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The Mueller Three Versus the Watergate Seven

Trump is in much deeper trouble today than Nixon was in September 1972.

By Leon Neyfakh

The specter of Watergate haunts the Trump presidency. On a personal level, Donald Trump shares Richard Nixon’s penchant for egregious deceit, petty revenge, and debilitating paranoia. When it comes to governing, he has demonstrated a Nixonian willingness to fire people who refuse to promise him their loyalty. Trump has also taken a page from his predecessor’s playbook in his response to the allegations being made against him. In the same way Nixon and his apologists accused the Democrats of political sabotage and illegal campaign spending after the Watergate break-in, Trump has lately been insisting that Hillary Clinton and the DNC colluded with the Russians.

The charges brought Monday against three Trump associates—including his former campaign manager—marked another stop on the Watergate nostalgia tour: the first indictments.

In the Trump version of this story, Paul Manafort and his deputy Rick Gates got charged with money laundering and tax fraud, and campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to making false statements about his contacts with the Russian government. In the Nixon version, the five burglars who’d broken into Democratic National Committee headquarters, got indicted along with the two former White House aides who had organized the break-in, G. Gordon Liddy and E. Howard Hunt.

The parallels between the two sets of indictments are not straightforward at this point, and it’s not clear how much insight we can glean into our current political moment based on these similarities. The ways in which the indictments differ, however, tell us quite a bit about the situation Trump and his people are in.

At the time of the Watergate break-in, Nixon was running for re-election. When a grand jury handed down a set of indictments on Sept. 15, 1972, that didn’t touch the president or his inner circle, it was cause for celebration in the West Wing. Not only did it mean that the important members of Nixon’s team were safe from prosecution—“We have absolutely no evidence to indicate that any others should be charged,” a Justice Department spokesman had told the press—it also allowed the Nixon administration to blame Watergate on two individuals, Liddy and Hunt, who could be convincingly portrayed as marginal players in Nixon’s operation.


Papadopoulos Might Have Been a "Low-Level" Trump Adviser, but There Were No High-Level Ones

By Joshua Keating

Since charges were announced Monday against former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos, who pleaded guilty to misleading the FBI about his meetings with Russian government intermediaries, the president has been doing his best to make it sound like Papadopoulos was basically a nobody, a hanger-on distributing lawn signs in Dubuque, Iowa:


This wasn’t exactly how Trump described him in a March 2016 interview with the editorial board of the Washington Post, right around the time Papadopoulos had his first meeting with the mysterious Russian “professor.” Papadopoulos was one of the five names Trump listed when asked if he would soon be revealing his foreign policy team, describing him as “an energy and oil consultant, excellent guy.”

Though Papadopoulos, according to his indictment, seems to have been in frequent communications with senior Trump campaign officials, Trump may be right that he was basically “low-level.” There’s little evidence that he was an influential adviser to Trump at any point. The thing is, it’s not clear that Trump ever had any high-level advisers.

Hillary Clinton had hundreds of (yes, unpaid) foreign policy advisers whom she never met. But these were supervised by a brain trust of her former State Department aides and senior veterans of the Obama and Bill Clinton administrations. There was a clear hierarchy.


New York City vehicle attack an 'act of terror' with at least eight dead, mayor says

By Mark Berman and Devlin Barrett October 31 at 5:28 PM

Breaking: New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said that the vehicle attack in Lower Manhattan was ‘an act of terror,’ with at least eight dead and 12 injured.

Officials in New York said a vehicle drove onto a bike path in Lower Manhattan on Tuesday, killing at least six people and injuring others before the suspected attacker was taken into police custody.

The New York police and FBI investigators suspect terrorism as the motive behind the vehicle attack, according to law enforcement officials familiar with the investigation who asked not to be identified.

Officials suspect terrorism because the attack, in which a Home Depot rental truck was used to ram down cyclists on a bike path, appeared to be deliberate, and because of statements some witnesses said the driver made when he jumped out of the vehicle brandishing what appeared to be a weapon.

