• Trump Beats Voter Fraud Drum Again, and Again
• Trump's Good Friend Says Priebus Has to Go
• Conway Knows Exactly What She is Doing
• Impeach Trump!
• Thus Far, the Presidency Has Been Bad for Business
• Former NSA Analyst: Spies Don't Trust Trump
• The New Tea Party?
• Wait, That's Not Donald Trump
One of President Donald Trump's priorities is a wall on the Mexican border. The wall is probably going to cost $12-25 billion, depending on whose estimate one believes. Since Mexico is pretty clear about not paying for it, Congress is going to have to appropriate the funds, at least initially. However, the #2 Republican in the senate, Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) said yesterday: "I think people would say, if you are talking about a physical wall, it would rate very low." The #1 Republican in the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), has never been enthusiastic about the wall either, and many rank-and-file Republican senators are not keen on spending $12-25 billion on anything, let along a wall that will have little effect because most undocumented immigrants enter the U.S. legally and then just stay. If the leadership of the Republican Party in the Senate doesn't see much in a wall, Trump is going to have a lot of trouble getting Congress to sign onto his plan. (V)
Donald Trump just cannot let go of the notion that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote only thanks to millions of fraudulent ballots being cast by undocumented immigrants. He brought it up yet again late last week, in a meeting with several Senators that was supposed to be about Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch. In particular, he declared that he and Kelly Ayotte (now a Trump aide) would have won New Hampshire but for fraudulent votes. Trump's assertion was greeted with an uncomfortable silence, according to witnesses, but this does not seem to have put him off one bit. He dispatched Steve Miller on Sunday morning to repeat the claim, word for word, on "This Week" with George Stephanopoulos. After, Trump tweeted approvingly of Miller's appearance, thanking him for, "representing me this morning on the various Sunday morning shows."
As has been noted, over and over, there is simply no evidence for any of this. Trump and his underlings are simply not in a position to know this information directly, and the people who are in a position to know: state election officials, scholars who study the matter, and courts that consider such cases are unanimous in their conclusions that voter fraud is rare, and that there was no widespread fraud in 2016.
So, what's going on here? Why do Trump and his inner circle keep repeating an obvious falsehood? Here are four theories:
- He's Delusional: If correct, this one is pretty
much self-explanatory. Perhaps Trump (and maybe even his associates) have really
convinced themselves that fraud did take place. If so, then it is not surprising
that evidence to the contrary does not have any impact. Studies have
that when people embrace counterfactual beliefs—dinosaurs co-existed with man,
vaccines cause autism, Justin Bieber is a talented musician—being presented with
information that proves otherwise simply makes them dig their heels in further.
- He's Trying to Justify Voter ID Laws:
Depending on how things go, Trump may need to keep Democratic turnout down as
much as possible in 2018 or 2020. And there's no question that GOP legislatures
across the country are
with various plans to make it harder to vote, plans that invariably weigh
heaviest on Democratic constituencies (people of color, college students, poor
people). However, if Trump really is thinking tactically in this way, one would
expect broader support from Washington Republicans, instead of uncomfortable
- He's Trying to Change the Narrative: Trump seems to return
to the "voter fraud" well at times when coverage of him is most withering. The latest round,
for example, took place in the midst of serious allegations against Mike Flynn, questions about
the administration's Nordstrom-related verbiage, confirmation of certain aspects of the
"Russia has dirt on Trump" story, and more bad days for White House Press Secretary Sean
Spicer. Perhaps the President believes that another "Trump thinks there's voter fraud"
story is so juicy, it will cause the media and the citizenry to forget about the other stuff.
In past weeks, he's been right, but—like the boy who cried "Wolf!"—it doesn't seem
to be working as well any more. A look at any of the major news sites or newspapers reveals
that voter fraud claims are now a 1B or 1C story (or maybe even not front page stuff). Certainly,
they're not 1A now.
- He's Using it as a Loyalty Test: Trump values loyalty, and he could be forcing his underlings to repeat this line as a means of seeing if they will walk the plank for him. Not only might it serve as a useful test, but peddling outright falsehoods will also make the Kellyanne Conways and Sean Spicers of the world unemployable by anyone else. So, their featly is thus doubly affirmed.
