August 16, 2018

President Trump may have revoked former CIA Director John Brennan's security clearance on Wednesday, but he did not take away his ability to write or his audience for presumably informed criticism of Trump's actions. In an op-ed in The New York Times on Thursday, Brennan touches on Russia's contemporaneous denials that it was interfering in the 2016 election — "Russian denials are, in a word, hogwash" — and explains how Trump's public encouragement for Russia to hack and disseminate Hillary Clinton's emails made the CIA and FBI's job of stopping Russian election-tampering much harder:

Such a public clarion call certainly makes one wonder what Mr. Trump privately encouraged his advisers to do — and what they actually did — to win the election. While I had deep insight into Russian activities during the 2016 election, I now am aware — thanks to the reporting of an open and free press — of many more of the highly suspicious dalliances of some American citizens with people affiliated with the Russian intelligence services.

Mr. Trump's claims of no collusion are, in a word, hogwash. The only questions that remain are whether the collusion that took place constituted criminally liable conspiracy, whether obstruction of justice occurred to cover up any collusion or conspiracy, and how many members of "Trump Incorporated" attempted to defraud the government by laundering and concealing the movement of money into their pockets. [John Brennan, The New York Times]

Brennan then tied up the loose ends: "Mr. Trump clearly has become more desperate to protect himself and those close to him, which is why he made the politically motivated decision to revoke my security clearance in an attempt to scare into silence others who might dare to challenge him." Trump himself suggested to The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday that he revoked Brennan's security clearance because of the Trump-Russia investigation. You can read Brennan's entire op-ed at The New York Times. Peter Weber

August 16, 2018
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When the White House announced Wednesday that President Trump had revoked the security clearance of former CIA Director John Brennan, the stated rationale was Brennan's purported "erratic conduct and behavior" and "unfounded and outrageous allegations — wild outbursts on the internet and television — about this administration."

Since Trump said he was also considering revoking the security clearances of nine other high-ranking intelligence and law enforcement officials, all of whom have publicly criticized him, most people assumed this was an unprecedented and autocratic-style act of retribution and a warning to other critics in the intelligence and law enforcement communities. Trump suggested to The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday that in fact he was targeting officials specifically involved in the investigation of his campaign and Russia now being overseen by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

Brennan presented evidence to Trump right before his inauguration about Russia interfering in the 2016 election, and Trump once again called into question the legitimacy the investigation upon which that intelligence assessment was based. "You know, in theory I'm not under investigation ... I'm not a target. But regardless, I think that whole — I call it the rigged witch hunt — is a sham." Trump told the Journal. "And these people led it!" he added. "So I think it's something that had to be done."

Trump's statement, briefly dated July 26, "made no suggestion Mr. Brennan gave away classified information or revealed national secrets, a common reason for revoking security clearances," the Journal noted. Trump made his list of targets sound personal. "I don't trust many of those people on that list," he told the Journal. "I think that they're very duplicitous. I think they're not good people." The feeling is probably mutual. Peter Weber

August 15, 2018
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White House counselor Kellyanne Conway invited The Washington Post's Ben Terris to her family's new $7.7 million house in an elite Washington, D.C., neighborhood "where wealth and influence serve as a cooling balm for the partisan inflammation that has spread elsewhere," Terris writes, and "everybody — Democrat and Republican — belongs to the garden party." But Terris mostly writes about their marriage — her, President Trump's MAGA flame-keeper, and him a prominent #NeverTrump conservative with an A-plus Twitter game. Their marriage, as Terris describes it, is straight out of a sitcom.

"He's not just my boss," Kellyanne says, after the couple shows Terris a photo George took of Trump on election night. "He's our president." "Yeah," George replies, walking out of the room. "We'll see how long that lasts." But Kellyanne's job and George's anti-Trump tweets are clearly a source of tension in the marriage, as Terris captures in this conversation:

Me: You told me you found [George’s tweets] disrespectful.
Kellyanne: It is disrespectful, it's a violation of basic decency, certainly, if not marital vows ... as "a person familiar with their relationship."
Me: No, we're on the record here. You can't say after the fact "as someone familiar."
Kellyanne: I told you everything about his tweets was off the record.
Me: No, that's not true. That never happened. ... We never discussed everything about his tweets being off the record. There are certain things you said that I put off the record.
Kellyanne: Fine. I've never actually said what I think about it and I won't say what I think about it, which tells you what I think about it. [The Washington Post]

"This may be the story of any marriage — partners can drive each other crazy and still stay together for 50 years — but this marriage is, in many ways, emblematic of our national political predicament, particularly on the right," Terris concludes. Read the entire, mostly sympathetic profile at The Washington Post. Peter Weber

August 12, 2018

The White House is once more in damage control mode amid allegations from yet another Trump administration insider hawking dirty laundry — and purported secret recordings, some involving President Trump — but Kellyanne Conway appeared unprepared for the question about Omarosa Manigault Newman posed by ABC News' Jonathan Karl on Sunday's This Week. "Kellyanne, Omarosa was the most prominent, high-level African American serving in the West Wing on the President Trump's staff," he said. "Who now is that person?"

