The Morning Jolt

Politics & Policy

Some Real ‘Bombshell News’ in the Mueller Investigation

Making the click-through worthwhile today: Finally, a source I trust in the Mueller investigation, good news for a lot of Republican governors, why Trey Gowdy chose to retire, and Michael Wolff wears out his welcome.

The Days of the Triumph of Hope Over Experience May Be Coming to an End

Now the Mueller investigation is really getting dangerous for the Trump administration, and perhaps key adviser Hope Hicks in particular.

The latest witness to be called for an interview about the episode was Mark Corallo, who served as a spokesman for Mr. Trump’s legal team before resigning in July. Mr. Corallo received an interview request last week from the special counsel and has agreed to the interview, according to three people with knowledge of the request.

Mr. Corallo is planning to tell Mr. Mueller about a previously undisclosed conference call with Mr. Trump and Hope Hicks, the White House communications director, according to the three people. Mr. Corallo planned to tell investigators that Ms. Hicks said during the call that emails written by Donald Trump Jr. before the Trump Tower meeting — in which the younger Mr. Trump said he was eager to receive political dirt about Mrs. Clinton from the Russians — “will never get out.” That left Mr. Corallo with concerns that Ms. Hicks could be contemplating obstructing justice, the people said.

In a statement on Wednesday, a lawyer for Ms. Hicks strongly denied Mr. Corallo’s allegations.

“As most reporters know, it’s not my practice to comment in response to questions from the media. But this warrants a response,” said the lawyer, Robert P. Trout. “She never said that. And the idea that Hope Hicks ever suggested that emails or other documents would be concealed or destroyed is completely false.”

I’ve chatted with Corallo on and off since the days of the Fred Thompson campaign in 2008. He’s a straight shooter, an indisputable conservative, and it’s worth noting that throughout 2016, as I was looking at the Trump campaign and seeing a circus that couldn’t organize a two-car motorcade, Corallo was sending me good-natured notes saying, “Yes, but you know Trump’s going to win, right?”

In other words, Mark Corallo is a pro’s pro who went to work for the Trump legal team completely on board and who wanted to help the president . . . well, make America great again. When he left after two months with some reports that he was troubled by what he was seeing . . . that was a deeply ominous sign.

If Corallo ends up offering sort of critical testimony, this is not because he’s a Judas or because he’s part of the establishment or some sort of “Deep State” sellout. It’s because he saw stuff that genuinely struck him as either illegal or unethical or both and he’s not the kind of person who’s willing to lie under oath about it.

Guess Which Governors Begin 2018 With a Nice, Shiny Approval Rating?

Once again, the ten most popular governors in America are all Republicans; congratulations to Charlie Baker of Massachusetts, Larry Hogan of Maryland, Kay Ivey of Alabama, Phil Scott of Vermont, Matt Mead of Wyoming, Brian Sandoval of Nevada, Gary Herbert of Utah, Asa Hutchison of Arkansas, Greg Abbott of Texas, and Dennis Daugaard of South Dakota.

Baker, Hogan, Ivey, Scott, Hutchison, and Abbott are up for reelection this year, and right now the outlook is sunny and bright for all of them. I would note that none of the above names are really “celebrity” governors or well-known outside their states; they’re workhorses, not show horses, who are focusing on . . . well, governing. What a concept!

The outlook is cloudier for the least popular governors in America. Chris Christie is at the bottom, although he’s already out of office. Dan Malloy of Connecticut announced last year he’s not seeking another term. Sam Brownback of Kansas is about to become the U.S. Ambassador-at-large for Religious Freedom. Mary Fallin of Oklahoma is term-limited, as is

Suzana Martinez, once one of the brightest rising stars in the GOP.

Bill Walker, an independent governor of Alaska, looks vulnerable heading into a reelection year; he’s at just 29 percent approval, 55 percent disapproval.

The outlook isn’t much better for GOP governor Bruce Rauner in Illinois, with a 31 percent approval, and 55 percent disapproval.

Paul LePage of Maine and Rick Snyder of Michigan are underwater, but both are term-limited as well.

Finally, Scott Walker clocks in with 43 percent approval, 50 percent disapproval. Yes, we’ve seen Democrats write Walker’s political obituary time and time again, but there’s probably good reasons for Wisconsin Republicans to take the 2018 political environment seriously.

Other bits of good news for the GOP:

In Florida, Senator Rick Scott is term-limited, and Republicans seriously hope he runs against incumbent Democrat governor Bill Nelson. His approval rating is 58 percent, his disapproval just 31 percent. Nice strong numbers for another statewide race, if Scott wants it. Sometimes he sounds like he really does.

In West Virginia, changing parties is working out well for Jim Justice. “Forty-seven percent of registered voters in West Virginia approved of Justice’s job performance during the final three months of the year, while 39 percent disapproved.”

In Arizona, Doug Ducey’s numbers look . . . okay. Not great, but okay: 42 percent approval, 36 percent disapproval.

Trey Gowdy Is Burned Out

A long while back, I heard a rumor that two members of South Carolina’s congressional delegation would not be there for very long — that Mick Mulvaney was being considered for a job in the administration and that Trey Gowdy was being considered for some judgeship. In February 2017, Mulvaney became director of the Office of Management and Budget, but Gowdy remained where he was in Congress.

This morning in Politico, we learned that Gowdy was indeed offered a federal judgeship recently, a pretty impressive one it sounds like, and he turned it down.

White House counsel Don McGahn in recent weeks broached Gowdy, a former federal prosecutor, about filling a slot on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals — a newly vacated judgeship that Gowdy has eyed before, according to sources close to Gowdy. His fellow Palmetto State Republicans, Scott and Sen. Lindsey Graham, also urged him to accept the post.

But Gowdy, who’s long complained about the increasingly toxic nature of politics, turned down the position, the sources said.

That’s pretty burned out!

If you’re a fan of Gowdy, the good news is that his retirement statement declared, “This is the right time for me to leave politics and return to the justice system. Whatever skills I may have are better utilized in a courtroom than in Congress, and I enjoy our justice system more than our political system.” Perhaps he is planning a return to a courtroom in a judicial role after recharging his batteries.

Separately, it’s fascinating how South Carolina consistently “punches above its weight” in Congress. Back in 2011, the state’s delegation to the House included Tim Scott (now a senator), Joe Wilson (now assistant Republican whip), Jeff Duncan, Trey Gowdy (eventually chairman of the Special Committee on Benghazi and Committee on Oversight and Government Reform), Mick Mulvaney (now OMB director) and the lone Democrat, James Clyburn (House Assistant Minority Leader).

Back in 1999, the House delegation included one future governor (Mark Sanford) and two future senators (Lindsey Graham and Jim DeMint).

ADDENDA: Michael Wolff, whose book Fire and Fury might be better moved to the fiction section, has apparently worn out his welcome on Morning Joe. This morning, Mika Brzezinski abruptly cut off an interview segment when Wolff implausibly claimed he had never accused Nikki Haley of having an affair with Trump.

“You might be having a fun time playing a little game dancing around this, but you’re slurring a woman, it’s disgraceful,” Brzezinski said.


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