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Trump Tears into Civil Rights Icon John Lewis

After Rep. John Lewis (R-GA) denounced President-elect Trump as not being a "legitimate president" (on account of Vladimir Putin's interference in the election), Trump tore into Lewis, saying:

Congressman John Lewis should spend more time on fixing and helping his district, which is in horrible shape and falling apart (not to mention crime infested) rather than falsely complaining about the election results. All talk, talk, talk—no action or results. Sad.

The tweet from Trump came yesterday, as the nation is preparing to celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday. Lewis was a close ally of King, and was brutally beaten in Selma, Ala., in 1965, while marching for civil rights with King. Many Democrats tweeted support for Lewis, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA). (V)

GOP Congressman Slams Trump Tweet

Sean Spicer, Reince Priebus, Kellyanne Conway and other members of Team Trump can spin the president's tweeting behavior until they're blue in the face, telling us that it's refreshing, and honest, and a great way to communicate with "the people" and circumvent the "biased media." The truth, however, is that Trump's use of the medium as his primary means of communication is beneath the dignity of his office, and the problem becomes more acute when he fires off ill-considered policy pronouncements or personal attacks.

There is no doubt that the majority of the Republican establishment feels this way, inasmuch as they are largely traditionalists who value decorum, order, and longstanding conventions of political etiquette. On Saturday, one of them—Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI)—finally got fed up, retweeting Trump's remarks about John Lewis, then adding: "Dude, just stop." Amash, unlike Trump, recognizes that feuding with a civil rights icon is not usually a winning strategy. Still, his pleas will fall on deaf ears. Clearly, if there was anyone able to stop The Donald from tweeting (Ivanka, Priebus, Jared Kushner), they would have already handled the matter. The only real question is how vocal other Republicans will be in their criticism, as their frustration grows. (Z)

FBI Sat on Russia-Trump Information for Months

When it was revealed last week that the Russians may have compromising information on Donald Trump, the FBI said that they have not been able to verify or disprove the claims made by retired MI-6 agent Christopher Steele. Now, thanks to an interview Steele conducted with The Independent (UK), we know a bit more about why the agency doesn't have any answers yet: They ignored the matter until very recently.

Steele, who is regarded as one of the world's foremost experts when it comes to spying on Russia, began his own investigations back in June of last year, under the employ of anti-Trump Republicans, and then of the Clinton campaign. As the pile of evidence he was collecting grew and grew, he tried to bring it to the attention of the FBI in September, and then again several times in October, November, and December. He was ignored or rebuffed on each occasion. After the election was over, he was working on the matter without payment, and may well have thrown in the towel out of frustration, had his name not come to the attention of Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). McCain, disturbed about what he was hearing through an intermediary, arranged to receive a copy of Steele's dossier and then personally delivered it to FBI Director James Comey.

At best, given the enthusiasm with which Comey and his colleagues investigated Hillary Clinton's e-mail and shared regular updates on any new laptops that may have been discovered, this is a very bad look for the department. At worst, it suggests serious incompetence, corruption, or both. Given that the DOJ's internal review board has already launched an investigation into the whole matter, Comey is going to be spending some time on the hot seat in the near future. He may weather it, but the odds are looking better and better that he doesn't make it to 2018. Or even March of 2017. Democrats should be careful about wishing that Comey is fired, though, because then Trump gets to name his successor. (Z)

Some Democratic Members of Congress Will Boycott Trump's Inauguration

About a dozen Democratic lawmakers (so far) have said they will boycott the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump on Friday. Traditionally, all sitting members of the Senate and House attend presidential inaugurations if they are able to do so. They see the peaceful transfer of power as a key element of democracy. This year, however, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) and others are intentionally boycotting the inauguration due to statements the president-elect made on the campaign trail, such as banning Muslims from entering the country. Besides Lee, representatives. Nydia Velazquez (D-NY), Luis Guitierrez (D-IL), Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ), Jared Huffman (D-CA), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Kurt Schrader (D-OR), Katherine Clark (D-MA), and José Serrano (D-NY) also aren't coming. Most of them gave a reason, such as Clark's tweet that she didn't want to normalize Trump's promotion of "bigoted, Misogynist, anti-Semitic, and racist claims" by attending his inauguration. (V)

