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

Lawyers Are Telling Trump Aides to Tell the Truth

Some of President Donald Trump's close associates are going to be talking to special counsel Robert Mueller in the coming weeks and possibly doing it under oath before a grand jury. Politico has talked to some of their lawyers, and the lawyers are advising their clients to tell the truth, even if Trump is not going to like what they have to say. The lawyers are warning the clients that if they fail to tell the truth, they could be indicted for perjury. One of them said that overt attempts to protect Trump will raise suspicions of a wider cover-up and make things worse for everyone.

Those aides who are planning to lie to protect Trump and hoping for a pardon, might be wise to look for historical precedents. Dick Cheney's chief of staff, Scooter Libby, was convicted of lying to federal agents about who leaked the name of a CIA agent. George W. Bush commuted Libby's prison sentence, but didn't pardon him. Webster Hubbell went to jail rather than turn on Bill Clinton, but Clinton didn't pardon him.

With Donald Trump, loyalty is a one-way street. He demands it from his associates, but offers it to very few people, Michael Flynn being one exception, for as yet unknown reasons. People who lie to protect Trump and are then indicted for perjury (because their testimony contradicts that of multiple other witnesses) can hope for a pardon, but they may not get it simply because Trump isn't loyal to his subordinates. For the ones who were humiliated and then fired, such as Sean Spicer, there is little reason to lie to Muller to protect Trump. Barbara Res, who once worked directly under Trump, put it this way: "Why should they be loyal to him? He treated them like crap." (V)

Flynn to Senate Intelligence Committee: Thanks, But No Thanks

The Senate Intelligence Committee, as part of its investigation into Russiagate, would like to talk with former NSA Michael Flynn. They subpoenaed him back in May, and he told them he wasn't willing to talk, invoking his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination. Last week, they subpoenaed him again, with the same result. The House Intelligence Committee also wants to chat with Flynn, but is not going to have any more success than their Senate colleagues.

The problem is not that Flynn won't talk at all, it's that he won't talk until he's promised immunity from prosecution. Thus far, the members of Congress have been unwilling to make that deal. However, his reticence—not to mention the extraordinary lengths that Donald Trump is going to in order to protect Flynn—has everyone convinced that the former general has the goods. And between the three Congressional committees that are conducting investigations, along with special counsel Robert Mueller, there is little question that either (1) Someone will get Flynn in a position that he'll be forced to spill the beans to save himself, or (2) someone will pull the trigger and make a deal with him. Whatever the case may be, the President should not be counting on his former NSA remaining silent forever. (Z)

Trump Tries to Win Over Three Democrats on Tax Reform

Most Democrats want nothing to do with Donald Trump's plans for "tax reform," seeing it as a giveaway to big corporations and rich people. Nevertheless, Donald Trump is making an attempt to peel off three of the Democratic senators who are most vulnerable in 2018: Joe Manchin (WV), Heidi Heitkamp (ND), and Joe Donnelly (IN). The trio dined with Trump yesterday evening. However, it is far from clear the strategy will work for the President. Donnelly said that he wanted tax reform that would prevent companies from moving jobs overseas. That sounds more like a tax penalty for bad behavior than it does an unrestricted tax cut. Heitkamp said that tax reform needs to protect working families and retirees. Manchin said that he opposed any tax reform that added to the federal debt. None of the tax plans that Trump and congressional Republicans have floated addresses any of these concerns. Consequently, it is not likely that their votes are gettable unless Trump forces the Republican leadership in Congress to do things they really don't want to do. And his influence with them is waning by the day. (V)

Sanders to Release His Single-Payer Health-Care Bill Today

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is scheduled to release his long-awaited single-payer health-care bill today. Sanders talked about "Medicare for all" during his presidential run, but it was pooh-poohed by most senior Democrats as impossible and unworkable. In barely over a year, it has gone from an unrealistic pipe dream to something many Democrats now support. Among Senate Democrats behind the plan are Tammy Baldwin (WI), Richard Blumenthal (CT), Cory Booker (NJ), Kirsten Gillibrand (NY), Kamala Harris (CA), Mazie Hirono (HI), Jeff Merkley (OR), Tom Udall (NM), and Elizabeth Warren (MA). Even former Democratic senator Max Baucus, one of the main designers of the ACA and main denigrators of single-payer, is now on board. The change is amazing in such a short time.

However, not all Democrats are supporters, yet. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (CA), for one, isn't. Nevertheless, 117 House Democrats have signed onto a similar bill from Rep. John Conyers (D-MI). Once the discussion gets going, most Democrats are likely to come around, so the party has something it is for, not just things it is against.

Such a huge change introduces new challenges. The biggest one is how to finance it. Another big one is that there will be winners and losers and the losers won't be happy. For example, many people get free health insurance from their employers. If they now get free insurance from the government, that is a wash, except their taxes will go up to finance the free health insurance. If their employers raise their pay since they don't have to pay for health care any more, they might even come out ahead, but employers who are suddenly freed of the burden of paying for their employees' health insurance may find other uses for that money. Their employees won't be so happy.

