• North Korea Situation Seems To Be Deteriorating
• U.S. Will Not Name China as a Currency Manipulator
• Trump Keeps Badmouthing the Dollar
• White House Will Not Make Visitor Logs Public
• Re-election Bids Are Attracting Lots of Money
• Trump Says He Can't Be Sued
• Trump Gets Burned by Regulations
Russia Intrigue Just Keeps Mounting
Another week, and more revelations that tie the Trump campaign to Russia. To start, former campaign manager Paul Manafort announced his intention to register as a foreign agent, retroactive to 2012, as a consequence of his work on behalf of Ukraine. The purpose of this move is to avoid prosecution under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), which is rare but does sometimes happen. In other words, all Manafort is doing is acknowledging what everyone already knew, so he doesn't go to jail. Nonetheless, as a political matter, it looks like he "admitted" wrongdoing, which is not going to be helpful as President Trump tries to dance his way out of the burgeoning scandal.
Considerably less innocuous are the revelations this week about Trump adviser Carter Page. First, his contacts with Russia were extensive enough that the FBI obtained a FISA warrant in order to monitor his communications. And when Page was interviewed by ABC News' George Stephanopoulos, he could not deny he told Russian officials that Trump would be open to easing the sanctions on them. Page tried to soften the news, saying "I have no recollection" if sanctions were discussed, but his lack of certainty is fairly damning.
It gets worse from there for Trump (albeit more tenuous, as well). The British newspaper The Guardian is reporting that one of its sources told them that, "They [the FBI] now have specific concrete and corroborative evidence of collusion" between the Trump campaign and the Russians. This revelation was thrown in at the end of a story on the role British spies played in outing Page and others, and was not expanded upon, so it's unclear exactly what that evidence might be or when it might become public information (if it ever does).
Finally, the cherry on the sundae is that more and more (and more) people are noticing that every time Russia-related dirt leaks, an Asian country gets bombed. It is true that proving this correlation would be all-but-impossible. However, courts are the ones that require ironclad proof, not voters. If Trump—who counts many conspiracy theorists among his supporters—causes people to conclude that he's pursuing a "wag the dog" foreign policy, that could be very damaging, indeed. (Z)
North Korea Situation Seems To Be Deteriorating
Presidents Obama and the younger Bush both decided that the best way to deal with North Korea's leaders was to ignore then. Donald Trump, on the other hand, has decided to engage in a saber-rattling contest. Mike Morell, former acting director of the CIA, was interviewed on CBS This Morning, and said that Trump's approach is making the situation worse:
Kim Jong-Un wants to get back to a situation where we give them gifts when they do something bad. And then we are also making it worse, right? With our bluster and by sending aircraft carriers in there, we're raising the crisis.
As if on cue, North Korea doubled down on Friday. At a military parade attended by Kim Jong-Un, they showed off, for the first time, submarine-based missiles. This is concerning because, of course, it's easier to get a submarine-based missile in range of the United States than a land-based missile. In addition, North Korean Vice Minister Han Song Ryol told the Associated Press that his government has determined the Trump administration is "more vicious and more aggressive" than that of Barack Obama, and that Kim is ready to go to war if that is what Trump wants.
Trump may well have decided, given this week's developments, that he's playing with fire and at risk of getting badly burned. Reportedly, he has offered China more favorable trade status in exchange for help with North Korea. He's also backed off on labeling China a currency manipulator (see below). Both of these things represent 180-degree reverses from the President's campaign promises, and neither would seem to be evidence of a skilled negotiator at work. Still, better that than having a nuke lobbed at Honolulu or Seattle or Los Angeles. (Z)
U.S. Will Not Name China as a Currency Manipulator
One of Donald Trump's promises as a candidate was to name China as a currency manipulator and then invoke sanctions on it. Yesterday the Treasury Dept. released its semi-annual list of currency manipulators and it was empty. No country has been accused of manipulating its currency to the detriment of the U.S., not even China. This breaks a major promise Trump made.
Trump thinks China is keeping its currency artificially low so American firms make products in China, thus effectively shipping U.S. jobs abroad. If the Chinese yuan were worth more, China would be less attractive for U.S. manufacturer. So this is just one more example of where Trump has broken a key promise important to his working-class base. (V)
Trump Keeps Badmouthing the Dollar
The last several presidents have avoided saying much of anything about the dollar. And when they did talk about it, they always declared how strong it is. They did this, in part, because a strong dollar is generally good for the U.S. economy. There was also an ethical concern, as the president's words can actually affect the dollar's value, and they did not want to be labeled currency manipulators. Donald Trump is flipping the script, in virtually every way. Less than 100 days into his term, he has made more public statements about the dollar than Obama and the younger Bush did in 16 years. And, whenever he does talk about the subject, it's to say that the dollar is just too strong.
