• Russian Hackers Discussed Getting Clinton E-Mails to Flynn
• Trump Names Vote Suppressor to Election Integrity Commission
• Portman and Capito Get the First Goodies
• Republicans May Keep a Key ACA Tax in Place
• Trump Has Signed 40 Bills
• Trump Hopes Kate's Law and the No Sanctuary for Criminals Act Will Be #41 and #42
• Trump Wants "Golden Age of American Energy Dominance"
• Another Day, Another Trump Lawyer Under Scrutiny
• Trump Will Deport Members of an Iraqi Christian Group that Supported Him
President Donald Trump's lack of love for the media is well known. He also doesn't like the people who work for the media companies so much, either. Yesterday, he demonstrated this once again by firing off a couple of tweets about Mika Brzezinski:
I heard poorly rated @Morning_Joe speaks badly of me (don't watch anymore). Then how come low I.Q. Crazy Mika, along with Psycho Joe, came..— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 29, 2017
...to Mar-a-Lago 3 nights in a row around New Year's Eve, and insisted on joining me. She was bleeding badly from a face-lift. I said no!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 29, 2017
Criticism was instantaneous, especially from Republicans. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) tweeted: "Mr. President, your tweet was beneath the office and represents what is wrong with American politics, not the greatness of America." Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) tweeted: "This has to stop—we all have a job—3 branches of gov't and media. We don't have to get along, but we must show respect and civility." Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) tweeted: "Please just stop. This isn't normal and it's beneath the dignity of your office." Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), who normally ignores Trump's tweets, said: "I don't see that as an appropriate comment." There are many more. Here is a collection of more than a dozen more.
CNN's Chris Cillizza pointed out that if the CEO of a major corporation tweeted what Trump did, he would be forced to apologize and if he didn't would be fired. Cillizza says Trump's tweets are bullying, plain and simple. And bullying by a powerful man against a woman because of her looks. Melania Trump, whose project as First Lady is fighting cyberbullying, defended her husband's tweets. Perhaps she is unclear on the meaning of "cyberbullying."
We doubt this incident will hurt Trump much with his base. In fact, it may help. A large part of why his supporters love him is not his policies, per se. It is the way he plays the cultural resentment thing like a violin. Many of them hate the political, media, business, academic, and other elites and feel like victims. When Trump viciously attacks those elites, the reaction is: "Finally, someone is putting those snobs in their place." Sarah Palin started this kind of politics, but Trump has really mastered it. (V)
As is usually the case on days ending in '-y,' there were new revelations about Russiagate on Thursday. The new information, reported first by the Wall Street Journal, centers on a man named Peter W. Smith. Smith, who claimed to be working with former NSA and Trump campaign official Michael Flynn, believed that Russian hackers were in possession of e-mails stolen from Hillary Clinton's e-mail server. He wanted to acquire the e-mails and to deliver them to Flynn, and thus the Trump campaign.
U.S. intelligence has proof that the Russians discussed this proposal, which in turn is de facto evidence that Smith really made the offer to serve as go-between. However, there are two aspects of the story that are not at all clear. The first is that there is no evidence, as yet, that the e-mails Smith was pursuing—and that the hackers discussed trying to lay hands on—actually exist. The second, and more significant, is that it's not yet clear that Smith actually was working for Flynn and/or the Trump campaign. Both have denied a relationship with Smith.
So, special counsel Robert Mueller will surely be talking to Smith at some point, right? Probably not, unless it's with a Ouija board. See, Smith died (at age 81) shortly after telling his story to the Wall Street Journal. Now, if he had been someone linked to the Clinton campaign, his sudden demise would be front-page news on Breitbart and Fox for the next week, and Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) would likely be preparing an investigation. As it is, he's just a footnote for now. But this story could come roaring back to life if Mueller turns the screws on Flynn, and Flynn has to give up the goods to save himself. (Z)
When Donald Trump named Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach to his election integrity commission, University of California Prof. Rick Hasen, the country's foremost authority on election law, thought that the goal of the commission was going to be to write a report saying that voting fraud was rampant and that action was needed to prevent it. He also said with Kobach on the commission, it couldn't get worse. Now, Hasen admits that it can get worse and has. A new member of the commission is Hans von Spakovsky, a Republican operative whose mission in life is making sure that as few Democrats as possible are allowed to vote.
