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Washington Report January 26, 2019

30 Jan 2019

Washington Report January 26, 2019


Do I Have Your Attention Now?

The FAA briefly halted all flights into New York’s LaGuardia airport due to air traffic control staffing issues. The delays came a day after elected officials and union leaders warned about dangers posed to the nation’s air traffic system because of the prolonged government shutdown. The restrictions at La Guardia are causing ripple effects at other airports, with delays reported at Newark’s Liberty International Airport and Philadelphia International Airport.”

Breaking News … And on the 35th Day of the Shutdown

Roll Call …President Donald Trump is expected to make a statement on the shutdown Friday at 1:30 p.m. in the White House Rose Garden. Discussions between Senate leaders of both parties picked up with renewed urgency Friday as the record-setting government shutdown began halting flights scheduled to land at LaGuardia Airport — in Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer’s home state of New York.
WaPo Congressional leaders, Trump have reached a tentative deal to temporarily reopen the government without wall funds, according to Hill officials. With President Trump’s approval, the pact would reopen the government for three weeks while leaving the issue of $5.7 billion for the U.S.-Mexico border wall to further talks.

A REMINDER … UNPAID Today is the second time most federal workers affected by the shutdown will miss a paycheck.
IRS DISRUPTION WaPo “The Trump administration ordered more than 30,000 employees back to work unpaid to prepare for tax filing season, which is set to begin next week. But of the 26,000 workers called back to the Internal Revenue Service division that includes the tax processing centers and call centers, about 9,000 workers could not be reached and about 5,000 more claimed a hardship exemption as of Tuesday, IRS officials have told members of Congress.
Tone Deaf: Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in a CNBC interview he doesn’t understand why some federal workers are going to homeless shelters to get food. There’s “no real reason why they shouldn’t be able to get a loan,” Ross said.

Watching New Week

BGov “Whether the government is fully open next week, Congress will begin some business as usual with committee hearings on drug pricing, the budget, and nominations. Two previously scheduled events, the State of the Union address and the House Republican retreat, have been postponed.

Drug Price Scrutiny
BGov “The House Oversight and Reform Committee will begin a series of hearings on the drug industry’s pricing practices with testimony from patient advocates and researchers on Tuesday. That same day, the Senate Finance Committee also plans a hearing on the topic.

Blame Game

FiveThirtyEight .. . People who say they are politically independent in particular are turning against Trump. On average, there was a 7-point increase in the share of independents who blame Trump. YouGov, for example, found in its most recent poll that 50% of independents blame Trump the most for the shutdown. That’s up 12 points from the first time the pollster asked about the shutdown and blame, in a survey conducted Dec. 23-25. For comparison, between those two surveys, the share of Republicans who blame Trump increased only 2 points, while the share of Democrats who do rose 3 points.

Roger Stone’s Last Dirty Trick

“He promoted Donald Trump’s political rise decades before anyone. Now he’s been indicted for the bruising style of politics he wielded gleefully on Trump’s behalf.” As Trump biographer said, “the universe seeks balance and order, and Stone’s life of disorder and corruption had to be confronted at some point.” Insightful read: Politico Magazine
Indicted
WaPo “The most politically explosive allegation in special counsel Bob Mueller’s seven-count indictment of Roger Stone – who was arrested early Friday morning during an FBI raid of his home in Florida – is that he lied to Congress when he denied discussing his advance knowledge of WikiLeaks’ email dumps with anyone involved in Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign.
“In truth … Stone spoke to multiple individuals involved in the Trump Campaign about what he claimed to have learned from his intermediary to” WikiLeaks, Mueller’s charging document alleges, not giving names. “After the July 22, 2016 release of stolen DNC emails … a senior Trump Campaign official was directed to contact Stone about any additional releases and what other damaging information [WikiLeaks] had regarding the [Hillary] Clinton Campaign. Stone thereafter told the Trump Campaign about potential future releases of damaging material by [WikiLeaks]. … Stone also corresponded with associates about contacting [WikiLeaks] in order to obtain additional emails damaging to the Clinton Campaign.”

