• Three More Additions to Cabinet
• Trump Saves 1,000 Jobs, But at What Cost?
• House Democrats Likely to Re-elect Pelosi
• Trump's Going to Have Legal Problems
• President Obama: Michelle's Not Running
President-elect Donald Trump managed to get another bee in his bonnet in the wee hours of Tuesday morning, taking to Twitter to declare that, "Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag—if they do, there must be consequences—perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!" It is unclear what might have happened to move this issue, which was way on the backburner of American politics, to the forefront of Trump's mind. Maybe he was listening to his favorite Marilyn Manson album or was watching the movie The American President for some job tips. In any case, Trump's proposal runs afoul of all manner of legal precedent, along with at least three of the amendments in the Bill of Rights, namely the 1st (free speech), 5th (no withdrawal of citizenship as a punishment), and 8th (no cruel or unusual punishments). Assuming this was a serious proposal (if such a thing is possible on Twitter at 3:55 a.m.), it's a non-starter.
Of greater interest, really, is the dilemma that this tweet (and the thousands of others that are surely coming down the pipeline) creates for the media. As Slate's Dahlia Lithwick observes, by giving attention to what is ultimately a non-story, the press allows Trump to distract the American public from more pressing concerns, like his conflicts of interest or his Cabinet picks. It also grants legitimacy to whatever outrageous statements he may make, and it feeds into his narrative that the media are biased against him.
These things being the case, the argument would seem to be in favor of ignoring late-night Twitter tantrums. But not so fast. The problem is that if lies or problematic assertions go unchallenged, then a seed is planted. A tweet today about undocumented immigrants voting could grow into a Voter ID law tomorrow. As Lithwick puts it, "All of his words matter, and none of us have any notion at this stage which threats are predictors of doom and which are mere burps and farts." Or, as Masha Gessen—an expert on fascism and autocracy—argues, "Believe the autocrat...he means what he says. Whenever you find yourself thinking, or hear others claiming, that he is exaggerating, that is our innate tendency to reach for a rationalization." So, it looks like we're entering into an era where the most important news of the day, more often than not, is going to break on a social media site at 4:00 in the morning. (Z)
Donald Trump's Cabinet continues to take shape, as three more picks came down the pike on Tuesday. For Commerce, as was already reported, it's billionaire corporate raider Wilbur Ross. For Treasury, it's early Trump supporter and hedge fund billionaire Steve Mnuchin And for Transportation, it's former Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao.
Mnuchin is the kind of pick designed to give progressives fits. Beyond being as much of a Wall Street insider as is humanly possible (unless we manage to resurrect Charles Dow and Edward Jones), he's been linked to just about every financial boondoggle of the last decade or so. For example, he's got a few million in his bank account courtesy of one Bernie Madoff. Similarly, he profited handsomely from the housing meltdown of 2008, buying failed subprime lender IndyMac for pennies on the dollar, renaming it OneWest, and then shaking down desperate people with foreclosure threats. Mnuchin netted $3.4 billion from the company when he sold it after six years. These things may just be why Elizabeth Warren slammed the pick, calling Mnuchin, "the Forrest Gump of the financial crisis [who] managed to participate in all the worst practices on Wall Street." So much for draining the swamp.
Meanwhile, the pick of Chao is much more consequential than a Transportation secretary would normally be. First of all, because she will be the point person for Trump's much-ballyhooed plans to invest billions in America's infrastructure. Second, because she is as dialed into Washington as it gets, thanks to her lengthy service in George W. Bush's cabinet, her time as director of the Peace Corps, and, oh yeah, her marriage to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). Chao is an odd duck in some ways—she reportedly had gold coins with her face made while she was Labor Secretary, and she pays someone to carry her purse for her—but she will undoubtedly be a major bridge between the Trump administration and Congress. Indeed, it is easy to imagine a situation where Reince Priebus handles Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and the House for Trump, and Chao handles her husband and the Senate. Plus, as an Asian-American, she allows Trump to claim that his Cabinet—otherwise made up almost entirely of white men—is "diverse." In any event, she's a pretty customary kind of selection, and one that won't raise 1/100th the eyebrows that the Mnuchin pick will. (Z)
Donald Trump has scored one of the first big successes of his presidency: Air conditioning giant Carrier had announced plans to move 2,100 jobs to Mexico, but the President-elect has persuaded them to keep 1,000 of those jobs in Indiana. Trump and Vice-President-elect Mike Pence will hold a photo op on Thursday where they will formally announce the deal.
