• Assange Arrested; Trump "Forgets" What Wikileaks Is
• Cain Is Dead in the Water
• McConnell Pushes Back against Cuccinelli
• Even if Trump Loses, He Wins?
• Former Obama Counsel Indicted
• Democratic Presidential Candidate of the Week: Mike Gravel
Since former DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen was compelled to resign on Sunday, certain pieces of the puzzle have been made clear. Border apprehensions are way up, Donald Trump is unhappy about it, and this has created an opening for the ultra-nativist Stephen Miller to exert his influence. On Thursday, what is probably the biggest missing piece of the puzzle fell into place. The policy that Miller wanted to implement, which the DHS would not do because they deemed it to be illegal, was to take the undocumented immigrant detainees for whom there is no jail space, put them on buses, and dump them in "sanctuary cities" in order to punish those cities for their failure to support the administration.
Surely it is no surprise that Trump loved the idea. And if there's any policy that embodies the worst instincts of his administration, this has to be it. In one package, we have disregard for the rule of law, abuse of power, dehumanizing treatment of immigrants, and the view that any Americans who oppose Trump are the enemy. In case there was any question on the latter point, DHS officials confirmed off the record that Miller and Trump specifically wanted to make sure that some buses were routed to the home district of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). After this news broke on Thursday, Pelosi spokeswoman Ashley Etienne blasted the administration: "The extent of this administration's cynicism and cruelty cannot be overstated. Using human beings—including little children—as pawns in their warped game to perpetuate fear and demonize immigrants is despicable."
One wonders how much longer Stephen Miller can maintain his place of honor in the White House. It's clear that he is very good at playing to Trump's baser tendencies. However, he has not only gotten zero results, but the administration is publicly flailing around on the issue where Miller is supposed to be "advising." Further, he's generating a lot of bad PR, and even some pushback from the GOP (see below). In TrumpWorld, that combo is usually a prelude to being shown the door, bootlicking or no. (Z)
Late Wednesday night/early Thursday morning, Wikileaks' founder Julian Assange's time on the lam came to an end, as he was arrested in London. The Ecuadorean government, which hosted him for seven years in its embassy, grew weary of his shenanigans and withdrew the asylum it was providing. So, in went the bobbies, and out went Assange.
Assange, of course, is a connector between Russia and the Trump campaign. Since we don't have the Mueller report, we don't know exactly how much the Special Counsel uncovered on this front, but surely it is not the whole story. It's not likely that the Dept. of Justice will pick up the ball with AG William Barr in charge, but it's dollars to doughnuts that one or more House committees are going to want to hear from him. Assange is going to be in British custody for quite a while, but a visit to the United States can surely be worked out with them.
Most Republicans are expressing much satisfaction that Assange will be held accountable for his crimes. Whether they really believe that, given how much harm he did to Hillary Clinton and the DNC, is another matter, but that's what they're saying. One Republican who did not express satisfaction, however, is Donald Trump, who surely knows that the sudden availability of such an important material witness is not good news for him. So, when asked about the arrest on Thursday, the President said he has no idea what Wikileaks is. That's what is known as a "baldfaced lie," since Trump regularly praised the site on the campaign trail, and "We love Wikileaks" was one of the main applause lines at his rallies. Other prominent members of the GOP, including Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-NC), Sen. Lindsey "Chameleon" Graham (R-SC), and Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) pretty much threw the President under the bus, telling reporters that they were mystified by his past support for Wikileaks and his current "ignorance" of the site. More trouble in GOP paradise? (Z)
Herman Cain was a woefully unqualified choice for the Federal Reserve's Board of Governors, with the result that quite a few GOP senators gently suggested that the nomination should be pulled. Donald Trump did not take the hint, so on Thursday four Republican senators removed all ambiguity and announced that Cain does not have their vote: Kevin Cramer (ND), Cory Gardner (CO), Lisa Murkowski (AK), and Mitt Romney (UT). That's enough to kill the nomination, unless at least one Democrat or Independent was to break ranks, and there was no indication that any of them planned to do so. In fact, it was much more likely that the list of GOP 'nay' votes was going to grow, with Johnny Isakson (GA), Susan Collins (ME), and Rand Paul (KY) among the likeliest additional 'nays.'
