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On the roster: Everybody do the Giuliani shuffle - Trump swats back at Pelosi’s diss - Gillibrand pressed on leftward lurch - Pennsylvania Rep. Marino resigns - Professor Hinkle wanted for questioning
EVERYBODY DO THE GIULIANI SHUFFLE
Speaking an outdoor ceremony on a roasty day in the summer of 1986, then-President Ronald Reagan made a quip about the weather.
“As one newcomer to Washington summers once remarked: ‘It’s not the heat, it’s the humility,’ Reagan said to laughs. “He obviously hadn’t been here long, because humility is not in great supply in this town.”
A third of a century later, we can report that humility isn’t making any comebacks in Washington.
In the summer of 2017, we wrote of the still nascent special counsel probe into Russian skullduggery – before the first indictment; before the first guilty plea; before the first Facebook face plant; before the first White House walk back – that whatever was revealed, there would be a substantial minority of voters who simply would not care.
And, at the risk of showing a lack of humility ourselves, events have so far proven us right.
Take just the official response to the revelation that Trump campaign officials invited a Russian operative to a meeting in Trump tower: 1) It didn’t happen, and would have been wrong. 2) It happened but it was about foreign policy. 3) It was about getting dirt on Hillary Clinton, but Donald Trump was unaware. 4) Trump helped write the initial, dishonest denial. 5) It not only happened, but it was smart and ethically appropriate and anyone who says otherwise is being unfair.
As Charles Krauthammer said at the time, “Bungled collusion is still collusion.” But by that point, we were well down the path of the president’s most tireless defenders making what would have in 2016 been a disqualifying argument that “collusion is not a crime.” Talk about setting a low bar to surmount: We’re not technically criminals!
We saw the same cycle play itself out over and over again, notably in regard to monies paid to a sex worker in exchange for her silence about her assignations with Trump. 1) It was “absolutely, unequivocally” untrue that Trump had congress with the sex worker. 2) Reports of hush money were part of a “false narrative.” 3) Money was paid, but it was from the personal funds of Trump’s lawyer without Trump’s knowledge. 4) Trump knew of the payments and reimbursed his lawyer but it was legal. 5) Even if it was illegal, the law is unfairly enforced and sitting presidents can’t be prosecuted anyway.
What started out with an accusation that the sex worker was some kind of grifter or crackpot ended up with the initial reporting from the WSJ being borne out and then some. But by then, the Trump defense had shifted to something similar to the collusion case: Everybody does it and the other side is even worse. It may not have washed with most Americans, but for those already willing to accept “colluding with Russia isn’t technically illegal,” it was plenty good enough.
Which, of course, brings us to the public face of the president’s defense team, Rudy Giuliani and the evidence that Trump’s campaign chairman shared the campaign’s polling data with an associate of Russia’s intelligence apparatus.
Much as he did in the case of the sex worker and other incremental advances in the case of Russian interference in the 2016 campaign, Giuliani took to the airwaves to offer a head-snapping reversal.
“I never said there was no collusion between the campaign or between people in the campaign,” Giuliani told CNN. When his interviewer expressed incredulity, Giuliani was adamant: “I have not. I said ‘the president of the United States.’”
Giuliani had last spring told the same network that he couldn’t be sure that some campaign flunky in “the outer orbit” or “50 rungs down” hadn’t been canoodling with the Kremlin. By the summer, he had shortened the ladder a bit, telling Fox News he could only vouch for “the top four or five people.” But facing evidence that the man on rung number one was conspiring, the answer is that the only meaningful participant in misconduct could be the president himself.
Consider how far we’ve come in terms of the official position on these matters. 1) “No contacts took place” between the campaign and Russian operatives. 2) There was contact, but only incidental to normal campaign activities. 3) There was intentional contact for purposes of influencing the campaign but it never amounted to anything. 4) If the head of the campaign did seek to help the Russians interfere it was without the knowledge of the candidate. 5) Well… you know how these end by now.
The Giuliani shuffle is getting to be a well-known dance here in Washington. You make what sounds like a gaffe but is really just a way to move the goalposts from your client’s previously absolute, ironclad denials. Trump says “no collusion” and Giuliani says “funny thing about that…”
There’s nothing particularly novel about the maneuver – save for the frequency of its deployment – since that’s what lawyers for the rich and famous often do. What’s remarkable here is the audacity.
