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Trump Wins, then Loses in Court

Another day, another round of drama for Donald Trump's travel ban on new arrivals from seven majority-Muslim countries. Last week, New York Judge Ann Donnelly—a Barack Obama appointee—stayed part of the order, declaring that the customs agents were temporarily forbidden from ejecting visa-bearing individuals already in the United States. On Friday afternoon, Massachusetts judge Nathaniel Gorton—a George H.W. Bush appointee—refused to extend the stay, arguing that the plaintiffs in the case were unlikely to prevail. Before the Trump administration had time to celebrate, however, Washington judge James Robart—a George W. Bush appointee—issued a reinstatement of the stay. In fact, Robart's order goes beyond the original, halting enforcement of Trump's entire order. US Customs and Border Protection officials promptly began reinstating visas that were previously canceled and telling airlines that refugees would once again be admitted.

The White House was, of course, furious at this turn of events. Press Secretary Sean Spicer promptly issued a statement that, as is his wont, was laden with additional editorializing:

At the earliest possible time, the Department of Justice intends to file an emergency stay of this outrageous order and defend the executive order of the President, which we believe is lawful and appropriate. The President's order is intended to protect the homeland and he has the constitutional authority and responsibility to protect the American people.

It would seem that someone inside the administration found this verbiage excessive, because "outrageous" was promptly dropped from the version of the statement posted to the White House website.

In the short term, there will be a surge of people arriving in the United States while the door is temporarily open. In the long term, it's clear that this is going to end up before the Supreme Court, probably sooner rather than later. Further, federal government officials (e. g., US Customs and Border Protection) and attorneys general of Democratic-controlled states (e. g., Washington and Minnesota, who filed the suit that led to Robart's stay) are pushing back very hard against the administration, and are clearly going to prove a much greater obstacle than Trump had anticipated, both on this front and many others. (Z)

Trump Takes First Step to Eviscerate Dodd-Frank

Yesterday, Donald Trump signed an executive order directing his administration to devise rules for regulating the financial industry. While the order doesn't specifically mention the Dodd-Frank Act by name, it is clearly Trump's intention to roll back as much of the law as is possible by executive orders. The bill was passed after the 2008 financial meltdown to forbid some of the practices that led to it. If they are repealed, as seems likely, the banks are probably going to reinstate many of the more profitable ones, setting the country up for another financial meltdown.

On a related note, a second executive order directs the Department of Labor to review the fiduciary rule imposed by Barack Obama. The rule requires banks and stock brokers to always act with the client's best interest first. That means, for example, not recommending mutual funds because they pay the highest commissions if they are not in the client's best interest. If the rule is rescinded, it will be "buyer beware" again with respect to financial products.

Lisa Donner, the director of Americans for Financial Reform, said: "The administration apparently plans to turn over financial regulation to Wall Street titan Goldman Sachs, and make it easier for them and other big banks like Wells Fargo to steal from their customers and destabilize the economy." Trump's attempt to gut Dodd-Frank is the exact opposite of what he promised during the campaign, namely, that he would take on Wall Street. (V)

Trump and Congressional Republicans Differ on Tariffs

Donald Trump has repeatedly said that he wants to impose a 35% tariff on any product made by an American company abroad and then imported into the United States. Congressional Republicans, who generally favor free trade, don't like Trump's plan one bit and are trying to talk him out of it. In addition to having an ideological position in favor of unfettered trade, Republicans realize better than Trump that such measures will result in countermeasures that will cost many Americans their jobs. The retail and energy sectors are especially vulnerable.

The idea of a border tax adjustment, which has also been floated repeatedly, has split the business community. The Koch brothers, for example, don't want anything of the kind, saying it would mean higher prices for consumers. Retailers that import many products from China, like Target and Walmart, are wildly against it. On the other hand, the American Made Coalition, which includes GE, Boeing, Dow, and Pfizer, supports the border adjustment. In general, companies that import a lot of stuff don't like it, but companies that don't do much importing think it is a dandy idea. (V)

Trump and Congressional Republicans Differ on the Wall

Donald Trump's proposal to build a wall along the Mexican border suffers from three major problems: (1) it will be expensive, (2) it will be difficult-to-impossible, logistically, and (3) it is unlikely to have much actual impact on undocumented immigrants. Whether or not Trump recognizes these problems, his colleagues in Congress certainly do. And they are growing increasingly vocal in signaling their lack of enthusiasm for the project.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), for example, said that "If you're going to spend that kind of money, you're going to have to show me where you're going to get that money." She's already broken with the Trump administration on some issues, such as the approval of Secretary of Education-designate Betsy DeVos, so she means it when she says she may withhold her vote. John Cornyn (R-TX), the second highest ranking Republican in the Senate, declared that, "I don't think we're just going to be able to solve border security with a physical barrier because people can come under, around it and through it." Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who is turning into a real thorn in Trump's side, was even more direct: "It's not a viable option."

