• Trump Releases 2016 Financial Disclosure Forms
• Trump Reverses Obama's Cuba Policy
• Are Democrats Looking for Voters in the Wrong Place?
• Murkowski Is Committed to Funding Planned Parenthood
• Trump Hires Another Lawyer
• Trump's Lawyer Hires a Lawyer
• Brownback Being Vetted for Position in Trump Administration
• Newt Gingrich, Flip-Flopper
• Ossoff Gets More Donations from San Francisco Bay Area than from Georgia
President Donald Trump is clearly obsessed by special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation. Yesterday, he tweeted:
I am being investigated for firing the FBI Director by the man who told me to fire the FBI Director! Witch Hunt— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 16, 2017
While he didn't name names, only two people advised him to fire former FBI Director James Comey: Attorney General Jeff Sessions and his deputy, Rod Rosenstein. Sessions has been loyal to a fault and very protective, so Trump clearly means that Rosenstein is Mr. Witch Hunter. Sen. Dianne Feinstein cited the tweet yesterday as evidence that Trump might be considering removing both Mueller and Rosenstein. Under law, Trump cannot fire Mueller. He can order Rosenstein to do it, but it is likely Rosenstein would resign rather than carry out the order. In the short term, Trump would need to find somebody to fire Mueller and in the long term would have to find a new deputy AG who could get confirmed by the Senate. Neither would be easy. (V)
On Friday, as required by law, the Office of Government Ethics released disclosure forms that give some sense of Donald Trump's finances. It's clear, first of all, that 2016 was a good year for him, as his haul was $288 million. That includes $19.7 million from his luxury hotel in Washington, which has been the subject of much scrutiny, given the potential for foreign governments to use bookings there as a way to curry favor with the President. He's also got liabilities in the form of 16 different loans totaling at least $311 million. The actual figure is likely far in excess of $311 million; the forms only require that the a range be reported rather than a specific figure, and five of the loans are "more than $50 million."
Trump has consistently taken the position that the disclosure forms are all the public needs to know, and that releasing his tax returns is thus unnecessary. Since voters declined to punish him for that sophistry, we will undoubtedly hold to that position until such time that a court and/or Congress forces him to yield the returns (and even then he might not do it). The problem is that the disclosure forms do not include some very critical information, such as how much in tax Trump paid (or if he paid any), how much he donated to charity, and what deductions he claimed. Most importantly, his tax return would give a picture of how indebted he is to foreign corporations, banks, or governments. If Trump has, say, a $200 million loan from Vladimir Putin-controlled Vnesheconombank in Moscow, that would be very troubling, indeed. The bad news for Trump is that Robert Mueller knows all of this, and so is surely going to go after the tax returns, sooner or later. (Z)
Donald Trump made it clear yesterday that he hates repressive Communistic regimes, except of course, in the country that invented them: Russia. He demonstrated his hatred for them in Cuba by reversing many of the policies toward Cuba adopted by Barack Obama. In particular, Trump's new policy will greatly reduce travel by Americans to Cuba and prohibit U.S. companies from doing business with organizations owned by the Cuban military. The Cuban military runs a large part of the economy, including dozens of hotels, restaurants, and other tourist facilities. Trump summed up his new goals by saying: "With God's help, a free Cuba is what we will soon achieve." Presidents have been saying that for nearly 60 years, with little effect so far.
One person who clearly approves of the new policy is Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), who never approved of Obama's policies to start with. Rubio has always been a hard-liner with respect to Cuba. Yesterday, he said: "This will punish the Cuban military—this change empowers the people of Cuba." He didn't explain how drastically slashing tourism and trade empowers the people. Other Republican senators disagreed with Rubio. Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS) said Cuba is "a natural market for our nation's farmers and ranchers."
The new policy is aimed at older Cuban Americans in Florida, many of whom had their property nationalized and fled when Fidel Castro came to power. Younger Cuban Americans are much less critical of the Cuban regime and favored Obama's relaxation of relations with the island country. (V)
A huge amount of discussion of what the Democrats need to do to win in 2020 has focused on winning back conservative blue-collar men in the upper Midwest. A new analysis by Thomas Edsall suggests that may be the wrong place. Edsall notes that there are 104 million service workers and only 12 million manufacturing workers. The former category is extremely broad, covering everything from fast food cooks and home health aides at one end and accountants and stock brokers at the other. If we focus on the lower end, there are about 65 million workers in food preparation, retail sales, office work, personal services, and health services. In 2016, they split about evenly between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.
Also of great importance is the gender and racial breakdown of the service workers. For example, among personal care and service occupations, 77% are women. In the office worker field and administrative support field, 72% are women. In health care, 76% are women. In addition, the group of service workers has many minority workers. Women are far more likely to vote Democratic than men, but only half of these workers are registered to vote and only half of the registered ones voted. Blacks and Latinos also skew Democratic. In this view, if Democrats can mobilize these people to vote, that will more than offset the losses among laid-off manufacturing workers.
