• "Deep State" Is Going Mainstream
• Transition Team Knew Flynn Should Have Registered as a Foreign Agent
• Every Day Brings More Russia Intrigue
• Trump: Jobs Numbers Aren't Fake Any More
• Congressional Budget Office Won't Pull Its Punches
• Nobody Wants His Name on GOP Healthcare Bill
• Why Jon Huntsman?
• Scott Pruitt No Fan of Science
Attorney General Jeff Sessions has asked all the U.S. attorneys appointed by Barack Obama to resign immediately. In the past, when the White House changed parties, the U.S. attorneys were replaced gradually, not all at once, in order to avoid disrupting ongoing prosecutions in many states at the same time. One U.S. attorney in particular, Preet Bharara of the Southern District of New York, was investigating whether President Trump has received any benefits or payments from foreign governments. Such payments might be violation of the Constitution's emoluments clause. Whether his replacement continues pursuing the case remains to be seen.
Ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), had this to say about Sessions' order: "At a time when Attorney General Sessions has recused himself from major investigations into the Trump campaign, the independence of federal prosecutors could not be more important." Meanwhile, Justice Department officials were furious about the timing of the announcement, with one declaring that, "this could not have been handled any worse." Reportedly, most of the now-unemployed attorneys only learned of their status through news reports. Another example of Donald Trump's well-oiled machine in action, it would seem. (V)
For years, intelligence pros have used the term "deep state" to describe a country where policy is not dictated by the democratically-elected government, but instead by a hidden cabal of military officials. Alt right commentators, led by Breitbart, have latched onto the concept as a means of explaining the various reverses Donald Trump has suffered. These are not The Donald's fault, they reason, they are the handiwork of career bureaucrats and Obama loyalists who are using all means their disposal to stymie the President at every turn.
There is little question that Donald Trump and his inside circle embrace this basic thesis, as both he and Steve Bannon have used verbiage about "unseen forces" working to undermine the administration that is taken directly from the deep state playbook. Neither of them had used the actual term, though it seems that barrier is now in the process of falling. During the press conference in which the firing of U.S. attorneys was discussed (see above), White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer was asked if the administration believes that a "deep state of entrenched government employees exists." He nodded, and said, "I think that there's no question when you have eight years of one party in office, there are people who stay in government—and continue to espouse the agenda of the previous administration." Similarly, disgraced would-be Trump speechwriter Monica Crowley appeared on Sean Hannity's program on Thursday, and insisted (despite all evidence) that she never plagiarized anything. Instead, she said, she was the victim of a "political hit job" orchestrated by the deep state. She continued:
Having been a victim of this myself, they are out for blood. And the reason they have to destroy him is that Donald Trump is an alien organism that has been injected into the body politic of the American people to reform it. They have swarmed him, they have swarmed everybody around him in order reject him out of the system, just like any alien organism.
One wonders how the deep state knew to insert plagiarized passages into Crowley's Ph.D. dissertation, completed 16 years before Trump became president. Perhaps they are just that good. Hannity, for his part, did not see the need for any follow-up questions.
This deep state hypothesis is exceedingly convenient, since you cannot disprove a negative, and therefore cannot prove conclusively that it does not exist. In fact, the absence of evidence itself becomes a form of proof. If the supposed deep state is very good at hiding its tracks, and there are no tracks to be found, then it shows that the conspiracy theorists are "correct."
Of course, the notion is also exceedingly dangerous. One important aspect of the social compact that is the U.S. political system is that people accept the outcome of elections, resisting the new president only using legally proscribed means (i.e., protest). But the next time a Democrat occupies the White House, the deep staters will have a built-in excuse to undermine the president through more insidious, and potentially illegal, means since, after all, "Obama started it." (Z)
Yesterday, Sean Spicer admitted that Donald Trump's transition team had been warned that Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn (ret) had been lobbying for Turkey and should probably have registered as a foreign agent. Spicer claims that Trump didn't know he was a foreign agent when he hired Flynn as national security adviser. Flynn was later fired for talking to Russian officials and lying about it. It is unusual, to say the least, for the U.S. national security adviser to be a foreign agent. This raises the question of why the transition team didn't tell Trump about Flynn's lobbying work for a foreign government. Or possibly it did tell him, and he didn't care. (V)
It's a rare occasion, these days, when we go 24 hours without someone digging up even more dirt on Donald Trump's connections with Russia. Friday's addition to the pile comes courtesy of an attorney in the Ukraine, who has asked for an investigation into the text messages of Andrea Manafort, daughter to former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, which were apparently stolen from her phone and posted to a hacker website a couple of weeks ago.
