020, compared with 44 percent who would pick the Democrat, the poll shows. One in five voters, 20 percent, are undecided.

Trump has trouble on the homefront, too. Despite the conventional wisdom that the president is wildly popular with the GOP base, the poll also shows a desire among a healthy slice of Republicans — though a distinct minority — for a challenger to run against Trump for the nomination.

Sounds good, right? Well....

While the poll suggests Trump is being buffeted on all sides, he may be stronger than the data suggest. On Election Day 2016, only 38 percent of voters had a favorable opinion of the then-GOP candidate, according to exit polls. More than three in five voters, 61 percent, said he wasn’t qualified to be president.

Obviously, it's way to early to judge anything about 2020. And the Democrat who runs against him will get such a full Trump going-over that he or she will be unrecognizable by the time it's all over. Still, there's a slight glimmer of hope that despite a roaring economy only 36 percent of Americans say they would vote for this lunatic again.

That 36 percent, though. They seem to be in charge at the moment for reasons that don't really make much sense.


Stats on women leaders in America

by digby

... are not as encouraging as we might hope:

The number of women leading the largest companies has always been small. This year, it got 25 percent smaller.

The reversal is leading to a search beyond the usual explanations for why women don’t become chief executives — things like not being competitive enough, failing to chase opportunities for promotion and choosing work-life balance over high-powered jobs.

That’s because evidence shows that the obstacles for female executives aren’t just because of their individual choices. There are larger forces at work, experts say, rooted in biases against women in power, mothers who work or leaders who don’t fit the mold of the people who led before them.

For many years, it seemed like the share of women at the top of corporate America would slowly increase over time. The number of women leading companies in the Fortune 500 had grown to 6.4 percent last year, an all-time high, from 2.6 percent a decade earlier.

But this year, the number of female chief executives declined 25 percent, according toFortune’s 2018 list, which was published Monday. There are now 24 women, down from 32. Twelve left their jobs — most recently, Denise Morrison of Campbell Soup Company, who abruptly announced her retirement Friday — and four joined the list.

Women in business start out equal to men in terms of jobs and pay. But at each level, they disappear. Only 22 percent of women are senior vice presidents, according to the annual Women in the Workplace study by Lean In and McKinsey. The drop-off starts with the first promotion to management: Women are 18 percent less likely to be promoted to manager than their male peers.[...]

here don’t appear to be gender differences in leadership ability, either. A recent analysis of 2,600 executives found that men and women did not differ on multiple areas that were assessed, including interpersonal, analytical and managerial skills and general ability. Yet comparing women and men with similar skills and talents, women were much less likely to become chief executives.

One reason, other studies have shown, is that we unconsciously assume good leaders are male, and we have mixed feelings about women who have successful careers.

The typical chief executive is six feet tall with a deep voice — a typical woman doesn’t match the image. In an experiment, respondents said someone named Eric who offered new ideas was a natural leader, while someone named Erica who offered the same ideas was not.

Female business school students who were single reported that they wanted lower salaries and shorter work hours when they expected classmates, particularly single men, to see their answers, according to a study last fall in the American Economic Review.
These biases against ambitious women affect how managers treat women at work.

Men are seen as having leadership qualities like gravitas, while women are seen as having supporting-role qualities like dependability. When women ask for promotions or raises, they’re more likely to be called bossy or aggressive, found Lean In and McKinsey. Men are more likely to get them without asking.

“It’s all about the culture of organizations and the broader cultural attitudes toward women, and the difficulty all of us have, research would suggest, really respecting a woman in a position of authority,” Ms. Ely said.

It also notes that #MeToo is likely having a backlash effect of making the men who still run things less likely to want to hire and mentor younger women which is undoubtedly an effect, at least in the short term, until they realize that if they don't act like assholes, it will all be fine.

I have had the discussion many times int he past year and a half about whether this country is going to elect a woman president any time soon. Virtually everyone I know insists that it's not just possible it's a shoe-in, probably in 2020.

I always think of these statistics about female CEOs and wonder if that's actually true. I think I'm more pessimistic than most, although I sincerely hope I'm wrong. I confess I didn't see a reduction in their numbers coming, though.

The making of Spyghazi

by digby

GQ unraveled how the latest stupid BizarroWorld "scandal" unfolded:

The plot goes like this: During the summer of 2016, on the clandestine orders of then-President Obama, the FBI and CIA hatched an ambitious plan to topple the Trump campaign from the inside. In a scandal of unprecedented scope, Democratic politicians commandeered American counterintelligence resources to spy on their primary political opponent and boost Hillary Clinton's chances at winning the election. The Russia investigation that has dominated headlines for nearly two years is, in fact, a desperate smokescreen conjured up by terrified Deep State actors to conceal evidence of their own wrongdoing, and to frame the president for heinous crimes he didn't commit.

On May 8, the Washington Post reported on the White House's decision to back the Justice Department's withholding of information from House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes, on the grounds that disclosure would expose the identity of "a U.S. citizen who has provided information to the FBI and CIA." The authors added, though, that the individual had been a source of information used by the special counsel's office—and that it was unclear whether Trump knew this "key fact" when his administration chose to side with law enforcement.

It didn't take long for him to find out. Almost immediately, the right-wing media ecosystem began laundering and repackaging this news item, weaving its constituent elements together with Trumpian talking points until a full-blown conspiracy theory worthy of the president's tweets emerged on the other side. This metamorphosis is what would happen if a word cloud sourced from a Trump rally were used in a giant game of telephone—but one in which the gibberish end result were then broadcast as news to hundreds of millions of recipients.

How did this happen?

May 10

Two days after the initial report, citing to "the Washington Post's unnamed law-enforcement leakers," the Wall Street Journal publishes an analysis by conservative commentator Kim Strassel. "[W]e might take this to mean that the FBI secretly had a person on the payroll who used his or her non-FBI credentials to interact in some capacity with the Trump campaign." Such a development, she writes, "would amount to spying, and it is hugely disconcerting." Strassel continues (all emphasis mine):
[W]hen precisely was this human source operating? Because if it was prior to that infamous Papadopoulos tip, then the FBI isn’t being straight. It would mean the bureau was spying on the Trump campaign prior to that moment. And that in turn would mean that the FBI had been spurred to act on the basis of something other than a junior campaign aide’s loose lips.
This is at once cautious and bold, introducing the salacious vocabulary of espionage to a detail about an intelligence source—but only, she clarifies, if the allegations are true. Strassel does not offer a reason for entertaining her hypothetical, other than her characterization of the players' accounts of the investigation as "suspiciously vague." She is, in the classic style of well-compensated public intellectuals filling up column inches, just asking questions.

