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 Should Be Nervous Now

Thursday it was reported that former NSA Michael Flynn's lawyers have stopped working with Donald Trump's lawyers. This was widely interpreted as a sign that Flynn is trying to negotiate a deal with special counsel Robert Mueller. Now people who know how Mueller works are adding more information to the mix. For example, Norman Eisen, who worked in Barack Obama's administration, sent out these tweets yesterday:

If this is correct, Flynn either has the goods on someone higher on the food chain than himself, or else on Paul Manafort. Although Manafort is not really of interest to Mueller, if Flynn has information that could put him away for decades, that might jog Manafort's memory a bit and get him to help Mueller.

Might Flynn be willing to take a fall to save his son? Possibly, but Jeffrey Jacobovitz, a specialist in white-collar crime, thinks that Mueller wouldn't offer Flynn Sr. a deal if he can't take down a big fish. Flynn Jr. is a guppy.

It is important to keep in mind the two questions Mueller undoubtedly has in mind. First, did the Russians interfere with the election and were any laws broken in the process? Second, did anyone in Trump's campaign or administration break any laws, possibly trying to cover up some crime? These are quite different and the consequences are different. If the Russians helped elect Trump/Pence, then Vice President Mike Pence is just as tainted as Trump and impeaching Trump would just replace an illegitimate president with an illegitimate vice president. In this case we would have a full-blown constitutional crisis. If the Russians didn't swing the election but Trump obstructed justice when he fired former FBI Director James Comey, then Trump could be impeached, Pence could become president, and there would be no crisis. Right now, only Mueller and his team know where he is on these two points, but unless Flynn has information on at least one of these issues, Mueller is not going to let him get away with a slap on the wrist. (V)

Budget Hawks Are Afraid All the Tax Cuts Will Be Made Permanent

As the Senate tax bill is currently written, the corporate tax cuts are forever, but the individual ones go poof in 2027. The bill was written this way so it could crawl under the wire set by the budget reconciliation process. Nevertheless, secretly and not so secretly, many Republicans in Congress are hoping Congress extends the personal tax cuts when 2027 arrives. Unfortunately, deficit hawks in Congress are afraid that precisely this will happen and that it will blow a gigantic hole in the budget down the road.

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ now, but R-nothing in 2019), one of the deficit hawks, said: "You can't assume that we'll grow a backbone later. If we can't do it now, then it's tough to do it later." Flake and the other deficit hawks are complaining about the gimmicks in the bill because they know there will be tremendous pressure on Congress later to make all the cuts permanent. Sens. Bob Corker (R-TN) and John McCain (R-AZ) are also concerned about the deficit, but haven't shown their cards yet. Their votes on the bill are still up for grabs. (V)

Latest White House Squabble: Tillerson vs. Ivanka

The annual Global Entrepreneurship Summit is a pretty big deal, so much so that Barack Obama attended in person several times, as did his Secretaries of State. This year's theme is "supporting women entrepreneurs," and so Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi—whose country will be hosting this year's event—asked Ivanka Trump to represent the United States. She is, after all, a woman and an entrepreneur. Normally, she would be joined by a large delegation of high-ranking State Department staffers. Not this year, however, as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has announced that only a small contingent will join the First Daughter, and that none of them will be higher in rank than deputy assistant secretary.

This is a clear shot across Ivanka's bow, because Tillerson resents the extent to which she and her husband have usurped his authority and stepped on his toes. Everyone in Washington recognizes it as such. "Rex doesn't like the fact that he's supposed to be our nation's top diplomat, and Jared and now Ivanka have stepped all over [him] for a long time," said one White House insider. "So now, he's not sending senior people from the State Department to support this issue. He's not supporting Ivanka Trump."