Conway first pointed to a Cabinet secretary, HUD Secretary Ben Carson, and when Karl pointed out that Carson doesn't work in the West Wing, she pointed to "Ja'Ron," apparently referencing Ja'Ron Smith, special assistant to the president for legislative affairs. Karl asked if Smith has an office in the West Wing, and when it turned out he does not, she pivoted to Trump's promise to be president for all Americans, accused Karl of not spending enough time talking about low unemployment, said she and everyone else in the Trump West Wing have signed nondisclosure agreements, and argued that Republicans "certainly can" gain House seats in the midterms, despite widespread expectations of sizable Democratic gains. You can watch the entire interview or read the transcript. Peter Weber

August 12, 2018
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President Trump's trade war on allies and rivals alike is "slowing down and destroying economic growth, and producing new uncertainties," said German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier in an interview published Sunday.

"The past has shown that during trade wars, consumers suffer above all because products get more expensive," Altmaier argued. "A global trade war would not know winners, only losers."

The economic minister also addressed Trump's decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal and re-impose punitive sanctions on Iran. Germany is among the other signatory nations that remain party to the deal. "We won't let Washington dictate us with whom we can do business," Altmaier said, "and we therefore stick to the [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action] so that Iran cannot build atomic weapons."

Read more on the unutterable stupidity of Trump's trade war here at The Week. Bonnie Kristian

August 8, 2018
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Ohio's 12th congressional district is solidly Republican, and the fact that the winner of Tuesday's special election still isn't known because it's going to come down to a few thousand provisional ballots should make the GOP scared, Gov. John Kasich (R) said Wednesday.

Kasich told CBS News that voters in the district, which hasn't been won by a Democrat since the 1980s, sent a message to the Republicans, especially President Trump, "to knock it off. Stop the chaos, the division, no more of this family separation that we see at the border or taking people's health care away." This district is "so Republican, there should never have been an election here," Kasich said, adding that he believes a lot of Republicans didn't vote, and many GOP women likely voted for Democrat Danny O'Connor.

The country may be "entering, may be on the edge of entering a post-partisan environment where people are gonna start thinking a little more about the person and a little bit less about the party," Kasich said. "In my opinion, that's good for the country, but I hope my party will think about what we're doing in Ohio to help people from top to bottom. To me, that's the winning message." Catherine Garcia

August 6, 2018

Rosie O'Donnell is certain that on Nov. 6, Americans will "show up in a huge way" in order to send a message to President Trump.

"People have just really have had enough of a president who separates families and puts babies in cages," O'Donnell told CNN's Chris Cuomo on Monday night. Every day, Trump "does something worse than the day before," O'Donnell said, and she believes "Trump is loathed in America. People are embarrassed and ashamed of who he is and come Election Day, we're going to stand up in the polls and let him know."

O'Donnell and Trump have a longstanding feud, dating back to O'Donnell saying on The View in 2006 that he was a "snake-oil salesman." She was on Cuomo Prime Time to discuss the Monday night protest she organized with anti-Trump demonstrators, featuring 60 current and former Broadway performers singing in front of the White House. She told Cuomo the purpose of the protest was to "remind people of the truth that lives inside them, so when they're so confused and lied to by our president and this administration, they're able to find that thing about America that they love."

The interview did get a bit heated, like when they discussed the size of Trump's recent rallies and O'Donnell told Cuomo that airing them "is just playing into [Trump's] hands." Watch the video below. Catherine Garcia

August 3, 2018
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President Trump's increasingly frenetic tweets are apparently an accurate reflection of his mental state. "The start of Paul Manafort's federal trial this week has triggered Trump's hottest blast yet, and has renewed the possibility that Trump will fire Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein," possibly within a few weeks, Gabriel Sherman reports at Vanity Fair. Trump is "increasingly taking his legal defense into his own hands — very much at his own peril," annoyed with lawyer Rudy Giuliani for saying too much and White House Counsel Don McGahn for rebuffing his effort to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller, among other things, Sherman says, elaborating:

Whether it's confidence, bluster, or delusion, Trump is venting to advisers both inside and outside the White House that the Manafort trial proves Mueller has nothing on him and his family, because Manafort's trial doesn't involve Russia or the 2016 campaign. "The Manafort trial is spinning him into a frenzy," one Republican in frequent contact with the president told me. Another Republican told me Trump thinks "the only thing the trial shows is that Manafort is a sleaze." [Gabriel Sherman, Vanity Fair]

Among those concerned that "Trump is careening toward disaster with few guardrails" is White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, Sherman reports. That's why Kelly agreed to stay on until 2020 and be "the last bulwark against insanity in that White House," a prominent Republican close to the White House told Vanity Fair, but Trump is apparently surprised that Kelly relayed their conversation about his future employment to the media, and considered his assurance that Kelly's job was safe an offhand comment. "Trump is like, 'Whatever, we'll deal with Kelly after the midterms,'" one source told Sherman. You can read more at Vanity Fair. Peter Weber

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