That night, other journalists are happy to offer answers. On Sean Hannity's Fox News show, conservative journalist Sara Carter, citing Strassel, tells listeners of “concern that the FBI actually had a spy within the Trump campaign.” Hannity is dumbfounded: “What? What?” he splutters. "Yes," says Carter. Blogs like Gateway Pundit kick off the breathless hyperbole category. "Now we know why the Deep State has been working so hard to take down President Trump and the republic," said the post, linking to and block-quoting Strassel. "OBAMA DEEP STATE HAD A SPY INSIDE THE TRUMP CAMPAIGN!"

May 11

The baton is passed to Fox News, which syndicates Strassel's article and changes the headline from “About that FBI ‘Source’” to “Did the FBI place a mole inside the 2016 Trump campaign?” On Fox & Friends, the president's morning program of choice, Peter Hegseth weighs in, hesitantly at first. "Did the FBI have a spy in the Trump campaign? Just asking the question. There’s an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal about it." Ainsley Earhart quotes at length from the column before positing that it means the FBI and DOJ had someone "paid to go and spy on President Trump."

On his radio show, Rush Limbaugh picks up the thread, encouraging the conflation of the FBI and President Obama. Strassel's article mentions Obama only once, and only in passing. But this is Rush Limbaugh, not a major newspaper; he can say things like this without fear of repercussions.

When I say “the FBI,” I mean the Obama administration. They infiltrated the Trump campaign with a spy, and while they had that spy implanted, they were unmasking and leaking and obtaining FISA spying warrants and conducting criminal investigations of Trump advisers. This is a big deal...For our purposes, folks, the important thing is that the Obama administration infiltrated the Trump campaign with a spy.

The buzz grows louder online. "Did the FBI have a spy in the Trump campaign?" asksAndrew McCarthy, praising Strassel's column as "essential reporting," in a National Review article that published early the next morning. Right-wing blog ZeroHedgemakes an affirmative statement—“WSJ: The FBI Hid A Mole In The Trump Campaign”—out of his question. Also citing Strassel, Tucker Carlson refers to a "government spy" and a "mole" sent by "the Obama administration." His guest, NRATV personality Dan Bongino, reveals that he believes there to have been more than one spy, referring to "reporting." He does not elaborate on-air.

May 14

The week begins with lawmakers joining the fray. On Fox & Friends, GOP congressman Ron DeSantis calls for a follow-up investigation into the matter. "I know that we’re actively trying to get the underlying documents that would tell us: Did they spy on the Trump campaign or not?” he asks, implicitly treating the premises of that query as if they were beyond dispute. To Lou Dobbs on Fox Business Network, Matt Gaetz expresses unease with "reports" he'd heard "about potential human intelligence being collected on a rival presidential campaign."

These men are egged on by, among others, Rush Limbaugh, who asserts he knows the identity of the spy that the FBI "put in the Trump campaign," and Hannity, whose radio guest David Limbaugh—Rush's younger brother—opines that "an official policy inserting a confidential source into a presidential campaign" would be "unprecedented" and "worse than Watergate." Like DeSantis, he includes a soft qualifier, though: "If it happened! We have to get to the bottom of it."

May 15

Nunes appears on the Fox & Friends set, hinting that the campaign might have been "set up" by the FBI. “I believe they never should have opened a counterintelligence investigation into a political party,” he explains. And although he at first avoids using the word "spy," his hosts are happy to put it in his mouth. Steve Doocey suggests that Nunes' narrative implies that Trump was "framed," while Earhart adds that "it makes it sound like there was a spy."

There's more at the link, leading to this crazy bullshit from the president himself:

Trumpworld on acid

by digby

It must be in the diet cokes.

This post by Gabriel Sherman in Vanity Fair is mind blowing:
Trump’s scorched-earth strategy has been in place since Rudy Giuliani replaced Trump’s long-suffering lawyers John Dowd and Ty Cobb. At first, it looked as if it were careening off course, as Giuliani gave off a series of erratic and combative interviews. Some speculated that Trump might be unhappy with his performance, but sources I spoke to say Trump is pleased. This is the plan. “Rudy doesn’t do anything without Trump’s permission,” said one Republican close to the White House. The strategy grew out of conversations Trump has held in recent weeks with a group of outside advisers that include Freedom Caucus Chair Mark Meadows, House Intelligence Chair Devin Nunes, Sean Hannity, Dave Bossieand Corey Lewandowski, among others. “People think Trump is angry, but he likes the direction this is going,” an outside White House adviser said.

According to people familiar with Trump’s thinking, his team is attempting to build the case that anti-Trump forces in the F.B.I. entrapped his advisers using informants to plant evidence about Russian collusion. The theory goes that the F.B.I. later used these contacts with the Russians to delegitimize his presidency. Trump’s advisers say the intelligence community believed Hillary Clinton would win the presidency, but in case she didn’t, they concocted this elaborate plot to remove Trump from office. 
“Just when you think it can’t get stranger, it does,” a Trump adviser told me. Stone claims the anti-Trump conspiracy includes senior intelligence officials from the Barack Obama administration. “The guy who will end up burning in all this is [former C.I.A. director] John Brennan,” Stone told me. “If I were him I’d break the capsule and swallow it now. That psychopath is going down.”

(Nick Shapiro, who served as Brennan’s deputy chief of staff at the C.I.A., described Stone’s comment as “contemptible” and said his words should be condemned. “We’re seeing a growing chorus of former national security leaders speaking out to warn us about Trump,” he added. “Instead of attacking these dedicated patriots, we should be concerned about why they all feel the need to speak out.”)

