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

Trump Formally Endorses Roy Moore

Donald Trump finally came out and tweeted a formal endorsement of Republican Roy Moore in the Alabama Senate race yesterday:

Trump has been hinting at his preference for the alleged child molester for weeks, but now he has come out and said it point blank. He has long dismissed all the allegations that Moore abused teenagers years ago.

It is doubtful that this tweet will convince anyone who wasn't already a Moore fan but it could help bring reluctant Trump supporters to the polls next Tuesday. In a race where turnout is everything, that could matter. On the other hand, if Moore's opponent, Doug Jones (D) wins, Trump will have egg on his face and his power to influence Republican lawmakers in the future will be close to zero. The election is a week from today. (V)

RNC Back in on Moore, Too

Donald Trump is not the only one to climb on board the S.S. Roy Moore on Monday. The RNC is hitching a ride as well, announcing that they will transfer money to the Alabama Republican party this week in order to help the would-be senator with his final advertising push. "The RNC is the political arm of the president and we support the President," explained one official.

At this point, it is clear what the GOP's leaders—and probably the Trump administration—were thinking. It is obvious they assumed that Moore would win in deep red Alabama no matter what, which afforded them cover to attack him, cut off his funds, and the like. In this scenario, the Party could take the moral high ground, and yet still keep the seat—they could have their cake and eat it, too. Now, however, it looks like he might actually lose. External polls suggest as much, and presumably the Party has internal polls telling them the same thing. Given how badly they need that seat when it comes time to vote on things like the Obamacare repeal and the tax plan, they no longer have the luxury of holding Moore at arm's length. So they will embrace him, and deal with the fallout when and if it comes. (Z)

Another Woman Produces Evidence that Roy Moore Knew Her as a Teenager

Just hours after Donald Trump tweeted his formal support for Roy Moore, another woman, Debbie Wesson Gibson, said that while hauling boxes of Christmas decorations from her attic, she came across a scrapbook from her high school days containing a graduation card from Moore. Here is the card, which was published by the Washington Post:

Moore's card to Debbie Gibson

Gibson said she remembers Moore handing her the card at her high school graduation ceremony, when she was 17 and he was 34. The two dated for a few months and he kissed her. She hasn't accused Moore of sexual assault, but the card is still significant because Moore has categorically denied knowing Gibson when she was in high school. The existence of the card, along with what he wrote in Beverly Young Nelson's yearbook, is more proof that Moore is lying when he claims never to have met the women. (V)

Supreme Court Allows Muslim Ban 3.0 to Go Into Effect Temporarily

Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court allowed Donald Trump's Muslim ban v3.0 to go into effect for the time being, while the lower courts consider the ban on its merits. The third ban differs from the earlier two in two important ways. First, it applies to eight countries, two of which are not majority Muslim, so it is slightly easier to defend as not being a "Muslim ban" but instead a "terrorist ban." Second, it makes an exception for people who have a bona fide relationship with a person or organization in the U.S. This includes people with family in the U.S., students accepted by a U.S. university, workers with a job offer from a U.S. company, and people invited to speak to groups in the U.S. In practice, it mostly bans tourists. Any terrorist worth his salt from, say, Iran, could surely wangle a speaking invitation from some Iranian-American friendship group that an accomplice already in the U.S. created out of thin air.

But of course, the ban is not intended to stop terrorists from entering the U.S. and won't block any. It was intended to throw red meat to Trump's base by showing them he is doing something to protect them, even if it has no actual effect. It is the effort and the show that matters to the base, not the results. Trump understands this very well. (V)

White House Lawyer Told Trump in January That Flynn Lied

White House counsel Donald McGahn is the president's primary lawyer when it comes to any legal needs The Donald has in his official capacity. McGahn's been working for Trump for years, and was also chief counsel to the Trump campaign. On Monday, CNN reported that McGahn warned Trump back in January that Michael Flynn had misled the FBI, and recommended that the NSA be fired.

The key question that Robert Mueller &Co. are asking when it comes to obstruction of justice is, "What did Trump know, and when did he know it?" And the key date is February 14, 2017, which is when the President tried to get then-FBI director James Comey to stop investigating Flynn. There is a case to be made that the request alone is obstruction of justice, but if Trump knew on that day that Flynn had committed a felony, then it's pretty much a slam dunk.

If the President is not nervous at this point, he certainly should be. There's a decent chance he could be convicted of obstruction and other crimes based solely on what is already publicly known, and Robert Mueller hasn't even shown his hole cards yet. We can only speculate as to what the special counsel knows, or what he will know by the time he goes public. Not helping matters is that Trump's defense team is something of a mess. In part, that is because they have a client who won't shut up, and who insists on shooting himself in the foot. But beyond that, they've performed in a pretty amateurish fashion, which is not good when you're up against a "dream team" of prosecutors. Thus far, it's been like the New York Yankees vs. the East Cupcake Jr. High junior varsity. If things continue in that way, Trump better buy a really big beautiful boat for his trip up the river. (Z)

Can a President Obstruct Justice?

