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

Trump: I Shouldn't Have Picked Sessions for Attorney General

Yesterday, Donald Trump sent out a tweet regretting that he had picked Jeff Sessions to be attorney general. Trump's complaint is that Sessions recused himself from the Russiagate investigation, thus allowing Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein to take over and appoint Robert Mueller as special counsel. Of course, if Trump had picked someone who hadn't lied to the Senate about Russia as AG, that person might also have appointed a special counsel. And when Mueller, a life-long Republican, was named, Republicans in Congress uniformly cheered, saying that he was an honest man of great integrity.

So while Trump clearly doesn't like what Mueller is up to, it is not at all clear that a different AG (say, Rosenstein) would have gotten a different result. After all, Mueller got the job because he was named FBI Director by George W. Bush and served with distinction for 12 years. He was an obvious candidate for special counsel, and a different AG might have picked him as well. What Trump really meant is that he would have preferred an AG who would take orders from him and kill the investigation.

Trump has been humiliating Sessions ever since he recused himself from the Russiagate investigation, but yesterday's tweets may have been the worst of all. Trump has the power to fire Sessions and hire a new AG any time he wants to, but the Senate would have to confirm a new permanent AG and it is unlikely the Senate would do that unless the nominee was willing to state on the record, in public: "I will not fire Robert Mueller except for due cause." (V)

Trump's Midterm Strategy: Stoke Outrage

It appears that Donald Trump has settled on a strategy for the midterms: Get the base riled up and angry, so everyone is sure to vote. Although Trump lies constantly, once in a while he tells the truth, especially when he finds some mainstream news outlet that made a mistake. Then he hammers on it, telling his base they can't trust the media, except Fox News. Of course, when a mainstream publication detects a mistake, it apologizes and issues a correction. Trump never apologizes, though he does demand them from others (see below).

Trump's strategy is probably a good one. Midterm elections tend to be about turnout, and Democrats are energized like never before, so Trump needs to energize his base, too. It may also be working. One Morning Consult poll found that 76% of Republicans think that the media fabricate stories about Trump. Another poll found that 60% of Trump supporters believe the media is the "enemy of the American people."

Another technique Trump plans to use is lying about the House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). He recently wrote "the Nancy Pelosi Dems are also weak on Crime, the Border, and kind to MS-13 gang members...not good." Needless to say, Pelosi said nothing of the kind. She simply objected to his calling immigrants "animals." Whether running a vitriolic anti-immigrant campaign will work, however, remains to be seen. Republican gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie tried that in Virginia last year and lost by 9 points. Still, other than the tax cut, which relatively few voters see as a big win, Republicans have little to show for their time in power, so working the base into a frenzy over immigrants is about the only thing the Party has left.

Trump seems to understand how polarizing he is, so he is limiting his actual campaign appearances to states that he won bigly. For example, he appeared Tuesday in Nashville, TN, to support Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) for the Senate. Still, he has to be careful where he goes because even in deep red states there may be competitive House races in a few districts, and his appearance in the state may energize Democrats as well as Republicans. (V)

Roseanne Saga Enters Day Two

Freedom, as Janis Joplin observed, is just another word for "nothin' left to lose." And although Roseanne Barr declared that she was quitting Twitter after Tuesday morning's racist and anti-Semitic tweets, the cancellation of her show (and de facto end of her career) left her with no particular reason to keep silent. We're now more than 100 Roseanne tweets into the "I'm quitting Twitter" era, and while some of the early tweets were apologetic, the more recent ones are almost entirely defensive, with Barr casting blame in just about every direction except her own, including some of her former co-stars, Disney/ABC, and—once again—the Ambien she took before tweeting on Tuesday. Sanofi, the manufacturer that makes that particular drug, helpfully advised via Twitter that, "While all pharmaceutical treatments have side effects, racism is not a known side effect of any Sanofi medication."

Of course, the comedian continues to insist that she is not a racist. For example:

And to prove that she's not a racist and/or a kook, Barr then promptly retweeted a story accusing George Soros and the Obama administration of conspiring together to overthrow the government of Albania. The story comes from Judicial Watch, the same right-wing organization that cooked up the Seth Rich murder conspiracy. So, Roseanne is clearly using only the best sources.

Meanwhile, 24 hours afforded enough time to look carefully at the corporate angle of the story. The big-wigs at Disney were, as a number of analysts have pointed out, caught between a rock and a hard place. The rock was the potential backlash the corporation would have faced if they stuck with Barr, which might well have extended to all of their media properties. For example, one bad weekend for the studio's film "Solo," currently #1 at the box office, would easily wipe out all the profits from a season of "Roseanne." The hard place, meanwhile, was Donald Trump, and the fear that he would direct his ire (and his legions of followers) toward hurting Disney. It is a strange thing when a major corporation has to worry about being undermined by the President of the United States solely out of personal animosity, but that is the world we now live in.

