fox-news/columns/media-buzz

The media are dutifully reporting that Michael Avenatti has been charged with stealing a huge amount of money from the porn star who made him famous.

What almost no one is doing is looking at how television was Avenatti’s enabler.

All the shows that constantly featured Avenatti — often covered by video of Stormy Daniels in tight-fitting dresses — made a judgment that he was a credible attorney.

Or at least good TV.

Or at least a reliable source of overheated attacks on President Trump, which they also viewed as good TV.

That helps explain why Avenatti made 121 appearances on CNN this past year, and 108 on MSNBC (plus two on Fox). He was sometimes on those networks several times a day. That’s in addition to Avenatti being featured on “The View,” Colbert, and other programs.

The press often talks about character in presidential campaigns. Much of the media essentially vouched for his character, even when he made empty promises and unsubstantiated charges.

LATEST AVENATTI CHARGES REIGNITE CRITICISM OF MEDIA THAT ONCE LAUDED HIM

Avenatti says he’ll be totally exonerated in the case involving Stormy, who dumped him a couple of months ago and said he’d been “extremely dishonest” with her. He is, of course, entitled to the presumption of innocence.

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But the new indictment is pretty detailed in charging that Avenatti forged a document robbing Stormy of nearly $300,000 from a book deal, in part to pay for a Ferrari and other elements of his luxurious lifestyle.

This follows two other indictments, one alleging a massive extortion scheme aimed at Nike, the other charging that he diverted money from his former partners and clients.

CNN’S BRIAN STELTER DELETES TWEET CLAIMING HE COVERED AVENATTI STORY: ‘I GOT MIXED UP’

When Avenatti started exploring a presidential bid, some anchors and reporters indulged his delusion. They asked him about going up against the other Democratic candidates. There were some cringe-worthy moments.

Perhaps the lowest moment came when Avenatti began representing the third Brett Kavanaugh accuser, Julie Swetnick. He went on television and demanded that the FBI interview her. Her wild allegations turned out to be totally uncorroborated, her confirming sources nonexistent.

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The latest indictment has been widely reported, but now that he’s facing multiple criminal charges, there’s been little reflection on why the man who was so welcome in their TV studios.

Vanity Fair now reports, in addition to allegations from an ex-girlfriend that Avenatti abused her and raged against her — which he denies — that the lawyer screamed at and threatened TV staff members behind the scenes. “His temper often flared when producers and bookers tried to vet stories he was involved in,” Emily Jane Fox reports. Yet these outlets made no public mention of such clear signs of a volatile personality.

The $130,000 in hush money paid to Stormy Daniels was a legitimate story. But the media that made Michael Avenatti famous in the process really led their viewers and readers astray, as is clear now that he’s infamous.

Source: Fox News Politics

Well, Nancy Pelosi sure got an explosive reaction.

Not long after the House speaker accused President Trump of a “cover-up,” the president hastily assembled reporters in the Rose Garden to forcefully deny her charge, denounce the Mueller investigation once again and rip the press as well.

He had just stormed out of a meeting with Pelosi and Chuck Schumer about pursuing an infrastructure plan. Trump, in his impromptu remarks and in response to questions, made clear that he couldn’t negotiate with the Democratic leaders in light of Pelosi’s slam and the endless investigations after the Mueller “witch hunt.”

TRUMP DEMANDS END TO ‘PHONY INVESTIGATIONS’ IN FIERY ROSE GARDEN STATEMENT

Chuck and Nancy promptly held a counter-news conference and talked about … infrastructure.

It was nothing short of surreal. Pelosi made no reference to her time-bomb of a comment. “We believe that no one is above the law including the president of the United States. And we believe that the president of the United States is engaged in a cover-up,” she had told reporters.

PELOSI RATCHETS UP RHETORIC, SAYS TRUMP MAY HAVE COMMITTED ‘IMPEACHABLE OFFENSE’ IN ‘PLAIN SIGHT’

Instead, she went on about the importance of building projects, harkening back to Thomas Jefferson and Teddy Roosevelt. And Schumer said Trump had seized on a “pre-planned excuse” to blow up the meeting. They took no questions.

Pelosi doubled down at a later event with the Center for American Progress, saying “this president is obstructing justice … and that could be an impeachable offense.”

