• Electors' Lawsuit Fails
• Trump's Conflicts of Interest May Already Be Showing in Turkey
• Trump Postpones News Conference
• Senate Committee to Investigate Russian Influence on the Election
• A Battle Is Brewing in the Senate over Tillerson
• Democrats Not Ready for Trump's First 100 Days
• Trump to Hang Nixon Letter in Oval Office
• Plotting, Planning, and Scheming Against Trump
• Democrats Rediscover Federalism
• New York Times Gets Out the Big Guns
The Wisconsin recount requested by Jill Stein is now complete. After 3 million ballots were recounted, Donald Trump increased his margin of victory by 162 votes. He thus won the state by over 22,000 votes.
In Pennsylvania, a federal judge rejected Stein's request for a recount. Earlier, a judge stopped the recount in Michigan. Barring a large number of faithless electors, on Dec. 19, Trump will be elected president. (V)
Last week, a pair of Colorado electors filed suit in federal court, seeking to overturn a state law requiring them to vote for Hillary Clinton, the candidate chosen by Colorado voters. Although the plaintiffs are Clinton electors who are happy to vote for her, they wanted to free Trump electors in other states with similar laws to rebel against The Donald.
Now, the longshot plan appears to have failed, as U.S. District Judge Wiley Daniel (a Bill Clinton appointee) rejected the complaint. "Part of me thinks this is really a political stunt to prevent Donald Trump from becoming president," said Wiley, who has a keen grasp of the obvious. The plaintiffs can still file an emergency appeal to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, though time is running short. (Z)
Kurt Eichenwald has been among the biggest thorns in Donald Trump's side throughout the election season. In particular, he has been on top of The Donald's finances, and the various foreign conflicts of interest that they entail. Now, MSNBC's Rachel Maddow is reporting that Eichenwald will publish a bombshell of a story on Tuesday morning, highlighting a Trump-centric mess in Turkey.
First, some background: Trump is in the process of building two Trump Towers in Istanbul, in partnership with the rich and powerful Doğan family. The family used their connections with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to make the project happen, but then found themselves in the midst of a corruption investigation. Erdogan, who is no fan of Trump, has turned against the Doğans, angry that they embarrassed him.
Now, the new revelations: When Trump took his congratulatory phone call from Erdogan, he made a point of telling the Turkish leader how important the Doğans are to him, and how much he wants to see the project go forward. Not long after that phone call, Erdogan ordered the founder of Doğan Holding and one of its highest-ranking executives—both of them singled out by name by Trump during the phone call—to be placed under arrest.
In short, it certainly looks like the Turkish government is trying to put pressure on Trump. To what end? Well, Eichenwald has an answer to that question, as well. Erdogan desperately wants the United States to extradite Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen, whose liberal take on Islam and attacks on Erdogan's corruption have caused him to be ranked high on Turkey's most-wanted-terrorist list. There is no evidence that Gülen is guilty of anything, but he could soon find himself at the mercy of Trump, who would have the power to send him back to Turkey. Gülen better hope that Eichenwald is connecting the dots incorrectly, because a return to Turkey would almost certainly mean a lifetime prison sentence and torture.
If Erdogan gets what he wants, every tin-horn dictator in a country where Trump has a business interest is going to take notice. By threatening Trump's business interests, those dictators will have leverage against the U.S. president, which can be used for various purposes (e.g., give us some nice military equipment). There could be a flood of these coming up. (Z)
Donald Trump dislikes talking about his finances, and he absolutely loathes press conferences. As such, the reporters who were planning to attend Thursday's scheduled press conference, where Trump was going to discuss his plans for eliminating his conflicts of interest, definitely should have treated those plans as tentative. And indeed, the event has been rescheduled to January.
Trump's team, for their part, says that they need more time to figure out all the complexities and nuances of the situation. The reporters, by contrast, think he's just trying to avoid prying eyes. "Trump is blatant in his disrespect for democratic norms and his contempt for transparency," tweeted John Cassidy of The New Yorker. Whatever the case may be, the press conference will now take place after the Electoral College votes, and at least 160 days after The Donald's previous press conference. That is, assuming the press conference ever takes place. (Z)
Yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced that the Senate Intelligence Committee will investigate Russia's suspected interference with the election. This could quickly put Donald Trump at odds with the Senate. McConnell said: "The Russians are not our friends." He then added: "This simply cannot be a partisan issue." McConnell also expressed strong support for the intelligence community, something Trump has not done.
Democrats also want the Russian hacking investigated. John Podesta, Hillary Clinton's campaign chair, has demanded that all the information about Russia's meddling be declassified and released. He said that the administration owes it to the American people to explain what is known about the matter.