The nomination is unsalvageable, then, and moving forward would just waste everyone's time while setting Team Trump up for an even bigger black eye. Late Thursday, ABC News reported that Cain is going to withdraw his name from consideration shortly, perhaps as soon as today. Whether this was at Cain's initiative, the President's, or both, is unknown, but either way it's back to square one for Trump. (Z)
Herman Cain isn't the only less-than-stellar candidate for high office to be getting pushback from Senate Republicans right now. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who is getting an earful from the members of his caucus, publicly warned Donald Trump not to pick former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli to be Kirstjen Nielsen's replacement as DHS secretary.
Part of the problem is that DHS is acquiring something of a reputation as a bureau that is less focused on national security, and more focused on serving as the Trump administration's Blackshirts. The other problem is that Cuccinelli has a reputation for being a bit fanatical in his anti-immigrant politics, and for being willing to play fast and loose with the Constitution. He wants to revoke birthright citizenship, for example, and is an advocate of denying unemployment benefits to people fired because they cannot speak English. Add it all up, and McConnell & Co. see nothing but headaches from a hypothetical Secretary Cuccinelli: PR nightmares at best, and lawsuits and potential criminal charges at worst.
The base, by contrast, is salivating at the prospect of getting an ultra-hardliner installed at DHS, and has been lobbying Trump six ways to Sunday. He's very susceptible to that kind of pressure, so he might go through with the nomination anyhow, setting up a potential showdown with Senate Republicans. With the Cain situation (see above), and the Wikileaks situation (see above again), and the Yemen resolution, and the national emergency override, it's just more evidence that the Trump Republicans and the more traditional Republicans are starting to diverge as the 2020 election draws closer. Maybe they sense a sinking ship, and are starting to think that it's "every man for himself" time. (Z)
It's not just Congressional Republicans who might be contemplating a world in which Trump loses the 2020 presidential election. Some of the President's biggest fans are apparently contemplating it, too. Specifically, Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who is VP of the Trump Fan Club (and runs the meetings when President Sean Hannity can't be present), has been using his show this week to float the idea that maybe the President is trying to lose the 2020 election so that he's not cooped up in the White House throughout his 70s.
In short, then, if Trump wins it's because he wanted to win, and if he loses, it's because he wanted to lose. That's a fairly neat arrangement, and certainly does nothing to undermine the folks who claim the President's supporters are more like a cult. In any event, it's primarily of interest because it's about as clear an indication that Carlson will ever give that he thinks there's a real possibility that Trump loses this thing. (Z)
Greg Craig served as White House counsel for both Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, most notably directing the latter's impeachment defense. Now, Craig is going to have to mount a defense for himself, as he has been indicted for violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act by not disclosing his work for Ukraine and then lying to the Department of Justice about it. This is the same thing that got former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort into trouble, and indeed, it was Manafort who made the first introductions between Ukraine and Craig's firm, and it was special counsel Robert Mueller who set the Dept. of Justice on Craig's tracks.
Given that Obama and Clinton are both out of office, this story is primarily of interest because it's going to become the basis for a lot of whataboutism. As in, "Yeah, some of Donald Trump's people got indicted, but so did some of Barack Obama's, so there." Some might say that one guy, charged with a handful of relatively low-level crimes, is substantively different than a whole bunch of guys charged with a gaggle of crimes, but whataboutism rarely has room for the degree of the behavior. (Z)
We thought that we'd gotten to everyone who might plausibly declare a presidential run this year, but then Mike Gravel surprised everyone, as he is wont to do. Since he has no intention of winning, and only wants to get on the debate stage, the pros and cons below will be the pros and cons of giving him a debate slot, and not his pros and cons as a hypothetical Democratic nominee.
