• Victory Has a Thousand Fathers but Defeat Is an Orphan
• Roger Stone Denies Colluding with the Russians
• Majority of Americans Want Independent Trump-Russia Investigation
• Trump Sons Will Give Him Financial Reports
• Trump Opponents Don't Know What to Do With All Their Money
• Trump Approves Keystone XL Pipeline
• Netanyahu-Trump Bromance is Over
• Kasich Says He's "Out" in 2020
• Mister Rogers Haunts Trump from Beyond the Grave
In the wake of Friday's disastrous non-vote on the AHCA bill, Republicans are opening fire on one another. Yesterday, President Donald Trump attacked the House Freedom Caucus with this tweet:
Democrats are smiling in D.C. that the Freedom Caucus, with the help of Club For Growth and Heritage, have saved Planned Parenthood & Ocare!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 26, 2017
For a Republican to say that a group of about three dozen Republican representatives saved Planned Parenthood and Obamacare is about as big an insult as there is. But the Freedom Caucus hasn't been Trump's only target. On "Meet the Press" yesterday, Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA), leader of the moderate House "Tuesday Group," said that when Trump met Dent in an attempt to win him over for the AHCA bill, Trump said he was "destroying the Republican Party." Attacking both the moderate and conservative wings of his own party seems like an unusual way to win friends and influence people, most of whom he is going to need on the next vote.
Trump vs. the Republican Party isn't the only battle on display, either—representatives are now going after each other. Rep. Austin Scott (R-GA) yesterday tweeted that Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), chairman of the Freedom Caucus, "betrayed Trump and America and supported Pelosi and Dems to protect Obamacare." When you say someone has "betrayed America," you are accusing him of treason. Meadows was immediately defended by Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI), who tweeted: "Austin, thank God there are honorable congressmen like @RepMarkMeadows who aren't seduced by logical fallacies." With Republicans already at each others' throats less than 3 months into the Trump presidency, it will be interesting to see how much legislation can be passed in the near future.
On "Fox News Sunday," White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus seconded Donald Trump's insult of the Freedom Caucus by saying the White House could work with moderate Democrats in the future and bypass the Freedom Caucus. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said he was open to working with Trump, adding: "But it's going to be guided on our values." In other words, if Trump comes up with a tax reform bill that cuts taxes for middle-class families and doesn't give anything to millionaires, Trump can count on Schumer's help. The only problem with that is that such a bill wouldn't get any Republican support at all. So Priebus' threat is just idle talk. If Trump couldn't even bring the moderate Republicans on board last Friday, getting any Democrats to sign up for his program is going to be vastly harder. (V)
John F. Kennedy probably wasn't imagining Donald Trump's White House when he said that, but it definitely applies. Politico has interviewed more than two dozen Trump aides and others close to him and revealed a White House in shambles, with everyone blaming everyone else for the defeat of the AHCA bill and the general lack of direction and progress on the administration's goals. Much of the problem is due to the president's management style. He has created multiple antagonistic power centers. Did he really think that bomb throwing anti-Semite Steve Bannon would get along with Jared Kushner, an orthodox Jew, or with Mr. Establishment, Reince Priebus?
There is enough blame to go around. Priebus got his job because he was close to Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and would make sure Trump's legislation got passed. Oops. Kushner got his job because he is married to Trump's beloved daughter, but many in the White House feel he tried to sabotage the healthcare bill and then scooted off to Colorado to go skiing when the sparks were flying. Trump's political operation is ill-planned and halting, with fights over who was hired.
Insiders have complained about mismanagement of Trump's travel. He spoke in Michigan recently but the Michigan Republican Party wasn't even informed of his trip there in advance of its public announcement. Trump also spoke in Kentucky and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was present, but only in a minor role (probably because that is what the ever-cautious McConnell wanted).
White House aides are complaining about how federal agencies are being run. Some are accusing Scott Pruitt, who has deep ties to the oil and gas industry and who does not believe in climate change, of not pushing the president's agenda fast enough. They say the Oklahoma politician is more interested in preparing to run for the Senate if Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), who will be 85 when he is up for reelection in 2020, decides to retire.
Rebekah Mercer, Trump's biggest donor and a close friend of Steve Bannon, is unhappy that so many establishment Republicans have been hired in key positions. She wants more alt-right people like Bannon. She is especially distrustful of Priebus.
