Thursday, August 16, 2018

Trump scores on his own goal

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Trump uses Putin summit to deny collusion with Russia

President Trump's critics slam the highly anticipated summit in Helsinki after he refuses to defend the U.S. intelligence community and says he sees 'no reason' why Russia would interfere in the 2016 presidential election.

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On the roster: Trump scores on his own goal - Dem presidential candidates are no shows in Iowa - California Dems snub Feinstein for long shot rival - Ga. GOP gubernatorial rivals go all out during debate - Slow poke

TRUMP SCORES ON HIS OWN GOAL
We suppose the reason President Trump was so eager to have a summit with his Russian counterpart was that he wanted to break up some of the cloud cover over his relationship with strongman Vladimir Putin.

If that was the goal, then the Helsinki summit has left the president in a pea-soup fog.

With a second Supreme Court nominee riding greased skids to Senate confirmation, the economy zooming and Democrats generally in a hopeless, angry mode, the summer of 2018 was shaping up rather well for Republicans.

They’re still facing some setbacks this fall and their twin failures on immigration and health care don’t look much like a party able to tackle important subjects, but compared to the forecasts at the end of last year, the GOP was doing better than expected.

The good vibes led to deepening satisfaction among the GOP base with the Republican president. Even a deepening trade war and the cruel and chaotic implementation of a new “zero tolerance” policy at the southern border didn’t draw much more than a murmur of complaint from the party’s grandees.

Republicans were also gaining ground on the president’s enemies in the Justice Department. After months of bad news for Trump, an inspector general’s report revealed the degree to which former FBI Director James Comey’s leadership was shoddy and politically craven. It was not a far jump for Trump’s defenders to then suggest that federal law enforcement officials are generally biased against the president.

Even among those Republicans not prone to Deep State conspiracy theorizing had to admit that Trump was winning win the public relations battle against his Department of Justice. Team Trump was succeeding in making Comey and Peter Strzok the public faces of the Russia probe.

It got even better on Monday when Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced charges against a dozen Russian intelligence officers for their roles in perverting the 2016 presidential campaign. The indictments were another blow to the claims from the president’s detractors that Trump actively colluded with Russian operatives. Rosenstein described Russians duping American politicos, not teaming up with them.

So looked at one way, the sit down with Putin came at a propitious time. If Trump could stand up to Putin and maybe even wring some concessions from the Russian ruler, this would be the perfect moment for Trump to show himself as his own man.

The president decided to go the other way on that one.

If Trump’s critics had scripted it, they could hardly have done better at showing him as the junior partner in the bilateral relationship. Putin was clearly in charge from beginning to end with Trump jumping in to blame America for problems Russia created and to denounce the same investigation that just offered conclusive proof of Putin’s wrongdoing in 2016.

Hearing Trump attack the intelligence and law enforcement agencies that daily do battle with Putin’s goons was so odd that we had to re-read the transcript just to be sure our ears weren’t playing tricks.

Blaming America for the misdeeds of another country is never a good look for a U.S. president abroad. For Trump, accused by his critics of being a lackey for Putin, to make excuses for the regime in Moscow in the presence of that country’s ruler was an astonishing lapse.

What compounds the error is that the summit was not necessary. They weren’t there for treaty talks or to de-escalate some crisis. U.S.-Russia relations are bad and Russia continues to be a bad actor in the world, but that has been true for every day Trump has been in office and will presumably still be true on the day Trump leaves his post. For a president with a Russia problem – especially one who disdains preparation and scripted talking points – a summit like this is nothing to rush into.

Whatever domestic political considerations that Trump had in mind when setting up the meeting with Putin, the president succeeded today in undoing months of work by his administration and its supporters outside the White House. After that display, Special Counsel Robert Mueller is safer in his job than the guy selling aloe vera at the nude beach.

