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On the roster: Pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered - Time Out: The polygamy problem - Trump’s lead lawyer in Russia probe resigns - Audible: Even grumpier old men - Call in the K-9 unit
PIGS GET FAT, HOGS GET SLAUGHTERED
How about we clean out our notebooks with a few nuggets from another busy news day in Washington?
- Republican Rick Saccone conceded defeat in what has to be the most expensive race in the ratio of dollars to days served in the House. Pennsylvania’s 18th House District is going the way of the dodo at the end of this year, but Saccone’s party spent more than ten million dollars looking to build a firewall around this district and ones like it. Here’s the best thing, though: Saccone graciously conceded and the winner Rep. Conor Lamb graciously accept and praised his rival. Remember, folks, that the strained niceties of politics matter a great deal when it comes to functional self-governance.
- A cottage industry has sprung up in the legal profession regarding President Trump and the women who accuse him of luridness. Lisa Bloom, who is becoming as famous as her mother Gloria Allred, is calling for a “rich patriot” to come forward and provide financial protection and, of course, legal fees for other women who have complaints about the president’s decades of alleged misconduct. The law is a strange business. Trump is spending millions to muzzle his accusers while the accusers are looking to raise millions of their own to fight his lawyers. It sounds like the lawyers are the only ones really winning on this one.
- Stephen Dinan reports that the Trump administration crossed an “ignominious mark” toward the end of last week by amassing its first $1 trillion in debt. More alarming for fiscal hawks: the federal government looks to be less than a year away from the next trillion. The green-eye shade brigade is already warning that as interest rates rise deficits could soon approach $3 trillion per annum. Trump did better than Barack Obama, who topped a trillion in just six months amid a spending surge and recession-hampered tax revenues. But Trump, who once roasted Obama for deficits, did worse in this measure than any president before his predecessor.
- Washington seems unsure whether the Veterans Administration is coming together or falling apart. Secretary David Shulkin is under fire for his travel and apparently has something of an insurrection taking place inside his own agency. The timing is more than a little unfortunate for America’s veterans since Shulkin, who brought a reputation as a practical problem solver to the job, seems to be stuck in neutral. One of Shulkin’s proposed reforms for the long-troubled VA is a radical departure from standard practices. It would shift $4 billion into a program allowing veterans to use vouchers for private medical services. But the program didn’t make the cut in the spending bill hurtling through Congress. Are rotten office politics and bad optics setting back the president’s ambitious promises to fix the broken system?
- Speaking of spending other people’s money, the aforementioned spending bill that is going to carom off of the Senate and land like a 20 pound bowling ball on the president’s desk has Republicans feeling more sheepish than usual today. One member of Congress shruggingly told us that voting on a $1.2 trillion spending package with more than 2,200 pages of curlicues, fiscal foibles and enough red tape to turn every load of white in every washing machine in America pink was like trying to “eat an anvil.” Yum.
- We like to think of ourselves as a high-minded political note, but please excuse us as we offer a hearty “Haw-haw” to those people who once talked about Mark Zuckerberg as a potent 2020 contender. This guy has political instincts that make Hillary Clinton look like Mark Hanna. Also, no matter how much they use it, people hate social media in concept. Running as the guy who brought you a bajillion updates about your cousin Matilda’s Farmville score would have been bad enough. Running as the guy who let strangers rummage through your personal information like raccoons in a dumpster gets a very solid “nah bro” rating from the Halftime Report.
- The House Intelligence Committee’s report on Russian meddling is expected to be both contradictory and inconclusive. What has been conclusively shown, though, is that the House of Representatives is unable to deal with serious questions of national security that relate to anything like politics. They used to say that “politics stops at the water’s edge.” Tribal partisanship has blown way past that. We’re all the way at the banks of the Volga and these people are still trying to score points on each other.
