Dem 48
image description
GOP 52
image description
New polls:  
Dem pickups vs. 2012: (None)
GOP pickups vs. 2012: (None)

Trump Organization Sought Business Deal in Moscow...While He Was Running for President

Donald Trump has claimed, on numerous occasions, that he has no business ties to Russia. For example, there was this tweet in January, which seems fairly unambiguous:

If it's in ALL CAPS, it has to be true, right?

Of course, nobody seriously believed The Donald's protestations, since his efforts to do business with the Russians are well-documented, dating back to the 1980s. On Sunday, another piece of the puzzle came to light, as we learned that the Trump Organization was negotiating for a Trump Tower Moscow at literally the same time the primary process was beginning last year. In other words, not only did The Donald have business dealings with Russia before running for president, he also had them while he was running for president.

At the center of these dealings was Felix Sater, a Russian-born real estate developer who promised that he could get President Vladimir Putin to say "great things" about Trump. That the real estate transaction and presidential campaign were happening simultaneously is made clear by a Sater e-mail predicting that he and the Trumps would soon be celebrating both a presidential victory and one of the biggest real estate projects in history.

There is, of course, no question that Robert Mueller will be looking into this, if he hasn't already done so. And as the pieces of the puzzle fall into place, from secret meetings with Russian lawyers, to attempts to set up secure comm lines in the Russian embassy, to attempts to lay hands on Hillary Clinton e-mails, it's getting less and less likely that the administration is going to escape this whole thing unscathed. (Z)

Arpaio Story Is Not Going Away

Tom Bossert is Donald Trump's advisor on homeland security. He was on ABC's "This Week" on Sunday, and he opined that, "not too many people care about [Joe Arpaio] right now. They care about the millions of guys that are worried about their homes." That may be how it was supposed to work; just about everyone recognizes by now that this Friday's "news dump" was designed to allow the hurricane to wash some controversial news under the rug. However, it turns out that there's enough room on the front pages for stories about Harvey and Joe.

In particular, as the Arpaio story lingers into its third day, people continue to focus on the fact that last spring, Trump asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions if he could drop the case against Sheriff Joe Arpaio. To his credit, Sessions refused to do so, saying it would be inappropriate for him to interfere with the case. However, the AG was apparently unable to help the President understand that his relationship with the Justice Dept. is fundamentally different from his relationship with say, the Dept. of Energy. If Trump orders Secretary of Energy Rick Perry to make developing "clean coal" a priority, Perry is expected to carry out the order. In contrast, the Justice Dept. is not supposed to take orders from the president on how to pursue pending cases.

The problem for Trump is now twofold. First of all, as we pointed out yesterday, the mere request to kill the Arpaio case is troublesome, and it gets worse with the issuance of a pardon that was clearly politically motivated. That alone could be impeachable—something that Bill Clinton, for example, understood well, which is why he waited until his last day in office to issue a shady pardon to Marc Rich. Trump's second problem is that, not having learned from Sessions' first refusal, he went back to the well and asked again for an investigation to be dropped, this time the one into Michael Flynn. He was of course refused again, which led to the termination of James Comey. What we have, as a result, is a clear pattern of behavior, in both cases corroborated by numerous witnesses. In other words, if the House ever decides to impeach Trump, it now has two cases of potential obstruction of justice to work with. It remains quite remarkable that a man who has spent his entire adult life dealing with attorneys and lawsuits, literally thousands of them, is still not more skillful at putting himself in a position to avoid being prosecuted. (Z & V)

Breitbart Says Ryan Has Joined Up with Leftists

Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) let it be known that he does not agree with Donald Trump's decision to pardon Joe Arpaio. So naturally, Breitbart is now skewering Ryan, putting him the same bag as fellow travelers Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). Breitbart never liked Ryan or the Republican establishment at all, and it is clear with Steve Bannon back home, it is not going to start any time soon. Of course, every wedge they drive in between the various factions of the Republican Party, the harder it is for the GOP to get anything done while they have a monopoly on power in Washington. (V)

Trump May Be Failing His Hurricane Harvey Test

They call Hurricane Katrina "The flood that sank George W. Bush" because, for all of his slipups and questionable actions, that was the incident from which he never really recovered. The image of a smallish, seemingly-befuddled Bush, taking only the time to view the devastation from 30,000 feet in the air, was particularly lethal. Since then, presidents have known full well that—fair or not—hurricane handling is part of what they will be judged on.

