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Washington Report December 1, 2017

01 Dec 2017

Washington Report December 1, 2017

Do Not Lie To The FBI … Senate Tax Bill … Shut Down Watch … State Of State … We Are All Part Of The Trump Show … Trump’s In-Kind Donations To Elizabeth Warren … and other news of the week.

Best,
Joyce Rubenstein

P.S. “There is a Chinese curse which says “May he live in interesting times.” Like it or not, we live in interesting times.”
– Robert F. Kennedy, June 1966

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Do Not Lie To The FBI

WaPo/Politico “Michael Flynn [ex-Trump National Security Adviser] appeared in federal court today after being charged with making false statements to federal officials. A U.S. government document released by the office of special counsel Robert Mueller said Flynn has been indicted for making “materially false, fictitious and fraudulent statements” to federal officials. He is due in a federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, for a plea agreement hearing at 10:30 a.m. Friday.

Flynn is being charged with misleading federal officials about several conversations he had with then-Russian Ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak.

The retired general allegedly misled federal investigators about a Dec. 29, 2016, conversation in which he asked Kislyak to press his superiors in Moscow to “refrain from escalating the situation” after the Obama administration slapped new sanctions on Russia. Flynn also misled the federal officials when he said he did not recall Kislyak later telling him the Kremlin had agreed to do just that.”

Also cited in the short indictment document are Flynn’s comments to federal officials about a Dec. 22, 2016 conversation with the same senior Russian diplomat. Flynn allegedly made false statements about requesting Russia delay or kill a United Nations Security Council resolution, as well as his recollection of the Russian response.

Then-President-elect Trump tweeted about Russia forcing the Security Council vote to be delayed the day after one of the Flynn-Kislyak conversations.

The retired Army three-star general, who also was fired from his Defense Intelligence Agency director post by the Obama administration, was fired by President Donald Trump after just 24 days on the job. Trump contended he let Flynn go for lying to Vice President Mike Pence; others have said it was due to ongoing Justice Department and congressional investigations of possible ties between Trump’s 2016 campaign and the Kremlin.

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@rachaelmbade: “CANCEL YOUR CHRISTMAS PLANS! GOP leaders announced in whip meeting 2day the double CR strategy. 1st CR will go to DEC 22 to try to get a deal w/Dems. HAPPY HOLIDAYS!”

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On The Radar

Politico “… of what’s on Washington’s radar this month: renewing a massive children’s health program, government funding, a rewrite of the country’s tax code, restoring subsidies for the health care law, working on a fix so Dreamers (hundreds of thousands of undocumented children) do not get deported and a deal to lift spending caps.

ONE WEEK until the government runs out of money.

SHUT DOWN WATCH Politico “Congressional Republicans are scrambling to come up with a plan to avert a government shutdown, squeezed by their own divided conference and the demands of Democrats they worry have the upper hand in negotiations. WaPo “Up against a Dec. 8 spending deadline, House Republican leaders are likely to introduce a measure that would extend current funding until Dec. 22, said the aides, who were granted anonymity to describe private deliberations. If negotiations on a longer-term deal to fund the government are not resolved by that time, GOP leaders are prepared to pursue another stopgap plan that would kick the talks into January, the aides said. Aides stressed that the plans are not finalized. House Republicans plan to gather Friday morning in the Capitol to discuss the matter, and leaders will begin assessing potential support.”

TRUMP TELLS CONFIDANTS THAT A SHUTDOWN MIGHT BE GOOD FOR HIM WaPo “Trump tells confidants that a government shutdown might be good for him,” “President Trump has told confidants that a government shutdown could be good for him politically and is focusing on his hard-line immigration stance as a way to win back supporters unhappy with his outreach to Democrats this fall, according to people who have spoken with him recently. Over the past 10 days, the president has also told advisers that it is important that he is seen as tough on immigration and getting money for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, according to two people who have spoken with him. He has asked friends about how a shutdown would affect him politically and has told several people he would put the blame on Democrats.”

