• Wyoming, Alaska Have Primaries Today
• Russians Tried to Hack Senate, Conservative Think Tanks
• Giuliani: OK, the Truth Is the Truth
• No Verdict in Manafort Trial Yet
• Auto Industry Unites to Oppose Trump's Tariffs
• A Blue Wave May Carry the House but Not the Senate
• Oppo Research Ramps Up in House Races
Two sources have told CNN that Donald Trump is very worried by the 30 hours White House counsel Don McGahn spent with special counsel Robert Mueller. Trump knows he approved McGahn's appearance before Mueller, back when his lawyers thought he was innocent and the best strategy was to cooperate with the Special Counsel and get the whole thing over fast. But he didn't know it was going to take so long, and his legal team forgot to debrief McGahn after each interview. If his lawyers talk to McGahn now, McGahn is undoubtedly going to say: "Gee, I don't remember everything I told Mueller in 30 hours of questioning weeks ago." If he also notes that he didn't lie (and there is no reason to believe he did), the lawyers are going to be wetting their pants because McGahn had a front-row seat to a lot of activity that might well have been criminal.
Trump has long-ago soured on McGahn, mostly because he is one of the few White House officials who has ever openly defied the President. When Trump asked McGahn to fire Mueller, instead of weaseling out by saying he didn't have that authority, he simply said "no." As a result, Trump rarely talks to McGahn one-on-one anymore, although sometimes they are present in the same meeting. The major source of tension, in the end, is that Trump fundamentally doesn't understand McGahn's job. He is the lawyer for the presidency, not Trump's personal government-paid attorney and protector. The only reason McGahn hasn't been fired is that he is the person overseeing the confirmation process for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
Trump has told people that he believes McGahn is one of the White House leakers. Trump also dislikes the fact that McGahn gets along well with Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein, who is overseeing Mueller's work. So when Kavanaugh is confirmed, McGahn's head may roll—unless he quits first.
The story about McGahn may well have shaken other White House aides. No one wants to see other staffers going to Mueller to spill the beans and then end up as the last one on Team Trump. That's the person who ends up doing four years in Danbury federal prison. So others may already be calling Mueller to schedule their interviews. (V)
It's not going to be nearly as interesting as last week (Minnesota, Wisconsin, Connecticut, and Vermont), or as interesting as next week (Arizona and Florida). Nonetheless, Wyoming and Alaska will hold primaries today, and there are a few storylines worth noting.
In Wyoming, the race for the open governor's mansion is about what kind of Republican voters want. The establishment candidate is Mark Gordon, a policy wonk who is not particularly interested in discussing Donald Trump. In other words, something of a Paul Ryan clone. Then there are two "outsider" businessmen, Foster Friess and Sam Galeotos, and both are hugging Trump close. Friess, who pretty much singlehandedly kept Rick Santorum's campaign alive in 2012, has been particularly aggressive in buying ads ($2.5 million worth in a state where commercials often cost less than $100), and in trying to rack up endorsements. He would be the clear favorite, if not for the fact that he and Galeotos are aiming for the same voters. And then, for citizens of Wyoming who find a hard-core Santorum supporter to be a little too liberal for their tastes, there is fire-breathing tea partier Harriet Hageman, an attorney. However, she's in some hot water right now over her stance on wolf management, which is a hot-button issue in the Cowboy State. She says she wants to kill more wolves, but she also did legal work for a group that tries to save wolves. In other words, she's something of a wolf flip-flopper.
Meanwhile, the Wyoming Senate race is a two-person affair. Sen. John Barrasso (R) is the incumbent, and has never had to break a sweat in his previous campaigns. Not true this time, though, as businessman Dave Dodson is giving the Senator a run for his money. In fact, speaking of money, Dodson has dumped over $1 million of his fortune into commercials (which, remember, is enough for something like 10,000 airings). He's running a more centrist campaign than Barrasso, and has picked up some big endorsements. In turn, that compelled Barrasso to ask for Trump's endorsement, which he got. The Senator is still the favorite here, but in a state where there may only be 20,000 or 30,000 votes cast statewide, an upset is certainly possible. Well, in the Senate race, at least. Not the House race. In the contest for Wyoming's only House seat, Rep. Liz Cheney (R) will win renomination easily.