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Trump was already mad, as we can tell from a morning tweetstorm, and the “cover-up” rhetoric was the tipping point. Still, there’s no question this was a tactical misstep by Pelosi. You don’t hurl a charge against anyone you’re about to hold a business meeting with, especially a president who has built his career on counterpunching. What, did she think he wouldn’t notice? She was surrounded by cameras.

And even if Trump was looking to back out of a bipartisan building plan, she sure gave him cover.

And yet Pelosi, in her own way, was trying to find a middle ground. She is under enormous pressure from her own side to greenlight impeachment proceedings. More of her prominent members, including those on the Judiciary Committee, are coming out for the I-word. And it’s easy to pander to the three-quarters of Democrats who favor impeachment in recent polls.

REP. COHEN: ’80-90 PERCENT’ OF DEMS ON HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE READY TO PUSH FOR IMPEACHMENT

But the speaker is also savvy enough to know that actual impeachment hearings would obliterate the party’s agenda, energize the hell out of Trump’s base and ultimately fail in the Senate, just as we head into the 2020 elections.

Pelosi’s cover-up language, in my view, was an attempt to toss red meat at the left wing of her party without serving the full impeachment buffet. She’s trying to show she shares their colleagues’ concerns about the accusations against the president, yet settling for a sort of Impeachment Lite.

Trump isn’t helping himself by flatly refusing every subpoena request, including the one for Don McGahn this week. Steve Mnuchin also took a hit when The Washington Post revealed that a staff lawyer’s memo (which the Treasury boss says he never saw) said the department had no choice but to give Congress his tax returns.

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The president is doing this as part of his always-on-offense strategy, and in part because he views the Hill probes as a “do-over” for a Mueller investigation that recommended no criminal charges. He’s well aware that more Democrats are citing his lack of cooperation as a reason to pursue impeachment, which would give them broader power to obtain information. Either he’s calling their bluff or believes an actual impeachment would play out to his benefit.

What we’re left with an Impeachment in All But Name, as the president and his Democratic adversaries keep raising the stakes. The danger here is that the momentum builds to the point that the country is plunged into an actual impeachment that, in the end, would resolve nothing.

Source: Fox News Politics

Donald Trump has many roles: cultural commentator, Twitter titan, reality show producer, kibitzer-in-chief, all intertwined with the job of running the country.

This has often been a strength, at times a weakness, and lately, with 23 Democrats vying to replace him, the megaphone is even louder.

Those who initially dismissed the significance of Trump lambasting the NFL over the anthem protests, for instance, failed to grasp how he uses hot-button programming, so to speak, to drive political messages.

And that relentless approach puts the president at the center of every national squabble and has engaged the country — both pro- and anti-Trump sides — in constant political debate. In short, Trump has become inescapable.

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This approach shows his boundless energy, but his detractors find it exhausting. A woman at a Biden rally told liberal New York Times columnist Michelle Goldberg: “I don’t want an exciting president. We have a lot of excitement right now, in a bad way.”

At recent rallies and in tweets, Trump has said things like “Bernie’s crazy” and “Looks like Bernie Sanders is history. Sleepy Joe Biden is pulling ahead … China wants Sleepy Joe BADLY!” He also said the Scranton native “deserted” Pennsylvania; Biden’s family moved when he was 11.

TRUMP, AT RAUCOUS PENNSYLVANIA RALLY, SLAMS SCRANTON-BORN BIDEN: ‘HE DESERTED YOU’

Leaving aside whether all the swipes at Biden help the former VP, as some Trump advisers believe, Trump is inserting himself into the Democratic primaries in an unusually brazen way. With past presidents, maybe a spokesman would respond to opposition attacks and get one paragraph in a news story. Trump more frequently is the news story.

As The Washington Post points out, Trump has recently weighed in on such subjects as Jussie Smollett, fighting the Notre Dame fire and the Kentucky Derby, not to mention the Boston Red Sox and Tiger Woods (who of course got the Presidential Medal of Freedom). That’s in addition to his usual fusillades against the witch hunt, attempted coup, “Crooked Hillary” and so on — or his branding Justin Amash a “loser” when he became the first GOP congressman to call for impeachment.

The upside for Trump is that he puts himself at the center of every conversation — and everyone else (including the Democrats) has to react to him. The downside is that he mainly caters to his base, which loves his finger-in-the-eye approach — without winning new converts.

