• What Does Manafort's Plea Mean?
• Primary Turnout Good for Republicans, Great for Democrats
• Feinstein in Hot Water
• This Week's Senate News
• Democratic Presidential Candidate of the Week: Andrew Cuomo
The Trump administration has hinted, threatened, and pronounced that they were coming many times, and now the moment appears to be upon us. As early as Monday, Donald Trump will order that tariffs be imposed on another $200 billion in Chinese goods. When added to the $50 billion in Chinese imports that have already been hit, that means that about half of the goods that China sends to the United States will have been subjected to new duties in the last six months (although round two might be at a rate of 10%, as opposed to the 25% imposed in round one).
The administration's stated purpose here is to ratchet up the pressure on Xi Jingping & Co. in advance of "high-level talks" between the two countries. Now, those talks don't appear to have been scheduled as yet, so Team Trump could easily have waited a week or so on the announcement, so that it doesn't come on the same day that millions of Americans are facing a deadly hurricane (with at least 13 of them dying). On the other hand, maybe that timing is deliberate, given how much this administration likes a distraction. In any event, there has been no evidence that China is cowed by Trump's actions, so there remains every reason to brace for a full-fledged trade war. (Z)
Now that there's been time to digest the news that former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort has turned state's evidence, we can now start to think about what it means for the whole Russiagate situation. To start, CNN has a nice list of some of the areas in which he might help with special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation:
- Russian election interference: Manafort was part of the Trump campaign
for about six months, and was its chair for the last four of those, from May through early August of
2016. He was present at the infamous Trump Tower meeting with Natalia Veselnitskaya, and would have
been privy to any conspiring with the Russians that happened at that meeting, or anytime during the
crucial spring and summer months.
- Roger Stone: Manafort is a friend and business partner to Roger Stone,
who seemed to know an awful lot about DNC e-mail leaks before anyone else, and who may soon be in hot
water himself. Manafort may have some useful info about his old buddy.
- The dossier: Given his relationships with both the Trump campaign and
high-ranking Russians, Manafort may know a few things about the Steele dossier, and whether the
Russians have kompromat on Donald Trump.
- Lobbyists: Manafort was lobbying on behalf of the Ukraine without
registering properly as an agent of a foreign country. He likely has information about others who
are accused of doing the same, including Democratic adviser Tony Podesta of the Podesta Group,
former Republican representative Vin Weber, and the powerful D.C. law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate,
Meagher & Flom. This may or may not end up being related to Trump, but a crook is a crook
- Why was the GOP platform changed?: One of the big mysteries that still
remains is why the 2016 GOP platform was altered at the last minute to be less supportive of Ukraine
using force to defend itself against Russia. If anyone knows the truth, it should be Manafort.
- What about Papadopoulos?: There is no question that former Trump campaign gofer George Papadopoulos knew the Russians had DNC e-mails before most of America knew. He's already admitted this, as part of making his own plea deal. However, he says he can't remember if he told anyone in the campaign, while everyone in Team Trump says he never said a word. Manafort may be able to resolve this particular question, and if he says, "Of course Trump was told about the e-mails," then Trump's denials would go out the window. Which, in turn, would also call into question his denials about conspiring with the Russians.
In short, there's all kinds of juicy stuff that Manafort might be able to deliver to the Special Counsel. Further, as he has already demonstrated very publicly, Mueller is very good at using this juice to extract information from other people. For example, imagine that he subpoenas Donald Trump Jr. for a chat about the Trump Tower meeting. At this point, young Trump probably has no idea exactly what Manafort knows, and he certainly has no idea what beans Manafort is going to spill. So, Don Jr. could well be in the position of revealing incriminating things about himself and/or his father, or else risking charges of perjury. One can also substitute the name of Jared Kushner (who was also at the Trump Tower meeting) in place of Donald Jr., and everything here still holds true. Plus, in his case, there's still the question of exactly why he tried to get a secret telephone line installed at the Russian embassy. With Manafort's information, Mueller might be able to finally get to the bottom of that.
In short, Manafort's turning traitor is absolutely disastrous for the President and his inner circle (at least, the members of the inner circle that haven't already sung like a canary). And now, as Politico's Josh Gerstein points out, the pardon power is all-but-useless for Trump as a solution to this problem. Most obviously because Manafort almost certainly told everything he knows before getting his plea deal—that's how these things work. And Mueller is clever enough to have insisted on written, sworn statements carrying Manafort's signature. So even if he ends up with some cold feet or some hot polonium tea tomorrow, whatever incriminating information he has is already secure. Beyond that, and as we have pointed out many times, Manafort is still exposed to prosecution for state-level crimes, many of which will be a slam dunk to prove because he's already admitted them.
