Dem 49
image description
GOP 51
image description
New polls:  
Dem pickups vs. 2012: (None)
GOP pickups vs. 2012: (None)

Trump Will Impose Tariffs on Chinese Goods

In yet another switch, the on-again, off-again tariffs on Chinese exports to the U.S. are on again. Yesterday, Donald Trump said he would impose tariffs on $50 billion worth of goods China exports to the U.S. He will also impose restrictions on Chinese purchases of advanced technology. Trump apparently believes that by changing his mind all the time, he can keep China off balance and get a better deal in the end. At the same time, Trump is threatening to put a 25% tariff on imported cars and is also threatening to blow up NAFTA.

At this point, it is hard for anyone to say where this is going to end. While Trump doesn't have a lot of core principles, one principle that he has held for decades is that the U.S. is a sucker and that other countries take advantage of it all the time through trade. He is determined to end this imbalance.

Still, his administration is badly divided on the question of trade. Trade hawks include U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Director of the White House National Trade Council Peter Navarro. They want to stick it to China. The doves are led by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. They don't want a trade war, since they know that is bad for business. They also realize that if the tariffs really go through, China will retaliate in the most painful way it can, hitting agricultural products grown by farmers in states full of Trump's supporters. That could have an impact on the midterms.

The stock market has no idea how to deal with any of this. All year long, every time Trump has threatened to impose tariffs, the Dow has dropped (yesterday it was 391 points). And every time Trump caved on the tariffs a few days later, the loss was reversed. Yesterday's drop was slightly different, since part of the drop was due to uncertainty in Italy, as well as the tariffs. In any case, here is a graph of the Dow Jones index over the past 12 months.

Dow Jones

As you can see, it was up, up, up and away until Jan. 26, 2018. Since then, it has been rockier. In fact, the Dow is actually off more than 500 points since Jan. 1, 2018. By now, investors don't know whether Trump means it this time, or he is going to cave again. If he really means it and actually imposes the tariffs and starts collecting the money, things could get a lot worse. (V)

Giuliani Says Trump Won't Sit for Interview Until He Gets Info on Informant

Yesterday, Donald Trump's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, said that Trump will not sit for an interview with special counsel Robert Mueller until he gets information on the informant the FBI used during the campaign. Trump has claimed that the FBI planted a mole in his campaign to spy on him. That is simply not true; what happened is that after the FBI heard that campaign aides George Papadopoulos and Carter Page were talking to Russians, the Bureau asked a retired academic to ask them about this. Trump wants to know who that person was, presumably so he can attack him. The FBI hates to give out the names of informers, especially when it knows his cover will be blown, because that makes it much harder to recruit future informers in ordinary criminal cases.

Giuliani is probably thinking that there are two possible outcomes to his demand. First, Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein could refuse the demand in order to protect the integrity of the Justice Department. Then Trump could fire Rosenstein for insubordination and replace him with EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt or someone else who will fire Mueller. Alternatively, Rosenstein could cave and give Trump the name, in which case Trump would begin attacking the informer and would claim the "deep state" tried to defeat him. There is also possibility number three, namely that Mueller makes the demand moot by issuing a subpoena for Trump to testify before the grand jury. There is precedent for that. Bill Clinton was forced to testify before a grand jury in 1998. He lied during his testimony and was impeached for it. Trump's lawyers are scared witless about Trump testifying because Trump is not nearly as clever as Slick Willie and could easily perjure himself multiple times. (V)

Roseanne Launches Atom Bomb in Culture Wars

Earlier this year, comedian Roseanne Barr relaunched her popular 1990s sitcom "Roseanne." This time around, the twist was that the blue-collar main character played by Barr—also named Roseanne—is a huge Trump supporter who constantly spars with her sister, a Hillary Clinton supporter. The pilot episode of the reboot drew 18 million viewers, which is huge by modern TV standards. It also got everyone talking, including Donald Trump, who called Barr to congratulate her on the show's success, and to thank her for her support.

In the original run of the show, there was a lot of overlap between Roseanne the performer and Roseanne the character, and that remained true in 2018. Barr has been an outspoken Trump supporter and conspiracy theorist, regularly using Twitter (of course) to share her views. Early Tuesday morning, apparently loaded up on ambien (according to Barr herself), she decided to really let loose. The first tweet (since deleted), read thusly: "Muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby=vj." The "vj" is Valerie Jarrett, adviser to Barack Obama, a black woman who has repeatedly and falsely been accused of being a Muslim and/or secretly trying to promote Islam in American life. It goes without saying that comparing a black person to an ape is a line that one does not cross in modern America, and that's before we get to the Islamophobia.