Right now, it is Donald Trump who is under the microscope. His own FEMA director has described Hurricane Harvey as "probably the worst disaster the state's seen." It's also widely agreed that it's the worst hurricane since...Katrina. So, it's time for the President to step up to the plate. He will visit Houston on Tuesday, but thus far his response has been largely confined to—you guessed it—tweets. A few examples:

On reading these, one may notice that there are two recurrent themes: (1) "I can't believe how big this hurricane is!" and (2) "My administration is doing a great job dealing with it!" Some observers find this a little tone deaf, and might like to see a bit more encouragement or sympathy for the victims. And, ideally, a little less marveling at how cool the hurricane looks on TV.

Meanwhile, once the whole mess gets sorted out, the people of Texas might take note that Barack Obama attempted to impose regulations requiring that new infrastructure projects be built to withstand flooding, but—just two weeks ago—Trump canceled those regulations because he found them too onerous. The new rules had not come into effect yet, so neither Obama's nor Trump's actions had any impact on what is happening in Texas right now. However, if the President's visit on Tuesday leaves a sour taste in the mouths of Houstonians, this is the kind of thing that could come back to haunt him. (Z)

The Politics of Floods

Everything in America is politicized, so it's no surprise that hurricanes and floods are a major political football (see above). Currently the U.S. government runs a flood insurance program, but it is $25 billion in debt. Many conservatives think that the federal government should not be in the flood insurance business. If people want flood insurance, they should buy it on the open market from a private insurance company. Of course, if your house happens to be in a place prone to flooding, for example near an ocean, such private insurance is very very expensive, if available at all. If you live in, say, Denver or Las Vegas, it is much more affordable.

A category 3 fight is threatening D.C. as lawmakers are dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. A key issue is to what extent homeowners should pay higher rates to get the National Flood Insurance Program out of the water. The fight is pitting region against region, rather than Democrats against Republicans. Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) wants to bolster the program. Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), whose district is 200 miles from the Gulf of Mexico, would prefer to phase it out. One proposal floating around is to cap homeowners' premiums at $10,000 a year. Some people think that is a wee bit much.

Another contentious issue is flood insurance for new properties built on a floodplain. Some people feel that if you build or buy a house in an area prone to flooding, the government shouldn't bail you out (physically or financially) for a risk you chose to take. The trouble is that much of the U.S. coastline, including many major cities in the South and Northeast, are subject to flooding when hurricanes hit, and this is some of the most valuable and desirable property in the U.S.

Nevertheless, this is one of the rare areas where some kind of bipartisan consensus may be worked out eventually, since the pressure on Congress to do something is enormous now. And no matter what Congress comes up with, Trump will eagerly sign to show that he has a "win." (V)

Trump: "Bring Me Some Tariffs!"

Some days, the news just keeps coming. And so it is, in the midst of the Arpaio scandal, and a hurricane, and new revelations about Russiagate, that a detailed account of a Trump Oval Office meeting has leaked. Spoiler alert: It does not make Trump look good.

The subject of the meeting in question was China, and present for the meeting were the President, his newly-installed chief of staff John Kelly, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, senior trade adviser Peter Navarro, top economic adviser Gary Cohn, and the now-departed Steve Bannon. Assuming the account is to be believed, and there's nobody denying its authenticity, it certainly helps us to understand why it's tough to work for The Donald. He led the discussion by declaring that, "China is laughing at us!" Then, brushing aside whatever his advisors had to say, he made clear that he wants to impose tariffs on the Chinese. When Cohn expressed his opposition, and others in the room tried to steer Trump in a different direction, The Donald switched into what might be called "temper tantrum mode" and announced, "I want tariffs. And I want someone to bring me some tariffs."