And speaking of Trump, he finally decided to weigh in on Wednesday. Pop quiz: What was the gist of his response?

  1. Everyone makes a mistake sometimes.
  2. These TV networks never appreciate the people who get them ratings.
  3. Who cares what Disney says? Mickey Mouse has tiny hands.
  4. I like Roseanne, but I can't support this kind of language.
  5. Where's my apology?

If you chose "e," then you're a winner. Here's the exact tweet:

And in case there was any doubt, Sarah Huckabee Sanders reiterated the point in her press briefing, saying she is not interested in defending Roseanne, but that the President is definitely deserving of an apology.

So, which is worse? Saying nothing, or saying "I demand an apology!"? Actually, that's an easy question to answer. Both responses announce to the world that "racism doesn't bother me," but the latter also gets it out there that "I'm incredibly thin-skinned." Disney/ABC might consider announcing that they will be pleased to apologize to Trump right after Fox News apologizes to Barack Obama for eight years of negative coverage. (Z)

Judge Sets Deadline for Review of Cohen's Computer Files

Yesterday, Judge Kimba Wood set June 15 as the deadline for determining which of the files the FBI seized on April 9 in a raid of Michael Cohen's home, offices, and hotel room are protected by attorney-client privilege. Any files not so protected will be turned over to federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York and may be used as evidence against Cohen. Former judge Barbara Jones is overseeing the vetting of the files. She has thus far given the SDNY prosecutors 292,000 files, and it is expected that she will soon turn over a million more. Only 252 items have been flagged as protected so far. This is not surprising, because although the media constantly report Cohen as Trump's personal lawyer, he never actually worked for Trump on legal matters. Marc Kasowitz is the Donald's personal lawyer; Cohen is his personal fixer. There is no legal fixer-client privilege, so tasks like making porn-star problems go away are not protected.

The total number of files the agents seized is 3.7 million. Cohen's attorneys have gone over 1.3 million so far, so they have a bit over 2 weeks to process the remaining 2.4 million and make any claims they may have relating to attorney-client privilege. They complained about the pace they will have to maintain to make the deadline, but Wood didn't buy it. In all, the feds seized 13 mobile devices and 19 other devices. Some of them are fairly old, like two Blackberries Cohen's wife used a decade ago. Wood told Cohen's attorneys that any files they had not processed by June 15 will be turned over to a "taint team" of prosecutors not connected to the investigation to vet.

Wood also heard an argument about whether Michael Avenatti, the lawyer Stormy Daniels (nee Stephanie Clifford) hired to represent her, could join the Cohen case. Wood was willing to grant his request, but only on the condition that he stop his publicity tour. After hearing that, Avenatti withdrew his motion to join the case. Apparently he thinks the publicity tour is more important than helping to examine Cohen's files. (V)

Trump Is Undermining McConnell's Midterm Plans

It hardly needs saying, but Donald Trump doesn't always think things through before doing them. He is more of a spur-of-the-moment person, even if that works against him in the long term. Case in point: Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND). Heitkamp is one of the most vulnerable Democrats, since she represents a state in which Trump got almost two-thirds of the vote. She is also one of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-KY) top three targets, along with Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-IN).

So, Trump is trying to demonize Heitkamp to get his base to hate her guts and vote her out of office, right? Actually, no. Rather the opposite. He has met with her many times and invited her to join him on stage when he appeared in North Dakota recently. The photos of her with Trump have formed the basis of her campaign, which is focused on how well she gets along with the President. Trump hasn't attacked her at all and has not yet made a campaign appearance with her opponent, Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-ND). Cramer has complained to the White House about the kid glove treatment, and all he got was a promise that Trump would appear with Cramer some time later this year.

So why is Trump making nice to Heitkamp when she is one of McConnell's top targets? It's all about arithmetic. The Republicans have a 51-49 advantage in the Senate, and with Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) in Arizona and unlikely to ever return to the Senate, the GOP margin is de facto 50-49. That means every Republican can torpedo any bill he or she doesn't like. To provide some insurance, Trump is cozying up to Heitkamp to get her vote, even if that might mean the Democrats capture the Senate in November. It's not a great long-term plan, but Trump's interest in short-term wins on bills is more important to him than what might happen next January. (V)

McCain, Ducey Meet

While Donald Trump cozies up to Heidi Heitkamp, it could be that John McCain's essentially vacant Senate seat will soon be a non-issue for Republicans. Yesterday, the deadline passed for the November ballot, which means that any replacement chosen by Gov. Doug Ducey (R-AZ) will serve until 2020. Also yesterday, Ducey visited McCain's home for a tête-à-tête, one that was kept off the Governor's official schedule. The timing here is undoubtedly not a coincidence; the topic of discussion was surely McCain's replacement.