[Watch Fox - Tune in tonight at 6 pm ET for Chris Wallace’s exclusive interview with Russian President Vladimir Putin #WallacePutinOnFox]

THE RULEBOOK: IT’S ABOUT THE PEOPLE
“Relating to more general interests, [the national government] will be less apt to come home to the feelings of the people; and, in proportion, less likely to inspire an habitual sense of obligation, and an active sentiment of attachment.” – Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 17

TIME OUT:
RESTORATION ART-WARE
Paris Review: “Inside the Arthur M. Sackler Museum at Harvard University, below a vast glass roof and above a neoclassical series of gray stone columns, hangs a fake painting. It’s a Mark Rothko—or, rather, a replica of a Rothko. The canvas is covered in moody indigo and vibrant crimson. It shows a square of color, patchy and imperfect. As the eye moves from left to right, there comes a moment when something changes; the colors diverge. … This replica is an investigative tool, used by the art explorers at Harvard’s research center to help return the Rothko to its former glory. … Brushstrokes that were once crimson and violet had turned over time into murky blues polluted with brown and gray. … This is the value of the Harvard pigment library. It’s a space where science and art converge. Each of the pigments, dyes, stones, minerals, and materials stored in these cabinets can be used as a reference tool to help restore and protect great works of art.”

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SCOREBOARD
Trump job performance
Average approval:
41.8 percent
Average disapproval:
52.6 percent
Net Score:
-10.8 points
Change from one week ago:
down 0.2 points
[Average includes: Fox News: 46% approve - 51% disapprove; Gallup: 41% approve - 56% disapprove; Quinnipiac University: 40% approve - 55% disapprove; IBD: 41% approve - 54% disapprove; CNBC: 41% approve - 47% disapprove.]

Control of House
Republican average:
40.4 percent
Democratic average: 48.2 percent
Advantage:
Democrats plus 7.8 points
Change from one week ago:
Democratic advantage up 0.6 points
[Average includes: Fox News: 48% Dems - 40% GOP; Quinnipiac University: 50% Dems - 41% GOP; IBD: 48% Dems - 40% GOP; USA Today/Suffolk University: 45% Dems - 39% GOP; CNN: 50% Dems - 42% GOP.]

DEM PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES ARE NO SHOWS IN IOWA

Guardian: “In 2002 and 2006, midterm years under a Republican president with no frontrunner to challenge him brought Democratic hopefuls flocking to the Hawkeye state. In 2002, the top Democrats in the House and the Senate, the previous vice-presidential pick and a handful of senators and governors all took the flight out to Des Moines in the summer months. In 2006, John Kerry and John Edwards, the party’s ticket from two years before, worked dinners and speeches separately, even campaigning for the same state Senate candidate two weeks apart. Three other sitting senators showed up. Democrats now anticipate the most wide-open presidential field in modern history. But in Iowa, presidential hopefuls have been slow to show. Few bold-faced party names have appeared, leaving campaigning in the state mostly to backbench congressmen and other underdog candidates.”

Trump 2020 campaign raises big with help of small donors -WashEx: “President Trump’s re-election campaign and groups backing his agenda raised nearly $33 million in just the last three months, an explosion of support driven by small donors, the groups have reported to the Federal Election Commission. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence’s re-election campaign raised $8.3 million and, when added to the money collected by its two associated groups, the total was $17.7 million in the second reporting quarter. The campaign has $33 million on hand. It also sped up its shift to small donors. In the new report, it said that 98.5 percent of fundraising was from small donors, though the total was $2.3 million less than the first quarter. And the super PAC backing the president's agenda, America First Action and its nonprofit affiliate, America First Policies, raised another $15 million.”

Three mayors set sights on White House run -Politico: “No mayor has ever sprung directly from City Hall to the White House. But that historic streak stands to be tested in 2020, with at least three Democratic mayors mulling presidential campaigns: Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg. They’re exploiting a newfound opening for politicians at the municipal level, one enabled by broader economic and cultural forces, among them the rise of the Democratic Party’s diverse and ascendant Obama coalition. … In part, the opportunity for Democratic mayors is a product of the party’s failings elsewhere. With Democrats out of power in Washington and in many state capitals, large, heavily Democratic cities have become progressives’ power centers of last resort, with an increasingly diverse media landscape offering exposure to a previously anonymous class of politicians.”

Starbucks worried that founder’s 2020 hopes could hurt company - Politico: “Starbucks founder Howard Schultz’s presidential hopes are already running into resistance from his old coffee cohort. Wall Street analysts are wary, and company leadership is nervous, about the effect a Democratic bid by its chairman emeritus could have on Starbucks’ business, given its bipartisan customer base. If that weren’t discouraging enough, his retirement last month set off a boomlet of pundits urging him not to run. And his recent appearance at a private gathering of political donors convened by Mitt Romney inspired indifference. As Schultz takes the summer off to contemplate a presidential campaign, the world is giving him a lot of downside to ponder, according to conversations with a dozen former Starbucks executives, equities analysts and others with insight into the coffee mogul, his former business and his recent moves.”

