• Trump Shifts Gears on North Korea
• Trump Slams "100 Days"
• Chaffetz Wants Answers
• Schiff Is on the Rise
• Conservative Media Think They Can Dictate Staffing; White House Apparently Agrees
• French Head to the Polls Tomorrow
Russians Tried to Infiltrate Trump Campaign
More and more, "what we suspected" is turning into "what we know" when it comes to the Russians and the 2016 election. On Friday, several intelligence establishment sources confirmed that they have proof the Putin administration attempted to infiltrate the Trump campaign through his strategic advisers, including Carter Page. It is not yet clear if Trump's advisers were aware of the plan; they may have been unwitting accomplices. This means that Page (and, potentially, Michael Flynn, and Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort, and others) were either Putin's agents or his dupes. Hard to say which one is worse, though presumably only one of the two would be illegal.
Meanwhile, Russia has been doing their part to keep making headaches for the administration. Four times this week, Vladimir Putin ordered Russian planes to fly off the coast of Alaska as a show of strength. And four times this week, Russian planes actually flew off the coast of Alaska, and not, say, to Australia. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer declared that the fly-bys are "not highly unusual," but this is the first time Russia has done this since 2015. In any case, it's more evidence that Russia-U.S. relations are getting worse, and that anyone who was hoping for some Putin-Trump kumbaya is going to be disappointed. (Z)
Trump Shifts Gears on North Korea
When it comes to North Korea, most of the world is still trying to figure out what Donald Trump's plan is. Is he going one-on-one with Kim Jong-Un, perhaps trading shows of strength? Or will he work with China, as past administrations have done? On Friday, the President appeared to adopt a whole different approach, taking to Twitter to imply that North Korea is China's problem:
China is very much the economic lifeline to North Korea so, while nothing is easy, if they want to solve the North Korean problem, they will— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 21, 2017
Trump's tweet might literally be true, but it ignores two things: (1) China does not actually have a North Korean problem; they're happy to keep doing business with Kim and letting others suffer the consequences, and (2) This being the case, China will only "want" to solve the problem if the United States makes it worth their while. Perhaps the next iteration of Trump's North Korea policy, which will presumably be coming in the next week or so, will address these things. (Z)
Trump Slams "100 Days"
The "100 Days" construct in American politics dates back to Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who used the time to sign much of the First New Deal into law. Since then, a president's first 3.33 months has had a special significance, perceived—rightly or not—as the time when he has the best chance to get things done.
Donald Trump has been happy to embrace the importance of the "100 days," most obviously in the speech he gave at Gettysburg three weeks before the election. In that speech, he promised a "100 day contract" with America, and listed all the things he planned to accomplish. His staff even put the list into a snazzy graphic, which The Donald posted to Twitter:
My contract with the American voter will restore honesty, accountability & CHANGE to Washington! #DrainTheSwamp pic.twitter.com/sbVwctT1Sj— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 25, 2016
Trump has continued to focus upon—even obsess about—his first 100 days since that speech. That continued through this week; multiple reports said that Trump was pushing for Obamacare v2.0 to get done within that timeframe so that he would have a signature accomplishment to crow about.
Now it is clear that Obamacare v2.0 isn't coming in time, if it comes at all. And so, as if on cue, Trump has now decided that the whole 100 days idea is "ridiculous":
No matter how much I accomplish during the ridiculous standard of the first 100 days, & it has been a lot (including S.C.), media will kill!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 21, 2017
Undoubtedly, Trump is treated very harshly by the media (well, some of them), and it may even be unfair sometimes. But if he is criticized for not accomplishing enough, he has only himself his blame. An examination of his own list reveals that, barring something very unexpected next week, he's going to go 0-for-10. And that's before we get into the business about honesty and accountability, not to mention the #DrainTheSwamp tag. (Z)
Chaffetz Wants Answers
On Wednesday, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) announced he would not run for re-election to Congress. This is a rather unusual move for someone so ambitious, and the announcement quickly gave rise to all sorts of conspiracy theories. Maybe Chaffetz was being blackmailed, or was trying to escape a looming scandal, or was about to be outed as gay.
A more reasonable guess, however, is that Chaffetz is setting himself up for a run at the governorship in Utah—a state where the GOP is popular, and Donald Trump is not. That theory got a shot in the arm on Friday, when Chaffetz sent a letter to Trump's attorneys, demanding details about the President's finances. Specifically, Chaffetz wants information about Trump's plan to satisfy the Constitution's emoluments clause by donating any profits he receives from foreign governments to the Treasury. Chaffetz wants his answers by May 12, and there's zero chance he's going to get them. Presumably, he knows this, and is setting himself up for a lengthy anti-Trump crusade. Which should play very well with anti-Trump Republicans in Utah. (Z)
Schiff Is on the Rise
Jason Chaffetz is not the only member of Congress who is scoring points by opposing Donald Trump. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) also comes from a Trump-hating state, and also sits on a high profile committee, namely the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. That means that he's currently the highest-profile person, except for maybe FBI director James Comey, looking into the Trump-Russia connection. Which, in turn, means that he's on television all the time, getting all sorts of free media exposure in a state where TV time generally costs big bucks.
