Dem 49
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GOP 51
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New polls:  
Dem pickups vs. 2012: (None)
GOP pickups vs. 2012: (None)

Comey Memos Released

Several members of the House (Robert Goodlatte, R-VA, Devin Nunes, R-CA, and Trey Gowdy, R-SC) were apparently interested in helping Donald Trump out, given the beating he's taking from James Comey's book tour. To that end, they demanded and got copies of the memos that James Comey wrote about Trump from the Justice Department. Shortly thereafter, the memos were conveniently "leaked" to all of the major media outlets, while at the same time Donald Trump took to Twitter to (once again) proclaim his innocence:


Since Trump never reads anything, there is little chance he has read the memos. Clearly, this was all carefully coordinated, probably by someone in the White House who was, until recently, a member of the House. Mike Pompeo, perhaps?

One does not need to read the memos to know that they do not disprove collusion or obstruction, since no memos could possibly do that. Particularly memos written by a guy who is traveling the country right now warning what a danger Trump is. Meanwhile, if one does read the memos, one is left to wonder how on earth anyone could think that releasing them was a good thing for Trump. As Jack Quinn, a former counsel to President Bill Clinton, put it, "Honestly, I am aghast that they thought this was going to be helpful to the President...I can't get over the fact that they made this calculation. I am sure the President is not going to be sitting up tonight writing thank you letters to them."

Why are the memos unhelpful? Well, to start, they are very, very detailed. They add to Comey's credibility, because that kind of detail would be nearly impossible (and kind of strange) to fake. For example, this passage:

At about this point, he asked me to compare AG Holder and AG Lynch. I said I thought AG Holder was smarter and more sophisticated and smoother than AG Lynch, who I added is a good person. He said Holder and President Obama were quite close. I replied that they were and it illustrated, in my view, a mistake Presidents make over and over again: Because they reason for a President come from Justice, they try to bring Justice close, which paradoxically makes things worse because an independent DOJ and FBI are better for a president and the country. I listed off John Mitchell, Ed Meese, and Al Gonzales as examples of this mistake, and he added Bobby Kennedy.

Even Stephen King couldn't come up with a fiction that believable.

Not only do the memos generally affirm the truthfulness of Comey's version of events, they also provide some details that are none-too-helpful for the President. Like, for example, that Trump was clearly warned about Michael Flynn. That he was obsessed with the Steele dossier and the size of his inauguration crowd. And that he has discussed the high quality of Russian prostitutes with Vladimir Putin.

In the end, the memos aren't going to affect too many opinions on Russiagate. People who continue to believe that Trump did nothing wrong will stick with that, and people who think he sold the U.S. up the river will stick with that. The main thing that this story reveals is that Team Trump is getting a little desperate, and that there don't appear to be too many bullets left in the chamber. (Z)

Trump Finally Has a New Lawyer

Donald Trump has had enormous problems finding a defense lawyer. Half a dozen top prospects have said no already. Big law firms that tend to recruit from Ivy League law schools want nothing to do with Trump, lest it dry up their supply of new associates. But The Donald has finally managed to snag a famous lawyer: Rudy Giuliani. Giuliani was a prominent supporter of Trump during the campaign.

Giuliani comes with a couple of footnotes, though. First, before he was mayor of New York, he was a prosecutor, not a defense attorney, and even that experience endded 29 years ago. Whether he can help defend Trump is an open question. Second, unlike Trump, who has had three marriages but only two divorces, Giuliani is now on his third divorce since current wife Judith threw in the towel 2 weeks ago. The two are battling over assets, which could prove to be a bit of a distraction.

Fortunately for Trump, he has also lined up two other lawyers: Jane Serene Raskin and Marty Raskin, a married couple who have their own Florida-based law firm that handles criminal defense cases. Marty was formerly an assistant U.S. attorney in New Jersey. Jane was formerly counsel to the assistant attorney general.

The Raskins bring actual courtroom experience to Trump's team as they have defended public officials before in court. Of course, Trump is not likely to end up in court just now, so their detailed knowledge of the rules of evidence and courtroom procedure may not be of much use. What is also odd is that Trump chose lawyers from South Florida rather than from D.C. or New York, but it may be that he couldn't find any in those places. (V)

Trade War Continues to Develop

China has decided that the United States is unfairly subsidizing American sorghum farmers, and so is allowing them to sell the cereal grain at prices that undercut Chinese sorghum farmers. Consequently, the Chinese government announced this week that it will be slapping a 179% tariff on American sorghum, effective immediately.