One former Trump campaign aide summed up the White House as follows:
The various warring fiefdoms and camps within the White House are constantly changing and complicated in their nature that there is no amount of reporting that could accurately describe the subterfuge, animosity, and finger-pointing that is currently happening within the ranks of the senior staff.
A few weeks ago Trump said that his administration was a "fine-tuned machine." It appears that it needs to go back to the shop now for a new tune-up. (V)
Last Monday, during House hearings about Russian meddling with the election, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) cited numerous times how one of Donald Trump's advisers, Roger Stone, bragged about his contacts with the Russians. Stone was also able to predict that John Podesta's emails would be hacked and released, which turned out to be true. Yesterday, Stone appeared on ABC's "This Week" and said: "I reiterate again, I have had no contacts or collusions with the Russians." It is already clear that the investigation of the contacts that Trump's aides had with the Russians is going to be very difficult, since they are all likely to deny everything, or if under oath, possibly use the Fifth Amendment to refuse to answer any questions. Stone has agreed to testify before the House Intelligence Committee, but it would be extremely surprising if he said anything different from what he told George Stephanopoulos yesterday. (V)
Quinnipiac released a new poll this weekend, and it was full of bad news for the administration. To start, 65% of respondents said that Trump's relationship with Russia was a "very important" or "somewhat important" issue, while 66% want an independent prosecutor to look into the matter, compared to only 29% who do not. The Jeff Sessions-led Justice Department is going to resist doing this, though that may not be viable if the issue lingers, and there continue to be new revelations on a near-daily basis.
This wasn't the only bad news for Trump. Respondents oppose his funding priorities, including cutting medical research (87%-9%), cutting research into the environment and climate change (67%-31%), eliminating the NEA and NEH (66%-27%), eliminating the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (79%-17%), and funding the Mexican wall (64%-35%). They also oppose cutting taxes on the wealthy (74%-22%), don't want climate change regulations to be dialed back (63%-29%), and do not like the Muslim ban (55%-43%). In fact, the only Trump initiative that has majority support is more funding for the military (58%-39%). Governing is complicated, as Trump is learning. (Z)
The Trump family continues to insist that there is no conflict of interest between Donald, Sr.'s current job and his business interests, and that they have done a good job of building a wall between the two. "There is kind of a clear separation of church and state that we maintain, and I am deadly serious about that exercise," said Eric Trump last week. "I do not talk about the government with him, and he does not talk about the business with us. That's kind of a steadfast pact we made, and it's something that we honor." However, demonstrating a poor understanding of the concept of a blind trust, not to mention that of a "separation between church and state," Trump says he will be giving his father financial reports. He insists that's not a big deal, because it won't happen all that often—"maybe quarterly."
Even without the financial reports, the notion that Trump could separate himself from his business interests was never credible. With the reports, it's clear that he and his sons aren't really even trying all that hard. Said Larry Noble, former chief ethics officer at the Federal Election Commission:
The statement that the president made earlier that he wasn't going to talk to his children about the business sounded good, but the reality was there was no way to enforce it. He is breaking down one of the few barriers he claimed to be establishing between him and his businesses, and those barriers themselves were weak to begin with. But if he is now going to get reports from his son about the businesses, then he really isn't separate in any real way.
George W. Bush's former chief ethics lawyer, Richard Painter, concurred: "It just means that a lot of what they say is malarkey because the president isn't distancing himself from the business." And really, anybody who believed Trump would allow his sons to sail the S.S. Trump for eight years without checking in was being naive—he is just too invested (pun intended). The only real question is whether he will run afoul of the law (say, the emoluments clause) enough to get into legal trouble. (Z)
Groups that have been critical of Donald Trump have seen massive increases in donations and, in some cases, members. The climate action group 350.org saw donations triple in November. Planned Parenthood got 600,000 new donors and 36,000 new volunteers. The ACLU has raised $80 million since the election. Key players in what is being called "The Resistance," including these groups, are being flooded with so much money that they don't know how to spend it most effectively. Nor do they know how to manage all the volunteers they are getting. For example, MoveOn.org and Indivisible held a joint conference call in January, which 60,000 people joined in. The Guinness Book of World Records said this was the biggest conference call ever. But how do you manage 60,000 people who want to help you?