Trump’s famous joke/brag that he could murder a man in broad daylight and suffer no consequences with his core political supporters. And that has proven to be a pretty good description of how roughly a third of the electorate responds to various depredations and revelations. Never underestimate the strength of these voters’ hatreds for both the press and Democrats.
But imagine the hubris it would require to be caught again and again at this kind of revisionism. Caught repeatedly in dissembling and sometimes outright lying, Team Trump again asks to be taken at its word. That’s something more than chutzpah.
We hold with our old point that for millions of Americans, almost nothing the probe could uncover would be enough for them to abandon their man. But we’re adding a proviso: This kind of arrogance from an administration will rub bare the support of more lightly attached voters.
Worst, when the time arrives in the near future when the president may need to make a direct answer to charges he will be all out of dance moves.
THE RULEBOOK: GET ON THE SAME PAGE
“The power of prescribing by general laws, the manner in which the public acts, records and judicial proceedings of each State shall be proved, and the effect they shall have in other States, is an evident and valuable improvement on the clause relating to this subject in the articles of Confederation.” – James Madison, Federalist No. 42
TIME OUT: CHEERS TO YOU BETTY WHITE
In honor of Betty White’s 97th birthday today, a look back at a preview article of the PBS documentary about her impressive career and life from 2018. USA Today: “On Tuesday [Aug. 21, 2018], the beloved 96-year-old actress – an engaging personality whose fan base crosses many generations – gets a PBS tribute, ‘Betty White: First Lady of Television’ (check local listings). The documentary, filmed over 10 years by the team behind the series ‘Pioneers of Television,’ tracks White's historic entertainment career and includes interviews with friends and colleagues Mary Tyler Moore, Valerie Bertinelli, Ryan Reynolds, Tina Fey, Valerie Harper, Gavin MacLeod, Georgia Engel and Carl Reiner. As ‘First Lady’ illustrates, the five-time prime-time Emmy Award winner’s accomplishments are legion. … The title fits as an honorific, but literally, too. Over her eight-decade career, White was there for the infancy of television. Her first performance came in 1939 on an experimental broadcast, followed by a co-hosting gig on ‘Hollywood on Television’ in the 1940s and a sitcom, ‘Life With Elizabeth,’ which she starred in and produced in the early 1950s.”
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Trump job performance
Average approval: 39.8 percent
Average disapproval: 56.6 percent
Net Score: -17.4 points
Change from one week ago: down 6 points
[Average includes: Pew: 39% approve - 58% disapprove; Quinnipiac University: 41% approve - 55% disapprove; CNN: 37% approve - 57% disapprove; IBD: 42% approve - 54% disapprove; Gallup: 37% approve - 59% disapprove.]
TRUMP SWATS BACK AT PELOSI’S DISS
Fox News: “President Trump on Thursday abruptly denied military aircraft to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for a foreign trip just minutes before the congressional delegation was set to depart, in a stunning response to her call to delay the State of the Union address amid the government shutdown. In a curt letter, Trump said her trip has been ‘postponed.’ ‘Due to the Shutdown, I am sorry to inform you that your trip to Brussels, Egypt, and Afghanistan has been postponed. We will reschedule this seven-day excursion when the Shutdown is over. In light of the 800,000 great American workers not receiving pay, I am sure you would agree that postponing this public relations event is totally appropriate,’ Trump wrote. … According to sources, the president pulled the plug on her aircraft as she was about to leave for her overseas trip. Her congressional delegation military aircraft was slated to leave at 3 p.m. ET, Fox News' John Roberts reports. A source also told Fox News that when moving to cancel the flight, the White House reasoned that the trip would keep Pelosi out of the country beyond next Tuesday night—when the next government pay period would occur.”