Adding it all up, and insiders suspect the same thing about Schiff that they do about Chaffetz: That he's gunning for bigger game, possibly the governor's mansion (definitely vacant in 2018) or the U.S. Senate (possibly vacant in 2018, if Dianne Feinstein retires). Schiff has $2 million in the bank, and broad name recognition in the Golden State, which is the good news for him. The bad news is that there is nowhere that the Democratic bench is deeper, so he'll be jockeying with L.A. mayor Eric Garcetti, former L.A. mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Secretary of State Alex Padilla, Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, Attorney General Xavier Becerra and many others. (Z)
Conservative Media Think They Can Dictate Staffing; White House Apparently Agrees
About a month ago, right wing media outlets turned against Deputy Chief of Staff Katie Walsh, and she was reassigned to a job outside the White House. Then Andrew Quinn of the National Economic Council found himself in the crosshairs, and then he was sent back to the U.S. Trade Representative's office. On Friday, it happened again. Sahar Nowrouzzadeh has been working in the State Department, focusing on myriad issues related to Iran and Gulf Arab affairs. In that capacity, she had a major role in shaping the deal Barack Obama struck with Iran. Despite the fact that she was first hired in 2005, under George W. Bush, Breitbart and the Conservative Review recently decided that she's a secret Obama loyalist and is working to undermine Donald Trump. So, on Friday, she was reassigned to a lesser role.
This is concerning for a number of reasons. To start, the media should obviously not be involved in staffing decisions (outside of extreme examples, such as uncovering corruption). Beyond that, Nowrouzzadeh's demotion is particularly troublesome, since the State Dept. is supposed to be above politics. Finding good people who will give honest opinions about foreign policy will be much harder if everyone at State thinks they have to be constantly watching their backs. Finally, Trump is already far behind other presidents when it comes to making appointments. If Breitbart has a veto, then that makes catching up all the more difficult. (Z)
French Head to the Polls Tomorrow
On Sunday, French voters will choose from 11 candidates for their presidency, with the top two finishers advancing to the final round on May 7. Today, per French custom and law, there is a moratorium on campaigning and on domestic media coverage of the election, to protect its "sincerity." Fortunately, this site is not in France, so we can do as we please.
It's not too difficult to view this election in terms of the United States' presidential election. The four leading candidates:
- Emmanuel Macron is a moderate liberal, in the mold of a Hillary Clinton
- François Fillon is an outspoken traditional conservative, much like Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)
- Jean-Luc Mélenchon is an unapologetic socialist, as is Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT)
- Marine Le Pen is a reactionary populist who appeals to racists, ultranationalists, and xenophobes, ala Donald Trump
Trump and Le Pen are enough on the same page that he has endorsed her, in something of a violation of custom. It's an open question whether his support hurts or helps Le Pen, since he's wildly unpopular with most French voters, outside of the racists, ultranationalists, and xenophobes who were likely to support her anyhow. In any case, polls of the race have Macron and Le Pen with a slight lead over the rest of the field, though Mélenchon has surged at the end, and the top four are all close enough that any of them could make the cut. People around the world will be watching to see if France embraces the right-wing backlash (like the UK) or rejects it (like the Netherlands). (Z)Email a link to a friend or share:
---The Votemaster and Zenger
Apr21 Trump Gets a Report Card
Apr21 Trump's Legal Tab Raises Eyebrows, Questions
Apr21 Jeff Sessions Goes Coconuts
Apr21 Democratic Senators Raking in Money for 2018
Apr21 Sarah Palin Resurfaces
Apr20 Russian Smoke Getting Closer to Being a Smoking Gun
Apr20 Trump Administration Deports First DREAMer
Apr20 Vinson Plot Thickens
Apr20 Bye, Bye Jason!
Apr20 Bye, Bye Bill!
Apr20 Ricketts Withdraws Name from Consideration
Apr20 New England Patriots Visit White House
Apr19 Ossoff Comes Up Short
Apr19 Warships Headed to North Korea Are in...Australia
Apr19 China Hands Out Trump Trademarks Like Candy
Apr19 Hypocrisy, Thy Name Is Trump
Apr19 O'Reilly May Be Done at Fox
Apr19 Trump Signs "Buy American, Hire American" Executive Order
Apr19 Scientists to March on Washington
Apr19 UK Will Hold Elections
Apr18 Everyone's Watching GA-06 Today
Apr18 Nothing Has Changed with Trump's Tax Returns
Apr18 Gorsuch Hits the Ground Running
Apr18 New Polls Are Mostly Bad News for Trump
Apr18 Democrat Wants to Amend Presidential Removal Procedure
Apr18 Chris Christie: He's Baaaaaack
Apr18 How Does Spicer Feel About McCarthy's Impersonation?
Apr17 Everyone's Watching GA-06 Today
Apr17 Nothing Has Changed with Trump's Tax Returns
Apr17 Gorsuch Hits the Ground Running
Apr17 New Polls Are Mostly Bad News for Trump
Apr17 Democrat Wants to Amend Presidential Removal Procedure
Apr17 Chris Christie: He's Baaaaaack
Apr17 How Does Spicer Feel About McCarthy's Impersonation?
Apr16 Protesters Around the Country Demand to See Trump's Tax Returns
Apr16 White House Sweeping Conflicts of Interest Under the Rug
Apr16 Trump Actually Has Delivered on Some of His Promises
Apr16 The Kushner-Bannon Civil War Is Still Raging
Apr16 Tillerson on the Rise
Apr16 Bipartisan Group of Senators Pushing to Revive Glass-Steagall
Apr16 Nearly $500,000 of Trump's Campaign Funds Have Gone to His Companies
Apr16 North Korean Bomb Bombs
Apr15 Russia Intrigue Just Keeps Mounting
Apr15 North Korea Situation Seems To Be Deteriorating
Apr15 U.S. Will Not Name China as a Currency Manipulator
Apr15 Trump Keeps Badmouthing the Dollar
Apr15 White House Will Not Make Visitor Logs Public
Apr15 Re-election Bids Are Attracting Lots of Money