As loopy as this theory can sound, the notion that there’s been a conspiracy among the Obama administration and the so-called Deep State to bring Trump down is more than a legal stalking horse—it’s now a dominant narrative in Trumpworld. The president himself is convinced that the secret F.B.I. informant who reportedly met with several Trump campaign advisers in 2016 was not merely an informant, but an Obama political operative. One administration official told me the theory has become so widely accepted that people in the West Wing are paranoid that the F.B.I. has multiple informants working to take down Trump. “There’s a paranoia about who else is one,” the official said.
Trumpworld’s current mind-set makes continued extra-legal conflict with Mueller and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein inevitable, and the well-dissected dangers of firing one or both have not served to take this nuclear option off the table. Trump has been bonding over how corrupt Mueller's investigation is. “Rudy is telling him what he wants to hear,” said a Trump ally. But “it would be catastrophic if he fires Mueller.” In the past, many Republicans shared this view. Now, they might not be so opposed.
Nixon was paranoid but he wasn't a fucking moron. I don't know if that makes Trump better or worse.

How about that sleazy Trump associate with ties to Stormy Daniels?

by digby

On Tuesday the Democrats announced that their message for the fall campaign would be "It's the corruption, stupid." Well, not those words exactly, but that's what it adds up to. And it's a smart move. As Adam Serwer pointed out in this widely circulated piece in The Atlantic, corruption is what ties all the Trump scandals together. It's something that even people who don't follow the details can understand accounts for how terribly everything has gone off the rails under President Trump.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer put it this way, “The swamp has never been more foul and more fetid than it is under this president.” Indeed, corruption and conflict of interest define him as an elected official, just as dishonest hucksterism and bankruptcy defined him as a businessman.

Frankly, it's a tried and true agenda for the Democrats, who last had a winning midterm when they ran against the "culture of corruption" in 2006. In those days, the Jack Abramoff pay-to-play scheme was considered shocking. In the Trump era's volcanic eruption of scandals, that would be a one-day story sharing space with porn stars, Russian agents and billion-dollar deals with shadowy Middle Eastern sheiks. It was a more innocent time.

So far this week we have the president yammering incoherentlyabout spies in his campaign in the middle of delicate Korean nuclear negotiations and tweeting mindlessly about "following the money" after watching his favorite science fiction program, the one hosted by Sean Hannity. That hasn't stopped the flow of new and shocking corruption scandals from TrumpWorld.

The most intriguing so far (and it's only Wednesday) is the report from the AP called "The princes, the president and the fortune seekers," about Elliott Broidy, the former Republican National Committee deputy finance chair and Michael Cohen client. We learn that Broidy and George Nader, another shadowy character who turns up in the Trump scandal circle, parlayed their association with the new president into gigantic consulting contracts with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, in exchange for using their influence to isolate Qatar, an American ally.

You may recall that on Monday I wrote about a differentinfluence-peddling scandal involving some of the same people and the same countries: Nader and Erik Prince met with Donald Trump Jr. in August of 2016, along with an Israeli social media expert, to offer to "help" the campaign. Believe it or not, this one is different. Whereas that first story features some suspicious ties to the Russian investigation, this one has suspicious ties to the Stormy Daniels case. I'm not making this up.

The AP reported that Nader and Broidy had "a two-track mission: to carry out a campaign against Qatar that would curry favor with the princes, and to then turn that success into millions of dollars in defense deals, documents show." In fact, the reported worth of the whole deal added up to nearly a billion dollars.

The story is very complicated: In a nutshell, those two put together a lobbying campaign with hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of campaign donations, aimed at persuading members of Congress and the president himself to support the UAE and Saudi Arabia against Qatar, their regional rival. In fact, Trump ended up backing the blockade against Qatar, a move nobody much understood at the time. Indeed, there is still no full understanding of what happened with all this, because there are so many sleazy operators involved with these players -- including Jared Kushner, for example, who had financial motives for pushing the anti-Qatar line.

The two schemers had only received a down payment of $36 million on their billion dollars worth of contracts before Nader was stopped by the FBI at the airport and ended up as a cooperating witness in the Mueller investigation, reportedly meeting with the investigators and testifying before the grand jury more than once. So the rest of the big payoff never happened.

Broidy's company, Circinus LLC, did make a bundle in 2017 off federal government contracts, however. The Daily Beast reports:
Prior to 2017, Circinus had been paid a total of just $7,501 for its work on various defense contracts. Then, in August 2017 it finally received $3.9 million for a contract it had begun bidding on in 2013 with the U.S. Army Intelligence and Security Command (INSCOM). The INSCOM contract — which is for unidentified intelligence services — nearly doubled the company’s income for the year. The following month, Circinus received $242,011 from the Defense Security Service for a separate contract.
Maybe that was a coincidence, but Broidy was on a major roll at least partly because he was considered a Trump insider. He had several personal meetings with Trump, and that's where the Michael Cohen and Stormy Daniels story comes in.

I have previously mentioned a bit of compelling speculation from Paul Campos at New York Magazine, proposing the theory that Broidy had provided a cover story for another Trump payment to another Trump mistress, something Broidy has been known to do for other politicians in the past. That looks even more compelling in light of this new reporting about the billion-dollar lobbying blitz.

Broidy had an important meeting with the president at Mar-a-Lago on Dec. 2, 2017, at which this Qatar business was apparently discussed. Just two days before that, Broidy had wired the first of what were to be eight payments of $200,000 apiece to an attorney representing Shera Bechard, the onetime Playboy Playmate with whom Broidy supposedly had an affair. But the contract for these payoffs was in the name of "David Dennison," the same pseudonym that Donald Trump had used in his hush-money contract with Stormy Daniels. A few days after the Mar-a-Lago meeting, Broidy got word that $600 million in "consulting" contracts had come through.

In his latest article for New York Magazine, Campos writes:
If it’s difficult to imagine Broidy being willing to take the fall for Trump’s affair with Bechard and then paying her a seven-figure sum, it’s much simpler to imagine it simply as a perfectly timed and fantastically profitable bribe.
Or, if you prefer, the Trump term for such deals would be "favors." Yuuuge favors. Whether there was anything illegal going on in all this mess is hard to say. But that toxic, fetid swamp stinks to high heaven.

About that other spy in the Trump campaign...

by digby

Yesterday I wrote about the Freedom Caucus' cheerleader Matt Gaetz going all over TV saying that there had been another "spy" implanted in the Trump campaign but it was all hush-hush classified and they couldn't say who it was.