Donald Trump's personal lawyer, John Dowd, has asserted that a president can never obstruct justice by definition. Louis XIV of France had the same view, which he summed up by l'état, c'est moi. That didn't work out so well for his relatives, one or two of whom lost their heads over the matter, but maybe it will work out better for Trump. One potential problem for Trump, however, is that one of the articles of impeachment drawn up by the House Judiciary Committee against Richard Nixon charged him with obstruction of justice, so there is precedent for it.

Of course, that was a long time ago. What about more recent cases? Well, in 1999, a U.S. senator laid out a very impassioned case for impeaching Bill Clinton for obstructing justice. The Congressional Record documents him as saying: "The facts are disturbing and compelling on the President's intent to obstruct justice." Who was this senator? None other than Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, currently the chief law enforcement officer of the United States. Sessions wasn't alone, either. More than 40 current Republican members of Congress voted for the impeachment or conviction of Clinton for obstruction of justice. One of them was Mitch McConnell (R-KY), now Senate majority leader, who then said: "I am completely and utterly perplexed by those who argue that perjury and obstruction of justice are not high crimes and misdemeanors." In short, there are many statements by Republicans still in Congress stating unequivocally that obstruction of justice fits the Constitution's definition of the high crimes and misdemeanors required to impeach a president. If the Democrats take back the House in 2018, expect many of them to begin quoting their Republican colleagues on the subject. (V)

Tax Bill Is Likely to Be Close to the Senate Bill

In theory, the House and Senate are equal to each other, so one might expect the conference committee about to be tasked with resolving the difference between the Senate and House tax bills to split the difference on most items. In reality, that won't happen. Oddly enough, the Republicans' greater strength in the House will work against them. Every time a House member suggests taking an item from the House bill, a senator is going to say: "We have only two votes to spare. That provision will cost us a vote." Consequently, the final bill is expected to look a lot more like the Senate bill than the House bill.

In the past, senators and representatives working on a conference bill sat around a table and traded horses. That won't happen this time. Most likely Mitch McConnell, Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), and a few aides will hash out the bill themselves and hand it to the conference committee to rubber stamp with few changes. One thing that McConnell and Ryan do have to worry about is that one provision of the final bill might end up costing the Republicans the House in 2018 and another may cause Donald Trump to explode. If the final bill does not allow the deduction of state income taxes, this is going to be extremely unpopular in high-tax blue states like California, New Jersey, New York, and Illinois. If the 35 Republican representatives from these four states vote against the bill, it will go down. If they vote for it, they may go down next year.

The other problem is that Trump has a huge preference for the House bill because it eliminates the alternative minimum tax. In 2005, the AMT cost him personally $27 million. Most likely in other years it saved him a similar amount. He will not be happy to see it be retained, as the Senate bill does. However, just taking the Senate bill and throwing in the elimination of the AMT doesn't work because the revenue the AMT brings in will have to be met some other way, which could cause other problems. (V)

Americans Don't Like the Obamacare Mandate--Until Someone Explains What It Is

One of the differences between the Senate and House tax bills is how they treat the individual mandate to buy health insurance (or pay a tax). The Senate bill sets the tax to $0; the House bill doesn't change it at all. Republicans have always assumed the mandate is unpopular because Americans don't like the government telling them what they have to do (e.g., wear a seat belt, wear a motorcycle helmet, buy health insurance). Sure enough, polling from the Kaiser Family Foundation shows that only 42% want to keep the mandate. However, the pollsters then explained to people that the mandate doesn't apply to people who have coverage through their job or who can't find affordable coverage in their area. They also noted that if the mandate is repealed, millions of people would drop out of the insurance market and premiums would go up by 10%. All of a sudden, about 60% wanted to keep the mandate.

So if the Senate gets its way on the mandate and it goes the way of the dodo, people may be surprised when they learn the effects. Another thing the poll shows, but something that is never discussed in polite circles, is how ill-informed (perhaps willfully so) the American people are. The discussions about the mandate and Obamacare in general dominated the news for months this summer when the Republicans were trying to abolish it altogether. All of the consequences of eliminating the mandate were out there for everyone to see. All you had to do was look. Yet to a large chunk of the population, the fact that eliminating it would cause 13 million people to lose insurance and make premiums spike is breaking news. (V)

31% of Republicans Want a Different Nominee in 2020

A new poll from the Public Religion Research Institute, whoever they are, is out, and it reveals that quite a few Republicans are thinking about changing horses for the next election cycle. Specifically, 31% would like to see someone else nominated, while a bit more than 60% favor Trump as the candidate.