These four theories are not mutually exclusive, necessarily, though some of them would not go together all that comfortably. For example, it would be hard for the mental gymnastics required for theory one to coexist with the shrewdness required for theory three. Not impossible, but hard. It's also possible that there's another explanation that is not currently evident. We shall see if we ever learn the truth, though it's worth keeping an eye out to see if voter fraud comes roaring back to life the next time Trump has a really bad week. (Z)
Christopher Ruddy, a longtime friend of President Donald Trump, talked to the president about his chief of staff, Reince Priebus, and then went public with what he told Trump: Priebus is in over his head and needs to go. Ruddy went on to explain that Priebus is the reason the first three weeks have gone so badly, because he doesn't know how the federal agencies work or how the communications operations work. Ruddy claims that three sitting cabinet members sent him text messages agreeing with him.
Intrigues being what they are in the White House, it is hard to parse this. Priebus, after all, ran the Republican Party for 6 years and is probably as well plugged in as anyone in D.C. In contrast, Steve Bannon and Steve Miller, who seem to be running the show, are complete neophytes and a lot of the problems stem from their ideas. Does Ruddy mean that Priebus should be stopping the Steves and isn't? Or does he mean Priebus is trying to stop them and should be giving them free rein? Was Trump aware that Ruddy was going to throw his chief of staff under the bus? Did he approve it? Is this a graceful way for Trump to get rid of Priebus, for whatever reason? It may be that Priebus has done something wrong that is not known, but the biggest blunder so far has been the ill-advised Muslim travel ban, and that came from the Steves. It is inconceivable that Priebus, an extremely cautious establishment type with close ties to fellow Wisconsinite Speaker Paul Ryan (R), approved the hastily drawn-up executive order. Or maybe the problem is that Priebus hasn't been able to get everyone in the White House to funnel everything through him rather than just going to the president with documents and the instruction: "Please sign here." (V)
Many people have criticized presidential adviser Kellyanne Conway for telling people to go out and buy Ivanka Trump's "stuff" last week, even though that broke the law. But some people think she chose her words carefully. In this view, she doesn't care what journalists think. Her remarks were aimed at one person and one person only: Donald Trump, who prizes loyalty above all else. For Conway, the big prize would be Reince Priebus' job of chief of staff, if and when Priebus' head rolls (see above). She understands, more than most people, that spouting "alternative facts" may make her a laughingstock with the media, but Trump doesn't care what she says as long as she is loyal.
However, she is playing with fire. By dragging Ivanka Trump into an ethics issue, she antagonized the First Daughter, and that could work against her. Also, her tendency to use "alternative facts" has made her less valuable to the networks (except Fox), so her on-air time may be limited in the future. Things are moving so fast at the White House, that we will know fairly soon what changes, if any, are going to be made. (V)
In a moment that everyone saw coming, the first major media outlet—Time—has published an editorial calling for Donald Trump to be impeached. If you put your money on 21 days, you're a winner.
The specific charge, in this particular case, is the obvious one: violation of the Constitution's emoluments clause. The legal scholars writing for the magazine, former judge James C. Nelson and lawyer John Bonifaz, observe that:
The Trump Organization does or has done business in Argentina, Azerbaijan, Bermuda, Brazil, Canada, China, Egypt, Georgia, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Panama, Philippines, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, St. Martin, St. Vincent, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and Uruguay. And, while serving as President, Trump, through his interest in the Trump Organization, will continue to receive monetary and other benefits from these foreign powers and their agents.
They assert that there is simply no way for someone with Trump's particular web of business interests to build a wall between their public and private interests, not that Trump has tried particularly hard.
As a legal matter, Nelson and Bonifaz are probably right. As a practical matter, Trump will not be impeached (or convicted, or removed) until Republicans in Congress decide that he's doing them more harm than good. As Gerald Ford once observed, "An impeachable offense is whatever a majority of the House of Representatives considers it to be." Three weeks in, there's already plenty of material for an impeachment case, the only question is when and if Paul Ryan & Co. decide to use it. (Z)
There is little question that Donald Trump, a man whose business is very much built on the value of his brand, thought the presidency would be great for his bottom line. Thus far, that assessment seems to be in error, as retailers are dropping Trump-branded products in droves. Not only did Nordstrom jump ship last week, but so too did Neiman Marcus and TJ Maxx. And this weekend, Sears and K-Mart joined the list.