The culture-war campaign may be necessary despite the fact that the economy is roaring, with the jobless rate at a half-century low. That usually spells easy reelection for an incumbent.

The New York Times suggests that Trump and the Republicans aren’t counting on the strong economy for 2020:

TRUMP CAMPAIGN MANAGER SAYS IMMIGRATION A ‘WINNING ISSUE’ IN 2020

“President Trump and his top advisers sent mixed signals about a possible war with Iran. Mr. Trump outlined a hard-line immigration proposal that had little chance of passing, but refocused attention on the most incendiary issue of his presidency. His drumbeat about tariffs on China sent the stock market gyrating. And in Alabama, the Republican governor signed a bill that would effectively ban abortion …

“Such divisive and destabilizing stands — driven by Mr. Trump’s political impulses and by emboldened conservatives — could end up alienating swing voters and could help Democrats.”

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On the other hand, Trump defied the experts and media geniuses by riding such grievances to the White House.

Whether it makes political sense for Trump to be such a ubiquitous presence in our everyday lives, that is who he is and it’s not going to change—unless you want to unplug from society.

Source: Fox News Politics

It seems to be all sound and fury these days, with no tangible outcome.

That may be great for the media, which love combat and conflict, and for politicians, who love to decry and declaim. But actual progress? Not so much.

Washington has always been known for gridlock that matches the Beltway traffic, but now it’s on steroids. It’s almost as though, while people slam each other on Twitter and Facebook, nobody expects anything to happen.

Let’s go down the list.

President Trump unveiled an immigration plan yesterday, and even before the announcement The Washington Post said it’s “already is facing skepticism from lawmakers in both political parties, and there appears to be no clear path toward advancing the plan through Congress.”

What a shock. And the president probably didn’t help its chances by immediately calling Democrats the “open borders” party.

The plan, which would favor legal immigrants with high skills over those with family ties, is “another test of Trump’s willingness to stump for a plan that could face opposition from border hawks and his ability to forge bipartisan support at a time when he has inflamed Democrats over unilateral immigration actions, including declaring a national emergency to pay for a border wall.”

It’s true that his hard-line approach has played mainly to his base. But it’s not all Trump’s fault. Barack Obama couldn’t solve the immigration mess either, and neither could George W. Bush. Neither side is ever prepared to make the necessary compromises.

Next up is abortion, an issue that has become more politicized than ever. Alabama just adopted a law that would ban almost all abortions in the state, including in cases of rape and incest, and that has hardened the battle lines.

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Liberal commentators and the Democratic presidential candidates are all denouncing the measure as an assault on women. Some conservative pundits and Republicans — although there is a split over severity and tactics — are defending the Alabama effort as overdue.

But here, too, we’re looking at a long period of inaction. The Alabama statute doesn’t take effect for six months and it faces a long legal battle that may well end up at the Supreme Court.

ALABAMA LATEST IN A SERIES OF STATES TO PASS RESTRICTIVE ABORTION LAWS

With its extreme provisions — no exceptions for rape and incest, 99-year prison terms for providers — the law seems crafted to trigger a high court review of Roe v. Wade. And even such pro-life advocates as Pat Robertson are predicting it will be struck down, which takes us back to square one (although several states are passing less severe abortion restrictions).

And then there’s Iran. The papers are full of details about backstage power struggles after administration officials devised a contingency plan to send up to 120,000 troops to the Middle East.

“President Trump is frustrated with some of his top advisers, who he thinks could rush the United States into a military confrontation with Iran and shatter his long-standing pledge to withdraw from costly foreign wars,” says The Washington Post, “according to several U.S. officials.”

What’s more, “Trump grew angry last week and over the weekend about what he sees as warlike planning that is getting ahead of his own thinking, said a senior administration official with knowledge of conversations Trump had regarding national security adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.”

Such infighting occurs in every administration. Trump, having pulled out of the Iran nuke deal, places a high value on confronting that provocative regime, but is also disdainful of endless wars. So we have plenty of behind-the-scenes churning, but no real movement.

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And speaking of endless wars, don’t get me started on endless investigations. We’ve been through two years of the Mueller probe and both sides are still fighting about the fallout. Now Bill Barr has tapped a federal prosecutor to look into the origins of the FBI inquiry into the Trump campaign and Russia, which is also being examined by DOJ’s inspector general. More sound and fury.