- Full Name: Maurice Robert Gravel
- Age on January 20, 2021: 90
- Background: Born to Canadian immigrant parents, Gravel grew up in
Massachusetts. He was a poor student, likely due to undiagnosed dyslexia, and had to repeat third
grade. He eventually got help from several sympathetic educators, and even started college before
deciding to volunteer for service in the Korean War. He served in the Counterintelligence Corps,
and ultimately ended up in Paris, where his job was to infiltrate French communist rallies and
report back to superiors.
Following his discharge, Gravel finished his degree at Columbia University, taking a B.S. in economics. After trying his hand at several different careers in New York, without much success, he decided to start fresh as "a pioneer in a faraway place." That place ended up being Alaska, which is indeed faraway from New York. It also had the benefit of being sparsely populated, especially back then (1956), which made a near-lifelong dream of a career in politics more realistic.
- Political Experience: Gravel tooled around in the real estate
business when he arrived in Alaska, but he was merely biding his time until the start of his
political career. He got involved in the Democratic Central Committee for the Alaska Territory,
and became president of the Alaska Young Democrats. He failed in a run for the territorial
legislature, then failed in a run for the Anchorage city council, and finally won in his
third attempt at office, securing a seat in the Alaska House of Representatives. He served there
for four years, including the last two as Speaker of the House. That was followed by an unsuccessful
run for Alaska's sole seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, and then a successful run for the
U.S. Senate in 1968. His main theme in that campaign, waged against 81-year-old incumbent Ernest Gruening,
was "I'm not old." That probably won't work in his current campaign.
Gravel spent two terms in the Senate, bringing home lots of pork for Alaska, but also stepping on the toes of pretty much all of his colleagues (most famously when he insisted on reading the Pentagon Papers into the record). He was defeated in the primaries in 1980 by Clark Gruening, the grandson of the senator that he had sent into retirement in 1968. Gruening, in turn, lost to Frank Murkowski, father of current Alaska senator Lisa Murkowski. Clearly, politics is a family business in Alaska. In any event, after leaving the Senate, Gravel has never again held office, though he did get involved in a number of activist causes, like leading an unsuccessful push to allow ballot initiatives at the state level.
- Signature Issue(s): Although his
is already up to 29 pages, Gravel is notoriously dismissive of the standard tropes of political
campaigns, as he made clear in this rather legendary commercial for his 2008 presidential campaign:
You wouldn't think an avant garde political ad was possible, but there it is. It's certainly a change from the early years of his political career, when he was in the habit of giving speeches while dressed as Paul Revere.
- Instructive Quote: "We have become a nation ruled by fear. Since the
end of the Second World War, various political leaders have fostered fear in the American
people—fear of communism, fear of terrorism, fear of immigrants, fear of people based on race and
religion, fear of gays and lesbians in love who just want to get married and fear of people who are
somehow different. It is fear that allows political leaders to manipulate us all and distort our
- Completely Trivial Fact: Gravel, if he were to be elected, would be
the first U.S. president of French-Canadian (or, for that matter, French) descent, and the second
U.S. president to have something other than English as his first language. Gravel spoke only French
until he was 7; the same is true of Martin Van Buren and Dutch.
- Recent News: Gravel's surprise campaign announcement was his biggest
news of the week, but we already wrote about that. So, we will instead note that he inspired paroxysms of glee when he
to appear on Tucker Carlson's show, and then sent out a fundraising e-mail with the subject "F*ck
- Three Biggest Pros (of him getting to debate): (1) The debates are
kind of dry, and they would be much less so with him there; (2) There's something to be said for
upending the status quo; and (3) He could get the Party and the country talking about an issue or
two that is not currently on the radar, as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) did with the $15/hour minimum
wage in 2016.
- Three Biggest Cons (of him getting to debate): (1) Having a nonserious
candidate on stage makes the Democrats look like a nonserious party; (2) Time is going to be
precious, and every minute that Gravel uses up is one less minute for the candidates who will be
getting (and who need) their first national vetting; and (3) If the post-debate discussion is about
Gravel's crazy behavior, as opposed to which person would be the best candidate, that is
good for neither the Party or the process.