In all cases, the official reason for the decision has been poor sales. Dubious, especially since some of the retailers (Sears, for example) offered Trump products only online, where space for inventory is essentially infinite. More probable is that they are responding to pressure from left-leaning customers and organizations, notably grabyourwallet.org. There's probably also some tactical thinking here—better to cut ties now, and suffer whatever the consequences may be, than to be connected at the hip to a president who is already unpopular, and could become truly radioactive (no pun intended).
It's just more evidence that being president and being a high-profile businessman are not really compatible. Not that the family has come to that conclusion yet. This weekend, the adult Trump sons insisted yet again that there would be no problem avoiding conflicts of interest. Eric Trump gave the example of the family-owned golf course at Turnberry, saying that he would tell his father how great things are, but that he would never reveal if there was a tax issue.
It's hard to know if the Trump sons are being dishonest, or just obtuse. Even if they are being entirely forthright, and really believe what they are saying, then they are failing to acknowledge at least two major problems. The first is that there is no transparency—the Trumps and their father are asking the American public to take them at their word that they did not coordinate government and private business activities during their private conversations. Given that this family has proven to be truth-challenged, over and over, and given that they've already coordinated government and private business activities, over and over, asking the public to just trust them is a bit much. The second is that whatever the Trumps themselves think, believe, or do, they do not control the actions and thought processes of their business partners. If the Trump sons negotiate a good price on rent in Turkey, or favorable conditions for a golf course in China, or the like, they cannot know what the root cause was. Their shrewd negotiating skills? Maybe. An attempt by foreigners to curry favor with the President? Maybe. There's no way for the Trumps to be sure. Which means that as long as they insist in being in the worlds of both politics and business, they might as well save their breath when it comes to denying that the two worlds are—or could ever possibly be—entirely separate. (Z)
Donald Trump's constant dissing of the intelligence agencies is beginning to have an effect—and not in a good way. John Schindler, a former NSA analyst, has written a damning piece clearly indicating that his contacts in the intelligence community are most unhappy with how things have gone in the first three weeks of the Trump administration. To start with, they find it very troubling that the head of the National Security Agency, Mike Flynn, discussed lifting the sanctions on Russia with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. and then lied about it to Vice President Mike Pence and everyone else. Schindler also confirms that at least some of the information in the 35-page report former British spy Christopher Steele wrote about how Russia has compromising information about Trump is true.
Worst of all, though, is that the intelligence community is scared witless about how little the president cares about the President's daily briefing and how much the White House leaks. The spy agencies are beginning to think: "Why give the president critical secret information if he just ignores it and it is likely to leak out?" The idea of the NSA, which provides most of the information, holding back information from the president because it doesn't trust him is unprecedented and potentially harmful to the country if the president then makes decisions without knowing the facts. Schindler ends by saying that sooner or later there will be an international crisis and "the White House will need the best intelligence possible to prevent war, possibly even nuclear war. It may not get the information it needs in that hour of crisis, and for that it has nobody to blame but itself." (V)
Donald Trump has many liberals angry, and they are taking their anger to the streets, with protests, and face-to-face pressure imposed upon members of Congress, and the like. This weekend saw yet another diastrous town hall for a GOP Representative, as Gus Bilirakis (FL) found himself with more irritated Democrats than he could handle as he tried to defend the choice to repeal Obamacare. GOP official Bill Akins tried to come to Bilirakis' defense, making a wholly non-factual point about "death panels," and was promptly shouted down.
The parallels to the tea party are obvious and are, as CNN's Doug Criss observes, not coincidental. Protesters are being influenced by the online handbook Indivisible, which was put together by anti-Trump former Congressional staffers, who spent years watching the tea party in action.