But Roseanne wasn't done; she also felt the need to get some anti-Semitism out there. Thus, we had this exchange:

Needless to say, Barr's claims about Soros are no more rooted in fact than her claims about Jarrett. One should generally be skeptical about claims that any Jewish person was a secret Nazi collaborator, particularly one who was 11 when the war began, and only 14 when his country was invaded. In fact, Soros actively resisted the Nazis using whatever means were at his disposal. Claims to the contrary are 75% wishful thinking and 25% willful misinterpretation of an interview he did for "60 Minutes." And if there is anything that might be more offensive than calling a black person an "ape," it's calling a Jew a "Nazi." Which hasn't stopped right-wingers from Dinesh D'Souza to Mike Cernovich to Ann Coulter to Glenn Beck from repeating this particular lie about Soros.

Once Roseanne's tweets came to the public's attention, the response was predictable. ABC promptly canceled her show, as they were left with no viable alternative. "Roseanne" cannot continue without Roseanne, any more than you can have "All in the Family" without Archie Bunker, or "The Honeymooners" without Ralph Kramden, or "Married: With Children" without Al Bundy. And the show could not continue with Roseanne Barr. As much as a hit show is nice, Disney (which owns ABC) is a multinational corporation with many, many irons in the fire. They simply could not afford to expose their movie business, and their amusement park business, and their sports business (ESPN), and the rest of their television business to the backlash from one show, regardless of how successful that show might be. Making the pill easier to swallow is that after the stunning debut, the audience declined by almost 50%, which took "Roseanne" from "hit show" to "solid performer."

From the left and the center of the political spectrum, meanwhile, there was much vitriol directed at Barr and much praise heaped upon ABC for pulling the trigger. The angry responses actually started with the comedian's (former) co-workers, many of whom quit the show even before ABC could axe it. Eventually, a great many celebrities added to the dogpile, from Don Cheadle to Kathy Griffin to Ricky Gervais to Charlie Sheen. Good rule of thumb: If Charlie Sheen has the moral high ground over you, you've really blown it.

From the right, the response was equally predictable. Actually, a few of them (notably Bill O'Reilly) jumped on the anti-Roseanne/pro-ABC bandwagon. But mostly the conservative responses fell into three general categories:

  • What about...: There was much energy directed on Tuesday toward finding left-wing folks who have said controversial things and still have jobs. The two most common targets were ESPN anchor Keith Olbermann, who has described Trump as a Nazi, and HBO talk show host Bill Maher, who has described Trump as an ape. These are not nice things to say, undoubtedly, but there is a big difference when the target is neither Jewish nor black. Society creates its rules, and that is one it has created in the last 30-40 years. Anyone who claims that they do not recognize that is being deliberately obtuse. It's also worth noting that Maher is actually a libertarian, not a liberal, and that he works for Time-Warner, and not Disney/ABC.

  • Shooting the Messenger: Other outlets focused their vitriol on the coverage of the story. For example, Fox News had this headline: "Tone-deaf MSNBC slammed for bringing on Joy Reid to discuss Roseanne Barr's social media slur." The reason this is "tone deaf" is that Joy Reid got into her own Twitter troubles a month ago, when she (or, as she claimed, a hacker) wrote some homophobic tweets. This would seem to suggest that Fox News is now an advocate for gay equality. They should probably add a rainbow to their masthead.

  • It's a Conspiracy: Some on the right perceived even more sinister forces at work, believing that Roseanne's outburst merely gave ABC a convenient excuse to be rid of a pro-Trump show. This was the view of Herman Cain, who apparently is still able to get reporters to talk to him. "I understand them using this as an excuse," he said. The former presidential candidate is, of course, wrong. First of all, Disney/ABC is a corporation, and as such, they very much enjoy making money. There is no chance they would throw a successful show overboard merely because it had a pro-Trump character (if so, they would be getting rid of plenty of other shows, starting with "The Bachelor"). And, in fact, Disney/ABC has taken such a beating for being left-wing, thanks to events at ESPN, that they were delighted to have a prominent show they could point to as proof of not having a political agenda.

So, just about everyone had an opinion on Tuesday. Well, everyone except the opinionator-in-chief, who chose to make no comment, claiming he just didn't have time. This from the same man who managed to tweet 14 times about Russiagate this weekend, and who spent two hours speaking off the cuff at a rally Tuesday night. Back when Roseanne was flying high, by contrast, he found plenty of time to talk about the show at an Ohio rally, declaring, "Look at Roseanne! I called her yesterday, look at her ratings! Look at her ratings."

Even if Donald Trump Sr. wouldn't say anything, Donald Trump Jr. was happy to wade in. He retweeted the Soros tweets, including the really ugly one. And then, when it became clear which way the winds were blowing, Trump Jr. doubled down with a series of retweets like this one:

One is reminded that the apple, as they say, does not generally fall far from the tree.