I think many Americans are just tuning out this daily warfare, along with a presidential campaign that once again has started way too early. And that may be a rational response.

Source: Fox News Politics

It seems to be all sound and fury these days, with no tangible outcome.

That may be great for the media, which love combat and conflict, and for politicians, who love to decry and declaim. But actual progress? Not so much.

Washington has always been known for gridlock that matches the Beltway traffic, but now it’s on steroids. It’s almost as though, while people slam each other on Twitter and Facebook, nobody expects anything to happen.

Let’s go down the list.

President Trump unveiled an immigration plan yesterday, and even before the announcement The Washington Post said it’s “already is facing skepticism from lawmakers in both political parties, and there appears to be no clear path toward advancing the plan through Congress.”

What a shock. And the president probably didn’t help its chances by immediately calling Democrats the “open borders” party.

The plan, which would favor legal immigrants with high skills over those with family ties, is “another test of Trump’s willingness to stump for a plan that could face opposition from border hawks and his ability to forge bipartisan support at a time when he has inflamed Democrats over unilateral immigration actions, including declaring a national emergency to pay for a border wall.”

It’s true that his hard-line approach has played mainly to his base. But it’s not all Trump’s fault. Barack Obama couldn’t solve the immigration mess either, and neither could George W. Bush. Neither side is ever prepared to make the necessary compromises.

Next up is abortion, an issue that has become more politicized than ever. Alabama just adopted a law that would ban almost all abortions in the state, including in cases of rape and incest, and that has hardened the battle lines.

SUBSCRIBE TO HOWIE’S MEDIA BUZZMETER PODCAST, A RIFF OF THE DAY’S HOTTEST STORIES

Liberal commentators and the Democratic presidential candidates are all denouncing the measure as an assault on women. Some conservative pundits and Republicans — although there is a split over severity and tactics — are defending the Alabama effort as overdue.

But here, too, we’re looking at a long period of inaction. The Alabama statute doesn’t take effect for six months and it faces a long legal battle that may well end up at the Supreme Court.

ALABAMA LATEST IN A SERIES OF STATES TO PASS RESTRICTIVE ABORTION LAWS

With its extreme provisions — no exceptions for rape and incest, 99-year prison terms for providers — the law seems crafted to trigger a high court review of Roe v. Wade. And even such pro-life advocates as Pat Robertson are predicting it will be struck down, which takes us back to square one (although several states are passing less severe abortion restrictions).

And then there’s Iran. The papers are full of details about backstage power struggles after administration officials devised a contingency plan to send up to 120,000 troops to the Middle East.

“President Trump is frustrated with some of his top advisers, who he thinks could rush the United States into a military confrontation with Iran and shatter his long-standing pledge to withdraw from costly foreign wars,” says The Washington Post, “according to several U.S. officials.”

What’s more, “Trump grew angry last week and over the weekend about what he sees as warlike planning that is getting ahead of his own thinking, said a senior administration official with knowledge of conversations Trump had regarding national security adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.”

Such infighting occurs in every administration. Trump, having pulled out of the Iran nuke deal, places a high value on confronting that provocative regime, but is also disdainful of endless wars. So we have plenty of behind-the-scenes churning, but no real movement.

CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APP

And speaking of endless wars, don’t get me started on endless investigations. We’ve been through two years of the Mueller probe and both sides are still fighting about the fallout. Now Bill Barr has tapped a federal prosecutor to look into the origins of the FBI inquiry into the Trump campaign and Russia, which is also being examined by DOJ’s inspector general. More sound and fury.

I think many Americans are just tuning out this daily warfare, along with a presidential campaign that once again has started way too early. And that may be a rational response.

Source: Fox News Politics

There may be 22 Democratic candidates, but the Republican candidate — and therefore the media — are increasingly focused on just one.

At times we seem to have a two-man race pitting Donald Trump against Joe Biden, even though it’s ridiculously early and the Dem debates don’t even begin until next month.

The president’s constant focus essentially allows Biden to act as if he’s already in a general election matchup, depriving the other candidates of crucial oxygen. And with Biden already dominating the polls and having the Obama connection, the White House attacks make him sound like a done deal.

There are two possible reasons for Trump’s approach:

TRUMP DEBUTS NEW NICKNAME FOR BIDEN: ‘SLEEPYCREEPY JOE’

— He’s embarked on a calculated strategy of trying to scuff up Biden early on, painting an indelible image that will either produce a wounded nominee or knock him out of the primaries.

