Author Archive | Partisan

Even on Fox, Trump’s Helsinki Performance Was ‘Ridiculous’ and ‘Surreal’

By Scott Nover

When Donald Trump stood side by side with Russian President Vladimir Putin and announced he was taking Putin’s word over that of his own intelligence community, talking heads spun on cable news. And rightfully so.

On CNN, Anderson Cooper called Trump’s performance “disgraceful.” Cooper’s face was noticeably cringing and his voice was shaking. John King called the event “the surrender summit.” Dana Bash said journalists “asked the questions of Vladimir Putin that the president of the United States failed to do.”

All par for the course from CNN. The big surprise was going on over at Fox News, where the consternation and outrage were only slightly more restrained.

The day started with Fox and Friends’ Brian Kilmeade taking issue with Trump’s pre-meeting tweet, which read: “Our relationship with Russia has NEVER been worse thanks to many years of U.S. foolishness and stupidity and now, the Rigged Witch Hunt!”

“That’s by far the most ridiculous tweet of late,” Kilmeade said in response. “That is insulting to past administrations—he can’t be saying that going into the Russian summit.”

Then, after the press conference in Helsinki, the Fox gloves really started to come off on Twitter.

“Trump is unable to see past himself,” tweeted Brit Hume, a senior political analyst on the network.

“There is an avalanche of you-know-what rolling downhill at warp speed toward @realDonaldTrump over this summit. Republicans – even the DNI are throwing bucketsful at him,” tweeted Fox’s chief White House correspondent John Roberts.

Fox & Friends Weekend host Abby Huntsman, who is the daughter of Russian Ambassador Jon Huntsman, tweeted, “No negotiation is worth throwing your own people and country under the bus.”

On air, things were much more even-keeled, but were still far from Fox’s standard laudatory fare. Most of the personalities …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



The Atlantic Politics & Policy Daily: Off Putin

By Elaine Godfrey

-Written by Elaine Godfrey (@elainejgodfrey), Maddie Carlisle (@maddieec123), and Olivia Paschal (@oliviacpaschal)

Today in 5 Lines

  • During a joint press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin, President Trump rejected the consensus among the U.S. intelligence community that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election. “They said, ‘I think it is Russia.’ I have President Putin. He just said it is not Russia,” Trump said in Helsinki after a two-hour private meeting with Putin. “I will say this: I do not see any reason why it would be.”

  • Members of Congress, including some Republicans, condemned Trump’s remarks and his refusal to confront Russia. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats also issued a response, saying his agency “will continue to provide unvarnished and objective intelligence in support of our national security.”

  • The Justice Department charged a Russian national with conspiracy to act as an agent of Russia in the United States.

  • Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai said he has “serious concerns” about the proposed merger between Sinclair Broadcast Group and Tribune Media.

  • Broward Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer heard arguments about whether Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz’s statement to police should be made public.

Today on The Atlantic


Trump’s Meeting With Putin Draws Alarmed Responses From Both Parties

By Natasha Bertrand

“Surreal.” “Extraordinary.” “Disgraceful.” Lawmakers in the U.S. and abroad appeared shell-shocked on Monday following President Trump’s press conference with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, in which Trump again refused to condemn Putin for Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, even going so far as to deny the conclusion of U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia was responsible.

“I think we have both been foolish,” Trump said, when asked by a reporter whether he would hold Russia accountable “at all, for anything in particular.”

“We should have had this dialogue a long time ago, before I got to office,” Trump continued. “And I think we are all to blame.” Asked later whether he would denounce Russian interference and ask Putin to never do it again, Trump said he didn’t “see any reason why it would be Russia” that interfered, and began discussing the Democratic National Committee server that, according to the Justice Department, was hacked by Russian intelligence officers in 2016. “I really want to see the server,” Trump said, appearing to cast doubt on his administration’s conclusions. (The FBI obtained copies of the DNC server from the private firm hired to investigate the hack).

Trump has been famously reluctant to publicly accept the assessment from U.S. intelligence agencies that the Kremlin engaged in an influence operation designed to defeat his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, and put the New York real estate tycoon in the White House, calling the investigation into that interference a “witch hunt.” Yet the investigation into the Russian operation and potential ties to the Trump campaign has continued to produce indictments and even convictions of former Trump officials, including Trump’s former National-Security Adviser Michael Flynn and his former campaign manager Paul Manafort. Last May, Trump fired then-FBI Director James Comey, an act that ultimately prompted the …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



This Is the Moment of Truth for Republicans

By James Fallows

There are exactly two possible explanations for the shameful performance the world witnessed on Monday, from a serving American president.

Either Donald Trump is flat-out an agent of Russian interests—witting, unwitting, from fear of blackmail, in hope of future deals, out of manly respect for Vladimir Putin, out of gratitude for Russia’s help during the election, out of pathetic inability to see beyond his 306 electoral votes—whatever the exact mixture of motives might be, it doesn’t really matter.