Holder Outlines Democratic Plans for the Voting Wars

After the inauguration of the new president, soon-to-be-former President Obama and former Attorney General Eric Holder are going to start working on a project to help Democrats in 2018 and 2020. The strategy that Holder outlined yesterday has three prongs:

  • Focusing on key elections
  • Providing legal resources to mount challenges to voter ID laws
  • Supporting initiatives to change the way congressional and state legislature districts are drawn

The first prong involves putting far more focus on elections for state legislatures, especially potentially winnable districts. Many Democrats show up about a year before a presidential election, work their hearts out in the primaries, and if their candidate doesn't win, go off and sulk. Republicans understand that you have to work 4 years out of every 4 year cycle, and state elections are extremely important. Democrats don't understand this. Holder wants to change this.

The second prong is about the legal attack on restrictive laws that make it harder to vote. Democrats have won a number of victories in courts on this front of late, but these could all be erased when they get to the Supreme Court. However, in some cases, the state supreme courts may have the final say, and not all of these are dominated by conservatives.

The third prong is to push for nonpartisan commissions to draw the boundaries of state legislative districts and congressional districts. One way to do this is to get the voters to approve an initiative taking the mapmaking power away from the state legislature and giving it to an independent panel of some kind, although who picks the panel members is crucial, of course. One way is to have an even number of members, half Republicans and half Democrats, so neither side can gerrymander in its favor. Another way is to stock the panel with retired judges. Nowadays, computer software can also be used to draw compact districts and honest maps that look only at geography and not at demographics.

One thing the Obama administration could easily have done and didn't, is to order the Social Security Administration to develop a tamperproof Social Security card with a picture on it that could be used as a voter ID card in states that have such a requirement. People could apply for the card at post offices and other government offices at least from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday. This would foil Republican attempts to make voter ID cards hard to get, since people could then use federal picture ID instead of state picture ID to vote. (V)

Trump TV May Happen after All

During the campaign, some people speculated that after Donald Trump lost he would start a TV network to compete with Fox News. As it turned out, he found a different job, so he won't be running Trump TV any time soon. However, nature abhors a vacuum, so someone else is filling that slot. A man named Joe Searles filmed every Trump rally during the campaign and put the videos on YouTube. Now his formerly one-man company, Right Side Broadcasting Network, has 14 full-time employees and is opening an office in D.C. The content will be all Trump-related all the time. Trump is well aware of RSBN and has helped it along, giving it prime space at his rallies, for example. One thing the company doesn't have (yet) is much money. Its current sources of income are YouTube ads and donations, but if Trump takes a fancy to a network that is all about him all the time, money might suddenly appear to allow RSBN to grow into a serious operation/propaganda arm. (V)

Sessions Losing Red State Democrats

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) doesn't need any Democratic votes to be confirmed as Attorney General. However, he and the administration would like some, so as to give his appointment a (thin) veneer of bipartisan support. Consequently, there has been much pressure on Democrats from red states who are facing reelection in 2018 to give their support to the Senator. At least three of them—Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (ND), Claire McCaskill (MO), and Jon Tester (MT)—have now come out and said they are leaning towards a "no" vote.

The specific concern that all three have expressed is Sessions' vote against the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Given the constituencies they represent (very white), it's not terribly surprising that they are highlighting this issue as opposed to Sessions' civil rights record. And their concerns may be real, or this may just be a way of sticking with the blue team, while also having a plausible excuse for the voters back home. In any case, if Sessions does get approved, it looks like it will be by the thinnest of margins, and with only GOP support. Which matters, it would seem, or the Republicans wouldn't have twisted the arms of Heitkamp, et al. Meanwhile, it's possible that a few Republicans might latch onto VAWA as well (say, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska). And if that happens, Sessions could find himself dead in the water, since he's not voting, and so has a margin of error of only two senators. (Z)

Peter Thiel For Governor?