This explains what he was talking about:

Former Trump campaign adviser Michael Caputo suggested on Monday during an interview on Fox News that there may have been a second informant that approached the Trump campaign during the 2016 election. In light of these claims, The Daily Wire interviewed Caputo and the man that he claimed may have been another government informant sent to target the Trump campaign.

"Let me tell you something that I know for a fact," Caputo said on "The Ingraham Angle," with host Laura Ingraham. "This informant, this person they tried to plant into the campaign ... he’s not the only person that came at the campaign. And the FBI is not the only Obama agency that came at the campaign. I know because they came at me."

Caputo's comments were in response to the recent revelation that the FBI allegedly used a secret FBI informant to meet with Trump campaign associates and for the purpose of gathering information about any interactions they may have had with Russian officials.

On Tuesday, The Daily Wire interviewed Caputo, the alleged second informant who does contracting work with the U.S. government, and one of Caputo's friends who was an intermediary between the two men.

On May 7, 2016, Caputo's friend, Kirk Bell, attended a DC-area Kentucky Derby event at the house of his friend Nick Ikeda, a military staffer for US Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI).

At the event, Bell spoke with a government contractor, who asked not to be named in this report; this is the person Caputo told The Daily Wire he thought may have been another informant in light of the recent revelations about the FBI's alleged secret informant. At the event, the government contractor mentioned to Bell that he had heard about some of Hillary Clinton's missing emails and said that the campaign should see if they could obtain them.

The government contractor told The Daily Wire that the information he had heard about some of Clinton's missing emails came from a business meeting that he had while he was trying to drum up business for a private sector tech company. The missing emails came up in casual conversation with another man, in which the subject of the 2016 election was briefly mentioned. The man that the contractor met with suggested that Clinton's missing emails could contain more damaging information in them than people realized.

It was that conversation that inspired the government contractor to mention Clinton's emails to Bell.

Two days later, on May 9, 2016, Bell texted Caputo about the information the government contractor relayed to him about Clinton's missing emails.

Caputo told The Daily Wire that he never spoke to the government contractor. The government contractor also said he does not remember explicitly speaking with Caputo, although he does say that someone reached out to him but he doesn't remember who it was.

Caputo says that he did not reach out to the government contractor because he was fearful of possibly taking possession of any material that he might have which could have contained classified information.

The government contractor reached back out to Bell on July 31, 2016, and informed Bell of a Breitbart report that claimed that NSA had Clinton's emails, and suggested that the Trump campaign should look into it.

By this time Bell was reportedly a part of the Trump campaign in North Carolina and Caputo says he had departed the Trump campaign.

When asked by The Daily Wire if he was working for anyone to gather information about the Trump campaign or if anyone had approached him about gathering information on the Trump campaign, the government contractor responded: "No, absolutely not."

"I have done no work with the [Independent Special Counsel], none," the government contractor continued. "I have no contracts, not even ancillary contracts with the intelligence community. I am not connected there at all. Zero."

When asked about who the third party was that contacted him, the government contractor responded, "I don't remember who it was because it just wasn't that important to me," saying that he told whomever called him "good luck because this isn't what I do for a living."

After the interview with the government contractor, The Daily Wire interviewed Caputo and informed him of the interview with the government contractor. In discussing what the government contractor said, Caputo said, "This also could be a great big misunderstanding."

Caputo also clarified the comments that he made on Ingraham's show last night, saying that it was not his intention to suggest that the government contractor was involved in some sort of government spying like the alleged FBI source outed last week.

Caputo said that he did not understand the approach that he thought the government contractor made towards him so he informed different government committees that are conducting investigations into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 elections of his contacts with the government contractor.

"[The committees] didn't check on it," Caputo said. "So I gave it to the media."

Caputo asked The Daily Wire to review text messages between Bell and the government contractor and between Bell and himself.

All three men agreed that the core details in the timeline of events were correct. The government contractor and Caputo also agreed on most of the major details in each other's stories and it appears as though there was a misunderstanding between the two men.

Caputo thought that the government contractor was coming to him with an offer but messages reviewed by The Daily Wire appear to show that the government contractor was making suggestions for the campaign rather than offering the campaign anything specific.

Jesus H. Christ. They're all as dumb as Trump.


Blue woman group

by Tom Sullivan

Stacey Abrams

What jumps off the page from Amy McGrath's win last night Kentucky’s Sixth District is the rural vote. MSNBC's Steve Kornacki noticed:

Those results will bolster Democrats looking for evidence of a fall blue wave. McGrath is "cleaning up where Dems usually get buried," Kornacki observed.

McGrath, a retired Marine fighter pilot, won everywhere except Lexington where her opponent is mayor. Her viral video helped her campaign catch fire and raise money, but in a year when women are running and winning, her moxey and compelling biography blasted her past Mayor Jim Gray, the national party's Rolodex candidate.

McGrath faces Rep. Andy Barr (R-KY) in November.

Stacey Abrams did more than win her Georgia primary for governor. She made history as the first black woman to be the nominee of a major party for governor. The former state House minority leader handily defeated Stacey Evans, another former legislator who put nearly $2 million in her own money behind her campaign.

Abrams drew compliments from even conservative commentator Eric Erickson of Macon, GA after an interview in February (from The New Yorker):

“I’d been strongly critical of her in the past, and she was still willing to come on air with me,” Erickson said of Abrams on Monday. “We actually found a lot of common ground, even though we disagreed on stuff,” he added. “I came away really liking her.” Abrams, Erickson told me, “gave a better answer on keeping the income tax than Casey Cagle,” the state’s lieutenant governor, who won the Republican primary on Tuesday—but who received less than fifty per cent of the vote, meaning that he now faces a runoff in July. “It was an easy to understand answer,” Erickson said. “Everyone in the crowd, including the Republicans, nodded along with it.” After the interview, Erickson wrote on Twitter that he found Abrams to be, “Super sharp, very witty, and self-deprecating. She’ll be formidable as a candidate.”
That did not endear him to conservative readers, but might indicate where she might make inroads in rural Georgia where Republicans dominate.

Indeed, Abrams's powerful "fight for the future" victory speech had reach. To struggling Georgians, Abrams even alluded to her own financial problems, saying, "I'm with you because I've been there. I'm still there." Still looking for analysis, but it will be interesting to see whether Abrams's rural vote numbers compare to McGrath's.