Or:

— He just can’t help himself.

But the net effect is the same: building up Biden, paradoxically, by trying to take him down.

One thing is clear: many of the president’s aides aren’t happy about what he’s doing. This plunges us back into familiar territory, where Trump confidantes, unable to persuade him, send him messages through the media. The practice is known more formally as leaking.

For Trump’s advisers, says The New York Times, such tweets as “China is DREAMING that Sleepy Joe Biden … gets elected” was “one more example of the president’s inability to resist offering what amounts to an in-kind contribution to a Democrat who, according to their own polling, is positioned to soundly defeat them next year.”

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Trump’s constant swipes at Biden “have defied the pleadings of his own aides, who think almost any other candidate would be easier to defeat, and left Republicans puzzled while delighting Biden supporters,” the paper says.

Some Republicans “would prefer a more easily caricatured boogeyman on top of the Democratic ticket next year,” with one quoted as saying that Bernie Sanders would be perfect because “he looks like the professor out of ‘Back to the Future’ and is a hard-core socialist.” Ouch.

According to this view, Trump is inadvertently aiding the man that GOP pollster Tony Fabrizio found would easily beat the president.

But while some Republicans say Trump is just watching cable news and strafing Biden based on the coverage, others believe he can badly damage the longtime senator as a creature of the discredited establishment. Trump’s gift for mockery, which served him well against his 16 Republican opponents, could take a toll on Biden, especially if he’s baited into intemperate responses.

Biden has been fairly restrained in his rejoinders, but he’s also prone to say things like “things will fundamentally change” with “Donald Trump out of the White House. Not a joke. You will see an epiphany occur among many of my Republican friends …This nation cannot function without generating consensus. It can’t do it.”

Democrats who are in a fighting mood think Biden is deluding himself about cooperation from his “Republican friends.” From this vantage point, they want a revolution and he’s offering a  restoration.

BIDEN ‘ABSOLUTELY’ AGREES WITH WOMAN WHO BLASTS TRUMP PRESIDENCY BY CALLING IT ‘ILLEGITIMATE’

One final note is whether the president projects as far more energetic than the man he’s trying to brand as sleepy.

Taking a moment to praise the president he usually bashes five mornings a week, MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough says Trump has more “vigor” than some of his Democratic opponents:

“That guy can do on a campaign stage what nobody else can do: He can engage the audience. He can engage viewers, despite the hateful rhetoric … He does look like he is about 20 years younger than a lot of Democratic candidates.”

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Trump is 72 and Biden is 76, but Morning Joe has a point. He didn’t say it, but the other Joe looks a step slower than he did as vice president. Biden can dispel that by running a fast-paced, high-energy campaign in the face of all those Trump jibes.

The kicker is that the president, who had a bitter falling-out with his former friends Joe and Mika and recently slammed the ex-congressman as Psycho Joe, actually thanked him on Twitter. What’s more, the president said, “the BRAIN is much sharper also!”

Source: Fox News Politics

There may be 22 Democratic candidates, but the Republican candidate — and therefore the media — are increasingly focused on just one.

At times we seem to have a two-man race pitting Donald Trump against Joe Biden, even though it’s ridiculously early and the Dem debates don’t even begin until next month.

The president’s constant focus essentially allows Biden to act as if he’s already in a general election matchup, depriving the other candidates of crucial oxygen. And with Biden already dominating the polls and having the Obama connection, the White House attacks make him sound like a done deal.

There are two possible reasons for Trump’s approach:

TRUMP DEBUTS NEW NICKNAME FOR BIDEN: ‘SLEEPYCREEPY JOE’

— He’s embarked on a calculated strategy of trying to scuff up Biden early on, painting an indelible image that will either produce a wounded nominee or knock him out of the primaries.

Or:

— He just can’t help himself.

But the net effect is the same: building up Biden, paradoxically, by trying to take him down.

One thing is clear: many of the president’s aides aren’t happy about what he’s doing. This plunges us back into familiar territory, where Trump confidantes, unable to persuade him, send him messages through the media. The practice is known more formally as leaking.

For Trump’s advisers, says The New York Times, such tweets as “China is DREAMING that Sleepy Joe Biden … gets elected” was “one more example of the president’s inability to resist offering what amounts to an in-kind contribution to a Democrat who, according to their own polling, is positioned to soundly defeat them next year.”