- One of the main complaints we heard from free traders about the president’s imposition of huge tariffs on steel and aluminum was that the burden fell on our allies and key trading partners instead of his campaign era foe of China. Those critics got their answer today as the president dropped $60 billion in tariffs on our second largest trading partner. The free traders won’t like that either. Certainly the Chinese do not as the regime in Beijing is preparing to target farm states key to the president’s political coalition for the first round of retribution. The WSJ tells us China will crack down on soy beans, sorghum and live hogs. While that grouping sounds like a pretty good party, what it means in practical application is a lot of pain for states like Iowa. The Trump-Xi Jinping feud is going to be a doozy to watch, unless the hogs in question are yours.
THE RULEBOOK: PLAY NICE
“All violent policy, as it is contrary to the natural and experienced course of human affairs, defeats itself.” – Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 25
TIME OUT: THE POLYGAMY PROBLEM
The Economist: “Globally, polygamy is in retreat, but in some pockets support for it is rising. After America’s Supreme Court legalised same-sex marriage in 2015, some people argued that plural unions should be next. According to Gallup, a pollster, the proportion of Americans who consider polygamy to be morally acceptable rose from 5% in 2006 to 17% last year, among the most dramatic jumps in the subjects it tracks. Campaigners in Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and other central Asian states are seeking to re-establish men’s right to take multiple wives. In Kazakhstan, a bill failed in 2008 after a female MP included an amendment stipulating that polyandry (women taking multiple husbands) also be allowed. Advocates claim that polygamy promotes social harmony by giving lusty husbands a legitimate alternative to infidelity. The mayhem in places like South Sudan, Afghanistan and northern Nigeria suggests otherwise.”
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Trump job performance
Average approval: 41 percent
Average disapproval: 54.8 percent
Net Score: -13.8 points
Change from one week ago: up 0.6 points
[Average includes: Quinnipiac University: 40% approve - 53% disapprove; Gallup: 40% approve - 56% disapprove; NBC News/WSJ: 43% approve - 53% disapprove; Pew Research Center: 42% approve - 53% disapprove; CBS News: 38% approve - 57% disapprove.]
Control of House
Republican average: 39.2 percent
Democratic average: 49 percent
Advantage: Democrats plus 9.8 points
Change from one week ago: Democratic advantage down 2 points
[Average includes: Quinnipiac University: 49% Dems - 43% GOP; NBC News/WSJ: 50% Dems - 40% GOP; George Washington University: 49% Dems - 40% GOP; Monmouth University: 50% Dems - 41% GOP; USA Today/Suffolk: 47% Dems - 32% GOP.]
TRUMP’S LEAD LAWYER IN RUSSIA PROBE RESIGNS
Fox News: “John Dowd resigned Thursday as President Trump’s lead outside counsel in the Russia probe amid an internal dispute with other attorneys on the legal team over whether the president should agree to an interview with Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Speaking to Fox News, Dowd confirmed he resigned Thursday morning and said the president ‘graciously accepted.’ ‘The president has a terrific case and has proved it to the Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his team in spades,’ Dowd said. Dowd, who has championed providing witnesses and records on a voluntary basis to Mueller’s investigation, has voiced strong opposition to Trump doing an interview, sources said. … Asked during a White House event Thursday if he still wants to testify before Mueller, Trump told reporters, ‘Yes. I would like to.’ Amid Mueller’s probe, Trump assembled his own outside team of lawyers, including Dowd, Ty Cobb and Jay Sekulow. Earlier this week, Trump added former U.S. attorney Joseph diGenova to his legal team and, according to sources, is expected to make more additions.”
Sessions’ lawyer says AG is not under investigation - Fox News: “Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ longtime personal lawyer said Wednesday that Sessions is not the subject of a federal criminal investigation for allegedly perjuring himself during his confirmation hearing. ABC News reported that former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe had overseen the investigation into whether Sessions ‘lacked candor’ when he testified before Congress about contacts with Russian operatives during the 2016 presidential campaign. ‘The Special Counsel’s Office has informed me that after interviewing the Attorney General and conducting additional investigation, the Attorney General is not under investigation for false statements or perjury in his confirmation hearing testimony and related written submissions to Congress,’ attorney Chuck Cooper said in a statement. Sources close to Sessions told Fox News that the attorney general had no idea he may have been under investigation for perjury when he fired McCabe last week.”