In addition to these comments, Podesta is supporting an open letter from 10 members of the Electoral College who are asking for a briefing before they vote on Dec. 19. Nine of the signatories are Democrats and one is a Republican. (V)
If all the leaks are correct and Donald Trump plans to nominate Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson as secretary of state, there will be a battle in the Senate over his confirmation. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) is a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which would hold hearings on Tillerson and vote him up or down, and he said that Tillerson's being a "friend of Vladimir" is not an attribute he especially prizes. If Rubio voted "no," along with the nine Democrats on the committee, that could kill the nomination right there. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell could still bring the nomination to the Senate floor, though that would be a change from normal procedure, and a confirmation would be by no means certain. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) have all expressed misgivings about Tillerson. If two of the three, plus Rubio and all the Democrats, vote "no," then that's 51 thumbs down and Tillerson will be rejected. If the full CIA report about Russia's meddling in the U.S. election comes out before the Senate vote, and it states that Russia almost certainly tried to help Trump win, it could give other senators pause as well. (V)
The Democrats are rudderless and will continue to be so until a new DNC chair is chosen in February. Even then, it will take a while for that person to set up a staff and be ready to refute Trump multiple times a day. Meanwhile, Trump will be just barreling along. He may be able to get through his first 100 days with little consistent and coordinated opposition. The Democrats' power vacuum leaves them woefully unprepared to fight back against a new president, who traditionally will get at least a short honeymoon.
Individual senators, such as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), will constantly pillory Trump, but none of them speak for the Democratic Party as a whole. Absent a Democratic president, only the head of the DNC can do that, and currently it is far from clear who that person will be. Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) is the front runner, but President Obama is trying to get Secretary of Labor Tom Perez to run for the job. (V)
Quite a few members of the commentariat, including Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein just yesterday. have taken note of the parallels between President-elect Donald Trump and Richard Nixon. These include both men's tendency to bend the truth, their dislike of the press and of the intelligence establishment, their shady finances, and their deep and abiding interest in striking back against their enemies.
Needless to say, these comparisons are not meant to be flattering. And most politicians would work hard to try to counter them, given Nixon's status as a symbol of political corruption, and his ranking as one of the worst presidents in American history. Donald Trump is not most politicians, however. In the 1980s, when Trump was an emerging celebrity and Nixon was an elder statesman, the two men exchanged letters. Nixon's part of the correspondence came in response to a Trump appearance on Phil Donahue's talk show:
I did not see the program, but Mrs. Nixon told me that you were great on the Donahue Show. As you can imagine, she is an expert on politics and she predicts that whenever you decide to run for office you will be a winner!
Trump has already made clear that he will be hanging the letter in a prominent place in his new office. As part of the redecoration, he will also restore the bust of Winston Churchill to a place of honor, presumably relegating Obama's bust of Martin Luther King, Jr. to storage. So, that's two conservative white men known especially for their willingness to use military force. Trump promised change, and he is starting to deliver. (Z)
Whether he wants to or not, Donald Trump is going to be getting quite a few civics lessons in the upcoming months and years, among them some insights into how a federal system of government works. Put another way, there are a lot of people at the state, county, and municipal levels who don't care for The Donald and the choices he has made, and some of them have the power to act on those feelings.
To start, there is the matter of Trump's refusal to release his tax returns pre-election (and maybe not at all). New York State Senator Brad Hoylman has introduced a resolution that would require candidates for president and vice president to release five years' worth of returns at least 50 days prior to the election. Those who did not comply would be removed from the ballot and would be barred from receiving the state's electoral votes. The resolution is likely to sail through the Democratic-controlled legislature. Trump may very well challenge the law in court, assuming he runs for re-election, but he is likely to fail, as the states have wide latitude in setting ballot eligibility requirements.
Meanwhile, it's considerably more of a longshot, but the Washington Post's Catherine Rampell has some ideas for New York City when it comes to Trump's insistence in living part-time at Trump Tower, despite the enormous costs and negative impact for the city. One possibility is to use one of the Donald's favorite weapons—eminent domain—against him, and to force him to sell the building to the city for its market value of roughly $471 million. Alternatively, they could use the same laws that govern crack houses and brothels, and declare that Trump is a "public nuisance," since his presence wrecks traffic patterns and dramatically increases the odds of an act of violence. If the city had the fortitude to try that stunt, they could theoretically seize Trump Tower free of charge. Then, they would have to get ready for the mother of all lawsuits that Trump would file in response.
