• Trump Picks Cathy McMorris-Rodgers for Interior
• McDaniel Likely to lead RNC
• McConnell Meets with North Dakota Rep. Kevin Cramer
• Giuliani Withdraws from Consideration for any Cabinet Post
• Trump Spent $66 Million on His Campaign, but Earned Almost $15 Million from It
• Trump Tries to Rein Crowd In
• Democrats Back Down on Government Shutdown
• Electors File Lawsuit in Colorado
It's the worst-kept secret of 2016: Vladimir Putin and his minions were mucking around in America's presidential election. This included aiding Wikileaks, spreading false news, compromising voter databases, and possibly other behaviors. Now we have confirmation of this in the form of a secret CIA report that leaked on Friday. The report makes clear that the Russians' goal was not merely to undermine confidence in America's democratic system; they specifically wanted to elect Donald Trump.
President Obama responded forcefully to the news, ordering a "full review" of the Russians' activities. Recognizing that the matter is likely to be dropped like a hot potato on January 20, the President required the CIA and other intelligence agencies to complete their investigations before he leaves office. All parties involved expressed confidence that, with the aid of a little midnight oil being burned, the deadline was doable.
Donald Trump, for his part, issued a statement denying the CIA's conclusions:
These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. The election ended a long time ago in one of the biggest Electoral College victories in history. It's now time to move on and "Make America Great Again."
As a sidebar, it is not surprising that the Trump campaign is switching the narrative to focus on the Electoral College, given that Hillary Clinton's popular vote margin continues to grow. A shade bit more surprising is their continued willingness to peddle easily disprovable untruths. Trump is projected to take 306 electoral votes, which is just shy of 57%. There have been 56 presidential elections in U.S. history, and the winner has done better in 44 of them. It takes a special kind of chutzpah to claim that being in the 20th percentile counts as "one of the biggest Electoral College victories in history."
As to Team Trump's response to Russia, they really had no choice but to deny Putin's involvement, since anything else would undermine their legitimacy. The problem they have to worry about is what to do when the CIA releases its final report in four or five weeks. In particular, if it is learned that Trump or his lieutenants had any involvement with the Russians and their efforts, that would be big trouble, indeed. In fact, it would be treason, which qualifies as "high crimes and misdemeanors" by any definition of the term. So, there's room for this to turn pretty ugly. (Z)
Donald Trump is expected to name Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) to be the new Secretary of the Interior. McMorris Rodgers is the highest ranking Republican woman in Congress, occupying the #4 position in the House leadership. If she is chosen and confirmed, she would be in charge of a department with 70,000 employees and a budget of $12 billion. It manages federal lands, controls offshore oil drilling, and runs the national parks. One of the issues she will have control of is leasing federal land for oil drilling and coal mining. The Obama administration has opposed that, but Trump doesn't seem to have a consistent position on it. Also on the table is transferring federal land to the states. (V)
By custom, the sitting president gets to pick the person who leads the president's political party. So, Barack Obama chose Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schutz (D-FL), George W. Bush chose Marc Racicot, and so forth. Now, Donald Trump appears to be poised to tap Ronna Romney McDaniel, niece of 2012 presidential nominee Mitt Romney and current chair of the Michigan Republican Party.
