• U.S. Intelligence Has Conclusive Evidence that the Russians Hacked the DNC
• Dan Coats to Be Director of National Intelligence
• Another Campaign Promise Looks Ready to Bite the Dust
• Everyone Owns a Piece of Trump
• Can Trump Tweet Congress into Submission?
• Cotton Also Wants Obamacare Replacement in Place
• Republicans Want to Rein in Liberal Cities
• Former Congressional Staffers Create Guide for Resisting Trump
In a 1000-page briefing, a bipartisan team of lawyers and others have discovered that as many as 50 of the presidential electors who voted on Dec. 19 may have broken the law.
In some states, state law mandates that each congressional district is entitled to one presidential elector and the elector must live in that district. At least 16 presidential electors lived outside the district they represented, putting them in violation of state law. In addition, many states have laws prohibiting a person from holding two offices at the same time. Presidential electors hold a federal office, however short-lived. Courts have said that they are public officials for purposes of getting reimbursed for travel costs, for example. At least 34 electors hold another office and are thus not eligible to hold the office of elector. Ironically, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, an elector, has issued a number of legal opinions on the subject of holding dual offices.
But there is more. In 23 states, there were not separate votes reported for president and vice president, as required by the 12th Amendment. Only eight of the states that voted for Donald Trump actually followed the procedure set out in the amendment.
The electoral votes will be counted today in a joint session of Congress. After the votes are unsealed and counted and the totals announced, President of the Senate Joe Biden will ask if anyone objects. If at least one House member and one senator object, there will be a debate about what to do. In 2005, Rep. Stephanie Tubbs-Jones (D-OH) and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) objected and congress debated the matter for two hours before accepting the results and giving George W. Bush a second term. (V)
Officials in the U.S. intelligence agencies now have conclusive evidence that the hacking of the DNC was done by the Russians. Julian Assange of Wikileaks has denied that the information came from Russian sources, but intelligence officials say it definitely did, essentially saying that Assange is either misinformed (very unlikely) or lying (probably). The officials didn't want to say how the information got from the Russians to Wikileaks, only saying there was a third-party involved, that they know who the third party is, and that disclosing the identity of that third party could harm intelligence gathering going forward. (V)
Dan Coats, who served in the U.S. Senate from 1989 to 1999 and again from 2011 until 2017, will be named Director of National Intelligence. The DNI oversees intelligence gathering and is supposed to collect information from the government's 16 different intelligence agencies and report it to the president. The DNI is supposed to be the president's main window into the intelligence community, but Trump is thinking of downgrading the position. Coats has to be confirmed by the Senate, and the Democrats are surely going to ask him many questions about whether the Russians interfered with the election, now that the intelligence community says it is certain they did (see above).
The outgoing DNI, James Clapper, is not at all pleased with Trump's remarks about the intelligence community, saying there is a difference between skepticism and disparagement. Clapper strongly defended the view that the Russians were behind the DNC hacking. He also said that Trump's remarks about the intelligence community are making allies very uneasy. Trump will receive a detailed briefing from Clapper, FBI Director James Comey, and CIA Director John Brennan today about Moscow's role in the 2016 presidential race. It could be quite uncomfortable if they tell him that absent Putin's help, he might not have won. (V)
During the presidential campaign, nearly all commentators were skeptical about Donald Trump's promise that he was going to get a wall built along the Mexican border, and they were even more skeptical about his insistence that he was going to make the Mexicans pay for it. Now, it appears that the latter portion of that skepticism was well justified. Sources on Capitol Hill say that Donald Trump's people have been talking to members of Congress about funding the wall through an appropriations bill. Needless to say, the money that Congress spends comes from the coffers of the United States, not of Mexico.
This certainly complicates things when it comes to getting the actual wall built. It won't be cheap, and the budget hawks won't like adding yet another large expenditure to the ledger. Meanwhile, they may not admit it openly for fear of angering social conservatives, but many Republicans don't really want to build a wall, since their corporate benefactors rely heavily on cheap, undocumented labor. And, of course, the Democrats aren't going to vote to finance the project. So, Trump has some pretty big barriers to overcome. Certainly, he will try hard to do so—if he doesn't get the wall built, then it will become a real anchor around his neck, particularly when and if he runs for reelection. The kind of anchor that someone who won by the barest of margins can scarcely afford. (Z)
A lot of attention has been paid to the various buildings, golf courses, and other things that Donald Trump owns. Not so much attention has been paid, however, to the companies that own a piece of Trump—a man who pays for nearly everything in life with someone else's money. Now, The Wall Street Journal has done an analysis, and found that the President-elect is indebted to at least 150 different institutions. That is rather more than the 16 he admitted to on his financial disclosure form.