What is Trump's game here? Well, one possibility is that he just can't help himself, and he says whatever comes into his head, regardless of the consequences. There may be something to this. But, if we assume that there is at least some method to his madness, then his goal is presumably to try to reduce America's trade deficit, a major campaign promise. If the value of the dollar drops, then American exports appear cheaper to foreign buyers, and sales go up.
The problems, if this is indeed Trump's plan, are numerous. The first is that if Trump looks like a currency manipulator, it will make it rather hard for him to put pressure on other currency-manipulating foreign leaders (though that may no longer be on the agenda; see above). The second is that while the president's words do affect the value of the dollar, the effect is fairly brief. So, the plan won't work. Finally, a weakening dollar will help exporters, but will hurt importers. If Trump appears to be favoring exporters, it will make the importers unhappy, and they are not likely to remain silent. A stiff price to pay for something that isn't actually going to help the exporters. (Z)
White House Will Not Make Visitor Logs Public
In contrast to the administration of Barack Obama, that of Donald Trump will not make visitor logs public, so the media and public will not know who has talked to the president and his top staff. The logs give insight into which megadonors and lobbyists have talked to the president and when, although the contents of what they talked about are never released. The ACLU's political director, Faiz Shakir, said: "The only reasonable conclusion is to believe the Trump administration has many things it is trying to hide." Whether or not that is true, for a candidate who campaigned on the idea of draining the swamp, keeping all his meetings with people who want something from him a secret is not the way to go about it. (V)
Re-election Bids Are Attracting Lots of Money
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) is in the unenviable position of having to run for reelection in 2018 in a state that Donald Trump won by 40 points. Only Wyoming was redder than West Virginia. On the other hand, Manchin raised $553,000 in Q1 2017 and has $2.2 million in the bank. In addition, he is extremely well known in West Virginia, having been elected secretary of state, governor (twice), and senator. None of his potential opponents have had this kind of exposure. The only one who comes close is Patrick Morrisey, who is in his second term as West Virginia attorney general. But Morrisey hasn't decided yet if he wants to challenge Manchin. If he runs, he will be hit with a carpetbagger charge, since he was born in Brooklyn and ran for Congress in NJ-07 in 2000 and lost. Manchin was born and raised in a coal mining town in West Virginia and graduated from West Virginia University.
Manchin isn't the only endangered senator who is raking in the bucks. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) collected $2.8 million in Q1 2017, and now has $3 million in the bank. This came mostly in the form of small donations (which means the donors can be tapped again), while McCaskill's likely opponent raised only $800,000. That's the good news for the Senator. The bad news is that Missouri is going to be a battle royale, on which control of the Senate could rest, so it is going to be an expensive race. As in, McCaskill is likely to raise and spend over $100 million, so her current $3 million is just a start.
The money is also flowing in the other direction as well. Donald Trump may have many enemies, and may have aggravated some of his supporters, but he still has many loyalists. And, in anticipation of his 2020 reelection bid, they have donated $7.1 million. That's good news for The Donald; so too is the fact that it was almost exclusively small donations. The bad news is that Barack Obama has outdone Trump once again; in 2009, he collected $15 million during his first quarter in office. (V & Z)
Trump Says He Can't Be Sued
Donald Trump is facing a number of lawsuits from his time as a private citizen, including one where he is accused of inciting violence at one of his campaign rallies. On Friday, Trump's lawyers filed a brief asking that the suit be postponed while he is in office, asserting that he cannot be sued civilly as long as he is president.
This is, quite simply, incorrect. It is true that presidents cannot be sued civilly for their actions undertaken in their official capacity as president. It is also the case that presidents cannot currently be sued civilly in state courts (though a lawsuit filed against Trump by The Apprentice contestant Summer Zervos may set a new precedent in that area). But thanks to Clinton v. Jones, suing a president civilly in federal court is fair game. The suit in question is federal, so Trump's attorneys have no real argument. Perhaps they are just grasping at straws, or maybe they are trying to muddy the waters. The other possibility is that they're hoping the case goes to the Supreme Court, and that certain newly-seated justices will be amenable to their point of view. (Z)
Trump Gets Burned by Regulations
No, not Trump the president. Trump the businessman (not that there's much distinction between the two). In late January, Florida state inspectors descended on Trump's Mar-a-Lago club, to see how clean the kitchen is. The answer: not very. Apparently, the $200,000 initiation fee does not leave room for disinfectant or proper refrigerators, because the club was cited for 13 violations. Running a restaurant is tough, and breaking health code violations is very easy, but it's still a bit embarrassing for the president. Perhaps he's lucky that Shinzo Abe did not consume under-refrigerated meat and then throw up on him.