Of course, the relationship between Tillerson and Ivanka's father is already strained and, when push comes to shove, The Donald's family wins out above all others. Further, the Secretary—by all accounts—hates a job he never asked for in the first place, and has given much thought to exiting once the one-year mark is up. So, there's a pretty good chance that this is him taking his last big chance to extend a middle finger to the Trumps. And there's also a chance that the President becomes angry enough about it that he doesn't even let the Secretary get to January 20 before lopping off his head. (Z)

Cordray Resigns as Head of Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

Richard Cordray, an Obama-era holdover, suggested he would step down as head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) at the end of this month. On Friday, he made it both official and quicker, quitting as of the end of the day on Friday. He has not made public his reasons for leaving, though some think he's got his eye on the Ohio governor's mansion.

For the moment, the CFPB will be led by chief of staff Leandra English, but it remains to be see exactly what Donald Trump will do long term. It's not impossible that the President will try to shut the agency down, since it was a creation of Barack Obama, and thus evil incarnate as far as Trump is concerned. He may also choose to put it under the auspices of someone in his inner circle; budget director Mick Mulvaney's name has been mentioned. Assuming that the Bureau does survive, it's likely that whomever its new leader is will be about as interested in protecting consumers as EPA director Scott Pruitt is in protecting the environment. (Z)

Trump Says He Turned Down "Person of the Year"

Donald Trump is Time's reigning Person of the Year, which—whether he realizes or not—is not an "honor" like the Nobel Prizes or the Academy Awards. It is instead an acknowledgment of impact on the news (Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, William Westmoreland, and Ruhollah Khomeini were among the less-than-admirable folks to claim the title).

On Friday, Trump took to Twitter to announce that he was "probably" in line to be a back-to-back winner, but that he turned Time down:

It did not take long for the magazine to chime in and make clear that the President is incorrect, and that they do not comment on their choice prior to publication (December 6 this year).

There is little doubt that Time is being truthful here, and Trump is either mistaken, or is peddling a falsehood. Among the reasons his story does not pass the smell test:

  • Trump loves praise and adulation, or anything that he can possibly interpret (and trumpet to his followers) as praise and adulation. He is particularly enamored of Time, so much so that there were fake covers of the magazine decorating his golf resorts. There is zero chance that he would turn his nose up at something like this.

  • The magazine has only chosen the same person back-to-back one time, namely Richard Nixon in 1971 and 1972, and that was because of a major development during the second year, namely detente with China. Even then, Nixon shared the title with Henry Kissinger in 1972.

  • Consistent with the above, the magazine chooses its persons of the year to reflect some major new development in the news. According to managing editor Nancy Gibbs, Trump was chosen last year because for supporters he represents a "long-overdue rebuke to an entrenched and arrogant governing class," while to opponents he is the embodiment of, "politics poisoned by vile streams of racism, sexism, nativism." The Donald is still these things; he hasn't added some new dimension to his political portfolio in 2017.

So, why would Trump decide to broadcast an almost certain lie? Besides to keep his skills sharp, that is? One possibility is that he misunderstood; that Time was thinking about doing an article or profile on him, and he inferred that it was for Person of the Year. More likely, however, is that he's gotten wind of some of the possible selections for this year, and he wanted to get out ahead of the story. The magazine has a poll on its website wherein readers can vote on possible choices for 2017. If those results are at all indicative, it's looking like the President's successor could be #MeToo (sometimes the Person of the Year isn't a person at all), Robert Mueller, the Dreamers, Hillary Clinton, Colin Kaepernick, Carmen Yulín Cruz, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), or Jimmy Kimmel. In other words, a "greatest hits" of Donald Trump's nemeses. If any of them are chosen, it will be a bit of an embarrassment for the President, especially since he's insisted on portraying the choice as a great honor. So, by claiming he could have been Person of the Year if only he wanted to be, he gets out ahead of the story. Meanwhile, he's likely rooting secretly for the two guys currently in the Top 10 whom he has not openly squabbled with: Mohammed bin Salman, and...Vladimir Putin. (Z)

Will 2020 Be the Year of the Woman?