Why would Andrea Manafort's text messages be germane to anything? Well, if the messages are authentic, it would seem that: (1) She knows some of her father's dirty secrets, and (2) She has turned against him as a result. Of particular interest is a series of messages between Andrea and her sister in which she suggested that their father was directly responsible for ordering the deaths of some untold number of Ukrainians. "He has no moral or legal compass," she concluded.
Given the information at hand, the texts are probably authentic. The total collection of hacked texts numbered over 300,000; it would be rather odd to forge that many messages from someone only tangentially connected to the locus of power. If the texts are indeed genuine, then they will raise a number of obvious questions: (1) Was Andrea Manafort telling the truth?; (2) How did she come to be aware of this information?; and (3) Is there a chance this could attach to Trump? It seems likely that we won't have answers to these questions for a while, if we ever get answers. Thus far, nobody involved is talking. Or texting. (Z)
During the election campaign, good jobs numbers kept coming out and Candidate Trump said they were all fake. Yesterday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced there were 235,000 new jobs created in February, and President Trump said they were real and took credit for the job growth, which is clearly impossible since none of his proposed policies have been implemented yet. It will be interesting to see what he says about the accuracy of the numbers if there is a recession later in his term and the number of jobs starts going down. (V)
Two years ago, the Republicans picked Keith Hall to run the Congressional Budget Office. Hall is thought to be a straight shooter who is capable of issuing reports the president doesn't want to hear. When Barack Obama was president, that was seen as a feature; now it appears to be a bug. Fearing the worst, Republicans are already attacking him and his office. For example, Sean Spicer has said: "If you're looking to the CBO for accuracy, you're looking in the wrong place."
One particular detail Republicans are especially worried about is what counts as insurance coverage. Republicans would very much like a person with a cheap health-insurance policy that has a very high deductible and covers almost nothing to be counted as insured. Hall doesn't buy this. Another point of contention is dynamic scoring, a method in which tax cuts are assumed to produce large increases in productivity, more jobs, and more government revenue. Hall's use of dynamic scoring so far falls far short of what Republicans were hoping for. The CBO score on the new health-care law is expected next week. (V)
The official name of the Republicans' replacement for Obamacare is the American Health Care Act. Not very catchy, and an awful lot of letters and syllables. The life of reporters, commenters, politicians, talking heads, pundits, and so forth becomes much easier once a simpler name is settled upon. Commonly, with legislation, the simpler name means using the name of a bill's primary sponsors. Dodd-Frank, for example, or McCain-Feingold, or the Taft-Hartley Act, or the Sherman Anti-trust Act. However, the two men most associated with the new healthcare bill—Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Donald Trump—have both pointedly avoided having their names used—no Trumpcare, and no Ryancare, if they have their way.
Why would they do this—deliberately avoid the opportunity to be associated with a potentially historic piece of legislation (at least, for Republicans)? Well, there are likely two reasons. The first is that once a person's name is attached to a bill, opposition almost always increases, since it now attracts negative attention from opponents of both the legislation and the person. This tendency was in full effect with Obamacare, when surveys revealed that support for the Affordable Care Act was 10% higher than support for Obamacare, despite the fact that they are the same thing.
The second issue, which neither Trump nor Ryan would ever admit, but which is certainly on their minds, is that nobody wants to have their name attached to a high-profile failure. Regardless of their rhetoric and the confident air they are trying to project, they both certainly know that the chances of passing the bill are fair-to-middling. In other words, sometimes actions speak louder than words. (Z)
As we noted yesterday, Jon Huntsman has been chosen as Donald Trump's ambassador to Russia. It's something of an odd choice, since the two men have been quite antagonistic toward one another. Huntsman, for his part, blasted Trump after the p***ygate video leaked. And Trump fired back several times, at one point even declaring that Huntsman was a lousy ambassador:
Our diplomats are weak: @JonHuntsman's China policy proves why we need businesmen to negotiate against China.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 19, 2011
While it's par for the course for Trump to say one thing and do another, it is highly atypical for him to appoint someone who has been critical in the past. Indeed, several of the appointments that Trump's underlings tried to make—such as Rex Tillerson's pick of Elliott Abrams to be his right-hand man—were vetoed for this very reason.
