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Washington Report May 4, 2018

04 May 2018

Washington Report May 4, 2018

Freestylin’ …. Trump ‘n Rudy Show … Blindsided, Again … Is The Wall Crumbling? … Un-resign … Un-truth … What to Watch Next Week … Supremes Blockbuster Season … and other news of the week.

Best,

Joyce Rubenstein

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Freestylin’ (verb – to make it up as you go)

Politico “Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former New York mayor and a recent addition to President Trump’s legal team, said Wednesday night that Trump made a series of payments reimbursing his attorney, Michael Cohen, for a $130,000 settlement with an adult-film actress. WaPo “He may have had a strategy, but Rudolph W. Giuliani hatched it almost entirely in secret. The White House counsel had no idea. Neither did the White House chief of staff, nor the White House press secretary, nor the new White House lawyer overseeing its handling of the Russia investigation.

This is an explosive new fact: that Trump did pay adult-film actress Stormy Daniels to ensure her silence about an alleged sexual encounter — it contradicts what Trump asserted last month …  that he was unaware of the HUSH MONEY, ah payment, to Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, or where Cohen got the money to make it.

“His story is obviously not consistent anymore.”

– White House official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive topic

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Trump ‘n Rudy Show

Axios “The Trump ‘n Rudy show of the past few days has operated entirely independently of the White House communications department … Guiliani ‘n Trump are playing a different game and the staff inside the building only learn about the play by watching them on TV. White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders effectively conceded yesterday she’s been operating in the dark with her previous answers to questions about payments made to Stormy Daniels. (It’s not the first time Sanders has had to repeat lines from her boss that have quickly proven false.) A source who speaks to (COS) Kelly [says] that the chief is now resigned to the fact that he can’t come close to controlling Trump: The reality is that nobody can and nobody ever will. Whoever replaces Kelly — if, indeed, anybody does — will have to accept that there’s no such thing as a chief of staff in Trump’s White House.”

Trump Blindsides Sanders, Again

“We give the very best information that we have at the time.”

– Sarah Huckabee Sanders

Politico “That was White House press secretary Sanders’ response when ABC reporter Jonathan Karl asked her during Thursday’s press briefing how the American people could trust a president and White House that “show what appears to be a blatant disregard for the truth.”

It was a line she repeated again and again in her 17 minutes of taking questions from reporters in the briefing, the first since it was revealed that Trump had repaid Michael Cohen the $130,000 in hush money the lawyer delivered to porn star Stormy Daniels — knowledge of which both Trump and Sanders had previously denied. … overall, “the best information we have at the time” has become something of a go-to line for Sanders — her version of apparently throwing up her arms in the face of a president who has proved not only impulsive and prone to changing his mind, but who has exhibited an unprecedented propensity for falsehoods. As his official spokesperson, Sanders’ performance in Tuesday’s briefing left some reporters further questioning not just the president’s credibility, but also that of his press secretary and the entire White House.”

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Is The Wall Crumbling?

Axios “It’s easy to grow immune to — or skeptical of — the constant news breaks that all seem like big, defining Trump moments unfolding before our eyes. But we might look back at this week as the real deal. The breadth and speed of the new disclosures were sobering even to the most fervent loyalists in Trump’s inner circle.”

– Two weeks after joining President Trump’s legal team, Rudy Giuliani told Fox’s Sean Hannity last night that the president had repaid Michael Cohen for his $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels: “Funneled it through a law firm and the president repaid it.” Aboard Air Force One last month, Trump was asked if he knew about the payment and he replied: “No.”

– The specificity and scope of Robert Mueller’s question list for Trump was chilling to many Trump friends, and infuriating to Trump. The questions —many of which cite specific dates, reflecting the vast narrative Mueller has already developed — sweep across the campaign, the convention, the transition, the first 13 months in office. And the questions were posed before the FBI raided Cohen’s office. Cohen is the Rosetta stone of Trumpland, with intimate knowledge of Trump’s life before the campaign.

– The disclosure that Mueller has threatened to subpoena Trump, if he refuses an interview, was a reminder of the president’s potential vulnerability amid his bluster. Giuliani told Hannity that if Trump sits down with Mueller, it should be “not under oath … not videotaped but audiotapes. I want to make sure they don’t misrepresent his answers.”

