Fox News Halftime Report -- Rigged, Vol. 2

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Fox News Halftime Report

June 12, 2017
By Chris Stirewalt

 
On the roster: Rigged, Vol. 2 - Time Out: 'We are doing it for us' - Sessions to testify publicly on Russia probe - Gianforte pleads guilty, receives no jail time - Why couldn't Predators fans throw hot chicken?

RIGGED, VOL. 2
It looks like things are going to get a lot worse before they get any better.

President Trump's defense team is contemplating some rather drastic steps, perhaps even trying to fire the special counsel, Robert Mueller, who is investigating Trump's 2016 campaign.

One of Trump's lawyers, Jay Sekulow, said on ABC News on Sunday that as a "unitary executive," Trump might have broad powers to dump yet another law-enforcement official looking into Trump's organization.

Sekulow suggested that something nefarious was behind Mueller not preventing former FBI Director James Comey from testifying publically about his conversations with Trump, conversations about which Trump has already spoken.

The suggestion from Sekulow and other defenders of the president is that Mueller and Comey are setting a "perjury trap" for the president in order to find some bogus way to bring a criminal case against the president for lying or obstructing justice.

This, of course, all presupposes that Trump is telling the truth. Just as those who believe Trump firing Comey explicitly because of the Russia probe is prima facie obstruction know in their hearts that Trump must be guilty of Russia-related offenses.
 
Bully for them. Until we know who did what with whom, it's way too early to be talking about second-order offenses.

Mueller once offered a way through all of this for Trump and the rest of the country, and seems still to be moving quickly to bring his investigation to a close – perhaps even before the end of summer.

This swift conclusion might have been greeted with cheers in Trumpghanistan had the president and his team not decided that they would not prevail.

Grumbling even among mainstream Trump boosters about Mueller is intensifying, even when it causes some rather jarring self-contradictions.  

Never one to bring a knife to a rhetorical gunfight, Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert, went farther in an interview over the weekend with Fox News colleague Julie Banderas, saying that he believed there was "conspiracy" at the Justice Department.

His argument: that those staffers whom Comey told of his awkward conversations with Trump were in violations of at least their oaths of office, if not something much worse.

"We have a conspiracy remaining afoot in the Department of Justice that is going to be out to destroy this president," Gohmert warned. "And they've got to be fired, if not worse."

Now, the Justice Department doesn't take its orders from Texas congressmen, but if we're already to the point that the president's most ardent defenders in Congress are calling for not just wholesale firings but prosecutions at the FBI, we are a lot closer to the edge than we were a week ago.

And that's because, as Noah Rothman writes, the president's team understands that things are going poorly for him. Moreover, knowing Trump's track record under oath and strong penchant for what he has called "truthful hyperbole," his defenders are taking increasingly aggressive steps not to be "vindicated" but instead to declare the probe itself unworthy.

As we saw when Trump and most everyone in America believed he was going to lose the election, declaring the vote "rigged" in advance was a way not just to minimize the psychic impact of the defeat but also to leave open potential avenues afterward.

Remember all the weeks spent trying to get Trump to say he would abide by the will of the voters? Maybe yes, maybe no. Depends on what they say. That's what we're seeing with Mueller now.

What Team Trump is sweating now is that the president's most loyal supporters may be drifting away. Aware that Trump doesn't currently have a path to outright popularity, he will have to survive the coming months the way he made it through the worst spots in 2016: At the head of a small but fiercely loyal activist army.
 
Last year, the goal was to protect Trump from his opponents (and sometimes himself) and to attack, attack, attack anyone who stood in the way. This time, Mueller will play the bad guy and rather than an election to win, it will be about helping Trump avoid impeachment.

That's a long muddy road to get even the most ardent followers to trudge. But the president can count on his loyal public defenders to cast this not as America's most respected law-enforcement official looking to sort out the unanswered questions from the 2016 election, but rather an effort by the "deep state" to prevent Trump from MAGAing.
 
Not only does it keep Trump's supporters engaged and on the attack but it also pre-invalidates anything Mueller might find. If the game is rigged, then who cares what the results are?
 
This won't do anything to reassure anxious supporters or bring back any of those already fallen away or certainly to get Congress to take any risks on advancing Trump's agenda, but it will be a safe space for the president to try to endure what promises to be a very uncomfortable summer.   