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Trump’s constant swipes at Biden “have defied the pleadings of his own aides, who think almost any other candidate would be easier to defeat, and left Republicans puzzled while delighting Biden supporters,” the paper says.

Some Republicans “would prefer a more easily caricatured boogeyman on top of the Democratic ticket next year,” with one quoted as saying that Bernie Sanders would be perfect because “he looks like the professor out of ‘Back to the Future’ and is a hard-core socialist.” Ouch.

According to this view, Trump is inadvertently aiding the man that GOP pollster Tony Fabrizio found would easily beat the president.

But while some Republicans say Trump is just watching cable news and strafing Biden based on the coverage, others believe he can badly damage the longtime senator as a creature of the discredited establishment. Trump’s gift for mockery, which served him well against his 16 Republican opponents, could take a toll on Biden, especially if he’s baited into intemperate responses.

Biden has been fairly restrained in his rejoinders, but he’s also prone to say things like “things will fundamentally change” with “Donald Trump out of the White House. Not a joke. You will see an epiphany occur among many of my Republican friends …This nation cannot function without generating consensus. It can’t do it.”

Democrats who are in a fighting mood think Biden is deluding himself about cooperation from his “Republican friends.” From this vantage point, they want a revolution and he’s offering a  restoration.

BIDEN ‘ABSOLUTELY’ AGREES WITH WOMAN WHO BLASTS TRUMP PRESIDENCY BY CALLING IT ‘ILLEGITIMATE’

One final note is whether the president projects as far more energetic than the man he’s trying to brand as sleepy.

Taking a moment to praise the president he usually bashes five mornings a week, MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough says Trump has more “vigor” than some of his Democratic opponents:

“That guy can do on a campaign stage what nobody else can do: He can engage the audience. He can engage viewers, despite the hateful rhetoric … He does look like he is about 20 years younger than a lot of Democratic candidates.”

CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APP

Trump is 72 and Biden is 76, but Morning Joe has a point. He didn’t say it, but the other Joe looks a step slower than he did as vice president. Biden can dispel that by running a fast-paced, high-energy campaign in the face of all those Trump jibes.

The kicker is that the president, who had a bitter falling-out with his former friends Joe and Mika and recently slammed the ex-congressman as Psycho Joe, actually thanked him on Twitter. What’s more, the president said, “the BRAIN is much sharper also!”

Source: Fox News Politics

The latest news, reduced to its starkest terms: You had your investigation, now we’re having ours.

The first investigation, relentlessly promoted by Democrats and the media, was, of course, the Mueller probe. While the report contained some damaging information about the actions of the Trump team, the bottom line was beyond dispute: no criminal charges recommended.

The new probe, long pushed by Donald Trump, Republicans and the conservative media, aims at investigating the investigators.

As first reported by The New York Times, William Barr has tapped the U.S. attorney in Connecticut, John Durham, to examine the origins of the special counsel’s probe — especially the opening of the FBI counterintelligence inquiry into the Trump campaign and Russia in 2016.

This comes on the heels of the DOJ’s inspector general investigating the wiretap applications from 2016 and political bias among FBI officials.

Obviously, the president could have declared victory after the Mueller findings and moved on. But he’s been agitating for a second investigation into what he views as — perhaps you’ve heard this before? — a partisan witch hunt.

The Times described the latest investigation as “a move that President Trump has long called for but that could anger law enforcement officials who insist that scrutiny of the Trump campaign was lawful.” I get that there are legitimate questions about how the Obama-era FBI handled the probe, about using an informant against George Papadopoulos, about the anti-Trump texts of Peter Strzok and Lisa Page. But the IG could have handled this, and what makes me uneasy is that this carries the whiff of payback.

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Trump’s appointee to run the FBI, Christopher Wray, said last week that he didn’t know of any illegal surveillance and would not call the work of his agents “spying.” For that, he’s starting to get the Sessions treatment.

SPLIT WITH BARR? FBI DIRECTOR WRAY SAYS SURVEILLANCE NOT THE SAME AS ‘SPYING’

The president tweeted that “the FBI has no leadership. The Director is protecting the same gang … that tried to overthrow the President through an illegal coup. (Recommended by previous DOJ)”.

