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This week: More erratic and untrustworthy behavior from Trump, the FBI investigates the NRA's Russia connections, & voting rights still under siege (from the outside and from within).
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JANUARY 18, 2018
A NOTE FROM FRED

President Trump’s erratic behavior and inability to keep his word have real consequences. The adage “My word is my bond” is viewed as essential in the world of politics. It is a completely alien concept in the world of Trump.
 
Here are just three examples from the past week: 

Last week, Trump told a bipartisan group of Members of Congress he would sign whatever agreement they brought him to solve the DACA/Dreamers problem. When they brought him a bipartisan agreement, Trump attacked the agreement and went on to offend the entire continent of Africa and Haiti with a gratuitous, racist, and vulgar attack. 

This week, House Republicans were headed to the floor to try to pass a short-term extension of the budget (CR) to keep the government open. It included an extension of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Out of the blue, Trump announced that he opposed the CHIP extension being in the CR. A couple of hours later, the White House walked that back, announcing that Trump supports the CR proposal with CHIP included after all.

And, in the past day, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly told lawmakers that President Trump’s views had “evolved” and that the United States would never build a wall across the entire southern border of the country. A furious Trump went to Twitter to contradict him, tweeting, “The Wall is the Wall, it has never changed or evolved from the first day I conceived of it.”

This kind of erratic and untrustworthy behavior is a part of the reason that Trump had “the lowest approval rating of any modern president in December of his first year in office,” and that a recent Gallup Poll found, “Median approval of U.S. leadership across 134 countries and areas stands at a new low of 30%,” which is down from 46 percent in 2016.

For someone who believes ratings are the be all and end all, President Trump is not doing all that well.

MUST READS

“TRUMP & FRIENDS”
 
Serious Questions About Trump’s Foreign Deals Continue
Omission of fact and blurring of ethical lines has characterized Trump’s approach to handling his business ties and overseas deals, via NPR. Read more
 
Donald Trump’s Racism: The Definitive List, via The New York Times. Read more
 
Trump’s Toxic Influence Goes Well Beyond The Headlines
“Part of Mr. Trump’s toxic influence lies in how he undermines democratic values in less spectacular ways that go relatively unchallenged,” via The Washington Post editorial board. Read more
 
Trump Leading The “Most Unethical Presidency” In Modern History
“For virtually every decision President Trump makes, from taxes to environmental regulations to foreign policy, the American people cannot be sure whether he made his decision in the public interest or to benefit his bottom line,” according to a new report by Citizens for Responsibility & Ethics in Washington (CREW), via Newsweek here. Read the full CREW report here.
 
Trump’s “Unprecedented Conflicts Of Interest”
A new Public Citizen study documents 64 trade groups, foreign governments, GOP candidates, and others that have stayed at or held events at properties linked to Trump during his first year in office. “[M]ost alarming are the array of interest groups trying to cozy up to Trump by spending money at his properties.” Read more
 
Trump’s Contempt For The Rule Of Law, via The New Yorker. Read more
 
The Cost Of Corruption: Waste And Abuse In President Trump’s Cabinet
“President Trump has assembled the wealthiest and least experienced Cabinet in recent memory. … While arguing for devastating cuts to services that millions of Americans depend on, several Cabinet members have engaged in extravagant—and at times legally questionable—spending on themselves at the taxpayer’s expense.” A new study from the Center For American Progress finds Trump’s Cabinet has spent nearly $2 million on questionable flights and private office upgrades. Read more

Morale Disintegrates At State Dept, via McClatchy. Read more
 
Nearly All Members Of National Park Service Advisory Panel Resign
Nine of the 12-member panel “ quit out of frustration that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke had refused to meet with them or convene a single meeting last year,” via The Washington Post. Read more
 
DOE Photographer Is Fired After Leaking A Photo Of Energy Sec’y Perry Hugging A GOP Donor & His Pro-Coal Wish List, via The New York Times. Read more
 
QUOTE OF THE WEEK

The President’s Very Dangerous Path
“When a figure in power reflexively calls any press that doesn't suit him ‘fake news,’ it is that person who should be the figure of suspicion, not the press. … [A]n American president who cannot take criticism — who must constantly deflect and distort and distract — who must find someone else to blame — is charting a very dangerous path. And a Congress that fails to act as a check on the president adds to the danger.”
 
-- Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) on the Senate Floor. Full Statement
 
RUSSIA, RUSSIA, RUSSIA
 
FBI Investigating Whether Russian Money Went To NRA To Help Trump Campaign
A Russian banker with close ties to the Kremlin is under FBI investigation for potentially illegally funneling money to the NRA to help Trump win the presidency, via McClatchy. Read more
 
Bannon’s Hill Appearance Reveals White House Effort To Restrict Testimony, via CNN Read more
 
Bannon Agrees to Cooperate With Mueller Inquiry, via The New York Times. Read more

Mueller’s Special Counsel Is Investigating Newly Uncovered Payments By The Russians To People & Businesses In The United States, via Buzzfeed. Read more
 
If Trump Fires Mueller, Republicans Won’t Object, via New York Magazine. Read more
 
The Truth About The FBI’s Russia Probe
“Far from a yarn concocted by Steele, the FBI probe was driven by its own independent reporting about Papadopoulos, who pleaded guilty last October to lying about his Russia contacts. The bottom line: There may be something in tatters at the center of this investigation, but it isn’t the FBI,” opinion via The Washington Post. Read more
 
BONUS QUOTE OF THE WEEK

Mr. President, Stop Attacking The Press
“While administration officials often condemn violence against reporters abroad, Trump continues his unrelenting attacks on the integrity of American journalists and news outlets. This has provided cover for repressive regimes to follow suit. The phrase ‘fake news’ — granted legitimacy by an American president — is being used by autocrats to silence reporters, undermine political opponents, stave off media scrutiny and mislead citizens.”

-- Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) in The Washington Post. Read more
VOTING RIGHTS: HACKING FROM THE OUTSIDE, REPRESSION FROM THE INSIDE
 
Supreme Court To Review Texas Gerrymandering
Eric Holder, chair of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee and former Attorney General: The Texas case gives the Supreme Court a chance to send the message that “racial gerrymandering and intentional vote dilution is unconstitutional and diminishes the voice of minority citizens,” via Austin American-Statesman. Read more
 
“42 States Haven’t Upgraded Their Election Equipment In Over A Decade And Russia Knows It,” via PBS NewsHour. Read more
 
Our Elections Are In Danger. Congress Must Defend Them.
“There is no reason to think this meddling [by Russia in 2016] will be an isolated incident. In fact, we expect the threat will grow in future years. The United States must do everything possible to prevent these attacks in the future,” via Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) in The Washington PostRead more
  
NET NEUTRALITY: NOT DEAD YET
 
From State Attorneys General To Mozilla, Net Neutrality Supporters Have Asked A Court To Reject Repeal, via Recode. Read more
 
Dems Say They Are Within One Vote Of 51 Needed In The Senate To Overturn Net Neutrality Repeal, via The Hill. Read more
  
JUST 292 DAYS TIL MIDTERMS
 
Midterm Worries For GOP If Manafort-Gates Trial Starts In September, via Politico.  Read more
 
Unexpected Defeat In Rural Wisconsin Special Election Sets Off Alarm Bells For GOP, via The Washington Post. Read more
 
Republicans Give Potential 2020 Trump Foes A Pass In Their 2018 Midterm Races, via Politico. Read more
 
Early Numbers Show Senate Democrats Raising Big Sums For Midterm Battles, via USA Today. Read more
 
Senate GOP Group Raises $41.5M In 2017, The Most Ever Raised In An Off Year, via The Hill. Read more
 
Small Donors Power Warren Reelection Fundraising
Of the $2.8M raised by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)’s fundraising between October and December 2017, 80 percent came from donations of $25 or less, via Politico. Read more
 
There Are Key Governors Races In 2018, Too, via Politico. Read more
 
By: Fred Wertheimer (@FredWertheimer), Jackie Howell, and Diane Alexander. Follow The Political Money Report on Twitter (@Political_Money).
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