• President Trump Would Cost the U.S. $1 Trillion
• Both Candidates' Health Still Partially Shrouded in Mystery
• Melania Trump's Immigration History Still Shrouded in Mystery, Too
• New York Times Wants to Unseal Trump's Divorce File
• Springfield Ohio, A Town with No Hope
• Clinton to Return to the Campaign Trail Today
• RNC Was Hacked...or Not
• Today's Presidential Polls
• Today's Senate Polls
Newsweek's Kurt Eichenwald has undertaken an extensive investigation of Donald Trump's financial interests—not an easy task, given their complexity, along with the secrecy that Trump is afforded because his company is not publicly traded. Eichenwald's conclusion is that the Republican nominee has his fingers in pies all across the globe, and in a manner that will be very difficult to separate from his responsibilities as president if he were to be elected.
Thus far, of course, it is Hillary Clinton that has come under scrutiny for being "for sale" to foreign interests. And a comparison between the charitable Clinton Foundation and the for-profit Trump Organization is instructive. Donations to the Foundation are publicly disclosed, in accordance with American law. Further, regardless of what Clinton's enemies might say or imply, there is no "payola" aspect to the donations. The money—90% of it, which is very efficient for a charitable organization—goes to the Clinton Foundation's projects, while none goes into the pockets of the Clinton family. Given existing transparency laws, along with the number of prying eyes that would love to catch the Clintons up to no good, it could hardly be otherwise. With the Trump Organization, by contrast, there is no transparency whatsoever. Trump is famously secretive (see returns, tax) and has no duty to report the details of his dealings. Meanwhile, the profits—by definition—flow directly into his pocket.
Now, to understand the conflict of interests that Eichenwald documents, it is first necessary to understand Trump's business model. Though he is best known as a real estate developer, he has essentially gotten out of that line of work. The last project that he personally built is the Trump-SoHo hotel and condominiums, completed nearly a decade ago. Since his "Apprentice" days (and the concurrent growth of his fame), Trump's primary business has been licensing his name, largely to real estate developers in foreign countries. This means that he has dealings with massive foreign corporations, high-powered families, and government officials around the globe. Eichenwald describes half a dozen examples in detail and notes at least a dozen others; here are a few examples:
- South Korea: Trump's biggest partner in South
Korea is Daewoo Engineering and Construction, which helped build the Trump World
Tower in New York, and also built a Trump-branded Korean version in Seoul,
paying The Donald $8 million a year for the use of his name. During his campaign
this year, Trump has declared repeatedly that the South Korean government will
need to take on more of the costs of defending itself and developing weapons. If
South Korea does increase defense spending, a fair bit of the money would
certainly flow to the nation's top defense contractor: Daewoo Engineering and
- India: There are several major Trump-branded
projects underway in India, most notably the Trump Tower Mumbai and the Trump
Tower Pune. Both of these buildings have been delayed by regulatory issues, and
there is now a corruption investigation centering on the Pune project.
Consequently, Trump has developed relationships with several of India's most
prominent political parties and leaders. If he becomes president, his handling of America's
relationship with Pakistan (India's foremost enemy) or with India itself could
come into play, thanks to his various projects in the country. Even if there is
no quid pro quo (which would be hard to prove one way or another), Indian
leaders could interpret increased aid to Pakistan/decreased aid to India as a
sign that they better grease the skids for Trump Tower Mumbai, or they had better
drop the Pune investigation. Increased aid to India/decreased aid to Pakistan
could be interpreted the same basic way: "If you want me to keep scratching your
back, you better scratch mine."
