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Tuesday, July 17, 2018
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Tuesday, July 17, 2018 10:59 AM
By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis

1. What did Trump and Putin talk about?

Here are your Tuesday power lunch talking points: The second news cycle topic after Monday’s jaw-dropping summit between Presidents Trump andPutin is what did they talk about for two hours and 10 minutes when they were alone? It’s something we may never know. Or, perhaps we will in snippets as Putin sees fit. Asked whether the Russians recorded the Trump/Putin meeting sans aides (perhaps via Putin’s cufflinks), former CIA DirectorJohn O. Brennan said on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, “In some manner, yes.” Did the Americans? “I have no idea,” Brennan responded. “I think whatever Mr. Trump said in that meeting with Mr. Putin is now memorialized on Russian tape  and it will be used when necessary by Mr. Putin against Mr. Trump. I am sure he was told that. Whether he accepts what he is told by the men of the CIA and intelligence community, I don’t know.”

Brennan observed, “Putin is a skilled and trained KGB officer, a master manipulator  who has decades of experience. Mr. Trump is way, way out of his depth when he goes one on one with Mr. Putin. U.S. intelligence capabilities are exceptionally precious but also exceptionally delicate. I don’t know if Mr. Trump said anything in that meeting that could have compromised or impacted those capabilities. I still don’t know why he didn’t trust  a John Bolton, a Mike Pompeo or a John Kelly to be in that meeting and to hear what he said, what Mr. Putin said.” 

Putin was asked by AP’s Jonathan Lemire if he wanted Trump to win in 2016. "Yes, I did. Yes, I did,” Putin responded. “Because he talked about bringing the U.S.-Russia relationship back to normal.” Asked if he had compromising information  on President Trump or his family, Putin sidestepped, saying, “Yeah, I did hear these rumors that we allegedly collected compromising material on Mr. Trump when he was visiting Moscow. Please disregard these issues and don't think about this anymore again.” Note: He didn’t confirm or deny. Putin smirked.

2. Coats, Pence and Buttigieg weigh in

National Intelligence Director Dan Coats reacted to President Trump’s siding with President Putin over U.S. intelligence assessments that the Kremlin assaulted the 2016 presidential election by releasing a statement reiterating what he warned of the “blinking warning lights” last Friday. Coats said, “We have been clear in our assessments of Russian meddling  in the 2016 election and their ongoing, pervasive efforts to undermine our democracy, and we will continue to provide unvarnished and objective intelligence in support of our national security.” Vice President Pence tweeted: “Our @POTUS is now on his way home from a historic trip to Europe. And the truth is, over the last week, the world saw once again that President Trump stands without apology as the leader of the free world.” In a speech, Pence saluted Trump for his “deeply productive” dialogue and his use of “diplomacy and engagement,” adding, “Disagreements between our countries were discussed at length, but what the world saw, what the American people saw, is that President Donald Trump will always put the prosperity and security of America first.” South Bend Mayor Peter Buttigieg, a potential 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, called on Trump to resign, saying, “Today, friends of mine are risking their lives to serve the U.S. intelligence community, as I once did. For the U.S. president to say they are no more credible than the hostile foreign dictator standing next to him is a national security disaster. He must resign.” 

