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TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  Trump Wants to Withdraw from NAFTA
      •  Nielsen Appears Safe for Now
      •  Trump Attacks Cohen, Praises Stone
      •  Bush Wanted Trump at His Funeral
      •  Republican Legislatures in Michigan and Wisconsin Try to Weaken Incoming Governor
      •  NC-09 Just Keeps Getting Shadier
      •  Iowa Democratic Leaders Want a Young 2020 Candidate

PW logo Deval Patrick Won’t Run for President
Republicans Prevail In Georgia Runoffs
Mueller Recommends No Prison Time for Flynn
The 2018 Midterms Get Worse for Republicans
Trump Plans Second North Korea Summit
Trump’s Erratic and False Claims Roil Markets

Trump Wants to Withdraw from NAFTA

The administration has negotiated a new trade pact with Canada and Mexico, and Donald Trump wants Congress to approve it as is. House Democrats have many issues with it and may refuse. To put pressure on them, Donald Trump has announced that he is planning to withdraw from NAFTA, giving the Democrats the choice of the new USMCA deal or no agreement at all. What happens next is anyone's guess.

To start with, it is not clear that the president has the authority to withdraw from NAFTA on his own. After all, the agreement required Congress to ratify it and some lawyers say it would take Congress to unratify it. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) was very clear about this: "The president needs to take a look at the Constitution—it gives Congress authority over trade." Others disagree. It may be up to the Supreme Court to sort this out later. If that takes a long time, companies that do cross-border business will be in limbo for potentially months and that could have a dramatic effect on the economy. If the economy goes into a tailspin as a result, fingers will be pointed. (V)

Nielsen Appears Safe for Now

DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen was widely expected to be on her way out the door once the midterms were over, a sacrificial lamb to be used by Trump to salve his anger over the midterm elections in general, and the immigrant caravan in particular. However, she's no dummy, and she's apparently been paying attention and learning from "someone" that the caravan is actually a heck of a political prop. So, she traveled to the border three times for some powerfully-staged photo-ops, and she also began tweeting things like this:

In other words, as Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, puts it: "She's playing the part of an immigration hawk as opposed to actually being one."

It would appear that the audience of one for whom Nielsen was performing was very pleased, because her job is regarded as safe, at least for now. That said, Trump still feels the need to do something in response to the midterms (besides change his own behavior, of course). That means that heads are still likely to roll in the near future. And if one of those is not Nielsen's, then it is time for other allegedly endangered folks in the Cabinet to sweat. We're looking at you, Wilbur Ross, Steve Mnuchin, and Ryan Zinke. (Z)

Trump Attacks Cohen, Praises Stone

Not surprisingly, Donald Trump has attacked his former fixer Michael Cohen who is spilling the beans on him and implicating him in numerous crimes. Yesterday Trump tweeted:

On the other hand, when the subject was Trump's former adviser Roger Stone, the tone was a bit different:

Why the difference? It's pretty clear. Cohen is telling federal investigators what he knows about Trump's campaign and business dealings, and Trump is scared to death of what his former lawyer knows and is revealing. On the other hand, Stone is, well, stonewalling for the time being, but the screws haven't been applied to him yet. As soon as he is indicted and threatened with years in prison, he may well change his tune unless he is absolutely convinced that Trump will pardon him and that there are no state crimes hanging over his head.

The latter tweet might lead a long and fruitful life in the future—as evidence of witness tampering. Trump is not being very subtle here about dangling a pardon in front of Stone if he keeps his mouth shut. Special counsel Robert Mueller might well see that as yet another piece of evidence that Trump is trying to obstruct justice, and it might not even work because in the end, Stone might get cold feet and decide to cooperate with the feds because he is not sure Trump will come through with the pardon. (V)

Bush Wanted Trump at His Funeral

We live in very strange times. When George H.W. Bush died, there was some question as to whether or not Donald Trump would be present at the funeral, since the Bushes and Trump aren't too friendly, not unlike the Clintons and Trump, or the Obamas and Trump, or the Carters and Trump, or the McCains and Trump (perhaps you notice a common theme here). As it turns out, however, Bush Sr. specifically asked that Trump be in attendance (unlike the McCain family, who specifically asked that Trump stay away). It would seem that the elder Bush wanted his final gesture to be one of people getting along even if they disagree politically.