House Dems tack shutdown fix on disaster relief measure - The Hill: “The House passed a Democratic-backed emergency disaster relief bill on Wednesday that includes an amendment funding the federal government through early February. The bill passed in a 237-187 vote, with six Republicans joining Democrats in voting for the measure, which would reopen parts of the government and fund them through Feb. 8. The legislation introduced by House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) would provide $12.1 billion in disaster relief funding for areas impacted by Hurricane Florence, Hurricane Michael and the California wildfires, as well as other areas impacted by natural disasters last year. The measure is not expected to be taken up in the Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has vowed to not bring any spending measure to reopen the government to the floor unless President Trump has signaled he will sign it.”
Poll: Most Americans still oppose expanding border wall - Pew Research Center: “With the partial shutdown of the federal government in its third week, both opponents and supporters of expanding the U.S.-Mexico border wall overwhelmingly oppose making concessions to end the stalemate. A new Pew Research Center survey finds that majority of Americans (58%) continue to oppose substantially expanding the border wall, while 40% favor the proposal. Overall opinion on the wall is little changed from last year, but these views have never been more sharply divided along partisan lines: Republican support for the wall is at record high, while Democratic support has reached a new low. And both sides appear to be dug in: Nearly nine-in-ten (88%) opponents of expanding the border wall say it would not be acceptable to pass a bill that includes President Donald Trump’s request for wall funding, if that is the only way to end the shutdown.”
GILLIBRAND PRESSED ON LEFTWARD LURCH
Free Beacon: “Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D., N.Y.) apologized for holding ‘callous’ views on immigration amidst a broader mea culpa over her formerly conservative views Wednesday on ‘The Rachel Maddow Show.’ … However, Maddow didn't let her off the hook for her old views on issues like guns and immigration in the introduction to their interview, discussing what she called Gillibrand's ‘conservative bona fides’ in unseating a GOP congressman in New York in 2006. Gillibrand used the expression ‘illegal aliens,’ now a huge no-no for progressives, called for making English the country's official language, and had an ‘A’ rating from the National Rifle Association. … Asked to explain her ‘transformation,’ Gillibrand told a familiar story about meeting families in Brooklyn that motivated her to fight more strongly against gun violence. ‘I recognized I didn't know everything about the whole state … I just knew I was wrong,’ she said, going on to tout being a ‘leader’ on gun control measures.”
Beto pens epic, rambling blog from road trip - Fox News: “Media darling and former Texas Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke is blogging his way through a classic American road trip, with a rambling essay telling readers he has ‘been stuck lately’ as he hits the road to meet people and break the funk (and maybe decide on a 2020 run). ‘Have been stuck lately. In and out of a funk. My last day of work was January 2nd. It’s been more than twenty years since I was last not working,’ he wrote in the Medium post. … In his Medium post, he didn't directly mention a 2020 bid, but indicated he’s wrestling with something as he journeys through locales in Kansas, Texas and New Mexico. ‘Maybe if I get moving, on the road, meet people, learn about what’s going on where they live, have some adventure, go where I don’t know and I’m not known, it’ll clear my head, reset, I’ll think new thoughts, break out of the loops I’ve been stuck in,’ he wrote. Those new thoughts are in ample supply. The former congressman went into minute detail about his journey through restaurants … as well as his experiences talking to people he meets on the road.”
Moulton heads to New Hampshire - Boston Globe: “US Representative Seth Moulton will travel to New Hampshire in two weeks, according to people familiar with the planning of his visit. The trip to the first-in-the-nation presidential primary state will likely restart buzz that the Salem Democrat is exploring a run for president. Moulton, 40, will address the Bedford (N.H.) Democratic Committee on Feb. 2, at a time a host of Democrats are exploring bids for president.”
Shutdown effects Trump’s 2020 campaign - Politico: “President Donald Trump’s insistence on shutting down much of the government inadvertently handed his reelection team the opening issue of the 2020 campaign. … But [Trump’s campaign aids] say they are trying to make the best of it by using the shutdown fight to fire up his core supporters, raise money and collect voter data that will aid his reelection fight. … As polling turns increasingly against the president, and White House officials try to find a solution to what some consider a pointless standoff, Trump aides and advisers are worried that the president is doing his 2020 Democratic challengers an early favor. … Trump allies say that he will win credit for fighting to fulfill a promise Trump he made to voters as a 2016 candidate. Trump’s 2020 campaign manager, Brad Parscale, has said several times that the campaign’s proprietary data show that the shutdown is a winning issue for the president.”
