Archive | July, 2018

The Atlantic Politics & Policy Daily: RSVPutin

By Elaine Godfrey

Written by Elaine Godfrey (@elainejgodfrey), Maddie Carlisle (@maddiecarlisle2), and Olivia Paschal (@oliviacpaschal)

Today in 5 Lines

  • The White House said that President Trump “disagrees” with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s proposal to interrogate 11 Americans, in exchange for allowing the U.S. to question the 12 Russians indicted last week. Trump first called the offer “incredible.”

  • The White House said that Trump asked National-Security Adviser John Bolton to invite Putin to Washington this fall. Earlier in the day, Trump tweeted that he is “looking forward” to his second meeting with Putin.

  • Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen hedged when asked whether the administration would reunify 2,500 immigrant children with their families by July 26, as a federal court has ordered. “We will do our best, but we will not cut corners,” Nielsen said at the Aspen Security Forum.

  • Trump criticized the Federal Reserve for increasing interest rates in June, telling CNBC, “I don’t like all of this work that we’re putting into the economy and then I see rates going up.”

  • The House passed a package of appropriations bills for 2019 that would cut funding for the Environmental Protection Agency by $100 million.

Today on The Atlantic


The Trump Voters Thanking Russia for Its Help

By McKay Coppins

Updated at 5:28 p.m. ET

On Wednesday morning, in the midst of yet another contentious news cycle dominated by coverage of Russian election meddling, I tweeted a kind of thought experiment: “If Trump & co. just pivoted to ‘Aren’t you glad Russia helped us defeat Hillary Clinton?’ would there be any serious blowback from his base?”

The question was rhetorical. The answers that began trickling in were not.

“No,” said Cassandra Fairbanks, a writer at the right-wing news and conspiracy website Gateway Pundit (and a former Sputnik employee). “I mean, I would be cool with it. I’m already there. If Russia was involved we should thank them.”

“No,” responded another self-identified Trump voter. “Hillary is a greater threat to our Republic.”

Several people pointed me to Jacob Wohl, a Trump booster with a large Twitter following, who had mused just hours earlier, “If Russia assists MAGA Candidates on the internet in this year’s midterms, that’s not the end of the world.” And others re-upped a C-SPAN clip from the day before in which a caller identified as Mary Lou from Connecticut said, “I’ll try not to sound too awful, but I want to thank the Russians for interfering with our election to stop Hillary Clinton from becoming president. That woman has got illusions of grandeur.”

These are anecdotal cases, of course. As Phillip Bump notes in The Washington Post, there hasn’t been much polling data measuring how Americans feel about foreign governments interfering in United States elections; up to now, disapproval has simply been presumed. The polls that are available suggest that most Trump supporters don’t believe there was any Russian election interference, and if there was, it had no effect on the race.

But as Washington braces for special counsel Robert Mueller to release the …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



Trump’s Missing A-Game

By Dick Polman

It’s often hard to parse an historic marker, to pluck one from the velocity of events, but Helsinki may truly be the extraordinary moment when Donald Trump’s worst traits were so blatantly self-exposed that even some of his own partisans, in Congress and the conservative media, were compelled to confront the truth.

Presidents typically succeed by controlling the narratives around them. Trump has long understood that concept, dating back to his ’80s social swirl, when he spun his way through the New York tabloids with leaked tidbits about himself. But Helsinki proved that when the stakes are highest, when the nation’s security is threatened by a seasoned enemy standing a few feet away, Trump cannot bring the requisite A-game. And the Republicans who revered Ronald Reagan as The Great Communicator, as the stalwart foe of an “evil empire,” are saddled with a president who verbally waffles in defense of his country—at the precise moment when Americans want clarity.

Lieutenant General Mark Hertling, a former commanding general of U.S. Army Europe, is not alone when he says that the Russian attack on the 2016 election is “our Pearl Harbor, our 9/11.” But the difference, in the wake of those disasters, was that Presidents Roosevelt and Bush did not respond with ambivalence. By contrast, even though Trump was briefed even before his inauguration that Vladimir Putin personally ordered the cyberattacks, as The New York Times reported Thursday, he has still spent much of this week lost in his own verbiage, futilely chasing a consistent narrative.