The Democrats, to their credit, have managed to find candidates (often multiple candidates) for each of the races in Wyoming. However, the only one worth even a passing mention is Gary Trauner, who once managed to finish within 1 point of winning the Wyoming House seat. That was more than a decade ago, however (2006), and now he's running for the Senate. He'll get the blue team's nomination, yes, but against either Dodson or Barrasso he'll be a huge underdog.
Moving on to Alaska, the governor's race may prove to be interesting in November, but it won't be today. Gov. Bill Walker (I) won his first term by attracting Democratic voters without actually having a (D) next to his name. That worked well when there was no actual (D) on the ballot. This time, there will be, in the person of former senator Mark Begich. The Republican candidate, meanwhile, will be state Sen. Mike Dunleavy, who is easily outpacing former lieutenant governor Mead Treadwell in polls. Alaska is a pretty red state, which favors Dunleavy, but Begich and Walker have much greater name recognition, and Walker has incumbency on his side. So, this one could prove to be a toss-up once the nominations are all official.
Alaska's House seat is rarely of much interest, as indicated by the fact that Rep. Don Young (R) is the oldest and longest-tenured person in the lower chamber right now, having first been elected on Dick Nixon's coattails in 1972. However, Alyse Galvin is running a strong (and well-funded) campaign. She is going to try to pull off the same maneuver that Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) just did: Get the Democratic nomination, decline it (leaving that spot on the ballot blank), and then run as an independent (albeit, a centrist independent and not a socialist independent). It could just work, as Bill Walker proved four years ago. Also gunning for the Democratic nod is Dimitri Shein, who apparently would run as an actual Democrat if nominated. He's also waging a strong campaign, and if he was somehow elected to replace Young, he would be the first Russian-born Congressman since 1967. He's an underdog in the primary, and would be in the general, unless he gets a little help from his friends, if you know what we mean.
Thanks to how far west the Aleutian islands stretch, polls close very late in Alaska (1:00 a.m. EST). So the results may or may not be known by the end of the night tonight. (Z)
There may be some people who think the Russians have no involvement in America's elections, but the folks at Microsoft are not among them. Early Tuesday, the company announced that, backed by a court order, it had seized six websites set up by the Russian hacking group Fancy Bear.
There is no evidence that the websites were ever used successfully. They were set up to be used in spearphishing attacks, the same sort that compromised the DNC and the Hillary Clinton campaign. In other words, they were fake websites designed to look like real websites, for purposes of stealing passwords and other information. The six seized sites were designed to mimic the Senate's e-mail web interface, and the login pages for conservative think tanks the Hudson Institute and the International Republican Institute. It is not clear exactly how the Russians planned to use any ill-gotten information, though it's worth noting that both of those think tanks are basically anti-Trump. This is the fourth or fifth story of this sort in the last month; presumably they will get even more frequent as the midterms approach. (Z)
Rudy Giuliani represents an interesting combination of dynamics. He's doing everything he can to defend his client, Donald Trump, and to muddy the waters when it comes to any bad behavior on the part of the President. However, he's got zero experience as a defense lawyer, he apparently shares his client's habit of not preparing properly for things, and—to be blunt—there's a chance that, at 74 years of age, the cheese has begun to slip off the cracker. Consequently, quite a few observers think that Giuliani is doing Trump more harm than good, particularly on the days when "America's (Former) Mayor" really steps in it.
Sunday was one of those days. When Giuliani declared that "the truth isn't the truth," he had people across the spectrum rolling their eyes (or more). It was so clearly a blunder that Rudy felt the need to do some Twitter damage control on Monday:
My statement was not meant as a pontification on moral theology but one referring to the situation where two people make precisely contradictory statements, the classic “he said,she said” puzzle. Sometimes further inquiry can reveal the truth other times it doesn’t.— Rudy Giuliani (@RudyGiuliani) August 20, 2018
Taken on its own, this is a fair point. Different people definitely do have different recollections of the same event. Sometimes radically different recollections. And, of course, anyone is entitled to a mulligan if they honestly misspoke.