CALIFORNIA DEMS SNUB FEINSTEIN FOR LONG SHOT RIVAL

Fox News: “The California Democratic Party issued a stunning rebuke of U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein on Saturday by decisively handing its official endorsement to state Sen. Kevin de Leon, her long shot Democratic challenger. The move was the latest sign that establishment Democrats are facing something of a national insurgence, coming on the heels of last month's shock win by 28-year-old Democratic socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez over high-ranking Rep. Joe Crowley in a closely watched New York primary. In backing de Leon, a majority of the party's 360-member executive board ignored Feinstein's calls to stay neutral in the race. Her allies had warned an endorsement would only further divide Democrats. The final vote margin was lopsided: A total of 217 delegates voted for de Leon, of Los Angeles, or nearly 65 percent of the delegates. Meanwhile, only 22, or 7 percent, cast ballots for Feinstein and 94, or nearly 30 percent, voted for no endorsement.”

Pelosi writes letter asking for delay in leadership elections -
Politico: “House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on Friday unexpectedly called for a delay in caucus leadership elections until after Thanksgiving. Pelosi’s request follows a behind-the-scenes scramble inside the House Democratic Caucus this week to force a delay in the elections, which are typically held in the first few weeks after the midterms. Pelosi was trying to beat her own members to the punch, pushing out her letter first on Friday after word circulated that several rank-and-file Democrats had already drafted their own missive demanding a delay and were quickly gathering signatures in support. ‘I believe it is important that we follow the schedule for leadership elections that the Caucus set last cycle, allowing additional time for freshmen to get oriented,’ Pelosi wrote to her colleagues. ‘My recommendation to the Caucus would be to set leadership elections sometime after Thanksgiving, at a date to be determined by the Caucus.’”

Crowley won’t back Pelosi for speaker -
Politico: “Rep. Joe Crowley of New York — the No. 4 Democrat in the House — declined on Sunday to endorse Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi for speaker, should Democrats take back the chamber from the GOP in this fall's elections. ‘Well, look, you know, I do think that that'll be up to the new Congress to decide who the next leader or speaker ... be,’ Crowley told CBS' ‘Face the Nation.’ ‘If we win the House back, Nancy will have a very strong case for holding on to the speakership,’ he said. ‘If not, there may be other issues that come to the fore at that point. But it's up to the next Congress, Democratic Caucus to decide that fate.’ Crowley was widely viewed within the party as a potential successor to the California Democrat before his upset loss last month to 28-year-old political newcomer Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, making Crowley the first House Democrat to lose a primary this year.”

GA. GOP GUBERNATORIAL RIVALS GO ALL OUT DURING DEBATE
AJC: “Secretary of State Brian Kemp and Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle leveled relentless attacks against each other’s trustworthiness during Sunday’s final televised debate before the July 24 GOP runoff for governor. In the Channel 2 Action News debate, Cagle defended himself against Kemp’s repeated references to a secretly made audio recording of the lieutenant governor that surfaced last month. Meanwhile, Kemp fended off accusations that his office mishandled confidential voter data and that he personally defaulted on a $500,000 loan. With the runoff quickly approaching to determine the party’s gubernatorial nominee, the contest is neck-and-neck. An Atlanta Journal Constitution/Channel 2 Action News poll of likely voters released Friday showed Kemp with a lead of 44 percent to Cagle’s 41 percent, with nearly 15 percent of voters undecided. Kemp needled Cagle over the surreptitious recording that surfaced last month. In the audio, recorded by former Republican candidate Clay Tippins, Cagle admits to voting for an education bill he said was “bad” in order to appease donors and he describes the primary as a contest to see which candidate ‘could be the craziest.’”