– The departure of Trump lawyers John Dowd and Ty Cobb, and the arrival of brawler Rudy Giuliani and impeachment specialist Emmet Flood, signal a more combative stage, according to the WaPo’s lead story.

– Trump has adopted an increasingly hostile posture toward the special counsel … ‘[T]he gloves may be coming off.'”

Be smart: “Trump is intent on ridding his presidency of the shadow that the investigation has cast … and no longer sees cooperating as the quickest way to make that happen. “In private conversations, Trump has taken to decrying Mueller’s probe as a ‘total b——- investigation’ and has occasionally invoked his late attorney Roy Cohn, a hard-charging figure who taught him to punch back at enemies.”

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Un-resigned … Paul Ryan’s Chaplain Firing Just Got Weirder

Politico “[Paul Ryan] the Catholic speaker of the House tried to force the Catholic House chaplain to resign. A week later, [the chaplin] un-resigned and essentially accused the speaker’s chief of staff of an anti-Catholic bias. The speaker’s chief of staff issued a rare on-record statement denying his allegation. The speaker backed down, allowing him to stay.”

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Un-truth (noun – a lie or false statement, often used euphemistically)

NYMag “During the 2016 campaign, Donald Trump’s longtime physician Dr. Harold Bornstein released a letter proclaiming that the 70-year-old, exercise-averse candidate would be the healthiest president ever. “His physical strength and stamina are extraordinary,” the letter said. “If elected, Mr. Trump, I can state unequivocally, will be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency.”

Many were suspicious of this document, which consisted of four similarly hyperbolic paragraphs, especially after Hillary Clinton released a normal, detailed medical report as Trump tried to portray her as too feeble for the presidency.  But on Tuesday Dr. Bornstein [admitted] that Trump composed it himself. “He dictated that whole letter. I didn’t write that letter,” Bornstein said.

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Defense Policy

BGov “The House Armed Services Committee (HASC) plans a marathon session Wednesday to consider the 2019 defense authorization measure. The legislation (H.R. 5515) sets spending levels and military policy for the fiscal year starting Oct. 1. While Trump and Congress have agreed on $716 billion in national security spending, look for election-year flashpoints, such as amendments that would bar Trump from building a southern border wall with Pentagon money and discussion about the Pentagon’s transgender policy. ”

Will Trump Get His Parade?

The Hill “House Republicans are supporting President Trump’s planned military parade with a provision in the annual defense policy bill that would allow the event to go forward.”

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The Trump Effect … Next Week’s Big Tests

BGov “The race for control of Congress kicks into high gear next week with primaries in four key states that will test whether Democrats can turn President Donald Trump’s low approval ratings to their advantage. Democrats and Republicans in Indiana, West Virginia, Ohio and North Carolina will pick their candidates for Congress, governor and state legislatures on Tuesday. Over the next two months, more than half of U.S. states have nominating contests that will provide a clearer sense of voters’ mood.

Republicans are trying to buck a historical trend in which the party that holds the White House almost always loses seats in midterm elections. Democrats need a net gain of 23 seats to win the House, which is viewed as more likely to change control than the Senate. Democrats are defending 10 Senate seats in states that Trump won in 2016, while while their best hopes of capturing Republican-held seats are in Nevada, Arizona and Tennessee. The GOP controls the Senate 51-49.”

PRIMARY DILEMMA “GOP candidates may hurt themselves in the general election by closely embracing Trump to win primaries. While roughly four in five Republicans nationally approve of Trump, his rating hovers at around 40% with Americans overall, historically a troubling sign for a party in power. The intensity of opposition to Trump could drive Democratic turnout against candidates who embrace the president.”

WATCHING The Senate races in West Virginia and Indiana are rated a toss-up by the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. But that could change depending on voters’ choices Tuesday.