The coup language is unfortunate. But if you view it that way, it’s not hard to conjure an image of a general surviving a military coup and then ordering the plotters jailed.

How does Wray feel that the man who tapped him to replace Jim Comey now says the bureau has no leadership? And critics who say Barr was spinning the Mueller report will now view the attorney general as doing Trump’s bidding in ordering the new probe.

Trump told reporters yesterday that the Mueller probe was “the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the people of this country” and “I am so proud of our attorney general that he is looking into it,” while adding that he didn’t know about the decision in advance.

Asked whether he has full confidence in Chris Wray, the president said, “Well, I didn’t understand his answer” on illegal surveillance. “I thought it was a ridiculous answer.”

TRUMP TAKES SWIPE AT FBI DIRECTOR WRAY FOR ‘PROTECTING’ RUSSIA PROBE ‘GANG’

The Washington Post notes that “Trump’s campaign is publicly calling for criminal investigations into former FBI officials and is making ‘spygate’ fundraising pitches, seeking to turn the tables and transform the Russia investigation into a political asset instead of a liability.”

On the other hand, even though Durham is a Trump appointee, Barr seems to have made a good choice.

Durham has been a Justice Department lawyer for nearly four decades and has conducted a number of sensitive investigations under Republican and Democratic administrations. These include the FBI probe of mobster Whitey Bulger and the CIA’s destruction of torture videotapes.

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The U.S. attorney is not being given special powers, so he’ll report to Barr rather than function as a special prosecutor.

Maybe this latest investigation will clear up these questions about the launch of the Russia investigation once and for all. But an equally likely outcome is that it’s embraced by Trump supporters and dismissed by Trump detractors, just another round in the hyperpartisanship that has tainted our law enforcement agencies.

Source: Fox News Politics

When you’re relaunching, you’re losing.

A few short months after the Democratic presidential race got underway, some in the single-digit crowd are struggling — to the point that they’re trying to get the media to give them a second look.

Since the political press feasts on strategy, they are touting a new approach, which of course is an admission that the old strategy was a flop.

What’s driving this maneuvering is the way that Joe Biden’s debut has dominated the race, with the former vice president defying all the pundit predictions of weakness and surging in the polls. He’s more than doubling Bernie Sanders in these surveys and knocking down everyone else almost to asterisk status.

GILLIBRAND PINS BIDEN’S LARGE LEAD IN 2020 POLLS ON NAME ID

With all the usual caveats — it’s way early, Biden could stumble, anyone could catch fire — the press is giving some contenders the appearance of a do-over.

One AP story is headlined “Beto O’Rourke plans ‘reintroduction’ as 2020 buzz fizzles.”

The former congressman jumped in “with breakneck energy and a fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants campaign style,” but the buzz has now “evaporated … He’s made few promises that resonated or produced headline-grabbing moments, instead driving around the country meeting with voters at mostly small events.”

The man who lost to Ted Cruz is in a “quiet period” now, an adviser says, but “O’Rourke is planning to try again, taking a hands-on role in staging a ‘reintroduction.'” That began with a Rachel Maddow interview last night and an appearance today on “The View.”

What happened is that Beto tried to run for president the same way he ran for Senate, with small-scale retail politicking. And that just doesn’t work in a national race. He deliberately turned down almost all TV invitations, which was a disastrous error.

So much of Beto’s candidacy was built on his New Agey persona — he was “just born to be in it” — that media interest faded when he didn’t have much new to say on issues beyond a massive climate-change plan that many dismissed as unrealistic. His Vanity Fair cover story could turn out to be the campaign’s high-water mark unless he can fix that pretty fast.

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Here’s a New York Times headline: “Kamala Harris Is Trying to Reset Her Campaign by Taking On Trump.”

The California senator is suddenly attacking President Trump for bigotry, saying he isn’t trying to make America great but “trying to make America hate.”

Harris, says the Times, “was nodding to a political truth: She is attempting to reset her campaign after stagnating in Democratic primary polls, using her strengths as a prosecutor … to mount a sharp indictment of Mr. Trump.”

Harris has “found herself in a political vise, squeezed by competing factions in her party,” the Times says. While she got some good press for interrogating Bill Barr, she also made a major stumble by embracing a Medicare-for-all bill that would abolish private insurance. She tried to backtrack on that Sunday with CNN’s Jake Tapper, but he wouldn’t let her off the hook.