With Kobach and Von Spakovsky on the commission, which is led by Vice President Mike Pence, the final report is now predictable. It will say that voting fraud is a big problem and that tough laws are needed to prevent it. Such laws will include mandatory photo ID to vote. While this sounds reasonable to many people, experts know that about 10% of the voters do not have government-issued photo ID, and most of them are poor or minorities, who tend to vote for Democrats.
The report will undoubtedly say that the government must issue valid photo ID cards for free, which sounds reasonable to most people. What the report won't say is that states can require a birth certificate to get the free ID card. And states can charge whatever they want for birth certificates and make them difficult to get, such as having only one office per county and having it open only Tuesdays from 2 to 4 p.m., with a personal appearance required to get a certificate. For people in some occupations (e.g., bus drivers and firefighters), taking off an afternoon to drive 30 miles to get a birth certificate is a real barrier, assuming they even have a car. In any event, with the appointment of Von Spakovsky to the commission, it is clear that there will be no attempt to make an honest assessment of the amount of voting fraud. The goal is clearly to make it hard for Democratic-leaning demographic groups to vote by providing the state legislatures cover for enacting strict voter ID laws. (V)
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has $188 billion available with which to bribe...er, make that "convince," senators to sign onto his health-care bill. The first winners were announced yesterday. Republican Senators Rob Portman (OH) and Shelley Moore Capito (WV) were the lucky ones. They get $45 billion to fight the opioid epidemic, something they have said was critical to getting their votes. Capito was not very grateful, however. She said that the provision of the bill that guts the Medicaid expansion is still a big problem for her. That won't be so easy for McConnell to fix, because the amount of the cut to Medicaid greatly exceeds the remaining $153 billion left in the pot. (V)
Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) said yesterday that he expects the next version of the Senate health-care bill to keep the 3.8% net investment income tax, because it doesn't look good to cut taxes for the rich while gutting health insurance for 22 million middle class and poor Americans. Susan Collins quickly seconded Corker. Keeping the tax would provide funds to make the bill less harsh and keep more people on health insurance, but it will not please conservatives who hate the tax and want to eliminate the ACA root and branch. Mitch McConnell did not respond to queries about what he thinks of keeping the tax. (V)
Yesterday was Donald Trump's 160th day in office, and was the occasion of his signing the 40th piece of legislation of his presidency. That may seem a tidy little pace—one bill every four days—and it would not be surprising to see him do a little bragging on Twitter. CNN has a breakdown of the 40 bills, however, and it's clear very little has actually been accomplished. Here are the totals, by general category:
- Bills rolling back Obama-era laws/policies: 14
- Bills managing government funding or operations: 11
- Ceremonial/symbolic bills: 8
- Bills that amend or expand existing laws: 5
- New policies/programs: 1
In short, virtually all that Congress and Trump have accomplished is to cancel out some of Barack Obama's initiatives, and to conduct the daily business of the ship of state. The only initiative that does something new is the "Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017," which makes it easier to fire incompetent VA employees while also protecting whistleblowers there who identify wrongdoing. It's a nice bill, one that partisans on both sides of the aisles agreed upon, but surely Trump's supporters were hoping for a bit more progress in the first 160 days, particularly given how many "from day one" promises he made. (Z)
On Thursday, the House passed two aggressive anti-immigration bills. The first, known as "Kate's Law," would impose additional penalties on undocumented immigrants who committed criminal acts. The second, known by the less-impressive moniker "No Sanctuary for Criminals Act," would withhold federal funding from so-called sanctuary cities. Donald Trump issued a statement in which he declared:
The implementation of these policies will make our communities safer. Opposing these bills, and allowing dangerous criminals back into our communities, our schools, and the neighborhoods where our children play, puts all of us at risk.
The President also, of course, took to Twitter to celebrate the passage of the two bills.
As he so often does, Trump is hitching his wagon to a policy that has no chance of becoming law. Maybe, even after 160 days in office, he still doesn't understand how the government works. More likely, his actions are focused only on what benefits he can enjoy today, with no regard for future consequences. In any case, there is no way these bills make it through the Senate, since they are not likely to capture all of the GOP senators' votes, much less the eight Democratic votes needed to kill a filibuster. We don't even have to guess about this; a version of Kate's Law came up for a vote in the Senate last year, and was defeated 55 to 42. So, these two bills are not going to become the next ones that Trump signs into law. (Z)
As he tries to build some momentum and, perhaps, to distract attention from the health-care boondoggles on The Hill, Donald Trump has declared this to be "energy week." Consistent with that, he gave a speech to an assemblage of Native Americans and state governors on Thursday. To the Natives, the President said, "Many of your lands have rich natural resources that stand to benefit your people immensely." He's not much of a student of history, so maybe he doesn't know that they've heard that one before. Turning to the governors, he said, "I'm confident that, working together, we can usher in a golden age of American energy dominance and the extraordinary financial and security benefits that it brings to our citizens." The President also returned repeatedly to the need to ease restrictions on drilling and mining.