That is not the strange part, though. The strange part is that Trump needed concessions before he would agree to show up. The speakers at the funeral had to promise, first of all, that they would not directly criticize the President, as happened at John McCain's funeral. They also had to promise that their words of praise for the dead Bush would be carefully chosen, so that they did not seem to be an indirect criticism of the Donald. For example, something like, "Bush was a model public servant, and one who never forgot that the president serves all the American people" is verboten, because it might be taken as a swipe at any presidents who do not seem to feel they serve all the American people. Say, ones who seem to care only about the 40% of Americans who constitute their base. It is an unusual president indeed who needs to negotiate over the terms of the eulogies before he's willing to show up for one of his predecessors' funeral. (Z)

Republican Legislatures in Michigan and Wisconsin Try to Weaken Incoming Governor

Democrats were elected governor in Michigan and Wisconsin, and before they can take over, the Republican-controlled legislatures in both states have called lame-duck sessions to rewrite state law to weaken the power of the incoming governor. When a Republican was governor, they had no interest whatsoever in doing this. Partisan politics at its finest.

In Wisconsin, the legislature's agenda includes limiting early voting (which generally helps Democrats) and moving the state's presidential primary from April to March (in an apparent attempt to help a conservative judge running in an April state Supreme Court election), among other things. Lawmakers introduced the bills Friday night, held hearings yesterday, and plan to vote on them today. Outgoing Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) could sign them tomorrow. It is perfectly clear now that all that matters to Republicans is raw power.

In Michigan, Democratic women won the offices of governor, attorney general, and secretary of state, so the legislature introduced measures that would water down the powers of all three offices, including oversight of campaign financing. In 2016, the Republican-controlled legislature in North Carolina hamstrung the incoming Democratic governor in a lame-duck session in a similar way. It looks like this is becoming the new normal. (V)

NC-09 Just Keeps Getting Shadier

As authorities investigate the election in NC-09, which ostensibly resulted in Republican Mark Harris being elected to Congress by a narrow margin, they keep finding more and more troublesome signs. The latest of those come from a set of 161 absentee ballots that got a careful look-see.

In North Carolina, a witness must sign an absentee ballot to confirm that the person who filled it out is who they claim to be. Normally, that witness is a family member or close friend, and it's rather unusual for a person to be witness on more than one or two or maybe three ballots. Well, it's unusual everywhere except for NC-09, it would seem. The 161 absentee ballots in question were "witnessed" by just a handful of people, one who signed off on 40 ballots, another who signed off on 30, and three more who signed off on at least 10. All of these people appear to be connected, and all of them (or nearly all of them) appear to know Leslie McCrae Dowless. Dowless is a Republican operative who just so happened to work on Harris' campaign, and who denies any wrongdoing. Of course, he also denied any wrongdoing when he was convicted of insurance fraud in the early 1990s after taking out a $163,000 policy on a dead man. So, you may not want to take his word for it, especially since one witness has already signed an affidavit that Dowless was set to receive a $40,000 bonus if Harris won.