- Is He Actually Running?: Yes, he is.
- Betting Odds: No odds are being offered.
- The Bottom Line: Of course he's not going to get the nomination. On the other hand, you know who else launched a presidential campaign that wasn't meant to be successful, and was thus empowered to say whatever damn thing came into his head? Donald Trump. So, you never can tell.
You can access the list of candidate profiles by clicking on the 2020 Dem candidates link in the menu to the left of the map. (Z)
If you have a question about politics, civics, history, etc. you would like us to answer, click here for submission instructions and previous Q & A's. If you spot any typos or other errors on the site that we should fix, please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.Email a link to a friend or share:
---The Votemaster and Zenger
Apr11 Democrats Are Preparing Their Response to the Redacted Mueller Report
Apr11 Warren Raises $6 Million in Q1
Apr11 How Democrats Could Get Ahold of Trump's Taxes
Apr11 Sanders Unveils Medicare-for-All Bill
Apr11 It's Now Miller vs. Kushner
Apr11 House Passes a Net Neutrality Bill
Apr11 Benjamin Netanyahu Won a Fifth Term as Israel's Prime Minister
Apr11 Thursday Q&A
Apr10 Fight over Trump's Tax Returns Is about to Heat Up
Apr10 Undocumented Immigration Way Up
Apr10 Republicans Push Back Against Trump
Apr10 Pelosi Cancels Budget Vote
Apr10 Barr Says Mueller Report Is Coming Soon
Apr10 Gravel Enters the Democratic Presidential Race
Apr10 Israel's Next Prime Minister Is Probably Benjamin Netanyahu
Apr09 It's a Bloodbath at DHS
Apr09 Trump Designates Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard as a Terrorist Organization
Apr09 Trump Administration Kills Baseball Deal
Apr09 Swalwell Announces Presidential Run
Apr09 Alabama Senate Race Just Keeps Getting More Crowded
Apr09 Trump and Nadler Have Been Fighting Each Other for Decades
Apr09 Israel Heads to the Polls
Apr09 India, Too
Apr08 Nielsen Meeting with Trump Becomes Nielsen Resignation
Apr08 Mulvaney Says Democrats Will Never See Trump's Tax Returns
Apr08 Nadler: Congress Has a Right to See Mueller's Report
Apr08 Nunes to Send Eight Criminal Referrals to Barr
Apr08 Polls: Voters Support Democrats on the Issues
Apr08 Democratic Candidates Are Struggling to Win Their Home States
Apr08 Top Democratic Senate Candidates Aren't Running
Apr08 Booker Raises $5 Million
Apr08 Manchin May Run for Governor in 2020
Apr08 Gardner Wants to Legalize Pot to Help His Reelection Chances
Apr08 Monday Q&A
Apr05 William Barr Is Losing the Narrative (And So, by Extension, Is Donald Trump)
Apr05 Trump's Staff Appears to Have Won the Border Battle
Apr05 Second Presidential Veto Is On Tap
Apr05 Trump Taps Herman Cain for the Fed
Apr05 Michael Cohen Has More Singing To Do, Apparently
Apr05 New Mexico Votes to Join National Popular Vote Interstate Compact
Apr05 Republicans Are Doing their Best to Help Doug Jones Keep His Seat
Apr05 Tim Ryan Throws His Hat into the 2020 Ring
Apr05 Democratic Presidential Candidate of the Week: Seth Moulton
Apr04 House Judiciary Committee Approves a Subpoena for Mueller's Report
Apr04 Trump Changes His Mind on Releasing Mueller's Report
Apr04 Some Mueller Investigators Think Report Was More Damning than Barr Suggested
Apr04 House Democrats Officially Ask for Trump's Taxes
Apr04 Biden: I Won't Do It Anymore
Apr04 Senate Goes Nuclear