All these problems and others notwithstanding, Sanders has single-handedly pushed single-payer into the Overton window of what is acceptable for public discussion. Most Democratic politicians will no longer dismiss the idea out of hand. Instead they will discuss how to finance it, how to run it, how to phase it in, and how to deal with the disruption it will cause to one-sixth of the American economy. One can almost predict now that a topic of fierce debate during the 2020 Democratic primaries will be how to phase it in, not whether to phase it in. It could even be the defining issue of the 2020 elections, with Democrats supporting it and Republicans opposing it. (V)

Graham and Cassidy to Make One Last Try at Obamacare Repeal Today

Bernie Sanders won't be the only one introducing a health-care bill today. Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA) are doing so as well. In their case, it will be a last-gasp attempt at repealing Obamacare and replacing it with a "conservative" alternative.

The Graham-Cassidy plan is, in many ways, more aggressive than the bills that have already failed to make it through the Senate. They would kill the Obamacare mandate and many of the taxes, would cap Medicaid expenses, and would turn existing Medicaid funding into "block grants" that states could spend as they saw fit—and not necessarily on health care. The block grants would not be connected to which states expanded Medicaid under Obamacare and which states did not, so some states would be hit particularly hard by the proposed changes. Nobody knows for sure what the impact of the bill would be, since it hasn't been examined by the CBO or anyone else, but less money, being spent in a manner that is somewhat haphazard and non-transparent, will surely result in many people losing their insurance. In fact, Graham and Cassidy would probably be lucky if the score comes in and it reveals that only 20 million people would lose coverage.

The one and only hope that Graham and Cassidy have is the argument "it's this or Obamacare." However, even with that ace in the hole, their odds are long indeed. To start, if the Senate couldn't pass a more moderate repeal, they are not terribly likely to pass this one. Especially since nothing has been done to resolve the concerns of the Republicans who voted "nay" the last time. Beyond that, many Republicans are not willing to fight this fight again, and to suffer another big-time defeat. That includes Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who isn't going to kill the bill, but will also do nothing to help get it passed. Under different circumstances, the White House might get involved in shepherding a bill like this, but that doesn't happen with this White House. So, Graham and Cassidy are almost certainly tilting at windmills here. Perhaps they are not aware that one definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. (Z)

Trump's Voter-Fraud Commission Comes Under Fire in New Hampshire

The commission Donald Trump created to investigate the nonexistent voter fraud came under fire yesterday. The panel met in New Hampshire, and its de facto leader, Kris Kobach, had to defend an article he wrote for Breitbart News claiming that 6,000 people voted in New Hampshire using out-of-state drivers licenses as proof of identity. New Hampshire law merely requires people to state their "domicile," which is a looser standard than residency, and out-of-state college students routinely vote in New Hampshire, up until now with no problem. New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner took issue with Kobach and defended the election results as "real and valid." Gardner is a member of the commission.

Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap called Kobach's article "reckless" and said he shouldn't be comparing the requirements for voting and obtaining driver's licenses. Dunlap added: "Doing so is almost as absurd as saying if you have cash in your wallet that's proof you robbed a bank." Kobach was not persuaded and said there was no way to know if the election of Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH) was legitimate or illegitimate.

Almost all Democrats see the commission as completely phony and the outcome already known: It will recommend tough voter-ID laws, intended solely to make it harder for poor people (who mostly vote Democratic) to vote. Privately, Republicans also realize this is the case, but publicly few oppose the commission since they know the end game favors them. (V)

Congress Passes Resolution on White Supremacy for Trump to Sign

Donald Trump is learning that Congress has a mind of its own. Or 538 minds. On Tuesday, the House and the Senate both unanimously approved a resolution denouncing white Supremacists. Which means, presumably, that Rep. Steve King (R-IA) called in sick. The resolution now heads to the White House for the President's signature.

The machinations here are obvious. Democrats want to embarrass Trump, while Republicans don't want to be smeared as being members of the party of white supremacy. "Hey, I voted for HJR-117," they will say, when pressed during election season next year. But now, The Donald is faced with the same dilemma he had three weeks ago: to oppose, or not to oppose, neo-Nazis; that is the question. Except that verbal hemming and hawing allows for a little bit of fuzziness, whereas signing or not signing is a very binary thing. A black and white thing, if you will. At the moment, the administration is hinting they may not sign—if that's the call, their explanation should be truly fascinating. (Z)

Ryan and Pelosi Working Together on DACA

Speaking of the "every man for himself" mentality that is taking hold of the Republican Party, many Congressional Republicans, from Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) on down, have become quite aware of how things work these days: Donald Trump makes a mess, and yet it's Congress that gets the blame. It happened with the Obamacare repeal, it happened with Russia-U.S. relations, it happened with infrastructure, and it's happening now with tax "reform." Now that the president has punted on yet another issue, namely DACA, Ryan & Co. have to be nervous. If the program is killed, it will lead to all manner of negative economic and social consequences, and will enrage Democratic and/or Latino voters heading into the midterm. So, as was the case with the three-month debt ceiling raise, the GOP leaders of Congress have little choice but to play ball on DACA.

