• White House Is Trying to Revive the Healthcare Bill
• Trump Officially Kills Internet Privacy
• Blackwater Founder Tried to Create Secret Trump-Putin Connection
• Former Trump Adviser Met with Russian Spy in 2013
• Bannon Keeping an Eye on Georgia Election
• Bidding Closes Today on the Border Wall
• Trump Donates His First-Quarter Salary to the National Park Service
• Trump Can Draw Money from Trust at Any Time
• Science Doesn't Unite Liberals, Conservatives
Yesterday, four more senators, Chris Coons (D-DE), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Mark Warner (D-VA), and Pat Leahy (D-VT) announced that they could not support the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. Together with the Democrats in the Senate who previously announced that they were against Gorsuch, the total is now 41, meaning that a cloture motion to break off the Democrats' expected filibuster of Gorsuch will fail. After announcing his position, Coons said that he hopes the parties will be able to reach an agreement on the nomination and subsequent ones so that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) would not go nuclear, eliminate the filibuster on Supreme Court nominations, and turn the Senate into a smaller version of the House.
If negotiations between Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and McConnell fail, then McConnell is likely to try to change the rules to end Supreme Court filibusters. He would need 50 votes to do this, so he could afford no more than two Republican defections on the vote to change the rules. Democrats changed the rules in 2013 to end filibusters on lower-court nominees because Republicans simply blocked nearly every nomination that Barack Obama made, no matter how qualified the nominee was. McConnell says another rule change would be payback for that. Democrats say that their filibuster is payback for McConnell not letting Obama's nomination of Merrick Garland come to a vote. If McConnell changes the rules and rams Gorsuch through, there will be a huge amount of bitterness and anger in the Senate and bipartisanship will be dead for years, maybe forever.
Some senators see this as a slippery slope. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) put it this way: "The thing I worry most about is that we become like the House of Representatives. What's the next step? Legislation?" Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) concurred with McCain, saying: "People who have been here for a long time know that we're going down the wrong path here. The most unique political body in the world, the United States Senate, will be no more than a six-year term in the House." (V)
The Trump administration has revived talks with the leader of the House Freedom Caucus, Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), to see if there if there is some way to get him and the members of his caucus to vote "yes" on Speaker Paul Ryan's (R-WI) healthcare bill. One option under discussion includes allowing governors to opt out of parts of the ACA—for example, the list of essential health benefits. In this version, a governor could declare that insurers didn't not have to cover maternity benefits, mental health care, or other benefits mandated by the ACA.
Donald Trump is also working on the Senate side. He played a round of golf with Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) over the weekend, trying to get him to drop his resistance to the bill and also trying to get him to stop encouraging House members to kill the bill. Paul described the Trump administration's approach to the bill as follows: "They're banging a square peg into a round hole now." Paul wants a new bill that does not provide tax credits or subsidies for poor people. If Paul and Meadows get what they want, the moderates in the House are likely to balk. The underlying problem is not a question of wording. It is that the moderates and conservatives want different things, and that is difficult to paper over. (V)
Last week, Congress passed a bill that would allow Internet service providers to collect data about users web usage, and to sell it to anyone willing to pay. The bill provoked outrage in many quarters: the tech sector, the privacy advocates, the New York Times, and the Breitbart crowd, among others. There was some hope that Donald Trump might heed the negative response, and veto the bill, but such hopes were in vain, because he signed the bill into law on Monday.
Undoubtedly, lawsuits will be filed, but they will be an uphill battle. Odds are pretty good that those Internet users who value privacy will have to wait for a Democratic congress, and until then will have to shell out $50-$100 a year for VPN (Virtual Private Network) service. (Z)
According to a story in the Washington Post, the United Arab Emirates set up a secret meeting between Erik Prince—founder of security company Blackwater—and a close associate of Vladimir Putin. The goal was to set up a back channel for Trump to communicate secretly with Putin. The meeting was held around Jan. 11, 2017, in the Seychelles, a group of islands in the Indian Ocean more than 1,000 miles from Africa. The islands are an idyllic little paradise, but no doubt the location was chosen more for its potential for keeping the meeting secret than for its touristic attractions. Apparently that didn't work. According to U.S. officials, the FBI is aware of the meeting but declined to comment on it when asked.
