• Sessions: If Rosenstein Goes, I Might Too
• Trump Treated Cohen Like Garbage
• Cohen Reportedly Owes Back Taxes
• Why Did Trump Hire Giuliani as a Lawyer?
• Daniels and McDougal's Former Lawyer Cooperating with Cohen Probe
• Could Trump Be Defeated in the 2020 Primary?
• Cruz Walks a Thin Line
The Democratic National Committee yesterday filed a lawsuit against Donald Trump's campaign, Russia, and Wikileaks, charging that they conspired to disrupt the 2016 election and help Donald Trump. The suit asserted that an illegal conspiracy of the three named parties and others caused serious damage to the Democratic party.
Suing a foreign country is going to be tricky, to put it mildly, and Wikileaks is not an American organization. But of course, the Trump campaign is. If the suit goes forward, the DNC lawyers will get to depose all the leaders of the campaign, presumably including the candidate. The suit includes many details that were previously not known to the public, such as the date the DNC computers were penetrated.
The lawsuit is analogous to one the DNC filed against Richard Nixon's 1972 campaign. It sought $1 million in damages for the break-in of its offices in the Watergate complex. Nixon and everyone around him denounced it as "sheer demagoguery," but in the end the Democrats collected $750,000 from it. While the Democrats would undoubtedly be pleased to get some cash from the Trump campaign, the real goal is undoubtedly to get the power to depose many campaign officials under oath. If the judge finds that the DNC has standing and the suit goes forward, the problems it causes Trump would not vanish even if special counsel Robert Mueller is fired. This means that Trump is now under fire from three directions: Mueller, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of NY, and now the DNC lawsuit. And, of course, if the Democrats capture the House, that will add a fourth one. (V)
According to reporting from the Washington Post, Attorney General Jeff Sessions had a terse phone call with White House counsel Donald McGahn last weekend. During their conversation, the AG advised the administration that if Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein is fired, his resignation might soon follow. Sessions framed this as a frank statement of the reality of the situation, as opposed to a threat or an ultimatum.
The only thing surprising about this news is that it took Sessions this long to make his position known. He is right that his situation would become untenable if Rosenstein was fired. In that case, it would be crystal clear that the DoJ had been entirely politicized and emasculated, leaving Sessions as little more than a powerless quisling. At the same time, he would be far too close for comfort to possible obstruction of justice. Of course he'd have to go.
For Trump, meanwhile, this makes his situation that much more difficult. Last week, it appeared that replacing Rosenstein with an obedient flunky might be an effective way to clip special counsel Robert Mueller's wings with minimal political fallout. But if a Rosenstein termination were to trigger a Sessions resignation, then Trump could have a veritable Saturday Night Massacre on his hands. And Sessions' resignation could trigger others, so it could even get bloodier than the Nixon version. Trump had better hope he's not guilty of anything, because it's looking more and more like innocence might be his only way out of this mess. (Z)
Roger Stone, Donald Trump's longest-serving political adviser, said that Trump always went out of his way to treat his "fixer," Michael Cohen, like garbage. The President may soon regret it. Various sources have reported that the ever-loyal Cohen would have liked a job in Trump's administration, like attorney general or White House counsel. He got nothing. Trump once said of Cohen, "He owns some of the finest Trump real estate in the country—paid top dollar for it, too." To Trump, overpaying for anything is only for losers. During the campaign, Cohen approached Trump with an alleged photo of Bill Clinton's mixed race illegitimate son and Trump swatted it away angrily in front of other people, saying "Get that out of my face." Trump has threatened to fire Cohen many times. The incidents in which Trump humiliated Cohen are legion and the times he praised Cohen are nonexistent. With Trump, loyalty is like Fifth Avenue—a one-way street, and he might shoot you and get away with it.
In the past, Trump had all the power. Since the raid on Cohen's office, home, and hotel room, the shoe is on the other foot. Trump associates are very scared that there is enough evidence on Cohen's computer, now in the office of the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, to put him (Cohen) away for life. Although Cohen once said he would take a bullet for Trump, when push comes to shove he may decide that since his usefulness to Trump is over, he is not going to get any more favors from his former boss, so why protect him any more? If he told investigators about dozens of times Trump did something shady or illegal and Cohen had proof of it, that would probably be the end of Trump. Trump could promise Cohen a pardon, but (1) Cohen probably wouldn't believe it, and (2) NY AG Eric Schneiderman might well be able to find some state laws Cohen violated, knowing full well that the president can't pardon people for state crimes. Cohen clearly has some big decisions to make shortly. (V)
In addition to being Donald Trump's fixer, Michael Cohen is also in the taxi business. He currently owns 32 taxi medallions in New York City, down from 200 at his high-water mark in 2003. The taxi business is in decline since Uber and Lyft started, and medallions that once sold for $1.3 million are now going for $300,000 or less. The decline in the taxi business has hit Cohen hard: The state of New York claims he owes $174,000 in back taxes related to his taxi companies. Cohen disputes this.