A POLITICO/Morning Consult poll shows Democrats with a 9-point lead among female voters on the generic congressional ballot, compared to a 1-point advantage among male voters.


Too much news to pack into one very early morning.

One advantage Abrams has going into the fall is Republican candidates for Georgia governor, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and Secretary of State Brian Kempwill, go to a July runoff, leaving Abrams weeks to gather steam behind her race while the two Republicans work hard to out-fringe each other.

The DCCC survived its own toe-stubbing when in TX-07 its pick, Lizzie Fletcher, handily defeated Laura Moser in the runoff yesterday.

But Stacey Abrams was not the only woman last night to make history by winning her party's nomination:
AUSTIN — Lupe Valdez defeated Andrew White in Tuesday's Democratic runoff for governor, making political history in a couple of ways.

Valdez, the former Dallas County sheriff, became the first Hispanic female and first openly gay person to win a major party's gubernatorial nomination in Texas.
She now faces incumbent Republican Gov. Greg Abbott in November. Abbot has $41 million stockpiled for his reelection, so it will be a tough pull, Valdez acknowledges, but she's used to those:
"I am constantly hearing this is going to be such an uphill battle," Valdez told her supporters in Dallas after she won the nomination. "Please, tell me when I didn't have an uphill battle. ... I am getting darned good at uphill battles."
Turnout for the Texas runoff was down from the March primary.

In one notable race in Kentucky, a Republican school teacher in Kentucky turned out the House majority floor leader:
As upset teachers across Kentucky Tuesday tried to flex their political muscle, Rockcastle County High School math teacher R. Travis Brenda narrowly defeated House Majority Floor Leader Jonathan Shell of Garrard County in one of the most-watched races for the state House, according to unofficial results.

Brenda tried in the Republican primary election for the 71st House District seat to capitalize on teacher anger against legislators who backed a controversial pension bill in this year's law-making session. It was Brenda's first bid for public office.
But it might be Shell's last. He had been thinking of running for House speaker next year. Teachers are not happy, even Republican ones.

* * * * * * * *

For The Win 2018 is ready for download. Request a copy of my county-level election mechanics primer at tom.bluecentury at gmail.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Trey and Devin's private peep show

by digby

I don't honestly understand how this can be happening but I guess that's just the way it is:

Just two Republican lawmakers will be allowed to review classified information about a confidential FBI source who aided the investigation into the Trump campaign at a meeting Thursday with Justice Department and intelligence officials, the White House said Tuesday.

Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced at a White House press briefing that House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) and House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) would be the only two lawmakers at the meeting, which would also include FBI Director Christopher A. Wray, Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats and Principal Associate Deputy Attorney General Ed O’Callaghan.

Sanders said no White House officials would attend, even though Chief of Staff John F. Kelly brokered the gathering. She said Democrats were cut out because they had not requested the same materials that their Republican colleagues had.

“To my knowledge, the Democrats have not requested that information, so I would refer you back to them on why they would consider themselves randomly invited to see something they’ve never asked to,” Sanders said.

The move stoked some consternation in Congress. Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, said previously that he expected to be invited and said Democrats being shut out was “another serious abuse of power.”

Democrats aren't even part of the government anymore apparently. Good to know.

By the way, this is just round one:

Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz said that the White House is “not yet fully informed” on the extent of intelligence collection on the Trump campaign on Fox News Monday.

“I will say, Harris, The White House is not yet fully informed regarding the extent to which intelligence was collected on the Trump campaign,” he said.

“There is additional information that House investigators have collected, and we need to make sure the White House gets appropriately informed about that, because it will not be enough to have Rod Rosenstein and others at the Department of Justice investigate themselves. We got enough investigations where the Justice Department is investigating themselves.”

Gaetz has previously blasted the Mueller investigation for its “tremendous bias.”

That smug little twit was on Jake Tapper's show this afternoon saying there were more informants involved hinting broadly that the Intelligence Committee has some information that a different "spy" was implanted in the campaign. I guess they forgot to mention that in their report that closed out the investigation.

This is BS, of course. But it's part of their "I know you are but what am I" strategy.

QOTD: The Prez

by digby

It turns out that sometimes he does tell the truth:

So far he's only been about 40% successful. But his ratings are going up. And the media is starting to chase Nunes' shiny objects. If he keeps at it over the next three years, he could get a majority. People are getting used to this bullshit.


Why this isn't like Watergate

by digby

For those of you interested in the Watergate precedents to this current crisis, this podcast is illuminating.

Bob Bauer, Jack Goldsmith and David Kris join Benjamin Wittes to discuss the sequence of events between the Justice Department, the FBI, the House intelligence committee and the White House over the last few days and the resolution arranged at the White House on Monday afternoon.

Marty Lederman answers one of the major questions about the differences between the two scandals in a tweetstorm (which I've translated below):

In this excellent podcast, all the participants agree that the POTUS is egregiously breaching many important norms. Jack wonders, however, how much we should worry about the danger of a longterm breakdown of those norms, rightly citing the example of Nixon's misdeeds, which only served to entrench the norms still further in the fallout. The huge difference here, as I believe Bob B. alluded to, is that in 1973/74, as soon as it became clear that Nixon had probably sinned, a significant part of the GOP caucus in Congress turned on him--and did so decisively once he moved to breach norms of prosecutorial independence, so much so that, less than two weeks after the SN Massacre, *everyone* concurred that the new special counsel (Jaworski) would have far *greater* independence than Cox ever had. There wasn't even a debate, not only among GOP in Congress, but even w/the new AG nominee (Saxbe) and Bob Bork. (The Saxbe confirmation hearing, w/Jaworski at his side, is amazing, and instructive.)

And that was in a case where the POTUS had, just *months* earlier, garnered 61% of the popular vote and in which he won by more than 8% in all but three states! Here, by contrast, despite (or perhaps because of) the fact that the POTUS was a popular vote loser, he is not only supported by his party in Congress, but virtually none of them--or other members of the GOP establishment who once held office--have condemned him, and he's even working hand-in-glove with Congress to destroy DOJ/FBI norms! *That* is the huge sea-change from 1973, without which I would share Jack's tentative sanguinity, but because of which I am deeply concerned for the future health of the Republic--or, at a minimum, of the norms that were once respected by virtually all. For the modern GOP, *everything* is secondary to retention of power, which means not only that the norms are worthless, but that breaching them is celebrated as a virtue, not a bug (it was, after all, the centerpiece of Trump's victory).