Of course, Trump could—and might very well—pardon Manafort anyhow, either out of loyalty (unlikely), or to be a nice guy (also unlikely), or to keep Manafort's name from being in the headlines anymore (plausible). However, the only impact that a pardon would have at this point is sparing Manafort from his jail sentence (and possibly his forfeiture of property). Further, it could be interpreted as a further attempt to obstruct justice. So, again, the pardon ship has really sailed. Meanwhile, Mueller continues to peel away the layers of the onion, one by one. And we're getting to the point that there aren't many layers left that don't involve someone who is a member of the Trump family. (Z)
Now that primary season is over, The Hill has done the math and added up the turnout across all 50 states. In the last midterm election in 2014, a total of 29.3 million people cast ballots. This year, the number jumped to more than 40 million, thanks to a dramatic increase on both sides of the aisle. However, while the Republican tally jumped from 15.5 million to 19.3 million, the Democratic tally jumped from 13.8 million to 22.7 million. That's a 24% increase for the red team, and a staggering 64% increase for the blue team.
It is clear that, in the age of Trump, partisans on both sides are more engaged in the political process than they have been in a long time. But it is also clear that the effect is bringing more Trump enemies to the polls than it is Trump supporters. The effect, of course, is not uniformly distributed, and some of the increased Democratic turnout will serve only to increase certain candidates' victory margins. Still, in a time when there are very few fence sitters, enthusiasm and getting people to the polls is going to be the key to victory, and the Democrats have the clear edge. This may well be the strongest evidence yet of a looming blue wave. (Z)
As the details surrounding Brett Kavanaugh's mystery accuser become somewhat less fuzzy, it is now clear that Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) was aware of the matter for weeks (or months) before she turned it over to the FBI. A lot of people are unhappy about that, with Republicans calling it a dirty 11th-hour trick, and Democratic colleagues wondering why she did not share the information much earlier if she felt it was serious enough to bring to the attention of the Bureau.
Thus far, most members of the blue team are avoiding public criticism of one of their party's most visible and most senior members, but they are seething nonetheless. Feinstein challenger Kevin de León is not being so circumspect, however, and has blasted the Senator for a "failure of leadership". There is not much that could allow a left-wing challenger to overcome a 20-point gap in the polls against a well-heeled incumbent. But if such a thing does exist, this might be it, since feelings about Trump and the SCOTUS are so strong, and since this apparent misstep emphasizes the thing that aggravates many Democratic voters in California when it comes to Feinstein, namely that she is far too methodical and cautious, and rarely takes a strong stand for her convictions. (Z)
Now that the 2018 campaign is in full swing, we're doing a weekly roundup of stories about the 35 Senate campaigns. Here is this week's installment:
- In 2003, when Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) was first launching her political career as an anti-war
Democrat, some of her supporters handed out
that condemned "U.S. terror" and portrayed an American soldier as a skeleton. Rep. Martha McSally
(R), who is challenging Sinema for Sen. Jeff Flake's (R) seat, says this proves that Sinema is
unpatriotic and a left-wing nut. Sinema says that she had nothing to do with the fliers, and that
many people opposed the Iraq War. For what it is worth, Politifact
- State Rep. David Baria (D-MS) is facing an uphill battle in his effort to unseat Sen.
Roger Wicker (R). He's turned to a
face from the past
for help: Bill Clinton adviser James Carville.
- Both of the Republicans running for reelection to the Senate from Mississippi, Wicker and Cindy
trying to avoid
having debates against their opponents. They say it is because of their busy schedules, but in
reality they realize that there is little upside and much downside in subjecting themselves to
scrutiny and giving their challengers free publicity.
- Jane Raybould (D) is doing everything she can to try to wrest Nebraska's Senate seat away
from Sen. Deb Fischer (R). This week, Raybould is
for information as to whether or not the ranch owned by Fischer and her husband got improper assistance
from the USDA.
- George W. Bush appears to have been rehabilitated quite a bit, and is now stumping for GOP
candidates across the South. However, he's
that he has no plans to help out Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX).
- Cruz and his opponent, Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-TX), have
to hold three debates. Unlike his colleagues in Mississippi, Cruz needs the TV time. Up against the charismatic O'Rourke,
however, this could turn out very badly for him.
- Matthew Corey (R), who is making his fourth run for office against popular Sen. Chris Murphy,
and who has only $7,000 in the bank,
this week that he just hopes the final vote tally is "competitive." It won't be.
- A group of parents from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School
Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) in his race against challenger Gov. Rick Scott (R).