Hence, another reset.

BETO O’ROURKE SAYS CORY BOOKER’S FEDERAL GUN LICENSE PLAN MAY GO ‘TOO FAR’

In a related piece, Politico quotes allies of Cory Booker as complaining that the media are being unfair to the former Newark mayor by lavishing love on the South Bend mayor, Pete Buttigieg — the not-so-subtle subtext being that Mayor Pete is white.

But here’s the thing: In addition to his groundbreaking status as a gay candidate, Buttigieg has been candid, personal and just plain interesting in a spate of interviews and appearances. His strategy has been the opposite of Beto’s, accepting many TV invites, which has gotten him traction and boosted him to third place in the polls.

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In the piece, Booker’s backers say he’s got a great story as “a former Stanford college football player who is dating actress Rosario Dawson.” But he refused for months to say who he was dating and doesn’t talk about it now, a small but telling thing.

It’s obviously hard to stand out amid the blur of 22 candidates; they could be their own “Jeopardy” category. But we wouldn’t be seeing all these reintroductions if a man who needed no introduction, Joe Biden, hadn’t quickly lapped the field. The also-rans have to hope that the debates give them a boost or that Biden starts sinking once the media grow bored with him as well.

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It is a “constitutional crisis,” says Jerry Nadler.

President Trump is “self-impeaching,” says Nancy Pelosi.

“We should be putting people in jail,” says another Democrat, Gerry Connolly.

In the wake of the House Judiciary Committee citing William Barr for contempt, the Democrats are using increasingly fiery language against a president who seems determined to defy their subpoenas.

And even the leadership is moving, rhetorically at least, from its previous insistence that impeachment proceedings are a bad idea because they will obliterate the party’s agenda and lack bipartisan support. Maybe that’s because they’re angry, or maybe it’s just an attempt to placate their most liberal voters.

Perhaps the motivation is irrelevant. The New York Times says the Democrats, “infuriated by President Trump’s stonewalling,” are weighing a move “to bundle contempt citations for multiple Trump administration officials into one overarching package that could be referred to the Federal District Court here, in much the way Congress looked to the courts to compel President Richard M. Nixon to turn over tape recordings of his Oval Office conversations.”

And yet the stakes in the latest subpoena fight, unlike Nixon shielding tapes of the Watergate cover-up, are slight. The House Democrats want the unredacted Mueller report, despite 98 percent of the obstruction of justice section not being redacted. And they want their staff lawyers to be able to question the attorney general, as opposed to just committee members.

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The media are in full crisis mode as well. And that’s a sharp contrast to the way they covered the Republican House holding Barack Obama’s attorney general, Eric Holder, in contempt for refusing to turn over documents in the Fast and Furious probe. That was portrayed mainly as a partisan brawl, without such headlines as “Clash Between Trump, House Democrats Poses Threat to Constitutional Order,” in the Times. And nothing ultimately happened to Holder, just as nothing is likely to happen to Barr.

I happen to think Congress has a legitimate right to demand documents and testimony in overseeing the executive branch, regardless of which party is in charge. But there’s also such a thing as political overreach. If the DOJ were withholding the Mueller report, that would be one thing. To escalate over the 2 percent of the obstruction section that is redacted is quite another.

President Trump is baiting the Democrats, and they know it. He’d love for them to go down the impeachment path, which would fire up his base and lead to his ultimate acquittal. He’d be happy to spend 2020 running against overzealous Democrats, Nancy and Jerry, Mueller and the media.

Rich Lowry made a trenchant observation in his Politico column that applies both to the subpoena battle and the Times story about Trump’s massive business losses.

“There really are no Trump mysteries,” he writes. “His flaws aren’t hidden away. He often attests to them himself, or demonstrates them publicly …

“No blockbuster report has more than a passing effect because each dispatch is, ultimately, another dot in a pointillist portrait of the president that was largely completed long ago.

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“This is also why the hope that we are one investigation, tax return, or subpoena away from the revelation that will finally bell the cat and bring Trump down — or even make a difference — is almost certainly forlorn. What would be devastating material against anyone else loses all shock value.”

The Mueller report didn’t topple Trump. Neither will the redacted portions, his tax returns or any other secret document. If the Democrats want to oust the president, they’re going to have to do it the old-fashioned way next year.

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