In the end, there are really two lessons here. The first, as the New York Times' Roxane Gay points out, is that Barr's career may be over, but the culture that enabled her lives on. When she tweets things like she did on Tuesday, the response should be a slam dunk. Instead, a sizable portion of the populace and the commentariat pointed fingers, and obfuscated, and made excuses for Barr. This is the sort of thing that makes (some) Twitter users think that it is ok to send 4.2 million anti-Semitic tweets a year.

The second lesson is that Donald Trump will never, ever speak out against this culture because he benefits from it too much. White supremacists marching in Charlottesville, a fanatic killing Muslims in Oregon, black men being shot to death by policemen without provocation, Roseanne Barr unleashing vicious racism and anti-Semitism? Not a peep from the White House. Which means that every day he's in office, the bigotry that he refuses to condemn (and sometimes actively encourages) just gets more and more oxygen. (Z)

Trump Claims Mueller Will Meddle in the Midterms

Since Robert Mueller, a lifelong Republican, was appointed by Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein, another Republican, Donald Trump has been claiming Mueller and his team are all Democrats out to get him. Now—as he continues to move beyond mere lying and on to creating an alternate reality—Trump has upped the ante by claiming, without a shred of evidence, that Mueller will meddle in the midterms to help the Democrats. Here is yesterday's tweet:

It is true that some members of Mueller's team have donated money to Democratic candidates in the past, but Trump seems to be suggesting that only Republicans can investigate Republicans, clearly a new way to operate the Justice Department. In any event, the special counsel himself is a Republican who was appointed FBI director by Republican president George W. Bush. It is hard to imagine that Mueller would allow his underlings to run roughshod over him, no matter what their political views were.

What Trump didn't mention, but what is a real issue, is the timing of Mueller's report(s). If he releases one or more reports during the fall election season, Republicans are going to scream that he is "meddling." However, few of them complained when then-FBI Director James Comey released his "More Clinton e-mails!" letter 11 days before the 2016 election. Given that election campaigns now begin the day after the previous election, there is never a moment to release a report and have it be considered nonpolitical. (V)

Midterms May Determine Control of the House for 10 Years

In 43 states, the legislature draws the congressional district map. If one party controls the trifecta—governor's mansion and both houses of the legislature—it can draw a map that gives it far more House seats than the raw vote would suggest. The Supreme Court will announce decisions on two gerrymandering cases in the next few weeks, but unless it declares that partisan gerrymandering violates the Constitution, this year's elections will have a huge impact on which party controls the House from 2022 to 2032.

The reason is simple: Governors will be elected in 36 states in November, 34 of whom will be in office in 2020 and can veto congressional maps. Furthermore, in 22 states, state senators serve staggered 4-year terms, so half the state senators elected this year in those states will vote on the congressional maps after the 2020 census. But in all states, dislodging an incumbent state legislator is tough, so even those with 2-year terms will have the advantage in 2020. In short, the battle for the House for the next decade is starting right now.

While it didn't get much publicity, during the Obama administration Republicans picked up 1,000 seats in the state legislatures. This gave them the ability to gerrymander districts in about half the states, the ones where they held the trifecta during the 2010 redistricting year. Many Democrats are unaware of this, but Republicans are very much aware of it. In fact, the GOP's operation REDMAP has a goal of raising and spending $125 million simply to hold or get control of the nation's 99 state legislative chambers for the purpose of controlling the map-drawing process in 2020. The Democrats don't have any comparable program, though the matter is a focus of Obama and his former AG Eric Holder. (V)

Cohen to Appear in Court Today

Michael Cohen will make another court appearance today. There are enough public clues that everyone already has a pretty good idea of what will happen, namely:

  • A review of the documents that were seized from Cohen's offices, home, and hotel room. Special Master Barbara Jones, a former federal judge, has already billed over $47,000, having put in nearly 70 hours' work at $700/hour. She says she has already examined 292,006 documents, and turned over a portion of those to federal investigators.

  • An examination of whether Michael Avenatti, lawyer to porn star Stormy Daniels (aka Stephanie Clifford) should be allowed to join the case against Cohen. Avenatti says that his client has a clear and compelling interest in the proceedings, Cohen's attorneys say that Avenatti is just a shameless publicity-seeker. They are probably both right, which is why the U.S. Attorney's Office for Southern New York has declined to take a position on the matter.

  • A discussion of whether or not Team Cohen is leaking audio tapes seized in the FBI raids to media outlets. This is a claim made by Avenatti in a letter to Judge Kimba Wood; it's unclear what the basis for the claim is.

