5 Wednesday Observations From An Already Wild Political Week

photo credit: The Associated Press

photo credit: The Associated Press

1. The White House and Republican lawmakers like Devin Nunes really need to stop pretending they don't know who Roger Stone, Mike Flynn, Carter Page, and Paul Manafort are, or downplaying their involvement with the Trump Campaign. The facts are the facts. Carter Page worked as a foreign policy advisor to the campaign. General Mike Flynn also worked closely with the campaign and practically never left Trump's side for many months before being appointed to NSA. And despite what Sean Spicer would like us to believe, Paul Manafort ran the Trump campaign for 122 days, including at the time of his nomination at the RNC. Managing a campaign is not a "limited role" and 122 days is not a "limited" amount of time when you consider Bannon was campaign CEO for just 82 days. (More on Manafort below). C'mon y'all. We're smarter than this. You're smarter than this. It might be best to just keep quiet at this point and let the investigation run its course. 

2. Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse said earlier this week that Judge Neil Gorsuch should be confirmed "100-0." While I don't necessarily agree that he should be unanimously confirmed, I've listened to most of the hearing to date and must say aside from a couple of key philosophical differences on some of Gorsuch's past decisions, the Democratic opposition to Gorsuch took a big hit this week as his interview wore on. Gorsuch has been calm, warm, articulate, and independent. He's practically tripped over himself to distance his ideologies from Trump, to prove his allegiance to the rule of law, to put the constitution above politics, and to prove he's an impartial adjudicator. Here's the thing, the Democrats have to be very careful here, because on its face Ben Sasse's statement is more true than false. Gorsuch is qualified, experienced, and he's crushed his hearing. The only obstacle to his appointment at this stage would be the Merrick Garland grudge, and that grudge is looking less and less valid as the hearing wears on. Plain and simple, the Democrats gave Gorsuch a hearing, so they should go ahead and give him a vote, too. How that vote shakes out remains to be seen, but I would think it unwise to drive the stake too far into the ground on this particular nomination, especially with all the chances to capitalize on the unforced errors that loom with the Trump administration. Chuck Schumer has suggested delaying a vote until the conclusion of FBI investigation. That move hedges too much on a Democrat-friendly finding in that investigation. Follow the process. Show you value norms, and vote on Gorsuch, Dems. 

3. Donald Trump is losing his bully status - and fast. Director Comey and Admiral Rogers this week essentially made Donald Trump's wiretapping claims a cold case. That was significant for two reasons. One, it proved the president once again ran down a rabbit hole that reeked of conspiracy only to find nothing. And two, because Comey and Rogers publicly and authoritatively discredited Trump - along with the Intelligence committees in both houses - they defanged his Twitter bite. Republicans aren't scared of his weaponized Tweet storms anymore, and they showed it on Tuesday. Freedom Caucus members were threatened, and they promptly called the president's bluff. The AHCA is likely to be Trump's first major policy failure (I'm not counting the EOs on travel because they haven't included Congressional input). He can't bully his way out of a bad bill, and he can't Tweet away the seats of Republican lawmakers he doesn't like. Healthcare, as expected, is an albatross. Healthcare, as expected, is an issue that perks the eyes and ears of voters. It doesn't just pique their interest, it has their full attention. As Rep. Thomas Massie from Kentucky said yesterday, he got 274 calls from constituents asking him to vote "no" on AHCA, and 4 to vote "yes." A bill that unpopular will never be undone with brute force. You're in Washington now Mr. Trump, not a boardroom, and lawmakers answer to their voters. We may be reaching unprecedented levels of cynicism that push us farther and farther away from actually believing that fact, but occasionally it's redeemed. The AHCA opposition is proving it.

4. I'm no expert in optics or public relations, but if you're the Rex Tillerson and the State Department it's proooobbbably not the best idea to cancel a meeting with NATO and replace it with a nondescript trip to Russia the same week the FBI confirmed the Trump campaign is under investigation for possible coordination with Russian interference in the 2016 election. Just sayin'

5. Expect the investigation to take a while. There's going to be a pressing urge from media and Democratic lawmakers to "Maddow" any and every detail that drops from now until the conclusion of the probe. As content consumers we can't bite. This is going to be long. It's going to be thorough. And above all else, it's going to be close to the vest. If Comey's testimony taught us anything, it's that 6 months is short in the grand scheme of counter intelligence investigations, and he's not gonna say jack squat about it. That means media outlets and investigative reporters are going to try their best to fill in the blanks, i.e. today's AP report on Paul Manafort. Is it important information? Sure. Should we be consuming it? Absolutely. Is it going to lead to some monumental breakthrough in the investigation? Probably not. I guarantee you if the AP knows it, the FBI knows it too, and if it was the missing piece to break the case wide open, we'd know about it. Get comfortable in your seats, y'all. Grab some non-perishable snacks. Get some beers on ice.  It's gonna be a while.