• Nothing Has Changed with Trump's Tax Returns
• Gorsuch Hits the Ground Running
• New Polls Are Mostly Bad News for Trump
• Democrat Wants to Amend Presidential Removal Procedure
• Chris Christie: He's Baaaaaack
• How Does Spicer Feel About McCarthy's Impersonation?
Today, the Georgians who live in the state's 6th congressional district will try to elect a new occupant to the seat that HHS Secretary Tom Price vacated (which was also once the seat of Newt Gingrich). Though the R+8 district—which hasn't gone Democratic since the 1970s—should be a slam dunk for the GOP, Democrat Jon Ossoff holds a commanding lead in the polls, and has benefited from millions of dollars in donations that have poured in from outside of the state.
Partisans on both sides will be watching the returns closely. An Ossoff victory would be seen as a huge repudiation of Donald Trump, and could well cause moderate Republicans to begin jumping ship on the President. He knows this, and so has been firing with both barrels. Trump recorded an anti-Ossoff robocall in which he intones that, "If you don't vote tomorrow, Ossoff will raise your taxes, destroy your healthcare, and flood our country with illegal immigrants." How a solitary representative would achieve all of these things is left unexplained. The Donald also took to Twitter to say much the same:
The super Liberal Democrat in the Georgia Congressioal race tomorrow wants to protect criminals, allow illegal immigration and raise taxes!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 17, 2017
We can only imagine what the tweets will look like if things don't go the President's way.
Democrats, of course, will be watching closely as well. First, because they are eager to see Trump repudiated. Second, because it's going to be a nail-biter. There is little doubt that Ossoff will collect more votes than any other candidate, but if he does not hit 50% plus one, then he will have to face a runoff on June 20. That would give Republicans time to regroup and to rally their forces, which means that if he doesn't get the job done today, his best opportunity may have passed. He's currently polling around 46%, but in polls that have a fairly large margin of error. There's also 2-3% of the electorate that says they plan to vote for another Democrat, but could well change their minds. In the end, it's probably close to a coin flip whether or not Ossoff can avoid the runoff.
In short, then, this is going to get more attention than any House race in years, or maybe even decades. And if the Trump vs. Democrats drama were not enough, news also broke on Monday that several voting machines were stolen from a Cobb County precinct manager's vehicle over the weekend. Election officials say that this will not affect anyone's ability to vote, and that the stolen machines cannot be used to cast fraudulent votes. That's presumably true, though one would expect officials to say that even if it were not true. And if Ossoff wins, then the Breitbart conspiracy theories will practically write themselves. (Z)
Over the weekend, tens of thousands of Americans marched to demand that Donald Trump release his tax returns, as presidents and presidential candidates have done for more than 40 years. On Monday, in a development that is not a surprise to anyone, we learned that nothing has changed, and that the returns will remain secret.
Ever since this issue reared its head, about a year ago, Trump has consistently deployed two excuses for not releasing the returns. The first is that "nobody cares." This is patently untrue; poll after poll has shown that roughly 75% of Americans think he should make his taxes public. The second is that he is under audit, and cannot release the returns while that remains the case. It was this excuse that was deployed Monday, with White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer explaining that, "The president is under audit, it's a routine one, it continues, and I think the American public knows clearly where he stands, this was something he made very clear during the election cycle." The audit excuse also does not hold water; the IRS confirms there is nothing that stops someone under audit from releasing their returns. At the same time, they also will not reveal when an audit is over. And inasmuch as the president and vice president are audited every year (a policy that comes courtesy of tax cheats Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew), Trump will be able to perpetually claim he's under audit, and the IRS won't say boo, whether or not it's actually the truth.
Just because the marchers did not pry loose the tax returns does not mean their efforts were in vain, however. While the protests were underway in Palm Beach, Fla., Trump's motorcade was forced to take an unexpected detour when returning to Mar-a-Lago. This exposed the President to throngs of protesters, and he was not happy. Not long thereafter, he took to Twitter to vent:
I did what was an almost an impossible thing to do for a Republican-easily won the Electoral College! Now Tax Returns are brought up again?— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 16, 2017
The protesters confirmed the obvious, namely that Trump's response serves only to heighten their motivation. His complaining, said one, "prods people to protest more. It strengthens the resolve." (Z)
Neil Gorsuch has been approved and sworn in (twice), which means he's ready to begin work. Monday was his first day on the job, and he quickly acclimated to his new position. He has already hired law clerks, and been instructed in the duties of the junior justice (taking notes at meetings, opening and closing the conference room door, remaining silent until all the other justices have had a chance to speak).