In Helsinki on Monday, with Putin virtually at his elbow and the whole world watching, he refused to endorse the U.S. intelligence consensus that he has known for the past 18 months. Referring to Putin, Trump declared: “He just said it’s not Russia. …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



Jeff Flake Stands Alone

By Russell Berman

Eighteen months into Donald Trump’s tumultuous tenure in the White House, and days into a ferocious public backlash against Trump’s meeting with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Jeff Flake stands alone among the president’s Republican critics in the Senate.

Bob Corker, who once likened Trump’s White House to an “adult day care center,” vacillates between defiance and deference. Ben Sasse keeps his occasional barbs confined mostly to Twitter. The president’s vanquished GOP rivals—Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and Lindsey Graham—have, apart from the occasional spat, returned to the fold. Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski revolted on health care, but they backed Trump on taxes and judges, and their public criticism is more restrained. John McCain, Trump’s chief tormenter in 2017, now lashes the president only from afar, his rhetorical reach limited by a twilight fight with brain cancer.

Flake, however, calls out the president in an entirely different tone than his fellow GOP skeptics. He has given voice to concerns about Trump’s aptitude and motives that most Republicans will whisper only in private. The Arizona senator’s outspoken turn against the president began in a moment of political freedom: Flake announced last October that he would not seek reelection this fall and did so with a broadside on the Senate floor against what he called “the daily sundering of our country.” He is the exception that proves the rule in Republican politics—a senator who escalated his fight against the president only after liberating himself from its inevitable electoral consequences.

While Flake has largely voted with Trump on major policy issues since that time, his criticism of the president has continued in that vein. But in the days since Trump stood alongside Putin and appeared to side with the Russian president over America’s own intelligence community, his critique has taken on a …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



Donald Trump Is an Unpatriotic Hypernationalist

By Peter Beinart

In 1945, George Orwell distinguished between “nationalism” and “patriotism.” Nationalism, he argued, is the belief that your nation should dominate others. It “is inseparable from the desire for power.” A nationalist, Orwell argued, “thinks solely, or mainly, in terms of competitive prestige … his thoughts always turn on victories, defeats, triumphs and humiliations.” Patriotism, by contrast, involves “devotion to a particular place and a particular way of life, which one … has no wish to force on other people.” Orwell’s explanation of patriotism is brief. But his implication is that while nationalism is about the relationship between your country and other countries, patriotism is about the relationship between your country and yourself. It derives from the Latin “pater,” meaning father. Just as devotion to family requires placing its well being above your own, devotion to country—patriotism—extends that principle to the nation as a whole.

Orwell’s dichotomy has its critics. But it helps to explain Donald Trump, the most nationalistic, and least patriotic, president in American history.

Trump has elevated nationalism above the competing principles that once guided conservative public policy. George W. Bush’s Christian moralism, for instance, led him to increase funding for AIDS in Africa and to declare, in a 2006 speech on immigration that, “Every human being has dignity and value no matter what their citizenship papers say.” His belief in unfettered capitalism led him to embrace China’s entrance into the World Trade Organization and sign a free-trade agreement with central American states. These statements and policies reflected a willingness to occasionally subordinate American sovereignty to other values Republicans held dear.

For Trump, by contrast, “America First” means that American nationalism supersedes those other values. You can see this hierarchy in his policies: his tariffs on foreign goods, cuts in foreign aid, and efforts to reduce even legal …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



The White House Can’t Contain the Russia Story

By Rosie Gray

The White House hasn’t lost control of the narrative surrounding President Trump and Russia, because it never had control in the first place. The fallout from the past few days following Trump’s explosive press conference with Vladimir Putin has further exposed the deficiencies in the administration’s messaging capabilities, as the cleanup effort has been badly outmatched by new developments and the president’s muddled statements.