Needless to say, what Trump owes has as much potential to create conflicts of interest as what he owns. For example, Wells Fargo is being investigated by the Justice Department and the SEC right now for the massive fraud they visited upon their customers, creating millions of unwanted bank accounts in those customers' names. The bank also holds $14 million of Trump's debt. It would not be hard to arrange a quid pro quo, in which the investigation is canceled in exchange for the debt being canceled. Trump would say, "Wells Fargo has already been punished enough," Wells Fargo would say they sold the debt to someone else, and it would be difficult to prove otherwise. (Z)
What we saw this week could be the start of a new era, or it could be a one-time fluke. When House Republicans decided to dismantle the House ethics office, Donald Trump tweeted:
With all that Congress has to work on, do they really have to make the weakening of the Independent Ethics Watchdog, as unfair as it may be, their number one act and priority. Focus on tax reform, healthcare and so many other things of far greater.
Within 24 hours, House Republicans reversed the change and ran off with their tails between their legs.
There were also outcries from many other sources, but the big question is what happens the next time Congress behaves in a way not to Trump's liking and he complains about it in 140 characters (or, if it is really egregious, in 280 characters)? It would be unprecedented for Congress to start taking orders from the White House, even when they are controlled by the same party. Members of Congress normally guard their power jealously and often complain of executive overreach. Now it may be that, in this particular case, Trump's ear for a news story that the Democrats could exploit to the hilt was much better than that of the House members who wanted to abolish the ethics office, so he interfered in House proceedings, but what happens if he does it again in a policy matter? Clearly, sending out tweets telling Congress what to do carries risks for him because Congress can just ignore what he tweets and then he looks weak. And if there is one thing Trump hates, it is looking weak. But it is also possible that he feels he is so popular and so powerful that Congress wouldn't dare cross him. Remember that Trump has never in his whole life had a boss or been accountable to anyone, and has always been used to getting his way all the time. That may not be such good preparation for his new gig. (V)
Yesterday, we noted that Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) refuses to vote to repeal Obamacare until a replacement has been developed, for fear that to do otherwise would crash the insurance market and lead to massive bailouts. This leaves the GOP with a small margin for error; only two other Republican Senators would have to join Paul to scuttle any quick-repeal efforts. On Thursday, one of those two may have announced themselves. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), appearing on MSNBC, said that, "I don't think we can repeal Obamacare and say we'll get the answer two years from now." He did not commit to backing that position with his vote, but it's certainly implied, now that he's gone on the record. And given the number of other Republicans who are saying the same, both on the record and behind closed doors, it's likely that Paul and Cotton are not the only Senators who feel this way.
Meanwhile, complicating things even further is that Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) wants to couple the Obamacare repeal with a bill to strip Planned Parenthood of all federal funding. That has raised the hackles of Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Susan Collins (R-ME), who are both pro-choice, and have signaled that they won't vote for such a bill. If Ryan decouples the Obamacare and Planned Parenthood bills, it will still be difficult to get the latter to pass without the support of those two Senators. It would also make it much easier for Republican senators' opponents to portray them as anti-women, since a Sen. Jeff Flake (to take one example), would not be able to say, "Hey, I was voting against Obamacare, not against Planned Parenthood." In short, then, the quick-repeal approach is looking more and more tenuous by the day.
If the GOP is forced to delay, on the other hand, it opens up several new cans of worms. First of all, they would need to come up with a whiz-bang of a replacement that the Republican members of Congress could agree upon. Given that they haven't pulled this off in six years, there's no good reason to expect they can pull it off in another year or two. Meanwhile, each day that passes brings more coverage and greater awareness of what a world without Obamacare will look like, and the various problems that would entail. Voters, not to mention the guy living at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, might get skittish. The extra time might also allow some of the more troublesome kinks in the system to resolve themselves; for example, it might well prove to be the case that this year's rate hikes were a one-time correction, and not an annual occurrence. The insurance industry—which, remember, likes Obamacare because it brings in tens of millions of new customers—could also rally their forces, particularly when it comes to their 2018 campaign cycle contributions.
Not too long ago, it looked like Obamacare was on life support. Now, we're getting close to the point where it is the Obamacare repeal that will be on life support. Trump is only starting to learn that governing means making difficult choices, with each option having powerful opponents. And he hasn't even started the job yet. He'll learn quicky enough. (Z)
Republicans control the whole show at the national level and in 25 states. What they don't control are the big cities, so that is next on their agenda. Republican state legislatures are working on preemption laws, which limit what cities can do, be it tax sugary sodas or refuse to turn undocumented immigrants over to the feds. In the past, the tobacco industry has managed to get states to prevent cities from implementing smoking bans and the NRA has gotten states to write preemption laws preventing cities from implementing gun-control measures.