There is no doubt that the tea party's means were effective, which they themselves proved, and which the liberal activists are proving now. In both cases, there's been lots of disruptiveness, and lots of headlines. The more important question, however, is the ends, which is where the tea party largely foundered. They tried to get far right true believers elected to office, and for every success (Dave Brat) there were two or three high-profile failures (Sharron Angle, Todd Akin, Christine O'Donnell, etc.) If today's anti-Trump liberals back equivalent far-left-wing candidates, then they could run into the same problem. On the other hand, if they channel their energy into electing center-left Democrats to Congress in order to stymie Trump's agenda, then the new tea party (or whatever name it eventually acquires) could truly be a force to be reckoned with. (Z)
America's new president is the talk of the world, and so stories about him—and pictures of him—are appearing in newspapers across the globe. That includes the Dominican Republic's El Nacional, which ran a story this weekend about Donald Trump's relationship with Benjamin Netanyahu, accompanied by images of both men. Just one problem, however. The picture of Trump was not The Donald at all; it was Alec Baldwin impersonating Trump.
One of us (Z) worked at a newspaper for many years, and mistakes certainly happen. Baldwin's impersonation of Trump is very good, and it's plausible they could be mistaken for each other, particularly by citizens of another country. On the other hand, given how photos are generally acquired (from a wire service database), this is a pretty unusual mistake. The newspaper's editors are insisting the mixup was unintentional, and have apologized, but maybe this was some Trump-trolling, international style? Only a few staffers of El Nacional know for sure. (Z)Email a link to a friend or share:
---The Votemaster and Zenger
Feb12 Trump Vetoes Tillerson's Choice for Deputy
Feb12 Steve Miller Is Almost as Powerful as Steve Bannon
Feb12 New White House Press Secretary?
Feb12 Trump Says He Will Negotiate the Price of the Border Wall Way Down
Feb12 The Obamacare Purge Is Underway
Feb11 Trump Caves to China
Feb11 Flynn Looks to Be in Hot Water
Feb11 Russia May Hand Snowden over to Trump
Feb11 Some Details of Trump Dossier Confirmed
Feb11 See You in Court
Feb11 Trump Administration Won't Take Ban to SCOTUS Right Now...Or Maybe They Will
Feb11 What Might TrumpCare Look Like?
Feb11 DeVos off to a Rough Start
Feb10 Ninth Circuit Court Deals Setback to Trump
Feb10 Price Approved as HHS Secretary
Feb10 Trump Talks to Xi
Feb10 Former Director of National Intelligence Opposes Travel Ban
Feb10 Trump Attacks Blumenthal over Judge's Remarks
Feb10 Conway Violated Ethics Law When Telling People to Buy Ivanka's Stuff
Feb10 Chaffetz Faces Tough Crowd at Town Hall
Feb10 Results of 2018 Election Could Depend on Trump's Approval Rating
Feb10 Judge James Robart Is in the News
Feb09 Trump Attacks Nordstrom for Dropping Ivanka's Clothing Line
Feb09 Gorsuch Says Trump's Attacks on Judiciary Are "Demoralizing"
Feb09 Senate Confirms Sessions
Feb09 Puzder: At One Time, 40% of My Employees Were Undocumented Immigrants
Feb09 An Early Look Inside the Trump White House
Feb09 Is Spicer in Trouble?
Feb09 Evangelical Leaders Slam Travel Ban
Feb09 Bobby Kennedy's Son Will Run for Governor of Illinois
Feb08 Pence Breaks Tie to Confirm DeVos
Feb08 Things Get Snippy in the Senate
Feb08 Judges Hear Travel Ban Injunction Arguments
Feb08 House Committee Votes to Kill Agency that Protects Voting Machines from Hacking
Feb08 Trump Lies About Murder Rates
Feb08 Breitbart News Is More Popular than Many Mainstream News Outlets
Feb08 Congress Has the Power to Demand and Release Trump's Tax Returns
Feb07 Democratic Politicians Are Listening to Their Furious Base
Feb07 Democrats Talked All Night To Stop DeVos
Feb07 All Protests, All The Time
Feb07 Price Could Eviscerate the ACA as Early as This Week
Feb07 Puzder Employed Undocumented Worker
Feb07 Author of "Torture is OK" Memos Thinks Trump Has Exceeded His Authority
Feb07 Conway Did Not Misspeak
Feb07 Politics Will Only Get Worse
Feb07 Taxpayers Pay Nearly $100,000 for Eric Trump's Business Trip
Feb06 The Senate Is Completely Broken
Feb06 Republicans Denounce Trump for Defending Putin
Feb06 McConnell: Congress Won't Get Involved with Trump Travel Ban