The problem is that Giuliani did not misspeak. He may have chosen a clumsy (and embarrassing) way of expressing himself, but the basic sentiment was exactly the one he hoped to communicate. No lawyer (even one who is rusty and out of practice) thinks that people get busted for perjury because they happened to have a recollection of events different from some other witness. They get busted because they lied, knowingly. And Giuliani wasn't trying to say "different people remember things differently," what he was trying to do was to assert that all statements are equally valid, whether they are actually truthful, or they are lies (like the ones told by Trump and, for that matter, Giuliani).
This was not a one-time "oopsie." Giuliani (and other members of Team Trump) have gone down this road (the fancy term is factual relativism) many times. Indeed, in the same exact interview where Giuliani "misspoke," he made an egregious attempt to bend reality to his will when discussing the infamous Trump Tower meeting:
Giuliani: Well, because the meeting was originally for the purpose of getting information about, about Clinton. The meeting turned into a meeting --
Chuck Todd: Which in itself it's attempted collusion. I understand --
Giuliani: No it's not.
Todd: You just said it. The meeting was intended to get dirt on Hillary Clinton from a criminal lawyer.
Giuliani: No, it wasn't. No, no.
Todd: That was the intention of the meeting, you just said it.
Giuliani: That was the original intention of the meeting. It turned out to be a meeting about another subject and it was not pursued at all. And, of course, any meeting with regard to getting information on your opponent is something any candidate's staff would take. If someone said, I have information about your opponent, you would take that meeting. If it happens to be a person with a Russian --
Todd: From the Russian government?
Giuliani: She didn't represent the Russian government, she's a private citizen. I don't even know if they knew she was Russian at the time. All they had was her name.
Giuliani said that the meeting was to get dirt on Hillary Clinton and then, with almost the same breath, decided it wasn't. One wonders what exactly he really believes. And if that was not enough, while he was trying to construct some version of events where this was not conspiratorial and was not illegal, he told a baldfaced lie. Even if "all they had" was Natalia Veselnitskaya's name, that is more than enough to know she's Russian, just as surely as Seamus O'Connor is Irish, Jean-Francois Girard is French, and Tsutomu Narahara is Japanese. Beyond that, however, Rudy seems to have forgotten that Donald Trump Jr. released the e-mails about the meeting, and from them it is clear Team Trump knew she was a Russian with ties to the Putin regime.
Needless to say, Donald Trump cares very little about employees who lie, particularly when those lies are to his benefit. However, he does care about employees who embarrass him. And when even Fox News is holding round table discussions on the question of "Is Giuliani doing more harm than good?" it's fair to wonder if there isn't going to be some more turnover on the President's legal team. (Z)
The jurors in Paul Manafort's trial spent all day deliberating on Monday. It was their longest session yet, beginning at 9:30 in the morning and concluding a little after 6:00 in the evening, but it did not yield a verdict. Politico asked several lawyers to read the tea leaves, based on what they know of the case, and the questions that jurors are sending to the judge, and so forth. All of the experts said, in so many words, "Who knows?" They all pointed out that deliberations of this length are not unusual, however.
One potential complicating factor is that Donald Trump spent the weekend slamming the trial and insisting that Manafort is innocent. The jurors are under strict instructions to tune out the news, and to avoid exposure to any information that may be prejudicial, but it's not easy to avoid the pronouncements of the fellow with the bully pulpit. None of the jurors evinced any awareness of Trump's words, but if it somehow comes out that one or more members were influenced by the President, that is the sort of thing that can lead to a mistrial. Which Trump surely knows, so there may have been some method to his madness. (Z)
Historically, big business has been solidly Republican. Donald Trump may be changing that, however. Eight major auto associations have gotten together in an unprecedented effort to oppose a Republican president on his top economic agenda item: tariffs. The Big Three auto manufacturers—General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler—are on board, as are numerous foreign companies that have factories in the U.S. The companies employ hundreds of thousands of workers. They say that Trump's tariffs could raise car prices by as much as $6,900, reducing sales and leading to job losses. Trump has imposed a 25% tariff on imported steel and aluminum, something the car companies use in large volume and that U.S. suppliers can't produce in the quantities and at the price that foreign ones can.
