Saturday, September 21, 2019


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There Is Just One Story Until There Is Not

The Washington Post sets up the Ukraine controversy in two neat paragraphs:

“New revelations about the dual channels of pressure on Ukraine — one from the president and one from his personal attorney — are fueling questions about whether Trump used his office to try to force a foreign country to take actions damaging to his political opponents.”

“’This is requesting assistance from a foreign government to tarnish your political rival and opening the door to outside interference in our politics and elections,’ said David Kramer, a former State Department official responsible for Russia and Central Europe during the George W. Bush administration.”

My takes:

1. Trump wanted to hurt Biden; barring some new revelation, this likely helps Biden, by casting him as the rival Trump is worried about and allowing him to stand up to the president with indignation. (The Washington Post, however, says this could bring a new focus on Hunter Biden that Team Biden would not welcome.)

2. A lot has been revealed in the last three days, but there are many details that are not known, and the media will continue to hunt down the facts, helped by leaks from all over the federal government and information from Ukraine.

3. Trumps is hurt by the fact that no single news organization owns this story, meaning every outlet will be competing, pushing hard, and flooding the zone.

4. The media’s efforts will outrun those of Adam Schiff and congressional investigations for now, simply because Capitol Hill Democrats are being stymied going through normal channels and the courts will grind their wheels slowly.

5. In the past, Rudy Giuliani has helped Donald Trump at times and inadvertently hurt him at times. On this story, he is more of a threat to Trump’s political health than Nancy Pelosi and all the Democratic presidential candidates combined.

6. Republicans are, per usual, circling the wagons, allowing Trump more of a chance for now to say this is all a partisan witch hunt.

7. This from the Washington Post is a thread that will be pulled hard this weekend: “White House counsel Pat Cipollone has been engaged in the matter since shortly after the whistleblower action surfaced, officials said, helping to identify legal obstacles to the sharing of information that could be politically damaging to Trump. Cipollone’s involvement reveals a more direct White House role in the dispute than has previously been reported.”

8. Beyond presidential candidates, we have not heard much impeachment talk from Democratic senators in the past. We are now, and there will be more. That changes the dynamics quite a bit.

9. Depending on how Trump’s presidency ultimately turns out, George Conway has a chance to be an historic figure. As it is now, he is an incredibly important one, writing with Neal Katyal in a Washington Post op ed piece that if Trump’s actions here are as they currently seem, “it would be the ultimate impeachable act,” and worse than the accusations in the Mueller report.

10. Trump is employing his usual bag of tricks to deflect, distract, defend, and denounce in order to save himself. The gutters of Pennsylvania Avenue are littered with the political bodies of Democrats and pundits who have declared about past Trump hullabaloos that this time is different, this one will do mortal harm to the president and the presidency.  It is too soon to make those claims definitely about the Ukraine matter. But the ingredients just might be there for some Republican senators to finally say they have had enough.  If the right senators turn in the right numbers, floodgates could open.

—-

In other news:

More U.S. military personnel to the Middle East to counter Iran.

My take:  Between more sanctions, more deployments, and the upcoming U.N. meeting, quick overt military action seems highly unlikely.

****

Biden faces heat for answers and treatment of moderator at LGBT forum.

My take: For all the talk in the last news cycle about attention turning to Elizabeth Warren, Biden is still getting a lot more scrutiny for his behavior than anyone else in the race.

****

A New York City judge has said Trump must give videotaped testimony in a lawsuit involving a protest at Trump Tower.

My take: The president’s team is appealing, but this case might be one of the first to break through, in which Trump runs head long into a co-equal branch he can’t stonewall or bully.

—-

Top sports story: Seven Week 4 games that will shake up the College Football Playoff
ESPN

Top business story: Goldman Sachs says the markets will be on a wild ride in October
CNBC

Top entertainment story: Box Office: ‘Downton Abbey’ Beats ‘Ad Astra,’ ‘Rambo: Last Blood’ on Thursday night
Variety


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