So, what gives? Well, shortly after Huntsman's appointment was announced, a potential answer to the riddle presented itself: Trump loyalist Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) announced he is running for re-election to an eighth term in 2018. Given that he'll be 85 years old on Election Day, this decision was far from certain, but his hat's in the ring now. The biggest threat to him would have been a primary challenge from...Jon Huntsman, who was definitely considering the possibility. By shipping Huntsman off to Russia, Trump appears to have achieved a double whammy: He's set someone he doesn't like up to fail with a near-impossible assignment, and he's protected an ally in the Senate. It would seem that The Donald is learning how Washington works very quickly. Of course, Huntsman could have turned down the offer of going to Moscow and decided to run for the Senate, but for whatever reason, he decided to accept the position of ambassador. (Z)
Newly-installed EPA administrator Scott Pruitt is no fan of the environment. Or of the agency he now leads. Or of science, it would seem. Appearing on CNBC Thursday, Pruitt denied that there is a link between carbon dioxide emissions and the warming climate. While some aspects of global warming are sometimes disputed (for example, the extent to which man is responsible) this basic fact is not generally debated. There are literally tens of thousands of reliable sources that unequivocally connect carbon dioxide with higher temperatures. That includes the EPA's own website.
Inasmuch as Pruitt made a name for himself as attorney general of Oklahoma, where he invariably privileged the needs of fossil fuel producers over those of the planet, he's unlikely to change his views on global warming anytime soon. Which likely means that the EPA website is about to get an overhaul. Unless, of course, the agency itself gets shut down, in which case it won't need a website any more. (Z)Email a link to a friend or share:
---The Votemaster and Zenger
Mar10 Ryan Sells Healthcare Bill, Underwhelms
Mar10 Brookings Study Says 15 Million People Will Lose Insurance If House Bill Passes
Mar10 What Is Trump's Plan B?
Mar10 Cruz Suggests that Pence Overrule the Senate Parliamentarian
Mar10 Can the Dots Be Connected?
Mar10 Huntsman Tapped for Russia Ambassadorship
Mar10 Four More States Will Sue Trump on Muslim Ban v2.0
Mar10 White House, Ethics Office Butt Heads
Mar10 D.C. Wine Bar Sues Trump
Mar09 Committees Begin Marking Up Health-Care Bill
Mar09 American Medical Association is Against the Ryan Plan
Mar09 AARP Comes Out Against GOP Health Plan
Mar09 Seven Pitfalls that Could Sink the Republican's Health-Care Plan
Mar09 Trump: Don't Worry, I'll Blame the Democrats
Mar09 Will the New Health Care Bill Pass the House?
Mar09 To Fund the Border Wall, Trump Will Slash National Security
Mar09 New Polls Today about Trump, Sessions, and Special Prosecutor
Mar09 Graham Says He Will Subpoena Information about Trump Wiretap
Mar09 Trump May Strike Out With Armed Services Secretaries
Mar08 WikiLeaks Posts CIA's Hacking Tools
Mar08 Lewandowski Approved Trump Adviser's Trip to Moscow in July
Mar08 Russian Billionaire's Jet and Trump's Jet Met Five Days before the Election
Mar08 Some Republicans Are Rejecting the ACA Replacement
Mar08 Hawaii Will Sue over Travel Ban
Mar08 Franken Says Sessions Perjured Himself
Mar08 White House Plagiarizes...from ExxonMobil
Mar07 Muslim Ban v2.0 Is Announced
Mar07 Is Trump Confusing the Alfa Bank Investigation with a Wiretap?
Mar07 GOP Releases ACA Replacement
Mar07 Senate Judiciary Committee to Hold Hearings on Deputy Attorney General Today
Mar07 Trump University Case May Not Be Closed Yet
Mar07 Ben Carson is Back at it Again
Mar06 Comey Asked Justice Dept. to Reject Trump's Wiretap Claim
Mar06 New Travel Ban Coming Soon
Mar06 Reince Priebus' Time May Be Short
Mar06 About the Economy, Mr. President...
Mar06 The Battle of the Wall Is Starting
Mar06 2020 Is the End of the Line for Boomer Dominance
Mar06 Politics Meets Geometry
Mar06 Oprah 2020?
Mar05 Trump Was Furious about Sessions Recusing Himself from Russia Probe
Mar05 Trump Accuses Obama of Ordering Wiretaps
Mar05 Russia Problem Is Not Going Away Any Time Soon
Mar05 Obama's First Address Watched by More People than Trump's
Mar05 Trump is Already Doing Fundraising for 2018
Mar05 Democrats Are Using a New Tactic to Get Trump to Release His Tax Returns in 2020
Mar05 White House Considering Use of Military Force Against North Korea
Mar04 New Version of ACA Replacement Leaked
Mar04 Trump Mocks Schumer for Eating Donuts with Putin