The group said its focus will be lobbying Congress to repeal the tariffs. If that gets them nowhere, they could start advertising during the Fall. Having a major industry out there saying that the president's policies will cause massive job losses can't be helpful to Trump or the Republicans, but it is uncertain what the automotive bigwigs will do if Congress, as usual, does nothing. (V)
David Wasserman, the House editor at the Cook Political Report, has written a piece explaining that one should view the 2018 midterms as two separate events: a House election and a Senate election, and they are barely connected. The main reason is that they are being fought on different turf. The House election is about winning affluent suburban moderate Republican voters. These voters have traditionally been Republicans, but many of them are fed up with Donald Trump and want to let him know that. In contrast, the Senate is being fought for almost entirely in red states (Nevada excepted), and the key voters are rural Republicans who like Trump.
Wasserman has calculated that if there is an 8-point swing to the Democrats, something the generic poll numbers say is likely, they will pick up 44 House seats and have a substantial majority there. But that same 8-point swing would cost them four Senate seats, leaving them six seats short of a majority. However, Wasserman also notes that for the Senate races, the candidate is much more important than the (D) or (R). For example, even though Montana voted overwhelmingly for Trump, Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) is a very popular farmer who butchers his own meat. Tester connects with Montanans in a way that the Republican candidate, state Auditor Matt Rosendale, a transplant from Maryland, does not, and that could save Tester.
Wasserman put the electoral map in food terms. Trump carried 76% of counties with a Cracker Barrel but only 22% of counties with a Whole Foods Market. In more prosaic terms, Republicans are strong in rural areas and Democrats are strong in cities. Wasserman further said that in all years of following politics, he has never seen so little overlap between the hot House races and the hot Senate races. They are different universes.
He also pointed out that politics with a Democratic House and a Republican Senate would be bizarre. The House would be issuing subpoenas left and right to everyone in the administration, while the Senate would be confirming Trump's judicial nominees as fast as it could. In the long run, the parties could become accountable to disjoint sets of voters, each with boiling contempt for the other's views and hatred for the other's way of life. Getting anything done under these circumstances would be impossible. But it looks like that is where we may be heading. (V)
Republican House strategists don't want to talk about Donald Trump, or how America is getting greater, or tax cuts, or children being ripped from their families at the border, or anything, actually. But they do want to win. So they are following the sage advice of long-dead Democratic speaker Tip O'Neill: All politics is local. In short, the Republican strategists want to avoid just about all national politics. To do so, they are working overtime to dig up dirt on individual House candidates and pillory them for long-forgotten sins. For example, Randy "Ironstache" Bryce, who is running for the seat being vacated by Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) is being attacked over a drunk-driving arrest. Illinois Democrat Sean Casten is being castigated for "mismanagement, fraud, and greed" at his company, something he has vigorously denied. And these are only a couple. The Republican oppo team is combing through everything it can find on House Democratic candidates and will let them have it with both barrels if they find anything. And maybe even if they don't. After all, who can tell if some candidate mismanaged his company years ago? Or was actually born in the U.S., and not Kenya?
This is a time-tested approach the Republicans have used with success for decades. Make the entire campaign about one incident from the distant past, give a misleading interpretation of the facts, and repeat it 100 times a day. A particularly famous example of fairly recent vintage is the notorious Willie Horton ad that George H.W. Bush ran in 1988. At the time, the Massachusetts penal system had the policy of releasing prisoners for the weekend in order to get them integrated into society after they had served their time, and then-governor Mike Dukakis (Bush's opponent) routinely signed off on these releases. But Bush made the whole campaign about Horton, who committed several crimes while out on furlough. Bush claimed that Dukakis was soft on crime and hammered this point home, over and over. But the scary photo of Horton (who is black) that the ad showed made it pretty clear which criminals Dukakis wanted to coddle.
