Flynn Sentencing Move Spurs Questions About Duration Of Mueller Probe

Robert Mueller’s request that a federal judge move forward with sentencing for Michael Flynn, President Trump’s former national security adviser, has triggered new debate over the status of the special counsel’s investigation and the value of Flynn’s cooperation.

Some observers interpreted the move, which followed months of delays in Flynn’s sentencing, as an indication that Mueller is unlikely to call Flynn to testify at any future trials that may arise from the Russia probe.

Mueller’s request for Flynn’s sentencing came days after he secured a key cooperator in Paul Manafort, the one-time Trump campaign chairman who participated in the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with a Russian lawyer that was predicated on obtaining damaging information on Hillary Clinton.

Flynn pleaded guilty in December to one count of lying to FBI agents about his contacts with the Russian ambassador to the United States and agreed to cooperate with Mueller’s team, from submitting to interviews with government investigators to providing courthouse testimony.

Mueller had sought to delay Flynn’s sentencing four times, a sign that as of late August his cooperation was still needed months after his guilty plea. Early on, there was speculation in conservative circles that Flynn’s plea deal could be collapsing, with some alleging that Flynn had been set up by the FBI.

“On one side for the White House, I think it’s a recognition that Mueller and the special counsel’s office are done with Flynn and likely the collusion question,” said GOP strategist Ford O’Connell. “But the White House is still fuming because what you have here is an investigation in search of a crime.”

Read more from Morgan Chalfant at The Hill

Add your reaction Share

Kavanaugh Claims Give Vulnerable Democrats In Senate Cover To Oppose Him

The sexual-misconduct allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh may remove pressure that some Democratic senators faced to back his confirmation as a way of reassuring conservative voters in congressional elections just seven weeks away.

Since Kavanaugh was nominated to the high court by President Donald Trump, Democratic senators from states that Trump won in 2016 were locked in a dilemma. If they didn’t vote in favor of Kavanaugh’s confirmation, they would have appeared to be out of step with voters at home and risked losing re-election. Vote for him, and they would hand the president a bipartisan victory.

The allegation that Kavanaugh assaulted a woman while in high school, however, now gives those endangered Democrats an escape hatch. They can oppose the nominee without appearing to voters as if they are defying the president, strategists said. Kavanaugh has denied the assault allegation, calling it “completely false.”

November’s congressional elections will determine whether Republicans retain a majority not only in the Senate but in the House of Representatives as well. Democrats are currently favored to take the House, while becoming increasingly confident of adding the two Senate seats that would give them control of that chamber.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley said on Monday the committee would hold a public hearing with Kavanaugh and his accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, in a week.

Senate Republicans seemed to recognize the danger of appearing insensitive, said Ford O’Connell, a Republican strategist.

Trump, too, offered some temperate remarks at the White House, stressing the importance of going “through a full process.”

O’Connell said a concerted stand against Kavanaugh could motivate Republican voters to go the polls.

Read more from James Oliphant at Reuters

Add your reaction Share

Repetitive Trump Attacks Losing Their Power

Anyone out there remember details from the infamous, anonymous New York Times op-ed? Anyone? It was just one in a long line of intense, coordinated, strategic attacks on President Trump and his administration which arrive like clockwork daily, and every other word is “chaos.”

Endless attacks are not without risk, though. They can backfire. They are short-lived. They can annoy a weary public already saturated with negative politics.

“Between the op-ed, the Bob Woodward book, hurricane season bearing down, and whatever media-induced scandal tomorrow brings in addition to the daily business of running the country — the White House has neither the time nor the resources to focus on this dishonorable act. Unfortunately, this whole op-ed saga has highlighted the irresponsibility of the writer and The New York Times for publishing it despite the fact it falls short of journalistic editorial standards,” Ford O’Connell, an adviser to the 2008 McCain presidential campaign and adjunct professor at the George Washington University Graduate School of Political Management, tells Inside the Beltway.

The op-ed appears to have lost its savory, sensational power.

“Although this effort seems to have contributed to a temporary blip in Trump’s approval rating, it is unlikely that it will have much staying power in the long-run, particularly with the 24/7 news cycle moving at breakneck pace as we careen from media-created crisis to media-created crisis. It certainly will not loom large on voters’ minds by the time the 2018 midterms roll around, and it will certainly be all but forgotten by the all-important 2020 presidential elections,” Mr. O’Connell continues.

“What must be remembered is that President Trump has done some amazing things on the economic front and with the federal courts. He also has the potential to accomplish some positive things on trade, immigration, foreign policy and infrastructure. Hopefully, this whole ordeal will not force him to look over his shoulder or constrict the inner-circle of those he trusts and from whom he seeks counsel. If this occurs, all of America could lose; not just those who cast a vote for Donald Trump,” the professor cautions.