And while these individuals are couching their concerns in terms of cost and practicality, which work well for public consumption, there are two additional problems that they are not going to publicize so much. The first is that many GOP donors do not want their land taken via eminent domain, and are making their feelings known to their senators and representatives. The second is that the businesses that send lots of money to GOP coffers depend on a steady supply of cheap labor, and would not be pleased to see that pipeline threatened.

The wall was such a central part of Donald Trump's campaign that he's not likely to let go of it without a fight. And with the assistance of Mike Pence and the handful of other Washington veterans in his administration, he might still twist enough arms to get his way. But, at this point, the odds are not looking good. (Z)

Trump Appointees Still in Flux

We're entering into the third week of the Trump administration, and only a handful of his appointees have been approved. On Friday, an additional pair of wrenches in the machinery made themselves known. First, Secretary of the Army-designate Vincent Viola abruptly withdrew from consideration for the post. Officially, his reason is that he cannot disentangle himself from his business obligations. It is probable that the opposition of Secretary of Defense James Mattis, who was angry because he had no say in the nomination, also played a role.

Meanwhile, the members of the Senate are getting an earful about the remaining cabinet appointees—to the tune of 1.5 million calls per day. The single most common subject of those calls is Betsy DeVos, and opinion is running 99-to-1 against her. Will it matter? Well, only one more Republican has to defect and she's done for. At this point, it would not be terribly surprising to see a Republican senator from a purple state (Dean Heller?), or one from a poor state that stands to be harmed by DeVos' ideas (Roger Wicker?), or one who just wants to fire a shot across Trump's bow (John McCain?) become that defector. (Z)

Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner Scuttle LGBTQ Executive Order

President Donald Trump set up his White House staff with multiple power centers and we are now starting to see how that works. The Muslim ban was Steve Bannon's idea. That went over pretty well, so the next project was to rescind a 2014 executive order forbidding federal contractors from discriminating against LGBTQ people. But that project ran into resistance from First Daughter Ivanka Trump and First Son-in-law Jared Kushner, who not only quashed the plan, but got the president to issue a statement saying: "President Donald J. Trump is determined to protect the rights of all Americans, including the LGBTQ community. President Trump continues to be respectful and supportive of LGBTQ rights, just as he was throughout the election."

It is not clear whose idea it was to rescind Obama's order protecting LGBTQ people. It might have been Bannon's or maybe it came from Vice President Mike Pence, a conservative Christian who was hostile to gay people as governor of Indiana. But the message here is that Bannon and Pence are likely to run into more headwinds when they try stuff that Ivanka and Kushner don't like. (V)

Kellyanne Conway Issues Forth with More "Alternative Facts"

On Thursday, Trump spokeswoman Kellyanne Conway appeared on MSNBC's "Hardball" and was interviewed by Chris Matthews. Attempting to mount a defense of the President's immigration ban, she pointed to the "Bowling Green Massacre" as the kind of incident that the order would forestall. Matthews looked at Conway quizzically, causing her to declare that, "Most people don't know that because it didn't get covered."

Conway might have gotten away with that if she was talking to Breitbart, or maybe even to Bill O'Reilly. MSNBC, however, was not the place to issue forth with such "evidence." What Conway appears to have been referring to is the arrest of two Iraqis living in Bowling Green who were plotting to send weapons home to Al-Qaeda. They were caught, prosecuted, and imprisoned. There was no plan to commit terrorist acts in the United States, and there was certainly no massacre. Further, the story received extensive coverage in both print and television media, including over 100 stories in the Bowling Green Daily News alone. Conway also asserted that Barack Obama, like Trump, had suspended immigration from Iraq. This is also untrue; Obama merely ordered a re-vetting of individuals already in the United States.

