• Trump to China: Keep the Drone
• Congress Could Demand Sanctions against Russia but Trump Could Refuse
• Conway Denies that Trump Had Contact with Russia
• Brazile Contradicts Obama, Says Russia Kept Hacking Until the Very End
• Fact-Check Trump's Tweets in Real Time
• Nate Silver: If Comey Had Kept Quiet, Clinton Would Have Won
• Comedian Says He Has Unreleased "Apprentice" Footage
This is the day we have all been waiting for, some people with glee, some with trepidation. Today, the 538 presidential electors will meet in their respective state capitals (and D.C.) and cast their electoral votes for president and vice president. Normally, the electors vote for the person who won their state, but there have been numerous campaigns this year to get electors to defect. Historically, there have been "faithless" electors, but never enough to change the outcome of an election. That is very unlikely today as well.
If 37 of the electors who are supposed to vote for Donald Trump vote for anyone else, then he will fall short of the required 270 electoral votes. In that case, the new House of Representatives would choose the president in January, with each state having one vote. This procedure has happened twice, in 1800 and again in 1824. In that (unlikely) eventuality, they would only be able to choose from the top three finishers. So, the question of exactly whom the defectors vote for (Gov. John Kasich of Ohio? Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin? Mitt Romney?) would matter a lot.
On Jan. 6, 2017, the House and Senate will meet in the House chamber to count the electoral votes. The president of the Senate, Joe Biden, will then announce the results and ask if anyone has an objection. If no one does, Donald Trump will be declared the 45th president. If someone objects, there will be a discussion about the matter and ultimately a vote if need be.
While Trump won the Electoral College 306 to 232, Clinton won the popular vote by over 2.8 million votes. However, 52% of Republicans think that Trump won the popular vote.
Some Democrats have asked Hillary Clinton's electors to vote for someone other than Clinton; for example, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) or Vice President Biden. While that wouldn't change the election results, it might make people angry with the Electoral College and generate a public discussion about abolishing it. One way would be by constitutional amendment, but that is very unlikely. An easier route is via the National Popular Vote Compact. It states with 270 combined electoral votes all agree to cast all their electoral votes for the winner of the national popular vote, regardless of how their state voted, then de facto, the Electoral College becomes irrelevant. So far, 10 states with a total of 165 electoral votes have signed on. If states with another 105 electoral votes sign up, then the Electoral College will theoretically go the way of the dodo. (V)
Last week, the Chinese navy seized a U.S. Navy drone in the South China Sea. The U.S. Navy says that the drone is made to collect data on such things as water temperature and salinity. The Chinese argue that the United States has no business conducting operations of any sort in the area, one of the world's hotspots (although the spot where the drone was taken was slightly outside the territory that China claims as theirs). While they have offered to return the drone, they've also threatened to seize any others that are deployed.
On Saturday, Donald Trump decided to wade into the middle of the situation, disregarding the general custom that presidents-elect wait until their inauguration to weigh in on political questions. He took to Twitter, as is his habit, and declared, "We should tell China that we don't want the drone they stole back.- let them keep it!" He also declared the situation to be "unpresidented," a rather egregious misspelling of "unprecedented" that has inspired much mirth among Democrats.
Needless to say, Trump's preferred approach is not very diplomatic; it is the equivalent of making an obscene gesture in the general direction of Beijing. And the fact that The Donald expressed his views via Twitter at 5:57 in the morning certainly does nothing to undermine suspicions that he will conduct his foreign policy on an ad hoc basis, primarily in response to whatever emotions he happens to be feeling at the moment. With that said, let us see if we can try to discern any method to his madness. Presumably, the Chinese have already taken the drone apart to learn as much as they can learn; there's also a good chance that they have made some China-friendly adaptations of some sort. So, the navy may not be able to use the device any more anyhow, while the harm to the U.S., intelligence-wise, has largely already been done. Meanwhile, taking a provocative stance allows Trump to communicate to both the Chinese and to his base that it will no longer be "business as usual."
