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TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  Weisselberg Gets Immunized
      •  Could Trump Be Al Caponed?
      •  Aides Expect a Manafort Pardon
      •  Dino Sajudin Is Going to Tell His Trump Story
      •  Pompeo Cancels North Korea Trump
      •  Democratic Donors Are Fed Up with the DNC
      •  The End Is Near for Senator John McCain

Weisselberg Gets Immunized

No, the CFO of Donald Trump's company—soft-spoken 71-year-old accountant Allen Weisselberg—didn't get his flu shot early. He was granted immunity from prosecution by Dept. of Justice investigators looking into Michael Cohen's financial affairs and into Donald Trump's dealings as well. This is even more momentous than AMI CEO David Pecker working with the feds. Pecker knows about the deal in which Trump bought the silence of former Playmate Karen McDougal, and maybe some others. Weisselberg knows where every penny the Trump organization got came from and where every penny it spent went. In fact, he knows about every penny going back to the time when the Donald was in short pants: Weisselberg has been with the company since the days when Trump's father, Fred, ran it.

If there was money coming into the company from Russian oligarchs, Weisselberg will know which ones, how much they paid, what they got, and what their kids' favorite colors are. And of course, he knows everything about Trump's tax returns, even though he is not the official preparer. If he spills his guts, special counsel Robert Mueller will have a gold mine of information, especially if Trump engaged in money laundering or other financial misdeeds.

Given the large numbers of Russians who have bought units in Trump properties, probably much of it with ill-gotten loot, money laundering could be a huge issue. In fact, there are several clues pointing in this direction. First, in 2008, Donald Trump Jr. said that a lot of money is pouring in from Russia. Second, Donald Trump once warned Mueller that if he looks at his (Trump's) finances, that would be crossing a red line. Third, Mueller's first hire was Andrew Weissmann, who is a specialist in prosecuting money-laundering cases, which indicates that Mueller was tuned into money laundering from day one.

If Mueller discovers and can prove money laundering or other financial crimes, such as tax fraud (see below), he could essentially write up a document that could serve as the basis for three articles of impeachment if the Democrats win the House:

  • Violation of campaign finance laws (Stormy Daniels, Karen McDougal, and maybe others)
  • Obstruction of justice (firing Comey and trying to make the Russiagate probe go away)
  • Financial crimes (money laundering, tax fraud, etc.)

The first and second items are already well established, but Weisselberg could open up a whole new front in the investigation. And note that the above list doesn't even include actual conspiring with the Russians.

It's not been a great week or two for Trump, what with Omarosa Manigault Newman, Michael Cohen, David Pecker, and now Allen Weisselberg talking (or potentially talking) to federal prosecutors. Other than his family, there aren't too many people left who are still keeping the President's secrets. Maybe "The Apprentice" producer Mark Burnett, and Paul Manafort (for now), but not many beyond them. Time magazine's current covers pretty much capture the gist of things:

Trump in deep

Given how many people have turned against him, Trump would be in a real pickle if he talks to Mueller personally. He won't know how much Mueller knows, which could easily lead to him denying things that Mueller already knows to be true from multiple witnesses. So, Trump's lawyers are definitely going to fight tooth and nail to prevent him from being interviewed. (V)

Could Trump Be Al Caponed?

The feds never nailed mobster Al Capone for some of his worst crimes, but since income from illegal activities is nonetheless taxable, they got him for tax evasion. Could the same fate befall Donald Trump? Maybe. By now, most people know that Michael Cohen fronted $130,000 to buy off porn star Stormy Daniels (nee Stephanie Clifford). However, when Trump's company reimbursed Cohen, it wired him $420,000. Why so much? Trump recorded the payment as a bill for services rendered, rather than reimbursement for a payoff. So, Cohen was supposed to pay tax on it, and part of the extra money was to cover his taxes. There was also a bonus in there, and something about tech services.