Conn. gov. candidates giving big money to campaigns -AP: “Some candidates for Connecticut governor are already devoting large sums to the race. Newly released campaign finance documents show former Greenwich hedge fund manager and Republican candidate David Stemerman is leading the pack. He has loaned his campaign $12.8 million and raised nearly $100,000 so far from private contributors. He has spent about $3 million. Five Republicans and two Democrats have qualified to appear on the Aug. 14 primary ballot. Three of the Republicans are participating in the state's public campaign financing system, which limits how much they can spend. Ned Lamont, a wealthy Greenwich businessman and the Democratic Party's endorsed candidate, has spent nearly $1 million of mostly his own money on the race. That may increase, considering he spent $9 million on his failed 2010 gubernatorial primary bid.”

Former Mass. Gov steps into the Texas House race -Politico: “Former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick will return to the campaign trail this weekend, stumping in Texas in one of the most competitive House races in the country. The former two-term Democrat — and 2020 presidential prospect — will campaign Sunday with Democrat Colin Allred, a former NFL football player challenging GOP Rep. Pete Sessions in Texas’ 32nd Congressional District. Patrick will help launch a block walk in Richardson, a Dallas-Fort Worth suburb, followed by a sit-down with campaign volunteers and fellows at campaign HQ, according to Hector Nieto, a consultant for the Allred campaign. The district is regarded as one of the party’s top opportunities to pick off a seat currently held by a Republican — Hillary Clinton carried district in 2016. Patrick has said he planned to stump this summer for candidates in elections where he can be helpful. But the Allred visit is one of the first signs that Patrick’s campaign activity might be ramping up.”

PRESSURE TO SECURE ELECTIONS INCREASES AFTER MUELLER INDICTMENTS

WSJ: “Special counsel Robert Mueller’s latest move briefly hijacked a closed-door meeting of state election officials and federal cybersecurity personnel [in Philadelphia] last Friday, as phones buzzed with news alerts about his indictment against Russians allegedly behind a spree of hacks before the 2016 election. The interruption, described by several people in attendance, caught the room off guard. Some of the details in the indictment, describing the persistent efforts to compromise both Democratic Party and state election networks, were new to the officials present. That added urgency to the gathering’s mission—protecting the nation’s election machinery in November. It also reflected how tightly the secrets unearthed by Mueller’s investigators are held, even from the officials responsible for preventing a repeat in 2018. Mr. Mueller’s indictment of 12 Russian intelligence operatives helped shape the tenor of weekend meetings of the country’s state election officials. Usually reserved for staid administrative topics, the sessions this time were dominated by discussions of how to protect voting machines and databases from hackers. It was the final time the secretaries of state and election directors would formally meet before voters head to the polls in November.”

PLAY-BY-PLAY
Rand Paul
worried about Brett Kavanaugh’s record on constitutional privacy rights - Bloomberg

Lisa Page returns to Capitol Hill for second day of hearings - ABC News

AUDIBLE: A BUNCH OF CLOWNS
“Public hearings are a circus. That's why I don't like to do them. I don't do many of them. It's a freak show.” – Rep. Trey Gowdy discussing Peter Strzok's hearing on CBS News.

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SLOW POKE

UPI: “A Florida sheriff's office shared video of a deputy who spent 20 minutes driving behind a rude mid-road pedestrian -- a tortoise. The Marion County Sheriff's Office posted a video to Facebook showing Deputy Bryan Bowman driving at a slow speed down a road in the area of the KP Hole park. ‘The nerve of this guy,’ Bowman says in the video, ‘He's literally going 1 mph in a 30 mph zone.’ Bowman mocks the mystery pedestrian, which he describes as ‘easily 100,’ and says the walker ‘snapped’ at him when he tried to confront them. The deputy eventually turns his camera around, revealing the mid-road walker was a large tortoise. ‘Deputy Bowman then just followed the old man for about 20 minutes until he finally went into the woods,’ the sheriff's office wrote.”

AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“It’s rather pathetic to hear Trump apologists protesting that it’s no big deal because we Americans are always intervening in other people’s elections, and they in ours. … This defense is pathetic for two reasons. First, have the Trumpites not been telling us for six months that no collusion ever happened? And now they say: Sure it happened. So what? Everyone does it. … Second, no, not everyone does it.” – Charles Krauthammer writing in the Washington Post, July 13, 2017.

Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Brianna McClelland contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.

Chris Stirewalt joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in July of 2010 and serves as politics editor based in Washington, D.C.

Chris Stirewalt Fox News

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