Friday, August 11, 2017

Last Call For There's Always One

Gotta love House Democrats who think that right now the biggest target to be swinging at in the Trump regime is...Nancy Pelosi.  Meet Democratic Rep. Filemon Vela of Texas, who's more interested in seeing Pelosi gone in 2018 than any of the GOP.

Things weren’t always so tense between Vela and Pelosi. Vela, who’s represented Texas's 34th District since 2013, is a relative newcomer to the ranks of Pelosi critics. Back in 2014, she visited Vela's district at his invitation and the two toured a detention facility there. According to a transcript of a press conference from the leader’s office, Pelosi was complimentary of Vela.

“Congressman Vela is such a tremendous intellectual resource on this because this is something we have to be very smart about,” Pelosi said. About a month after the visit, Pelosi met with a delegation of border mayors and local officials Vela had brought to Washington.

“She was very helpful during that time,” Vela told BuzzFeed News. It’s only much more recently their relationship crumbled.

Earlier this year Pelosi even appointed Vela to be the Blue Dog representative to leadership at the start of the current Congress. The role involves voicing the opinions of the Blue Dogs, a group of moderate Democrats, to leadership.

But then he quit.

Vela told BuzzFeed News he decided to leave it due to a hike in dues for new members of leadership. Drew Hammill, a spokesperson for Pelosi, told BuzzFeed News there is not an additional dues requirement for the Blue Dog representative to leadership. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which handles dues, did not comment.

“I just decided I didn’t want to be on leadership at the front end. I felt like I was better off working this cycle outside of leadership,” Vela said.

Vela has had his disagreements with Pelosi in the past, but he said he supported her for leader as recently as last fall, when 63 other Democrats voted against her.

“I think she’s provided tremendous value to the Democratic caucus. And I think her tenure has been historic,” Vela told BuzzFeed News in an interview. “But I think with respect to the issue of winning the House majority back in 2018, and given her negative effect on swing voters and Republican moderates, there’s no way she’s worth the trouble in the context of gaining the majority in 2018.”

That’s just Vela, friends in Congress say. He’s the type of person who is not shy about his thoughts on a matter once he has made his mind up.

“My own estimation of him — he has a backbone of steel,” California Rep. Juan Vargas said of Vela. “It’s best to go talk to him and try to convince him of your position, not to try to force him to do anything because if you do, it completely backfires. … But he’ll always listen to you.”

And Vela hasn’t saved his quick turnaround ire for Pelosi alone — his closest friends are no exception.

Vela abruptly left the Congressional Hispanic Caucus in 2013, accusing some of his colleagues of supporting a Senate immigration bill he opposed “without blinking.” He also charged Pelosi at the time with pressuring the CHC to back it.

Pelosi’s spokesperson disputed Vela’s characterization and said the approach to the bill was decided in “close consultation” with the full caucus.

The bill never got a vote in the House, but Vela took something of a gap year and distanced himself from CHC over the affair. Eventually, other members were able to talk him into returning. Arizona Rep. Raul Grijalva said he and other members convinced him it was “better to be inside the tent.”

Immigration is a deeply personal issue for Vela, who represents a border district. Conversations with him often include tales of undocumented immigrants and their struggles.

“One thing that I admire about Filemon, I don’t always agree with his positions, but you know, he’s fierce about his positions, and he’s fearless about standing up for the things that he believes in, which I think our constituents really want,” New Mexico Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham told BuzzFeed News.

Despite his penchant for strong language (for example telling Trump in an open letter last year to “take your border wall and shove it up your ass”) and picking fights with his own Democratic colleagues and leaders, Vela’s network of friends on Capitol Hill is large.

He’s known for going out of his way to fundraise for other members. Vela is in near constant touch with many of his colleagues, often texting them or chatting with them on the floor. By his estimate, approximately 100 members of Congress have visited his district — which is bordered by Mexico and the Gulf of Mexico — for various events. “Helping other members is just something that I really enjoy,” Vela said in an email.

And in person, his demeanor doesn’t seem to match his rhetoric. Vela is far more reserved than his public statements would lead people to believe.

But he has an approachable quality about him that’s noted even by fellow politicians. Massachusetts Rep. Richard Neal, said he was “impressed” on a trip to Vela’s district by how excited his constituents were to see him at small restaurants they stopped in for take out. “He knew everybody on a first-name basis, and they knew him on a first-name basis, and I thought that was good retail politics,” Neal said.

Asked if he has leadership ambitions of his own, Vela said: “With respect to my own leadership aspirations, I think that many of the members that I have helped are better postured to lead this caucus. But then again, you never know what the future holds so it is important to always be prepared.”

If all this seems familiar, this is the exact Sen. John McCain/Sen. Rand Paul "Maverick!" playbook, only written for Dems.  Vela has an agenda, and it's to beat up on Nancy Pelosi and her "San Francisco values" at home in Texas and to vote with her in Washington. He doesn't really dislike Pelosi, but he sure likes to pretend he does.

It's pretty effective in a red state like Texas if you're a Democrat, I guess.  I mean, why should the Republicans be the only party to get to "run against the leadership" and stay in power?

Might work if the Dems were actually in power though.  Just saying.