Prince contributed $250,000 to the Trump campaign and a Trump super PAC. He is also close to Trump's inner circle, especially senior adviser Steve Bannon. His sister is Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. Prince was seen in the transition offices in December, although he was not a formal member of the transition team. If this report is true, it adds another strand to the web of connections between the Trump administration and Russia. (V)
Buzzfeed is reporting that Carter Page, who advised the Trump campaign on foreign policy for part of last year, met Russian spy Victor Podobnyy in New York City in 2013 and passed him documents relating to energy. Page is an energy consultant. The information about Page and the Russians comes from a U.S. government court filing in Jan. 2015, before Page joined up with Trump.
A dossier compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele said that Russian intelligence had sought a relationship with certain people in the U.S., including Page, and had funded their travel to Russia. When asked by BuzzFeed News, Page denied playing a role in Russia's meddling with the U.S. election. However, it is not known precisely why Trump wanted Page on his team during the campaign. (V)
The first congressional election of the Trump era will take place in GA-06 on April 18, to fill the vacated seat of now-HHS Secretary Tom Price. The district has a decidedly conservative lean, but the leading Democrat in the race—Jon Ossoff—is charismatic, knows how to campaign, and is rolling in money from Trump haters. So, he looks poised to make it a contest, and he might even win.
Reportedly, Steve Bannon is watching the campaign very closely, keeping an eye on polling numbers and on the narratives that the various candidates develop (there are 17 besides Ossoff). Bannon is primarily interested in learning whether Democrats can have success running a "down with Trump" campaign. Exactly what he will do with that information, particularly if the answer is "yes, they can," is unclear. After all, it is not like it is within his power to make The Donald more popular. Further, whatever happens to Ossoff, every Democrat is going to be running a "down with Trump" campaign, at some level, for the next four years. (Z)
If you were planning to place a bid for a contract to build a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico, note that today is the deadline. The U.S. government is expected to choose between four and 10 bidders to build quarter-mile prototypes. A bid of $200,000 to $500,000 would be in the right ballpark.
However, the bid must detail the political engineering as well as the civil engineering. Protesters of all stripes are expected at the construction sites. The proposal must contain a security plan, including fall-back positions, evacuation routes and methods, and a muster area. It must also discuss security personnel, how much experience they have, and how the contractor will deal with a hostile attack. It is up to the contractor, not the government, to provide adequate security. (V)
Donald Trump has made good on his campaign promise to donate his salary. Yesterday, Sean Spicer gave Trump's check for his first quarter salary of $78,333,32 to Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, who runs the National Park Service. The president earns $400,000 per year, but Trump started drawing a paycheck on Jan. 20 so he didn't earn the full $100,000 for the first quarter. (V)
President Trump's flimsy efforts at building a wall between his business interests and his government service got a little flimsier on Monday, when it was revealed that he can withdraw money from his trust whenever he wants to, without disclosing it. This means not only that he is in a position to profit from the presidency, but that he doesn't even have to wait to do so.
This is not the only thing that makes the trust flimsy, of course. There's also the fact that Trump is personally close with both of the trustees (Donald Trump, Jr. and Trump Organization Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg). And the fact that the trust is revocable at any time. And, most importantly, the fact that Trump knows how his assets are performing, so the trust is not blind. The documents creating the trust do specify that the trustees, "shall not provide any report to Donald J. Trump on the holdings and sources of income of the trust." However, Eric Trump has already made clear that he intends to ignore this instruction, and to give his father quarterly updates. It would seem, then, that another campaign promise has bitten the dust. (Z)
Partisans on the left and the right don't agree on much these days, and that includes their interests in the world of science. A new study makes clear that liberals prefer basic science, like physics, astronomy and zoology, while conservatives prefer the more applied and commercial sciences, including criminology, medicine, and geophysics. Even within subjects, lefties and righties favor different books. For example, Richard Dawkins' The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution and Carl Sagan's Pale Blue Dot are popular with liberals, while conservatives tend to turn to The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design by Jonathan Wells and God and the Astronomers by Robert Jastrow. The latter books, of course, are more like religious books with a science theme than they are science books.