Trump may well be on to something here—there would be much benefit to the United States if it could become less dependent on foreign energy. However, as is generally the case when he stumbles on to a good idea, he has no idea how to achieve it. His energy policy (as will virtually all of his agenda) looks backwards, to the era in which coal and oil were king. The problem with oil, however, is that the United States ranks only 10th among the nations in terms of petroleum reserves, and it's a fairly distant 10th; #1 Venezuela has eight times as much oil as the U.S., while #2 Saudi Arabia has six times as much. So, the U.S. will never be "dominant" if oil is to be the dominant energy source, and no amount of regulatory rollback will change that. The U.S. does have the world's largest reserve of coal, and by quite a large margin (237 billion tons, compared to #2 Russia's 157 billion). However, coal is reaching a tipping point (if it hasn't reached it already), at which it is no longer economically viable to produce. Again, no amount of regulatory change is going to solve that problem.
The key, if the United States is to enter a "golden age" of energy dominance, is to look forward, and not backward. By land area, it is the third largest country in the world. Further, it is the world's leader in technology. Put those things together, and Americans are in an ideal position to lead the way in terms of solar and wind power. The U.S. is also fifth among the world's nations in terms of natural gas reserves (albeit a distant fifth). However, that is another area where technology could be put to use, both in identifying new reserves, and in figuring out ways to extract natural gas that is currently unrecoverable.
If Trump had some vision, he would put together a proposal that involved government support for new energy sources, maybe even tied into a plan to retrain coal workers as solar panel installers, or wind turbine monitors. Properly crafted, perhaps with—gasp!—bipartisan input, such a plan would actually stand a strong chance of getting off the ground, and might give Trump an actual feather for his cap. However, Trump has thus far shown less vision that perhaps any president in American history. And, of course, he has little interest in the hard work of actually governing. So, instead of a thoughtful energy agenda, it's speeches about coal, gas, and how the Native Americans should "trust us." Native Americans' experience with the U.S. government has taught them to be wary of government promises. (Z)
Yesterday, we noted that Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow is in trouble, while also wondering if the President has any close associates that do not have skeletons in their closet. That person may exist, but if he does, it's not Marc Kasowitz, the President's lead attorney on the Russiagate matter. According to reporting from The Guardian (UK), Kasowitz has enough conflicts of interest to keep a board of review busy for a week.
The first, and most obvious, conflict is that Kasowitz and his firm played a role in the sale of four floors in the New York Times building in Times Square to first son-in-law Jared Kushner. That financial transaction ultimately involved Deutsche Bank, which has come under scrutiny for possibly engaging in laundering of Russian money. In other words, Donald Trump's lawyer has connections to two other entities—Kushner, and Deutsche Bank—that will (Kushner) and may be (Deutsche Bank) part of Robert Mueller's investigation. Those three entities have competing interests which means, pretty much by definition, that a conflict of interest exists. There are other problem areas as well; one member of Kasowitz's firm (David Friedman) is now Trump's ambassador to Israel, another (Joe Lieberman) was strongly considered to lead the FBI, and a third (Edward McNally) may replace Preet Bharara as U.S. attorney for the southern district of New York. If that were not enough, Kasowitz has bragged that he was the one who got Bharara fired in the first place, telling the President, "This guy is going to get you."
A spokesman for Kasowitz issued a statement on Thursday insisting that, "There are no conflicts under any standard or by any definition." That may persuade the general public, and might even convince Donald Trump, but that doesn't mean it's true. This is not a criminal matter, but it is a question of professional conduct that the American Bar Association takes quite seriously. There is a very good chance that Kasowitz will eventually have to step down as lead counsel, or else risk disbarment. (Z)
While most Iraqis are Muslim, there is a small minority of Iraqi Catholics known as Chaldeans. Over 120,000 Chaldeans live in the Detroit metro area, many of them U.S. citizens. Since ISIS targets Christians, Yazidis, and other religious minorities, not surprisingly Donald Trump's promise to eradicate ISIS went over well with the Detroit Chaldeans and many of those who are U.S. citizens voted for him. Given that Trump's margin in Michigan was 10,704 votes, it is probably safe to say that absent the Chaldeans, Hillary Clinton would have carried the state.