- Jeb Bush found the energy this week to
hit the campaign trail
on Scott's behalf.
- Mike Braun (R), who is trying to knock off Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-IN) in very red Indiana, has
on the main (and basically only) theme of his campaign: undocumented Mexican immigrants. This is in a state
whose population is only 6% Latino, and whose southernmost tip is 1,165 miles from the Mexican border.
- Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who is technically running for re-election this year, but is
really eyeing a 2020 presidential run, has been hammering amazon.com's business practices for
weeks. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), who is in the exact same position as Sanders, has
she likes the sound of that, and has started wailing on amazon.com, too.
- Warren's opponent, Geoff Diehl (R), would
to have Donald Trump campaign on his behalf, but said Gov. Charlie Baker (R-MA) should stay away.
Baker's approval rating in Massachusetts is 69%, Trump's is 36%. Draw your own conclusions.
- Donald Trump took to Twitter to blast Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and the Democrats for failing to
support the farm bill before the Senate. Stabenow, whose lead in the polls is solid but not ironclad,
by pointing out that the bill passed with 86 votes, including hers.
- Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and state AG Josh Hawley (R-MO)
in their first debate, which most observers had as a tie. It was on Friday afternoon, though, so one wonders how many
Missourians were actually able to watch it.
- In a slight variant on the classic "carpetbagger" theme, Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) is now
running an ad
making fun of the fact that Matt Rosendale wears cowboy boots and a ten-gallon hat, and claimed to be a rancher,
but isn't. "All hat, no cattle" is the tagline.
- Rosendale has also been
of coordinating with the NRA on his campaign ads, which—if true—would be a violation of campaign finance laws.
- Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) is
portraying opponent Bob Hugin (R) as a heartless former pharmaceutical executive who put profits ahead of human lives. Hugin
has fired back,
Menendez of being a sleazy opportunist who was ready to take money from Big Pharma whenever it was offered.
They are basically both right.
- Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) does not want newly-announced Libertarian challenger Gary Johnson to siphon off a bunch of young
voters. So, the Senator officially
this week that he supports legalizing marijuana.
- Corey Stewart (R), who would like Sen. Tim Kaine's (D-VA) seat, presents himself as a mini-Trump. That apparently includes telling baldfaced lies, such as declaring that Trump made the United States the world's leading petroleum producer. It's true that the U.S. is #1, but it assumed that spot in 2011, long before Trump became president.
Whoomp! There it is. (Z)
This week, in our ongoing series of presidential candidate profiles, we'll look at a fellow whose name has been mentioned (with various levels of seriousness) for each of the last four cycles that did not have an incumbent Democrat in the White House.
- Name: Andrew Cuomo
- Age on January 20, 2021: 63
- Background: He may be the bluest blue blood among the blue team's
presidential candidates. Though the grandson of poor immigrants, his father Mario was, of course,
himself a governor of New York and a presidential candidate. A New Yorker through-and-through,
Andrew took his BA at Fordham and his JD at Albany Law School. Beyond a brief stint in private
practice, he has spent his adult life in public service, which included time as an aide to his
father and to NYC mayor David Dinkins, as well as founding and leading Housing Enterprise for the
Less Privileged (HELP).
- Political Experience: Following his political apprenticeship with pops
and the Mayor, Cuomo served four years as Assistant Secretary and another four as Secretary of
Housing and Urban Development under Bill Clinton. Then it was three years as the AG of New York
(during which he won rave reviews), and he is now in the middle of his eighth year as governor of
- Signature Issue(s): Gun control. He secured passage of the New York
Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act (NY SAFE) of 2013, generally regarded as the
strictest gun law in the US, following the Sandy Hook shootings. Ever since, he has been a leading
advocate for stricter gun laws nationwide.
- Instructive Quote: "We're not going to make America great again; it
was never that great. We have not reached greatness. We will reach greatness when every American is
fully engaged." (Note: In many quarters, this did not go over well.)
- Completely Trivial Fact: In case Cuomo's blood isn't blue enough,
he was once a Kennedy, having been married to RFK's daughter Kerry from 1990 to 2005.
- Recent News: Cuomo, of course, won
to his third term as governor this week, dispatching challenger-from-the-left Cynthia Nixon. He
promptly pooh-poohed the importance of the socialists in the Party (e.g., Alexandria Ocasio Cortez),
describing them as "not even a ripple."
- Three Biggest Pros: (1) Cuomo has the most extensive executive
experience of any major candidate in the Democratic field; (2) He isn't an empty suit; his many
years in office have given him a significant record to run on; and (3) Few Democrats are as dialed
in with the party apparatus as he is (Joe Biden may be his only equal in this regard).