There is one area of agreement, though: Partisans of all stripes like to read about dinosaurs. The study does not make clear, however, what percentage of readers believe that dinosaurs lived only 6,000 years ago, and co-existed with human beings. (Z)Email a link to a friend or share:
---The Votemaster and Zenger
Apr03 Trump Says U.S. Can Handle North Korea Alone
Apr03 Kasich Is Acting Like a Candidate While Claiming He Is Not
Apr03 Rooting for Failure
Apr03 Why Can't Republicans Find Massive Voter Fraud?
Apr03 Far-Right Sharks Are Circling the White House
Apr03 How Much Does Trump's Security Cost?
Apr02 Republicans Are Split on Tax Reform
Apr02 Uniqlo Threatens Trump
Apr02 Chinese Acquisition of U.S. Financial Company Raises Questions
Apr02 Poll: Americans Want an Independent Commission to Investigate Russia Ties
Apr02 Trump Blasts Chuck Todd
Apr02 Mark Cuban: Trump Isn't Smart Enough to Have Colluded with the Russians
Apr02 Fox Stands With O'Reilly
Apr02 The Kushner Chronicles, Volume III
Apr02 Russians Celebrate April Fools' Day
Apr01 Top Cabinet Officials Openly Disagree with Trump on Russia
Apr01 How Trump Could Get a Big Win Easily and Tear the Democrats Apart
Apr01 McCaskill Will Oppose Gorsuch
Apr01 Trump's Motto: Screw Them 10x Harder
Apr01 Top Government Officials Release Income and Net Worth
Apr01 Cornyn Might Be OK with a Temporary Tax Cut
Apr01 Democrats Will Try to Knock off Cruz
Apr01 Can A Sanders-Style Democrat Be Elected to the House in Montana?
Apr01 Travel Ban Is Operating Smoothly
Apr01 Former Kushner Employee: He's Not the Man for the Job
Mar31 Republicans Are at Each Others' Throats
Mar31 Trump to Issue Two Executive Orders on Trade Today
Mar31 Flynn Has "Story to Tell," Wants Immunity
Mar31 Heitkamp and Manchin Will Vote for Gorsuch
Mar31 North Carolina Repeals "Bathroom Law"
Mar31 Pence Worked Yesterday
Mar31 Pence Won't Dine With Women Who Aren't His Wife
Mar31 Jared Kushner's Friends Are Cutting Him Loose
Mar31 Some Trump Voters Already Have Buyer's Remorse
Mar30 Travel Ban Suspended Indefinitely
Mar30 Can Trump Make a Deal with the Democrats on Infrastructure?
Mar30 NRA Is Running Ads Against Democratic Senators
Mar30 Privacy Vote Not Going over Well
Mar30 Majority of Americans Believe Traditional Media Outlets Publish Fake News
Mar30 Large Majority of Republicans Think Trump Was Wiretapped
Mar30 How Long Can Spicer Last?
Mar29 Trump Signs Executive Order to Repeal Much of Obama's Work on Climate Change
Mar29 Border Wall Funding Will Be Put on Hold
Mar29 Nelson Will Filibuster Gorsuch
Mar29 "Trump Bump" Turning into "Trump Slump"
Mar29 Manafort May Have Laundered Money in New York Real Estate
Mar29 Congress Wipes Out Internet Privacy
Mar29 Perez Cleans House at DNC
Mar29 Cohn: Clinton Did Not Lose Due to Poor Turnout