Patterico's Pontifications


Bannon Lawyers Up: Is Sloppy Steve Plotting His Revenge?

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:30 pm

Donald Trump may think he had the last laugh on Steve Bannon, but there’s a chance that Sloppy Steve is looking to “punch back twice as hard.” Lachlan Markay and other Daily Beast reporters had a scoop today that Bannon has hired top D.C.-based white collar criminal defense lawyer Bill Burck. Bannon is reportedly looking to “cooperate” with House investigators looking into Russia and the election:

Steve Bannon is lawyering up as he gets ready to face investigators looking into the Trump-Russia nexus.

The Daily Beast has learned that the former top White House strategist has retained Bill Burck, of the firm Quinn Emanuel. Two sources tell us Burck is helping Bannon prepare for an interview with the House intelligence committee, which is currently scheduled for next week. Sources also said Bannon plans to “fully cooperate” with investigators.

What does “fully cooperate” with investigators mean? Bannon was not around for many of the meetings that are a focus of the Russia investigation, but he was around for a lot of the Trump team’s reaction to it. If the House intelligence committee asks him questions about whether there was a cover-up or some attempt to obstruct the investigation, how will Bannon react? He’s been kicked to the curb by Trump and just about every other figure associated with Trump — and he hasn’t really denied many of the statements attributed to him in Michael Wolff’s book — with the glaring exception of saying that his comments about a “treasonous” meeting between Russians and Manafort, Trump Jr., and Kushner were directed at Manafort and not (as Wolff claims) “Fredo,” the dumb eldest son. Under one interpretation, what does Bannon have to lose by laying out Trump?

But my guess is that we will not get anything nearly so dramatic. For one thing, Bannon is represented by the same lawyer representing Reince Priebus and White House Counsel Don McGahn. That makes it less likely that Bannon is on some kind of kamikaze mission. Of course, this fact itself raises something of a red flag, as Ken White of Popehat explains in this quote from the Daily Beast story:

“In general, prosecutors don’t like it when the same attorney represents multiple people who are subjects—or more—because it looks like they’re controlling the story,” said Ken White, a former federal prosecutor who specializes in First Amendment issues, speaking of investigators’ targets.

So while the “fully cooperate” phrase sounds intriguing at first glance, it’s probably just plain vanilla-speak for “he will answer questions truthfully” (or what he considers to be truthful).

But that doesn’t mean there will be no drama.

My guess is that Bannon will do or say anything to shiv Jared Kushner. Anything. Paul Manafort is spent money at this point and Bannon won’t go easy on him either. But I’d put low odds indeed on any notion that Bannon will lay out anyone whose last name is Trump.

It should be interesting, though. Stay tuned!

[Cross-posted at RedState and The Jury Talks Back.]

Pauly Shore Re-Enacts Stephen Miller/Jake Tapper Slugfest to Hilarious Effect

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:18 pm

This is very well done.

“Look in my dead eyes.”


[Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.]

President Donald J. Trump on “Shithole Countries”

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 6:41 pm

In my review of Michael Wolff’s book, I left out the most unbelievable anecdote of all. There’s a scene described in which Trump is discussing an immigration deal with members of Congress sitting around the table, and refers to Haiti and African nations as “shithole countries.” According to fabulist Wolff, Trump contrasted these countries (which have a lot of black people) with Norway (which has a lot of white people).

I, for one, am sick of people discussing Wolff’s made-up fantasies as though they had any validity at all. The idea that Donald Trump would openly denigrate mostly-black countries with a mostly-white country strikes me as totally unlikely, not to mention the idea that he would call them “shithole countries” in front of a room full of members of Cong–

[A bespectacled man in a dark suit and tie enters and taps Patterico on the shoulder.]

Excuse me one moment.

[The man in the suit hands Patterico a note. Patterico reads it.]

Um, according to this note, this isn’t actually a story from Michael Wolff’s book. It just happened today:

President Trump on Thursday balked at an immigration deal that would include protections for people from Haiti and some nations in Africa, demanding to know at a White House meeting why he should accept immigrants from “shithole countries” rather than people from places like Norway, according to people with direct knowledge of the conversation.

Mr. Trump’s remarks, the latest example of his penchant for racially tinged remarks denigrating immigrants, left members of Congress from both parties attending the meeting in the Cabinet Room alarmed and mystified. He made them during a discussion of an emerging bipartisan deal to give legal status to immigrants illegally brought to the United States as children, the people said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the meeting.

That’s OK. #FAKENEWS!!1! amirite? How can you believe a story based on anonymous sources. Any second now, Trump will come out and deny — wait, what’s this?

In a written statement, Raj Shah, the White House deputy press secretary, did not deny the account of the meeting on Thursday or directly address Mr. Trump’s comments.


Commence discussion about how these countries are, in fact, shithole countries, and for bonus points praise Trump for having the balls to say so. Just keep one thing in mind:

Representative Mia Love, a Republican of Utah who is of Haitian descent, demanded an apology from the president, saying his comments were “unkind, divisive, elitist, and fly in the face of our nation’s values.”