- Turkey: Here, the project in question
is—surprise!—Trump Tower Istanbul (actually, two Trump Towers in
Istanbul). The Donald's partner in this venture is the rich and powerful Dogan
family, who used their connections with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan
to make the project happen. However, as with the Trump Tower Pune, there is now a
corruption investigation underway. The Dogans are out of favor, and Erdogan is
embarrassed by having been linked to the project. He reportedly loathes Trump,
in part because of Trump Tower Istanbul, and in part because of Trump's anti-Muslim
rhetoric. Turkey is one of America's most important allies in the Middle East,
and Trump would begin his presidency in a tenuous position. Further, as with the
Indian government, he has business concerns that are not necessarily in harmony with the
United States' security concerns. As Eichenwald puts is, "When faced with the
prospect of losing the millions of dollars that flow into the Trump Organization
each year from that Istanbul property, what position would President Trump take
on the important issues involving Turkish-American relations, including that
country's role in the fight against ISIS?"
- Russia and Ukraine: The Trump Organization sees Russia and Ukraine as ripe with opportunities for profit. Its primary partner in this part of the world is Vladimir Potanin, a billionaire oligarch who served as host of Russian version of "The Apprentice" (with Trump executive producing). Potanin is very close with Vladimir Putin, and has leveraged that connection to purchase state-controlled land and property at bargain prices. Needless to say, the stronger (and happier) Putin is, the more that Potanin and his partners (like Donald Trump) flourish. Further, the more of Ukraine that Russia controls, the easier it is for Potanin and his partners (like Donald Trump) to expand there.
There is no easy way to resolve these conflicts of interest. Trump has vaguely spoken of putting his assets in a blind trust, a standard maneuver that allows wealthy presidents (and other politicians) to create a wall between themselves and their asserts. But a blind trust only works with things like stocks and bonds, which can be bought and sold by the trustee, such that the owner is truly unclear as to what he or she owns. That clearly won't fly in this situation; as long as Trump's name is on a building, he is going to know where his interests lie. Further, even if his business interests are "on hold" during his presidency, they could still benefit from his presidential actions once they are no longer "on hold." This could be true even if Trump is scrupulously honest; all it takes is for foreign leaders to think that they need to take care of his business needs. The only viable option is the nuclear one (not literally): Trump and his entire family would have to disavow his business forever. Hence, Eichenwald's sobering conclusion:
Never before has an American candidate for president had so many financial ties with American allies and enemies, and never before has a business posed such a threat to the United States. If Donald Trump wins this election and his company is not immediately shut down or forever severed from the Trump family, the foreign policy of the United States of America could well be for sale.
Of course, the odds that the Trumps would actually do that are zero. Which means that, if he is elected, we'll be heading into a brave new world of foreign policy. (Z)
If Newsweek's exposé were not enough, Donald Trump also got some unwanted scrutiny from the other side of the pond on Wednesday. In advance of a major speech on economic policy, to be delivered by the Republican nominee at the Economic Club of New York, the British firm Oxford Economics released their analysis of Trump's already-existing economic proposals. Their conclusion: President Trump would be an economic disaster for America and for the world.
The price tag that Oxford Economics puts on Trump's plans is a nice, round $1 trillion. This loss would also be accompanied by the loss of 4 million jobs, a significant decrease in consumer spending, a major increase in the cost of goods, trade wars with other nations, and a worldwide economic recession. Ironically, the worst-hit sector would likely be industrial workers, who form the foundation of the Trump coalition. Though Trump's economic advisers reject the possibility of a downturn, Oxford Economics' conclusions jibe with those of other studies, including one from the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School (Trump's alma mater), and one from Moody's economist Mark Zandi. Political scientists generally think of the presidency as being six distinct jobs: Commander-in-Chief, Chief Executive, Chief Legislator, Head of State, Chief Diplomat, and Manager of the Economy. If Wednesday's reports are to be believed, Donald Trump is going to have a very hard time being successful at the latter two. (Z)
In response to increasing pressure to reveal his medical history and condition, Donald Trump had a physical last week conducted by Dr. Harold Bornstein, the same doctor who took five minutes to write an earlier note summarizing Trump's medical condition by saying that the 70-year-old would be the healthiest president ever. Trump will appear on Dr. Mehmet Oz's television program today, and will respond to a carefully-edited subset of the results. The segment was taped Wednesday, in front of an audience, so we already have a fairly complete list of what viewers will learn if they tune in on Thursday:
- Trump is 6'3" and weights either 236 or 267 pounds (audience members'
recollections differed on this point). Whatever he actually weighs, Trump
regards himself as being a little heavy, and would like to lose 15-20 pounds.