Undoubtedly, the first item is the most momentous. Depending on what the Special Master has found, it could have a big impact on Cohen's decision to flip or to keep fighting. Given how much trouble he's already in, one has to imagine it won't take much more to make him conclude the time has come to save his own neck. (Z)

Greitens Resigns

Gov. Eric Greitens (R-MO) has been a dead man walking for months, thanks to two different scandals in which he's gotten himself enmeshed. The first involves his former mistress, with whom Greitens allegedly had nonconsensual relations, followed by an attempt to blackmail her into silence using compromising photos he took. The second involves a charity donor list that Greitens allegedly misappropriated and then used to raise money for his campaign. The two sets of charges are plausible enough that Greitens has been indicted twice (though one was later dismissed), and nearly all of the state's Republicans have turned against him.

Now, the drama is over. On Tuesday, the Governor announced his resignation, effective Friday. When the resignation was announced, Greitens' lawyer said that the charges against him have been "resolved," and that further details would follow on Wednesday. It is generally understood that there will be no prison time, and that what happened is that Greitens essentially traded the governorship for a "Get Out of Jail Free" card.

This could have an impact in November. The GOP's Senatorial candidate, Josh Hawley, spent much of his time running against Greitens, with whom he was once very friendly. Now, that angle is no longer available, so Hawley will have to come up with something else. Meanwhile Missouri Republicans fear that Greitens will do whatever he can to take Hawley down with him. So, Sen. Claire McCaskill's (D-MO) reelection chances just improved, at least a little. (Z)

Email a link to a friend or share:

---The Votemaster and Zenger
May29 Trump ComME-ME-MEmorates ME-ME-ME-morial Day
May29 New Dark-Money Tactics Could Be Used This Year
May29 Democrats Plan to Run on Gas in Midterms
May29 Franklin Graham Is Campaigning for Republicans in California
May29 China Has Granted Ivanka Trump 13 Trademarks in 3 Months
May29 McCain Writes His Own Eulogy
May29 Another Republican Congressman Retires
May29 Giuliani Booed at Yankee Stadium
May28 Giuliani Says Muller's Investigation Is Illegitimate
May28 Trump (& Co.) Will Say Anything
May28 Preparations for Talks with North Korea Are Proceeding
May28 Heitkamp Has a Native American Problem
May28 Democrats Are Spending Millions to Avoid Disaster in California
May28 Almost Half of Republicans Believe Millions of Illegal Votes Were Cast in 2016
May28 In Case There Was Any Doubt...
May27 Clocks Are Striking Thirteen in Washington
May27 American Held in Venezuela Is Released
May27 FBI Obtained Wiretapped Calls from Spain
May27 Bolton Wants to Eliminate Cybersecurity Job
May27 Warren Tries to Blunt "Pocahontas" Slur
May27 McConnell Thinks Sherrod Brown's Seat Is in Play
May27 Nunes Gets Ready for the Fight of His Life
May26 Cohen Was Paid over $500,000 by Top Lobbying Firm
May26 About that Russian Oligarch...
May26 Trump's Foreign Policy Is a Mystery, Probably Even to Him
May26 McConnell Supports Mueller's Investigation
May26 Quick Question: Is It Bernie vs. Hillary All over Again for the Democrats?
May26 Menendez Barely Leads Hugin
May26 Rohrabacher Shoots Himself in the Foot
May25 Trump Cancels Meeting with Kim Jong-Un
May25 James Clapper: Russia Swung the Election to Trump
May25 Republicans, Democrats Get Briefing on Informant
May25 Stone Could Be a Bigger Threat to Trump Than Cohen
May25 Trump Thrilled with NFL's New Policy, but Maybe He Shouldn't Be
May25 Senior Republicans Blast Trump's Car Tariff
May25 Trump's Approval Rating Is Now Up to 45%
May24 Giuliani Now Wants Trump to Be Interviewed by Mueller
May24 Democrats to Get Intel Briefing, Too
May24 The First Amendment Is Taking a Beating These Days
May24 BBC: Cohen Was Paid at Least $400,000 to Give Ukrainian President Access to Trump
May24 Schneiderman Is Out, Grewal Is In
May24 Congress Does Not Want Trump to Cave on ZTE
May24 Glenn Beck Climbs on Board the S.S. Trump
May23 Georgia Democrats Pick Stacey
May23 Trump's Nobel Is on Hold
May23 Trump Finally Has a Mueller Strategy
May23 Cohen's Partner in the Taxi Business Has Flipped
May23 Officials Warn Congress of 2018 Election Hacking
May23 Trump Uses an Unsecure Cell Phone
May23 EPA Blocks Media Outlets from Covering Pruitt Speech