The problem is that Trump's approach carries some significant risks. To start, while it's probably true that the Chinese have already taken the drone apart, allowing them to keep it will give them the opportunity to strip the device down to its very gears, aiding them even further in their intelligence-gathering. Beyond that, the President-elect is playing his cards here as if he believes the Chinese are bluffing. But what if they are not bluffing? What if, next time, they grab two drones? Or three, or five, or ten? Or maybe an entire ship? Or they find some other way to poke Uncle Sam? By all indications, Trump cares more about saving face than any person to occupy the Oval Office since maybe Theodore Roosevelt. Will he be able to turn the other cheek when necessary, or will he continue to escalate things until we've passed the point of no return? We can only hope that, when he gets out his Android at 5:57 a.m., he's thinking carefully about the chances he's taking (Z)
Pressure is growing in Congress for sanctions against Russia for interfering with the election. Yesterday, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) called for increasing the sanctions that were imposed on Russia after it annexed the Crimea in 2014. Many in Congress are also upset with Russia's support for Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. Congress could vote for more sanctions, but a big question mark is whether incoming President Trump would implement them. His chosen candidate for secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, opposes sanctions, so no matter what Congress wants, sanctions might not be increased. On the other hand, picking a fight with Congress so early in his term may not bode well for Trump's legislative program, so he has to consider that as well. (V)
Donald Trump's campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, said yesterday that the campaign was not involved with the Russian hacking of the election. She said that allegations that the campaign knew about the hacking undermine democracy. She added: "It does seem to be a political response at this point because it seems like the president is under pressure from Team Hillary, who can't accept the election results."
She also said that Obama could have retaliated months ago, if he was concerned about the integrity of the election. Actually, that comment is true but misleading. If Obama had retaliated in a serious way, the Russians might have upped the ante and it is not clear where it would have stopped. The problem with retaliation is that it has to be something that hurts Putin but does not lead to a potential war. (V)
As a Democrat, it behooves Barack Obama to argue that his party did not lose the election so much as the Russians stole it. As president, however, it does not serve him well to appear weak-willed and passive in the face of Russian malfeasance. So, he split the difference and declared that while the Russians did interfere, he eventually told them to "cut it out," and they obeyed.
Donna Brazile, as acting chair of the DNC, has no such dual purpose. And on Sunday, she declared in no uncertain terms that the President is incorrect: "They came after us absolutely every day until the end of the election. They tried to hack into our system repeatedly." At the same time, she had even harsher words for the President-elect: "Donald Trump used this information in ways to also sow division. I was very disappointed in his repeated usage some of the stolen information. He used it as if he received daily talking points."
What it all adds up to is that we have far more questions about the Russians' meddling than we do answers. And so, though Donald Trump and Kelly Conway might feel otherwise (see above), a major investigation (or several) is all but unavoidable at this point. (Z)
Donald Trump is trying his very best to do an end-run around the media, communicating with the people directly via Twitter and other social media platforms, and avoiding press conferences like the plague. The media, for their part, are not going down without a fight. As we noted last week, the New York Times has beefed up its Washington team. And now the Washington Post has created a Google Chrome plug-in that gives users real-time context and fact-checking of Trump's tweets, provided by the Post's staff. For example, on November 27, Trump tweeted that:
In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally
Users who have the plug-in installed now see this note appended:
Trump didn't win in a landslide in any sense -- but more importantly there is absolutely no evidence that there were a significant number of votes cast illegally, much less 'millions' of them. Brought to you by The Washington Post.
It's a fairly creative response to the (apparent) new era of journalism that the Post finds itself in. The people who would benefit most from the fact-checking are not too likely to actually install the extension, of course, but it's better than sitting idly by and doing nothing. (Z)
Election guru Nate Silver has data showing that the late-breaking vote went strongly against Hillary Clinton, especially in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. He said that if the election had been held on Oct. 27, the day before FBI Director James Comey announced that he had found more of Clinton's emails, Clinton would certainly have won. In his view, while there were many things that could have changed the outcome, the proximate cause of Clinton's defeat was Comey, not Putin. This concurs with a previously-published analysis by Princeton's Sam Wang. (V)
Tom Arnold, probably best known for his roles on the TV show "Roseanne" and in the movie True Lies, appeared on a Seattle radio station on Friday to promote a weekend performance. And during the interview, he dropped something of a bombshell, telling host Dori Monson:
I have the outtakes to 'The Apprentice' where [Donald Trump] says every bad thing ever, every offensive, racist thing ever. I have that ... hundreds of people have seen these. It was sort of a Christmas video they put together. He wasn't going to be President of the United States. It was him sitting in that chair saying the N-word, saying the C-word, calling his son a retard, just being so mean to his own children...
