• With the "Adults" Gone, Trump Is Calling His Own Shots
• China Declares (Trade) War Against the U.S.
• Abe Having Buyer's Remorse
• Russian Hacker Is Extradited to the U.S.
• Who's the Leaker? Kellyanne Conway, Apparently
• Rep. Elizabeth Esty Under Fire for How She Handled Harassment Problem
Shortly after tweeting "HAPPY EASTER," Trump announced there would not be a deal to allow the dreamers to stay in the U.S. He blamed the lack of a deal on the Democrats, saying that they had a chance and blew it. He also urged Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to "go nuclear" and pass tough new laws to give the border patrol more power. What he meant is that McConnell should abolish the filibuster, so Republicans can pass any law with only 50 votes and the Veep. McConnell, who has been around the track a couple of times, is very hesitant to abolish the filibuster because with a 51-49 majority and a difficult election coming up, he knows he could end up as minority leader in January. And with Thad Cochran (R-MS) retiring, John McCain (R-AZ) at home recuperating, and loose cannon Rand Paul (R-KY), that 51-49 majority is not much of a majority at all, so McConnell might not get anything passed even if he did kill the filibuster.
Trump's tweets about DACA and the dreams directly followed a segment on Fox News about a caravan of people walking north in Mexico, presumably heading for the U.S. border. Once more, we see that Trump apparently determines his foreign policy by what he sees on Fox News:
In addition, Trump also said he wants to kill NAFTA, which he blamed for financing Mexican drug dealers. If he pulls out of NAFTA, he will hear a great deal from American manufacturers, who have complex supply chains partly in Mexico and Canada, and they won't be happy. Part of yesterday's tweet storm may be due to the fact that Stephen Miller, a hard-right adviser, has been staying with Trump at Mar-a-Lago, and it is well known that the last person to talk to Trump usually gets what he wants. (V)
In the view of some observers, the "adults" in the government, like former NSA Herbert McMaster, former National Economic Council chairman Gary Cohn, former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and still-current-for-the-moment Chief of Staff John Kelly, were supposed to rein in Donald Trump and keep him in check. It is now clear that didn't happen and is not going to. McMaster, Cohn, and Tillerson are gone and Kelly is not up to the job. It is increasingly clear that Trump listens to no one and shoots from the hip pretty much all the time, often with no idea of what he is talking about or the consequences of what he is saying.
The Washington Post spoke to 23 senior officials and advisers and the conclusion is that he simply wants to wing it on everything, turning down all expert advice and just go with his gut feelings. He believes they served him well on the campaign trail, so why not in the White House? Decisions he has made that advisers around him don't think are so wise include agreeing to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, as well as with special counsel Robert Mueller. The dangers from each meeting are different, but each one could end up giving him a major headache.
But these are all small potatoes compared to some decisions Trump could make on his own that have real-world ramifications, including starting a trade war with China, pulling out of NAFTA and the Iran deal, and launching a nuclear strike on North Korea. So far, Trump hasn't faced a real crisis, but history suggests that many presidents face a crisis sooner or later, and if Trump decides to fly by the seat of his pants rather than listening to economic, diplomatic, or military experts when the time comes, the results might be disastrous. (V)
Speaking of a trade war with China, it's on. On Sunday, the Chinese government announced new tariffs on 128 U.S. goods, effective immediately. In case there was any question that this is a tit-for-tat situation, the government-controlled English-language People's Daily posted this tweet:
China imposes tariffs on 128 items of imports from the U.S. including pork and fruit products starting Monday as a countermeasure in response to a previous U.S. move to slap tariffs on steel and aluminum imports: Ministry of Finance pic.twitter.com/qCYJLlobzR— People's Daily,China (@PDChina) April 2, 2018
The Daily also posted several other tweets on the matter, making clear that if Trump cancels his tariffs, the Chinese will cancel theirs.
The Chinese are not stupid, of course. They recognize that the key to Trump's re-election chances, and the place where he is most shaky, is the Midwest, aka "America's breadbasket." It's not a coincidence that the new tariffs target agricultural commodities, particularly pork. Here is a list of the United States' biggest pork producers:
|North Carolina||$1.46 billion|
Donald Trump won eight of those ten states, four of them by 5 points or less.
