• Roger Stone Is in Deep Trouble (and, Very Possibly, So Are His Associates)
• Trump Is Clearly Preparing to Declare a National Emergency
• Trump's Numbers in Michigan Are Not Good
• Mick Mulvaney Has Big Plans...for Mick Mulvaney
• Cain for Federal Reserve?
• Democratic Presidential Candidate of the Week: Cory Booker
It is probable that high-ranking members of the Trump campaign conspired with the Russians to influence the 2016 election. It is very possible that Donald Trump himself was one of them. And the likeliest "smoking gun," one that would seemingly prove the President's complicity, was his son's phone records. Both before and after the infamous Trump Tower meeting with Natalia Veselnitskaya, Donald Trump Jr. made calls to two blocked phone numbers. Since Donald Sr. is known to use phones with blocked Caller ID, these calls looked very much like they could have been status reports. And if the then-candidate was being kept abreast of exactly what was happening, both before and after the fact, then it would be pretty ironclad evidence that he was a party to whatever took place.
According to new reporting from CNN, however, the phone calls were not to Don Sr., they were to two of Don Jr.'s business associates. CNN got this information from Senate staffers who have access to Don Jr.'s phone records, which have been subpoenaed. The outlet has not yet confirmed who the associates were, nor what was discussed. When it comes to the latter question, of course, only one or two or three people actually know the answer.
Undoubtedly, many Democrats are disappointed that this particular opportunity to catch Trump red-handed actually turns out to be a red herring. Of course, given the nature of the sourcing, not to mention the unanswered questions, it's not impossible that CNN turns out to be in error. It's also not impossible that Trump Sr. was at the other end of one of those calls, using a phone belonging to someone else, or registered in someone else's name. After all, former fixer Michael Cohen set up a shell corporation to hide the payments to porn star Stormy Daniels, and it's a much bigger task to set up a fake company than it is to set up a burner phone. Still, if the President is to be implicated in a crime, it looks like the proof is going to have to come from somewhere else. Fortunately for the authorities, they still have his Twitter account to work with. (Z)
Not all of the Russiagate news on Thursday was favorable to Team Trump. The office of special counsel Robert Mueller began the process of advising the court and Stone's counsel about the evidence they've gathered against him, and it's substantial. According to court filings, it includes:
"[M]ultiple hard drives containing several terabytes of information consisting of, among other things, FBI case reports, search warrant applications and results (e.g., Apple iCloud accounts and email accounts), bank and financial records, and the contents of numerous physical devices (e.g., cellular phones, computers, and hard drives)."
It is widely rumored that Stone has a taste for certain kinds of...digital content, shall we say, that is very data-intensive. Still, even accounting for that, "several terabytes" is a lot. By way of comparison, the entirety of Wikipedia is 5.6 TB.
Earlier this week, CNN legal analyst Elie Honig observed that based solely on the known facts of the case, Stone appears to be guilty of numerous federal crimes that he has not yet been charged with, including several different flavors of conspiracy. Honig's view is that there are only two plausible explanations for why these charges have not been filed: (1) Mueller does not feel he has enough evidence, or (2) Other, currently unindicted, folks will be included in the additional charges, and Mueller is waiting until that time comes to add to Stone's list.
Since lack of evidence is apparently not a problem, it suggests that explanation #2 is the correct one. And given Mueller's tendency to start at the bottom of the ladder and work his way up, it could well be that conspiracy charges are coming against members of the Trump campaign who are higher up than Stone, and have not yet been charged. Since Mueller has already suggested he will follow Justice Dept. guidelines against indicting the President himself, and since Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn have already gone up the river, that leaves us with a fairly short list: The Trump children and children-in-law, and maybe Steve Bannon or Jeff Sessions. This is all speculation at this point, but fairly well-founded speculation. (Z)
The members of Congress who are trying to negotiate a compromise on wall funding have remained relatively quiet about their work (especially since they've met only a couple of times). Donald Trump, by contrast, has not. He's been active on Twitter, sending out his thoughts on the subject. For example, he posted another one of his pro-wall videos where he stands outside the White House and yells at the camera:
Why he cannot do the recordings indoors and use his "inside voice" is not known. Before the video was tweeted, he also posted these messages, back-to-back:
Large sections of WALL have already been built with much more either under construction or ready to go. Renovation of existing WALLS is also a very big part of the plan to finally, after many decades, properly Secure Our Border. The Wall is getting done one way or the other!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 31, 2019
Lets just call them WALLS from now on and stop playing political games! A WALL is a WALL!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 31, 2019
Further, the President was also eager to share his opinion with anyone who would listen that the negotiations going on in Congress are not going to be successful. He said:
I don't think they're going to make a deal. I see what's happening. They're all saying, "Oh, let's do this but we're not giving one dime to the wall." That's okay, but if they're not going to give money for the wall, it's not going to work. And if it's not going to work, then the politicians are really wasting a lot of time.