PENNSYLVANIA REP. MARINO RESIGNS
[Pa.] Centre Daily Times: “Congressman Tom Marino, R-Williamsport, announced his resignation from the U.S. House of Representatives Thursday. In a statement, he said he would be officially stepping down Wednesday, Jan. 23. ‘Having spent over two decades serving the public, I have chosen to take a position in the private sector where I can use both my legal and business experience to create jobs around the nation,’ he said in the statement. ‘I want to thank the people of the 12th Congressional District of Pennsylvania for the faith they have placed in me to represent them in Congress. It truly has been one of the greatest honors of my life.’ … Marino served in the House of Representatives since 2010, winning re-election four times — most recently in the 2018 Congressional election, where he defeated Democratic challenger Marc Friedenberg of Ferguson Township.”
Schumer begins recruiting for McCain Senate seat - The Hill: “Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) is recruiting Rep. Ruben Gallego (Ariz.), a rising Democratic star in the House, to run for the Arizona Senate seat long held by John McCain. Schumer and Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) Chairwoman Catherine Cortez Masto (Nev.) met with Gallego at the DSCC headquarters Wednesday evening about running for the seat. ‘It went great,’ Gallego said of the meeting. ‘I’m strongly considering it.’ ‘I’m basically making the final decision and we’ll have that in the next couple weeks,’ he added. … Schumer and Cortez Masto have also met recently with retired astronaut-turned-gun control advocate Mark Kelly and former Republican state attorney general Grant Woods, who are both mulling potential Senate bids, according to a DSCC aide.”
THE JUDGE’S RULING: THE FBI’S ‘HOW TO’ INVESTIGATE
This week Fox News Senior Judicial Analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano explains how the FBI went to the FISA court in Washington DC to allegedly investigate President Trump: “The FBI conducts generally two types of investigations -- criminal and counterintelligence. Criminal investigations are intended to find the people who have already committed particular crimes… A counterintelligence investigation is aimed at shoring up national security by looking at people who may be breaching it. …The origins of criminal and counterintelligence investigations are often murky and at times inscrutable. There are two legal standards for commencing any investigation of anyone. The first is ‘articulable suspicion.’ … The other requirement is that the articulable suspicion be accepted by a prosecutor, as the FBI alone cannot commence any investigation. … Whatever this investigation was -- and for whatever purposes it was commenced -- it was relatively short-lived in the hands of those FBI officials who suspected Trump's motivations.” More here.
Dem Rep. Ilhan Omar doubles down on claim that Sen. Lindsey Graham is ‘compromised’ - The Week
Timothy Carney: ‘Why Ex-Churchgoers Flocked to Trump’ - The American Conservative
David French: ‘The Power of Lovability Over Likability’ - National Review
Pence says the U.S. is waiting on NoKo for next steps toward denuclearization - USA Today
Dems attack Trump’s EPA nominee on coal lobbying - WaPo
AUDIBLE: AND NOT IN A GOOD WAY
“We are getting crushed!” – President Trump reportedly said to acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, after watching coverage of the shutdown recently, according to the NYT.
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PROFESSOR HINKLE WANTED FOR QUESTIONING
WJW: “A driver was dealt a dose of instant karma when the person tried to topple a snowman with their vehicle on Monday. Cory Lutz of Kentucky told FOX 8 that [he, his finance, and his fiancé’s sister] … wanted to make the most of the winter wonderland. And, of course, that included building a snowman. They used a stump in Lutz’s front yard as the base for their towering 9-foot tall snowman called Frosty. … He came home Monday to find a set of tire tracks in his yard that abruptly ended at the base of the snowman. The stump was exposed and now featured a snowy imprint of a bumper. ‘Apparently Frosty had been handing out life lessons to surprised 4×4 vandals. ‘You reap what you sow!’ Still standing, and still smiling – He certainly had the last laugh!’ Lutz said.”
AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“Let’s understand something about the fight to fill the Supreme Court seat of Antonin (‘Nino’) Scalia. This is about nothing but raw power. Any appeal you hear to high principle is phony — brazenly, embarrassingly so.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing in the Washington Post on Feb. 18, 2016.
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.