YOU WON’T FIND many Republicans on Capitol Hill who think that a shutdown is good for them.”

Senate Tax Bill

WaPo “Senate leadership, who had hoped to vote to pass the $1.5 trillion tax bill by late Thursday night, instead sent lawmakers home and began to search for a new way to offset the cost of the legislation. They are looking to win the support of several senators, including Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who has led a small group of colleagues in demanding that the bill not drive up the nation’s debt (too much). … The Senate parliamentarian ruled that a Corker-backed proposal to automatically raise taxes in the future if Republican expectations of higher growth did not materialize was not consistent with Senate rules. Although most of the Republicans would have been happy to move on and pass the bill, Corker stood his ground and demanded a solution. He is joined by Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) in insisting the bill not drive up the deficit.”The Senate debate is now likely to continue into Friday night at the earliest.

BIGGER PICTURE … In this age of disruption, here are six violations of traditional governing norms that we’ve witnessed during the tax debate:

1. The Treasury Department still has not released a formal estimate of how the tax code overhaul will impact the economy, despite repeatedly promising to do so. Congress’s nonpartisan scorekeeper, the Joint Committee on Taxation, announced yesterday that the Senate GOP tax plan would add $1 trillion to the deficit — even after accounting for the positive impact from economic growth. (The Treasury inspector general announced yesterday that he will open an inquiry into whether Mnuchin has tried to hide the Treasury Department’s analysis.)
2. The lack of meaningful committee hearings to scrutinize the draft legislation means flaws and problems won’t become totally clear until after it takes effect – at which point it will become much harder to grapple with unintended consequences.
3. Previous tax cuts have passed with crossover support. This is not a bipartisan effort.
4. Many Republican politicians are not being forthright with their constituents that some in the middle class are going to see their taxes go up under this bill. They continue to insist on television and elsewhere that everyone is going to benefit, but that’s just not the case.
5. Trump has not released his tax returns, so we cannot fully assess how much this legislation will personally enrich him. [Based on the portion of Trump’s tax return from 2005 that was leaked, Trump would have saved as much as $42 million on his 2005 taxes under the House bill and $35.1 million under the Senate bill. A big part of the savings is from elimination of the alternative minimum tax.”
6. Breaking with history, Republicans are trying to pass massive tax cuts when the economy does not need a stimulus. Republicans are looking to grow the debt by a trillion dollars to cut taxes at a moment when the economy grew 3.3% in the third quarter and the unemployment rate is down to 4.1%.”

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More … Senate Tax Bill

Axios “The Senate tax bill is headed for a round of marathon votes [today] with the goal of holding a final vote by the end of the work week,” per Bloomberg:

  • “Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called off a planned series of votes on the tax measure until [this] morning as he and other leaders negotiated their way around objections from three GOP senators that the measure, cobbled together in a matter of weeks, would explode federal budget deficits and add to the national debt.”
  • “Some of the solutions that were debated late [last] night — including letting some taxes rise for individuals and corporations within six or seven years — threaten to dissolve the precarious Republican majority for the legislation.”
  • “They also risk creating a stalemate with the House, where hardline conservatives could throw up roadblocks to reconciling differences if the Senate version waters down tax cuts for businesses and individuals.”

ALL EYES will be on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell who still must convince the skeptical deficit hawks to vote for the bill.

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Tax Bill Could Trigger Historic Spending Cuts

Politico ” … the $1.5 trillion tax package could trigger eye-popping cuts to a slew of federal programs, including Medicare. Unless Congress acts swiftly to stop it, as much as $150 billion per year would be cut from initiatives ranging from farm subsidies to student loans to support services for crime victims. Medicare alone could see cuts of $25 billion a year. And the specter of those cuts has thrust Congress into a high-stakes game of political chicken.
“With so much attention focused on the tax bill itself neither lawmakers nor many of the advocacy groups had paid as much attention to the depth and breadth of the cuts that will ensue unless the House and Senate come up with a bipartisan deal to stop them. Some groups had run Medicare ads, but they were largely overshadowed by the tax debate itself.”