Ultimately, Conway took to Twitter to apologize for her "misstatement." That is good and well, but it is apparent that she did not really misspeak. What she did was parrot right-wing coverage of the incident, such as this piece from Breitbart. And if this is where Trump administration insiders get their information, that is very concerning, indeed. (Z)

South Dakota GOP Repeals Anti-Corruption Law

On Election Day last November, South Dakota voters approved an anti-corruption measure that would have established an independent ethics panel, placed limits on lobbyist gifts to lawmakers, and imposed other measures designed to encourage transparency. This was despite the fact that outside money, including half a million dollars from the Kochs, poured into the state in an effort to defeat the measure. On Thursday, state lawmakers decided that South Dakotans did not really understand what they were voting for, and so used parliamentary trickery to overturn the measure. This maneuver also precludes the possibility of a new referendum's being placed on the South Dakota ballot.

South Dakota is only a small state, of course, but this story is getting national attention. Certainly, it's not a good look for the GOP, since it suggests they are not particularly interested in "draining the swamp" or in democracy, for that matter. Further, this could be an example of trading short term gain for long term pain. If Republicans use their near-total grip on power in unpopular ways, they could energize the opposition, and pay the price in 2018 or 2020. (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Feb03 Trump Wants to Allow Churches to Engage in Politics
Feb03 Trump Considering How to Let People Ignore Federal Policies on Religious Grounds
Feb03 Republicans Taking Their Time with Sessions
Feb03 GOP Appears to Be Evolving on Obamacare
Feb03 Poll: 47% Think Trump Is Moving Too Fast
Feb03 The Ten Democratic Senators Least Likely to Support a Filibuster against Gorsuch
Feb03 Protests Are Having an Impact
Feb03 Potential Target for the Democrats: Educated Voters
Feb03 Trump Could Cost the Australian Prime Minister His Job
Feb03 Trump and Schwarzenegger in Spat
Feb02 Senate Finance Committee Changes Rules to Thwart Democrats
Feb02 Tillerson Confirmed as Secretary of State
Feb02 Foreign Relations off to a Rocky Start
Feb02 Collins and Murkowski Will Vote against Confirming Betsy DeVos
Feb02 House Republicans Kill Two Obama-era Regulations
Feb02 Biden Endorses Perez for DNC Chair
Feb02 Airline Stocks Lose $5 Billion
Feb02 Trump Celebrates Black History Month
Feb01 Trump Picks Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court
Feb01 Jeff Sessions' Committee Vote Postponed until Today
Feb01 Democrats Boycott Senate Finance Committee Votes on Mnuchin and Price
Feb01 Betsy DeVos Approved by Committee on Party-line Vote
Feb01 Another Campaign Promise Bites the Dust
Feb01 Four States Sue Trump Administration
Feb01 EU President Slams Trump
Feb01 Republicans Plan to Sell Off 3 Million Acres of Public Land
Feb01 Poll: Nation Sharply Divided on Muslim Ban
Feb01 Trump's Voter Fraud Expert Is Registered in Three States
Jan31 It's a Monday Night Massacre
Jan31 Congressional Staffers Helped Write the Muslim Ban
Jan31 Obama Speaks Out Against Immigration Ban
Jan31 Trump Supporters Feel Safer, Probably Aren't
Jan31 Trump Signs New Executive Order to Reduce Regulations
Jan31 Trump Expected to Name Supreme Court Justice Today
Jan31 Could Trump Put the House in Play in 2018?
Jan31 Does Steve Bannon Want a Constitutional Crisis?
Jan31 Does Steve Bannon Have a Fundamental Philosophy?
Jan30 Trump Doubles Down on Muslim Ban
Jan30 Cheney Opposes Muslim Ban
Jan30 Visitors to U.S. May Be Required to Disclose Social Media Accounts, Cell Phone Contacts
Jan30 ACLU Received $19 Million in Donations Since Saturday
Jan30 Senate Democrats Have to Make a Key Decision Very Soon
Jan30 NSC Reorganization Flies Under the Radar
Jan30 Is Steve Bannon the Second Most Powerful Person in the World?
Jan30 Trump is No Andrew Jackson
Jan30 SAG Awards Turn into the Anti-Trump Show
Jan30 He Who Lives By the Twitter...
Jan29 Green-Card Holders Refused Readmission to the U.S.
Jan29 Fallout from Trump's Order Is Swift
Jan29 Jews Speak Out Against Trump