Generally speaking, the markets have not been happy about any sign that there will be a U.S.-China trade war, so the odds are pretty good the Dow Jones will have a bad day today. Longer term, we will see if Trump backs off his threats. On one hand, he does not like appearing weak, especially when dealing with nations whose residents are not white. He's also surrounded now with folks who won't tell him no, or who will tell him that trade wars are no big deal (Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, for example). On the other hand, Xi Jinping can afford to be much more aggressive in playing chicken with Trump, if for no other reason than he doesn't have to worry about being re-elected. Whatever happens, this situation seems likely to develop rapidly. (Z)
As noted above, in the early days of Donald Trump's presidency, there was some question as to what type of leader he would be. Would he continue to behave as candidate Trump had, with the tweets, and the personal attacks, and the impulsiveness, and the other un-presidential behavior? Or would he shift gears, and—either of his own volition, of through the intercession of others—act like a "grown up"? Obviously, we now have our answer.
Among the folks who gambled heavily on the latter outcome was Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe, who was the first major world leader to embrace Trump. They had meetings, they played golf, they had photo-ops. "I am convinced Mr. Trump is a leader in whom I can have great confidence," declared Abe.
Since then, things have not worked out so well for the Prime Minister. On the economic front, Japan is very unhappy about Trump's withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership and with the possibility of one or more trade wars. On the diplomatic front, they are not pleased about his propensity for embracing strongmen over democracies, and his flirtations with a North Korean nuclear war. The Japanese also expected most-favored-nation status from Trump, given their early support for him. They have learned, in much the same way that Steve Bannon and Rex Tillerson did, that Trump is happy to dispose of "friends" when he no longer has a use for them.
At the moment, Abe is doing even worse in polls than Trump is, with an approval rating in the mid-30s. In part, that is due to a Teapot Dome-style land sale scandal, but in part it is due to Trump. "Abe is now burdened with all the liabilities of a close association with Trump and none of the purported benefits," observes political scientist Brad Glosserman of Tama University in Tokyo. Given the Japanese parliamentary system, Abe could be swept from power at any time. And his replacement, whenever that person assumes office, is surely going to hold Trump at arm's length. Meanwhile, every world leader who is punished for working with Trump becomes a warning to other world leaders, such that Trump is going to find fewer and fewer presidents and prime ministers who are willing to work with him as his term unfolds. (Z)
A Russian hacker was arrested in the Czech Republic in 2016, leading to a battle between the U.S. and Russia over who would get him. The battle pitted the Czech Minister of Justice (who wanted to send him to the U.S.) against the Czech president (who wanted to send him to Russia). After an 18-month standoff, the U.S. won, and Yevgeniy Nikulin appeared in a San Francisco federal courtroom on Friday.
It doesn't take a Ph.D. in computer science to realize that Russian President Vladimir Putin didn't fight this hard to get a low-level hacker back to Russia just because he is facing a talent shortage and needs every hacker he can get. He is undoubtedly worried that Robert Mueller is going to try to get his hands on Nikulin to ask him a couple of questions about Russian hacking during the election campaign. If Mueller gets his opportunity, one question will probably be whether he worked with the Internet Research Agency, a St. Petersburg-based troll farm that was actively involved in helping Donald Trump during the election. If he knows all about the troll farm and spills the beans, that could be the smoking gun that Mueller has been looking for. (V)
For those who are in the business of writing White House exposés, business is good right now. Michael Wolff's Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House was a best-seller, and so was Peter Schweizer's Secret Empires: How the American Political Class Hides Corruption and Enriches Family and Friends. The latest entry, which will be released tomorrow, is Ronald Kessler's The Trump White House: Changing the Rules of the Game.
At 304 pages, Kessler's book is undoubtedly full of lots of dirt, but the revelation that is getting the most attention has to do with Kellyanne Conway, who Kessler describes as the White House's "number one leaker." He says that she sometimes forgets when she is on the record, and that she said many "mean, cutting and honestly untrue" things about former chief of staff Reince Priebus and other White House insiders. This is pretty plausible; beyond the fact that Kessler is on the White House beat and so presumably knows what he's talking about, Conway is one of the few White House insiders who is not a longtime friend of the President, having gotten on board the S.S. Donald Trump only after she left Sen. Ted Cruz's (R-TX) presidential campaign. She's also been publicly benched more than once, and her husband—who was rejected for a White House job—has been trolling the President on Twitter this week.