Why would they have chosen that particular commodity? Hmmm. China is the number one importer of American sorghum, so it's certainly a market where the Chinese government can have an impact. Meanwhile, here's a list of the 10 states that produce the most sorghum each year: Kansas (281 million bushels), Texas (149 million), Arkansas (43 million), Nebraska (23 million), Colorado (22 million), Oklahoma (21 million), South Dakota (18 million), Missouri (13 million), Mississippi (9 million), and Louisiana (6 million). That list has nine states that Donald Trump won, and five Senate seats that may be in play this year. The Chinese are no fools. Meanwhile, the new tariffs are already having an impact; a half a dozen ships carrying more than $250 million in sorghum to China turned around when the tariffs were announced. Your move, Mr. President. (Z)

Trump Says He's Willing to Walk Out on Kim

When it comes to North Korea, Donald Trump has created a nearly impossible situation for himself. Given how much he's talked about going, and that the administration made a big show of "leaking" Mike Pompeo's secret trip there, there's no turning back. However, there's little chance Trump will get Kim Jong-Un to give up his nukes, and an even smaller chance that he can do so without giving up some juicy concessions of the sort that he slammed Barack Obama for giving out. In view of this, Trump's remarks to reporters on Thursday hardly come as a surprise. He told the press corps that he's looking forward to his North Korea trip, but that, "If the meeting, when I'm there, is not fruitful, I will respectfully leave the meeting."

Needless to say, nobody believes that when a president embarks on a diplomatic trip, he must either conclude a deal or die in the effort. Of course Trump will leave if no progress is being made. Obama would have, too, as would both Bushes, Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, and every other president. There is no need for Trump to state the obvious unless he's laying the groundwork for dramatically quitting his meeting with Kim. That might be the best outcome Trump can salvage from the situation—he doesn't give anything to the North Korean leader, and he can come home and tell his base that he's a "no nonsense" negotiator willing to "get tough" with dictators. Of course, Kim might not take kindly to being used as a prop like that. (Z)

Democrats Are Getting Involved in the West Virginia Senatorial Primary

The Republicans are having a very nasty three-way senatorial primary in West Virginia, the winner of which will have the right to challenge Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) in one of the reddest states in the country. The national Republicans have set up a shell super PAC to pay for ads attacking candidate Don Blankenship, a coal baron who ignored mine safety violations for years, resulting in an explosion that killed 29 miners. The Republicans desperately want to defeat him.

Now the Democrats are getting into the act in order to hurt Blankenship's opponents and thus indirectly help Blankenship. Meddling in your opponent's primary is a hoary tradition and even has a name. The Democrats are spending $380,000 so far to air commercials, one of which attacks one of Blankenship's opponents, Rep. Evan Jenkins (R-WV). The ad points out that as former head of the West Virginia State Medical Association, Jenkins pushed doctors to use an insurance company that overcharged, which benefited his organization. He is being depicted as part of the swamp, with the implication that multimillionaire Blankenship would help drain it.

The Democrats are also going after the third Republican in the race, West Virginia AG Patrick Morrisey, by calling him a carpetbagging New York millionaire and lobbyist who has no idea what challenges West Virginians face. From the Democrats' perspective, taking Jenkins and Morrisey down a peg is useful even if one of them wins, since it tarnishes their images. The primary is May 8. (V)

House Democrats Are Raising More Money Than House Republicans

In 43 key races for House seats, the Democrats have raised more money than their Republican opponents in Q1 2018. This is another sign that most of the energy is with the Democrats now. Some of the Republicans who have been outraised are among the most vulnerable ones, including Reps. Dana Rohrabacher (CA), Jason Lewis (MN), and Rod Blum (IA). But some Republicans who were expecting to glide to victory are also being outraised.

On the other hand, it is much too early for Democrats to break out the champagne. In many races there are multiple Democrats running in contested primaries and they will have to spend a lot of their newfound loot on beating other Democrats. After the primary is over, the winner may have a much smaller bank account than now. Incumbent Republicans generally don't have to spend money on primaries.

A second problem for the Democrats is that the RNC is planning to raise and spend $250 million on House races, thus helping out members who haven't got enough in the bank. Furthermore, the Congressional Leadership Fund is planning to raise and spend another $100 million. In short, while the Democrats are winning at the grass-roots level, when you throw in what the Republican megadonors are pitching in, the GOP may have the advantage.