With all the news about men sexually harassing women in the past few weeks, women may feel that the time for a woman president has finally come. Since about 60% of the Democratic primary electorate consists of women, 2020 may be the year. There is certainly no shortage of female candidates lining up. The "big four" are four Democratic senators, Kirsten Gillibrand (NY), Kamala Harris (CA), Amy Klobuchar (MN), and Elizabeth Warren (MA). And the first three are young, so if Democrats decide that they don't want a septuagenarian, like Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) or Joe Biden, (both of whom will be pushing 80 on inauguration day 2021), any of them will do.

One of the things that motivates many Democrats on the left is breaking barriers, and although the nomination of Hillary Clinton broke a barrier, she was so despised on the left that many of Sanders' supporters ended up voting for a third-party candidate or not voting at all. None of the big four have a lot of enemies among Democrats. Here is a quick rundown of the big four:

  • Elizabeth Warren lost some of her populist thunder to Sanders last year. After all, it is hard to out-socialist someone who was literally elected as a socialist. If Sanders runs again, Warren will have a direct competitor who is already more popular than she is. After all, he had the guts to take on Hillary Clinton and she didn't. If he has to, Sanders will not be shy about pointing that out. One problem that Warren has, with or without Sanders, is that she has little experience winning minority votes. She is surely aware that Sanders' economic message fell completely flat in the South, where most Democrats are black. Clinton squashed Sanders like a bug there. On the other hand, compared to the three other women, Warren has a national following and they don't.

  • Kamala Harris, who is the daughter of Jamaican and Indian immigrants, would probably have the minority and immigrant vote locked up (unless she's facing off against Sen. Cory Booker, D-NJ, who would surely claim a big chunk of the black vote). She is also the best stump speaker of the bunch. Also of great importance is that California moved its 2020 primary up to early March, and if she could pick up a few hundred delegates when California votes, the media could declare her the nominee. Of course, other Californians also noticed the date change (notably Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti), so she might not have the state to herself. Since Harris is a former prosecutor, she could appeal to law-and-order moderate Democrats in the Midwest. On the other hand, although no Democrat would even dream of saying this out loud, to some extent the election of Donald Trump was a whitelash against a black president. Neither racism nor sexism is dead in America and voters who couldn't stomach a black man may be even less enthusiastic about a black woman. Do the Democrats really want to play double or nothing? this factor won't hurt her in the primary, it could be a real problem in the general election, and the other primary candidates might point this out ever so gently by praising their greater "electability" in the general election.

  • Kirsten Gillibrand is the ideal candidate to respond to the avalanche of sexual misconduct stories that are dominating the news. Her big issue in the Senate has been sexual misconduct in the military. She also filled most Democrats with horror when she said last week that Bill Clinton should have resigned over his actual and possible misconduct in this area. If the current post-Weinstein climate continues past the midterms, she will be in a strong position. But she can also make an appeal to the left by pointing out that she has voted against more Trump nominees than any other senator. On the down side, a lot of older Democrats and minority Democrats still love Bill Clinton and her remarks about him are not a plus.

  • Amy Klobuchar is the most centrist of the bunch, both politically and geographically. If the Democrats want to win back states like Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, then a centrist from the Midwest might be a good place to start. Klobuchar is pro-choice but has said that abortion should not be a litmus test for Democrats, otherwise the party is effectively abandoning half the states. Her challenge will be getting progressive Democrats on board when they have so many more progressive choices. Her selling points could be that she has been in the Senate longer than any of the others and she sponsored the most legislation that actually became law. She is sort of a younger version of Hillary Clinton, but without the baggage. And remember, Clinton did win the nomination last time. In any event, she has the Slovenian-American vote locked up. Well, with one notable exception. Probably.

Needless to say, 3 years is forever in politics. And if four women try to grab the brass ring all at once, they may split the vote of Democrats who want a female candidate. Of course, if one of them wins the invisible primary as well as a couple of the early actual primaries and the other three drop out, she could become a unifying force and take the nomination by storm. (V)

Facebook Will Let People Check if They Fell for Russian Propaganda

Facebook is desperately trying to avoid being regulated by the federal government. To that end, they announced this week that they will soon deploy a tool that will allow users to check and see if they liked or followed a post by the Internet Research Agency, which is the Russian firm that pushed all manner of fake content on the social media platform. "It is important that people understand how foreign actors tried to sow division and mistrust using Facebook before and after the 2016 US election," the company declared.

