May 03 2018

Pondering the Pundits

Pondering the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from> around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Pondering the Pundits”.

Renato Mariotti: Mueller’s Questions Point to What Trouble Trump Is In

On Monday, The Times gave us the first glimpse of 49 questions the special counsel Robert Mueller could ask President Trump, as told to Mr. Trump’s legal team during negotiations for an interview. The questions reveal the topics Mr. Mueller believes could lead to potential liability for the president and help explain why Trump’s team has urged him not to agree to an interview.

Last night, we learned that the specific questions were actually created by a Trump lawyer, Jay Sekulow, his interpretation of 16 specific subjects presented by Mr. Mueller’s team. Mr. Sekulow broke down the subjects and subtopics into the separate questions. This explains why Mr. Trump’s team had these questions — it would be highly unusual for a prosecutor to give a witness questions in advance, but it is fairly common for a prosecutor to preview potential topics for a defense attorney before an interview. For that reason, I think it’s fair to assume that Mr. Sekulow’s questions track what Mr. Mueller’s team wants to cover in an interview. [..]

The potential questions we saw this week explain why Mr. Trump is so concerned about his criminal liability. He faces difficult questions — not just about obstruction but also about a host of topics related to coordination with Russia — and his lawyers appear convinced that he cannot answer them without putting himself in further jeopardy.

Paul Krugman: Politicians Don’t Need New Ideas

The 2020 election is still two and a half years away, but the Big Sneer is already underway. Name a potential Democratic candidate, and you know how pundits will react: the same way they reacted to Al Gore and Hillary Clinton. He/she (especially she), they’ll say, is tired, boring, annoying. Above all, they’ll complain, he/she doesn’t offer any new ideas.

Somehow it’s always Democrats who get this kind of criticism, even though every prominent Republican for the past three decades has espoused the same three bad ideas: tax cuts for the rich, slashed benefits for the poor, and more pollution. Paul Ryan 2010 was basically Newt Gingrich 1995 with a lower BMI, yet he got praised endlessly as an innovative thinker.

But let’s leave the asymmetric treatment of the parties aside, and ask a simple question: why, exactly, do we demand that politicians have new ideas?

Jennifer Rubin: It’s not up to Trump whether to talk to Mueller

As Right Turn has discussed from time to time, the story line that President Trump has the option whether to sit down with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III is simply wrong. Mueller has the option to ask the grand jury to issue a subpoena to compel Trump’s testimony under oath and without his lawyer present. (Witnesses can go outside to consult with a lawyer, but witnesses ordinarily do not get to bring their attorney into the grand jury room.) Perhaps now Trump, his lawyers and the TV talking heads will approach Trump’s testimony more realistically: It isn’t up to him to decide to cooperate — unless he wants to take the unprecedented step of thwarting an investigation into his own wrongdoing by invoking the Fifth Amendment.

The Post reports:

In a tense meeting in early March with the special counsel, President Trump’s lawyers insisted he had no obligation to talk with federal investigators probing Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential campaign.
But special counsel Robert S. Mueller III responded that he had another option if Trump declined: He could issue a subpoena for the president to appear before a grand jury, according to four people familiar with the encounter.

While this is the first confirmation of such a warning, I have no doubt that Trump’s lawyers have been aware of Mueller’s ability to get a subpoena. If they have hidden that uncomfortable truth from Trump, they will have some explaining to do.

Paul Waldman: Trump’s medical deceptions should be a scandal

“Trump disseminated false medical records to fool the public about his health.” That is a headline you have never seen, though you should have.

If you’ve gotten tired of hearing how something President Trump did would have been a major or even career-ending scandal for any other candidate, I sympathize. But that fatigue is exactly the problem, because from the beginning of his run for president, Trump has been treated not just by different rules but by rules that indulge his most dangerous tendencies.

At the same time, we allow him to manipulate us into chasing false charges that he makes against other people. And if we don’t realize how pernicious this is, we’re going to keep making the same mistakes, especially in 2020 when Trump will have a Democratic opponent to slander. [..]

While this is something that should concern us each and every day, we need to be particularly on guard when the 2020 election begins. Trump is going to run a scorched-earth campaign against the Democratic nominee, not just of sneering ridicule but also of innuendo and outright slander. One way we can prepare for it is to stop treating the lies Trump tells — such as putting out false letters about his medical condition — as though they’re anything less than the scandal they ought to be.

Dean Baker: Making Finance Pay

Mick Mulvaney, the acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), publicly said what many of us had long believed: corporate lobbyists have to pay to talk to their representatives in Congress or the executive branch. If they expect to have their views taken seriously by those in power, they have to be prepared to cough up the campaign contributions needed to get through the door.

Given the rules of engagement described by Mulvaney, it is hardly surprising that he is doing everything he can to undermine the purpose of the bureau he now leads. This includes suspending lawsuits and enforcement actions already in process and making it virtually impossible for the Bureau’s staff to initiate new actions. [..]

But there is some good news for those who don’t want to see more of the economy’s resources committed to rip-off schemes. The budget passed last month by New York’s legislature, and signed into law by Governor Cuomo, would create a state-managed 401(k)-type system which would cover every New York worker who does not already have a retirement plan.