• Judge: No Defunding "Sanctuary Cities"
• Trump Eager to Appoint a Second SCOTUS Justice
• Trade Wars: Win Some, Lose Some
• Bannon Loses Again
• Sessions: Hawaii Slam Was Just a Joke
• Clinton Trolls Trump
Michael Flynn Is in Hot Water
In his time, former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn has had dealings with Russia and with Turkey. Those dealings, we learned on Tuesday, resulted in Flynn being paid many thousands of dollars by the governments of those two countries. Flynn did not see fit to mention these payments in the paperwork he filed when requesting a security clearance. That is a violation of federal law. If he also failed to declare the income on his tax returns, that's an additional problem.
This news came to light after Reps. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) and Elijah Cummings (D-MD) examined documents related to Flynn, and discovered the "oversight." They requested further documentation from the White House, so as to fully assess the extent of Flynn's misbehavior. The Trump administration is eager to get to the bottom of this, and wants to show that their vetting process was not sloppy and careless, and so promptly complied with the request. No, wait, that's not what happened at all. Instead, the White House refused to share any of their records regarding Flynn's appointment, thus leaving all sorts of questions unanswered, like, "What did they know about Flynn, and when did they know it?" and "What is the White House trying to hide?"
Meanwhile, we find ourselves in a curious situation where a conservative Republican congressman from Utah—who is trying to score points with the large number of anti-Trump Republicans in the Beehive State—is quickly becoming as popular with Democrats as Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). Politics does indeed make strange bedfellows. (Z)
Judge: No Defunding "Sanctuary Cities"
Between Jason Chaffetz, the Freedom Caucus, and the difficulties he's having with wall funding, healthcare, and lowering taxes, Donald Trump is no great fan of the legislative branch these days. But that's nothing compared to his frustrations with the judicial branch. On Tuesday, a federal judge once again blocked part of the President's agenda, issuing an injunction that stops the Justice Dept. and the Dept. of Homeland Security from withholding federal funds from "sanctuary cities."
The judge is William H. Orrick—who, incidentally, is not Mexican and does not serve "on an island in the Pacific." His ruling came in response to a suit filed by Santa Clara, San Francisco, and other cities, one that argues that the President's order to withhold funding is unconstitutional and would cause "irreparable harm." Orrick agreed with the "harm" part of the argument, and said it is plausible the cities could prevail on the "unconstitutional" claim—hence the injunction. The White House has not yet indicated how it will proceed, though they cannot be happy that an appeal will go to the Ninth Circuit, generally regarded as the most liberal of the 12 regional circuits. Of course, the real decider could end up being newly seated Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch. (Z)
Trump Eager to Appoint a Second SCOTUS Justice
While Donald Trump is not too happy with the lower levels of the federal judiciary, he just loves the Supreme Court, particularly the thought of sending a second appointee to the bench. This week, Senate Judiciary Committee chair Chuck Grassley (R-IA) suggested that the President might get that chance as early this summer. Either the Senator is engaging in some speculation and/or wishful thinking, or he has inside information about the plans of Anthony Kennedy (or, possibly, Clarence Thomas).
Though Trump appears to have little interest in filling most federal jobs (the Senate is still waiting for nominees for 475 of the 554 jobs that require their approval), he already has a list of possibilities for a hypothetical open seat:
- Raymond Kethledge: He's 50, and an early favorite. A former Kennedy clerk,
like the newly-seated Neil Gorsuch, he's very conservative, and given his record, would make environmentalists howl if he's appointed
- William Pryor: 54 years old, and very possibly more conservative than any justice
in the last 50 years, he once called Roe v. Wade the "worst abomination in the history of constitutional law."
- Paul Clement: He's not a judge, but as the former solicitor general and a former
clerk to Antonin Scalia, the 50-year-old knows the Supreme Court very well.
- Brett Kavanaugh: 52, another former Kennedy clerk, worked for the Bush admininistration
in several different capacities, and is very popular with conservative groups thanks to his ruling that the
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is unconstitutional.
- Thomas Hardiman: 51, reliably conservative, and the reported runner-up for the seat that went to Gorsuch. The Philadelphia judge has the warm endorsement of Trump's sister.
The three major themes of the list are: (1) fairly young, (2) solidly conservative, and (3) designed to put Anthony Kennedy at ease. If Donald Trump does get to make a second appointment, the nomination of that person (along will Gorsuch) will almost certainly be the most consequential thing Trump does during his entire presidency. (Z)
Trade Wars: Win Some, Lose Some
It's been a day since the Trump administration hit Canadian timber producers with a 20-24% tariff, and the President's reasoning is becoming clear. Like much of what Trump does (see Afghanistan, MOAB dropped in) the tariff is primarily for show, so the President can say he's standing up for Americans in the face of evil foreign corporations. And unlike, say, China, Canada is unlikely to retaliate because they have few means of doing so that wouldn't be more harmful to them than to the U.S.