… With Stone’s indictment, the special counsel investigation has now led to charges against 34 people and guilty pleas by six Trump associates and advisers.
The most memorable details from the 24-page indictment, which you can read in full here, relate to the separate charges of witness tampering and obstruction of an official proceeding. As the old saying goes: It’s not the crime. It’s the cover up.

Four key sections and takeaways.

  1. An abundance of contradictions
    “In truth and in fact, STONE and Person 2 (who STONE identified to [the House Intelligence Committee] as his intermediary) engaged in frequent written communication by email and text message,” the indictment states. “STONE also engaged in frequent written communication by email and text message with Person 1, who also provided STONE with information regarding Organization 1.” (Organization 1 is WikiLeaks. It is not immediately clear who Person 1 is.)
  2. ‘Godfather’ Reference
    Prosecutors say Stone made repeated references to “The Godfather: Part II” in December 2017 as he encouraged an unnamed “Person 2” to ‘do a “Frank Pentangeli” before the House Intelligence Committee in order to avoid contradicting Stone’s testimony,” according to the indictment. (For those unfamiliar, check out the clip:
  3. The Big Question: The Trump Campaign’s Role
    There is no smoking gun in the indictment when it comes to the Trump campaign’s culpability, and for most of the campaign. … But the indictment does make clear (repeatedly) that the campaign was interested in the WikiLeaks information — and even sought the information from Stone — over a span of months, from the summer of 2016 to October 2016. Why Is Oct 7 Significant? “The day WikiLeaks orchestrated an email dump shortly after The Washington Post reported on Trump’s “Access Hollywood” tape in which he talked crudely about grabbing women … an apparent distraction was apparently appreciated by “an associate of a high ranking Trump Campaign official.”
  4. Who Did The Directing?
    The most significant reference to members of the campaign, though, could be this: “After the July 22, 2016 release of stolen DNC emails by Organization 1, a senior Trump Campaign official was directed to contact STONE about any additional releases and what other damaging information Organization 1 had regarding the Clinton Campaign. STONE thereafter told the Trump Campaign about potential future releases of damaging material by Organization 1. The words “was directed” loom large here. Who did the directing?”

Unwinding Twists and Turns In Trump-Russia Probe (Quick Take

BGov “By now, few American leaders — other than President Donald Trump, on occasion — dispute that Russia interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
What Exactly Did Russia Do?
U.S. intelligence agencies concluded that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a campaign to undermine “public faith in the U.S. democratic process” and Clinton’s candidacy, and that along the way, Putin and his government “developed a clear preference” for Trump. Russia’s efforts included hacking and leaking emails that undermined Clinton’s campaign and using phony accounts and advertising on Facebook and Twitter to sway American public opinion. Putin confirmed he did in fact want Trump to win the election … and the Russian leader called allegations of meddling “utterly ridiculous.” Trump dismisses as a “total hoax” the suggestion that his campaign welcomed Russian interference.
What’s Still Not Known?
Whether Trump or his team did anything to solicit, encourage or participate in Russia’s effort, and if so, what. This is where Trump has drawn the line, swearing that no evidence will emerge of “collusion,” which in legal terms would translate to conspiracy. But Trump’s opponents say some compelling clues are already out in the open.
How Did It All Begin?
In April 2016, Democratic Party leaders called in a cybersecurity firm to look at suspicious software on their computers. The firm said it found digital footprints of hackers tied to the Russian government. The Democratic National Committee (DNC) went public with the news and the suspicion of Russian involvement in June of that year, just after Clinton clinched the party’s nomination for president, and just after Julian Assange, editor of the hacktivist website WikiLeaks, said his group had “upcoming leaks in relation to Hillary Clinton.”
What Were Those Leaks?
WikiLeaks released almost 20,000 emails from inside the DNC that showed how staffers there had favored Clinton during the primary against Bernie Sanders. That prompted the resignation of the DNC’s chairman, Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Later in the campaign, WikiLeaks released tens of thousands of emails from the Gmail account of John Podesta, Clinton’s campaign chairman. Clinton, looking back on her defeat, said the “WikiLeaks email dumps” had been “like Chinese water torture.”