So Trump is grateful to the Chaldeans, right? Well, no. He is trying to deport an initial batch of 114 of them, although a court has ruled the deportations have to wait 2 weeks so appeals can take place. ACLU has filed a lawsuit defending a total of 1,444 Iraqis slated for deportation. They are afraid that they will be persecuted if they go back to Iraq.
According to Wisam Naoum, a Detroit lawyer and leader of the Chaldean community in Sterling Heights, most Chaldeans are Republicans, but they have now lost faith in Trump. Another Chaldean leader, Edward Bajoka, said he believes there is now a deep sense of regret in the community for having voted for Trump. (V)Email a link to a friend or share:
---The Votemaster and Zenger
Jun29 Americans Overwhelmingly Reject Republicans' Health-Care Plan
Jun29 Entire Republican Agenda Is Now at Risk
Jun29 Why Has Health Care Been So Hard?
Jun29 Health-Care Debate Is Already Affecting Gubernatorial Races
Jun29 Senate Intelligence Committee Investigation Is Picking Up Steam
Jun29 Trump's Ongoing Re-Election Campaign Raises Ethical Issues
Jun29 Trump's Lawyer Is in Hot Water
Jun28 Vote on Health Care Bill Delayed Until after Senate Recess
Jun28 The Shoes Keep Falling
Jun28 Five Takeaways from the Senate Health Care Bill
Jun28 Bipartisanship Lives: Governors of Both Parties Attack the Senate Health Care Bill
Jun28 Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Trump?
Jun28 Time for a Trade War?
Jun28 Only Two Major Countries Like Trump Better than Obama
Jun28 Fake Time Magazine Cover Featuring Trump Hangs in His Golf Resorts
Jun28 Manafort Registers as a Foreign Agent
Jun27 CBO: 22 Million People Will Lose Insurance under the Senate Bill
Jun27 Senate Leadership Revises the Health-Care Bill
Jun27 Graham to Colleagues: Trump Won't Have Your Back
Jun27 Pelosi: 'Hundreds of Thousands' Will Die if Health Care Bill Becomes Law
Jun27 Supreme Court Will Take the Muslim Travel Ban Case in October (Unless it Doesn't)
Jun27 Supreme Court Will Look at Wedding Cake Case
Jun27 No White House Ramadan Celebration this Year
Jun27 Ryan Draws Ironworker Opponent
Jun26 Koch Brothers Want Health Care Bill Changed
Jun26 Vote on Health Care Bill Before July 4 Looking Doubtful
Jun26 Trump Lashes Out at Obama, Clinton
Jun26 Republicans Will Campaign Against Nancy Pelosi in 2018
Jun26 It's Not Just Rusted-out Factories; It's Also Rusted-out Stores
Jun26 "I Do Not Recall" Is Not a Magic Amulet
Jun26 Are Republicans Crooks?
Jun26 Kushner Finalized Loan Shortly Before Election
Jun26 Russia Recalls Kislyak
Jun26 Democrats' Fortunes May Pick Up in November
Jun26 How to Blunt Gerrymandering
Jun25 Anthony Kennedy Is Considering Retirement
Jun25 Problems with the ACA Repeal, Part I: GOP Governors
Jun25 Problems with the ACA Repeal, Part II: The Opioid Crisis
Jun25 Problems with the ACA Repeal, Part III: Planned Parenthood
Jun25 Problems with the ACA Repeal, Part IV: Elizabeth MacDonough
Jun25 Problems with the ACA Repeal, Part V: Death
Jun25 Trump Proposes Welfare Ban for Immigrants
Jun25 FBI Is Investigating Jane and Bernie Sanders
Jun24 Last August, CIA Had Putin's Detailed Instructions for Compromising the Election
Jun24 Trump Blasts Obama for Russian Interference
Jun24 Heller Won't Support Senate Health Care Bill
Jun24 Meadows: Senate Bill Won't Pass the House
Jun24 Gowdy Will Not Investigate Russiagate
Jun24 White House Uses Tweet as Official Statement