Large national groups, like the ACLU, are better at growing quickly. On its Website, the ACLU has detailed its plans. For example, it is going to give $40 million to its state offices, which are going to hire 100 new staff members to fight Trump in court on many key issues at the state level (e.g., voter ID laws). Another $21 million will go to hiring lawyers at the national headquarters to sue Trump on national issues (e.g., the Muslim ban). Money will also be spent on building a grassroots mobilization effort, a new database system, and on new office space for the new hires to work in.
Smaller organizations, like Indivisible, ary trying to adjust quickly to having so much money and so many volunteers without the underlying structure that the ACLU has. For example, Ezra Levin, one of the founders of Indivisible, said: "What we see right now is this fierce urgency. We're definitely building the plane while we fly it." (V)
While the AHCA was falling apart around him on Friday, Donald Trump did manage to get something done: He gave formal approval for the controversial Keystone XL pipeline. "It's a great day for jobs and energy independence," Trump said, describing the pipeline as "the greatest technology known to man or woman." We might have gone with penicillin, or the Internet, or the internal combustion engine, or the transistor, but different strokes for different folks. In any case, this reverses an Obama-era decision, one reached after years of hand-wringing.
The AHCA story gave a certain amount of cover for this announcement, since it pushed Keystone stories off the front pages, and allowed the news to fly under the radar. With that said, this was a no-brainer for Trump, politically. The pipeline will create some jobs, which is one of his priorities (though exactly how many jobs, and how long they will exist, is debated). It will also please certain groups of GOP donors like, say, the petroleum industry (aka the employers, until recently, of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson). Meanwhile, the overlap between "Trump voters" and "people who really hate the Keystone pipeline" (mostly environmentalists and Native Americans) is just about zero. The only real surprise is that this took as long as it did. (Z)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel had a chilly relationship with Barack Obama, and a very warm one with Donald Trump. That included laudatory statements about The Donald ("There is no greater supporter of the Jewish people and the Jewish state"), a handful of joint photo-ops, and even some effort by Netanyahu to campaign for Trump, to the extent that was possible. Trump rewarded this with some very strongly worded statements in opposition to a two-state solution, and a promise to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Based on this, the Israeli government approved the construction of 6,000 housing units in disputed areas, the first such construction in two decades.
Now, Netanyahu has learned what he (and anyone else who was paying attention) should have known long ago: Trump changes positions on the issues more often than some people change socks. The President has dropped his promise to move the U.S. embassy (as did Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter before him). He's also criticized the plans to build new housing, saying that it's "not good" for peace.
Trump's reversal has left Netanyahu between a rock and a hard place. While The Donald now wants a peace deal, the far-right elements in Israeli politics are calling for aggressive action, and a permanent end to talk of a two-state solution. The Prime Minister's coalition may soon collapse, and he may find himself facing elections and possibly the loss of his office. Not helping things is that he is also under investigation for corruption. Add it all up, and the odds that the current government survives until the next time that elections will happen automatically, in 2019, are not good. Meanwhile, other foreign leaders are undoubtedly watching these developments with interest, particularly if they are considering exactly how much they want to hitch their wagon to Donald Trump. (Z)
Gov. John Kasich (R-OH) will be term limited next year. He has been a high-profile critic of the Trump administration, pointedly refusing to support The Donald during the election, and speaking out against the AHCA. Kasich also has his own superPAC, is writing a book, and is otherwise doing an excellent job of setting himself up to remain in the headlines even when he's no longer in the governor's mansion. This weekend, then, CNN's Dana Bash asked him the obvious question: Is he running for president again in 2020? "You don't close the door on anything," said Kasich, "but I don't have my eyes on that."
This denial actually doesn't mean all that much. The niceties of politics, as well as the constraints imposed by federal election law, dictate that even if Kasich were a candidate, he would need to pretend he is not until some time in 2019. Until the Governor pulls a full Sherman, he should be considered in the mix for 2020. The story is primarily of interest because we are 66 days into Donald Trump's term, and people are already speculating about, and even searching for, possible opponents for his re-election bid. That is what political scientists call "not a good sign." (Z)
Thirty-four years ago, another pro-military president was making noise about cutting PBS to pay for more bombs and guns. In response to Ronald Reagan's Cold War-era saber-rattling, legendary children's television host Mister Rogers put together a series of (by his standards) five edgy episodes in which the characters in the "Land of Make Believe" allegorically waged their own Cold War, selling everything they valued—including their art—to build a bomb in order to protect themselves from a threat that did not actually exist. These five episodes have attained near-legendary status among Mister Rogers fans, since they were aired only once (in November of 1983) and then were pulled from syndication and disappeared. All searches for the tapes proved fruitless, and they were widely presumed to be lost.