- Trump uses statins to keep his cholesterol levels in check.
- Trump's only form of exercise is golf, and he rarely gets to play these
- Trump loves fast food, which is not going to help in the weight loss or cholesterol departments. When he gets fast food, he has an aide order it and pick it up. Those aides are under strict orders not to use Trump's name, for fear that the food may be tampered with.
In short, we learned virtually nothing new. Well, unless you're a fast food worker; now you know to be a little suspicious of any orders for "Tonald Drump." Dr. Oz has thus enabled Trump to claim transparency without actually being transparent at all.
That said, Trump is not doing noticeably worse than his opponent on the health transparency front. Following her near-faint on Sunday, followed by the revelation that she has pneumonia, Hillary Clinton promised to release more information about her health. She made good on that promise Wednesday, but in as limited a manner as is possible. The "new" information is a letter from Dr. Lisa Bardack, Clinton's personal physician. In the letter, Bardack specifies she has examined Clinton four times this month, that her pneumonia (which is minor) is centered in her right middle-lobe, and that, "The remainder of her complete physical exam was normal and she is in excellent mental condition." Bardack wrote almost exactly the same letter, sans the pneumonia portion, a year ago.
So, neither candidate did what was necessary to put this to bed as a campaign issue. There would seem to be two possible explanations for this. The first is that they both fear that some element of their physical condition would get blown all out of proportion. Given the response to Clinton's pneumonia, a fairly pedestrian condition, such fears would seem to be well-founded. The second possibility is that one or both of the candidates really are hiding something serious. This is certainly the less probable explanation; it would be very difficult for them to handle the rigors of a presidential campaign while coping with something serious like cancer, or kidney failure, or Alzheimer's disease. (V & Z)
About a month ago, the New York Post and other publications presented evidence—nude photos reportedly taken in 1995—that they said proved Melania Trump had violated immigration laws by doing modeling work without a visa. She and her husband promised a response, and today they delivered it, in the form of a letter. As with The Donald's physical results, it was a non-answer answer.
The letter was written by immigration attorney Michael Wildes, who presumably spent more than five minutes on the task. In it, he says that Melania actually posed for the nude photos in 1996, when she had an H1-B work visa. He also says that he's looked at all of her modeling jobs and all of her immigration documents, and that charges that she worked illegally, "are not supported by the record and are therefore completely without merit." So, case closed, right?
Not so much, actually. All we have to go on is the word of Wildes, who has worked for the Trump organization in the past, and who presumably knows what side his bread is buttered on. His words may be truthful, but he has far too much motivation to produce an "all clear" letter for us to be certain. It does not help that the account provided by Wildes on Wednesday does not match with the previous account given by Trump herself—they disagree on whether or not she ever visited the United States on a visitor visa (Wildes says no, Trump said she did). Further, it is known for a fact that Melania's website claimed that she had a degree in Architecture and Design from the University of Slovenia—until the university reported that she had no such degree. Then the website was taken down. So, she's fudged the details of her early years before.
