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Analysis and perspective about what's happening in the political realm.

Mueller’s Indictment Puts Details Behind Claims of Russian Interference

Special Counsel Robert Mueller indicted 13 Russian nationals on Friday connected to Russia’s Internet Research Agency—a Kremlin-backed outfit whose employees posed as Americans and spread disinformation online in an attempt to influence the 2016 election.

The indictment details highly specific allegations—including names, dates, and the text of private messages—that appear to substantiate central elements of the U.S. intelligence community’s assessment that Russia made an active, concerted effort to subvert American democracy. That report, released in January 2017, concluded that “Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election,” which included “third-party intermediaries and paid social media users or ‘trolls.’” President Trump has repeatedly dismissed claims of Russian meddling as “fake news” or a “hoax.”

“Claims of a ‘hoax’ in tatters,” John Brennan, the former CIA director, said in a tweet. “My take: Implausible that Russian actions did not influence the views and votes of at least some Americans.” 

The indictment alleges that, beginning in 2014, the defendants “knowingly and intentionally conspired with each other … to defraud the United States” by influencing U.S. political processes in an operation they dubbed “Project Lakhta.” Two of the defendants, Aleksandra...

What Trump-Era Democrats Can Learn From LBJ

Last week, Robert Schenkkan’s new play, The Great Society, opened at the Arena Stage in Washington. This riveting sequel to the Tony-award winning All the Way,about the Lyndon Johnson presidency, is a haunting piece of theater for liberals to watch in February of 2018, when President Trump and the Republican Congress have been swinging a political wrecking ball at Barack Obama’s legacy.

The two plays capture an important lesson about presidential history: that it is possible for the country’s top leader to be an incredibly effective policymaker yet fail politically at building a governing coalition that outlasts them. The costs of this kind of political failure are severe because it leaves everything a president built open to attack. It also leaves little room for continued growth. LBJ saw that happen when Richard Nixon took office in 1968, and now Obama is witnessing the same thing, even worse, with President Trump.

Policy victories combined with political failure is the story of President Johnson that The Great Society captures so well. In the first play, Bryan Cranston brilliantly captured the energy and ambition of LBJ in 1963 and 1964. Broadway audiences were treated to a rollicking performance as...

The Surprise in the Nunes Memo

A hotly anticipated memo from Representative Devin Nunes and Republican staff on the House Intelligence Committee offers a few new interesting pieces of information about the investigation into Russian interference in the election—though it leaves the most important questions unanswered. And in one crucial way, it seems to undermine the political case it was released to bolster. 

The most important and interesting assertions, yet the ones that cry out for more clarification, concern an application to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court to surveil former Trump foreign-policy adviser Carter Page. The memo states that a dossier prepared by Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence official researching Trump on behalf of a firm hired by the Democratic National Committee, “formed an essential part of the Carter Page FISA application.” It also states that outgoing FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe told the committee that “no surveillance warrant would have been sought from the FISC without the Steele dossier information.”

Each of these statements is important but heavily contingent. For one thing, the importance of the revelations hinges on the use of “essential.” National-security-law experts say FISA-warrant applications often run dozens of pages, and the Steele dossier doesn’t have dozens of...

There's No Way Mueller Will Indict Trump

The latest revelations about President Trump have, once again, excited the interest of the public, leading to speculation that Special Counsel Robert Mueller may have amassed sufficient evidence to charge the president with obstruction of justice. Trump’s attempt to fire Mueller (which happened last June, but is only now being publicly reported) is, under this line of thinking, the final straw.

Color me deeply skeptical.

Mueller will not indict Trump for obstruction of justice or for any other crime.  Period. Full stop. End of story. Speculations to the contrary are just fantasy.

He won’t do it for the good and sufficient reason that the Department of Justice has a long-standing legal opinion that sitting presidents may not be indicted. First issued in 1973 during the Nixon era, the policy was reaffirmed in 2000, during the Clinton era. These rules bind all Department of Justice employees, and Mueller, in the end, is a Department of Justice employee. More to the point, if we know anything about Mueller, we think we know that he follows the rules—all of them. Even the ones that restrict him in ways he would prefer they not. And if he were to choose not...

A New Group Wants to Elect More Veterans—From Both Parties

Even the most optimistic interpretation of this week’s government shutdown quickly slides into the abyss of the bottomless distrust between Republicans and Democrats in the House.

The brief standoff over immigration and funding the government mostly dramatized Washington’s dysfunction. But it offered one glimmer of the hope when about two dozen senators from both parties coalesced to urge a quick resolution that reopened the government.

That loose alliance is now expressing optimism it can reach agreements on other thorny issues, starting with the long-term fate of the roughly 800,000 “dreamers” brought to the U.S. illegally as children by their parents. President Trump in September ended an Obama-era program that shielded them from deportation, though a federal District Court has temporarily blocked his decision.

Yet even if the Senate can come together on the “dreamers” or other issues, any such cooperation would confront the chasm between the parties in the House. GOP leaders there have already indicated they don’t feel bound to even consider the legislation if the Senate approves a deal.

Enter a new organization called With Honor.

The group, which is announcing its first campaign endorsements Thursday, has launched a major effort to elect...