“This behavior is unacceptable from the leader of our nation,” Ms. Love went on in an emotional statement that noted her heritage and that her parents “never took a thing” from the government while achieving the American dream. “The president must apologize to both the American people and the nations he so wantonly maligned.”

Obviously, Mia Love is the cuckiest cuck that ever cucked.

I think I may avoid reading the comments to this post entirely. Have a nice night!


I prefer “stupid” to “offensive” but the gist is right.

[Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.]

Trump’s Tweet Reversal on FISA, and What It Says About His Presidency (With Bonus North Korea Discussion)

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 9:30 am

President Donald J. Trump woke up this morning and issued a tweet about FISA that seemed to contradict his administration’s position on an upcoming FISA vote:

What’s going on? Today the House votes on reauthorizing “Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act, that permits the government to collect without a warrant from American firms, like Google and AT&T, the emails and other communications of foreigners abroad — even when they are talking to Americans.” Section 702 will certainly be reauthorized, but libertarian-minded lawmakers like Justin Amash are trying to impose a warrant requirement for such searches. The White House has consistently opposed any such amendment, with Sarah Sanders saying as recently as last night that the amendment would “would re-establish the walls between intelligence and law enforcement that our country knocked down following the attacks of 9/11.” Sanders said, in no uncertain terms: “The Administration urges the House to reject this amendment.”

And then Trump stepped into the breach with his tweet, emboldening the supporters of the amendment and undermining the clarity of his administration’s position.

Apparently somebody spoke to him, because one hour and 41 minutes later, Trump tweeted this:

That is a big Emily Litella-style climbdown. And it was obviously motivated by the intervention of someone who, unlike Trump, understood his administration’s position.

If the notion of Trump farting out an off-message policy statement and having to be walked back sounds familiar, cast your memory back to two days ago, when Trump seemed to tell Sen. Dianne Feinstein that he was for a “clean” DACA bill — a statement that Kevin McCarthy had to help Trump walk back. Trump is like a kid who might suddenly dart into traffic at any moment. You have to hold that tiny little hand tight, to keep him safe.

You don’t need Michael Wolff to tell you that Trump is a woefully uninformed man-child who stumbles around saying random things. This aspect of Trump’s character is on public display, day after day.

So what does this say about the nature of Trump’s presidency? Until we get to foreign policy, not much. It appears that, for the most part, the people around him manage to get the right thing done most of the time, despite Trump. And he obviously listens, at least sometimes. Although the FISA tweet and Feinstein DACA examples show that Trump has no grasp of what his position is supposed to be, they also show that when the correct position is explained to him (which we know happened with Feinstein and which I assume happened with FISA today), he is willing to back down from his incorrect pronouncements. True, an informed president could do more with the bully pulpit to push legislation like ObamaCare repeal. But he mostly does OK on the domestic front.

Ah, but then there’s foreign policy. There, Trump both interacts directly with other world leaders, and also makes public pronouncements on his own (“fire and fury,” anyone?). I think a lot of people assume that, hey, everything will be OK because we have folks like Mattis or McMaster around to rein Trump in. But if you believe the story in Wolff’s book (and here’s an example of a story I believe), Trump has contempt for McMaster, whom he finds “boring” because of his penchant for PowerPoints that make Trump feel like he is being lectured to by a professor. In any event, let’s assume for the sake of argument that Mattis & Co. support comments like “fire and fury” as exemplifying Nixon’s crazy man strategy. It’s still concerning that a guy whose ad libs are often this uninformed and off-message is the Voice of America.

I’m sure my concerns about all this will be met with arguments that South Korea is crediting Trump with bringing North Korea to the table for talks. Settle down, Sparky. The situation is hardly resolved yet. That’s not Trump’s fault, of course; presidents since Clinton have devoted a lot of energy to addressing North Korea, and every effort has ended in failure. It’s a problem that has no easy solution. But when I look at Trump’s aggressive pronouncements about nuclear war, a rhetorical question keeps coming to mind: when did mindless and prideful escalation ever lead to unnecessary violence?

I realize it seems we have detoured far from our original discussion about FISA, section 702, and Trump’s contradictory tweets. But in the headline I promised an analysis about the larger meaning for Trump’s presidency of having a man in the Oval Office with a grade-school-level grasp of policy details. And foreign policy in general — and North Korea in particular — are a YUUUUUGE part of that discussion.

Exit suggestion: if you’ve never seen Nick Kristof’s video from November about North Korea’s preparation for war, set aside some time to watch it. Kristof visited North Korea and interviewed government officials and people on the street — and at the end there is an interesting reveal about the way in which the officials guided the expression of opinions from the “normal citizens.” I disagree with Kristof about a lot of things — just yesterday, I was dismissing Kristof’s worry about Trump’s authoritarianism, noting that while Trump certainly talks like an authoritarian, he doesn’t really act like one. But it’s hard to watch a video like this and not be acutely aware that North Korea at least wants to send the message that it considers war with America virtually inevitable. As we cheer the slight reduction in regulations under Donald Trump, let’s give a little thought to the at least equally important issue of whether we are about to go to nuclear war with a country led by a madman.

[Cross-posted at RedState and The Jury Talks Back.]

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