It's a nice gesture, but it's worth noting that 1,000 jobs is a relative drop in the bucket, given that the U.S. economy adds 150,000 jobs even in a relatively slow month. Beyond that, the devil is—as they say—in the details, which are in short supply. Relocating those 1,000 "saved" jobs was reportedly going to save Carrier $65 million per year; a corporation does not swallow that kind of money just because a president-elect makes a phone call or two. CNBC is reporting that Trump and the state of Indiana have offered "inducements," which sounds very much like some sort of corporate welfare. If the government is going to be effectively paying the salaries of those workers, then no actual problem has been solved. Meanwhile, as many observers have noted, the deal could set a troublesome precedent: Threaten to move jobs to Mexico, get money from the government. And, as you may have heard, major corporations are pretty good at figuring out these kinds of opportunities to grab some free money. (Z)
Following the beating the Party received on November 8, House Democrats are angry, nervous, and anxious to shake things up. This led to a development that would have been all-but-unthinkable two or four years ago: a challenge to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's (CA) leadership, courtesy of Rep. Tim Ryan (OH). The House Democratic caucus will hold its leadership elections today, and by all indications, the Ryan challenge has not gained traction. So, Pelosi is likely to keep her job for an eighth term.
With that said, Pelosi was compelled to grant a few concessions to her colleagues, like giving them more input into the leadership of the DCCC. So, she's already showing cracks in the armor that weren't there in the past. Further, she's 76, which is getting up there, even by Congressional standards (longtime dean of the House John Dingell, for example, finally stood down at the age of 88). Most importantly, the current challenge to Pelosi's leadership coalesced rather quickly and haphazardly, following the election debacle. With a year or two to plan and network, Ryan (or some other member) will be able to mount a much more potent campaign. So, odds are pretty good that the new term that Pelosi gets today will also be her swan song. (Z)
There is no question that, at some point, Donald Trump's business dealings are going to end up in court. All that we're waiting to learn is when, where, and on what cause of action. Legal experts have been working overtime to try and anticipate the answers these questions; there are two new notions getting particular attention this week.
The first of these is a legal theory called "competitor standing." It's a bit of an amorphous doctrine, but what it essentially boils down to is that a litigant can take their financial competitors to court if those entities have an unfair competitive advantage, and can ask the court to remedy the situation. It's the same basic legal theory on which anti-trust regulation rests. Thus far, competitor standing has primarily been used to file suits against...undocumented immigrants, by such anti-immigrant types as Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach and Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. However, if one of Donald Trump's competitors (say, the owner of a luxury hotel) could prove that Trump is gaining unfair advantage from occupying the White House, they could file suit under the same theory. If the suit is successful, a court might—for example—compel the sale of an asset. Such an outcome is only hypothetical at this point, however, and is very far off, in any case.
Not so far off, on the other hand, is a rather more specific problem. It is well known by now that Trump recently opened a luxury hotel in Washington. Law professor Steven Schooner has examined the contract that Trump signed with the federal government's General Services Administration (GSA), and he sees a big problem: It says that, "no elected official of the United States government shall be party to, share in, or benefit from the contract." This is a commonsense provision meant to avoid exactly the kinds of conflicts of interest that Trump will bring with him to the presidency. And while it is true that he is not subject to most federal law governing such conflicts, a contract is a contract. Schooner says the GSA should cancel Trump's lease before he is inaugurated; given the language in the document, they may have no choice. (Z)
Quite a few hopeful types on the left have been keeping their fingers crossed that somehow, some way, Michelle Obama might be persuaded to make a White House run in 2020. She's popular, she's charismatic, she gives great speeches, and who else is more likely to re-capture Barack Obama's successful coalition than his wife? The First Lady has pooh-poohed such talk in no uncertain terms, and now the President has weighed in as well, declaring that, "Michelle will never run for office." He says that she dislikes partisanship, feels she's done her part, and now has other interests that she wants to pursue.