This was not the only unfriendly Mar-a-Lago headline on Friday. The Center for American Progress, founded by former Hillary Clinton campaign chair John Podesta, announced the launch of istrumpatmaralago.org. Not only does the site tell users if Trump is visiting his club, it also tracks the total number of visits, how much federal money has been spent on those visits, and what else might have been purchased with those funds. For example, the $25 million Trump has spent on Mar-a-Lago travel so far could have paid for 61,000 school lunches, 4,000 Medicaid patients, or 2,000 public school students' educations. Of course, the site is going to be far less efficacious in the summer, when Trump decamps from Florida to his golf course in New Jersey. (Z)Email a link to a friend or share:
---The Votemaster and Zenger
Apr14 Suburban Voters Have Had It with Trump
Apr14 Trump's Base Has Had it With Trump
Apr14 Virginia Governor's Race Turns Into a Referendum on Trump
Apr14 Business Leaders Trying to de-Bannonize Trump
Apr14 Maybe Rumors of Bannon's Death Are Greatly Exaggerated
Apr14 Tax Reform May Not Follow the Ryan Blueprint
Apr14 Sanders: Trump Will Be a One-term President
Apr14 Prof. Who Called the Last Eight Presidential Elections Says Trump Will Be Impeached
Apr13 Tillerson Receives a Chilly Reception in Moscow
Apr13 Trump Now Wants to Do Healthcare Before Tax Reform
Apr13 Trump May Be Sick of Bannon
Apr13 Trump Now Likes NATO
Apr13 Trump Plays into Kim Jong-Un's Hands
Apr13 United Airlines, Wells Fargo, and the Democratic Party
Apr13 Coffman: Spicer "Needs To Go"
Apr12 Republican Estes Wins Special Election in Kansas
Apr12 Spicer Goose Steps in It
Apr12 Nunes Was Apparently Making Things Up
Apr12 The Infrastructure Bill Could Fail Just Like the Healthcare Bill
Apr12 Trump Falsely Claims He's Created 600,000 Jobs
Apr12 There Is An Easy Way to Get Trump's Tax Returns Released
Apr12 California May Move 2020 Primary to March
Apr12 Collins May Run for Governor of Maine
Apr12 Christie Calls for Government to Forbid Overbooking of Flights
Apr11 Neil Gorsuch Sworn in as Associate Supreme Court Justice
Apr11 Merrick Garland Could Get Revenge
Apr11 What Has Trump Done So Far?
Apr11 The Wall Is Going from Bad to Worse for Trump
Apr11 Federal Judge Overturns Texas Voter ID Law--Again
Apr11 Trump's Travel Expenditures Are Skyrocketing
Apr11 Trump Wins Pulitzer Prizes
Apr11 Democrats Are Already Working on 2018 House Races
Apr11 Cook Moves Two Special Elections towards the Democrats
Apr11 Alabama's "Luv Guv" Resigns
Apr10 Another Flynn Appointee to the NSC Is Sent Packing
Apr10 Will Trump Ask Congress for Authority to Wage War in Syria?
Apr10 Assad: Should He Stay or Should He Go?
Apr10 Slight Majority Supports Bombing of Syria
Apr10 State Department Staff Preparing for Cutbacks
Apr10 Trump Is Threatening the 2020 Census
Apr10 Trump Reportedly Planning Pivot to Center
Apr10 Democrats May Use Trump's Own Taxes to Fight Him on Taxes
Apr10 McConnell Recruiting Romney for Possible Senate Run
Apr10 What Does Georgia Election Mean for GOP?
Apr10 Bannon's Bible
Apr09 Trump and Xi Met, Talked, and Accomplished Nothing
Apr09 U.S. Carrier Group Headed to North Korea
Apr09 Bannon and Kushner Are Forced to Promise to Be Nice to Each Other
Apr09 Tillerson Is Kushner's Understudy