Why the differences from 1973? In large part, it might be that the alt-right and "new right," which were always out there and which never cared much for the institutional norms, not to mention science, facts, and the demographic changes in the U.S., had relatively little influence on mainstream attitudes--and certainly not on the establishment figures who were once elected by the GOP. With the advent of FoxNews, however (and to a lesser extent, I suppose, Limbaugh/talk radio), they now have a forum, and they thus have now become the bellwether of the GOP proper. See Fishkin/Pozen at 952-959. Meanwhile, the establishment types within the Federalist Society are silent--word is that Trump's pathologies are barely even mentioned at FedSoc conferencesI assume because of the "But Gorsuch" phenomenon. In other words, appears that they've sold their souls for the (perhaps understandable) aim of securing SCOTUS dominance for the *next* 50 years.

One other thing, simply as a matter of electoral calculus: In late '73, Nixon had approx. the same level of popular support that Trump does now. But then, GOP political success depended on securing the voters from 39-61%, which they had done for the presidency just months earlier. Today, the GOP depends on the 39%, who are (for various reasons)sufficient, or at least necessary, to sustain GOP control of Congress (and on rare occasions the WH, too). So they have to play to the 39% voter, not the next 20-25% in the middle, who they've already lost.

I've said for a while that I think people overestimate the degree to which Nixon era Republicans actually turned on him, but we do seem to have hit one of those moments where some did and we're seeing no sign of it yet. Trump is a different animal than Nixon, who cared about his place in history and understood the stakes. Trump only cares about getting through the day and his party is thoroughly corrupt and extreme. There is no guarantee that this will end well all on its own.

With friends like these...

by digby

Trump, last night:

“Your vote in 2018 is every bit as important as your vote in 2016. I don't know if I believe that. Who the hell wrote that line?"

And yet they love him and support him and can't wait to walk over the cliff behind him.


Pruitt kicks journalists out of a public meeting

by digby

I guess this is normal now?

The Environmental Protection Agency is barring The Associated Press, CNN and the environmental-focused news organization E&E from a national summit on harmful water contaminants.

The EPA blocked the news organizations from attending Tuesday’s Washington meeting, convened by EPA chief Scott Pruitt.

EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox told the barred organizations they were not invited and there was no space for them, but gave no indication of why they specifically were barred.

Pruitt told about 200 people at the meeting that dealing with the contaminants is a “national priority.”

Guards barred an AP reporter from passing through a security checkpoint inside the building. When the reporter asked to speak to an EPA public-affairs person, the security guards grabbed the reporter by the shoulders and shoved her forcibly out of the EPA building

Other reporters on the scene apparently said there was plenty of room. But they didn't walk out of the meeting as they should have done.

Pruitt, by the way, is a real piece of work --- paranoid with delusions of grandeur.A sick cookie.

Trump sounds tired and confused talking about North Korea

by digby

He's very angry about the Mueller investigation and he's totally confused about the North Korea situation. But he was very loquacious, obviously wanting to pontificate but speaking nonsense as usual.

Some highlights:

I read that he's focusing on the pageantry of the summit not the details.


Is this big summit actually going to happen?

by digby

My Salon column this morning:

Donald Trump is meeting with South Korean president Moon Jae-in in Washington today, in anticipation of the big summit with North Korea's Kim Jong-un next month in Singapore. That summit looks more and more precarious, however, since it turns out that dealing with North Korea is more complicated than doing a licensing deal with a Chinese factory for Trump's cheap, ugly ties.

Last week, Time reported that Trump wasn't doing much preparation for the summit anyway because, according to a senior administration official, “he doesn’t think he needs to." Apparently, "aides plan to squeeze in time for Trump to learn more about Kim’s psychology and strategize on ways to respond to offers Kim may make in person," but no plans had been set as of last Thursday.

National Security Adviser John Bolton appeared on ABC's "This Week" a week ago and seemed unconcerned about the fact that the president was going into the negotiations completely clueless:

I think one advantage of having this meeting between President Trump and Kim Jong Un so soon, in effect, without months and months and months of preparation, is that President Trump will be able to size Kim Jong Un up and see whether the commitment [to denuclearization] is real.

Let's just say that Bolton seemed frighteningly smug as he said it, suggesting that he knew very well that his statement was vacuous and he would be perfectly happy to have Trump come away disappointed and embarrassed. That would certainly make it easier to get Trump to embark on a serious regime-change strategy such as Bolton has been pushing for years. An angry Trump is what he needs to make his dream come true.

Trump wants the "win," of course. But according to this New York Times report by David Sanger, the president has awakened to the fact that it might not go his way.

Mr. Trump was both surprised and angered by a statement issued on Wednesday by the North’s chief nuclear negotiator, who declared that the country would never trade away its nuclear weapons capability in exchange for economic aid, administration officials said. The statement, while a highly familiar tactic by the North, represented a jarring shift in tone after weeks of conciliatory gestures.

Had Trump torn himself away from "Fox & Friends" long enough to listen to some actual briefings, he might have known that. Now he's starting to get the feeling this whole thing might not be the slam dunk he's been counting on.

Bolton is part of the problem. North Korea specifically lashed out at the administration over the national security adviser's insistence that the U.S. wanted to use the "Libya model," in which that country was persuaded to turn over its nuclear equipment in return for economic aid which wasn't forthcoming. In 2011 its leader, Moammar Gadhafi, was overthrown and killed. You can see why the North Koreans wouldn't be too enthusiastic about repeating that.

But then, as The New York Times points out, Trump made it even more confusing because he's too busy tweeting to read a briefing paper:

When reporters asked Mr. Trump about Libya, he managed, in one stroke, to contradict Mr. Bolton and misconstrue the importance of the trade of the nuclear program for economic rewards.

“The Libyan model isn’t a model that we have at all, when we’re thinking of North Korea,” Mr. Trump said. “If you look at that model with Qaddafi, that was a total decimation. We went in there to beat him.” That referred to Western military intervention in 2011, not to the nuclear disarmament that came eight years before.
Trump then said that if the parties don't make a satisfactory deal, "that model would take place." That clearly suggests a military intervention, which is exactly what the North Koreans had warned would blow up the talks.