At least, they were presumed to be lost until last week. Mysteriously, two of the five missing episodes were posted in their entirety to YouTube last Monday. The user who did so, under the name TROG SLEEP NOW, has posted no other videos or other material, has not commented on any other videos on the site, and doesn't even have a profile picture. Thus far, there is no indication as to who this person is or how they got the missing tapes. The timing certainly appears to be a comment on Donald Trump's budget, however, while Mister Rogers (who died in 2003) almost seems to be addressing himself directly to the President at some points in the programs:
Rules are very, very important. Not just for games but for all things. Even big things like countries. Countries have to have rules to protect people, too. And someday you'll be helping to make the rules for your country. I trust that you'll make the best kind you know how.
Maybe the other three episodes, the ones that are still missing, have Mister Rogers talking about how Muslims are not banned in his neighborhood. (Z)Email a link to a friend or share:
---The Votemaster and Zenger
Mar26 Ryan Is Badly Damaged
Mar26 Path Forward for Trump Will Be Strewn with Big Rocks
Mar26 Will the Affordable Care Act Explode?
Mar26 Flynn May Have Turned Against Trump
Mar26 Deputy Attorney General Nomination Will Move Forward
Mar26 Mnuchin Gives Interesting Interview
Mar25 Who Knew Governing Was so Hard? Obamacare Repeal Fails
Mar25 Trump: I Should Have Done Tax Reform First
Mar25 Investigation of Manafort Now Extends to Cyprus
Mar25 Poll: Americans Don't Want to Deport Undocumented Immigrants
Mar25 Senate Votes to Kill Internet Privacy
Mar25 Canada's Largest School District Will End Trips to U.S.
Mar24 Healthcare Bill Vote Is Canceled Because the Votes Aren't There
Mar24 What Happens Next?
Mar24 Congressional Budget Office Scores the New Healthcare Bill
Mar24 The Koch Brothers Are Trying to Buy "No" Votes on Healthcare Bill
Mar24 Voters Overwhelmingly Oppose AHCA
Mar24 Could This Be the End of the Line for Ryan?
Mar24 Schumer Plans to Filibuster Gorsuch
Mar24 Nunes Really Stepped in It
Mar24 Trump Hotel Does Not Violate Lease
Mar23 Latest Whip Count Shows AHCA without Enough Support to Pass
Mar23 Republicans Are Already Working on the Second Bucket
Mar23 FBI Investigating Trump Campaign-Russia Coordination
Mar23 Manafort Had a $10 Million Contract with Russian Billionaire to Help Putin
Mar23 Nunes Tries to Throw Trump a Lifeline
Mar23 Gorsuch Speaks a Lot, Says Little
Mar23 WSJ Slams Trump
Mar23 Colorado Republican Who Claimed Widespread Voter Fraud Charged with Voter Fraud
Mar23 Bad Day for Secretary of Labor Nominees
Mar22 Republicans Are Running Scared
Mar22 McConnell Says Senate Will Take Up the Healthcare Bill Next Week
Mar22 Gorsuch Sits in the Hot Seat, Doesn't Wilt
Mar22 Most Americans Can't Name Even One Supreme Court Justice
Mar22 Dow Has Worst Day Under Trump
Mar22 CNN: Ivanka Will Get a White House Office
Mar22 Manafort May Have Laundered Ukrainian Money
Mar22 Labor Nominee Acosta Let Billionaire Off the Hook in Underage Sex Case
Mar21 Comey Tells House Committee that Obama Didn't Tap Trump's Phone
Mar21 White House Goes Into Full Spin Mode
Mar21 NSA Director Complains that Trump is Undermining U.S. Alliances
Mar21 Trump Didn't Work on the Healthcare Bill During the Past Weekend
Mar21 Ryan Scrounging Up Votes for AHCA One at a Time
Mar21 Neither the ACA nor the AHCA Tackle the Problem of Controlling Healthcare Costs
Mar21 Gorsuch Makes Senate Debut
Mar21 Trump Drops to No. 544 on List of Richest Americans
Mar20 Comey to Testify before House Committee Today
Mar20 Rand Paul Predicts the AHCA Will Fail to Pass Congress
Mar20 Ryan Is Betting the Farm on the AHCA Vote