• White House Looking to Hire Emmet T. Flood
• Could Stormygate and Russiagate Collide?
• In Case You Had Doubts about Steve Bannon...
• Here Are the Issues that Voters Want to See the Democrats Embrace
• Maryland May Try to Require Candidates' Taxes
• Warren: "I'm Not Running"
The GOP is desperately trying to save Rick Saccone, who is in grave danger of losing to Democrat Conor Lamb in the race for Tim Murphy's vacated seat in PA-18. On Saturday, the party brought out their biggest gun, as Donald Trump held a rally in support of the candidate in Moon Township, Pennsylvania.
One has to wonder how useful these rallies really are. After all, the target is ostensibly GOP voters who aren't sure they can spare 15-20 minutes to go vote. Are folks like that going to find 4-5 hours to drive, park, wait in line, wait in their seats, listen, go to their cars, and drive home? It would seem that the rallies are attracting mostly party activists and die-hards who would have voted either way. Whatever the case may be, if Saccone ekes out a win, he will quickly be able to learn who really "deserves" the credit; all he has to do is look at Twitter.
At the rally itself, there were three main items of interest. The first is that Trump unveiled the slogan that he's planning to transition to: "Keep America Great!" The president emphasized the exclamation point, so it is clearly very important. The slogan implies, of course, that the process of making America great again is either complete, or soon will be. Consider yourself forgiven if you missed it.
The second bit that is getting a lot of attention is Trump's declaration, "Oh, I'd love Oprah to win, I'd love to beat Oprah. I know her weakness." Anyone who does not think that he was talking about her weight has not been paying attention. And it is certainly possible that Trump likes his odds against Winfrey, and really does want her to be his opponent. However, it is also possible that there's some reverse psychology going on here, and he's desperately trying to forestall a run. He surely knows that he is weak with minority voters and women; a minority woman who can get those voters excited about going to the polls could well be his Achilles Heel. Then there's the fact that she is an experienced television personality, too. Vastly more experienced, in fact—she's probably logged 25 hours on the air for every one that Trump has. So, she would nullify one of his main advantages. This is not to say that she's going to run, or that if she did she would win in a walk, it's merely to observe that Trump could very well be scared of her, despite his bold statements.
And then, in perhaps the most eyebrow-raising moment of them all, Trump took credit for...the success of the recent Winter Olympics. Huh? Here are his exact words:
I'll tell you, we did a great job on the Olympics. President Moon of South Korea said without Donald Trump the Olympics would have been a total failure. It's a little hard to sell tickets when you think you are going to be nuked. But when North Korea called and said they wanted to be in the Olympics, everybody said let's get tickets and go. When the South Korean representatives who just left North Korea came outside, a big throng of press, they announced Kim Jong-Un would like to meet with President Trump. Well, they say well, Obama could have done that. Trust me, he wouldn't have done it. By the way, neither would Bush or Clinton. Anybody could have done it. Obama could have done it. Obama had his chance.
On one hand, it is typical Trump to claim more credit than is his due while at the same time finding a way to slam Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and at least one member of the Bush family. However, there is a lot of pants-on-fire level bending of the truth here, not the least of which is that Moon most certainly did not say that. Meanwhile, the fact that Trump is lapsing more and more into referring to himself in the third person is...concerning, to say the least.
Beyond these "highlights," such as they are, the rally was full of standard Trump show pieces. He made personal attacks on Lamb, bestowing upon him a patented Trump third-grade-level nickname, "Lamb the Sham." The president also opened fire on NBC's Chuck Todd ("sleeping son of a bitch"), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) ("Pocahontas"), and Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) ("low-IQ individual"). He also told some garden-variety Trump lies, like claiming that he got 52% of the female vote in 2016 (he actually got 52% of the white female vote). And, of course, there was lots of talk about the "fake news."
The election is on Tuesday, so we will soon know if Saccone manages to pull it out. And then, even if he does, he will almost certainly be redistricted and then booted out of office in November. So, this election is more important for its symbolism than anything else. (Z)
The Trump White House is clearly, at this point, a revolving door. It's possible that none of the key players in the administration last the full four years (including the guy in the Oval Office). And at the moment, it looks like there's going to be some serious turnover in the President's legal team. Ty Cobb is telling friends he's a short timer, while the New York Times is reporting that Emmet T. Flood is about to be hired.