Or maybe not. There have been many memos circulating to donors that are basically saying: "The House is lost. Spend your money saving the Senate." If the donors take that to heart, they may decide to stiff House candidates and throw buckets on money at candidates challenging incumbent Democratic senators running in red states. However, there are limits to that strategy. Many of the key Senate races are in cheap, low-population states. Big donors could shower Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) with $10 million in his battle to unseat Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), but there are only five real media markets in North Dakota (Fargo, Bismarck, Grand Forks, Minot, and Williston) and they are very small. The biggest city in the state is Fargo, with 119,000 people. Williston has only 27,000. To spend $10 million, Cramer would have to get all the stations to preempt all regular programming and just run his commercial all day. That might tick some people off. As the election season progresses, party committees and donors are going to have to make some tough decisions about allocating funds. (V)

Independent Candidate Shakes Up Illinois Governor's Race

Illinois state senator Sam McCann (R) has launched a bid for governor of Illinois. McCann is very conservative and wil certainly siphon votes away from embattled Gov. Bruce Rauner (R-IL), probably sealing his fate. Rauner is a billionaire, so under normal circumstances he could handle the intruder by sucking up all the airwaves. The only problem here is that the Democrat, J.B. Pritzker, is an even richer billionaire who is not going to let that happen. Most likely, the GOP will have to write this one off as a lost cause. (V)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Apr19 McConnell Won't Bring Up Legislation to Protect Mueller
Apr19 Schneiderman Is Asking for a Change in the Law So He Can Prosecute Pardonees
Apr19 Cohen Might Not Take a Bullet for Trump
Apr19 Democrats Get Good News in Senate Races
Apr19 Republicans Are Trying to Save McCain's Seat
Apr19 McDougal Is Free to Tell Her Story
Apr19 Melania Trump to Attend Bush Funeral
Apr18 Pompeo Met with Kim
Apr18 Nikki Haley Isn't Jeff Sessions
Apr18 Republicans Book the First $48 Million Worth of Ads for House Races
Apr18 Joe Crowley Would Like to Be Speaker of the House
Apr18 Charlie Dent Will Retire from the House
Apr18 More Trouble for Greitens
Apr18 What Would Francisco Do?
Apr18 What Would Francis Do?
Apr18 Barbara Bush Dead at 92
Apr17 Cohen, Hannity Have a Bad Day in Court
Apr17 Tensions Rise in House Due to Ryan's Refusal to Step Down Immediately
Apr17 More Trouble for Pruitt
Apr17 Joe Biden: Yoo Hoo, I'm Still Here and Maybe I'm Running in 2020
Apr17 Republicans Are Gaining in Generic House Poll
Apr17 Democrats May Flip House Seats in New Jersey
Apr17 Another Top Lawyer Turns Down Trump
Apr16 Comey Unloads on Trump
Apr16 RNC Will Spend $250 Million to Keep the House Majority
Apr16 Secret Super PAC Attacks Blankenship in West Virginia Senate Primary
Apr16 Trump's Approval Is Back Up
Apr16 Trump's Fundraising Is Going Well
Apr16 Pence's NSA Pick Withdraws
Apr16 Cohen's "Fixing" Appears to Be a Family Affair, Especially for Family Affairs
Apr16 What Could the Democrats Do If They Decided to Play Dirty in the Future?
Apr15 Syria: The Aftermath
Apr15 Comey Thought Clinton Was Going to Win
Apr15 Consumer Protection Bureau Not Doing Any Protecting
Apr15 Cohen: I've Never Been to Prague
Apr15 A House Divided
Apr15 A Young Wave Is Building
Apr15 Gas Prices Headed Up
Apr14 U.S. Bombs Syria
Apr14 Trump Calls Comey An "Untruthful Slime Ball"
Apr14 The Feds Have Tapes
Apr14 The Walls Are Closing in on Cohen
Apr14 Justice Dept. Inspector General Lowers the Boom on McCabe
Apr14 Freedom Caucus Founder Jim Jordan Fires a Warning Shot at McCarthy
Apr14 Why Did Trump Win the Election?
Apr14 Could Texas Help Democrats Flip the House?
Apr13 Pompeo Grilled by Senators
Apr13 About that Trans-Pacific Partnership...
Apr13 Replacing Ryan May Be Complicated
Apr13 House Democrats Have Their Own Leadership Problem