The Chaos Report: Trump Defends ‘High-Quality’ Son After Russia Disclosures
And the rest of the day’s political news in one bundle of boy.
President Trump Tweets Defense of His Son Nearly 5 Days After New York Times Breaks Trump Jr./Russia Lawyer Story
Our headline today came via a written statement read at a no-cameras-allowed briefing by White House Spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Trump Sr. followed up this morning on Twitter:
Trump also returned to a favorite theme: that anonymously sourced stories are fake.
Referring, possibly to a Washington Post story, attributed to more than 12 sources inside the White House. In it, the Post describes the White House in “chaos” and the President “enraged” that the “Russia cloud still hangs over his Presidency.”
We think that hits the nail on the head: our key takeaway is that Trump/Russia isn’t ever going away now. And regardless of the criminality or not of Trump Jr.’s actions, that’s the most transformative aspect to the overall story. It’s a credit to Robert Mueller and his team toiling away in apparent leak-free obscurity, that in recent days even liberal friends of ours have commented that maybe there’s nothing to Trump’s Russia ties since it’s “been a long time and nothing’s come out.” No more.
Of course, you are welcome to plunge head first into as much of the head-spinning whirpool of punditry surrounding the story as you want. (We have.) You’ll find Trump Jr.’s actions characterized as everything from “a rookie mistake” to “treason“. Our response: C’mon, it ain’t treason (The Guardian agrees with us). At the same time even if it’s a “rookie mistake” this is politics at the highest level, not a Junior High School Model U.N.
To his credit, Trump Jr. released a full transcript of his emails leading up to the meeting, in a rare attempt by a Trump family member to get ahead of a story. But it didn’t really work. In large part because that transcript included Trump Jr. gleefully exclaiming: “I love it” when presented with the prospect of Russians bearing anti-Hillary info.
The Russian lawyer at the center of the scandal also made an appearance, denying to NBC News she ever had damaging information about Hillary Clinton, or that she was under orders from the Russian government. This really good Washington Monthly piece says there’s much more to her than meets the eye (and it’s entirely based on public record, zero “sources say”).
What impact will this have on Trump’s support? According to the Washington Post, most likely none. We tend to agree. Pro-Trumpers could be presented with concrete evidence of collusion at a much higher level and it’d still be written off as “Democrats hysterical they didn’t win.” But a few cracks have started to emerge. The solidly pro-Trump New York Post ran an editorial in the evening headlined “Donald Trump Jr. is an idiot.”
What Is The Magnitsky Act We Keep Hearing About In Coverage Of The Trump Jr./Russia Lawyer Meeting? And What Does It Have To Do With Adoption Of Russian Children?
The Washington Post explains that Sergei Magnitsky was a Russian lawyer working for an American businessman when he uncovered a massive scam that involved government officials stealing money from the state. He blew the whistle, was arrested, and shortly after, died in police custody.
Magnitsky’s American employer lobbied congress, which in 2012 passed a law forbidding nearly four dozen highly powerful Russians connected to the case from entering the U.S. or doing business with U.S. banks.
The adoption part involves Putin’s response to that law: he banned U.S. adoptions of Russian infants in retaliation.
McConnell Cut Senate’s Lengthy Summer Recess, Presses For Health Care Vote Next Week
The Senate Majority leader’s move leaves Senators with only 3/5ths the vacay they normally get.
A new written-in-secret version of Senate Republicans’ health care bill should be made public tomorrow. Bloomberg says it removes tax cuts for the rich. That’s intended as an appeal to more moderate Republicans. We’ve said before that this could be an appealing finagle, especially when one of the next things the Senate is going to get to work on is tax reform. So just move the same or similar tax cuts down the road a bit and it suddenly becomes a much easier sell: almost nobody’s against tax cuts on their own.
It’s unclear if the revised Senate bill includes the Cruz amendment which allows insurers to sell pretty much any kind of plan they want, as long as they also sell at least one that complies with the health care law.
ISIS Founder Killed?
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which is often used as a source by Western news organizations, says it’s confirmed Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is dead (although no Western news agencies have been able to confirm the information.) The group sites ISIS sources, but does not give specifics about when or where.
The Russian military speculated in June it might’ve killed Baghdadi in an airstrike, but the U.S. never confirmed that. Baghdadi’s death has been incorrectly proclaimed several times.
“I Miss All Of You, I Miss You As Colleagues, I Miss You As Partners, I Miss You As Competitors”
No truer words may ever have been spoken by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson as he received a lifetime achievement award from the World Petroleum Congress in Instanbul. Tillerson then embarked on a grueling round of shuttle diplomacy aimed at ending a blockade of Qatar by its neighbor, Saudi Arabia, and several other countries in the region. A memorandum signed by Qatar outlines ways it plans to combat terrorism, which the Saudis say is central to their decision to ostracize the emirate. Tillerson today will take that memorandum to Saudi Arabia, The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.
Editorial: What We Make Of The Poll Showing Republicans Hate Academia
A Pew research poll finds nearly 6 out of 10 self-identified Republicans now believe colleges and universities have a “negative effect on the way things are going in the country.” That’s a huge about-face from two years ago, when 54% of Republicans had a positive view.
We tend to stay away from polls these days, because with upwards of 40% of voters now identifying themselves as “Independents”, a lot of times the responses of “self-identified Republicans” really don’t reveal anything more than people who like Trump, like Trump. But there may be something to this one…
After all, the rise of any modern authoritarian state involves the silencing of academics and thinkers.
At very least, poll results such as these could embolden Republican-controlled legislatures in many states to slash funding for big public universities. That could channel students to smaller schools where private donors could use smaller-scale donations to influence curriculum.
(Remember just a few months ago we were talking seriously among making public college education free? Wow.)
And though the Young Turks in the Republican extreme right think it’s all them, and pooh-pooh the influence of the Koch brothers (a divide clever Democrats should be exploiting more), this is something the Koch brothers have been working on for decades: grinding away at academia, and funding their own “centers” and study programs at friendly universities (particularly in economics, business and the law). And it’s starting to pay off big.
Example: Here’s a story from the normally pretty reputable Investor’s Business Daily, which states Republicans are much better at running state governments than Democrats, and that “the most fiscally sound states also tend to have the lowest tax burdens.” It fails to mention that the 3 worst ranked states, which it identifies as “blue”, all have Republican governors. Also, Kansas anyone?The single source for this piece? The heavily Koch funded Mercatus Center at George Mason University.
We also fear that widely publicized incidents of campus protests and violent unrest may be building a playbook on how to further undermine confidence. How? By depicting big state universities not only as places that harbor dangerous ideas, but also are downright dangerous.
The New York Times reports enrollment at the University of Missouri is down 35% since widely-reported racially based conflict there 2-years ago. The Times says that’s put off students (and more importantly, their parents) by portraying “depending on their viewpoint, a culture of racism or one where protesters run amok.”
Students at places like UC Berkeley seem less prone to fear, despite some violent protests. Enrollment there is up about 7% in the same period. But the imagery still “works”. Because if “Red State America” sees violent protests at a big coastal university and is told by radical right sources “this is the way Liberals want America to look”, it creates real peril for free thinkers everywhere.
Here’s The Next Clip In Our Serialization Of The Senator Al Franken/David Letterman Series
This one attempts to explain (somewhat successfully!) how a carbon tax works, and why it should be no issue since it’s meant to be revenue neutral. Quote of the day: “Teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime….Unless there are no fish.”
You can watch the whole series on Funny or Die.