Midday Briefing: The Noose Tightens Around Trump, While Paul Ryan Gets a Formidable Challenger
There’s lot of talk about the Paris Climate Accord, but I don’t want to talk about it, because it’s all bad news. There is no upside, and I don’t care how much it hurts Trump politically, if it does at all. It’s just awful, and I have no interest in dwelling on that. I prefer to dwell on the fact that many state and local governments, as well as private industries, are choosing to abide by the Climate Accord. That’s #resistance.
Meanwhile, the headlines are getting buried under the Climate Accord news, but things are moving re: the Russia-Trump collusion investigation. Inch by inch.
— Robert Mueller, the special prosecutor, is now expanding his probe “to include a grand jury investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn,” according to Reuters. What does this mean? In short, it means that Michael Flynn is probably going to jail, because Mueller is looking not just at Flynn’s Russian ties, but his ties to Turkey. Hopefully, Mueller can get Flynn to flip on Trump in exchange for a lesser sentence.
LOCK HIM UP! LOCK HIM UP!
— Those of you looking for quid pro quo for Russia helping Trump get elected need look no further than a new report from Yahoo that reveals that the Trump Administration immediately began efforts to lift sanctions on Russia after the inauguration. They were only stopped from doing so by the State Department, which pushed back and urged Congress to codify the sanctions, making it more difficult for Trump to lift them.
Unknown to the public at the time, top Trump administration officials, almost as soon as they took office, tasked State Department staffers with developing proposals for the lifting of economic sanctions, the return of diplomatic compounds and other steps to relieve tensions with Moscow.
I know it’s not getting a lot of play today because of the Paris Climate Accord, but this right here seems like the whole ballgame: Russia helps Trump; Trump helps Russia. Quid Pro motherfucking Quo. This for that. Combine this with the fact that Trump returned two diplomatic compounds in New York and Maryland to the Russians — which were stripped away by Obama as punishment for Moscow’s interference in the 2016 presidential election — and what the hell else do you need? Why aren’t lightbulbs going off? Why are there no fireworks?
— Need more? OK, how about this: Kushner secretly met with a Russian state-owned bank during the transition, a state-owned bank that — by the way — was under sanctions. Why? The bank says it was for business reasons, which looks real bad for Kushner, because it suggests “Kushner’s personal financial interests were colliding with his impending role as a public official.” Meanwhile, the White House says it was for diplomatic reasons, which is also very bad, because it suggests Kushner was working to roll back sanctions against the bank even as Obama was trying to increase them. It also looks like after Kushner met with the head of the bank, Sergey Gorkov, Gorkov then flew off to Japan to meet with Putin.
QUID PRO QUO MOTHERFUCKERS!
— Meanwhile, maybe Paul Ryan will finally start to feel some pressure to do something, as Randy Bryce, a Wisconsin labor activist, has entered the Congressional race to challenge Ryan in Wisconsin in 2018, and apparently, Bryce has a chance. He’s a Bernie guy, an Army veteran, a single parent, and a cancer survivor, and apparently, 48 percent of voters in the district think it’s time to try someone new, compared to 46 percent who want to re-elect Paul Ryan. While Trump won the district by 10 points, Obama did win it in 2008, so Paul Ryan could be feeling some heat in a district poised to flip.
— While the investigation is being pushed to the backburner for the moment, don’t worry, folks: James Comey is set to testify publicly next Thursday morning, so do bring your popcorn.