THE RULEBOOK: AND THAT'S A FACT
"The friend of popular governments never finds himself so much alarmed for their character and fate, as when he contemplates their propensity [for faction]." – James Madison, Federalist No. 10

TIME OUT: 'WE ARE DOING IT FOR US'
Mildred
 and Richard Loving were married in Washington, D.C. in June of 1958. They didn't get married in Caroline County, Va., where they both lived, because it would have been impossible. Mildred was black and Richard was white, and in 24 states including Virginia, their union would have been strictly forbidden. 

But with 18-year-old Mildred being in a family way and not wanting to just shack up with 24-year-old Richard, as convention would have held, they went up to Washington where it was legal for them to be wed.

A little more than a month after they got home, though, somebody in town called the law, and deputies staged a nighttime raid. Officers had hoped to catch the couple actively, ahem, miscegenating, but had to settle for the sole offense of cohabitation. 

The Lovings first sought mercy, citing Mildred's partly-Rappahannock lineage. But there was no mercy to be had, no matter how fair her complexion or how many centuries her ancestors had lived near the banks of the river that still bears their name. She was still also the descendant of slaves. The couple was only allowed to avoid the one-year prison sentence for the crime if they accepted banishment from the commonwealth for at least 25 years.
 
Being people of modest means and limited options, the Lovings were no doubt relieved to have escaped a worse fate. They paid their court fees of $36.29 each and headed back to the city where they were married. In Washington, they found work as they were able, and in time added two more children to their brood. 

But they were forbidden to even travel home together for a visit or, certainly, to do as they truly wished, and make a life among their family and friends in the quiet community they loved.

Five years later, Mildred wrote the Justice Department seeking help. Racial purity laws were falling out of fashion in more states and the Civil Rights movement was taking shape. Maybe there was a way. Attorney General Robert Kennedy wrote her back and recommended that she take her case to the American Civil Liberties Union, where lawyers were no doubt thrilled to have a perfect case with which to assault such statutes. 

But as Mildred would tell Life magazine, they had something more in mind. "We have thought about other people, but we are not doing it just because somebody had to do it and we wanted to be the ones," she said. "We are doing it for us."

And they did. 

Fifty years ago today, the Supreme Court struck down racial purity laws in Virginia and the 15 other states that still had them on the books. 

The Lovings were finally able to move back home, where they would live together until Richard's death by the negligence of a drunken driver eight years later. Mildred would live on in the little town of Central Point, Va. until her death from pneumonia in 2008. 

Today, we remember that at a time more recent to us than manned space travel, the Rolling Stones' sixth gold record and the popularization of frozen pizza, governments in the United States still concerned themselves with the genetic purity of the white race.

Flag on the play? - Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM with your tips, comments or questions.

SCOREBOARD
Trump net job-approval rating: -18.8 points
Change from one week ago: -1 points

SESSIONS TO TESTIFY PUBLICLY ON RUSSIA PROBE

WaPo: "Attorney General Jeff Sessions will testify in an open hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, according to the committee's leaders. Sessions will be testifying before Congress for the first time since he was confirmed as attorney general in February. In light of former FBI director James B. Comey's testimony last week, Sessions is expected to get questions from lawmakers about his contacts with Russian officials during the 2016 election campaign. Comey said last week that the bureau had information about Sessions — before he recused himself from overseeing the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election — that would have made it 'problematic' for him to be involved in the probe. The former director did not elaborate in public on the nature of the information. Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores said Sessions requested that the committee hearing be public."

Report: New doomsday for Priebus - Politico: "President Donald Trump has set a deadline of July 4 for a shakeup of the White House that could include removing Reince Priebus as his chief of staff, according to two administration officials and three outside advisers familiar with the matter. … Days after his return from his first foreign trip late last month, Trump berated Priebus in the Oval Office in front of his former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and deputy campaign manager David Bossie for the dysfunction in the White House, according to multiple sources familiar with the conversation."

Gulp - "We thank you for the opportunity and blessing to serve your agenda." – White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus offering his praise for the president when Trump asked cabinet members to offer some words before gathered reporters before the administration's first-ever full cabinet meeting. He was, of course, immediately mocked for toadying.

APPEALS COURT KEEPS TRUMP REFUGEE BAN ON HOLD
Fox News: "The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday ruled in part against President Trump's so-called travel ban, upholding an injunction that prevents the administration from enforcing a suspension on travel from six mostly Muslim countries. 'We conclude that the President, in issuing the Executive Order, exceeded the scope of the authority delegated to him by Congress,' the opinion said. The ruling Monday from a unanimous three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals deals the administration another legal defeat as the Supreme Court considers a separate case on the issue. The judges say the president violated U.S. immigration law by discriminating against people based on their nationality and that Trump failed to show their entry into the country would hurt American interests. They didn't rule on whether the travel ban violated the Constitution's ban on the government officially favoring or disfavoring any religion."