Police said the vehicle drove onto the West Street pedestrian and bike path, striking “multiple people” as it headed south. Police said the suspect got out of the vehicle bearing “imitation firearms” before being shot by officers and taken into custody.


Republicans to propose keeping top tax rate for very wealthy, nodding to concerns

Source: The Washington Post

By Damian Paletta and Mike DeBonis October 31 at 3:50 PM

House Republican leaders on Wednesday will propose keeping the top income tax rate for high levels of personal income, four people briefed on the planning said, a last-minute adjustment to their sweeping plan they hope to push into law by the end of the year.

The details came during a briefing House Speaker Paul Ryan (R - Wis.) had Tuesday afternoon with conservative activists. House Republicans had planned to collapse the seven existing income tax brackets into three brackets, lowering the top rate from 39.6 percent to 35 percent.

But after weeks of internal deliberations, they decided to retain the 39.6 percent rate for very high levels of income, the four people who attended the meeting said. The tax rate could be applied to income at levels such as $750,000 or $1 million, though the details remained in flux.

The move signals Republicans are eager to avoid the impression their plan is biased to rewarding the very rich — and pull along the votes of moderate Republicans concerned about the plan’s impact on inequality.

Read more: https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/2017/10/31/2cd1deda-be5f-11e7-959c-fe2b598d8c00_story.html

Hillary Clinton on the conservative media: 'It appears they don't know I'm not president'

Source: The Washington Post

By Kristine Phillips October 31 at 1:36 PM

Hillary Clinton was nowhere near Washington the day charges against President Trump's former campaign chairman were announced and news broke that a former Trump campaign volunteer had pleaded guilty to lying to federal agents about meeting with Russian officials.

She was in Chicago where she promoted her book (“I have a great chapter about Russia”), thought about her Halloween costume (“I think I will maybe come as the president”) and quipped about conservative media outlets’ preoccupation with a vanquished presidential candidate while big news surrounded the one who won.

“All the networks except Fox are reporting what’s really going on.... It appears they don't know I’m not president,” tweeted NBC News politics reporter Alex Seitz-Wald, quoting Clinton, who held an event at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University on Monday night.

Conservative media outlets seem to have largely followed White House talking points in reporting the news dump of the past few days: There’s no collusion. The charges against Paul Manafort predate his involvement in the Trump campaign. George Papadopoulos was a lowly campaign volunteer. And the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee’s funding of research that resulted in the now-infamous dossier — not to mention the Uranium One deal with a Russian company that was approved during the Obama administration while Clinton was secretary of state — are the clearest evidence of collusion with Russia.


Read more: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2017/10/31/hillary-clinton-on-the-conservative-media-it-appears-they-dont-know-im-not-president

Jeff Sessions may be in big trouble after George Papadopoulos' guilty plea

According to the Department of Justice, Sessions was there when an aide said he had a path to Russia

10.31.2017•1:37 PM

The credibility of Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been called into serious question after the Justice Department unsealed a plea deal taken by a former foreign policy adviser to President Donald Trump's campaign.

The documents revealed that former adviser George Papadopoulos attended a "national security meeting in Washington D.C.," on March 31, 2016, along with Trump, Sessions and others. In that meeting, Papadopoulos "introduced himself," and explicitly stated "in sum and substance, that he had connections that could help arrange a meeting between then-candidate Trump and [Russian] President Putin."

Trump tweeted a picture of the meeting the day it occurred, and he, as well as Sessions, sat at opposite heads of the table. Papadopoulos is pictured to the left of Sessions in the middle of the table.


While both Trump and Sessions have repeatedly insisted there has been no collusion with the Russian government, Sessions has pledged this argument under oath. Sessions also led the foreign policy team of which Papadopoulos was part.