Read more from Jennifer Harper at The Washington Times

Add your reaction Share

GOP Uses Sanders’s Medicare Plan In Attacks On Democrats

Republicans in tight midterm races are tying their Democratic opponents to a “Medicare for all” proposal from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), arguing the plan would bankrupt the government and damage traditional Medicare.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R), who is running in a close Senate race, recently tweeted: “If you want to protect Medicare, vote Republican. If you want a socialist experiment with Medicare, by all means vote Democrat.”

In Maine, Rep. Bruce Poliquin (R) has a TV ad hitting his Democratic challenger, Jared Golden, for supporting Medicare for all. “A radical liberal politician, his risky scheme will end Medicare as we know it,” the ad says, pointing to “massive costs.”

The attacks are an effort by Republican candidates to flip the script on their Democratic opponents. Democrats are not proposing to cut Medicare in the way Republicans have, instead calling to expand the program, but the GOP argues that the massive costs associated with Medicare for all would be disruptive and make the whole program less stable.

“What the Republicans are trying to do is chip away at the Democrats’ advantage on health care,” said GOP strategist Ford O’Connell, noting that efforts to portray Medicare as under threat can “boost turnout among older voters who tend to favor Republicans.”

For years, Democrats have gotten mileage out of GOP proposals to cut Medicare spending, particularly those from Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who has pushed for reining in entitlement programs during most of his career in Washington.

GOP strategists like O’Connell are hopeful that the recent Republican attacks on Medicare could help make some headway on an issue where Democrats have consistently put the GOP on the defensive.

“They’ve hit us with a wiffle ball bat for almost 10 years on this issue,” he said.

Read more from Peter Sullivan at The Hill

Add your reaction Share

U.S. Closes PLO Office, Adding Pressure On Palestinians

The Trump administration on Monday announced its decision to close the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO)'s office in Washington, a move to further press the Palestinians into peace talks with Israel while invoking strong objections.

The U.S. State Department unveiled the decision in a statement released Monday, citing the Palestinians' lack of "steps to advance the start of direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel."

"PLO leadership has condemned a U.S. peace plan they have not yet seen and refused to engage with the U.S. government with respect to peace efforts and otherwise," said U.S. State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert in the statement.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration still voiced optimism about the long stalled Middle East peace process. "We are very much committed to the process, and we're still hopeful we can get there," said White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders in a daily briefing Monday.

The U.S. government gives a waiver to the Palestinian mission in Washington every six months to keep it function normally.

Shortly after the State Department announcement, John Bolton, the U.S. national security advisor, followed up in his speech at a think tank in Washington.

Bolton also threatened to impose sanctions against judges and prosecutors of the ICC if it pursues investigation against the United States, Israel or other U.S. allies.

"What Trump is doing is nothing really different than Bush," Ford O'Connell, a Republican and news commentator who frequently shows up on TV, told Xinhua.

The United States did not ratify the Rome treaty that established the ICC in 2002, as then U.S. president George W. Bush voiced objection to the court.

Read more from Matthew Rusling at Xinhua

Add your reaction Share

Trump Tax Law Takes Center Stage In Nevada Senate Race

The war over President Trump’s tax law is playing out in the Nevada Senate race, where a House Democrat who voted against the measure is challenging the only GOP member of the Senate’s tax-writing committee running for reelection this year.

Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.), also the only Republican senator up for reelection in a state Hillary Clinton carried in 2016, has been touting the work he did on the tax law and the strong economy that he links to the measure.

But Rep. Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.) sees it as a winning issue for herself as she seeks to unseat Heller. Rosen argues the law helps wealthy individuals and corporations rather than the middle class.

Democrats and Nevada political observers claim Heller talks about the tax law less than he did right after it was enacted, which they see as a sign Republicans are on the defense.

Heller has continued to bring up taxes and the economy in recent months, teaming up with Trump to do so.

In June, Trump came to Nevada and participated in a roundtable on taxes with Heller. The president said Heller “worked so hard with us to get the taxes cut.”

GOP strategist Ford O’Connell, who has done political work in Nevada in the past, said voters in the state tend to be supportive of limited taxes and government.

“Taxes and regulations are a no-no in the state of Nevada,” O’Connell said. “It’s a very frontier mentality.” 

Read more from Naomi Jagoda at The Hill

Add your reaction Share

Trump Loyalists Fear White House 'Purge'

President Trump’s allies are increasingly concerned that they are underrepresented in his own White House, to the detriment of both the president and his party as the midterm elections approach.

“We’ve been purged,” said a former White House official. “That’s the bottom line. And the people who have stayed behind are not at all loyal to our president.”