Maryland, D.C. sue Trump for foreign payments - WaPo: "Attorneys general for the District of Columbia and the state of Maryland sued President Trump on Monday, alleging that he has violated anti-corruption clauses in the Constitution by accepting millions in payments and benefits from foreign governments since moving into the White House. The lawsuit, the first of its kind brought by government entities, centers on the fact that Trump chose to retain ownership of his company when he became president. Trump said in January that he was shifting his business assets into a trust managed by his sons to eliminate potential conflicts of interests. But D.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine (D) and Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh (D) say Trump has broken many promises to keep separate his public duties and private business interests."
 
SupCo to tackle partisan gerrymandering in Wisc. - WaPo: "Now, the Supreme Court is being asked to uphold a lower court's finding that the Wisconsin redistricting effort was more than just extraordinary — it was unconstitutional. Such a conclusion would mark a watershed moment for the way American elections are conducted. The Supreme Court has regularly — and increasingly — tossed out state electoral maps because they have been gerrymandered to reduce the influence of racial minorities by depressing the impact of their votes. But the justices have never found a plan unconstitutional because of partisan gerrymandering — when a majority party draws the state's electoral districts to give such an advantage to its candidates that it dilutes the votes of those supporting the other party."

RYAN SUPER PAC HITS OSSOFF EN ESPAÑOL
The Hill: "A super PAC affiliated with Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) is launching a Spanish-language television ad attacking Georgia congressional hopeful Jon Ossoff (D) and linking him to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) The Congressional Leadership Fund (CLF) is spending some of the $7 million it is putting into the special election on the ad, The Washington Post reported. The ad is expected to air on Atlanta's Univision and Telemundo stations. 'Jon Ossoff is all in for Nancy Pelosi's agenda of bigger government, higher spending and more taxes that is crushing Americans' pocketbooks,' CLF Executive Director Corry Bliss said in a statement. 'Hispanic families will hear just how liberal, out-of-touch and wholly unfit Jon Ossoff is to represent Georgia's 6th District.' … The ad goes on to tout Republican Karen Handel, Ossoff's opponent in the race."
 
Race too close to call, but Ossoff holds edge - FiveThirtyEight: "Democrat Jon Ossoff fell just short in his bid to capture the seat representing Georgia's 6th Congressional District in a first-round knockout. Polls show a tight race, but it looks like he might have better luck in next week's decisive Round 2. … Ossoff was hovering around a majority ahead of the primary, and the same is true now. But there is a key difference: Polls now show that he is expected to receive just over 50 percent of the vote on June 20; he polled just under 50 percent in the primary on average."

Va. gubernatorial candidates make final pitches before Tuesday primary - WaPo: "Virginia's gubernatorial race — one of just two in the country this year and the first statewide contest in a swing state in the Trump era — enters a new phase Tuesday as voters head to the ballot box to choose both party's nominees. … On the Democratic side, [Ralph Northam] has kept rallying the party faithful, while [Tom Perriello] has tried to tap into anti-Trump ­energy and economic populism to create a surge of new primary voters. In the GOP race, Corey Stewart, chairman of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors, and state Sen. Frank W. Wagner (Virginia Beach) are trying to close [Ed Gillespie]'s enormous lead."

GIANFORTE PLEADS GUILTY, RECEIVES NO JAIL TIME
LAT: "Greg Gianforte, the Montana Republican who assaulted a newspaper reporter the day before being elected to Congress, pleaded guilty Monday to a misdemeanor assault charge but avoided jail time. Gianforte appeared in Gallatin County Justice Court, where Judge Rick West ordered him to serve 40 hours of community service, 20 hours of anger management and $385 in fines. West initially had sentenced Gianforte to four days in jail but quickly changed the sentence. … As part of a settlement, [Ben Jacobs] agreed not to sue the 56-year-old politician and Gianforte said he would donate $50,000 to the Committee to Protect Journalists. Nancy Keenan, executive director of the Montana Democratic Party, called for Gianforte to resign following his sentencing. 'The people of Montana need a representative in Congress,' Keenan said in a statement. 'They do not need a criminal. Gianforte should not be sworn in as a member of Congress, and if he is, he must resign.'"