This being the case, it is not terribly surprising that Ryan and Nancy Pelosi are already negotiating over legislation on the matter. It's still early, but insider reports suggest that connecting DACA with border wall funding is already dead in the water. There appears to be little question that something will be passed; the major question remaining is whether or not the dreamers will be given a path to citizenship. The blue team is holding out for that concession, and they may well get it. Which means that we're now in the ironic position that the Democrats might secure more of their agenda in the first year of a Republican presidential administration than they were able to do in the last three years of a Democratic presidential administration. (Z)

Democrat Wins in Oklahoma

There have been a number of special elections this year, which partisans (particularly those on the Democratic side of the aisle) have been watching eagerly for signs as to what is going to happen in 2018. At the national level—elections for vacated House seats, mostly—the blue team hasn't won much, but they have outperformed their 2016 numbers almost everywhere. So, the tea leaves are a little fuzzy in those races. At the state and local level, however, the Democrats have done very well indeed, including in races that the Party really has no business winning.

There was another such victory in Oklahoma on Tuesday, as Jacob Rosecrants (D) faced off against Darin Chambers (R) in OK House of Representatives District 46. In the last three elections in that district, the Republican took 65%, 81%, and 64% of the vote. This time, the Democrat won, 60.4% to 39.6%. That is a swing of more than 25 points in just one year. There are mitigating factors, of course—in the last three elections, the Republican was an incumbent; Chambers ran a terrible campaign, etc. Nonetheless, while data like this might not be definitive, RNC management should have trouble sleeping at night when a liberal Jewish labor activist is winning elections in red, red Oklahoma. (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Sep12 Sanctions for North Korea
Sep12 Breitbart Attacks Trump for Speech about 9/11
Sep12 Some Trump Lawyers Thought Kushner Should Step Down
Sep12 Four More States Sue Trump over DACA
Sep12 Clinton's New Book: It's Not My Fault
Sep12 GOP Gambled, Lost on Trump
Sep12 Roy Moore Has Some Interesting Friends
Sep12 Corker Is Considering Retiring
Sep12 Romney May Run for the Senate if Hatch Retires
Sep11 Bannon Is Planning Primaries against Senate Incumbents
Sep11 Bannon Says Firing Comey Was Biggest Mistake in Modern Political History
Sep11 California Is Going to Shake Up the 2020 Presidential Nomination Process
Sep11 Trump's Lawyer Hires a Lawyer
Sep11 McCain: I'm Facing a Challenge
Sep11 When Trump Promises Happiness, Look Out
Sep11 Sometimes the "Fake News" Really Is Fake
Sep10 Trump Connects Irma with Taxes
Sep10 Trump Willing to Get Rid of Debt Ceiling
Sep10 DOJ Won't Prosecute Lois Lerner
Sep10 Ryan Being Savaged on All Sides
Sep10 Pastor Declares Trump's Religiosity
Sep10 What Should Hillary Clinton Do Now?
Sep10 Two Congressmen Apparently Like the Gerrymander
Sep09 Three Moderate House Republicans Are Retiring
Sep09 Baucus Comes Out in Favor of Single-Payer Healthcare
Sep09 Mueller Wants to Talk to Six Top Trump Staffers
Sep09 Former DHS Secretary Sues DHS
Sep09 Trump-Schumer-Pelosi Plan Is Now the Law of the Land
Sep09 Trump's Relationship with Congressional Republicans Goes from Bad to Worse
Sep09 Trump Can't Decide How Strong the U.S. Military Is
Sep09 Another Friday, Another White House Departure
Sep08 Trump Raves about the News Coverage of His Deal with the Democrats
Sep08 Conservatives Don't Care about the Coverage, Hate the Deal
Sep08 Hillary Clinton Wants to Continue the 2016 Democratic Primary
Sep08 Steve Bannon Behaving like Steve Bannon
Sep08 Cohn on Thin Ice
Sep08 Donald Trump Jr. Interviewed by Senate Staffers
Sep08 Mueller Leaving No Stone Unturned
Sep07 Trump Takes Democrats' First Offer on Debt Limit
Sep07 Members of Both Parties Want to Know More about Trump Tower Moscow
Sep07 Red-State Democrats Now Support DACA
Sep07 Fifteen States Sue Trump on DACA
Sep07 Gerrymandering Case Gets Some Unlikely Support
Sep07 Irma Visits Donald
Sep07 Menendez's Trial Began Yesterday
Sep07 Protests, By the Numbers
Sep06 Trump Tells Sessions to End DACA in 6 Months
Sep06 Trump Shoots the Hostages
Sep06 Republicans Have Good Reason to Fear 2018
Sep06 Franken Won't Turn in His Blue Slip