WEST VIRGINIA in a three-way West Virginia primary, independent analysts and GOP strategists say that a victory by Don Blankenship — a coal executive who served jail time for a safety violation that killed 29 people — would squander a winnable seat. (See Blankenship’s Ad that attacks Sen. Mitch McConnell’s ‘China Family.’) The other GOP contenders, Representative Evan Jenkins and state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, are seen as stronger candidates to take on incumbent Joe Manchin, a moderate Democrat and former governor who has walked a fine line politically to remain viable in a state trending strongly against his party. “If Blankenship wins, the Cook Political Report will likely adjust its forecast to indicate the seat is leaning Democratic.

INDIANA  A competitive three-way GOP race features a bitter rivalry between U.S. Representatives Todd Rokita and Luke Messer, as well as former state legislator Mike Braun. The winner will take on incumbent Democrat Joe Donnelly. [All these] candidates are battling over who is most supportive of Trump.

OHIO Polls show there’s a clear favorite among GOP Senate candidates: Representative Jim Renacci, who is among those signing the letter nominating Trump for a Nobel Prize. The GOP primary winner will take on incumbent Democrat Sherrod Brown, the only member of his party elected to statewide office in Ohio. The race is rated “lean Democrat” by the Cook Political Report.

It’s Turnout, Stupid

” … Democrats have an 8-point advantage among voters asked which party they’d rather see control Congress, according to a Monmouth University poll released Thursday. That’s roughly the margin political analysts believe Democrats will need to take control of the House, because of the GOP-friendly way in which districts are drawn.

Tuesday’s primaries, and those that follow, will signal how motivated Democrats are to oppose Trump. Likewise, they’ll indicate whether Republican voters are enthusiastic about supporting the president. “Always look at turnout because it tells you something about enthusiasm,”

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Supremes Blockbuster Season

WaPo “The sweep of this term is simply breathtaking,” Elizabeth Wydra, president of the Constitutional Accountability Center said at an event last week. “It’s even hard to imagine …  the crush of momentous decisions that are going to come down in the month of June.”

A brief review of just a few:

– Whether President Trump exceeded his power or violated the Constitution with his executive order banning most travel from a small group of mostly Muslim countries.

– If the court will find a state’s redistricting efforts so infected with partisan bias that it must be thrown out, something the justices have never done before. Cases from Wisconsin and Maryland present the question, and the court is considering charges of racial gerrymandering in Texas.

– Whether a baker in Colorado was within his rights to refuse to create a wedding cake for a gay couple, citing his religious beliefs, even though the state’s public accommodations law specifically forbids discrimination based on sexual orientation.

– Whether the court’s 40-year-old precedent allowing public employee unions to collect fees from the nonmembers it represents in collective bargaining should be overturned, a longtime goal of some conservative justices and one that organized labor says would be crippling.

– If New Jersey has the right to lift its own longtime ban on sports betting, a move that would likely set off a chain reaction among other states that want to get in on the billions of dollars now mostly wagered illegally.

AND THE REALLY BIG DECISION …

Of course, the real decision that everyone wants from Justice Anthony Kennedy is whether he will be back for another term next October. If Trump can replace Kennedy, the court’s pivotal justice, he will affect the court for years. Administration sources say they are in the dark about Kennedy’s plans, and perhaps that is no surprise. The Supreme Court treasures secrecy. The Trump White House is full of leaks. If Kennedy decides to depart, the administration probably won’t learn until it happens.

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Banned

theSkimm “Iowa lawmakers just passed the nation’s toughest abortion bill. The bill bans most abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected – usually around six weeks in. It makes exceptions for some rape and incest cases, and when the mother’s life is at risk. Now it’s up to the state’s pro-life governor to decide whether to sign off. She hasn’t said what she’ll do.

This all sounds familiar …That’s because other states have recently passed similar laws. Earlier this year, Mississippi passed a law that would ban abortions after 15 weeks – including in cases of rape and incest.

What do critics say … A lot of women don’t even know they’re pregnant at six weeks. So we’ll see you in court.

What do supporters say … We were hoping you’d say that. If this bill is signed, it could pave the way for a Roe v Wade do-over with the Supremes. Pro-life advocates have been hoping for a chance to overturn Roe v Wade for decades. With SCOTUS’s newest right-leaning justice, conservatives might have a shot.

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