All this has come under greater scrutiny after three specific events: the publication of Bob Woodward’s new book about the Trump administration, implicitly anti-Trump remarks at the funeral of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and the New York Times op-ed alleging “the Resistance” has representatives close to the White House, at the highest levels of the executive branch. But it has implications going forward as Republicans battle to maintain control of Congress.

“Since the op-ed was published anonymously and in the New York Times, Trump supporters will dismiss it without batting an eyelash,” said Republican strategist Ford O’Connell. “But what is truly despicable is that the author freely admits there is an active conspiracy within the administration to thwart the president and thus the will of the people.”

The White House denounced the author as “gutless,” challenging the Times to reveal them. “Given that the author is a ‘senior official,’ and could be any one of hundreds of people, his actions are not that of a hero but that of a coward hell-bent on doing irreparable harm to this country and the safeguards put into place to protect it,” O’Connell said. “Either come forward and make yourself known or resign your post immediately. Sniping from the cheap seats is the sign of the weak.”

Read more from Jim Antle at the Washington Examiner

Add your reaction Share

Obama To Come Off Bench For Democrats In Battle For Congress

Former U.S. President Barack Obama plans to come off the sidelines to campaign for Democratic candidates across the country this fall, injecting himself into a contentious election season in which control of Congress is at stake.

On Saturday, the two-term president will stump in southern California on behalf of seven candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives, his office said. That state is critical to Democrats’ hopes to capture 23 seats and take control of the House in November’s congressional elections.

Those seven are running in districts currently held by Republican incumbents but won by Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in 2016. Clinton, who hoped to succeed Obama in the White House, lost to Republican Donald Trump.

“Now that he is out of office, Obama could provide some Democratic candidates a boost in parts of the country - primarily in states and districts where he was successful as a candidate himself,” said Ford O’Connell, a Republican political strategist.

During his presidency, Obama was criticized for heavy Democratic congressional losses under his watch. Republicans took control of the House in 2010 and then seized the Senate in 2014.

Read more from James Oliphant at Reuters

Add your reaction Share

Conservative #NeverTrump Holdouts Call For Election Shake-Ups To Save GOP

As a voice of the #NeverTrump movement on Denver talk radio in 2016, Krista Kafer clashed with callers, quit the Republican Party when Donald Trump clinched the nomination and, after he won the White House, eventually lost her radio job.

She better understands now what Mr. Trump’s supporters see in him, she said, but she hasn’t changed her opinion about the man.

Nearly two years into the Trump presidency, there is still a die-hard anti-Trump faction among conservatives and the Republican Party establishment.

Many have suffered for bucking their party’s populist champion. Wisconsin talk radio’s Charlie Sykes also lost his job. Republican Sens. Jeff Flake of Arizona and Bob Corker of Tennessee chose to retire rather than face the wrath of Trump voters.

The #NeverTrump numbers dwindled as the party’s rank and file fell in line behind Mr. Trump, giving him one of the modern era’s highest presidential job approval ratings within his own party.

Trump-backed candidates have dominated Republican primaries this year, cementing the president’s imprint on the party.

Ford O’Connell, a Republican strategist closely allied with Mr. Trump, said the #NeverTrump holdouts were just “outliers yapping in the media.”

“It is not good business to be against a president who 85 to 90 percent of the party is with,” he said. “Further, the outlandish antics of the Democrats and media have forced others to fall in line because they realize the fight is bigger than themselves or Trump.”

Read more from S.A. Miller at The Washington Times

Add your reaction Share

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan Won't Accept NRA's Money, Support

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan says if the National Rifle Association comes calling again, he’s not going to pick up the phone.

At a recent meeting with student activists from Great Mills High School, the site of a deadly shooting in March, the governor said he wouldn’t accept money or support from the NRA in this year’s governor’s race after winning their endorsement in 2014.

Mr. Hogan’s break from the gun-rights group, coupled with his support for new gun controls during his governorship in office, could serve to defuse a major rallying cry for the left as he works to navigate a path to re-election in his deep-blue state.

Earlier this year, for example, he signed a “red flag” law that aims to let families petition a court to take guns from potentially dangerous people, along with measures to ban “bump stock” devices and bar convicted domestic abusers from possessing guns.

For its part, the NRA said it hasn’t yet made concrete decisions on what they’ll do in the election.

“When you are about to be a two-term governor as a Republican in one of the most liberal states in the country, you sort of get to pick and choose how close to the party line you embrace core issues,” said GOP strategist Ford O’Connell.

Read more from David Sherfinski at The Washington Times

Add your reaction Share

← Previous  1  2    5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13    222  223  Next →
Analysis & Political Strategy