Since Trump was trying to hide the reason for the payment, very likely his company deducted the entire $420,000 as a fee for legal services. But it wasn't a fee for legal services, so if Trump took that deduction (and given how stingy he is, why wouldn't he?), that's tax fraud. Claiming a large deduction to which you are not entitled is a felony, and Trump could be hit for that, just as Capone was. Furthermore, if he claimed the deduction on his New York State tax return, that would be a state crime, for which he could certainly not pardon himself, no matter how the Supreme Court might ultimately vote on a self-pardon for federal crimes.

It's hardly controversial to say that many millions of people rue the day that Donald Trump became president. Some day soon, Trump himself might join the list. (V)

Aides Expect a Manafort Pardon

High-profile Washington lawmakers, like Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) have warned Donald Trump that it is unwise to pardon Paul Manafort. Trump's lawyers—even the TV ones—have warned him that it's unwise to pardon Paul Manafort. Nonetheless, White House aides are confident that Trump will rebel and pardon his former campaign manager anyhow, and that the President is already setting it up by lionizing the convicted felon and by slamming the "witch hunt" over and over.

There are three plainly obvious reasons that Trump wants to pardon Manafort. The first is that Trump thinks (almost certainly incorrectly) that it will improve his own legal situation. The second is that he is well aware of the sentiment revealed in this poll released on Friday, which says that 60% of Americans oppose a Manafort pardon. That sounds pretty bad, but that means that 40% are not opposed, and the President knows that the Venn diagram of "the 40% who don't oppose a pardon" and "my base" is two completely overlapping circles. Third, and finally, Trump really wants to send a signal to others who might betray him that the singing canaries of the world (Michael Cohen) are on their own, but the loyal company men (e.g., Paul Manafort) will be rescued. Of course, there aren't too many canaries left who haven't already sung (Jared? Junior?), so maybe communicating this particular message shouldn't be a priority. (Z)

Dino Sajudin Is Going to Tell His Trump Story

This could be the first domino among many to fall as a result of David Pecker's run for the hills. Former Trump World Tower doorman Dino Sajudin, who has previously said that he knows about an illegitimate child that Donald Trump sired with an ex-housekeeper, announced late Friday that he is now free to tell the whole story. Speaking through his lawyer, Marc Held, Sajudin says he has been released from his "no tell" contract with AMI, the parent company of the National Enquirer that is owned by Pecker. Exactly what proof and/or additional details that Sajudin might have is not yet clear, although CNN did lay hands on a copy of the contract between Sajudin and AMI, which was signed on Nov. 15, 2015, and was amended about a month later. So, he was certainly paid for something.

This could potentially be trouble for Trump on several levels. First, he declared his presidential bid on June 16, 2015, well before the contract was signed. So, this could be another illegal campaign contribution situation. Then there are the terrible optics; cheating on your wife once or twice (or more) is bad, but if there's a secret child he's hidden from view for a decade, that's surely much worse. And finally, it's possible that this is just the first of many salacious stories that are about to become public now that Trump has gotten shafted by Pecker. After all, Steve Bannon suggested that there were "hundreds" of women who were paid off. And if that proves to be true, and there was dubious accounting involved, as appears to have been the case with Stormy Daniels (see above), then the embarrassments and the potential crimes could start to pile up very quickly. (Z)

Pompeo Cancels North Korea Trump

During his 1952 presidential campaign, Dwight D. Eisenhower famously said, "I shall go to Korea." On Friday, under orders from Donald Trump, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pulled a reverse Ike and announced, "I shall not go to Korea." Ok, not those exact words, but that was the basic sentiment.

This would have been the Secretary's fourth trip to meet with members of the Kim Jong-Un regime, but Trump believes that the North Koreans aren't doing much to denuclearize. Shortly after Pompeo's announcement, the President took to Twitter to publicly acknowledge (for the first time) what everyone else already knew:

Both sides are doing a lot of finger-pointing, with Trump placing the blame for the lack of progress on China, and Kim blaming Pompeo, NSA John Bolton, and other presidential underlings. The real problem, though, is that in the "agreement" the two leaders made, each thought he was committing to something different. Trump thought Kim was promising to get rid of his nukes, end of story. Kim thought Trump was promising to remove all nukes from the Korean peninsula, including the ones belonging to the U.S. Neither of these outcomes is acceptable to the other side; North Korea isn't going to get rid of its nukes while the others remain (and maybe not even then), and the United States is not going to pull its nukes under any circumstances.