There was some scuttlebutt that Kellyanne Conway would succeed the now-departed Hope Hicks as White House Communications Director. Presumably, that's dead in the water now. Indeed, Kessler hasn't been on Fox News to promote the book yet, but if he does appear, Conway will be pretty lucky if she outlasts EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, who is currently at the top of the "next to go" list. (Z)
Sexual harassment cases are, unfortunately, a dime a dozen, but this one has an unusual twist. Rep. Elizabeth Esty (D-CT) is coming under fire for how she behaved after she learned that her chief of staff, Tony Baker, was beating and harassing Anna Kain, a senior staffer. Not only did she not fire him on the spot, but she kept him on the payroll for 3 months and later wrote him a letter of recommendation. Yesterday, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) said he was "deeply disappointed" in Esty's handling of the matter, but didn't call for her to resign from Congress. He said her future should be up to her constituents.
The NRCC is calling for Esty to resign. Also, AshLee Strong, the spokeswoman for Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) said: "There's no place for this behavior in the House of Representatives." Esty gave Baker $5,000 in severance pay but has since reimbursed the U.S. Treasury. The NRCC's interest, of course, is trying to pick up her seat. The district is in northeastern Connecticut, and has a PVI of D+2, which means it is a swing district that the GOP could pick up if Esty resigns and a special election is called. So far, she has said she has no intention of resigning. (V)Email a link to a friend or share:
---The Votemaster and Zenger
Apr01 Do As I Say, Not As I Do
Apr01 How Big a Win Do Democrats Need to Take the House?
Apr01 The Interview that Should Have Republicans Worried
Apr01 Buttigieg for President?
Apr01 Gun Rights Advocates Are Becoming Unhinged
Apr01 Eric Trump Is Highly Questionable
Mar31 Senate Democrats Have to Choose Between Defense and Offense
Mar31 Pruitt's Head Could Roll Next
Mar31 Jackson's Confirmation No Sure Thing
Mar31 Today in Muckraking...
Mar31 McDougal Payment Becoming a Problem for Trump
Mar31 Trump's Businesses May Be Exposed
Mar31 Poll: Young People Don't Like Trump
Mar31 McCabe Raises Almost $500,000 in One Day
Mar30 Sessions Will Not Appoint a Special Counsel to Investigate the Justice Department
Mar30 2016 Exit Polls Were Off
Mar30 Polling Numbers Looking Up for Trump; Everything Else, Not So Much
Mar30 Trump Toying with Having no Chief of Staff or Communications Director
Mar30 Trump Implies Wall Construction Has Begun
Mar30 Daniels' Lawyer Won't Be Able To Depose Trump Right Now
Mar30 Atlanta Will Bid for the 2020 Democratic National Convention
Mar30 Gov. Scott Walker Will Call Special Elections After All
Mar29 Another One Bites the Dust
Mar29 Mueller Plays Another Card from His Hand
Mar29 Trump's Allies Are Starting a Campaign against Mueller
Mar29 Judge Allows Emoluments Case to Go Forward
Mar29 Appeals Court Orders Wisconsin to Hold Elections for Vacant State Legislature Seats
Mar29 Stormy Daniels' Lawyer Wants to Depose Trump
Mar29 Former Disney Star to Work in the White House
Mar29 Joe Arpaio, One-Trick Pony
Mar28 Trump Wants the Pentagon to Pay for His Wall
Mar28 Two More Top Conservative Lawyers Say No to Trump
Mar28 Can a President Be Indicted?
Mar28 Trump Strikes His First Trade Deal
Mar28 Republicans Are Taking Nothing for Granted in AZ-08 Special Election
Mar28 Rick Scott Getting Close to Announcing; Already Has Baggage
Mar28 What Goes Up Apparently Must Go Down
Mar27 Takeaways from Stormy Daniels Interview
Mar27 Trump Ignores Daniels
Mar27 Daniels Expands Her Lawsuit to Include Cohen
Mar27 What Is Gates Telling Mueller about Trump?
Mar27 Does Team Trump Really Threaten to Rough People Up?
Mar27 No Trade War? Wall Street Is Thrilled
Mar27 Trump's Approval Is Climbing
Mar27 Citizenship Question To Be Included on 2020 Census
Mar27 Is Sean Hannity an Idiot?
Mar26 Stormy Rains on Trump's Parade
Mar26 Trump's New Lawyers Quit
Mar26 More White House Personnel Changes Are Likely