The pick may well become official over the weekend, though it has been delayed by the exact kind of internecine squabble that seems likely to be a prominent theme of the Trump administration. Reince Priebus, spokesman for the Republican establishment, has been pushing hard for McDaniel. Vice President-elect Mike Pence and senior strategist Steve Bannon, among others, preferred an outsider—Nick Ayers, a Republican strategist who serves as an aide to Pence. So, this time, it looks like Priebus gets to put one into the victory column. It will be interesting to see if Team Trump—which seems particularly well-stocked with people who have strong opinions and big egos—will be able to hold together through four years of this high-profile "win some, lose some" style of management. (Z)
Yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) met with Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) to discuss the possibility of an open Senate seat. If Donald Trump nominates Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) to his cabinet, either the energy or agriculture departments, that would create a vacancy in the Senate that will be filled by a special election held within three months of the vacancy. As North Dakota's sole representative, Cramer would be the odds on favorite to win the seat. Cramer confirmed the meeting, but wouldn't commit to running for the Senate. If he ran for the job, he would almost certainly win because the Democrats have no bench at all in North Dakota. A Cramer win would increase the Republicans' margin in the Senate to 53 vs. 47 (assuming that they win Tuesday's runoff in Louisiana). (V)
It came out Friday that Rudy Giuliani told Donald Trump last month that he was not interested in serving in the cabinet. He didn't give a specific reason, but did say he enjoys working for his law firm (which pays far better than any government job). It is also possible that Trump had told him he wasn't going to get a plum position, and rather than settle for second best, he decided making more money was a higher priority. (V)
Donald Trump promised to spend $100 million of his own money on his campaign, but ended up putting in only $66 million. And even that isn't the whole story, since he also profited from the campaign when it bought goods and services from his companies. His campaign used his personal aircraft to get him from one event to another, and paid him $9.3 million for use of the planes. His campaign rented space in Trump Tower and paid him $2.1 million for the space. Secret service agents flew on his plane to protect him, but they had to pay air fare to him, which has come to $8.5 million so far. When Trump held events, they were often at facilities that he owned, which resulted in the campaign paying $790,000 to his facilities. Other areas where he made money from the campaign include payroll, lodging, and even bottled water. In all, the campaign bought $14.6 million in goods and services from his companies. And that's before we consider all the free publicity that came from holding events at Trump-branded hotels, golf courses, etc. (V)
For a very long time—certainly, dating back to the early days of the campaign—it has been clear that candidate Trump was writing checks that President Trump could not cash. Promises about the wall, brining back 6 million good-paying jobs, intimidating Iran, getting into a trade war with China, repealing Obamacare on the first day, etc. were impractical at best and impossible at worst. The President-elect has thus spent a fair bit of time walking back some of those promises since Election Day.
On Friday, this process entered a new phase. It marked the first time that Trump faced the voters that elected him in the flesh, and tried to communicate that not all promises would be fulfilled. Appearing at a victory rally in Michigan, Trump was serenaded with chants of "lock her up." He acknowledged the crowd's enthusiasm, but then said, "That plays great before the election—now we don't care, right?" Based on the reaction from those present, it would seem that, in fact, they do still care.
It is hard to predict how Trump's coalition will respond to these kinds of flip-flops. On one hand, partisans tend to be fairly forgiving of those who they elect, generally recognizing that presidents (and other politicians) can't always deliver on their stated promises. On the other hand, while Trump's supporters have been very forgiving of things like blatant falsehoods and patently offensive statements, many of them were clearly voting against "business as usual." If Trump starts to behave like a regular politician—appointing Romneys and other GOP insiders to office, for example, or backing down from his most grandiose promises, or talking out both sides of his mouth—his coalition may be far less tolerant than would generally be the case. (Z)
Speaking of talking out of both sides of your mouth, Senate Democrats threatened to shut down the government on Friday night, in a dispute about coal miners' benefits. Led by coal-miner-loving Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Joe Manchin (D-WV), they wanted the federal government to give the miners a year's worth of insurance, rather than the four months that is currently funded. Playing their game of chicken up until the final minutes, the blue team finally backed down, saying they never really intended to shut the government down in the first place, and were just trying to draw attention to the miners' plight.
For at least two years, and very possibly for four, the primary tools that the Democrats will have at their disposal are the sorts of obstructionist tricks that the Republicans have used very successfully for years. There is no question that these maneuvers are distasteful, particularly to a party that has trouble persuading itself that Machiavelli was right about the ends justifying the means. Will the blue team be able to swallow their objections, and find the backbone to do things they really would prefer not to do? Friday's events suggest, at very least, that they are not there yet. (Z)
Democrats across the country are desperately casting about for ways to derail Donald Trump's inevitable elevation to the presidency. One line of attack is the effort to flip the Electoral College; the so-called "Hamilton" electors are trying to persuade enough electors to desert Trump to throw the election to the House of Representatives. On Friday, two Colorado electors took the battle one step further, filing a suit in federal court to overturn the laws in various states that punish so-called "faithless" electors.
