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

Trump Signed Letter of Intent for Trump Tower in Moscow during the Campaign

Yesterday, we and many other sites reported that Trump was negotiating a business deal for a Trump Tower in Moscow during his campaign. The latest news is even more concrete. ABC News has reported that the Trump Organization's then-chief counsel, Michael Cohen, admitted that 4 months into the campaign, Trump actually signed a letter of intent to build the project. If Cohen's statement is true, then Trump's statement during the campaign that he had no business dealings in Russia is an outright lie.

Cohen is a long-time friend of Felix Sater, a two-time felon who has longstanding ties to Russia and also to Trump. Sater and Cohen are no doubt keys to Trump's relationship with Russia and Vladimir Putin. Surely it will occur to special counsel Robert Mueller to have a little chat—under oath—with both of them sooner or later. The Trump Tower Moscow project was eventually abandoned, but both Sater and Cohen can undoubtedly give Mueller useful information and leads. (V)

Could a Presidential Pardon Be Grounds for Impeachment?

Many legal observers think that Donald Trump's pardon of former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio could be a test run to see how well political pardons fly. Could Trump also pardon witnesses or others implicated in Russiagate to buy their silence? And could he do it early in the process, before the person in question was even tried, let alone convicted?

Doing so would unquestionably be legal, but some lawyers think it could also lead to impeachment for obstruction of justice. The people pardoned would go free, but if there were a clear pattern of the president using the pardon power to keep potential witnesses from testifying, Congress could well interpret that as obstruction of justice, which is a serious enough crime that it was listed as #1 on Richard Nixon's articles of impeachment. In this interpretation, Trump's crime wouldn't be using the pardon power, but using it to obstruct justice. As Jerry Ford once put it: "An impeachable offense is whatever a majority of the House of Representatives considers it to be at a given moment in history." (V)

DeSantis Wants to End Mueller Investigation

It's budget time, which means that the 435 voting members of the House of Representatives are in a mad rush to get their pet amendments attached to the various funding bills. That includes Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL), who has proposed a measure that would end Robert Mueller's investigation in six months, and would prohibit him from looking into anything that happened before 2015.

This is a pro-level demonstration of using the amendment process to score brownie points with constituents. Donald Trump won DeSantis' district (FL-06) by 17 points, so the Representative's voters are undoubtedly not enthused by Mueller's activities. It's also the case that it can never hurt to kiss a little presidential rear end. However, there is no chance that Congress acts on DeSantis' proposal. The GOP members are well aware that the midterms are already looking grim, and killing the Mueller investigation would simply heighten the extent of the reaping. A recent poll found that roughly two-thirds of voters in the 99 swing districts that will determine control of the House want the investigation to be allowed to run its course. Aggravating the large majority of voters is not good politics. This may help explain why Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) is on the record as saying that Trump should "let Robert Mueller do his job." So, the investigation isn't going away. (Z)

Trump's Team May Follow Karl Rove's 2004 Playbook

In 2004, George W. Bush political guru Karl Rove had a strategy of increasing Republican turnout: Get ballot initiatives popular with conservatives on the ballot in key states. Typical initiatives were those legally defining a marriage as a union between one man and one woman. Donald Trump's political team may take a page from Rove's playbook and try to use it in 2018.

However, the Rove maneuver would likely be modified in two important ways. First, rather than try to get ballot initiatives in nearly a dozen states, as Rove did, the focus would be on only three states: Montana, North Dakota, and Missouri. All of these states have vulnerable Democrats up for reelection. Second, rather than use incendiary social issues as the focus (which might bring out more Democrats than Republicans), the focus might be on economic issues. The downside of that approach is that while many deeply conservative voters would walk barefoot over glass shards to vote for Rove's definition of marriage, not so many will do that to vote for lower taxes. In particular, will people who were not otherwise planning to vote go to the polls just to vote on an economic issue? The wealthy ones, maybe, but Rove's gay marriage technique was aimed at working-class types.

The current spearhead of the discussions is Gerry Gunster, who helped run the campaign for the U.K. to leave the European Union. Another possible leader is Steve Bannon, who is now free from the constraints of working in the White House. With his ideas and Robert Mercer's money, all kinds of schemes are possible.

Democrats are planning ballot initiatives as well, albeit very different ones from those the Republicans are likely to work for. One being worked on for Arizona, Florida, and Missouri is marijuana legalization. This could bring many young people who don't normally vote, but who like to smoke dope, to the polls.

There is not a lot of evidence, however, that presence of a ballot initiative drives a lot of people who would otherwise stay home to the polls. The theory is well and good, but the effect may be small. What is well known though, is that midterm elections tend to be a referendum on the president, and that rarely works out well for the president's party. The Democrats might as well adopt as their 2018 slogan: "If you like Trump, vote a straight Republican ticket, and if you don't, vote a straight Democratic ticket." That might work as well as putting pot on the ballot. (V)

Mexico to Trump: We Are Not Paying for a Wall under Any Circumstances

On a phone call with Mexico's president Enrique Peña Nieto, Donald Trump basically conceded that Mexico was not going to pay for his wall project, but requested that the Mexican president not say this in public. Well, Peña Nieto didn't, but his foreign ministry certainly did when it issued this statement: "As the Mexican government has always stated, our country will not pay, under any circumstances, for a wall or physical barrier built on US territory along the Mexican border." At the very least, this makes it a lot harder for Trump to claim that while the U.S. can provide some initial funding for the wall, in the end, Mexico will pay for it.