This all sounds good, but it's really just for show. First of all, the tool will only work for content that the user actually interacted with, not content they merely saw or read. Second, the tool won't show the actual content, merely the account that posted it. Third, the people who were most likely to fall victim to Russian shenanigans are least likely to use the tool, and/or to believe they were hoodwinked when presented with the (less-than-adequate) evidence. Inasmuch as the Russkies' activities helped the GOP, if they helped anyone, this move will probably be enough to keep Uncle Sam's hands off the social media site while the Republicans control the government. Once the Democrats are back in control, however, then Silicon Valley will have to hope that their generally liberal politics and their mega-donations are enough to keep them from being put under the microscope. (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Nov24 Manafort Has Been to Moscow at Least 18 Times
Nov24 Team Flynn No Longer Cooperating with Team Trump
Nov24 Donald Trump Jr. Reacts to Russiagate with Defiance
Nov24 Trump's Approach to Sexual Harassment Is Entirely Political
Nov24 Israeli Intelligence Was Warned that the Russians Have Leverage over Trump
Nov24 Obamacare Enrollments on the Upswing
Nov24 Ball Wins Feud with Trump
Nov23 Moore Developments in Alabama
Nov23 Half of All Voters Think Franken Should Resign
Nov23 Calls for Conyers to Step Down or Resign Are Starting
Nov23 Trumps Cut Ties with SoHo Building
Nov23 Trump-Ball Feud Continues
Nov23 One Megadonor Funded a Huge Campaign to Support Making the Courts Conservative
Nov23 DNC Having Trouble Raising Money
Nov23 Schneiderman Is Probing Fake Net Neutrality Comments
Nov23 The Shortest Thanksgiving...Ever?
Nov22 Trump Supports Moore
Nov22 New Poll Shows Moore Slightly Ahead of Jones
Nov22 House Moves to Investigate Conyers
Nov22 Murkowski Says She's Open to Killing Obamacare Mandate
Nov22 Say Farewell to Net Neutrality...Maybe
Nov22 Trump's Likely Pick to Oversee the Census is Dubious
Nov22 Democrats Have a Fighting Chance in PA-18 Special Election
Nov22 The Russians Love Rohrabacher
Nov21 Leigh Corfman Gives Her First Television Interview
Nov21 Kellyanne Conway Wants Moore's Vote on Taxes
Nov21 GOP Tax Plan Gets Another Bad Review
Nov21 Another Woman Accuses Franken
Nov21 Two Journalists Accused of Harassment
Nov21 Trump Administration Working Hard to Fulfill Anti-Immigrant Agenda
Nov21 McMaster Said Trump's Intelligence is Comparable to that of a Kindergartner
Nov21 Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti May Run for President
Nov21 Virginia House of Delegates Still Up in the Air
Nov20 Alabama's Biggest Newspapers Endorse Jones
Nov20 Moore Is Already Affecting the 2018 Races
Nov20 Franken Won't Resign
Nov20 Seven Senators Are on the Fence on the Tax Bill
Nov20 White House: Tax Bill Trumps Repealing Obamacare
Nov20 Republicans Desperately Want the Tax Bill to Pass; Democrats, Too
Nov20 Trump Fires Back at Ball
Nov20 How to Keep Trump Happy? Lie to Him
Nov20 NRCC Lottery Offers a Weekend at Trump's Hotel in D.C. as the Prize
Nov19 Trump Jr. Linked to Yet Another Friend of Putin
Nov19 What is Donald Trump's Foreign Policy?
Nov19 USA No Longer Number One
Nov19 Trump's Ability to Launch Nukes May Be Limited
Nov19 Donald Trump to Pay Donald Trump's Legal Bills
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Nov19 It's Ball Vs. Trump
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