In any case, we're only a month into the Trump era, and already there's all kinds of pushback. This is only going to get greater if Hillary Clinton's popular vote victory, plus information about Russian interference with the election, plus James Comey's shenanigans, plus any other externalities undermine Trump's legitimacy and persuade his opponents that their actions are not undemocratic and will be rewarded by voters. (Z)
Democrats have long seen "state's rights" as a flimsy excuse for states to pass state laws opposing federal antidiscrimination laws. As suggested above, now the shoe is on the other foot. Blue states and cities are now likely to pass a spate of laws and ordinances to block the effect of federal policy. Some examples.
- Uncooperative federalism. When Congress passes a law or an executive department promulgates a regulation, things don't change on a dime.
Congress depends heavily on the states and cities to enforce the new rules. For example, states have a role in enforcing immigration law
by capturing illegal immigrants and turning then over to the feds. Suppose the states pass laws prohibiting the use of state money (and
personnel) for enforcing certain federal laws. This is already being suggested in California.
- Undermining the Patriot Act. Blue state officials that think the federal government is overreaching by collecting information on
everyone can refuse to collect such information, based on their state constitutions. If the state loses in the resulting Supreme Court
case, it can announce full compliance by creating a bureau to enforce the law it doesn't like—and then hiring three people to staff it.
It is hard to imagine any court telling a state how many people they have to put in which state agency, and the rounds of court cases
will take years.
- Uncooperative cities. So-called sanctuary cities have lots of ways of thwarting federal policy. The federal government's first reaction
will no doubt be to cut off federal funding to pressure them, but the Supreme Court is already on record saying that it is unconstitutional
for the feds to use the threat of cutting off money to state and local officials in order to coerce them. And Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that opinion.
- Spillover. Sometimes what a state does affects other states. When Texas insisted that textbooks discuss creationism, publishers
that didn't want two versions of their biology text put creationism in all their books. When Virginia made it easy to buy a gun, guns
flooded New York City. California, due to its size, has the power to legislate many things that have national implications.
With Democrats firmly in control of the state machinery, they may use this indirect power to the fullest.
In short, expect there to be many battles between the states and the federal government in the coming years and all of them will land in the Supreme Court. It is hard to predict how justices who normally support states' rights will vote on cases where they don't like what the state is doing. (V)
Beyond her dislike of press conferences, Hillary Clinton would have been a known commodity for America's journalists, and covering her would not have been markedly different than covering Barack Obama or George W. Bush or her husband Bill. Donald Trump, by contrast, represents perhaps the greatest challenge to reporters that the American political system has ever produced. There's his preference for secrecy, and his casual relationship with the truth, and, perhaps most importantly, his willingness to use television or Twitter to fight back against those whom he perceives to have wronged him.
Given the challenges that lie ahead, the New York Times has decided to break out some muscle. They have recalled longtime Washington reporter Peter Baker from Jerusalem, just four months after sending him there. His wife Susan Glasser is also a veteran political reporter, and will return to the Washington beat with him. The Times also poached Politico's most prominent reporter, namely Glenn Thrush. These are all people who have stared down many a president and many a press secretary. Clearly, the paper is expecting a highly adversarial four years. Your move, Donald. (Z)Email a link to a friend or share:
---The Votemaster and Zenger
Dec12 Trump Says He Doesn't Believe CIA Report of Putin Helping Him
Dec12 What Would the Democratic Version of Trump's Team Look Like?
Dec12 Five Things We Know about President Trump and Five We Don't Know
Dec12 Bernstein Slams Trump
Dec12 Christie Turned Down Trump's Job Offers
Dec11 NBC: Rex Tillerson Will be Secretary of State
Dec11 Kennedy Wins Louisiana Senate Seat
Dec11 Intelligence Officials Don't Know How to Deal with Trump
Dec11 A Tale of Two Revelations
Dec11 Heitkamp Is Leading Candidate for Secretary of Agriculture
Dec11 Americans Skeptical over Trump's Agenda and Transition
Dec11 Kander Offers Postmortem for Democrats
Dec11 Gingrich Slams Trump
Dec10 Russians Were Trying to Help Trump; Obama Orders Investigation
Dec10 Trump Picks Cathy McMorris-Rodgers for Interior
Dec10 McDaniel Likely to lead RNC
Dec10 McConnell Meets with North Dakota Rep. Kevin Cramer
Dec10 Giuliani Withdraws from Consideration for any Cabinet Post
Dec10 Trump Voters Have Their Own Reality
Dec10 Trump Spent $66 Million on His Campaign, but Earned Almost $15 Million from It
Dec10 Trump Opposes Early Voting
Dec10 Trump Tries to Rein Crowd In
Dec10 Democrats Back Down on Government Shutdown
Dec10 Electors File Lawsuit in Colorado
Dec09 Trump Expected to Name Fast-Food Executive to run the Labor Department
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