PLAY-BY-PLAY
Former Heritage boss DeMint joins push for Constitutional Convention - WashEx

Administration officials to unveil plan to cut factory rules - Reuters

Team Trump kicks off workforce development week - The Week

A pro-Trump conspiracy theorist, a false tweet and a runaway story - NYT
 
Puerto Ricans vote overwhelming for statehood in low-turnout referendum - AP

AUDIBLE: META, DUDE…
"Communications Over Various Feeds Electronically for Engagement Act." – The long form of the proposed legislation from Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Ill., that would include presidential social media posts in the official federal archive. The short form of the bill: The COVFEFE Act.
 
FROM THE BLEACHERS
"So the newspaper headlines in my city are all screaming that Trump is a liar. Even the foreign language papers have Comey quoted as saying he (Trump) lied. No Republican, and surely no Democrat, is happy about the way the investigations and press conferences were handled concerning their particular candidates. The FBI had leaks galore. There was backtracking, second guessing and even an admission of acquiescing to political pressure. Comey is upset that the President said the bureau was not being led in a competent manner. So where is the lie? Sounds to me like an average case of sour grapes with an ax to grind by a former employee who was fired because the boss didn't like the way he was doing his job. So which party is going to dispute the boss's opinion?" – Anthony LoRe, Whitestone, N.Y.
 
[Ed. note: There's no doubt, Mr. LoRe, that Comey's resentment for Trump and the manner of his firing is quite real. It would even be fair to call him a disgruntled former employee. Not that it particularly matters whether Comey thinks Trump told the truth or not, we can indulge in one more look back at last week's testimony. The shifting explanation from the president and his admin about why Trump fired Comey is the material issue. First, it was Comey's handling of the investigation in Hillary Clinton's mishandling of state secrets which morphed into the allegations of a chaotic and rudderless FBI – the accusation that so offended the former director – and, eventually, Trump's blunt admission that he canned Comey because of the Russia probe. The use of the word "lie" has become very fraught in the past two decades. I still understand it to mean an intentional untruth. If that's the case, we don't know whether the White House spin that Comey was sacked for incompetence was a lie or not. It's possible that Trump did not share his real feelings with his staff on that subject. That would certainly be believable, given the lack of communication inside this White House. But, again, Comey's moral estimation of his former boss probably doesn't add up to much in the long run.]

"With all the polls reporting that President Trump is in the dumps, I wonder what the results would be if pollsters asked, 'Given everything that's happened since the election, who would you vote to elect if the election were held today, Clinton or Trump?' How many, like me, despite everything, would still rather have Trump be our President? I admit Trump was not my first choice, but Clinton would have been my last." – David Zick, Bloomfield Hills, Mich.

[Ed. note: Good point, Mr. Zick. Former Vice President Joe Biden may have summed it up best with his aphorism: "Don't judge me against the Almighty, judge me against the alternative." What's ahead, though is a referendum on Trumpism in the form of the 2018 midterms. In that one, Republicans will not have the benefit of an almost equally disliked opponent. One of the reasons presidents' parties usual fare so poorly in midterms is that they are all about them.]

"Since the development of the golf bag, your question has endured. Having had time on our family farm, and suburban youth as a caddie, I have the answer. A pitchfork is placed in a golf bag handle down, same as a golf club. Keep up the good work. I look forward to your posts each day." – Don McGaffey, Redford, Mich.

[Ed. note: Now that's what I call cross-training, Mr. McGaffey!]

Share your color commentary: Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.

WHY COULDN'T PREDATORS FANS THROW HOT CHICKEN?
The [Harrisburg, Pa.] Patriot News: "Hoisted into the air by one Pittsburgh Penguins fan, then another, a catfish thudded into the asphalt of East Carson Street between South 15th and 16th streets. Fans circled around the dead animal -- a symbol of the Nashville Predators their team had just beaten in six games to clinch the 2017 Stanley Cup. They picked it up and lobbed it above the crowd still dancing and chanting shortly after midnight. As the toss-cheer-splat routine continued the fish began to fall apart. It was torn to bits moments later as a man between South Side Barber Shop and 16th Street put the fish in his mouth, chomped down and tore away, leaving a fist-sized wad of flesh on the ground. When what remained of the fish was lofted back across the street and ended up in the hands of another fan, leaning off the side of a telephone pole, the crowd chanted 'Eat the fish.' Initially, he declined. Then, he too raised the fish between his teeth, and took a bite to the roar of the block-wide crowd below."



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