This seems to be pretty definitive, which means that Democrats should probably start looking for another savior to come to the rescue. On the other hand, there are still Bernie Bros. clinging to the notion that the Electoral College will come to its senses on December 19 and anoint the Vermont Senator as the 45th president. So, hope—even the deluded kind—springs eternal. (Z)Email a link to a friend or share:
---The Votemaster and Zenger
Nov29 Trump Picks Tom Price for HHS
Nov29 Petraeus for Secretary of State?
Nov29 Trump Has Changed His Views on Various Issues Since the the Election
Nov29 Trump May Not Be Able to Deport Undocumented Criminals
Nov29 The Difficulties in Draining the Swamp
Nov29 Trump May Have a Problem When a Chinese Bank's Lease Expires
Nov29 AP Issues Guidelines for Reporters about the term Alt-Right
Nov28 Senate Republicans Are Hesitant to Abolish the Filibuster
Nov28 The Media Are Starting to Be Honest; Trump, Not So Much
Nov28 Trump Intends to Take a Hard Line with Cuba
Nov28 Arizona and Georgia Democrats Are Nervous About Direction of the Party
Nov28 Maine Switches to Instant-Runoff Voting
Nov28 Democrats' 2020 Field Is Taking Shape
Nov28 Don't Want to Do Business with Trump? There's an App for That
Nov27 Trump Calls Recount Effort a Scam
Nov27 Trump Calls Castro a Brutal Dictator
Nov27 Trump's Conflicts of Interest Have Already Emerged
Nov27 Flynn Has Some Serious Baggage
Nov27 Falwell, Jr. Declined Cabinet Appointment
Nov27 Kirsten Gillibrand Is Already Exploring a 2020 Run
Nov27 The Reviews Are in on Trump's Ornament
Nov26 Fidel Castro Dead at 90
Nov26 Trump Will Soon Get the Nuke 101 Tutorial
Nov26 The Presidency as a Profit Center
Nov26 Christian Leaders Now Expect Trump to Deliver
Nov26 Democrats May Get a Chance to Rebuild in the Next Two Years
Nov26 Four Sites to Break Out of the Liberal Bubble
Nov26 New Mexico Business Tells Trump Supporters to Get Lost
Nov25 Russian Propaganda Machine Was Indeed Behind Fake News
Nov25 Kris Kobach Is Favored to Head Dept. of Homeland Security
Nov25 Trump Has Attended Only Two Intelligence Briefings
Nov25 Stein Raises Enough Money for a Recount in Wisconsin
Nov25 Trump's Cabinet Likely to Be the Wealthiest Ever
Nov25 Trump Supporters Furious About Romney
Nov25 Get an Early Start on Your Christmas Shopping
Nov25 Can the Democrats Win the White Working Class Without Destroying Themselves?
Nov25 North Carolina Gubernatorial Race Gets Increasingly Bizarre
Nov24 Trump Picks Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education
Nov24 Ross, Carson May Soon Join Cabinet
Nov24 Obama May Prefer Perez as DNC Chairman
Nov24 Clinton's Lead in the Popular Vote Passes the Two-Million Vote Mark
Nov24 Jill Stein Wants a Recount in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania
Nov24 Trump Delivers Thanksgiving Message
Nov24 Trump to Accept Corporate Donations for Inauguration
Nov23 Trump Says the President Can't Have a Conflict of Interest
Nov23 Court Strikes Back Against Gerrymandering
Nov23 Democratic Electors Might Sabotage the Electoral College
Nov23 Clinton Pushed to Challenge Election Results
Nov23 Democrats Are Not the Minority