The success of Donald Trump has quite a few billionaires thinking that they may just have a career in politics ahead of them. That includes Silicon Valley tycoon and Team Trump member Peter Thiel, who is growing increasingly vocal about a possible run for governor of California in 2018.

If Thiel is serious, he should really think about saving himself time and aggravation by just taking $100 million and throwing it in the fireplace. Though Californians do elect Republicans to the governor's mansion sometimes, the only one to pull it off in this century is Arnold Schwarzenegger, whose advantages over Thiel include vastly wider name recognition and being able to sneak into office during a recall election. In addition, California loathes Donald Trump—it's the only state Hillary Clinton won where she improved on Barack Obama's results—and would welcome the opportunity to deal a rebuke of sorts to The Donald. The citizens of the Golden State are also none too fond of rich folks who seem to be running for office on a lark, and to be using their money as substitute for actual experience; Thiel might talk to fellow Silicon Valley Republicans Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina for more on this point. The upshot is that the odds of him succeeding Jerry Brown (D) are very, very slim. (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Jan14 Trump's Cabinet Is Not on the Same Page as Trump
Jan14 What Will Trump Do? We Should Know February 6
Jan14 Senate Committee Will Investigate Russian Interference
Jan14 Inauguration Day Will Be Tense in D.C.
Jan14 Mexico Will Respond Immediately to a Border Tax
Jan14 Lee May Propose Tariff Bill
Jan14 For Liberal Media, Trump is Good For Business
Jan13 Senate Committee Approves Waiver for Mattis
Jan13 FBI, DOJ to Be Investigated
Jan13 Russia Could Now Focus on Hacking Members of Congress
Jan13 Trump Gets Pushback on Plan to Move Israel Embassy
Jan13 Obama Ends Automatic Residency for Cuban Refugees
Jan13 Both Parties Have Unstable Coalitions
Jan13 Why Trump Can't Let Go
Jan13 Majority of Americans Want Trump to Quit Twitter
Jan13 Bush Daughters Write Letter to Obama Daughters
Jan12 Trump's Presidency Will Be Like No Other
Jan12 Senate Takes First Step Toward Repealing Obamacare
Jan12 Tillerson Evades Senators' Questions
Jan12 Booker and Lewis Testify Against Sessions
Jan12 Chao Sails Through Easily
Jan12 Mattis Aggravates House Democrats
Jan12 Cubs to Visit Obama on Monday
Jan11 Russia May Have Dirt on Trump
Jan11 Sessions Denies Racism Charges
Jan11 Is McConnell Pulling a Fast One?
Jan11 Clinton's Cabinet Shortlist Leaks
Jan11 Trump Wants the ACA to Be Replaced Quickly
Jan11 Trump Meets With RFK, Jr.
Jan11 Obama Bids Farewell, but Is Not Leaving on Jan. 20
Jan11 Majority of Voters Don't Like Trump's Transition
Jan11 Bad News Just Keeps Coming for Crowley
Jan10 Booker to Testify Against Sessions
Jan10 Jared Kushner to Be Named Senior Adviser to the President
Jan10 Kushner: Trump Didn't Really Believe Conspiracy Theories
Jan10 What Can Trump Do on His First Day in Office?
Jan10 McConnell: Trump's Hopes on Russia "Will Be Dashed Pretty Quickly"
Jan10 Anti-Trump Movement Will Operate in California and New York
Jan10 Trump Fires Back at Streep
Jan09 Cabinet Confirmation Hearings Will Start This Week
Jan09 Do As I Say, Not As I Do
Jan09 Unpaid Trump Advisors May Also Have Conflicts of Interest
Jan09 McConnell: Repeal of the ACA Will Begin This Week
Jan09 Toll Roads Are Coming
Jan09 Golden Globes Turns into the Anti-Trump Show
Jan09 Trump to Inaugural Announcer: You're Fired
Jan08 Trump Insiders Dive into the Swamp
Jan08 Trump: Only Stupid People Oppose a Good Relationship with Russia
Jan08 Sessions Not a Civil Rights Activist, After All
Jan08 Cabinet Nominees May Be Confirmed Before Ethics Reviews Are Finished