The week began with Trump’s session with Putin in Helsinki—a two-hour-long meeting with only translators and the two principals in the room. Trump finished the meeting by standing next to Putin at a press conference and rejecting his own intelligence agencies’ assessment that the Russians meddled in the 2016 election. After almost 24 hours of backlash, during which administration officials largely went mum, Trump ended up backtracking, reading a prepared statement in which he said he accepts the intelligence community’s findings—though he quickly undercut his own claim.

While his statement seemed designed to quell the public criticism, the story still wasn’t over. On Wednesday, Trump was asked by a reporter whether Russia is still targeting U.S. elections, and he answered “Thank you very much, no.” In the press briefing later that day, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders claimed the “no” had been Trump saying he didn’t want to answer media questions.

Complicating matters further, she then seemed to leave the door open for the Russians to question former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul, as they’ve long desired to do as part of their campaign against Putin antagonist Bill Browder. Asked if Trump is open to Russia’s request, Sanders said:“The president is going to meet with his team, and we’ll let you know when we have an announcement on that.” The day finished with a blockbuster story in The …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



Which Trump Official Should Americans Believe?

By Krishnadev Calamur

President Trump’s news conference Monday with Russian President Vladimir Putin has quickly become the sort of gift that keeps on giving: The focus, initially, was on Trump saying he believed Putin’s assertion that Russia didn’t interfere in the 2016 presidential election over U.S. intelligence assessments that it did. Now, the question is just how seriously the Trump administration is considering what the president called an “incredible” offer from Putin.

Putin apparently made that offer during the more than two-hour one-on-one meeting between the two men, who were accompanied only by their translators. According to Putin’s own account in a news conference in Helsinki, as well as later Russian accounts, the offer involved allowing Robert Mueller, the special counsel, to interview 12 Russian intelligence officials indicted in the U.S. last week as part of the investigation into Russia’s election interference in 2016. In exchange, the U.S. would allow Russian officials to question 11 prominent Americans, including Michael McFaul, the former U.S. ambassador to Russia, for what Putin alleges to have been illegal activities—allegations the U.S. firmly denies. How the Trump administration plans to respond to this “incredible” offer depends, as such things often do, on who you ask.

At the White House, Sarah Sanders, the spokeswoman, said: “There was some conversation about it, but there wasn’t a commitment made on behalf of the United States. And the president will work with his team, and we’ll let you know if there’s an announcement on that front.” Moments later, at the State Department, Heather Nauert, the spokeswoman there, had an unequivocal response when she was asked about the Russian offer: “The overall assertions that have come out of the Russian Government are absolutely absurd,” she said.

At issue in addition to McFaul, whom Russian officials targeted for …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



Trump Can Never Go Too Far for Republicans

By David A. Graham

Give President Trump and his team this much: They didn’t have a lot to work with.

Facing an uproar even among allies, the president on Tuesday sought to reverse the controversial comments he’d made alongside Russian President Vladimir Putin in Finland. Speaking before a meeting with members of Congress, Trump said that in contrast to his remarks in Helsinki, he accepted the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusion blaming Russia for election interference—though he immediately undercut that by saying others might have been involved. (“Could have been other people also. There’s a lot of people out there.”) He also claimed that he had misspoken.

“In a key sentence in my remarks, I said the word would instead of wouldn’t,” Trump said. “The sentence should have been, ‘I don’t see any reason why I wouldn’t or why it wouldn’t be Russia.’”

Even by the standards of the chronically dishonest Trump White House, this was flimsy. For one thing, Trump has repeatedly said he did not believe that Russia had interfered, though he’s waffled on occasion. For another, he immediately undermined his own statement. But the most audacious claim was that he had meant “would” instead of “wouldn’t,” which required discarding the president’s long history of casting doubt on Russian interference, the immediate context for his remarks in Helsinki, and his insistence that he intended to use a double negative.

The obvious, immediate question was: Who would ever believe this?

The answer came almost as immediately: Republicans in Congress.