According to Robert E. Kelly, a political analyst and professor at Pusan National University in South Korea, it appears that Moon, eager to keep Trump talking instead of tweeting and threatening, may have oversold the North's new willingness to make a deal. Since Trump only listens to Fox News flatterers, he believed this was all due to his magnificent leadership and convinced himself he had the Nobel Peace Prize all locked up.

Kelly pointed out on Twitter that the smart thing now would be to postpone the summit until the three parties can do some real preparation and find some basis for consensus. He believes that Moon, not Kim, is the one who has been frightened by Trump's bellicose tweets and that the South Korean president is afraid to let Bolton have any space to push Trump further and so will argue forcefully for the summit. According to CNN, Trump's aides are now increasingly skeptical that it will happen at all.

Vice President Mike Pence tried out the rationale for abandoning the meeting Monday night on Fox News, saying that "it would be a great mistake for Kim Jong-un to think he could play Donald Trump" and stating unequivocally that the U.S. is willing to walk if the North Koreans refuse to give in to Trump's demands. He'd have to forego the Nobel for the time being, but there's always Jared Kushner's Middle East peace plan.

In any case, Trump doesn't have the time or the inclination to deal with possible nuclear war right now. He's busy fighting an epic battle with his own FBI and the Justice Department over the investigation into his campaign's possible collusion with Russian agents back in 2016. He is, by all accounts, obsessed with it. Unlike previous presidents Clinton and Reagan, both of whom faced serious investigations during their presidency, he is unable to "compartmentalize" and do the job of president at the same time. Grace under pressure is not his strong suit.

Trump probably would not be capable of handling a major summit of such monumental importance under any circumstances, since he won't do the homework required of a president. That's because he believes, as he told The Washington Post, that he reaches decisions “with very little knowledge other than the knowledge I already had, plus the words ‘common sense." Judging by his administration so far, he has very little of either.


The resistance is moral

by Tom Sullivan

Photo via Poor People's Campaign.

Moral Mondays have taken to the road with the renewal of Martin Luther King's Poor People's Campaign. The nonviolent protests against harmful conservative legislation led by Rev William Barber that began in Raleigh, North Carolina in 2013 have morphed into a wider movement against systemic racism and the war on the poor. Police are still arresting protesters on Mondays in Raleigh. But the nearly 1,000 arrested in Moral Monday actions there have been matched by another 1,000 in protests in state capitols around the country.

In Boston.
In Albany.
In Harrisburg.
In Columbia.
In Tallahassee.
In Frankfort.
In Indianapolis.
In Lansing.
In Topeka.
In Jefferson City.
In Sacramento.
In Olympia.

There were others.

The Guardian reports:
The Poor People’s Campaign, a revival of Martin Luther King’s final effort to unite poor Americans across racial lines, last week brought together activists from several faiths, the Women’s March, the labor movement and other liberal organizations to launch 40 days of civil disobedience and protest against inequality, racism, ecological devastation and militarism. As many as 1,000 people were arrested during the first wave. More expect to be held in future.

Barber, a co-chair of the campaign, says some conservative faith leaders have “cynically” interpreted the Bible’s teachings to demonize homosexuality, abortion, scientific facts and other religions. They are guilty, he says, of “theological malpractice” and “modern-day heresy”.
They say so much about what God says so little and so little about what God says so much, Barber says often in challenging their theology.
The demands of the Poor People’s Campaign are as ambitious as they are progressive. They have called for a repeal of the Republican tax cuts, federal and state minimum wage laws and universal single-payer healthcare. Other proposals also mirror those of politicians like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders.

“We are surely trying to impact politics,” said Liz Theoharis, a co-chair. “And we are surely trying to make sure that our elected officials take these issues seriously. But this goes far beyond any one election or election year.”

Barber and Theoharis imagine a new “southern strategy” that undoes racial divisions. For months they have barnstormed poor and working-class communities deep in Trump country, in an effort to build a multi-faith alliance.

“We visited homes where there was raw sewage in their yard,” Theoharis said. “In these communities, these issues are not seen as progressive or Democratic. They’re seen as human rights issues.”
Maybe it's just me but raw sewage in the yard does not sound like the promised American greatness.

"Any doctrine of racism that prevents somebody from any access to any part of this democracy is not just against the American constitution, it's against the way of God ... It's time for us to change the map, not so much from red to blue, but from wrong to right."

* * * * * * * *

For The Win 2018 is ready for download. Request a copy of my county-level election mechanics primer at tom.bluecentury at gmail.

Monday, May 21, 2018

It's the corruption, stupid

by digby

This piece by Adam Serwer clarifies the big question about how to think about this gusher of Trump scandals:

The sheer volume of Trump scandals can seem difficult to keep track of.

There’s the ongoing special-counsel investigation into whether the Trump campaign aided a Russian campaign to aid Trump’s candidacy and defeat his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton; there’s the associated inquiry into whether the president obstructed justice when he fired former FBI Director James Comey, whom he had asked not to investigate his former national-security adviser; there are the president’s hush-money payments to women with whom he allegedly had extramarital affairs, made through his personal attorney, Michael Cohen, and facilitated by corporate cash paid to influence the White House; there is his ongoing effort to interfere with the Russia inquiry and politicize federal law enforcement; there are the foreign governments that seem to be utilizing the president’s properties as vehicles for influencing administration policy; there’s the emerging evidence that Trump campaign officials sought aid not only from Russia, but from other foreign countries, which may have affected Trump’s foreign policy; there are the ongoing revelations of the president’s Cabinet officials’ misusing taxpayer funds; there is the accumulating evidence that administration decisions are made at the behest of private industry, in particular those in which Republican donors have significant interests.

The preceding wall of text may appear to some as an abridged list of the Trump administration’s scandals, but this is an illusion created by the perception that these are all separate affairs. Viewed as such, the various Trump scandals can seem multifarious and overpowering, and difficult to fathom.

There are not many Trump scandals. There is one Trump scandal. Singular: the corruption of the American government by the president and his associates, who are using their official power for personal and financial gain rather than for the welfare of the American people, and their attempts to shield that corruption from political consequences, public scrutiny, or legal accountability.