In theory, Democrats could try to play the same game, but that is just what the Republicans want: Don't talk about national politics at all, and just fight over whose long-forgotten sin was worse. Further, it is not in the Democrats' DNA to run on character assassination and they are not very good at it. At least, since Lyndon B. Johnson died.
The trouble with this approach for the Republicans is that not every candidate has a skeleton or two in his or her closet. Also, the Democrats are running a large number of veterans for the House, and any attack on one can easily be parried with "The Republicans have no respect for our veterans." Still, expect an extraordinarily mean and nasty campaign season. (V)Email a link to a friend or share:
---The Votemaster and Zenger
Aug20 Trump Teaches History Class
Aug20 Many Trump Allies Welcome Democratic-Controlled House
Aug20 Cohen Charges Likely Coming Soon
Aug20 "Stephen Miller Is an Immigration Hypocrite"
Aug20 Brennan May Take Trump to Court
Aug20 Ohio Begins Compiling Final Vote Count in OH-12
Aug19 White House Counsel Don McGahn Has Been Cooperating with the Special Counsel
Aug19 Judge Guts Trump NDA
Aug19 No Security Clearances Revoked on Saturday
Aug19 Trump's Knowledge of the World and Foreign Affairs Is Sad
Aug19 This Week's Senate News
Aug19 Democratic Presidential Candidate of the Week: John Hickenlooper
Aug18 Manafort Jury Goes Home for the Weekend without a Verdict
Aug18 Why Hasn't Manafort Flipped?
Aug18 Trump Says He Will Yank Bruce Ohr's Security Clearance Next
Aug18 Trump Cancels Military Parade
Aug18 U.S.-Supplied Bomb Kills 40 Children in Yemen
Aug18 Nathan Gonzales Changes House Ratings toward the Democrats
Aug18 The Hill Sees a 72-Seat Wipeout as the Worst Case Scenario for House Republicans
Aug18 FiveThirtyEight Has New House Ratings Out, Too
Aug17 Newspapers Assert Freedom of the Press; Trump Fires Back
Aug17 Omarosa Releases a Recording of Lara Trump Offering Her a $15,000/Month Job
Aug17 No Verdict Yet in Manafort Case
Aug17 Another Piece of the Stormygate Puzzle
Aug17 Admiral Who Oversaw the Raid on Bin Laden Wants His Security Clearance Revoked
Aug17 Trump Badly Wants to Take the Show on the Road
Aug17 Trump Has Praised All the Candidates in the Arizona Senate Primary
Aug17 Who's Who on the House Judiciary Committee?
Aug16 Takeaways from the Primaries
Aug16 Does Trump's Endorsement Matter?
Aug16 Trump Revokes Security Clearance of Former CIA Director John Brennan
Aug16 Manafort's Trial Ends
Aug16 Republican Midterm Strategy Is to Play Nice for a Few Months
Aug16 Democratic Midterm Strategy Is to Go Local
Aug16 Researchers Show that Votes Can Be Hacked in Nearly 30 States
Aug16 Defeated Democrat Says He Was Targeted by Hackers
Aug15 Election Results, States that Held a Primary Last Night Edition
Aug15 Kobach Advances, Johnson Throws His Hat in the Ring
Aug15 White House Staffers Scared Witless of Omarosa's Next Tape
Aug15 Trump Doing His Best to Prove that Yes, He Is a Racist Who Used the N-Word
Aug15 The Five Most Competitive House Races
Aug15 Americans Want Mueller to Finish by Election Day
Aug15 Latinos in Florida Prefer Nelson to Scott, but Barely
Aug14 FBI Fires Peter Strzok
Aug14 Prosecution Rests Its Case in the Manafort Trial
Aug14 Stone Says He Won't Testify Against Trump
Aug14 Omarosa Keeps Dishing
Aug14 Team Trump Decides on a New Flynn Narrative
Aug14 Florida Might Have a Red Tide Instead of a Blue Wave