"Who is Emmet T. Flood?," you may ask. Well, he is the attorney who led Bill Clinton's impeachment defense. Since impeachment is a pretty rare phenomenon, it would be hard for a lawyer to be an "expert" in that particular area of law. But if such a person exists, it's Flood, who also served as counsel to George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. Flood previously declined an opportunity to work for Trump in this capacity, so it's not clear if something has changed in his thinking (or in his bank account), or if he's just taking meetings to be polite and is going to say "no" again.
Whatever happens with Flood, the attempt to hire him makes clear that the administration knows the investigation being conducted by special counsel Robert Mueller is not going away anytime soon, and that Team Trump is not so confident as they claim when they say Trump is in the clear. It's also likely that the hiring of Flood (or someone else, if Flood declines), coupled with the departure of Cobb, who has been the #1 advocate on Trump's legal team for cooperating with Mueller, signals a pretty big change in strategy for the President. He's probably about to dig in his heels, to make many more public attacks on Mueller, and to think even more seriously about firing anyone he needs to in an effort to kill the whole investigation. (Z)
At the moment, Donald Trump's dalliances with Russia, and his dalliances with women not his wife are two entirely separate scandals. However, once a politician finds himself under attack from all sides, these things have a way of blending together. In fact, they are already starting to blend.
Recall, first of all, that one of Robert Mueller's main strategies is to nail someone to the wall on some highly-provable crime, and then to use that as leverage for collecting information about some other, unrelated crime (see Manafort, Paul; Gates, Rick). Every day that passes, Trump lawyer Michael Cohen is looking more and more guilty of helping to facilitate an illegal campaign contribution. That should be pretty easy to prove, and Cohen could well be looking at prison time or disbarment or both. Meanwhile, Cohen has been a Trump intimate for many years, and may well have acted as his "fixer" in other circumstances. Say, for example, serving as a go-between for the President and his alleged Russian business partners, or the President and Ukraine. Mueller is already talking to Cohen associates, trying to ascertain if there's anything there. If so, then the porn star and the special counsel may soon have a chat, as the latter seeks evidence to use against Cohen.
On a related note, we already know about two alleged Trump paramours, both of whom claim to have "met" with him many times while he was married to First Lady Melania Trump. It is irresponsible to engage in wild speculation, but it's also the case that serial philanderers—particularly those who view women as pleasure objects to be grabbed by the pu**y—don't generally limit their dalliances to a couple of women, for a few months each. One would be pretty safe betting that there are more mistresses and former mistresses out there, and that some of them got paid off, too. Fortunately, we don't have to rely on mere speculation—Steve Bannon has openly declared that Trump lawyer Marc Kasowitz "took care" of "a hundred women" during the campaign. Bannon may be a racist (see below), but he does not generally tell outright lies, and since he was serving as campaign manager during the time that women's silence would have been bought, he presumably knows what he's talking about. One illegal $130,000 payment is bad, but if it turns out that dozens of such payments were made, well, we could soon have a Category 5 Stormygate. (Z)
Steve Bannon is not about to allow his 15 minutes of fame to end without a fight, and so at the moment he is touring Europe, speaking to far-right groups. Addressing the Jean-Marie Le Pen-founded French National Front Party on Saturday, Bannon declared, "Let them call you racists. Let them call you xenophobes. Let them call you nativists. Wear it as a badge of honor." He also opined that, "the globalists have no answers to freedom" and that "history is on our side."
Some folks have tried to argue that Bannon is not actually a racist, xenophobe, or nativist, but those arguments would seem to be moot when confirmation comes right from the horse's mouth. Especially when he tosses the anti-Semitic dog whistle "globalist" in there, and especially when he's on the tour that he is on. His previous stop was in Italy, where he spoke to the coalition of fascists, racists, populists, and fascist racist populists that just won the right to govern that nation. Reportedly, Bannon's next stop is the Vatican, where he will meet with his "allies," most notably American cardinal Raymond Burke, who has concluded that the Bible tells us that immigrants and Muslims are bad people, gays are even worse, and that women are meant to be seen and not heard. In other words, Bannon is rubbing elbows with some real peaches while he tours the continent. (Z)
This week, Civis Analytics released the results of a survey they conducted, trying to identify the issues that voters would like to see the Democrats address in 2020. Here are their results:
It should be noted that not only is 2020 a long way away, but that the polling firm crafted their survey in a bit of an unusual way. Not only did they ask all probable voters (not just the ones likely to vote Democratic), but they also asked respondents to suppose that the Democrats capture both houses of Congress and the White House in 2020. One wonders if that might not skew the results a bit. Still, it seems very clear that the #1 issue that Democrats should be running on in 2018 and 2020 is healthcare, which is probably why members of the blue team are falling all over one another to introduce healthcare bills, or to sign on as sponsors to their colleagues' bills.