3. Indiana delegation backs Coats

The Indiana delegation largely supported Director Coats, but there was little specifically aimed at President TrumpU.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly said Trump “embraced Putin and abandoned our nation’s intelligence community.” U.S. Sen. Todd Young said, “Moscow invades and bullies its neighbors, disregards its treaty obligations, seeks to divide NATO, and props up the murderous Assad regime. To protect America’s national security interests, stand up for democratic values, and deter additional aggression by Putin, we must deal with Moscow from a position of strength and unity. I have no reason to doubt the clear conclusions of the intelligence community when it comes to Moscow’s attempts to undermine our democracy.” U.S. Rep. Jim Banks: “We need to hold Russia accountable for its aggression  and make it clear that America will protect our democratic institutions.” U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski: "Russia is not our ally, and Vladimir Putin is not our friend. As DNI Dan Coats reaffirmed this week, it is undeniable Russia interfered in our election and seeks to undermine our democracy." U.S. Rep. Susan Brooks: "I believe Russia, under Vladimir Putin's leadership, sought to sow confusion and undermine Americans' faith in our government and electoral process  with the further goal of tearing our country apart.” U.S. Rep. Larry Bucshon: “I have extreme confidence in our intelligence agencies and the leadership of fellow Hoosier and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats. It is absolutely critical that we protect our democracy and the citizens of the United States in the face of Russian aggression." And U.S. Rep. André Carson Tweeted, "Today's summit between President Trump & Putin was shocking. @realDonaldTrump refused to condemn Russian interference, instead blaming American victims.”
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    WASHINGTON – Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly and his Republican challenger, former state Rep. Mike Braun, bust out their blue shirts on the campaign trail. But when one of them is serving in the Senate next year, he will be wearing a jacket and tie, a sartorial change depicting governance that Donnelly can use to his advantage. Braun upended his primary challengers – Reps. Todd Rokita, R-4th, and Luke Messer, R-6th – by touting his outsider status. The anti-Washington trope can be a powerful campaign theme, but there is a potentially compelling counter-argument. Once Braun comes to the capital and starts wearing a suit, he has to decide how much of a check he wants the Senate to be on President Donald Trump. So far, the indication is that he won’t provide any brake on the president. Braun is a businessman who doesn’t push back on Trump’s tariffs against steel and aluminum from the European Union, Mexico and Canada and a variety of products from China. The retaliation to these levies could hammer Hoosier farmers and manufacturers. Braun wants to scrap the Affordable Care Act and start from scratch on health care reform. Presumably, he backs the Trump administration’s decision not to defend in court provisions of the law that would prevent insurers from denying coverage for people with pre-existing conditions. Even Hoosiers critical of Obamacare likely take comfort in that part of the measure.
    MERRILLVILLE  – Let there be no doubt about it, the Republican move to reduce the number of Lake County precincts is not about money. No, it is an effort to dilute the Democratic vote in the county. Republicans say it’s about saving money because reducing the number of precincts will lower the cost of hiring election workers. Well, it will, but that’s not what Republicans are after. A 2014 state law that pertains to Lake County only  requires the elimination of all precincts with fewer than 600 registered voters. The fact is that Lake County has 283 precincts, out of a total of 523, with fewer than 600 registered voters.
    INDIANAPOLIS - Attorney General Curtis Hill is innocent until proven guilty on allegations that he sexually harassed at least three General Assembly employees and State Rep. Mara Candeleria Reardon at a late night March 15 sine die party. But when it comes to Politics 101 and the chapter of how an elected public official handles him or herself in in the public sphere, Hill is flunking out. The allegations that surfaced on July 2 in a leaked General Assembly investigation memo has prompted the Republican establishment - Gov. Eric Holcomb,  Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch, House Speaker Bosma, Senate President David Long, Secretary of State Connie Lawson,  U.S. Rep. Susan Brooks and U.S. Senate nominee Mike Braun - to call for Hill to resign. That, folks, is a catastrophic collapse of political support from the most influential people in the state.

    LaPORTE – While recent news reports of Attorney General Curtis Hill’s after-hours alleged misconduct are deeply troubling and cause for justifiable outrage, of equal concern to Hoosiers ought to be the question – who is our attorney general really working for? Is it big money corporate sponsors or average working Hoosiers? CBS News recently reported on a lavish retreat hosted on Kiawah Island, South Carolina in April that a dozen Republican attorneys general, including Hill, who have the final say in their states on what enforcement actions to bring or not, attended on the tab of various corporate interests who paid $125,000 each just to get to rub elbows, buy drinks and food and schmooze with them. Well-heeled corporate donors like those from Koch Industries, big tobacco, payday lenders, oil and gas interests and the NRA fork out big bucks to ensure that AG’s like ours stay compliant and supportive of their interests.
    KOKOMO – To quote former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, “There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don’t know we don’t know.” This is exactly where we are after one week of the Attorney General Curtis Hill mess. It is a mess – no “ifs” “ands” or “butts” about it! It is a mess that leaves a lot of knowns, known unknowns and unknown unknowns floating around the Statehouse like countless political fairies. The worst part is that this mess is likely to get a lot messier as time unfolds. First, let’s look at the facts as they have been reported. At around half-past midnight on March 15, the Indiana Legislature adjourned sine die. For those of you who don’t speak Latin, that means, “We stop getting paid for doing nothing.” The next morning, the Indianapolis Star headline screamed, “Indiana Legislative Session Descends Into Chaos on Final Day.”  What are the senators, representatives, lobbyists, staff and good time Charlies supposed to do after a day of blaming each other for allowing a handful of tax, gun, technology and school bills to die without a vote? Why have a big party, of course! The echoes from the beating of the legislative gavel had barely died out when the booze began to flow at party central, AJ’s Lounge.
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  • Donnelly says Trump should cancel summit; Coats warns

    NASHVILLE, Ind. - On a head-spinning Friday, Special Counsel Robert Mueller indicted 12 senior Russian military intelligence officials for hacking the U.S. election. In the indictments announced by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is the fact that on that on July 27, 2016, these Russians made their first attempt to “spearfish” the Democratic National Committee’s computers. That was the same day that Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump said in Miami, “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”

  • Horse Race: Donnelly raises $1.9M for second quarter

    INDIANAPOLIS - U.S. Joe Donnelly posted $1.9 million for the second quarter and has $6.4 million cash on hand. That compares to $2.5 million raised for Republican Mike Braun and had $1 million cash. Donnelly called the $1.9 million for the quarter “a new personal best.” The campaign said it was due to substantial grassroots support. The average contribution was $43.83, with 93% of all donations to Donnelly were $50 or less.
  • Atomic! Trump's Hyde & Jekyll; Putin smirking; Hill's account
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis

    1. Channeling Trump’s Hyde and Jekyll: Here are your Friday the 13th power lunch (or tea with the Queen) talking points: Imagine a British PM at a White House state dinner saying, “You donkey bottom batter. I don't want to talk to you no more, you empty-headed animal food-trough wiper! I fart in your general direction! Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries!” Monty Python aside, that’s essentially what President Trump did to the closest U.S. ally’s leader, British PM Theresa May, coming at an ultra sensitive time  for her as her government teeters and cracks.