As Slate's Joshua Keating points out, Trump probably made the right decision in canceling the meeting, even if it wasn't necessarily for the right reasons. At this point, the President (hopefully) recognizes that he erred in rushing to the negotiating table and in declaring the nuclear threat to be over. In so doing, he played into Kim's hands, and allowed the dictator to push his luck in many different ways. The only thing that works with Kim, to the extent that anything does, is being willing to play hardball and to walk away. That's actually the first rule of negotiations—always be willing to walk away—which Trump would know if he had any expertise in the subject.

Of course, just because canceling the meeting was the right call does not mean that Team Trump will be able to right this ship and to get it back on course. As we've pointed out many times before, these kinds of games are the Kim family's stock in trade. It's also true that China is not playing ball right now, because of Trump's tariffs. In short, a messy situation that beguiled even the best diplomat-presidents (Nixon, Carter, Bush Sr.) has been made even more complicated by the President's economic policies. It's hard to see what the way forward is under the current circumstances. (Z)

Democratic Donors Are Fed Up with the DNC

The Bernie vs. Hillary wars are still raging nicely, thank you. A fair number of donors who previously gave generously to the DNC are not doing so this year because they are still angry with former DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz for not scheduling more primary debates in 2016. The numbers are striking. The DNC has taken in $116 million this cycle, $9 million less than it did at this point in 2014 and $30 million less than it did in 2010. And this is in a year when Democrats are energized like never before. Furthermore, the DNC has just $8 million in the bank now and a debt of $7 million. By way of contrast, the RNC has taken in $227 million this cycle. Here are the breakdowns for midterms since 2006:

committee fundraising

As you can see, though, Democratic donors haven't given up. The combined totals for the three Democratic committees—DNC, DCCC, and DSCC—are a shade ahead of what they were in 2014 and 2010, although the DCCC is taking in a much larger share of the pot than usual. It's also the case that individual Democratic candidates are doing quite well. Of the top 20 money-raisers in the Senate this year, 17 are Democrats (and one of the three Republicans in the top 20, Rick Scott, is only there because he's been writing seven-figure checks to himself). Of the top 20 money-raisers in the House, 14 are members of the blue team (and one of the six Republicans is Speaker Paul Ryan, who isn't actually running for reelection). It is clear from looking at the names on the list—Randy Bryce, who is running for Ryan's seat, or Rep. Beto O'Rourke in Texas, who is trying to unseat Sen. Ted Cruz in Texas, or Sens. Claire McCaskill in Missouri and Bill Nelson in Florida, who are facing tough reelection campaigns—that Democratic donors smell blood in the water, and are sending much of their money directly to the places they think that money will do the most good.

Of course, the DNC knows these numbers, too, so it may try to compensate for lower fundraising by giving less to House and Senate candidates, hoping the DCCC, DSCC, and individual candidates can carry the load. (V & Z)

The End Is Near for Senator John McCain

Sen John McCain (R-AZ) is not a quitter. He survived more than five years of torture in North Vietnam and never gave in. But he has now stopped his treatment for glioblastoma, a very aggressive form of brain cancer. That means his passing is imminent, probably days rather than weeks, and certainly not months.

Once McCain shuffles off this mortal coil, Gov. Doug Ducey (R-AZ) will appoint a successor who will serve until 2020. Ducey could pick Rep. Martha McSally (R-AZ), who is running for the seat of Sen Jeff Flake (R-AZ), thus guaranteeing her a seat. However, that would mean either Kelli Ward or Joe Arpaio would be the nominee for Flake's seat, something the GOP establishment wants to prevent in the worst way. Ducey could also appoint McCain's wife, Cindy, as a placeholder, but she has a mind of her own and is more moderate than her husband. No doubt Ducey is already talking to Republicans in Arizona's House delegation, namely Paul Gosar (AZ-04), Andy Biggs (AZ-05), David Schweikert (AZ-06), and Debbie Lesko (AZ-08). Picking one of those would mean there would be open-seat election in that district in November, so Ducey has to keep in mind which district is safest. That would probably be Gosar's R+21 district around Prescott, but other factors obviously play a role as well.