Beyond that, the most interesting result might be the mere 6% of voters that ranked climate change as their #1 concern. There is an argument to be made that climate change is the single-biggest threat facing both America and the world, and there's little question that it will ultimately do more harm than gun violence or the deficit. The Atlantic's Robinson Meyer observes that the Democrats really should make climate change a centerpiece of their platform, both for political reasons and because it's the right thing to do, but that they are woefully unprepared to do so. They are not likely to pull anything together by the midterms, but by 2020—with another half dozen devastating hurricanes under America's belt—maybe the blue team will see the light. (Z)
This week, the Maryland Senate passed a bill requiring presidential and vice-presidential candidates to release their taxes in order to appear on the ballot. The bill, which might as well be called the Trump Act, now goes to Gov. Larry Hogan (R) for his signature, though it's not likely he will actually sign it. Although he has been critical of Trump, he is also a Republican, and every GOP member of the Maryland Senate voted against the bill. Further, Gov. Jerry Brown (D-CA) is a Democrat from one of the most anti-Trump states in the country, and he vetoed the same basic bill because he had concerns about legality, and also because he—as another politician who did not share his tax returns—did not want to appear hypocritical. Then-governor Chris Christie of New Jersey also vetoed a tax return law.
If Maryland's bill does become law, it will immediately face legal challenges. One of the Terrapin State's assistant attorneys general advised the legislature that the bill was, "not clearly unconstitutional," which is a rousing endorsement if we've ever heard one. If the Maryland bill does not become law, eventually some other state will pass a bill like this, and it will get the governor's signature. At that point, the courts will have to decide between two competing principles. The first is that, according to the SCOTUS (in 1995's U.S. Term Limits v. Thornton), the qualifications for federal office are set by the Constitution, and cannot be modified except by constitutional amendment. The second is that Article II empowers states to decide the manner in which presidential electors are chosen. So, it will eventually be up to swing justice Anthony Kennedy to decide which side of that argument he finds more compelling. (Z)
Speaking of Chuck Todd (see above), Elizabeth Warren sat for an interview with him on Saturday that will air on today's edition of "Meet the Press." Todd tried valiantly to get a clear answer out of the Senator as to her future plans, and several times she made statements like this one:
I already told you. I have no intention of running for the United States, for president. This government is working better and better and better for a thinner and thinner slice at the top. I am in these fights, and I am in this fight to retain my Senate seat in 2018. That's where I'm focused. That's where I'm going to stay focused. I'm not running for president.
Sounds pretty close to the full Sherman, right? Except that Warren repeatedly and pointedly refused to commit to serving out her full six-year term if re-elected.
There is really only one way to read this. Warren has gotten into some trouble recently for putting her presidential ambitions ahead of her party and her home state's needs. Enough trouble that maybe she thinks she's in some danger. While Massachusetts is certainly very blue, they do sometimes elect Republicans to statewide office, including current governor Charlie Baker. So, the Senator is presumably shoring up her flanks by declaring that her focus is on her current job. But notice that her statements about running for president are very carefully crafted. She says she has "no intention" of running, but of course intentions can change. Similarly, she also says she is "not running for president." That sentence has two possible tenses—present and future. It could mean she's not running for president right now, or it could mean that she's not running at all. If Warren said, "I am not going to run for president," that would clear up the ambiguity, but ambiguity is what she wants. Meanwhile, she's avoiding a trap by not making any promise about the latter half of her Senate term. So, barring a considerably more Shermanesque statement than she gave on Saturday, we should assume Warren is still planning a run in 2020. (Z)Email a link to a friend or share:
---The Votemaster and Zenger
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