Needless to say, all of these issues could be dispelled if Melania Trump would simply release the actual paperwork, as opposed to a letter from someone who says he saw the paperwork. Since there would seem to be little downside to doing so, it certainly suggests very strongly that either Trump does not have the proof she claims, or that the documents tell a different story from the one Wildes is telling. (Z & V)
The New York Times and another publisher have asked the New York Supreme Court to unseal the records of Donald Trump's first divorce. Ivana Trump was granted the divorce in 1992 on the grounds of "cruel and inhuman treatment." The Times is curious about some of the details. No doubt Ivana's sworn deposition that The Donald raped her is one of them. Ivana later said that she had used the word "rape" in a more generalized sense, so it is not surprising that the Times wants to see the original deposition. Judges in New York can unseal divorce records if they feel special circumstances apply. (V)
People who live in prosperous cities on the coasts often cannot comprehend why Donald Trump commands such loyal support from a lot of people. Some of his supporters are no doubt in the basket Hillary Clinton recently mentioned, but there is more to the story. The Christian Science Monitor has a good piece on Springfield, Ohio, which is right at the bottom of the heap. It is tied with Goldboro, NC, as the American city that has fallen the farthest on the economic ladder between 2000 and 2014. The pair have lost more high-income earners and gained more low-income earners (a net of 16%) than any other city in America. The story of Springfield is the story of the hollowing out of the middle class.
Springfield's troubles began in 1956, when the mammoth Crowell-Collier publishing plant closed. Other companies closed or left, too, and by the time that International Harvester, once a giant in the agricultural machinery business, cut many jobs in the 1990s, not much was left. Except for a new museum at Wright-Patterson Air Force base, not much has moved in to fill the void. People's lives have deteriorated. Young people have left—the population is smaller than it was in 1920. Many voters are desperate, and have no faith in either the Democrats or Republicans to help them. Raymond Upshaw, a black man in his late 60s, supports Donald Trump because he doesn't think anything is going to improve until the country hits rock bottom, and he thinks Trump will drive it down faster than anyone else. The article paints a sad picture, but Springfield is not unique. The people there feel abandoned by the politicians, so they think that maybe Trump, for all his faults, is worth a shot. (V)
As a result of her pneumonia, Hillary Clinton has been resting at home since Sunday. She will return to the campaign trail today. While she was absent, her husband stepped in and went to her campaign events in her place. (V)
Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX) receives intelligence briefings as chair of the House Committee on Homeland Security. On Wednesday morning, he dropped a bit of a bombshell, announcing that intelligence officials told him the RNC's network had been compromised by Russian hackers. Then, RNC officials weighed in, saying they most certainly had not been hacked. That caused McCaul to change his story, explaining that, "I misspoke by asserting that the RNC was hacked. What I had intended to say was that in addition to the DNC hack, Republican political operatives have also been hacked."
Hard to say what the truth is, here—it is difficult to see how a mere slip of the tongue could cause "Republican political operatives" to come out as "the Republican National Committee." What is clear, though, is that either version of events presents a mixed bag for the Republican Party. If the RNC really was hacked by Russians, who then release some uncomfortable data, the good news for the GOP is that it would effectively put an end to supposition that the Russians are working to elect Donald Trump. At the same time, it would also be very embarrassing that the RNC had allowed themselves to be compromised, after getting a clear-cut warning in the form of the DNC hack. That would make them look incompetent. Whatever the case may be, we will presumably know within the next 60 days, because if Guccifer 2.0 wants to embarrass the RNC, the truth will eventually leak out. Or, more accurately, it will Wikileak out. (Z)