- Three Biggest Cons: (1) The luster is off Cuomo; while he could once
boast of some of the best approval ratings among the nation's governors, a 40-60 point net approval
to just 5-6 points in the last year; (2) The progressive wing of the party appears to be ready to
vote for anyone to get Trump out of office in 2020, but if there's one guy who might cause them to
pull a Jill Stein, it's probably Cuomo, who has infuriated the lefties with his dismissive attitude
and his blue dog centrism; and (3) How many Democrats can get really excited about a bland,
ultra-establishment white male? It would be John Kerry or Al Gore all over again.
- Is He Actually Running?: While he (like nearly all of the other
contenders) isn't saying so definitively, he certainly expects to. He actually released the
customary "who am I and what do I stand for"
in 2014, with an eye toward a 2016 run that never quite came together. He seems to be the only
person in America who did not realize Hillary was going to run.
- Betting Odds: They are all over the place for him, about as wide a
spread as for any candidate. Some books have him as low as 13/1 (7% chance of getting the
nomination), while others have him at high as 50/1 (2% chance).
- The Bottom Line: Like his old man, he appears to have waited too long and missed his chance. Really, he was more suited to the Democratic Party of 2000 or 2004 than he is to the current iteration. If the news networks have an early debate and a primetime debate for the Democrats in 2020 (as they did for the GOP in 2016), he's going to be one of the folks in the early debate.
The list of candidate profiles can be accessed by clicking on the 2020 Dem candidates link in the menu to the left of the map. (Z)Email a link to a friend or share:
---The Votemaster and Zenger
Sep15 Kavanaugh Letter Leaks
Sep15 The Primaries Are Over: What Have We Learned?
Sep15 CNN's New Ranking of the 2020 Democratic Field
Sep15 Avenatti: Time to Indict Trump
Sep15 Ohio's Wealthiest Person Isn't a Republican Anymore
Sep15 Texans and their Textbooks
Sep15 Today's Senate Polls
Sep14 Trump Claims Only 6 to 18 People Died in the Puerto Rico Hurricane
Sep14 New Yorkers Headed to the Polls
Sep14 Senate Might Not Confirm a Replacement if Trump Fires Sessions
Sep14 Kavanaugh May Not Be in the Clear Yet
Sep14 House and Senate Reach a Bipartisan Budget Deal to Prevent a Shutdown
Sep14 Gillum Leads DeSantis in Polls
Sep14 Inside the Mind of Donald Trump
Sep14 Today's Senate Polls
Sep13 Trump Signs Order Allowing Sanctions on Countries that Interfere with U.S. Elections
Sep13 Rhode Island Goes to the Polls
Sep13 What Have the Democratic 2020 Candidates Learned from the Primaries?
Sep13 Mitch McConnell is Worried about Losing His Job
Sep13 Trump vs. the Hurricane, Day 2
Sep13 The Trump Administration's Priorities Are Clear
Sep13 Woodward's Book Is Selling Like Hotcakes
Sep13 Stormy Daniels Will Release a Tell-All Book on Oct. 2
Sep13 Today's Senate Polls
Sep12 Two Former Administration Officials Dispute Woodward's Book
Sep12 New Hampshire Votes
Sep12 Hurricane Season Is Upon Us
Sep12 Anti-Kavanaugh Forces Are Still Fighting On
Sep12 New York State Going after Michael Cohen
Sep12 Some TV Talking Heads Are Contractually Bound to Be Nice to Trump
Sep12 Appeals Court: Koch Group May Not Shield Donor List from Law Enforcement
Sep12 Today's Senate Polls
Sep11 Trump's Approval Continues to Drop
Sep11 Trump Desperately Wants Credit for the Economy
Sep11 Rogue Billionaires Driving Both Parties Up a Tree
Sep11 Omarosa Plays Another Trump Tape
Sep11 Beto O'Rourke Is a Pain in the ... Bank for the Republicans
Sep11 House Races Are Tight in Bellwether Districts
Sep11 Florida Should Be an Interesting Case Study
Sep11 Today in Defamation
Sep10 Top Republicans Are Worried about the Midterms
Sep10 Bring on the Lie Detectors
Sep10 The Time Trump Almost Started a War with Twitter
Sep10 Trump: Deal with Stormy Daniels Was Not Valid
Sep10 Endangered Republicans Don't Want a New Tax Bill
Sep10 Cruz Becomes a True Trumper (For a Couple of Months)
Sep10 Trump May Well Draw a 2020 Primary Challenger
Sep10 Today's Senate Polls
Sep09 Trump Administration Considered Helping Overthrow Venezuelan Leader