CNN has reported that one of the things federal investigators were interested in when they seized his computer and records is information about his taxi businesses, possibly in conjunction with his unpaid taxes. All in all, between possible violations of federal election laws, bank and wire fraud, and now tax problems, Cohen has plenty on his plate. (V)
On Thursday, Donald Trump added former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani to his legal team. That led to some head scratching among people watching the Russiagate probe. Trump has known Giuliani for years, and Giuliani has plenty of experience being on television, but Trump doesn't need another TV lawyer. He has Jay Sekulow, who can handle that job just fine. Giuliani was a prosecutor up until 1989, but was never a defense lawyer, so what is his value to the team?
Now that is starting to become clear: Giuliani knows Robert Mueller very well, going back to the Reagan administration, when they both were working for the Dept. of Justice. What Trump wants more than anything else is a rapid end to Mueller's work, preferably with no more indictments. He is hoping that Rudy will approach his old friend Bob and just schmooze with him and solve the problem. Like if Rudy calls up Bob and says: "Hi, ol' buddy. How about wrapping up this whole thing quickly, then we can go out for a beer, like in the old days?"
Needless to say, it won't work. Mueller is a consummate professional and understands all too well that Trump is scared witless by his digging ever deeper, especially in matters financial. He also is going to want to find out as much as he can about what is on Cohen's computer and try to flip him. Where Giuliani might help a bit is in negotiations over Trump's appearance before Mueller. It would look a lot better if Mueller came to the White House alone and talked to Trump in the Oval Office with Giuliani present and no oath, than if Mueller subpoenas Trump to appear before a grand jury under oath without his lawyers present. If Giuliani can negotiate a deal to get the former instead of the latter, he will be worth his weight in gold. (V)
When porn star Stormy Daniels (nee Stephanie Clifford) and Playboy model Karen McDougal (nee Karen McDougal) were selling their silence as regards extramarital affairs they had with Donald Trump, their lawyer was Keith Davidson. On Friday, it was revealed that he is cooperating with the FBI probe into Michael Cohen's alleged misdeeds.
Davidson's cooperation is not unexpected, since he has no loyalty to Cohen or Trump. It's not known exactly what Davidson has to add, but he has already provided some information to the authorities, so clearly it's something. This likely isn't major bad news for the President, but it probably is minor bad news. (Z)
Incumbent presidents have occasionally been challenged by someone in their own party when their reelection rolled around. Could that happen to Donald Trump in 2020, and would a challenger have any chance of success? Actually, we have some data on that, shown below.
|Year||President||Party||Party approval||NH Vote %||Nomination in doubt?|
|2004||George W. Bush||Republican||88%||80%||No|
|1992||George H. W. Bush||Republican||72%||53%||No|
The key columns here are the fourth one (party approval before the New Hampshire primary) and the last one (Was the nomination in doubt?). While there isn't a linear correlation between the two, it is clear from the data that when a president's approval within his own party is above 70%, a challenge is pointless. When it is below 70%, a serious challenge is possible.
Currently, Donald Trump's approval among Republicans is very high, about 85%. That is enough to doom any challenge. Of course, the New Hampshire primary is not upon us quite yet and much can change. However, Trump has survived so many things that would sink anyone else, that it is hard to see what might make Republicans turn on him (although a Dow Jones index of 15,000 might do the trick).
Furthermore, you can't beat somebody with nobody. Who would the challenger be? Gov. John Kasich (R-OH) might take the plunge, but he ran in 2016 and lost every state except his own. That's not a great start. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) might try, but only if he wins a commanding victory in his reelection campaign this year. The last poll had him up 3 points on his challenger, Beto O'Rourke. That's not commanding (more below). Of course, a Republican drubbing in 2018 might bring lots of potential challengers out of the woodwork. Still, unless Republicans turn on Trump en masse, he appears to be safe for the moment. (V)
If a Republican serves in a state that disdains Donald Trump, as Gov. Charlie Baker (R-MA) does, it's pretty easy to decide what to do about the President: Run away—far, far, away. And if a Republican serves in a state that loves Donald Trump, as Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) does, it's also pretty easy to decide what to do about The Donald: Hold him close. Where it gets tough is in states where feelings about Trump are more mixed. States like Texas, for example.
The Lone Star State presents a particularly tough Trump puzzle for a politician running for statewide office. Yes, it is a very red state (though one that is trending purple). However, Trump is solidly underwater there, with an approval rating around 40% and a disapprove around 55%. The only way these numbers can be reconciled with Texas' overall red nature is that there is clearly a sizable population of anti-Trump Republicans there. It is the home state of the Bushes, after all.