These are not the words of a man who is going to be satisfied with some sort of "threading the needle" kind of solution, like appropriating money for drones and x-rays and calling that a "virtual wall." If his position really is "$5.7 billion in new wall money or bust," then his prediction that it won't work out is dead on, since Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said on Thursday that, "There's not going to be any wall money in the legislation."
If Trump is not going to accept whatever compromise comes out of the committee, and he's not going to drop this issue, that leaves him with two options. The first, of course, is to shut down the government again. It hardly needs to be said that doing so went badly for the President and the GOP the first time, and that it would surely go even worse for them a second time, especially since the second one would presumably be even more difficult to bring to an end than the first one was. Further, Trump would be at serious risk of a rebellion, and an embarrassing veto override.
That means there is just one option remaining: Declaring a national emergency. That course of action would be consistent with the poll that Trump had campaign manager Brad Parscale conduct, in which a slight majority of respondents expressed support for the wall, but a slight majority also opposed another government shutdown. Be that as it may, a "national emergency" would allow him to be on the majority side of both questions, as he sees it. No wall would be built, at least not anytime soon, but at least he could go back to the base and claim progress without having to shut down the government again.
There is also another question worth asking: If Trump is going to declare an emergency anyhow, why doesn't he just get to it? We can think of only one answer to this question. Presumably, one or more folks in Trump's orbit have persuaded him that waiting three weeks will give him some cover to claim "Hey, I tried other approaches, and only resorted to 'national emergency' when nothing else worked." However, Trump himself is notably impatient and almost completely unable to delay gratification. He often struggles to wait for a day or two when doing so would be advisable, so for him three weeks is an eternity. He simply cannot keep a lid on it for that long. In undermining the negotiations with his tweets and his ongoing commentary, however, it means he's also undermining his own political cover. But he either does not see things that way, or he just does not care. (Z)
Yesterday, we had an item about the states of the Midwest/Rust Belt, and whether the Democrats can retake the White House without winning at least one of the states there that Donald Trump won in 2016 (Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Missouri, Indiana, and Ohio). The conclusion: It's doable, but the blue team would be left with virtually no margin of error.
It's still early, of course, but one new poll suggests the blue team might not have to worry too much. It's a WDIV/Detroit News poll done by Glengariff Group (a good polling house), and it's full of bad news for the President's standing among Michiganders. To wit:
- Enthusiasm for voting in 2020 is even higher than it was right before the 2018 "blue wave" election.
- His approval rating is 17 points underwater (38-55)
- Voters oppose the wall by a 21-point margin (58-37)
- 48.5% of voters say they will "definitely" vote for someone new in 2020, another 4.7% say they will "probably" do so, and 15% more say it "depends on who the Democratic nominee is."
- In hypothetical matchups, Trump trails Joe Biden by 13 points (53-40), Kamala Harris by 5 points (47-42), Bernie Sanders by 11 points (53-42), and Elizabeth Warren by 3 points (46-43).
It is those last two items that should be most worrisome for the President. It is pretty clear that his support is baked in at right around 42% of the Michigander vote, while a near-majority is already committed to voting against him, and a sizable minority is available to the blue team for the taking. Further, Trump isn't just losing to "generic Democrat," he's losing to every kind of Democrat the party might nominate, from progressive minority woman to old-school party-establishment white man. Given that the President won the Wolverine State by only 10,704 votes, he's obviously in a bad position.
If the Democratic candidate takes all of the EVs that Hillary Clinton won plus Michigan, then that would put them at 248, and would leave them with many paths to victory. Florida, with its newly arrived Puerto Ricans and its newly re-enfranchised felons would do it (277-161). Or, the Rust Belt states of Wisconsin and Pennsylvania would do it (278-260). Or, the hard-hit-by-the-tariff duo of Iowa and Ohio would do it (272-266). Or, the once-red-but-probably-now-purple North Carolina and Arizona would do it (274-264). It's still very early, and it's just one poll, but the position of the eventual Democratic nominee—whoever they might be—is looking pretty strong. (Z)
In addition to still being the Director of OMB, Mick Mulvaney is "Acting" White House Chief of Staff. Nobody has explained exactly what that means, or how long he is supposed to be "acting," a state of affairs that is likely a byproduct of Mulvaney not really wanting the job, but Donald Trump being unable to find anyone else suitable to do it. In any event, Politico reported on Thursday that Mulvaney is already plotting his next move: He really wants to take over the Dept. of Commerce.
