March 12, 2019

The night she defeated 10-term Democratic Rep. Joe Crowley last year, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) became an instant celebrity. "At first, it was really, really, really hard," she told Vanity Fair. "I felt like I was being physically ripped apart in those first two to three months." She started out as a star among young progressives, "but now, she's one of the most visible Democrats in the country, along with Nancy Pelosi," Vanity Fair's Abigail Tracy writes, "and she's eclipsing Pelosi, and even Hillary Clinton, as a Republican target."

Ocasio-Cortez considers the right's obsession with her a sign of her strength, she told Tracy in her unassuming Bronx apartment, and she doesn't expect it to abate anytime soon. "The whole goal is to dehumanize," Ocasio-Cortez said. Still, "it can be very empowering to say, 'Make fun of me. Do it. Draw the little insults on my face .... Do what you're gonna do. Act more and more childish. Just do it, because you're not gonna stop, you're just not gonna stop this movement.'"

And it's not just her ideology and star power conservatives are fixated on, Ocasio-Cortez suggested. "I think they saw a woman of color — Latina, no less — that came from a working-class and poor background, that ascended to federal office, and they said: 'We cannot allow this to have credibility, because if people saw that she did it, then maybe others will come — and we cannot let other people like her run for office. We need to make an example out of her.'"

Ocasio-Cortez said she feels the weight of Republicans waiting eagerly for her to slip up, but she also faces a larger, bipartisan problem. "It's really hard to communicate that I'm just a normal person doing her best," she told Tracy. "I'm not a superhero. I'm not a villain. I'm just a person that's trying." Read the entire interview at Vanity Fair. Peter Weber

March 11, 2019

President Trump spoke at a Republican National Committee meeting at his Mar-a-Lago club on Friday night, and there is no video or audio because security guards made the GOP donors attending the event wear their cellphones in magnetized bags inside the club, Axios reported Sunday. But Trump still made some comments memorable enough to survive the phone ban, three attendees tell Axios' Jonathan Swan.

Fox example, Trump reportedly denied calling Tim Cook "Tim Apple," claiming that video of his comments did not capture the really fast "Cook" he slipped in between "Tim" and "Apple." ("I just thought, why would you lie about that," one of the donors told Swan. "It doesn't even matter!") He came up with new nicknames for 2020 Democratic challengers. And Trump said that "the Democrats hate Jewish people," according to Axios' sources. Swan paraphrases:

Trump said he didn't understand how any Jew could vote for a Democrat these days. Trump talked about how much he'd done for Israel, noting his historic decision to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. Trump said if he could run to be prime minister of Israel, he'd be at 98 percent in the polls. [Axios]

Trump's broadside was prompted by arguably anti-Semitic comments by Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and the resolution by House Democrats to condemn anti-Semitism and other hate but not Omar.

Trump's hands aren't exactly spotless when it comes to perceived anti-Semitism, Matt Taylor notes at Vice. The fight over Omar's comments "has broken down along complicated lines," he argues, "but what we shouldn't lose sight of in this thorny debate — about Israel and its government, about Palestine, about anti-Jewish hate, and about lobbying in Washington — is that Donald Trump does not give a sh-t about anti-Semitism," and for him "to suggest the opposition — the party that includes almost every Jewish member of Congress — is 'anti-Jewish' is a new low. Yes, even for him." Peter Weber

March 5, 2019

Ty Cobb, the lawyer who represented the Trump presidency during a critical 10 months of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation, says he doesn't agree with President Trump and his personal lawyers that Mueller's Russia inquiry is a politically motivated hoax.

"I don't feel the investigation is a witch hunt," Cobb told the ABC News podcast The Investigation, released Tuesday. Trump was on board with his strategy of cooperating with Mueller, he said, at least "in my first nine-and-a-half months," when "I was able to prevent the president from going on the attack against Mueller." It was when Trump lawyer John Dowd "sent out a critical tweet of Mueller and Rudy [Giuliani] joined the team that the president felt unleashed," Cobb said.

Cobb thinks Mueller will submit his final report "no later than mid-March," he said, but the investigations won't end there. Trump has "found this very frustrating," he continued. "It's particularly frustrated him in foreign affairs. He doesn't like the timing. He, you know, wants this over. But it's never gonna be over. I mean, this is going to go through 2020. And if the president is reelected, it'll go beyond that."

Calling Mueller's an investigation a "witch hunt" has "been effective in a way," as Trump and Giuliani "have ratcheted up the public's concerns about the investigation and its legitimacy," Cobb argued. "I object to that approach. But it's his choice. He's the president."

For his own part, he said, "I never had a bad interaction with Mueller or his staff." And in fact, "I think Bob Mueller's an American hero. ... I've known him for 30 years as a prosecutor and a friend. And I think the world of Bob Mueller. He is a very deliberate guy. But he's also a class act. And a very justice-oriented person." You can listen to the podcast below. Peter Weber

March 1, 2019

Republicans on the House Oversight Committee spent much of Wednesday hammering Michael Cohen as a convicted liar whose word should never be trusted. President Trump added that Cohen, his former lawyer and fixer, was only lying "95 percent" of the time, the exception being Cohen's attested lack of direct knowledge of Trump-Russia collusion (though Cohen said he had his "suspicions").

In an interview with Trump broadcast Thursday night, Fox News host Sean Hannity told Trump that Cohen and his lawyer had lied about Hannity being one of Cohen's three legal clients. But Hannity suggested he believed Cohen's earlier assertion about Trump's involvement in a $130,000 hush-money payment to porn actress Stormy Daniels. "I can tell you personally, he said to me at least a dozen times that he made the decision on the payments and he didn't tell you," Hannity told Trump, who agreed.