House Dem moved for a House vote to protect Mueller - The Hill: “Democratic Rep. Steve Cohen (Tenn.) moved on Wednesday to force a House vote to protect the special counsel investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election as uncertainty looms over whether Trump may fire Robert Mueller. Cohen’s petition asks for Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) to call a vote on a bill, called the Special Counsel Integrity Act, preventing the firing of Mueller without just cause. Cohen, a member of the House Ethics Committee, pointed to recent indicators that Trump may again be seeking to oust Mueller, after a previous attempt was thwarted by the president’s legal team.”
The Judge’s Ruling: Trump, McCabe, FBI… Oh my! - Fox News Senior Judicial Analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano discusses the firing of former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe: “The stated reason for McCabe’s firing was not his abuse of FISA but his absence of candor to FBI investigators about his use of FISA. I don’t know whether those allegations are the true reasons for his firing or McCabe was sacrificed at the altar of government abuse -- because those who fired him also have abused FISA. But I do know that there are lessons to learn in all this. Courts are bound by the Constitution, just as are Congress and the president. Just because Congress says something is lawful does not mean it is constitutional. Secret courts are the tools of tyrants and lead to the corruption of the judicial process and the erosion of freedom.” More here.
New Fed Chairman Powell treads lightly - ABC News
Alabama lawmakers approve execution by nitrogen gas - AP
House votes to ease restrictions on experimental drugs for seriously ill - WaPo
AUDIBLE: EVEN GRUMPIER OLD MEN
“He doesn’t know me, but he would go down fast and hard, crying all the way. Don’t threaten people Joe!” – President Trump responding to former Vice President Joe Biden who told attendees at a campaign rally that he would have “kicked [Trump’s] ass” in high school for bragging about grabbing women by the genitals.
FROM THE BLEACHERS
“As Reagan said ‘there you go again’. You are only telling about the Trump campaign using FB data. The Obamacare campaign harvested names from FB data long before the Trump campaign. When are you going to tell whole stories?” – Marilyn Dellaripa, Scottsdale, Ariz.
[Ed. note: The question of wholeness in a story is subjective, just like almost every other part of journalism. I could have also included the CREEP and Richard Nixon’s dirty tricks. I could have talked about Bill Clinton’s shockingly shady efforts to keep tabs on the politically powerful. I might have mentioned a lot of things in the recent history of sleazy campaign and political tactics. I didn’t because I was writing about Facebook, not the politicians who exploited it. The discussion I was trying to initiate wasn’t about politicians, who as a class rank somewhere on the ethical scale between crocodiles and payday lenders, but rather about we the people and the way in which social networking is changing our culture and our republic. I don’t need to make it about which politician is more ethically suspect than the other one. The reason I don’t need to do that is because I know that moral relativism is cancerous for morals and human beings. I understand that many supporters of the president chafe at the idea of Donald Trump being held to different standards than his predecessor. That would be galling to anyone. But I would encourage you to not be so strict in your filtering of information that it prevents you from seeing what’s happening in real time.]
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CALL IN THE K-9 UNIT
KTVI: “Police are investigating three incidents of meat being stolen from [St. Louis] area restaurants. One business, Callier’s Catering on Manchester Road in Ballwin, caught the thieves on their security camera. Security video footage shows a man walk out of sight into the business’ walk-in cooler. He appears later carrying a side of beef. His partner comes back to the truck with a box of batteries from the Battery’s Plus store next door. ‘I’d love to have the video on TV because people that would look would say, ‘I’ve seen those guys before,’’ said Dennis Callier, owner of Callier’s Catering. Callier called it a petty crime but thinks it could be worse and could be happening to several businesses. … Salt and Smoke Barbeque on Hampton has been hit twice, on January 28 and March 6. Employees say that the stainless-steel doors of a smoker had been compromised both times. Also, both times, a man was seen carrying large objects to his car.”
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.