The bipartisan elections board that is responsible for overseeing the election voted once again, this time by a 7-2 margin, not to certify the election (for now). Some Republican officials in the state are up in arms, but given that two of those seven votes were from Republicans, and a third was from an independent, they don't have much of a leg to stand on. If the board decides the election was not on the up-and-up, they can call for a new one to be held. At this point, that would seem to be the likeliest outcome. (Z)

Iowa Democratic Leaders Want a Young 2020 Candidate

A Survey by the Wall Street Journal shows that 43 of the 76 Iowa Democratic Party County chairs who responded want a young candidate for president in 2020. Take that Bernie Sanders (77), Michael Bloomberg (76), Joe Biden (76), Hillary Clinton (71), and Elizabeth Warren (69). And those are their ages now. In 2021, they will be 2 or 3 years older, depending on their birthdays. The Iowa leaders want a kid. More than a dozen Iowa county chairs volunteered "How about Beto O'Rourke (46)?" Whether Betomania survives a rough-and-tumble primary campaign remains to be seen (assuming he even runs), but having Iowa Democrats be on your team is worth its weight in gold. Just imagine the day after the headlines all read: "BETO WINS IOWA CAUCUSES." It would cause all the septuagenarians to have heart attacks. But remember, in politics, a week is a long time and the Iowa caucuses are on Feb. 3, 2020. You do the math. (V)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Dec03 The Real Reason the Government Shutdown Has Been Delayed
Dec03 Senate to Take up Saudi Arabia Punishment
Dec03 Trump Is Embedded in a Culture of Lying
Dec03 The New Senate Will Be Even Friendlier to Trump than the Old One
Dec03 No Autopsy This Time
Dec03 Comey and Goodlatte Reach a Deal
Dec03 Harris to Decide on a Run over the Holidays
Dec03 Monday Q&A
Dec02 Trump and Xi Make Nice
Dec02 Mattis: Russia Tried to Interfere in Midterms
Dec02 Bush Plans Come into Focus
Dec02 Replacing Nikki is Tricky
Dec02 Pelosi Promotes Barbara Lee
Dec02 Six White House Officials Violated the Hatch Act
Dec02 Democratic Presidential Candidate of the Week: Tulsi Gabbard
Dec01 George H.W. Bush Dead at 94
Dec01 Trump Nails Down NAFTA Replacement, But He's Not Out of the Woods Yet
Dec01 Senate Republicans Dump All over Flake
Dec01 Democrats Reveal Their First Bill
Dec01 Schiff Wants to Investigate Trump's Plan to Give Putin a Penthouse
Dec01 Shenanigans in NC-09?
Dec01 Espy Will Run for the Senate Again in 2020
Nov30 A Tale of Two Rats
Nov30 Trump in Meltdown Mode
Nov30 Deutsche Bank Headquarters Raided
Nov30 No Meeting with Putin
Nov30 House Democrats Elect Cheri Bustos to Head the DCCC
Nov30 Tim Scott Shoots Down Farr
Nov30 Comey Sues to Quash Subpoena
Nov29 Republicans Block Bill That Would Protect Mueller
Nov29 Trump Told Mueller That He Didn't Know about the Trump Tower Meeting in Advance
Nov29 Everyone is Denying That They Knew About Wikileaks
Nov29 Democrats Nominate Pelosi as Speaker
Nov29 Powell Defends the Fed against Trump
Nov29 House Rundown
Nov29 Thursday Q&A
Nov28 Hyde-Smith Beats Espy, as Expected
Nov28 McSally Is Not a Shoo-in for Kyl's Seat
Nov28 Flake May Be Able to Force Vote on Bill Protecting Mueller
Nov28 Trump Sits for an Interview
Nov28 Comey: Whitaker May Not Be the Sharpest Knife in the Drawer
Nov28 Manafort's Breaking His Deal Is a Setback for Mueller
Nov28 Mueller Looks to Ecuador
Nov28 Cuomo Won't Run for President
Nov27 Final Senate Race Is Today in Mississippi
Nov27 General Motors Will Slash Jobs and Trump Is Not Happy
Nov27 Trump Disapproval Hits All-Time High in Gallup Poll
Nov27 Nadler: A Partisan Impeachment Will Tear the Country Apart
Nov27 Manafort Allegedly Lied to Mueller; Corsi Says "No Plea"
Nov27 Who Will Be Trump's Running Mate in 2020?