Hannity had said something similar when Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani surprised him by revealing that Trump had in fact repaid Cohen and knew about the hush agreement. Cohen testified on Wednesday that nothing happened in the Trump Organization without Trump's knowledge and assent, and that while Trump told him and CFO Allen Weisselberg to figure out how to pay Daniels, he ordered the payment made himself. There's also audio of Cohen telling Trump about the payments; CNN's Don Lemon played it Thursday night.

In any case, legal experts are suggesting that Hannity just earned himself a subpoena from the Southern District of New York, and Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) saw the interview as in invitation. Peter Weber

February 23, 2019

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un fully expects his children to join the family dictatorship business someday, and when that happens, he reportedly does not want them to be burdened with a nuclear arsenal.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo "asked Chairman Kim: Do you really intend to denuclearize?" former CIA official Andrew Kim said of a meeting between Kim and Pompeo last year. "You know, I'm a father, and I'm a husband, and I have children, and I don't want my children to carry the nuclear weapon in their bag to live through their entire life," Andrew Kim reported Kim Jong Un replied.

The question of the Kim regime's sincerity in its denuclearization pledges is much debated, especially given reports of secret missile test sites. Pyongyang has explicitly pointed to the fates of Iraq's Saddam Hussein and Libya's Moammar Gadhafi as cautionary tales of voluntary denuclearization leading to forcible, U.S.-orchestrated regime change. Bonnie Kristian

February 15, 2019

There's clearly a conservative legal case to be made against President Trump sidestepping the purse-strings-holding co-equal legislative branch by declaring a capricious national "emergency" to build a border wall that Congress won't fund. But there's also a conservative political case.

"Every one of you 'conservatives' gushing about the abuse of emergency powers owns it when a Democratic president declares a national emergency on Day 1," Republican strategist Rick Wilson tweeted Thursday, be it over "guns or abortion or climate or LGBT issues" or to build "the Dr. Atheist Von Clinton Celebrity Abortion Center and Vegan Advocacy Farm." At Politico, Matt Latimer, a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush, took a specific contemporary example, arguing half-seriously that Trump's national emergency "is great news for future President Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez," as it likely "just made a Green New Deal inevitable in 2021."

Of all Trump's "nutty ideas" he's hatched "to undermine the basic norms of our democratic institutions," his "plan to declare a national emergency is by far the absolute worst," Latimer writes. "Shame on any 'conservatives' who roll their eyes, shrug their shoulders, and let him take this path because they are sick of arguing with him. (You know who you are.)" House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is already talking about gun violence being an emergency and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) is talking about the national emergency of climate change, Latimer says, adding:

But maybe I'm missing something. Maybe Trump has a plan to stop all of this, too. Maybe we are only a couple of months away from Trump donning a scary robe, declaring another "emergency" and postponing the 2020 elections. If Emperor Palpatine can do something like that, why can't he? Is there anyone with the courage to stop him? We will find that out very shortly. And I'm not sure we are going to like the answer. [Matt Latimer, Politico]

Read the entire essay at Politico. Peter Weber

February 3, 2019

A new CBS poll found 63 percent of Americans do not approve of the way he is handling racial issues, Face the Nation host Margaret Brennan told President Trump in an interview airing Sunday — but Trump did not let that little detail impair his glowing assessment of his own performance on this point.

"What has happened is very interesting," he replied. "The economy is so good right now. ... [And] I think I've been given a lot of credit for that. And in terms of race, a lot of people are saying, 'Well, this is something very special, what's happening,'" Trump continued. "And I think [African Americans] like me a lot, and I like them a lot."

Brennan also pressed Trump on professional athletes' protests of police brutality and racial injustice, demonstrations he has vehemently denounced. Where in the past he has said athletes "should not be allowed" to protest by taking a knee during the national anthem, Trump now claimed some sympathy for their cause and objection only to their methods.

A "lot of people in the NFL have been calling and thanking" him, Trump said, for signing the bipartisan First Step Act, a criminal justice reform bill Trump described to Brennan as a complete and permanent solution to institutional problems in the U.S. justice system. "President Obama tried. They all tried. Everybody wanted to do it. And I got it done," he said.

First Step only applies to the federal prison system, which means about nine in 10 of America's 2.1 million inmates won't be affected, and it was considered by criminal justice reform advocates to be an important but ultimately limited measure.

Read Trump's full interview here, or watch it on CBS in two portions airing at 10:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. Eastern. Bonnie Kristian

January 28, 2019

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) Skyped into the Sundance Film Festival this weekend for the premiere of Knock Down the House, a documentary on the 2018 campaigns of four Democratic candidates for Congress, of whom Ocasio-Cortez was the only one to win election.

In addition to weighing in on the film itself, Ocasio-Cortez warned against accepting common assumptions about candidate viability. "One of the things that all four of us faced in our run was this idea that we had to combat very early on that a lot of other candidates don't have to combat ... is this idea of viability," she said. "From day one, people did not give us the chance that they sometimes give to other candidates on day one, and a lot of that has to do with our preconceived notions of who looks like a person that can win a congressional race or where that person comes from."

She also urged a long-term perspective on political change which avoids myopic attention to current battles and players. "This is not just about the president of the United States," Ocasio-Cortez argued. "He could be gone tomorrow and that [would] not change the systemic injustices that led to his election."
Bonnie Kristian

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