Gorsuch also heard his first oral arguments on Monday, and he peppered the councillors with dozens of questions; so many that he apologized on more than one occasion for taking up so much time. This means he has now exceeded the number of questions asked by Clarence Thomas in the last 25 years by...well, dozens. It's just another way that Gorsuch appears to be a clone of his predecessor, the loquacious Antonin Scalia. (Z)
Donald Trump is always looking for positive polls to retweet to his followers. He found one on Monday, a Rasmussen poll that shows him with a 50% approval rating. It is unclear whether the president does not know, or just does not care, that Rasmussen has a pronounced Republican house effect, so much so that many aggregators won't even use their data (for our part, when we're tracking polls, we offer a "with Rasmussen" and a "without Rasmussen" option).
In any event, even if Trump counts the Rasmussen result as "good news," two other recent polls definitely fall in the "bad news" category. The first is a Gallup poll that finds that only 45% of Americans think Trump keeps his promises. This is down a staggering 17 points from February, when 62% thought that he keeps his promises. He's also dropped 7 points in "can bring about the changes this country needs" (to 46%), 6 points in "is honest and trustworthy" (to 36%), and 4 points in "cares about the needs of people like you" (to 42%). The Gallup Poll had Trump's overall approval rating at 40%.
The poll that should really concern Trump, however, comes from Pew research. They have his approval rating holding steady at 39% for each of the last three months. However, Speaker Paul Ryan's (R-WI) approval rating is now a dismal 29%, and since Trump took office, the GOP's approval rating has dropped from 47% to 40%. If evidence starts to mount that The Donald is a sinking ship—polls, the GA-06 election, etc.—then getting his legislation through Congress will become nearly impossible (if that isn't the case already). (Z)
The Twenty-fifth Amendment to the Constitution, which allows for a president to be removed from office if incapacitated, has a bit of a weakness. The weakness is that while the procedure laid out in the amendment is well suited to handling physical incapacitation, it's not so great when it comes to mental incapacitation. A majority of the cabinet members (including the vice president) would have to make that determination, and given that mental incapacitation is rarely clear-cut, it is all-but-inconceivable that eight or nine or ten cabinet officers would be willing to take the risk entailed in declaring their boss to be a head case.
Now, Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) has proposed a solution to this problem. He proposes taking the decision about incapacity out of the hands of the cabinet, and placing it instead in the hands of the vice president and all living former presidents and vice presidents. He reasons:
It is hard to imagine a better group to work with the vice president to examine whether the president is able to discharge the duties of the office. When there are questions about the president's ability to fulfill his or her constitutional responsibilities, it is in the country's best interest to have a mechanism in place that works effectively.
It's an interesting proposal, and one that might even gain traction at a different place and time, but it's a non-starter right now. First of all, Congressional Republicans aren't stupid, and they will recognize an effort to make it easier to remove Donald Trump when they see it. Especially since the number of living Democratic presidents and vice presidents (6) is larger than the number of Republicans (5), even if Vice President Mike Pence is included. Beyond that, amending the Constitution is always very, very difficult. Finally, there are some pretty obvious weaknesses with the idea. For example, does George H. W. Bush get two votes, since he's both a former president and a former VP? Similarly, what happens if there are no living ex-presidents or ex-veeps? Does the sitting VP have the right to unilaterally declare himself president? Presumably, Blumenauer realizes this isn't going anywhere, and is positioning himself for something like a future run at the Senate or the Oregon governorship (though none of those jobs is likely to be open anytime soon). (Z)
Chris Christie bears a striking resemblance to Freddy Krueger: Every time you're certain he's dead, he comes roaring back to life. First, there was Bridgegate. Then, Christie was passed over as Donald Trump's running mate. Then, he was dumped as the head of Trump's transition team. With the worst approval rating of any governor in America (17%), and with his term coming to an end next year, it seemed clear his political career was over.