Up to this point, we've kind of suspected that this is what a Trump meeting looks like, but now—it would seem—we know. Saturday Night Live was pretty much dead on, as it turns out. Beyond that, even though the Sinophobe Bannon is no longer in the West Wing, it certainly seems like a trade war with China is coming, sooner or later. (Z)

Tillerson Just Threw Trump Under the Bus

Donald Trump's economic adviser Gary Cohn was none too happy with the President's handling of Charlottesville, and he made his feelings on the matter known. Now, his job is in jeopardy. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is, by all accounts, none too fond of his boss, and is also unhappy about Charlottesville. He too spoke out, though the remarks he offered up on Sunday are simultaneously more subtle than those of Cohn, and yet also more damning.

The key moment, which came during a Tillerson appearance on Fox News Sunday, occurred during a discussion of the violence in Charlottesville:

TILLERSON: I don't believe anyone doubts the American people's values or the commitment of the American government or the government's agencies to advancing those values and defending those values.

WALLACE: And the president's values?

TILLERSON: The president speaks for himself, Chris.

The implication here is subtle, but clear: "American values" and "Trump values" are not the same thing.

It will be interesting to see if Trump, who loathes disloyalty, picks up on this, since nuance is not exactly his specialty. Maybe Rex Tillerson has pulled off something of a dog whistle, expressing his consternation in a way that sails over the heads of the President and his base. On the other hand, Breitbart has already picked up the story, lumping together Cohn and Tillerson in a story headlined "President Trump Allows Inner Circle to Publicly Disparage Him as Globalists March." So, Tillerson may just want to call in sick on Friday or, as it's known in the Trump White House, "Firing Day." (Z)

Gingrich Still Spinning Like a Maniac

Insiders say that former speaker Newt Gingrich isn't nearly the Trump intimate that he thinks he is. Nonetheless, he continues to be a self-appointed goon squad on the President's behalf, appearing anywhere and everywhere to help explain how great Trump is, or how bad his enemies are, or how things are a lot better than the left would have you believe. In the third category is a new piece that Newton has written for Fox News under the headline "Trump and approval ratings—what the elite media won't tell you."

To start with, if you're not clear that the media are elitists, the former Speaker is happy to make sure you understand by the end of the article. Including the headline, he deploys the words "media elite" 12 times in a 538-word article, which means that nearly 5% of the piece is composed of just that phrase. Beyond that, however, he has two main arguments. The first is that Ronald Reagan once got down to a 35% approval rating, and then went on to win a smashing 49-state victory. The second is that Emmanuel Macron of France is down around 35% right now, and the media aren't covering that (nor the low approval ratings of Theresa May or Shinzo Abe). His conclusion is that the media are just picking on Trump, for no good reason.

Let's take Newt's two main arguments, one at a time. As regards Reagan, it is true that his approval rating did drop to 35% during his first term. However, what the former speaker neglects to mention is that: (1) This was a temporary downturn that lasted only a few weeks, (2) It happened more than two years into Reagan's term, after his approval rating started in the 50s and regularly spent time in the 60s, and (3) This came in the midst of America's worst recession since the Great Depression, with more than 9 million Americans unemployed. Trump, by contrast, has been mired in the 30s for months, has never seen the 50s or 60s, should still be in his "honeymoon" period, and is currently benefiting from a good economy. Point is, arguing that Trump's current approval rating presages a Ronnie-like tidal wave victory in four years is pure fantasy. Here, incidentally, is a side by side comparison of the two presidents' approval ratings, with Reagan's on the right:

Trump vs. Reagan

Then there is the point about Macron, et. al. To some extent, Newt shoots himself in the foot here, since his charge of "liberal bias" does not really work for Theresa May (a conservative) or Shinzo Abe (also a conservative, even if the name of his party is the Liberal Democratic Party). Perhaps a better explanation is that the America media do not talk about their approval ratings, or those of Macron, very much because...they are not Americans. Which is not to say that the American media does not address this issue at all, though. Maybe Newton does not know how to use Google, because if he did, he could easily find the stories about Macron that he claims do not exist. Here are Time, Reuters, Bloomberg, Politico, WaPo, The New York Times, Newsweek, and U.S. News and World Report, all from the last few weeks. The East Cupcake Junior High School Daily Cupcake doesn't seem to have covered the story, though; maybe that's what Newt is reading these days.

In any event, Gingrich may have been out of office for nearly 20 years, but he's clearly still got the ability to blow hot air like a pro. Meanwhile, we are reminded that when dealing with the Fox Newses of the world, it's probably best to follow the Gipper's old advice: "Trust, but verify." Well, except for the "trust" part. (Z)

No Kasich-Hickenlooper Independent Ticket

It seemed like a longshot when we heard about it late last week, for no other reason than the fact that Gov. John Kasich (R-OH) and Gov. John Hickenlooper (D-CO) are both veteran politicians and know full well that third-party bids for the presidency face near-insurmountable odds. After all, if Teddy Roosevelt couldn't pull it off, how are the two Johns going to do it?

On Sunday, appearing on "Meet the Press," Kasich made it official. He pooh-poohed the whole notion, and said that, "Look, 'Kasich-Hickenlooper,' first of all, you couldn't pronounce it and second of all, you couldn't fit it on a bumper sticker." When host Chuck Klein observed that is not a "no," Kasich responded with, "The answer is 'no,' okay?"

This does not rule out a Kasich run as a Republican, of course, something that he himself acknowledged. It also doesn't mean that, if he somehow wrestles the nomination away from Donald Trump (or Mike Pence, or both), he might not choose a Democrat as his running mate. However, the notion of a "third option" to the Democrats and the Republicans is clearly dead in the water. (Z)

Can a Country Survive an Unstable Leader?

Imagine a leader who:

  • Is colorful, flamboyant, and outspoken
  • Has zero government experience before taking office
  • Runs through several wives
  • Is rumored to have...unorthodox sexual habits
  • Is impetuous and temperamental, but beloved by the people
  • Has luxury tastes, to the point that it costs the government a pretty penny
  • Constantly argues with the Senate
  • Tries to get rid of everything his predecessor did, in part so he can spend lots of money on infrastructure

Sounds familiar, and perhaps a bit concerning, doesn't it? No need to worry, however, because Rome did just fine after Caligula was assassinated.

Now, imagine a leader who:

  • Is also colorful, flamboyant, and outspoken
  • Was never expected to become leader of his country
  • Treats women like his playthings, to be discarded when they are no longer useful or attractive
  • Forms fast friendships with advisors, then decides they are "disloyal" and lops their heads off
  • Loathes his critics with a deep and abiding passion
  • Is widely regarded as insecure
  • Regards religion as a combination of (1) useful tool and (2) annoyance, and proceeds accordingly
  • Suffers from noticeable physical and mental infirmity as he ages
  • Fights constantly with the leaders of Europe
  • Hates the Pope, and the feeling is mutual

It's ok, though. England eventually bounced back after Henry VIII died and Elizabeth I eventually succeeded to the throne, launching the nation on a trajectory that would culminate in its becoming the world's greatest empire.

Finally, consider a president who:

  • Desperately wants to live up to the standard set by a popular predecessor
  • Tends to give rambling, unfocused speeches
  • Is well-to-do, and yet says he understands "the common man"
  • Is elected president as a member of one party, despite having been a lifelong member of the other party
  • Ends up publicly feuding with members of both parties as a result of this
  • Refuses to stand up to Southern racists
  • Feels that talk of black oppression is nonsense
  • Is locked in a pitched, years-long battle with the New York Times
  • Cultivates a small handful of media outlets that fight back against the Times for him
  • Fires so many executive department officials that Congress becomes alarmed
  • Inspires talk of impeachment throughout his time in office
  • Is possibly saved from impeachment by the fear that his successor would be even worse

This, of course, is a very clear description of...Andrew Johnson. His departure from office coincided with the beginnings of the Gilded Age, and within 20 years of his disastrous presidency, the United States would be a world power.