Or he is so profoundly ignorant, insecure, and narcissistic not to realize that, at every step, he was advancing the line that Putin hoped he would advance, and the line that the American intelligence, defense, and law-enforcement agencies most dreaded.

Conscious tool. Useful idiot. Those are the choices, though both possibly true—the main question is the proportions.

Whatever the balance of motivations, what mattered was that Trump’s answers were indistinguishable from Putin’s, starting with the fundamental claim that Putin’s assurances about interference in U.S. democracy (“he was incredibly strong and confident in his denial”) deserved belief over those of his own Department of Justice (“I think the probe is a disaster for our country”).

I am old enough to remember Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon telling lies on TV, about Vietnam (in both cases) and Watergate for Nixon. I remember the travails and deceptions of Bill Clinton, and of George W. Bush in the buildup to the disastrous Iraq war.

But never before have I seen an American president consistently, repeatedly, publicly, and shockingly advance the interests of another country over those of his own government and people.

Trump himself manifestly cannot help himself. This is who he is.

Those who could do something are the 51 Republican senators, and 236 Republican representatives, who have the power to hold hearings, issue subpoenas, pass resolutions of censure, guarantee the integrity of …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



The Trump-Putin Summit Shows the Dangers of Executive Power

By Conor Friedersdorf

On Monday, President Donald Trump begins a summit with Vladimir Putin, the brutal authoritarian who leads Russia, a country where political dissidents are murdered; journalists, minorities, and homosexuals are persecuted; neighbors live under the threat of military takeover, and multiple hackers with close ties to the Kremlin are under FBI indictment for interfering in America’s 2016 election.

It is necessary to meet with such men. Yet to love truth or liberty or democracy or justice or human rights or mere decency is to disapprove of Putin. And Trump has lavished praise on his Russian counterpart for years—long before he was in office and the pretext of diplomacy could be invoked—even singling out his “strength over his country” and comparing his leadership favorably to then-President Barack Obama.

The substance of Trump’s bygone words is so repugnant and morally degenerate that Americans should feel upset he is representing our country in bilateral talks. At best, the values implicit in Trump’s bygone statements are un-American—they explicitly value a foreign leader’s brutal, repressive strength more highly than the life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness it has undermined.

Because he has been similarly obsequious when talking about other murderous dictators, and because his personal life is so rife with senseless cruelty, I think his depraved personal values are sufficient to explain his disconcerting words.

Other critics insist that the way he flatters Putin suggests something even darker when seen in the context of his suspicious business ties to Russians, his determination to hide the details of his finances, the closeness of his political associates’s corrupt ties to Moscow, and Trump’s flagrant lies about those associates. With a publication as mainstream as New York titling a cover story, “Will Trump Be Meeting With His Counterpart—Or His Handler?” it is clear that the president …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



Even Never Trump Evangelicals Might Be Swayed by the Supreme Court

By Emma Green

Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination is the consummation of one of the big bets behind the 2016 election. Many white Christians voted for Donald Trump because they believed he would appoint conservative justices who would protect religious liberty and advance the pro-life cause. Now, ostensibly, they’ve been vindicated. With less than two years in office, Trump will very possibly see the confirmation of his second Supreme Court nominee, another handpicked choice of the conservative legal establishment.

At the time, however, it wasn’t at all clear how this bet would play out. Particularly in the evangelical world, the divisions over the 2016 election were bitter. A number of prominent leaders stepped out to urge their fellow Christians to consider what their vote would say to the world. Two years later, their largely positive reaction to Kavanaugh’s nomination is one sign that the intense political fractures in the evangelical world are fading—at least on the surface, and at least for now.

“I’ve never seen the SBC this unified,” said one of these leaders—Russell Moore, the head of the political arm of the Southern Baptist Convention—in an interview on Wednesday. That unity has emerged in personal relationships and attitudes, he said, but it also seems to be the case in politics. Eighteen months into the Trump era, evangelical leaders are looking for ways to come together under this administration, even if existential questions about the future of the evangelical movement remain.

When Kavanaugh’s nomination was announced, Moore’s office—the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, or ERLC—put out a jubilant statement. “Supreme Court nominations are a crucial aspect of any president’s legacy,” it read. “With Judge Kavanaugh, President Trump has an opportunity to shape the direction of the Supreme Court for a generation or more.” On Wednesday, Moore told me he was “very happy” with the pick: …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



The Red-State Democrats’ Many Paths to ‘No’

By Dick Polman

Conventional wisdom decrees that red-state Democratic senators running for reelection are politically screwed, regardless of how they vote on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. If they signal thumbs-up, they’ll infuriate the party’s progressive base and dampen the Democratic turnout they’ll badly need. Thumbs-down, they’ll make it easier for Republicans to attack them as Trump-hating obstructionists in states the president won by double digits in 2016.

So goes the argument, as articulated by Democratic commentators like Ed Kilgore in New York magazine (“It’s a classic damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation”), and, more predictably, by Republicans like Senator Lindsey Graham (“This is a nightmare for red-state Democrats”). The conventional solution for those Democrats presumably living that nightmare—Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, and Claire McCaskill of Missouri—is that they should inoculate themselves at home by propelling Kavanaugh to the high court.