As I wrote Tuesday, the main goal of Trump’s comments seemed to be to quiet friendly fire from the GOP. To do that, the president had to offer just the slightest cover to Republican leaders. Even if his denial wasn’t credible, it was at least a denial. If Trump’s would/wouldn’t excuse was cynical, it also proved effective, at least …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



Can Trump’s Republican Critics Find Strength in Numbers?

By Ronald Brownstein

Even after Hurricane Helsinki, President Trump’s Republican critics still find themselves shouting into the wind.

While more Republicans than usual criticized Trump’s dizzying news conference with Vladimir Putin earlier this week, the possibility of a sustained backlash inside the party is already dwindling. It’s splintering against the same rocks that quickly ended the uprising last summer over Trump’s comments on white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia: the refusal of congressional Republicans to offer more than cursory questioning of his behavior, much less impose any consequences for it. “People are not on board yet for really taking him on,” admits Bill Kristol, the long-time conservative strategist and leading Trump critic, in an interview.

Trump’s Republican skeptics, both inside and outside of Congress, agree that GOP officials who privately rail about Trump won’t publicly challenge him primarily because polls show he’s so popular with the party base. But that’s partly a self-fulfilling prophecy: One reason Trump is so popular with the base is because no one has made a systematic case against his presidency from a Republican perspective.

A handful of Republican elected officials, and a slightly longer roster of party strategists and intellectuals, have intermittently criticized Trump for his attacks on federal law enforcement, his racially divisive language and actions, his assaults on the Western military alliance, his trade wars, and his obsequiousness toward Putin. Often, those critiques have been eloquent and impassioned. But, judging by Trump’s towering Republican approval ratings, they have left little imprint.

If anything, these solo flights may have weakened the anti-Trump cause inside the GOP. Other elected officials view occasional Trump critics like Senators Jeff Flake and Bob Corker, who are retiring, and Representative Mark Sanford, who lost a primary, less as an inspiration than a warning. “The individual ad hoc attacks on Trump aren’t effective, and they are potentially counterproductive, …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



The Atlantic Politics & Policy Daily: ‘No’ Problem

By Elaine Godfrey

Written by Elaine Godfrey (@elainejgodfrey), Maddie Carlisle (@maddiecarlisle2), and Olivia Paschal (@oliviacpaschal)

Today in 5 Lines

  • When asked by a reporter on Wednesday whether Russia was still targeting the U.S., President Trump answered, “no.” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders later clarified Trump’s response, saying the “no” was in reference to answering reporters’ questions.

  • A federal judge ordered Maria Butina, an alleged Russian spy, to be held in jail until her trial. Federal prosecutors argued that Butina is a flight risk because of her connection to the Russian government.

  • During remarks at a Cabinet meeting, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said a denuclearization deal with North Korea “may take some time,” but that sanctions would continue being enforced.

  • House Republicans approved a symbolic measure praising Immigration and Customs Enforcement, after several progressive Democrats introduced legislation to abolish the agency.

  • The House voted to go to conference with the Senate on the 2018 farm bill.

Today on The Atlantic

  • The Russians Are Coming: President Trump appeared to suggest on Wednesday that Russia has stopped targeting the United States. He’s wrong, writes Amy Zegart: “We are at war. But only the enemy is fighting.”

  • Hmmm: The White House transcript of President Trump’s press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin left out a key exchange. Here’s what was missing. (Uri Friedman)

  • Abortion by Mail: If access to legal abortion becomes more restricted in the U.S., some women may opt to purchase mifepristone and misoprostol pills through the mail. (Olga Khazan)

  • The Loneliest Number: Only one congressional Republican has spoken out against President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee: Michigan’s Justin Amash. (Russell Berman)

  • ‘Have You No Shame?’ In the Trump era, Americans no longer require decency in their politicians. (James Traub)


Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh, left, meets with Senator Mike …read more

Via:: <a href= class="colorbox" title="The Atlantic Politics & Policy Daily: ‘No’ Problem” rel=nofollow>The Atlantic