Commerce currently has a leader, of course, in the form of Wilbur Ross. It had already been reported, back in November, that Ross was on thin ice and that Mulvaney was angling to replace him. However, "Mick the Knife" has apparently renewed his efforts in the last week or two, which suggests that: (1) Ross is a short-timer, regardless of who succeeds him, and (2) Mulvaney does not want to go down in flames, as Reince Priebus/John Kelly did, and does not want to be a part of whatever Donald Trump is going to do on the wall-funding front. It's not impossible that Mulvaney could land the Commerce gig and still be Chief of Staff (after all, that would be the same number of posts he currently holds). However, Mulvaney presumably would try to avoid that setup. And even if Ross stays on, or if someone else takes over Commerce, it seems likely that Mulvaney is going to push soon for his time as chief of staff to come to an end. (Z)
Speaking of appointments, there are two open seats on the Federal Reserve Board of Governors and, after Nellie Liang withdrew from consideration, only one Trump nominee to fill them. In view of this, according to Bloomberg News, Donald Trump interviewed former Godfather's Pizza CEO and 2012 GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain as a possible nominee for the open seat.
Trump's thinking here is plain. Outside of the occasional Ben Carson, this administration is so white it could sneak across the Alaska-Canada border en masse. Cain would add a little diversity, such as it is. Further, Cain was chair of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City's board of directors for several years. So, he must be qualified for a promotion, right?
Maybe not so much. The directors of the various local branches of the Fed are a glorified luncheon club that meets once a month to chat over finger sandwiches and to make recommendations that the actual bankers at the Fed largely ignore. Beyond that, Cain has had a number of accusations of sexual harassment and misconduct lodged against him. Oh, and he has no training in economics or economic policy.
There is also one other problem, at least from Trump's vantage point. Cain's stated views on economic policy, particularly on interest rates (he likes 'em high), are basically the polar opposite of the President's positions. For that reason alone, it's unlikely that Cain gets the nod. And if he does, then it's more evidence that Trump really does value appearances over substance. (Z)
He's about to jump in, so we are going to get this in just under the wire. But not by much. 15 minutes after we posted this profile, Booker chucked his hat in the already crowded ring.
- Full Name: Cory Anthony Booker
- Age on January 20, 2021: 51
- Background: Born to parents who were among the first black executives
at IBM, Booker is yet another Democratic candidate with a résumé that wouldn't be
believable if he was a fictional character. In both high school (Northern Valley Regional High)
and college (Stanford), he was class president, a football letterman, and a straight-A student.
After earning his BA in political science and MA in sociology at Stanford, he was chosen as a Rhodes Scholar,
and took a third degree (in U.S. history) at Oxford. Then it was back to the States, and a law degree from
Yale. While in law school, he ran free legal clinics for the poor, and volunteered for
Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. After graduation, he worked as a staff attorney for the
Urban Justice Center and as program coordinator of the Newark Youth Project. None of his published
biographies say that he helped little old ladies across the street, or that he rescued babies
from burning buildings, but he probably did those things, too. (Note: Since posting this, we
have heard from readers that he has indeed
someone from a burning building).
- Political Experience: In 1998, just shy of his 30th birthday, Booker
won a seat on the Newark Municipal Council. He was a lefty, even by the standards of New Jersey, and
attracted a lot of attention for various dramatic gestures, like going on a 10-day hunger strike
to draw attention to the city's problem with drug dealers, and then living in a tent near the drug-infested
parts of town. In 2002, after two terms on the municipal council, Booker ran for mayor and lost. He took
advantage of the downtime to found Newark Now, which raises money for urban renewal. In 2006, he launched
a second mayoral bid, and won a landslide victory with 72% of the vote. He was reelected in 2010,
and then in 2013 announced he was going to run for the U.S. Senate seat from which Democrat Frank
Lautenberg was retiring (although, as it turned out, Lautenberg died before he could finish his term).
Booker won that election with 59% of the vote, and is now in the latter half of his first term.
