May 19, 2017

Russia is The Swamp, and The Swamp is winning


On Day 120 of the Trump presidency, Russia has become the administration's unintended but self-imposed mood music and narrative arc — sucking bandwith, draining esprit, looming as a potential calamity.

The price and opportunity cost have already been high — in time, in credibility, in possibility.

And it may just be starting.

Legal scholar Jonathan Turley pointed out on Fox News that the Mueller miniseries may run for years.

The mood among some top Republicans is turning to anger: So much has been squandered. "The damage to the agenda is permanent," said a Republican working to pass Trump's plans.

Et tu, Putin? In an article headlined, "Russia Grows Anxious Over U.S. Political Chaos Engulfing Trump," Bloomberg reports: "Trump's presidency appears hijacked by the U.S. obsession with Russia, one senior Kremlin official said. ... [H]is fate looks increasingly uncertain to Kremlin policy makers."

The Mueller appointment could have been used as a temporary lifeline — an excuse to fence The Swamp, and try to get lawmakers and journalists to focus on Trump's plans, at least until findings emerged.

Several top operatives gave me a similar plan of attack. You'd say: "I'm happy Robert Mueller is going to get to the bottom of this. He's perfect for the job, and I'm eager to cooperate." Then say no more. When you're asked about Russia, point the questioner to your previous statement, then talk about tax reform.

Instead, after a restrained statement when Mueller was named Wednesday evening, the president tweeted the next morning: "This is the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history!"

Asked about the special counsel at an East Room presser yesterday, Trump said: "I respect the move, but the entire thing has been a witch hunt. ... I think it divides the country."

At 2:10 p.m. today, Air Force One takes off from Joint Base Andrews to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, for a nine-day trip that will also take the President to Israel, Italy and Belgium.

Be smart: Absent a gaffe, American presidents always look bigger on the world stage. Trump aides hope this will be the beginning of a reset. One big problem: The Swamp awaits.

Go deeper

Deadly clashes erupt in Delhi ahead of Trump's visit

Rival protesters over the Citizenship Amendment Act in Delhi, India, on Monday. Photo: Yawar Nazir/ Getty Images

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal called for calm Tuesday as deadly clashes erupted in the city's northeast between supporters and opponents of India's controversial new citizenship law.

Why it matters: Per the BBC, a police officer and six civilians "died in the capital's deadliest day" since last year's passing of the Citizenship Amendment Act — which allows religious minorities but excludes Muslims from nearby countries to become citizens if they can show they were persecuted for their religion — hours before President Trump and members of the U.S. first family were due to visit the city as part of their visit to India.

Go deeper: India's citizenship bill continues Modi's Hindu nationalist offensive

South Carolina paper The State backs Buttigieg for Democratic primary

Democratic presidential candidate and former South Bend Pete Buttigieg speaks at an event in Charleston, South Carolina on Monday. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

South Carolina newspaper The State endorsed former Southbend Mayor Pete Buttigieg on Monday night for the state's Democratic primary.

Why it matters: It's a welcome boost for Buttigieg ahead of Tuesday's Democratic debate in South Carolina and the state's primary on Saturday.

White House requests $2.5 billion to fight coronavirus as U.S. cases rise

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens.

The Trump administration sent a letter to Congress Monday requesting a funding commitment of at least $2.5 billion to help combat the spread of the novel coronavirus, as the number of confirmed cases in the U.S. rose to 53.

The big picture: As South Korea and Italy stepped up emergency measures in efforts to thwart the spread of the virus, WHO expressed concern about infections with no clear link to China. COVID-19 has killed at least 2,699 people and infected more than 80,000 others, with all but 27 deaths occurring in mainland China.

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