Take recent developments: There’s the president’s attempt to aid the Chinese telecom company ZTE, mere hours after the Chinese government approved funding for a project in the vicinity of a Trump property in Indonesia. There’s the millions of dollars corporations paid to Cohen after the election in an attempt to influence administration policy in their favor. Trump’s Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, also the acting head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, urged banks to pay off politicians in an effort to weaken the CFPB’s powers legislatively—since taking the helm of CFPB, Mulvaney has dropped a number of cases against payday lenders who charge exorbitant interest rates, after taking thousands from the industry as a congressman. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt’s own mini-universe of scandals stems from his improper relationships with industry figures, his misuse of taxpayer funds, and his attempts to obscure the truth about both. Trump attempted to pressure the Postmaster General to increase fees on Amazon in order to punish The Washington Post, which has published many stories detailing wrongdoing and misbehavior on the part of the Trump administration, and the Trump campaign before that. Not long after The New York Times reported that Trump officials may have solicited campaign help not just from Russia, but also from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, the president “demanded” that the Justice Department launch an inquiry into whether the FBI improperly investigated a campaign that was eagerly soliciting international aid to swing the election in its favor.

In each of these cases, the president or one of his associates was seeking to profit, personally or financially, from their official duties and powers. When that conduct has potentially run afoul of the law, Trump has sought to bend federal law enforcement to his whim, the better to protect himself and his associates from legal accountability. The president’s ongoing chastising of his own Justice Department, and his war of words with current and former FBI officials, stem less from any coherent ideological principle than from Trump’s desperate need to protect himself. An authoritarian model of law enforcement, where the president personally decides who is prosecuted and who is not based on his own political agenda, is simply the best way for Trump to shield himself and his inner circle from legal consequences.

The president’s opponents have yet to craft a coherent narrative about the Trump administration’s corruption, even though the only major legislative accomplishment Trump has to his name is cutting his own taxes. But his supporters have, ironically, crafted an overarching explanation to account for how the president they voted for, who came to office promising to eliminate official corruption, has come to embody it. The “Deep State” narrative is no more complicated than an attempt to explain the accumulating evidence of misbehavior on the part of the administration as a wide-ranging conspiracy to frame the president. The more evidence of wrongdoing that comes to light, the more certain they are that the conspiracy theory is true. In their own way, Trump supporters have recognized that Trump’s burgeoning list of scandals is made of branches from the same twisted tree.

The latest Trumptown fable, that the FBI inquiry into the Trump campaign was meant to aid Clinton’s campaign, is as incoherent as it is absurd. The FBI properly kept the Russia inquiry under wraps while high-ranking FBI officials defied Justice Department rules and made public statements about two inquiries into Clinton prior to election day. Neither of those inquiries led to indictments or guilty pleas; the special-counsel inquiry has led to more than 20 so far. Had the FBI been motivated by a political vendetta against Trump, leaking the fact of the inquiry on its own, even if it uncovered no malfeasance at all, would have been enough to damage his candidacy. The essential quality of pro-Trump punditry however, is that their perception of reality must be warped to conform to the latest Trump proclamation, even if it contradicts previous Trump pronouncements or established facts. Trump dictates reality, and his supporters rush to justify whatever has been decreed. In this way, Trump manages to corrupt not just those in his immediate orbit or inner circle, but even those who have never met him, who endeavor to reconcile the insurmountable gap between his words and the world as it exists.
There's more in which he also discusses the difference between the corruption and other repugnant aspects of Trump's administration, his xenophobic white nationalism in particular. I would also argue that his manifest unfitness in foreign policy is truly alarming on its own terms and I believe his authoritarian impulses extend beyond protecting himself from personal accountability to a truly malignant fascist bent as amply demonstrated as far back as the 1980s in his odious Central Park Five rant.

But certainly, at the center of all the scandals is Trump and company's massive, overwhelming corruption which was obvious from the beginning. We can't say he didn't warn us:
Trump had inked a deal with Tony Robbins, the frighteningly upbeat motivational speaker, by which Robbins would pay Trump $1 million to give ten speeches at his seminars around the country. Crucially, Trump had timed his political stops to coincide with Robbins’ seminars, so that he was “making a lot of money” on those campaign stops. “It’s very possible that I could be the first presidential candidate to run and make money on it,” Trump said. …

Poor Michael

by digby

Via The Daily Beast, we learn that Trumpworld is abandoning Michael Cohen:

In March, Michael Cohen’s lawyer went on NBC to declare with “100 percent” certainty that President Donald Trump had not reimbursed Cohen for a $130,000 payment to Trump’s alleged porn star mistress. The president has now officially confirmed that that was not the case.

The now-refuted claim by Cohen’s lawyer, David Schwartz, illustrated the potential pitfalls for allies of Cohen and his one-time client, the president, in publicly defending Cohen in the face of a rapidly escalating scandal. What began as a controversy over a six-figure payment to silence the president’s alleged mistress during the 2016 campaign has ballooned into to a far larger scandal involving the sale of Trump administration access to corporate clients with business before the federal government, and even foreign state actors accused of seeking to bribe top White House officials.

Schwartz continues to serve as Cohen’s spokesman in addition to his attorney. But his TV appearances have receded since late March, leaving the task of defending Cohen to White House allies and surrogates who are increasingly wary of being forced to stick up for the man at the center of the biggest Trumpworld scandal since the Russia investigation.

Michael Cohen, in short, has become a Trumpworld pariah.

Senior White House officials habitually dodge questions on Cohen, his predicament, and its potential consequences for the president, instead referring related questions to attorneys representing Cohen and Trump. Officials privately wish that President Trump never talked or tweeted publicly about his personal lawyer—which, true to form, is a wish the president has refused to grant.

Two prominent allies of the president, who also know Cohen well, told The Daily Beast they’ve begun ignoring or declining requests from cable news bookers to discuss Cohen on-air. “It’s time to keep a distance,” one of these people said.

Numerous other Trump associates, veterans of the 2016 campaign or presidential transition, and White House surrogates said they’re avoiding any phone contact with Cohen out of concern that his line might be tapped, and that direct interaction could involve them in the scandal that has enveloped Cohen and the influence-peddling operation he set up in the wake of Trump’s election victory...

There's more.

This does not seem very bright to me. I'm sure they don't want to be exposed legally, but it's important that Michael feels that he's still warmly embraced by the president if they expect him to keep his trap shut. Cohen needs to be handled very carefully. This seems short-sighted.