Donald Trump certainly seems to be gaining ground, and it looks like he'll head into the first debate with "momentum." The first Ohio number is particularly encouraging for him, especially since it comes from one of the best pollsters in the business (Ann Selzer). (Z)
|Florida||44%||47%||6%||Sep 07||Sep 12||Opinion Research|
|Massachusetts||54%||28%||9%||Sep 07||Sep 10||MassINC|
|Nevada||42%||44%||8%||Sep 11||Sep 13||Monmouth U.|
|Ohio||39%||44%||10%||Sep 09||Sep 12||Selzer|
|Ohio||41%||46%||8%||Sep 07||Sep 12||Opinion Research|
|South Carolina||38%||53%||3%||Sep 06||Sep 12||Trafalgar Group|
Barring a surprise, it looks like there won't be an upset in Iowa. Ohio is also nearing "lost cause" status for the Democrats. (Z)
|State||Democrat||D %||Republican||R %||Start||End||Pollster|
|Florida||Patrick Murphy||43%||Marco Rubio*||54%||Sep 07||Sep 12||Opinion Research|
|Iowa||Patty Judge||37%||Chuck Grassley*||50%||Sep 06||Sep 08||RABA Research|
|Nevada||Catherine Cortez-Masto||43%||Joe Heck||46%||Sep 11||Sep 13||Monmouth U.|
|Ohio||Ted Strickland||36%||Rob Portman*||53%||Sep 09||Sep 12||Selzer|
|Ohio||Ted Strickland||37%||Rob Portman*||58%||Sep 07||Sep 12||Opinion Research|
* Denotes incumbent
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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Sep14 About Clinton's Unforced Error
Sep14 Candidates and Aides Get Sick All the Time on the Campaign Trail
Sep14 Supreme Court Refuses to Reinstate Ohio's Golden Week
Sep14 Middle-Class Incomes Grew at a Record Pace in 2015
Sep14 Trump Unveils Childcare Plan
Sep14 Details of Trump's Dr. Oz Appearance Revealed
Sep14 Today in Dissembling: Kellyanne Conway
Sep14 Republicans Privately Panicking about a Possible Trump Win
Sep14 More DNC Documents Leaked
Sep14 Colin Powell Gets Hacked, Too
Sep14 Senate Democrats Already Worried about 2018
Sep14 Absentee Ballots Are the Weak Link Fight against Voter Fraud
Sep13 No Chicken Little, The Sky is Not Falling
Sep13 Clinton Will Release More Information on Her Health
Sep13 David Axelrod Hits Clinton for Her Obsession with Secrecy
Sep13 The Looming Debate Disaster
Sep13 Trump Faces New Type of Pressure on Tax Returns
Sep13 Why Does Donald Trump Get a Pass from the Media?
Sep13 NCAA Pulls Championship Games from North Carolina over Bathroom Bill
Sep13 Obama's Approval Numbers Are Soaring
Sep13 Nate Silver Gives GOP Donors a Secret Presentation
Sep13 Pence Doesn't Want Duke's Support, but Doesn't Think He's Deplorable
Sep13 Bill Clinton's CIA Director Endorses Trump
Sep13 Why Are Some Red States Turning Pink?
Sep12 Clinton Stumbles at 9/11 Memorial
Sep12 Clinton Was Wrong: Only 42% of Trump's Supporters Are Racist
Sep12 Trump, Jr. Shares Questionable Deplorables Parody
Sep12 Group May Give Real-Time Reports on Election Day
Sep12 More Wikileaks Could Come This Week
Sep12 Trump Got Award, Painting for Donating Other People's Money to Charity
Sep11 Clinton Says Fraction of Trump Supporters Who Are Racist Is Not 0.5
Sep11 Obama Will Not Hit the Campaign Trail until October
Sep11 Trump Speaks at the Values Voters Summit
Sep11 Pence Visits 9/11 Memorial
Sep11 Pence: About that Putin/Obama Comparison...
Sep11 Kaine Believes Catholic Church Will Change Position on Gay Marriage
Sep11 Weekly Standard Attacks Washington Post's Deplorable Behavior
Sep11 The White House Phone Rarely Rings at 3 a.m.
Sep10 Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Straight-Ticket Voting in Michigan
Sep10 Trump Also Donated to Try to Stop New York's Investigation of Trump University
Sep10 Election Could Get Even More Unpredictable
Sep10 Trump Calls CNN an Arm of the Clinton Campaign
Sep10 Will Trump Be on the Ballot in Minnesota?
Sep10 Trump to Reveal Personal Health Regimen to Dr. Oz
Sep10 Pence Releases His Tax Returns
Sep10 Clinton Says Half of Trump's Supporters Are in the Basket of Deplorables
Sep10 Putin Closes Down Russia's Only Independent Pollster
Sep10 Michele Bachmann Says that Clinton Will Jail Christians If She Wins
Sep09 Colin Powell Advised Clinton to Use a Private Email Server