Anyhow, the lesson here is clear: If the United States should ever happen to have some bad luck, and to end up with an unstable leader, perhaps sometime in the far, far distant future, all is not lost. Many a country has recovered from years, or even decades, of having someone unreliable with their hand on the throttle. Although that throttle did not have a button on it marked "nuclear weapons," of course. (V & Z)

Email a link to a friend or share:

---The Votemaster and Zenger
Aug27 Hurricane Not Quite the Distraction That Trump Hoped
Aug27 Mueller's Microscope Trained on Flynn Again
Aug27 Cohn Should Have Been More Reserved
Aug27 Gorka Headed Back to Breitbart
Aug27 Polls Are Ugly for Prominent Republicans
Aug27 Should Democrats Avoid Playing the "Race Card"?
Aug27 WSJ Says Trump Is No Republican
Aug26 Trump Settles Some Business
Aug26 Ted and John Meet Harvey
Aug26 Trump May Back Away from Strange
Aug26 Trump Goes After Bob Corker
Aug26 RNC Adopts Resolution Condemning White Supremacists
Aug26 Cohn Almost Resigned
Aug26 Kasich-Hickenlooper 2020?
Aug25 Trump Lashes Out at Everyone
Aug25 Best Eclipse Ever
Aug25 Mnuchin May Have Eclipse Trouble
Aug25 Trump May Get His "Katrina Moment" This Weekend
Aug25 Ryan Says the Tax Cut Must Be Permanent
Aug25 Trump Makes Transgender Ban Mattis' Problem
Aug25 Who Cares About Miners' Health? Not the Trump Administration, Apparently
Aug25 Plame Has Plan to Get Trump Kicked off of Twitter
Aug25 CIA Staff, Director Don't Particularly Trust One Another
Aug25 Palin Endorses Heller's Challenger
Aug24 Takeaways from Trump's Speech in Phoenix
Aug24 Phoenix Rally Dominates the News
Aug24 What's Going on with the Arpaio Pardon?
Aug24 Email Surfaces about Possible Contact between Trump Campaign and Putin
Aug24 Health-care Reform May Not Be Dead Yet
Aug24 The Seven Senate Seats Most Likely to Flip Next Year
Aug24 Trump Voters Think White Christians Are the Most Oppressed
Aug24 Second Poll Shows Moore with Huge Lead over Strange
Aug24 Republicans Accuse Virginia Gubernatorial Candidate of Being a Traitor to His Race
Aug24 Hidden Messages All the Rage These Days
Aug23 Trump's Arizona Speech Was Environmentally Correct, Using Only Recycled Material
Aug23 Don't Tell the President: Monday Speech Drew Mediocre Ratings
Aug23 Trump and McConnnell Are at War
Aug23 Menendez's Trial To Begin This Week
Aug23 Mueller is Zeroing in on Manafort
Aug23 White House Staffers Are Plotting to Break a Major Campaign Promise
Aug23 The Big Six Are Making Progress on Tax Overhaul
Aug23 Trump Nominee Clovis Is in the Spotlight
Aug22 Trump Unveils Afghanistan Strategy
Aug22 Another Day, Another Advisory Committee Dead
Aug22 Trump Is Actively Campaigning for Reelection Already
Aug22 McConnell Says that Congress Will Raise the Debt Ceiling
Aug22 Trump Wants Funding for a Border Wall
Aug22 Trump Campaign Officials Met with Russian Email Hacking Expert
Aug22 Secret Service Has Run Out of Money Protecting the Trump Family
Aug22 FCC Greasing the Skids for Sinclair