Reportedly, McCain would like his wife Cindy to be appointed in his stead. Ducey is apparently not on board, and prefers former Arizona AG Grant Woods, or former Senator John Kyl. For what it is worth, Mrs. McCain is 64, as is Woods, while Kyl is 76. That is a tad bit long in the tooth to be starting a Senatorial career, inasmuch as it takes 20 or so years to get any real power. Put another way, all of the choices under consideration seem to have "placeholder" written all over them. In any case, if the Senator and the Governor were able to get on the same page Wednesday, it would not be a surprise to see him step down within the week, since Mitch McConnell would really love to have another GOP vote at his disposal. (Z)

Trump Plans to Hit Allies with Steel and Aluminum Tariffs

Donald Trump previously said he wanted to put tariffs on imported steel and aluminum—even from U.S. allies—because he believes if you don't have steel, you don't have a country. His words:

That view was certainly true in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Nowadays, if you don't have software you don't have a country might be more on the mark, but Trump grew up when steel, not software, was king.

It is being widely reported that Trump is planning to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum today or tomorrow. U.S. Allies, including Canada, Mexico, and the European Union will also be hit. Canada and Mexico are not strong enough to fight back hard, but the European Union has an economy that is 90% the size the American one and is planning to hit back hard. European tariffs will hit agricultural products and other products chosen to inflict the maximum amount of political pain. If the EU were to target soybeans and China were to do the same thing, soybean farmers all over red states will be furious and Democrats running in those states will go bananas (no, go soybeans) in the fall.

Of course, it is once again possible that Trump is just feinting and will cave in the end, as he usually does. At some point though, his technique of threatening a trade war and then pulling back at the last minute isn't going to work any more. (V)

Cruz Leads O'Rourke by Double Digits in Texas Senate Race

Running as a Democrat against an incumbent Republican senator in Texas was never going to be a piece of cake, but Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-TX) decided to take a shot at it. Now, a new Quinnipiac University poll shows that Cruz is way ahead, 50% to 39%, as we might expect. The April Quinnipiac poll had Cruz' lead only 3 points, but that could have been a statistical fluke. Normally, Latinos are largely Democrats, but Cruz, a Cuban-Canadian by birth, is doing well with them, getting 46% to O'Rourke's 44%. Men support Cruz by 22 points, but women break almost exactly evenly. Republicans go 90% to 3% for Cruz, but Democrats are only 82% to 11% for O'Rourke. O'Rourke is no doubt hoping for a miracle, because that is probably what it will take for him to win. (V)

All the Way with the ERA?

On Wednesday, the Illinois House voted to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, which—if adopted—would guarantee equal legal rights for all American citizens regardless of sex. Since the Illinois senate already voted in favor of the amendment last month, that means that it is very close to being adopted—maybe. For it to become part of the Constitution, three things have to happen:

  • One more ratification: Illinois is the 37th state to ratify; at least 38 states are needed. The holdouts are Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah, and Virginia. None of these states are particularly likely to make a move anytime soon, since the GOP controls both houses of each of these state legislatures. The Democrats do have the Virginia and North Carolina governor's mansions, but that is not relevant here, as governors have nothing to do with the process.

  • Legal question #1: If a 38th state does adopt the ERA, then the Supreme Court would be left to deal with two legal questions. The first is: Can an amendment expire? The ratification date set by the original legislation was March 22, 1979, and then was later extended to June 30, 1982. Since the latter date passed more than three decades ago, the ERA would seem to be dead on arrival, right? Maybe not so much. The Constitution does not actually empower Congress to set deadlines on amendments. Further, the 27th Amendment was formally adopted in 1992, a little over 202 years after it was first proposed. So, there's a strong argument to be made that the deadline is not valid.

  • Legal question #2: Even if the deadline was ruled invalid, then SCOTUS would have to deal with a second issue: Can states rescind their ratification? Between 1973 and 1978, four states' legislatures—Nebraska, Tennessee, Idaho, and Kentucky—voted to withdraw their ratification. As with expiration dates, the Constitution does not specify whether or not this is actually kosher.

In theory, the fate of the ERA should be a political issue in only 17 states—the 13 that have yet to ratify and the four that have tried to withdraw. However, past experience shows that sometimes candidates for state office "adopt" issues where they have no real influence (say, Muslim travel bans or gay marriage) because that's what riles up the base. In any case, given that this is the "Year of the Woman," this issue could potentially play an interesting role in some states. Especially since, according to most legal experts, it brings up another hot-button issue: Passage would likely guarantee equal access to abortion in all 50 states. So, it's worth keeping an eye on. (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
May30 Trump Will Impose Tariffs on Chinese Goods
May30 Giuliani Says Trump Won't Sit for Interview Until He Gets Info on Informant
May30 Roseanne Launches Atom Bomb in Culture Wars
May30 Trump Claims Mueller Will Meddle in the Midterms
May30 Midterms May Determine Control of the House for 10 Years
May30 Cohen to Appear in Court Today
May30 Greitens Resigns
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