Not so fast, as it turns out. Christie is benefiting enormously, it would seem, from having zero self-respect. Though Trump has cast him aside like yesterday's garbage on more than one occasion, the Governor continues to cozy up to The Donald. He's now working his way back into the inner circle, heading up an anti-addiction effort, talking to the President on the phone multiple times per week, and even paying the occasional visit to the Oval Office. Christie is also reportedly developing a friendship with Jared Kushner, which is shrewd, but also a bit hard to believe, what with the little matter of the Governor's having once sent Kushner's father to prison. It's not entirely clear what prize Christie has his eye on, but it may be that he's trying to be generally available for whenever a plum job happens to open up. There's no truth to the rumor, however, that he has been measuring the size of the curtains in Steve Bannon's office. (Z)
Melissa McCarthy has now portrayed Sean Spicer on "Saturday Night Live" four times, and on each occasion, the satire seems to get more brutal. CNN's Jim Acosta crossed paths with Spicer on Monday, and asked his opinion. Spicer insisted that he's in bed by the time SNL goes on the air, and then he's up early the next morning for church, which apparently leaves him unable to watch the clips on YouTube, like everyone else. Then Acosta asked, "You do have fun with it, though, right?" and Spicer responded with some empty platitudes about how he's just trying to advance the president's agenda, and hoo boy, does he love the First Amendment.
Needless to say, none of this is believable. Spicer wears his emotions on his sleeve, and has yet to show any ability to actually sell a lie. Watching the clip, there is no question that he's seen McCarthy's performances, and that they are driving him nuts. In part, presumably, because he does not like being lampooned, but also because he knows his boss is infuriated that his press secretary is being mocked. Of course, all of this just serves to encourage the folks at 30 Rock. Spicer will just have to take solace in the fact that we're only a month from the show's season finale. (Z)Email a link to a friend or share:
---The Votemaster and Zenger
Apr17 Nothing Has Changed with Trump's Tax Returns
Apr17 Gorsuch Hits the Ground Running
Apr17 New Polls Are Mostly Bad News for Trump
Apr17 Democrat Wants to Amend Presidential Removal Procedure
Apr17 Chris Christie: He's Baaaaaack
Apr17 How Does Spicer Feel About McCarthy's Impersonation?
Apr16 Protesters Around the Country Demand to See Trump's Tax Returns
Apr16 White House Sweeping Conflicts of Interest Under the Rug
Apr16 Trump Actually Has Delivered on Some of His Promises
Apr16 The Kushner-Bannon Civil War Is Still Raging
Apr16 Tillerson on the Rise
Apr16 Bipartisan Group of Senators Pushing to Revive Glass-Steagall
Apr16 Nearly $500,000 of Trump's Campaign Funds Have Gone to His Companies
Apr16 North Korean Bomb Bombs
Apr15 Russia Intrigue Just Keeps Mounting
Apr15 North Korea Situation Seems To Be Deteriorating
Apr15 U.S. Will Not Name China as a Currency Manipulator
Apr15 Trump Keeps Badmouthing the Dollar
Apr15 White House Will Not Make Visitor Logs Public
Apr15 Re-election Bids Are Attracting Lots of Money
Apr15 Trump Says He Can't Be Sued
Apr15 Trump Gets Burned by Regulations
Apr14 U.S. Drops MOAB on Afghanistan
Apr14 Suburban Voters Have Had It with Trump
Apr14 Trump's Base Has Had it With Trump
Apr14 Virginia Governor's Race Turns Into a Referendum on Trump
Apr14 Business Leaders Trying to de-Bannonize Trump
Apr14 Maybe Rumors of Bannon's Death Are Greatly Exaggerated
Apr14 Tax Reform May Not Follow the Ryan Blueprint
Apr14 Sanders: Trump Will Be a One-term President
Apr14 Prof. Who Called the Last Eight Presidential Elections Says Trump Will Be Impeached
Apr13 Tillerson Receives a Chilly Reception in Moscow
Apr13 Trump Now Wants to Do Healthcare Before Tax Reform
Apr13 Trump May Be Sick of Bannon
Apr13 Trump Now Likes NATO
Apr13 Trump Plays into Kim Jong-Un's Hands
Apr13 United Airlines, Wells Fargo, and the Democratic Party
Apr13 Coffman: Spicer "Needs To Go"
Apr12 Republican Estes Wins Special Election in Kansas
Apr12 Spicer Goose Steps in It
Apr12 Nunes Was Apparently Making Things Up
Apr12 The Infrastructure Bill Could Fail Just Like the Healthcare Bill
Apr12 Trump Falsely Claims He's Created 600,000 Jobs
Apr12 There Is An Easy Way to Get Trump's Tax Returns Released
Apr12 California May Move 2020 Primary to March
Apr12 Collins May Run for Governor of Maine
Apr12 Christie Calls for Government to Forbid Overbooking of Flights
Apr11 Neil Gorsuch Sworn in as Associate Supreme Court Justice
Apr11 Merrick Garland Could Get Revenge