  • Atomic! Braun posts $2.5M; Trump NATO threat; Soy freefall
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis

    1. Braun posts $2.5M for Q2: Here are your Thursday power lunch talking points: Money continues to spill into the INSen race. Republican nominee Mike Braun posted $2.5M with more than $1M cash on hand. The campaign says it raised $1.5M since the Jasper businessman’s primary romp over U.S. Reps. Luke Messer andTodd Rokita. The campaign notes that the totals are “without personal contributions or loans.”  Leading into the primary, Braun pumped more than $6 million of his own fortune into the race, which Howey Politics Indiana  believes will top $100 million by November, with millions of Super PAC and independent expenditures flooding in by then. Braun's report comes after a SurveyMonkey Poll showed him leading Sen. Joe Donnelly 49-47%.

  • HPI Analysis: Defiant Hill in face of rare Holcomb miscue

    INDIANAPOLIS – The first 18 months of Gov. Eric Holcomb’s tenure have been a series of prudent course corrections (Section 5 of I-69, bicentennial towers and East Chicago lead), savvy expenditure of political capital on long-range policy (Next Level road funding), and adroit maneuvering on controversial topics ranging from Department of Child Services overload to the opioid pandemic. There were a couple of bumps in the road, most notably the marriage plank at the Indiana Republican Convention that ran counter to his and most Hoosiers level of tolerance. And then came the week of the Fourth of July. On July 2, the IndyStar published the sexual harassment allegations against Attorney General Curtis Hill, based on a General Assembly “investigation.” The report included interviews of anonymous victims, later including State Rep. Mara Candeleria Reardon. After the report leaked, it set in motion four days of controversy before the logjam broke on July 5.

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  • McCain: 'Low point of American presidency'
    “Today’s press conference in Helsinki was one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory. The damage inflicted by President Trump’s naiveté, egotism, false equivalence, and sympathy for autocrats is difficult to calculate. But it is clear that the summit in Helsinki was a tragic mistake. President Trump proved not only unable, but unwilling to stand up to Putin. He and Putin seemed to be speaking from the same script as the president made a conscious choice to defend a tyrant against the fair questions of a free press, and to grant Putin an uncontested platform to spew propaganda and lies to the world. It is tempting to describe the press conference as a pathetic rout – as an illustration of the perils of under-preparation and inexperience. But these were not the errant tweets of a novice politician. These were the deliberate choices of a president who seems determined to realize his delusions of a warm relationship with Putin’s regime without any regard for the true nature of his rule, his violent disregard for the sovereignty of his neighbors, his complicity in the slaughter of the Syrian people, his violation of international treaties, and his assault on democratic institutions throughout the world. Coming close on the heels of President Trump’s bombastic and erratic conduct towards our closest friends and allies in Brussels and Britain, today’s press conference marks a recent low point in the history of the American Presidency. - U.S. Sen. John McCain, the 2008 Republican presidential nominee, reacting to President Trump’s summit with Russian President Putin. 
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  • Trump defies Coats, disgraces himself and our nation

    President Trump disgraced himself and the U.S. when he stood next to Russian President Putin, signaling his belief in the strongman over his intelligence leaders such as Dan Coats, who just last Friday warned that Russian assaults of U.S. institutions were ongoing. 

    National Intelligence Director Coats, in a statement following the Helsinki news conference, said, “We have been clear in our assessments of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and their ongoing, pervasive efforts to undermine our democracy, and we will continue to provide unvarnished and objective intelligence in support of our national security.” President Trump referenced Coats’ warning, but insisted Putin was “extremely strong in his denial” and said, "I don't see any reason why it would be." What we don’t know is what Trump and Putin discussed when they met alone for two hours (except for translators).

    The biggest fear is that patriots like Coats might resign, leaving this president to his own unpredictable and destructive devices that were on full display throughout the week when he blasted NATO allies, embarrassed British Prime Minister Theresa May, and called the European Union a “foe.” This is a crisis of unprecedented proportions. 

    Hoosier Republicans, more than those across the nation, need to stand up and declare for the ideals long espoused by statesmen like Dan Coats and Richard Lugar, as U.S. Sen. Todd Young did this afternoon, when he said the U.S. “must deter additional aggression by Putin.” There is reluctance to do this because of Vice President Pence’s station in the Trump administration (Pence has lunch with Trump Tuesday at the White House), but we make the case that for that very reason, their voices must be heard and will carry extra weight.
    - Brian A. Howey, publisher

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