Donald Trump, for his part, had an excellent opportunity to take the high road on Friday night. Appearing at a GOP fundraiser, he might have included some small tip of the cap to the dying Senator during the half-hour or so of remarks he delivered. But Trump never takes the high road, and never forgets a slight (Remember the Obamacare vote? Because he sure does.). So, the only senator Trump managed to find time for was Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), who was targeted with the usual "Pocahontas" slur.

Of course, Trump knows his base, and knows that they are right with him as he goes with his instinctive response on the matter. The comments on Breitbart's story about McCain ceasing treatment are just brutal. For example:

John McStain was a petty man who put himself above the Country which he swore to protect.

All those sailors you killed and men who died because of your treason will be waiting on you John...

Don't forget that vote that screwed the American people on Obunghole care, just so he could settle a beef with the President. That's putting country first Johny BOY, RIH.

Trump has done more to defend this country in two years than mcstain did in his whole life or could do in ten lifetimes. Quit playing the military card to protect a traitor and scoundrel. You don't have to be enlisted to be a hero and having been enlisted is no excuse for being a sh**.

So what if Trump didn't serve? That doesn't make him a draft dodger...McCain insulted every veteran---and especially all POWs---when he exploited his service for personal gain.

Guess which of the two has done more for his country?! MAGA!

It's not how you start the race but how you finish. MCCAIN gave in to the liberal perverted antichrists, Trump serves the working AMERICAN TAXPAYERS and isn't trying to push immorality on our children. Repent or perish.

The GOP is in a very strange place when a dying war hero is smeared as a coward and traitor and pervert, while a twice-divorced, adulterous teller of a thousand lies is lionized as a heroic crusader for morality and righteousness. Dwight D. Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan are surely spinning in their graves.

Just for reference, here are some exemplars of an alternative approach, from both sides of the aisle:

McCain has expressed his wish that Vice President Mike Pence attend his funeral, but that Trump stay away. We shall see if the President agrees to both of those requests. (V & Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Aug24 Trump Can No Longer Control Pecker
Aug24 Weeks Ago, Trump Asked Lawyers about Pardoning Manafort
Aug24 Sessions Pushes Back
Aug24 Trump Wants to Criminalize "Flipping"
Aug24 Collins Says Kavanaugh Described Roe as "Settled Law"
Aug24 Casey Has a 15-Point Lead in Pennsylvania Senate Race
Aug24 The Duncan Hunter Story Just Keeps Chugging Along
Aug23 Takeaways about Cohen and Manafort
Aug23 Manafort Juror Dishes on Deliberations
Aug23 Cohen Will Refuse a Pardon
Aug23 Trump Loves Manafort, Dings Cohen
Aug23 Pardons are No Panacea
Aug23 Trump's Next Problem: Michael Avenatti
Aug23 Maybe Trump Should Resign
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Aug23 New Tariffs Kick in Today
Aug22 A Bad Day for Trump, Part I: Manafort Guilty on 8 Charges
Aug22 A Bad Day for Trump, Part II: Cohen Cops a Plea
Aug22 A Bad Day for Trump, Part III: Rep. Duncan Hunter Indicted
Aug22 A Bad Day for Trump, Part IV: Mueller Delays Flynn's Sentence Again
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Aug22 Trump Rallies in West Virginia
Aug22 Former Top NRCC Officials Blast the Group's Midterm Strategy
Aug22 Elizabeth Warren Releases Her Platform
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Aug21 Giuliani: OK, the Truth Is the Truth
Aug21 No Verdict in Manafort Trial Yet
Aug21 Auto Industry Unites to Oppose Trump's Tariffs
Aug21 A Blue Wave May Carry the House but Not the Senate
Aug21 Oppo Research Ramps Up in House Races
Aug20 Giuliani: "Truth Isn't Truth"
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
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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
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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