Undoubtedly, those Texas Republicans who do not have to face the electorate this year are relieved. Sen. John Cornyn, for example, is not up again until 2020, and is playing his hand carefully. When asked if he would endorse Trump in 2020 this week, he said, "I don't know what the world is going to look like. But let's say it's not something I've given any thought to." Riiiight. The only thing in American politics that gets more thought and attention than the 2020 presidential contest right now is the 2018 midterm election.
And then there is Sen. Ted Cruz, who doesn't have the luxury of keeping his cards hidden until 2020, as he's up for reelection this year. For a while, he was competing with John Kasich for the leadership of the anti-Trump Republicans, a chapter of his career that included Cruz' appearance at the Republican Convention, where he pointedly refused to endorse Trump. Since then, however, the Senator has clearly determined that he misread the political winds, because he's cozied up to Trump. This week, Cruz took it to a new level, writing a fawning essay on the President for the "Time 100" most influential people of 2018. It includes, for example, this:
The same cultural safe spaces that blinkered coastal elites to candidate Trump's popularity have rendered them blind to President Trump's achievements on behalf of ordinary Americans. While pundits obsessed over tweets, he worked with Congress to cut taxes for struggling families. While wealthy celebrities announced that they would flee the country, he fought to bring back jobs and industries to our shores. While talking heads predicted Armageddon, President Trump's strong stand against North Korea put Kim Jong Un back on his heels.
The other paragraphs are equally laudatory.
Can Cruz really walk both sides of the street like this? And how, exactly, will it work if the Senator tries to unseat Trump in 2020, and people ask him about statements like this? Will he say he was just kidding? It's true that talking out of both sides of one's mouth is a time-honored political tradition, but Cruz—who comes off like a snake oil salesman—isn't very smooth at it. And by all evidences, he's not threading the needle very well right now, given his sluggish fundraising and slight-to-nonexistent lead in the polls over his Democratic opponent Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-TX). (Z)Email a link to a friend or share:
---The Votemaster and Zenger
Apr20 Trump Finally Has a New Lawyer
Apr20 Trade War Continues to Develop
Apr20 Trump Says He's Willing to Walk Out on Kim
Apr20 Democrats Are Getting Involved in the West Virginia Senatorial Primary
Apr20 House Democrats Are Raising More Money Than House Republicans
Apr20 Independent Candidate Shakes Up Illinois Governor's Race
Apr19 McConnell Won't Bring Up Legislation to Protect Mueller
Apr19 Schneiderman Is Asking for a Change in the Law So He Can Prosecute Pardonees
Apr19 Cohen Might Not Take a Bullet for Trump
Apr19 Democrats Get Good News in Senate Races
Apr19 Republicans Are Trying to Save McCain's Seat
Apr19 McDougal Is Free to Tell Her Story
Apr19 Melania Trump to Attend Bush Funeral
Apr18 Pompeo Met with Kim
Apr18 Nikki Haley Isn't Jeff Sessions
Apr18 Republicans Book the First $48 Million Worth of Ads for House Races
Apr18 Joe Crowley Would Like to Be Speaker of the House
Apr18 Charlie Dent Will Retire from the House
Apr18 More Trouble for Greitens
Apr18 What Would Francisco Do?
Apr18 What Would Francis Do?
Apr18 Barbara Bush Dead at 92
Apr17 Cohen, Hannity Have a Bad Day in Court
Apr17 Tensions Rise in House Due to Ryan's Refusal to Step Down Immediately
Apr17 More Trouble for Pruitt
Apr17 Joe Biden: Yoo Hoo, I'm Still Here and Maybe I'm Running in 2020
Apr17 Republicans Are Gaining in Generic House Poll
Apr17 Democrats May Flip House Seats in New Jersey
Apr17 Another Top Lawyer Turns Down Trump
Apr16 Comey Unloads on Trump
Apr16 RNC Will Spend $250 Million to Keep the House Majority
Apr16 Secret Super PAC Attacks Blankenship in West Virginia Senate Primary
Apr16 Trump's Approval Is Back Up
Apr16 Trump's Fundraising Is Going Well
Apr16 Pence's NSA Pick Withdraws
Apr16 Cohen's "Fixing" Appears to Be a Family Affair, Especially for Family Affairs
Apr16 What Could the Democrats Do If They Decided to Play Dirty in the Future?
Apr15 Syria: The Aftermath
Apr15 Comey Thought Clinton Was Going to Win
Apr15 Consumer Protection Bureau Not Doing Any Protecting
Apr15 Cohen: I've Never Been to Prague
Apr15 A House Divided
Apr15 A Young Wave Is Building
Apr15 Gas Prices Headed Up
Apr14 U.S. Bombs Syria
Apr14 Trump Calls Comey An "Untruthful Slime Ball"
Apr14 The Feds Have Tapes
Apr14 The Walls Are Closing in on Cohen
Apr14 Justice Dept. Inspector General Lowers the Boom on McCabe