"I have never met with or had any conversation with any Russians or any foreign officials concerning any type of interference with any campaign or election in the United States," Sessions told the Senate Intelligence Committee in the opening statement of his second testimony on June 13. "Further, I have no knowledge of any such conversations by anyone connected to the Trump campaign."

If the Justice Department affidavit is true, and Sessions was in the room at the time Papadopoulos explained he wanted to arrange a meeting between Trump and Putin, there could potentially be a perjury case.



Ex-congresswoman on Nixon impeachment panel explains how Papadopoulos 'could bring Trump down'


'All our leaders have flaws': Sarah Sanders defends Robert E. Lee's 'contributions' to America


UPDATED GOP Senators Pour Cold Water On Bannon Push To Defund Mueller Probe

Source: Talking Points Memo

By ALICE OLLSTEIN Published OCTOBER 31, 2017 3:50 PM

Three Republican senators told TPM on Tuesday that they oppose calls from former White House adviser Steve Bannon to defund Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into connections between the Trump campaign and administration and the Russian government. Because Republicans only have a 52-seat majority in the Senate, those three would be enough to block such a bill from passage if it ever came to the Senate floor.

An amendment has already been introduced in the House that would completely defund Mueller’s work after six months, and limit the scope of what he can investigate, but several senators said they would vote against such a measure if it made its way to the upper chamber.

“I would oppose, and so would the American people,” Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said Tuesday. “The American people want a complete and thorough investigation. That’s one thing I know.” Stepping into the Senate elevators, he repeated his usual metaphor for Mueller’s investigation and the crimes it may uncover going forward. “It’s a centipede,” he quipped. “More shoes are going to drop.”

McCain’s fellow Arizonan, Sen. Jeff Flake, agreed that Congress should not strip the special counsel of his funding: “I would not support it,” he said. ‘He needs to continue to investigate. I have confidence in Bob Mueller.”

Read more: http://talkingpointsmemo.com/dc/gop-senators-pour-cold-water-on-bannon-push-to-defund-mueller-probe


Senate Republicans pledge to let Mueller’s investigation proceed

By Karoun Demirjian and Sean Sullivan October 31 at 4:12 PM
Several GOP senators said Tuesday they will not support any efforts to cut the funding or otherwise curtail special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation into Russia meddling in the 2016 election.

“My basic philosophy is, once you have an independent counsel, you ought to give him a chance to follow the facts,” said Sen. Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.), a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee and the chairman of the subcommittee that handles the Justice Department’s funding. “If somebody’s doing a job, you don’t want to cut it off.”

“I would not support that. He needs to continue to investigate,” said Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), who last week excoriated Trump’s governing style in a speech announcing plans to retire at the end of next year.

“I would oppose,” said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), one of the president’s most vocal critics in Congress. “And so would the American people.”

Those voices and others reflect an emerging Republican message for dealing with the Mueller investigation: Stay away from it — and warn Trump to do the same.


Nigel Farage: 'Jewish Lobby' Has Outsize Influenced In US Politics

Source: Talking Points Memo

By MATT SHUHAM Published OCTOBER 31, 2017 2:56 PM

Former UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage opined Monday on the what he said is the disproportionate influence that the “Jewish lobby, with its links with the Israeli government,” has on American politics.

During his call-in show Tuesday on the British radio station LBC, a listener asked about the difference in attention paid to Russian meddling in the 2016 election in the United States — during which Farage campaigned for Donald Trump — and “AIPAC and the Israeli lobby, and their involvement in American politics and elections.”

AIPAC, or the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, is perhaps the most influential pro-Israel lobbying group in American politics, and presidential candidates and other political figures regularly address its annual convention. Both Trump and Hillary Clinton did in 2016. But, rather than addressing the Israel lobby as such, Farage described it as a “Jewish lobby.”

“That’s a reasonable point,” he began in response. “Because there are about 6 million Jewish people living in America, so as a percentage, it’s quite small, but in terms of influence, it’s quite big.”

Read more: http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/farage-jewish-lobby
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