The timing couldn't be worse for Trump. In his speech in Arizona last week, he said that if the bill to fund the government doesn't contain funds to build (part of) the wall, he would veto it and shut down the government. The problem with the timing is that Congress will soon be discussing how many tens of billions of dollars it wants to spend to help Texas recover from Hurricane Harvey. This unexpected drain on the treasury will make it harder to include wall funding in any spending bill and still get the votes of the many deficit hawks in the House. Of course Trump could change course and try to deal with unwanted immigrants and excess water at the same time by saying: "Instead of building a really high wall along the border, we will build a really wide and deep moat." (V)

Bannon Is Taking on McConnell in Alabama

You thought there was just a Republican primary in Alabama in September? It has now become a proxy war, with Steve Bannon joining the fun. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) desperately wants Sen. Luther Strange (R-AL) to win it, so Bannon is taking up the cause of his opponent, former Alabama Supreme Court Judge Roy Moore. Bannon is tight with Rebekah Mercer, whose billionaire father funds her political projects. If Mercer gets involved for Moore, who already has a big lead in the polls, it could be all over for Strange and McConnell.

Trump supported Strange in the first round but has been quiet since the the polls showed Moore ahead, probably because he likes winners, not losers. If Moore wins the runoff and then the general election, he could be a real thorn in McConnell's side in the Senate and make it harder to get anything done. It will be interesting if Trump makes his preference clear in the next 4 weeks. If he comes out for Moore this time, that puts him on a direct collision course with McConnell. If he comes out for Strange, that puts him on a direct collision course with Bannon. What's a president to do except tweet: "Senate race? What Senate race? Do they have elections down there in September? Odd custom." (V)

Pruitt Being Investigated

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt spends an awful lot of time doing "research" in his home state of Oklahoma. As in, nearly half his time is spent traveling, and on every trip he spends substantial time at home. Those trips cost John Q. Taxpayer money ($12,000 so far), and while they may be apropos for a Representative, they are not nearly as justifiable for the head of a federal bureau, even if he does claim he's just "getting outside of the Washington bubble."

In any event, Pruitt's frequent trips home have triggered multiple complaints, and now an investigation by the EPA's Office of Inspector General. Pruitt's spokeswoman Amy Graham declared that this is, "nothing more than a distraction from the administrator's significant environmental accomplishments." What those "significant" accomplishments are, she did not say. However, it is getting to the point that it is a rare high-ranking member of the Trump administration who is not under investigation (or fired). Is the glare of the spotlight particularly intense, because Trump is so widely disliked? Or does he tend to attract people who don't feel the rules apply to them? Or maybe some of both? Whatever the case may be, there are now 35 separate Wikipedia articles on "Trump Administration Controversies." At this pace, he'll surpass Clinton's 37 sometime next week, Obama's 48 by the end of October, and George W. Bush's 139 early in 2018. (Z)

Another Presidential Council is Collapsing

One of the councils that could be very useful to Donald Trump, both because he knows nothing about the subject, and also because it's a pressing issue these days, is the White House's National Infrastructure Advisory Council. It is responsible—in particular—for advising the president on cybersecurity issues. Of course, Trump is not focused on making appointments, particularly to councils that say things he does not understand or that he does not want to hear. So, the members—almost all of them Obama appointees, and the rest left over from the Bush years—have spent the last six months twisting in the wind.

Now, eight of the 28 members have had it, frustrated by the President's lack of attention to cybersecurity, as well as his handling of Charlottesville. So, those eight have quit via a sharply-worded letter sent to Trump. It has been all the rage recently to hide messages in these letters, using the first letter of each paragraph to sneak in a 'RESIST' or an 'IMPEACH.' The first letters of the four paragraphs in this letter are IIYT, which is sometimes used in text messaging to mean "idiot." It's a little subtle, so it's hard to know for sure, but this is how we might expect a bunch of computer guys to do it. Well, that or a message in binary. However, it would be hard to start every paragraph with a 0 or a 1 without it being pretty conspicuous. (Z)

Another Trump Insider Is Out

In a maneuver that is as Trumpian as one could possibly imagine, The Donald—who spent all last week bragging about the size of the crowd he attracted in Phoenix—has canned George Gigicos, the longtime aide who planned his rallies. The President's complaint is that the room was too empty, something that was clear to him from the beginning, and that put him in a bad mood before he ever started speaking. So, every word of bragging about crowd size was a lie. And in true Trump fashion, Gigicos was informed of his termination by the Donald's personal bodyguard, and not by the President himself.

With Gigicos' departure, there are only three aides left who have more service time with Trump. Those three should probably polish their resumes, since nobody is safe, clearly. Presumably, it does not occur to the President that every time he blames his problems on yet another underling and sends them packing, it becomes that much harder to hire a replacement, much less a replacement who is an improvement. And it remains the case that nearly 80% of the key jobs in the Trump administration are unfilled, while more than 60% don't even have an appointee for the Senate to consider. (Z)

Email a link to a friend or share:

---The Votemaster and Zenger
Aug28 Trump Organization Sought Business Deal in Moscow...While He Was Running for President
Aug28 Arpaio Story Is Not Going Away
Aug28 Breitbart Says Ryan Has Joined Up with Leftists
Aug28 Trump May Be Failing His Hurricane Harvey Test
Aug28 The Politics of Floods
Aug28 Trump: "Bring Me Some Tariffs!"
Aug28 Tillerson Just Threw Trump Under the Bus
Aug28 Gingrich Still Spinning Like a Maniac
Aug28 No Kasich-Hickenlooper Independent Ticket
Aug28 Can a Country Survive an Unstable Leader?
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