These efforts are not going to succeed—with only one exception (Chris Suprun of Texas), the electors who have threatened to vote faithlessly (including the two in Colorado) are pledged to Hillary Clinton. Unless roughly 40 Trump electors join them, he is going to be elected. However, maybe these individuals can sow the seeds of a long-term change. We remain persuaded that the Electoral College is here to stay, because eliminating it would require a constitutional amendment, which in turn would require a lot of states to vote against their own self-interest (since the current system benefits small states and swing states enormously). If there is going to be a change, however, it will likely unfold in much the same way that the fight for the Seventeenth Amendment did just over a century ago. In that case, so much attention was focused on the undemocratic nature of the system as it was back then (Senators were chosen by state legislatures) that self-interest was pushed aside in favor of a general commitment to democracy and fairness. It took a sustained campaign back then, one which unfolded over five decades and reached a fever pitch between 1900 and 1912. Whether today's reformers can summon that kind of commitment, or if their interest will wane after December 19, remains to be seen. (Z)Email a link to a friend or share:
---The Votemaster and Zenger
Dec09 Why the Republican Health Care Plan is Likely to Fail
Dec09 Democratic Megadonors May Run for Governor
Dec09 Battle Looming over RNC Chairmanship
Dec09 Democrats Are Urging Perez to Run for DNC Chair
Dec09 Donald Trump, Bully-in-Chief
Dec09 Trump to Keep One of His Day Jobs
Dec09 Former Clinton Staffer Launches Anti-Trump Site
Dec09 Who Gets Write-in Votes?
Dec08 Trump Names New Top Appointees
Dec08 Michigan Recount Stopped
Dec08 Ohio Abortion Bill Awaits Kasich's Signature
Dec08 Republicans Still Bitterly Divided about Repealing and Replacing the ACA
Dec08 The Debt Limit Fight Is Back
Dec08 Mayors Push Trump to Keep DACA
Dec08 Majority of Adults Confident Trump Will Put U.S. Interests above Personal Ones
Dec08 Trump Named Person of the Year
Dec07 Trump's Carrier Deal Is Wildly Popular
Dec07 Trump Takes Credit for $50 Billion Investment
Dec07 Trump May Have Sold All His Stocks in June
Dec07 CEOs Delighted With Trump
Dec07 McConnell Says Repealing ACA Will Be First Item on Senate's Agenda in 2017
Dec07 Americans Divided over ACA Repeal
Dec07 Pence Promises Donors that the Administration Will Grant Their Wishes
Dec07 Conway May Run Outside Group to Help Trump Get His Way
Dec07 Trump Is Trying to Mold the Republican Party in His Image
Dec07 Flynn Leaves Trump Team Red-faced
Dec06 Trump Picks Dr. Ben Carson to Be Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
Dec06 53 Organizations Urge Trump to Dump Flynn
Dec06 Trump's 35% Tariff on Products Made by American Companies Abroad is Dead on Arrival
Dec06 Electors Are Pushing for John Kasich
Dec06 Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner Are Moving to D.C.
Dec06 Trump Meets with Gore
Dec06 Michigan Recount Commences
Dec06 Democrats Try to Cajole Heitkamp and Manchin to Stay in the Senate
Dec06 Susan Collins Has Reservations about Repealing the ACA and Medicare
Dec06 Biden Hints at 2020 Run
Dec06 McCrory Concedes in North Carolina Gubernatorial Race
Dec05 Why Did Trump Win, Part VI
Dec05 Mook: Deplorables Was a Mistake
Dec05 Trump Trashes SNL, Again
Dec05 Trump Trashes China, Again
Dec05 Dakota Pipeline to be Rerouted...Probably
Dec05 Trump's Tax Headache
Dec05 How about None of the Above for Secretary of State?
Dec05 Renzi Rebuked, Will Resign
Dec04 China Lodges Formal Complaint
Dec04 David Petraeus to Audition for Secretary of State Today
Dec04 Sarah Palin Attacks Trump
Dec04 Job Destruction is Part of America's Secret Sauce