Russian To Judgment, Con't

There's no doubt now that former Trump Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort is cooperating with both Senate Judiciary Committee investigators and Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team.  Whether this means Manafort has cut a deal, we don't know yet.  But the Trump regime is definitely treating Manafort like somebody who ratted out their guilty boss, and they can't backstab him quickly enough in front of the press.

President Donald Trump would have you believe that Paul Manafort wasn’t all that involved with his campaign, and for good reason: Behind the scenes, Trump’s aides fume that the former campaign chairman is at least partially responsible for the president’s deepening legal woes
“I know Mr. Manafort. Haven’t spoken to him for a long time, but I know him,” Trump said of his former top campaign aide on Thursday. The president was reacting to news that a dozen FBI agents had raided one of Manafort’s four homes late last month and carried off tax documents and banking records, as The New York Times reported on Wednesday. “That’s pretty tough stuff,” Trump told reporters. 
The president and his White House staff have for months minimized Manafort’s role and time on the 2016 presidential campaign, repeatedly describing it as a “very short period of time.” 
Trump’s attempt to downplay his relationship with Manafort left out some pertinent facts, however. 
Manafort was integral to the Trump campaign’s efforts to secure Republican delegates at last year’s convention. He reportedly remained in touch with the White House as late as April of this year, and helped craft the administration’s early strategy to counter allegations that it colluded with agents of the Russian government during last year’s election. 
According to sources close to the president, many on Team Trump blame Manafort for special counsel Robert Mueller’s divergence from election interference and foray into the private finances of the president’s family, and political and business associates.
Though Trump himself has engaged in a number of opaque foreign business deals, his aides believe it was Manafort’s work in Russia, Ukraine, and elsewhere that set off the special counsel’s alarm bells—and got him digging into issues only tangentially related to alleged Russian election shenanigans.
The terms “shady” and “sketchy” come up most frequently when senior veterans of Trump’s campaign discuss the earlier work done by Manafort, the campaign’s former chairman. (This is the kind of work that has in decades past included Manafort’s lobbying for some of the worst human rights abusers, killers, and dictators of the Cold War era—work Manafort did with longtime Trump consigliere Roger Stone at their well-connected K Street lobbying firm Black, Manafort, Stone, and Kelly.) 
What they don’t know is whether Mueller has “turned” Manafort or simply obtained information during his investigation that has led to pertinent election-meddling developments, and what—if anything—Manafort would have to offer or interest Mueller and his team.

Pretty soon they'll tell us Manafort was really working for Clinton and Obama as part of a plot to bring down Dear Leader Trump.  But like I keep saying, the Trump regime is certainly acting like Manafort has the potential to badly damage Trump, and all of it keeps coming back to that June 9, 2016 meeting with Manafort, Kushner, and Donald Trump Jr. involving Russian nationals shopping dirt on the Clinton campaign.

I said earlier last month that the revelations about that meeting were the turning point in the Mueller and Senate investigations, the "end of the beginning" as we moved into the realm of the case against Trump becoming serious.  When news of that meeting leaked, the Trump regime went into panic mode and has yet to leave it.

According to two senior officials, White House suspicions toward Manafort were turned up to eleven after the news broke last month of a Trump Tower meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian lawyer who claimed to have dirt on Hillary Clinton. Manafort was present at the now-infamous confab, as was President Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner. Trump’s advisers spent a good chunk of the month of July wondering and wildly speculating who could have leaked such damaging information—and Manafort’s name was a recurring theme
Maloni, the Manafort spokesman, stressed to The Daily Beast that Manafort had voluntarily disclosed the Trump Jr. meeting to Senate investigators (as had been previously reported) before Mueller or his team ever asked about it. 
And as the spotlight around Manafort continues to grow, there are still some in Trump-world who insist the president has nothing to worry about from his former campaign chairman, no matter what comes of the Mueller probe. 
“The raid on Manafort’s home on the very day that the special counsel knew he was meeting with Senate investigators is a pressure tactic designed to induce Manafort to testify against the president, which is never going to happen,” Manafort’s former partner and current pal Roger Stone insisted to The Daily Beast on Thursday. “Paul is 100% loyal to the President.” 
Stone has publicly gone to bat this week for his ex-partner, and in more ways than one. Earlier this week, the Trump-endorsing supermarket tabloid the National Enquirer published online its big story headlined, “TRUMP ADVISOR SEX SCANDAL—PAUL MANAFORT’S SICK AFFAIR.” 
“It’s very disturbing. I felt very badly for him last night,” Stone told The Daily Beast on Thursday. “Nobody has to see their personal flaws splashed over the front pages. I’ve been there.”

I'm betting the completely amoral Manafort is about as loyal to Trump as Trump has been to him (or anybody for that matter) which is to say "not in the least".  Remember, Trump's long-time modus operandi is to turn on anybody and everybody he can find that he can blame for his own failures. (Ask Sean Spicer, Jeff Sessions or Mitch McConnell how that works out.)

That was eventually going to catch up to Trump, and it's starting to look more and more like Manafort sold him out (or tried to at any rate).

We'll see where this goes, but the effort to smear Manafort and to change the subject back to Clinton and reopen the investigation into her emails is the clearest sign yet that the Trumpies are coming undone.


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