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State Of State

Politico “The White House has developed a plan to force out Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson, whose relationship with President Trump has been strained, and replace him with Mike Pompeo, the C.I.A. director, within the next several weeks, senior administration officials said on Thursday. Mr. Pompeo would be replaced at the C.I.A. by Senator Tom Cotton, a Republican from Arkansas who has been a key ally of the president on national security matters, according to the White House plan. Mr. Cotton has signaled that he would accept the job if offered … ARKANSAS REPUBLICAN GOV. ASA HUTCHINSON would get to name a senator to the seat to fill the vacancy.

theSkimm “Tillerson and President Trump’s relationship has been openly tense for months. Think: Trump undermining Tillerson’s efforts to negotiate with North Korea. And that time Tillerson reportedly once called Trump a “moron.”

WHO IS POMPEO? “Replacing Tillerson With Pompeo Would Supplant a Moderate With a Hawk” NYTs “For all his political and bureaucratic stumbles, Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson has been a steady voice of moderation in how the Trump administration engages with the world. That voice will be lost if, as expected, President Trump replaces Mr. Tillerson at the State Department with Mike Pompeo, a hard-line former Republican congressman who has brought an avowedly political edge to the CIA, where he is the director. Mr. Pompeo, a West Point graduate best known for savaging Hillary Clinton’s response to the deadly attack in Benghazi, Libya, when she was secretary of state, has called for the Iran nuclear agreement to be ripped up, played down talk of Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and suggested that regime change in North Korea would be a welcome development. Those views have put him in good stead with Mr. Trump, whom White House aides said has come to value Mr. Pompeo’s pungent opinions and hard-charging style during his presidential daily briefings. Mr. Trump, by contrast, has publicly undermined Mr. Tillerson while the secretary of state has responded with thinly veiled contempt.”

JUST LUNCH Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson are set to have lunch at the White House with the president amid reports that Trump is ready for a new secretary of state.

‘THERE’S NOTHING TO’ REPORTS OF TILLERSON LEAVING,
– Def Sec Jim Mattis dismissing reports that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is on his way out of President Donald Trump’s administration.

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NDAA

MorningD “The House enrolled the fiscal 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 2810 (115)) Thursday, sending it to the White House for his approval. “We here on a bipartisan basis are acknowledging the fact that we’ve got more work to do to support the men and women of our military,” House Speaker Ryan said in the enrolling ceremony.

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We Are All Part Of the Trump Show

Interesting analysis from Axios “There is a very specific — and dangerous — formula for manipulating the media and hijacking the Twitter/cable/conventional media industrial complex. Trump sets this formulaic trap increasingly often. And news organizations keep falling for it.

Step 1: Throw an early morning Twitter bomb, usually but not always timed to “Fox & Friends” fodder or reinforcement. The Tweet-bomb frequently hits “fake news” or some social topic with racial undertones. Within minutes, thousands of Trump’s Twitter followers retweet it, and the sparks fly. THE DATA: As president, Trump has tweeted about fake news 124 times, mostly before 9 a.m., and his tweets about fake news average more retweets and likes

Step 2: The outrage machine kicks in. The first hour of “Morning Joe” is consumed by reaction. But the real action unfolds on Twitter, with scores of journalists and activists howling in protest.

Step 3: The cable beast awakens. MSNBC/CNN/Fox are basically 24/7 politics now, and the reporters who uncorked on Twitter sit alongside the hosts to dissect/condemn the Twitter bomb. They tweet the highlights. The rage builds. The cycle speeds.

Step 4: The fringes foment. Breitbart belts out a stream of stories, usually supporting Trump or mocking cable hysteria on the left. It pumps its greatest hits through Facebook, where both sides game the algorithm to play to their team’s emotional response. Twitter wars usually ensue. THE DATA: Many of the most engaging politics and news pages on Facebook are hyper-partisan political pages, according to social analytics company NewsWhip.The most popular reaction to them is the “angry face” emoji.