But there’s a countervailing view—in judicial parlance, a dissenting opinion—that these senators should eschew political calculations and seize the historic moment, that they should unite with the rest of the Democratic caucus and take a stand for principles that are currently under unprecedented attack. And by doing so, perhaps they can still benefit politically, by galvanizing grassroots Democrats to show up in strength for the midterm elections—something they failed to do in the red waves of 2010 and 2014.

In the words of Adam Jentleson, who served former Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid as deputy chief of staff, “Now, with everything progressives have fought for at stake if the Supreme Court holds a conservative majority for a generation, lawmakers from states that voted for Trump have to understand that this is one of those fights that defines what it means to be a Democrat. From concerns about the Affordable Care …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



The Swamp Isn’t Easy to Drain

By Jay Cost

Donald Trump rode to Washington, D.C., on a pledge to “drain the swamp,” but so far his administration has luxuriated in the filth. Trump’s hotels have made a mint from bookings related to government business. And with the president’s tax returns still under lock and key, it remains unclear how the Trump Organization may be profiting from his various policies. Meanwhile, former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt seems to have used the resources of the Environmental Protection Agency to live high on the hog, tasking staffers with attending to his personal business and receiving sweetheart deals on room and board from special interests.

And it is not just Trump. Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey, a Democrat, was prosecuted last year for corruption-related offenses stemming from his relationship with the ophthalmologist Salomon Melgen. Although after a mistrial the Department of Justice dropped the charges against Menendez, it is clear that Melgen lavished high-value gifts upon Menendez, and in turn received attention that the average New Jerseyan could never hope to get.

All of this comes at a time when Americans feel especially alienated from Washington, D.C. Populist movements on the left and right have advanced opposing policy solutions, but everybody from Bernie Sanders to Ted Cruz seems to believe that the government is working for the “1 percent,” rather than the people at large.

Unfortunately, there are no easy answers to the problem of political corruption, to the anti-republican bending of government authority to serve the interests of a well-connected few rather than the many. It would be a relief if such corruption were simply the result of a handful of bad actors in politics, or a recent development that might be easily reversed, but its roots go much deeper. Ultimately, corruption is a side effect of the modern state itself. Any government robust …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



The Atlantic Politics & Policy Daily: Russian to Conclusions

By Elaine Godfrey

-Written by Elaine Godfrey (@elainejgodfrey)

Today in 5 Lines

  • A grand jury indicted 12 Russian intelligence officials for allegedly attempting to interfere with the 2016 presidential election by hacking into computers and email systems of the Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and Hillary Clinton’s campaign. The White House responded in a statement, saying, “Today’s charges include no allegations of knowing involvement of anyone on the campaign.”

  • The indictment, filed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, showed that the Russian attempt to breach the Clinton campaign’s emails happened around the same time that then-candidate Donald Trump had addressed Russia in a press conference, saying, “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.”

  • Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called on President Trump to cancel his upcoming meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin “until Russia takes demonstrable and transparent steps to prove that they won’t interfere in future elections.”

  • During a joint press conference with British Prime Minister Theresa May, Trump accused several news organizations of spreading “fake news.” He also had tea with Queen Elizabeth II at Windsor Castle outside of London.

  • The state of Indiana has spent at least $21 million cleaning up sites contaminated by gas stations owned by Vice President Mike Pence’s family, according an analysis of records by the AP.

Today on The Atlantic


Mueller’s Blockbuster Indictment

By Paul Rosenzweig

It’s always on Fridays. Almost like clockwork, each new indictment from the Special Counsel’s office released on a Friday afternoon, just in time to disrupt the weekend news cycle. Not that anyone is complaining, because this week’s indictment is a blockbuster—an 11-count indictment of 12 Russian military officers alleging that they engaged in a hacking campaign against Hillary Clinton, the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

All 12 of the officers are said to be members of the GRU—the Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff of the Russian Army. When you think of them, imagine, if you will, colonels and lieutenants in America’s Defense Intelligence Agency and you have a rough equivalent. They are said to have stolen gigabytes of information, released it to the public through false personas, given it to one unnamed organization (which is almost certainly WikiLeaks) for disclosure, and tried to cover their tracks.

What to make of this indictment? Well, with the caveat that these are only allegations that only reflect evidence presented to a grand jury (and thus, not yet proven beyond a reasonable doubt in a trial), there is probable cause for the following conclusions:

First, Vladimir Putin has told the President that the Russian government did not interfere in the American elections. Putin is lying—plain and simple. There are no circumstances under which an arm of the Russian military would undertake an information operation of this sort without approval from the highest levels. American intelligence agencies had earlier made this point in a conclusory way—now it appears to be true. President Trump has previously seemed to accept Putin’s disclaimer of a role—how he will react to these latest revelations in the run-up to Monday’s summit with Putin is anyone’s guess.

Second, none of these Russian officers is ever going to stand trial. …read more

Via:: The Atlantic