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Morning Briefing: It's Another Sh*t Show Day in the World of Politics

By Dustin Rowles | Politics | June 23, 2017 |

By Dustin Rowles | Politics | June 23, 2017 |

— OK, let’s start with the big Washington Post article this morning, which is very revealing. The most revealing thing is that U.S. Intelligence indeed “captured Putin’s specific instructions on the operation’s audacious objectives — defeat or at least damage the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, and help elect her opponent, Donald Trump.”

There’s a lot of details to that revelation that you can read at the source (and you should), but what’s not being said — and what no intelligence official will admit (saying, instead, that it’s a question for social scientists and pollsters to figure out) is 1) whether the campaign worked (it did) or 2) why Putin wanted Trump to win instead of Hillary. I think that’s probably obvious, too. Putin hated Clinton because she was a more forceful critic of Russia, and Putin knew that a Trump victory would be worse for the United States than a Clinton victory. Putin wanted to sabotage our Democracy, so he helped to get Trump elected.

He was not wrong. Everything seems to be going according to plan for Putin.

Instead of focusing on whether any ballots were changed, the GOP really should be asking themselves, “Why did our biggest geopolitical foe want Trump to win?” Someone over there needs to come clean about Putin’s motivations. It’s pathetic that the entire Republican party is taking advantage of a situation that has been created by the Russians to advance their own agendas.

The other revelation in the WashPo piece concerns how President Obama responded to the threat from Russia. There were a lot of conversations about how to punish the Russians, and plenty of harsh suggestions. Ultimately, however, Obama chose more modest sanctions, because he didn’t want the White House to be seen as interfering in an election that Donald Trump was already calling “rigged.” Trump put the Obama Administration in a very tough spot — the election, in a way, was rigged, but Obama didn’t want to be seen as playing a role in it by pressing the Russian matter too hard.

Basically, Obama got caught in the same trap that Comey did when Comey decided to release that memo re: the emails on Anthony Weiner’s computer. Comey thought that Clinton would win, so he wanted to release that information so it wouldn’t bite him in the ass after the election. Likewise, Obama probably also thought Clinton would win, so he didn’t want to be seen as interfering and thus be accused of rigging when Trump lost.

They were both wrong. Hindsight is 20/20 and all, but I understand why Obama came to the decision. It was the wrong decision, but I understand why he made it. That said, the intelligence community did make a forceful announcement that the Russians were interfering with the election. Unfortunately, that announcement came on the same day as the Access Hollywood tape, and we in the media being who we are, jumped on the salacious story instead of the more important, substantive one. Most people thought the Access Hollywood would end Trump’s chances. Most people were wrong.

But again, the reason why Trump is so sensitive about his slim electoral college victory is because he understands completely why the Russians wanted him to win. He’s really bad at overcompensating.

That said, Obama did lay the groundwork for some vicious revenge against the Russians, like secretly ordering cyberweapons planted in Russian networks. It’ll be up to Trump whether to use them. I think we all know the answer to that question, especially in light of the fact that the White House is secretly trying to water down a sanctions bill against Russia that the Senate passed.

Whether he colluded or not, Trump knows he owes his victory to the Russians. He’s not going to fuck with them if he can avoid it.

— Meanwhile, on Fox and Friends this morning, Trump just keeps giving Robert Mueller more evidence to add to his obstruction of justice charges. In the second part of this answer, Trump essentially admits that he lied about taping conversations with Comey in order to influence Comey. He further states that, after Trump suggested that there were tapes, Comey changed his story and got it right. In other words, Trump seems to be admitting that everything Comey said under oath was accurate.

Dude. You are really bad at this.

During that interview, Trump also suggested three times that maybe Mueller might have to recuse himself, in part because he’s good friends with James Comey, and in part because he has people who donated to Clinton’s campaign on his staff. Trump certainly continues to lay the groundwork for possibly firing Mueller.

— Elsewhere, Trump is apparently laying into his White House counsel, Don McGahn, for his inability to make the Russian investigation go away.

Trump started the week by giving McGahn, a loyal supporter who was among the first Washington establishment figures to sign on with his presidential campaign, a dressing down in the Oval Office for not doing more to squash the Russia probe early on. The episode — recounted by four people familiar with the conversation — came as part of a broader discussion on Monday about the president’s frustrations with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

— The Post is also reporting that, as part of Trump’s daily routine, he spends each morning on the phone with his outside counsel figuring out how to deal with the Russian investigation.

His advisers have encouraged the calls — which the early-to-rise Trump takes from his private quarters in the White House residence — in hopes that he can compartmentalize the widening Russia investigation. By the time the president arrives for work in the Oval Office, the thinking goes, he will no longer be consumed by the Russia probe that he complains hangs over his presidency like a darkening cloud.

It rarely works, however. Asked whether the tactic was effective, one top White House adviser paused for several seconds and then just laughed.

— Trump is basically consumed by the investigation, and look: He has every reason to be. Mueller has widened the probe. I’m not reporting here on every single revelation, but every day, there’s quietly some new artery of this investigation being opened up. Ivanka, Jared, and Eric Trump, Jr. have all been sucked into it, and there’s even investigation going on now about Trump’s ties to a mobster and his money laundering operation. I mean, Mueller is investigating everything, and Trump is a crooked motherfucker, and he always has been, so there’s very little doubt about Mueller’s ability to find malfeasance. The questions are: 1) Will Mueller get fired before he can release his findings, and 2) will the GOP care?

Honestly, if the GOP gets their health care bill and their tax cuts, they probably don’t have much more use for Trump, so they might feed him to the wolves.

— Speaking of healthcare and tax cuts, I won’t talk too much about the Senate healthcare bill here, but I thought this was illuminating: The tax cuts the top 400 families in America will receive from this bill could cover Medicaid in four states.

Just think about how many hundreds of thousands of people in four states will lose their health coverage so that 400 obscenely wealthy families can be even more obscenely wealthy.

Likewise, insurers are saying that the bill could affect 74 million people on Medicaid. 74 million.

— And finally, remember those 600 jobs from a Carrier plant in Indianapolis that Donald Trump heroically saved? Yeah, about that: Those jobs are now being moved to Mexico. But, you know: Carrier got their $7 million from the government, anyway, and now they’re using money originally set aside to employ American workers to better automate the factory.

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Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.