Republicans clearly understand this, hence their efforts to weaken private-sector unions, pass right-to-work laws, limit the scope of collective bargaining, hamstring public unions, and more. But if Democrats can make big inroads in the low-paid, low-turnout service employees, they can turn many red districts and states blue. (V)
Senate Republicans can afford to lose only two votes on their upcoming healthcare bill. If defunding Planned Parenthood is part of the bill—something anti-abortion activists want very badly—they can probably forget about the vote of Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK). That means that can afford to lose only one more vote. In a letter to a constituent, Murkowski wrote:
I am committed to ensuring that important provisions of the ACA, such as covering those with pre-existing conditions, continued support for Medicaid expansion, coverage for dependents and no lifetime limits, and funding for Planned Parenthood remain intact.
Since far more Republican senators want to eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood than want to fund it, Murkowski is probably not going to get her way in the bill, which then means Republicans probably won't get her vote. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) also opposes defunding Planned Parenthood. If both of them vote against the bill, the GOP can't afford even a single other defection. (V)
If any case relating to Donald Trump ever reaches the Supreme Court, the justices are going to be awed by the fire power in the room and begging both sides for autographs. Robert Mueller has already assembled a prosecutor's dream team. Now Trump is putting together a defense dream team. His latest pick is John Dowd, who investigated Pete Rose for betting on baseball games while he was playing and managing. Before that, the 76-year-old former prosecutor represented Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) during the Keating five scandal. Other members of Trump's defense team are his long-time lawyer Marc Kasowitz, who handled his divorces and bankruptcies, Kasowitz's long-time ally Mark Bowe, and Jay Sekulow, who will probably be the public face of the team.
One advantage that the prosecution has over the defense is that there is a clear hierarchy. Robert Mueller is formally the special counsel and thus the boss. The other lawyers, good as they may be, report to him. Period. On the other side, there is much less of a hierarchy. Kasowitz has worked for Trump for decades and can claim some kind of authority based on that, but he knows little or nothing about being a defense lawyer in criminal cases. This means he won't have the respect of the others, even if Trump names him the nominal head of the team. In a dispute among the lawyers about strategy, will the older Dowd be willing to submit to the will of the younger Kasowitz when Dowd thinks Kasowitz is not doing the best thing for their client? When any team of full of hot-shots all of whom are used to being the boss, lack of a clear hierarchy that everyone respects in practice as well as on paper, that can always be a factor in getting all the noses pointing in the same direction. (V)
Anybody who is anybody in Washington these days is hiring a lawyer. The most recent one to do so is Donald Trump's long-time personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, often called "Trump's pit bull." Cohen was formerly an executive in the Trump Organization. In Jan. 2017, Cohen met with Ukrainian politician Andrey Artemenko and discussed the sanctions against Russia, a conversation that Robert Mueller might be interested in. Cohen just hired Stephen Ryan, a former assistant U.S. attorney. Cohen's decision to hire a lawyer was no doubt driven by his observation that Robert Mueller's Russia probe is expanding in all directions, and could soon hit him. Earlier this week, Vice President Mike Pence also hired a personal lawyer. It is likely that many other people in or close to the White House will be doing so soon. (V)
Gov. Sam Brownback's (R-KS) term is up in 2019, but his goose is cooked now. The aggressive package of tax cuts that he pushed through the Kansas legislature served to tank the state's economy, and the cuts were recently rolled back. This series of events has Brownback, and his low-20s approval rating, competing with Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) for the honor of being the least popular governor in America.
In short, then, Brownback is looking to make a change (so, for that matter, is Kansas). And because he's never sent a nasty tweet about Donald Trump, that means he's qualified for a job with the administration. Consequently, he is being vetted for an unknown position, possibly U.S. ambassador for food and agriculture to the United Nations, or U.S. ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom. Yes, those are real jobs. And as a fundamentalist Christian who rejects evolution, has attempted to keep Muslims out of his state, and has been accused of anti-Semitism, Brownback would be a particularly...interesting choice for the latter post.
Brownback's potential appointment sheds some light on Trump's difficulties staffing his administration. Like the President's last high-profile appointment, David Clarke, Brownback has allowed himself to be considered because he's essentially run out of options. He has no hope of being elected to any statewide office in Kansas at this point, and a run for the presidency would be a waste of time. So, it's a federal appointment or else his political career comes to an end. If Trump can land only people who are desperate, it will be a long time before he builds a complete staff. (Z)
Yesterday, we noted that former Speaker Newt Gingrich has done a rather dramatic about-face on Robert Mueller. On May 17, he praised Mueller as a man whose "reputation is impeccable for honesty and integrity." On Thursday, less than one month after the original tweet, Gingrich accused Mueller of being a corrupt agent of the deep state. On Friday, Gingrich took his hypocrisy to new heights, announcing his (remarkable) conclusion that, "the President of the United States cannot obstruct justice." This would be the same man who led the movement to impeach Bill Clinton on the exact same charge. And while we are on the subject of hypocrisy, remember that the entire time Gingrich was attacking Clinton for having an affair, he himself was having an affair with the woman who would later become his third wife at a time he was still married to his second wife.
