Trump's shrinking staff; the cold Russian winter; and midterms ahead
Wertheimer's Political Money Report
JANUARY 11, 2018

When President Trump tweeted this week that Congressional Republicans need to “finally take control!” of the Russia investigation, he was asking them to do what they’ve already been doing.
In recent weeks, key Republicans on Capitol Hill have been pounding away at the Mueller/Russia investigation and working to curb the congressional inquiries.
House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes (R-CA) apparently sees his job as investigating the Justice Department, the FBI, Fusion GPS, and anyone else he can think of, rather than pursuing the Russia investigation. When Nunes demanded that the Justice Department and the FBI turn over sensitive investigatory documents to him, they did so only after House Speaker Ryan quietly backed the request.

Speaker Ryan needs to be held publicly accountable for his refusal to do anything about the dangers to our democracy caused by the Russian interference in our elections.
In the Senate, Judiciary Chair Chuck Grassley (R-IA) appears to believe his job is to investigate Hillary Clinton (calling for a second Special Counsel to investigate a seven-year old government decision), to make criminal referrals to the Justice Department against the author of the “Trump dossier,” to refuse to make public the testimony of the head of Fusion GPS who commissioned the dossier (Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) eventually did), and do anything else he can to avoid conducting a serious Russia investigation.
The Nunes and Grassley efforts have all the appearances of throwing mud against the wall in the hopes that something might stick. This is a far cry from the role that Republicans played in the Senate Watergate investigation.
Fortunately, there is no evidence that these efforts or any other efforts undertaken by President Trump or others have had any influence on Mueller and his investigation.
In the end it is Mueller’s findings and actions -- not these efforts to discredit, obfuscate, and undermine the Special Counsel investigation -- that will rule the day.


Trump’s Secret, Shrinking Schedule
Trump now arrives in the office at 11am and leaves at 6pm, requesting more room for “Executive Time” in his schedule, “which almost always means TV and Twitter time alone in the residence,” via Axios. Read more
Facing Staffing Exodus, Trump Struggles To Fill West Wing, via CNN. Read more
Kushner’s Financial Ties To Israel Deepen Even With Mideast Diplomatic Role, via The New York Times. Read more
How a Coal Baron’s Wish List Became Trump’s To-Do List
A confidential memo by the head of the country’s largest coal mining company suggests that the Trump Administration has been “following a blueprint from the coal industry,” via The New York Times. Read more
These Trump Nominees Couldn’t Get Confirmed By The GOP Senate, But They’re Still In Government & “Wield Immense Authority,” via The Washington Post. Read more
Attorney General Sessions Tries To Impress Trump With Moves At Justice. It Hasn’t Worked.
Despite his efforts, Sessions “has, by all accounts, been unable to repair his relationship with the president,” via The Washington Post. Read more 
Inside The Understaffed Interior Dept
The Interior Department, under Sec’y Ryan Zinke, “is critically understaffed, with too few senior leaders to make effective policy changes. And when policy changes do happen, the execution is haphazard at best,” via Outside Magazine. Read more

“In Trump’s first year, his administration’s upper-level officials have had a turnover rate of 34 percent, much higher than any other in the past 40 years. … The presidency with the next-highest first-year turnover rate was Ronald Reagan’s, with 17 percent of senior aides leaving in 1981.”
With these departures, “Trump faces a brain drain across a wide swath of government functions, threatening to hamstring efforts to enact legislation or conduct even basic operations.” 
Via The Washington Post. Read more
Trump Sidesteps Question On Mueller Interview, via The New York Times. Read more
What Testimony On The Trump Dossier Adds To The Russia Probe, via PBS NewsHour. Read more
The Steele Dossier in 2018: Everyone’s Favorite Weapon
“Almost no recent reporting has focused on the substance of the dossier. ... Instead the dossier is more often used as a cudgel by one side or the other in partisan bickering,” writes John Sipher, formerly of the CIA, in Just Security. Read more
Mueller Adds Veteran Cyber Prosecutor To Special Counsel Team Signaling Potential Focus On Computer Crimes, via The Washington Post. Read more
Democrats Punch Back On Russia, via Politico. Read more
Republicans Scrutinize FBI’s Media Contacts In Russia Case
Trump’s “allies in Congress are placing new scrutiny on contacts between top Justice Department officials and reporters covering the Trump-Russia investigation,” via Politico. Read more
Former Prosecutors Sound Alarm Over Politicization Of Justice
Recent actions “suggest a concerted effort by the Trump administration and its allies to push back against Mueller’s intensifying probe, by marshaling the full power of the federal government against the president’s political opponents,” via Talking Points Memo. Read more
North Carolina Congressional Map Ruled Unconstitutional
“The ruling was the first time that a federal court had blocked a congressional map because of a partisan gerrymander. … The unusually blunt decision by the panel could lend momentum to two other challenges on gerrymandering that are already before the Supreme Court — and that the North Carolina case could join if Republicans make good on their vow to appeal Tuesday’s ruling,” via The New York Times. Read more
In Key Voting Rights Case, Supreme Court Appears Divided Over “Use It Or Lose It” Rule & Ohio’s Purge Of Non-Voters, via NPR. Read more
Trump’s Voter Fraud Commission May Be Dead, But His Quest Continues
Despite last week’s dismantling of his controversial Voter Fraud Commission, “the Trump administration has made it clear that it will continue to investigate possible voter fraud.” Homeland Security will now take on the responsibility, via Governing. Read more

First Up: Primary Fights, via The Washington Post. Read more
GOP Retirements Hit Record Level, via NPR. Read more
Will Trump Campaign For GOP Candidates In 2018?
“He has not shown a willingness to really help anyone besides himself at these rallies,” via CNN. Read more
VP Pence To Play Key Role In 2018 Elections, via The Hill. Read more
Paul Ryan-Linked Groups Rack Up Record $66M To Protect House GOP Majority, via CNBC. Read more
Billionaire & Dem Donor Tom Steyer Will Spend $30M On Midterms To Increase Millennial Turnout
The targets are 24 Republican-controlled congressional districts and a handful of swing seats currently held by Democrats, in 10 states, via The Washington Post. Read more
ACLU To Storm Midterms With $25M
The ACLU, rarely an active player in national campaigns, aims to become “the NRA of the left,” and “plans to spend upward of $25 million promoting ballot initiatives and issues in contested races,” via Politico. Read more
By: Fred Wertheimer (@FredWertheimer), Jackie Howell, and Diane Alexander. Follow The Political Money Report on Twitter (@Political_Money).
Copyright © 2018 Wertheimer's Political Report, All rights reserved.

A Democracy 21 Project