And WikiLeaks Got Those Emails From Russia?
That’s the allegation. The report by U.S. intelligence says Russia’s General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate, or GRU, gave the material to WikiLeaks through an intermediary. Some of the emails also were released through the “persona” of a purported Romanian hacker, Guccifer 2.0, and a website, DCLeaks.com, both of which promoted the hacked information to certain journalists. Assange has denied that the Russian government was his source of the hacked emails. But an indictment released by Mueller in July 2018, charging 12 Russian military intelligence officers allegedly assigned to disrupt the U.S. election, said that WikiLeaks asked Guccifer for the hacked emails in order to help promote them in advance of the Democratic National Convention, and that Guccifer responded with instructions on how to access them.

Which Trump Aides Are Under Scrutiny?
Potentially any who had contact with Russian representatives or intermediaries during the presidential campaign. That list includes Trump Jr., Kushner and Stone, plus: Manafort, Trump’s onetime campaign chairman, who was convicted of evading taxes on some of the tens of millions of dollars he earned as a political consultant in Ukraine, advising the pro-Russian Party of Regions, in the years before he went to work for Trump. Michael Flynn, who lasted just 24 days as Trump’s first national security adviser. In the words of former acting Attorney General Sally Yates, Flynn “compromised” himself — made himself vulnerable to being blackmailed — by lying about the contents of a December 2016 phone call with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. Flynn pleaded guilty to lying about that call to federal agents. Carter Page, a U.S. energy consultant once listed by Trump as a foreign policy adviser, whose July 2016 visit to Moscow drew the FBI’s interest. Michael Cohen, Trump’s onetime personal attorney, who pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about how deeply into his presidential run Trump was pursuing a real-estate project in Moscow. Cohen’s admission could be used to show Trump had sought to conceal his business interests in Russia. In January 2017, shortly before he took office, Trump wrote on Twitter, “I HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH RUSSIA – NO DEALS, NO LOANS, NO NOTHING!”

Is Trump himself being investigated?
Mueller appears interested in whether Trump obstructed justice by firing Comey as FBI director in May 2017; allegedly asking Comey, days earlier, to go easy on Flynn; and allegedly asking Comey for a pledge of loyalty. Then there’s Trump’s personal involvement in the drafting of a misleading statement that tried to spin the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting — the one that included his son, son-in-law and a Russian lawyer — as being about international adoptions. In November, Trump’s legal team submitted written answers to questions posed by Mueller’s team.

Does Trump acknowledge Russian meddling in the election?
He dismissed such reports during the campaign, theorizing that Democrats could just as easily have been hacked by “somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds.” In November 2017, he said he believed Putin was sincere in denying Russian meddling in the election. The next day, Trump said he stands with U.S. intelligence agencies on the matter. Appearing with Putin on July 13, Trump again expressed doubt that Russia interfered in the election.

2020

Democrats are doing a full-court press to draft Stacey Abrams into Georgia’s 2020 Senate race, a move that would put in play a state that hasn’t gone blue in two decades and could reshape the party’s path to retaking the Senate majority. The problem is that Abrams still has hopes of becoming governor — it’s where she could have the most direct impact on issues like voting rights — and isn’t sold on the Senate. But the pressure on her to run in 2020, capitalizing on her rise to national prominence last year and her continued popularity in Georgia despite losing the 2018 governor’s race, is only growing.”

Slowbalisation

Today’s trade tensions are compounding a shift that has been under way since the financial crisis in 2008-09,” The Economist writes in its cover editorial:
“[C]ross-border investment, trade, bank loans and supply chains have all been shrinking or stagnating relative to world GDP.” Globalization “has given way to a new era of sluggishness. Adapting a term coined by a Dutch writer,” The Economist calls it “slobalization.”
The golden age of globalization was 1990-2010:
– The new world will work differently.”
– The integrated world’s neglected problems have now grown in the eyes of the public to the point where the benefits of the global order are easily forgotten.”

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