The tone and tenor of Arnold's remarks, not to mention their content, make what he says very believable. But if hundreds of people have seen the video, how come it hasn't seen the light of day? The comedian explains that the three people who put the collection together—two editors and an associate producer—signed non-disclosure agreements that carry a $5 million penalty. Their guilt would be plain, and the publication of the footage would mean the betrayal of their boss Mark Burnett, the end of their careers, and bankruptcy for the trio.
The real question, assuming the footage really does exist, is whether it will remain hidden. On one hand, if it didn't leak out during the campaign, maybe it never will. On the other hand, perhaps someone who has it will eventually decide that these people have already violated their NDA, and that they deserve whatever fate befalls them. Or maybe a wealthy Democratic donor or a gossipmonger (TMZ?) will pony up the money to cover the fines. That shoe could fall at any time, or it may never fall at all. (Z)Email a link to a friend or share:
---The Votemaster and Zenger
Dec18 Ghosts of Administrations Past Coalescing Behind Tillerson
Dec18 Trump May Not Take Action Against Russian Hackers
Dec18 Trump Reveals Some Details of His Plan for His Businesses
Dec18 Trump Grill Gets Fried
Dec18 North Carolina GOP Smacks New Governor
Dec18 Montana House Seat in Temporary Limbo
Dec17 Trump Would Have Crushed Sanders
Dec17 Trump Tries to Calm His Supporters
Dec17 Clinton Said that She Was Beaten by Putin and Comey
Dec17 FBI Agrees with CIA that Russia Helped Trump Win
Dec17 No Briefing for Electors
Dec17 Trump Has Assembled a Team of Bosses
Dec17 Perez Throws His Hat into the Ring
Dec17 Americans Have No Idea How Many Muslims Live in the U.S.
Dec16 Democrats and Republicans Differ on How to Investigate the Russian Hacking
Dec16 Trump Thanks Black Voters for Not Voting
Dec16 Graham Explains How Tillerson Can Get His Vote
Dec16 Trump Cabinet a Wee Bit Top-Heavy
Dec16 Trump Picks Hardliner for Israel Ambassadorship
Dec16 Whither the Democrats?
Dec16 Could 2017 Be Worse than 2016?
Dec16 Net Neutrality in Jeopardy
Dec16 Bill Gates: Trump Could Be Like JFK
Dec15 Romney Gets the Job after All
Dec15 Fiorina Being Considered for Intelligence Director
Dec15 What Went Wrong in Michigan for Clinton
Dec15 Bolton May Be Harder to Confirm than Tillerson
Dec15 D.C. Hotel Turning Into a Headache for Trump
Dec15 Another Day, Another Conflict of Interest
Dec15 Russians Also Intervened in House Races
Dec15 Twitter CEO Not Invited to Tech Summit
Dec15 Gates, Rice and Baker Have Ties to Exxon and Russia
Dec15 Culture Wars Meet Star Wars
Dec14 Trump Picks Perry to Lead the Er, Uh, Whatever Department.
Dec14 Zinke Tapped for Interior
Dec14 McCain Could Be a Real Problem for Trump
Dec14 Why Tillerson?
Dec14 Tillerson Undermined U.S. Foreign Policy in 2011
Dec14 Manchin Will Stay in the Senate
Dec14 Roger Stone: Trump Interviewed Romney Just to Torture Him
Dec14 Trump Humiliates Ryan
Dec14 Fed May Block Trump's Promised Economic Boom
Dec14 Clinton's Popular Vote Lead Approaches 3 Million
Dec13 Trump Wins Wisconsin
Dec13 Electors' Lawsuit Fails
Dec13 Trump's Conflicts of Interest May Already Be Showing in Turkey
Dec13 Trump Postpones News Conference
Dec13 Senate Committee to Investigate Russian Influence on the Election
Dec13 A Battle Is Brewing in the Senate over Tillerson