Gingrich's continued water-carrying for Donald Trump raises two big questions. The first is why he is still being given air time. He has not held political office in 18 years. Nobody runs to Al Gore, or Bob Dole, or Trent Lott, or Tom Daschle—other Washington luminaries, circa 1999—for their views on modern-day political developments. Of course, we know the answer to this question: Gingrich is happy to say outrageous things, which means he draws viewers and drives ratings. But it's still worth noting that he has no particular claim on "prominent politician" or "Washington insider" status anymore.
The second question, and the harder one to answer, is exactly what Gingrich's motivations are in serving as a toady for Donald Trump. The former speaker is hawking a book on The Donald, so maybe he's just after publicity and book sales. It's also possible that he really likes the attention, particularly after spending a decade or so being irrelevant. Or, perhaps he has his eye on a post in the administration. Gingrich has already turned down second-tier jobs, but he probably suspects—as we all do—that at least one or two among Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, HUD Secretary Ben Carson, and Chief of Staff Reince Priebus are short-timers. He may want to be "ready to serve" should one of the top-tier jobs come open. Given how few people seem to be interested in working for Trump these days, Gingrich's calculations may well be correct, if he is indeed thinking in this way. (Z)
Democrat Jon Ossoff will try to claim HHS Secretary Tom Price's former seat on Tuesday. Yesterday, he reported his final fundraising numbers, and there was something very interesting in them: In the last two months, he's collected three times as many donations from the San Francisco Bay Area (3,063) as he has from Georgia (808).
While we wouldn't want to read too much into one data set, this obviously serves to confirm that the GA-06 race is national more than it is local. At first glance, one might also conclude that the Democrats cannot hope to replicate this kind of success when there are hundreds of congressional elections going on, as opposed to just one. However, that does not appear to be the case. While the number of donations from San Francisco was much larger, the total amount of money from Georgia was actually slightly greater ($228,474.44 for the latter to $220,532.10 for the former). It's implausible that large numbers of angry Democrats could write $2,700 checks (the maximum) to 10 or 20 candidates in 2018. But $50 or $100 each, as we're seeing with most of the out-of-state GA-06 donors? That is certainly plausible. (Z)Email a link to a friend or share:
---The Votemaster and Zenger
Jun16 Mueller Following the Money
Jun16 Trump & Co. Working Hard to Delegitimize Mueller
Jun16 Sessions Met with Russian Lobbyist During the Campaign
Jun16 Trump Punts on Commander-in-Chief Responsibilities
Jun16 Pence Hires a Defense Lawyer
Jun16 Trump Sells $12 Billion Worth of Arms to Terrorist Sponsor Qatar
Jun16 Senators of Both Parties Criticize Secrecy around Senate Health Bill
Jun16 Putin Offers Asylum to Comey
Jun16 AHCA's Margin of Error is Dropping
Jun16 Turnbull Mocks Trump
Jun16 Democrats Crush Republicans--in Baseball
Jun15 Mueller Looking into Obstruction of Justice
Jun15 Scalise Shot by Unbalanced Sanders Supporter
Jun15 Senate Approves New Sanctions on Russia
Jun15 Feinstein Defends Blue Slips
Jun15 Government Ethics Office Says Bannon's Waiver Is "Problematic"
Jun15 Why Do Republicans Still Grovel to Trump?
Jun15 Trump's Plan to Privatize the Air Traffic Control Systems Is Hitting Turbulence
Jun15 Fox News Drops the "Fair and Balanced" Slogan
Jun15 Trump's Twitter Etiquette Raises Eyebrows
Jun15 Christie's Approval Rating Is Ghastly
Jun14 Sessions Bobs, Weaves, and Jabs
Jun14 Russian Hacking Much Worse than Previously Thought
Jun14 Could the Georgia Special Election Next Week Be Hacked?
Jun14 Virginians Choose Northam, Gillespie
Jun14 Not Achieving Much? Fake It
Jun14 How Trump Could Fire Mueller
Jun14 Longitudinal Study Gives Insight into the Obama-Trump Voters
Jun14 Good News for Democrats
Jun14 Muslim Travel Ban v2.0 Is in Big Trouble
Jun14 Trump Calls House Healthcare Bill "Mean"
Jun14 Democrats Will Sue Trump over Emoluments
Jun13 Ninth Circuit Upholds Muslim Ban v2.0 Injunction
Jun13 Trump Holds First Cabinet Meeting
Jun13 Sessions Will Testify in Public before the Senate Intelligence Committee Today
Jun13 Questions for Sessions
Jun13 Secret Service Knows of No Recordings
Jun13 Plurality of Voters Think Trump Obstructed Justice
Jun13 Senate Has a Bill to Put More Sanctions on Russia
Jun13 Four Members of Mueller's Team Have Donated to Democrats
Jun13 Trump Reportedly Considering Firing Mueller
Jun13 Gorsuch Makes His First Ruling
Jun12 Maryland and D.C. Sue Trump over Emoluments
Jun12 Schumer Invites Trump to Testify before the Senate
Jun12 Democrats Want Sessions to Testify in Public
Jun12 Could Trump Fire Mueller?
Jun12 Mueller Hires Top Criminal Lawyer
Jun12 Trump to Address Tapes Next Week
Jun12 Trump Orders Priebus to Drain the Swamp by July Fourth