That said, Trump may eventually learn that every action he takes has consequences, even if they are not immediately evident. In the case of the timber tariff, the burden will weigh most heavily on the companies who build housing in states along the Canadian border, particularly in the Midwest and the mountain states. This is an industry that was very supportive of Trump's campaign. Those homebuilders will pass on as much of the cost as they can to their customers, with the average estimated at somewhere between $1,000 and $3,500 per house. The extra cost is most likely to affect poorer, first-time homebuyers, particularly in the Midwest and the mountain states. This is a group that was very supportive of Trump's campaign, and the increased price is likely to put home ownership out of reach for roughly 150,000 of them. So, the President isn't the only one learning about unexpected consequences.
That's not the only bad news for Trump on the trade front, either. The United States and Mexico have been arguing for years over tuna, with the American government saying that Mexico's tuna is not dolphin-safe, and the Mexican government saying that it is. Based on its position, the U.S. government has imposed more than $100 million in penalties on Mexican fishermen. On Tuesday, the World Trade Organization ruled in Mexico's favor, and said they could impose $163 million in trade sanctions to recover the payments they have made. So, the tariff gods giveth, and the tariff gods taketh away. (Z)
Bannon Loses Again
Barring an unexpected reversal, which is always possible with President Trump, there won't be any money for the Mexican wall in the forthcoming budget, and the government will not shut down. This is not how one Steve Bannon wanted to play it. He and his allies pushed very hard for the President to stand firm, with Bannon declaring, "This is a stand worth taking. We're drawing a line in the sand." The former Breitbart publisher is certainly passionate about his ideas, although—befitting an outsider who has spent his career trying to bring the system down—he clearly has no idea how to actually get anything done in Washington.
This news raises, yet again, two obvious questions. First, is Bannon going to get tired of losing, over and over? And second, is Trump going to get tired of having a right-hand man who is on the impractical and impolitic side of every single issue? Time will tell, though "time" will undoubtedly get heavy input from Bannon supporter and Trump underwriter Rebekah Mercer. (Z)
Sessions: Hawaii Slam Was Just a Joke
Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III is not the apologizing type. His ill-conceived remarks once cost him a federal judgeship, and he didn't apologize for those, so there was little chance he was going to apologize for his snotty comments about Judge Derrick Watson and his home state of Hawaii. Since that declaration a week ago, Sessions has insisted that, "I wasn't criticizing the judge or the island," and also lamented that, "Nobody has a sense of humor any more."
Clearly, Sessions is learning well from his new boss, Donald Trump. In particular, the art of dissembling, in which Trump has an eighth-degree black belt. There isn't anything remotely joke-like about Sessions' cheap shot at Hawaii, and there was much about it that was critical of both the judge and the islands (the AG does not seem to understand that Hawaii is not a single island). For him to offer those two flimsy excuses/explanations with a straight face is positively Trump-like. Unfortunately for him, it is also Trump-like that he's taken a story that easily could have disappeared after 24 hours, and kept it alive for six or seven news cycles. (Z)
Clinton Trolls Trump
As Janis Joplin once observed, "freedom is just another word for nothin' left to lose." The Clintons' political careers appear to be over, which means they are now in the "nothin' left to lose" category, and so have the freedom to toy with Donald Trump at will. Bill Clinton, though notoriously technophobic, managed to take a shot at the President with his Twitter account this week:
BREAKING: We just learned that the @ClintonCenter has been bugged. pic.twitter.com/4Or6lrnRPN— Bill Clinton (@billclinton) April 23, 2017
Your move, Donald. (Z)Email a link to a friend or share:
---The Votemaster and Zenger
Apr25 Judge: No Defunding "Sanctuary Cities"
Apr25 Trump Eager to Appoint a Second SCOTUS Justice
Apr25 Trade Wars: Win Some, Lose Some
Apr25 Bannon Loses Again
Apr25 Sessions: Hawaii Slam Was Just a Joke
Apr25 Clinton Trolls Trump
Apr24 White House Tax Proposal Coming Wednesday
Apr24 North Korea, U.S. Continue War of Words
Apr24 What Trump Is Actually Good At
Apr24 Sessions Says Reversing Erroneous Tax Credits Could Pay for Wall
Apr24 Ben Carson Disappoints at HUD
Apr24 Trump Says He Won't Fire Spicer
Apr24 France: It's Le Pen and Macron
Apr23 Scientists March
Apr23 Retail Decline Presages Trouble for Trump
Apr23 Why Did Trump Win? Racism
Apr23 Surgeon General Asked to Resign
Apr23 Trump Will Hold 100th Day Rally
Apr23 Democrats' Eyes Turn to Montana
Apr23 Trumps' Marriage in Trouble?
Apr22 Russians Tried to Infiltrate Trump Campaign
Apr22 Trump Shifts Gears on North Korea
Apr22 Trump Slams "100 Days"
Apr22 Chaffetz Wants Answers
Apr22 Schiff Is on the Rise
Apr22 Conservative Media Think They Can Dictate Staffing; White House Apparently Agrees
Apr22 French Head to the Polls Tomorrow
Apr21 Russians Tried to Infiltrate Trump Campaign
Apr21 Trump Shifts Gears on North Korea
Apr21 Trump Slams "100 Days"
Apr21 Chaffetz Wants Answers
Apr21 Schiff Is on the Rise
Apr21 Conservative Media Think They Can Dictate Staffing; White House Apparently Agrees
Apr21 French Head to the Polls Tomorrow
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