With the cities being the only places Democrats largely control, it is not surprising that they are becoming the laboratories for Democratic policies, so the Republican-controlled state legislatures feel they need to nip this in the bud. What is new, however, is the complete reversal of Republican priorities and the party's concept of federalism. Normally, Republicans want as much done as possible as close to the people as possible (that is, at the city, county, and state level), and as little as possible at the federal level. Now, because they control the upper levels of government and not the lower ones, they are arguing strongly against one of their own core principles. (V)
A bipartisan team, made up of former staffers for several different members of Congress, has put together a guide for citizens who want to fight back against Donald Trump. It's entitled "Indivisible: A Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda." The pamphlet is interesting as an expression of anti-Trump sentiment, but it may be even more interesting as an insiders' view of how the government really works, since these former staffers propose to "reveal best practices for making Congress listen."
The document does an excellent job of getting inside the mind of your average member of Congress. For example, the authors emphasize the value of personal contact—at town halls, at ribbon-cuttings and other public functions, at district offices. They say that it is much harder to ignore a constituent (or, better yet, a group of constituents) when they are present in the flesh. They also give a laundry list of the things that members of Congress care about (e. g., constituents from their district/state, local press coverage, requests for specific actions) and things they tend to ignore (e. g., constituents from other districts/states, wonky blog coverage, long laundry lists of issues/complaints). In any case, the entire pamphlet (26 pages) is worth looking over. (Z)Email a link to a friend or share:
---The Votemaster and Zenger
Jan05 Obama Strategizes with Democrats
Jan05 Barack Obama: Another John Quincy Adams?
Jan05 Trump's Tax Policies Would Be a Windfall for Him
Jan05 What Will Trump's Biggest Test Be in 2017?
Jan05 Trump Turns to Assange to Bolster His Case
Jan05 Wall Street Lawyer to Oversee Wall Street
Jan05 Tillerson's Retirement Package: $180,000,000
Jan04 Oops! House Reverses Ethics Decision
Jan04 Trump Blasts Intelligence Agencies
Jan04 Obama to Transfer Gitmo Detainees
Jan04 McConnell Is the Dog that Caught the Car
Jan04 House Adopts Anti-Sit-in Rule
Jan04 Trump Is Already Working on His Second Supreme Court Appointment
Jan04 Bushes, Clintons to Attend Inauguration
Jan04 Schumer Will Be Very Different from Reid as Senate Minority Leader
Jan04 Megyn Kelly Jumps to NBC
Jan03 Pence Will Meet with House Republicans Today
Jan03 House Votes to Gut Office of Congressional Ethics
Jan03 No Hacking Revelations, After All
Jan03 What to Watch about Trade
Jan03 Trump Reportedly Picks Trade Representative
Jan03 Battle Over Sessions Has Begun
Jan03 Obama Will Give His Farewell Address on Jan. 10 in Chicago.
Jan03 Another Secretary Position May Need to Be Filled
Jan02 Trump Says He Will Reveal New Information about the Russian Hacking This Week
Jan02 Trump Likes Schumer Best?
Jan02 Trump Will Keep Tweeting
Jan02 Democrats Will Target Eight Cabinet Nominees
Jan02 Congress Will Start Repealing the Affordable Care Act Tomorrow
Jan02 House, Senate Likely to Butt Heads on Medicare
Jan02 Coal Miners Expect Trump to Deliver
Jan02 Top Wall Street Journal Editor Is Leery of Saying that Trump Lies
Jan01 Be Careful What You Wish For, You Might Get It
Jan01 Vermont Utility Hit By Same Hackers as DNC
Jan01 Trump Pooh-poohs Russian Hacking, Says Computers Can't Be Trusted
Jan01 Trump Just Can't Help Himself
Jan01 The Larger Meaning of the Inaugural Snubs
Jan01 Which Senators Will Throw in the Towel in 2018?
Jan01 How Will Democrats Handle Supreme Court Vacancy?
Dec31 Obama's Final Moves to Stymie Trump
Dec31 Obama Meeting with Congressional Democrats to Strategize on Obamacare
Dec31 McConnell Will Play a Key Role in 2017
Dec31 Trump Praises Putin
Dec31 Trump Planning to Keep Private Security Force
Dec31 Spend New Year's Eve With the Trumps for Under $600
Dec31 Inauguration Planning Keeps Leaving Egg on Trump's Face
Dec31 North Carolina Judge Temporarily Blocks New Republican Laws
Dec30 America Retaliates against Russia
Dec30 Trump May Be Bad News for Israel