Step 5: Opinions fly. By nighttime, MSNBC goes hard left, Fox hard right, peaking with their highest-rated champions … tucking like-minded people in with soothing stories of why they were so right today. We go to bed, sleep poorly, wake up and do it again.

We are all amplifying and participating in this endless sideshow. There is no easy solution, other than clinging to reality and clinically exposing Trump’s make-believe. Check the facts, pay attention, but ignore the pure crap.

P.S. Must-read column … N.Y. Times’ Bret Stephens, “We’re All Part of Trump’s Show”

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Trump Keeps Giving In-Kind Contributions To Elizabeth Warren’s 2020 Campaign In Waiting

WaPo “THE BIG IDEA: In 2007, a small quarterly journal published an article by a little-known bankruptcy professor at Harvard Law School named Elizabeth Warren that called for a “Financial Product Safety Commission” to protect Americans from predatory lenders and faulty mortgages the same way that the Consumer Product Safety Commission protects them from toasters that burst into flames. Warren’s idea seemed prescient a year later when economic calamity struck, and Barack Obama pushed to include it in what became the 2010 Dodd-Frank law. As a special adviser to the Treasury Department, Warren brought the concept to life in what’s now the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

The big banks and their allies inside the Obama administration blocked Warren from being appointed to lead the agency permanently. The job went instead to Richard Cordray, but the Harvard professor’s consolation prize wasn’t bad: She got elected to the U.S. Senate in 2012. Now Cordray has stepped down as director to go home to Ohio so he can run for governor next year. A legal battle has broken out over who is in charge: Cordray’s deputy Leandra English or President Trump’s budget director Mick Mulvaney. Both are claiming to be acting director.

In the past, Mulvaney has been one of the CFPB’s most outspoken critics. He’s said it exercises far too much power and called it “a joke … in a sick, sad way.” On Monday, the former congressman said his views have not changed. … The effort to dismantle the agency she dreamed up personally pains Warren, and she pledges to fight tirelessly to protect it, but Mulvaney’s takeover also offers a compelling political rationale to build a 2020 campaign around – if she chooses.”

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Trumps Seems Fixated, Even Obsessed With Warren

This week, during a White House ceremony to honor Navajo veterans who served as code talkers during World War II, he went off script to insult her as “Pocahontas.” “I just want to thank you because you’re very, very special people,” the president said. “You were here long before any of us were here. Although we have a representative in Congress who, they say, was here a long time ago. They call her ‘Pocahontas.’” Adding insult to injury, Trump took this dig in front of a portrait of Andrew Jackson – the president who signed the Indian Removal Act into law, masterminded the “trail of tears” and disregarded a pro-Native American Supreme Court decision.

Every time the president mentions the senator, he elevates her. Not only does this help Warren raise beaucoup bucks from the progressive netroots, it also boosts her 2018 reelection campaign in Massachusetts. Trump got 33 percent of the Bay State’s votes last year, and his popularity has dropped sharply since then.”

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Churchill & Roosevelt Would Be Turning Over In Their Graves

The Atlantic ” There is not much that can unify benighted Brexit Britain at the moment, but Donald Trump’s thoughtless retweeting of three hate videos from the deputy leader of a tiny fascist group has brought together left and right in an unlikely chorus of condemnation, including a rare public admonishment from 10 Downing Street. Trump couldn’t let that go and pushed back. “Don’t focus on me, focus on the destructive Radical Islamic Terrorism that is taking place within the United Kingdom,” he tweeted. “We are doing just fine!”

This universal denunciation of an American president is unprecedented in Britain, and while the Home Secretary insisted in the Commons that the invitation for a state visit had been issued (and accepted), she said no date was set. Indeed, it seems increasingly unlikely that Trump will ever be the guest of the Queen and be treated to the full panoply of British pomp, which would include an address to the Houses of Parliament.”

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Baby Names (just because)

The website Nameberry announced the most popular baby names of 2017. Atticus jumped to the top of the list for boys’ names, while Olivia kept its spot atop the girls’ list for the second year in a row.

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