There are, of course, a number of caveats here. The pollster is an unknown, it's a long time until 2020, "generic Republican" generally does better than any specific Republican, and so forth. Nonetheless, let's do a little thought exercise. Imagine that 31% grows to, say, 40%, or even 45%. These folks are not randomly distributed; it is probable that more liberal Republicans and/or more establishment Republicans make up most of that 31%. And, in turn, the liberal/establishment Republicans are more numerous in some states than in others. Now, here is a list of the dozen states where Trump is most unpopular, with his worst state coming first, and so forth: Hawaii, Maryland, California, Massachusetts, Vermont Oregon, New Hampshire, Colorado, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Virginia, and Iowa. Now, here are the dozen states that will vote first during primary season: Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Alabama, California, Massachusetts, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, and Louisiana.

Notice that California, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Iowa, and Virginia appear on both lists. It is not known how many Republican delegates each state will have, since that calculation requires information not currently available (like how many Republican members of Congress each state has as of 2020), but we can use electoral votes as a proxy. These six states control 92 electoral votes, which is about 17% of the total. If we get to a point where more than half of the Republicans in those places want to dump Trump, a number that may not be far away from becoming a reality, then an alternative candidate could claim those delegates. The other six states control 82 electoral votes, which is 15% of the total. Those are likely Trump's if he wants them, but we could be nonetheless into the thick of the process and a potential Trump rival could have a sizable number of delegates, perhaps even a majority. This would be a humiliating blow to the President; past presidents (LBJ, for example) took this kind of setback as a sign and have thrown in the towel. Trump may choose to go on to the bitter end, but he may also decide he's 75 years old and doesn't need this crap anymore, just like Johnson did (though he was 61). (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Dec04 Feinstein Thinks Mueller Is Building an Obstruction of Justice Case against Trump
Dec04 Did Flynn Wear a Wire?
Dec04 Differences Will Have to Be Ironed Out between the Senate and House Bills
Dec04 McConnell Backs Off Position that Moore Should Drop Out of the Senate Race
Dec04 Bush is Back
Dec04 CBS Poll: Moore Ahead by 6%, but Don't Believe It
Dec04 Trump Tries to Keep Hatch in the Senate
Dec04 Clinton for U.S. Senate?
Dec03 Trump Just Can't Help Himself
Dec03 What the Flynn Plea Deal Means
Dec03 How the Sausage Is Made
Dec03 Next Target: Repealing the New Deal and Great Society
Dec03 Tillerson Is a Lame Duck
Dec03 Trump to Declare that Jerusalem is the Capital of Israel
Dec03 Jones Has a Small Lead in Alabama
Dec02 Flynn Indicted
Dec02 Senate Passes Tax Bill
Dec02 Today's Congressional Sexual Harassment News
Dec02 Gowdy Used Government Money to Settle Lawsuit
Dec01 Tax Bill Is Moving Forward
Dec01 Tillerson May Be on the Way Out
Dec01 How Trump Manipulates the News
Dec01 Trump Feuds with May, Britain
Dec01 Trump to Hold Rally that Has Nothing to Do With Moore
Dec01 Pelosi Gets Permission to Call for Conyers to Resign from the House
Dec01 Manafort Makes Bail
Nov30 Trump May Help Moore
Nov30 Has Alabama Lost Interest in the Moore Story?
Nov30 Trump Retweets Videos from Militantly Anti-Muslim Source
Nov30 House Republicans May Call Democrats' Bluff
Nov30 Donald Trump Jr. to Testify before House Panel Next Week
Nov30 Kushner Talked to Mueller about Flynn
Nov30 Now Leading the Anti-Opioid Effort: Kellyanne Conway
Nov30 Ex-Con Donald Blankenship Plans to Run against Manchin
Nov29 Schumer and Pelosi Cancel Meeting with Trump
Nov29 Senate Budget Committee Approves the Tax Bill
Nov29 Judge Allows Mulvaney to Run the CFPB
Nov29 Samochornov Testifies
Nov29 Trump Still "Doubts" Obama's Birth Certificate
Nov29 Heat is On Conyers
Nov29 Heat is On Moore, Too
Nov28 Tax Bill Is Hanging by a Thread
Nov28 CBO Rescores Tax Bill; Not Good News for the GOP
Nov28 Flynn Is Exposed Six Ways to Sunday
Nov28 Retired Marine Colonel Is Launching a Write-in Campaign for Alabama Senator
Nov28 Woman Tried to Trap WaPo into Running False Story
Nov28 Sanders Is Acting More and More Like a Presidential Candidate
Nov28 Trump Accuses Warren of Faking Her Heritage Although He Faked His for Years
Nov27 Conyers Steps Down from House Judiciary Committee
Nov27 Now Batting: Hope Hicks