- Signature Issue(s): Urban renewal. All of his most notable political
successes, including reducing the numbers of guns, poor people, and drugs on the street, have to do
with reinventing America's cities. In fact, in 2009, while still mayor of Newark, he was offered and
declined leadership of the White House Office of Urban Affairs. Booker is also famously pro-physical
fitness and pro-healthy eating (he is himself a vegan), but those are not the stuff from which
the center plank of a political platform is fashioned.
- Instructive Quote: "The drug war has been a war where the direct
casualties have primarily been America's poor; America's minorities; and often, unfortunately,
America's vulnerable, in terms of people with disease and addiction and mental health."
- Completely Trivial Fact: If elected, Booker would be the fourth president
to have lettered in football in college, following Ronald Reagan, Gerald Ford, and Dwight D. Eisenhower.
If we add other sports to the list, then the presidential lettermen's club also includes William
Howard Taft (wrestling) and George H.W. Bush (baseball). JFK and Richard Nixon also played college
football, but neither was good enough to see the field, even at not-exactly-powerhouses Harvard
and Whittier College.
- Recent News: Booker learned this week that although it was
against the rules for him to make public a bunch of e-mails related to Brett Kavanaugh
back in September, he's not
going to be sanctioned.
- Three Biggest Pros: (1) If there is any candidate in this year's field
who can be Obama v2.0, it is Booker; (2) In 2016, Bernie Sanders had trouble with minority voters,
and Hillary Clinton had trouble with progressive voters—Booker should appeal to both groups;
and (3) If there's one type of candidate that Trump cannot use his bullying/attack politics against,
it's tough guys from New Jersey. Recall that Marco Rubio had small hands, Ted Cruz's dad helped kill
Kennedy, and Jeb Bush was low-energy, but nary a word was said about the gives-as-good-as-he-gets
Chris Christie. Booker, by all evidences, is even tougher than Christie is.
- Three Biggest Cons: (1) The blue team isn't going to be making any
inroads with rural voters if they choose the former mayor of Newark as their candidate; (2) A
candidate's wife is generally an invaluable surrogate during campaign season, but Booker is not (and
never has been) married; and (3) As it currently stands, Booker will simultaneously run for the White
House and for reelection to the Senate (which is legal thanks to a recent change to state law his fellow New Jersey Democrats rammed through); that could be a turnoff for some voters.
- Is He Actually Running?: Yes. He's
calling colleagues on the Hill, and asking them for their support.
Although he announced today, Booker laments that he allowed Kamala Harris to lay claim to MLK, Jr. week for her
- Betting Odds: He's getting anywhere from 25-to-1 to 16-to-1, implying
a 4-6% chance of getting the nod.
- The Bottom Line: The betting odds are probably underselling Booker, as he is one of the Democrats' strongest candidates. In particular, he will benefit from the fact that there aren't any candidates that are highly similar to him. In other words, there's no Elizabeth Warren to his Kirsten Gillibrand, or Jon Tester to his Steve Bullock.
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 email@example.com.Email a link to a friend or share:
---The Votemaster and Zenger
Jan31 What's an Emolument, Actually?
Jan31 McConnell Opposes Bill to Make Election Day a Federal Holiday
Jan31 Which Democrat Can Beat Trump?
Jan31 Trump Is Way Up with (Only) White Working-Class Men
Jan31 Schultz Is Serious about Running
Jan31 Can the Democrats Concede the Midwest?
Jan31 Could Texas Be the New California?
Jan31 Thursday Q&A
Jan30 Coats Breaks with Trump
Jan30 Stone Pleads Not Guilty
Jan30 Abrams, Becerra to Give Responses to Trump SOTU
Jan30 GOP Hasn't Staffed House Intelligence Committee Yet
Jan30 Invisible Primary Claims Another Victim
Jan30 Tulsi Gabbard's Campaign is Flailing
Jan30 Some Democrats Are Talking About a Primary Challenge for Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
Jan29 Mueller Probe Reportedly Nearing Its End
Jan29 White House Won't Rule Out Stone Pardon
Jan29 State of the Union Scheduled for February 5
Jan29 Harris Veers Hard Left
Jan29 Clinton Keeps Door Open on 2020 Run
Jan29 Shooting Yourself in the Foot, Part I: The Arizona GOP
Jan29 Shooting Yourself in the Foot, Part II: The California GOP
Jan28 Stone Might Not Stonewall
Jan28 Mulvaney: Trump Will Use Executive Power to Build the Wall
Jan28 The Last Shutdown Might Be the Last Shutdown
Jan28 Sanders Is Expected to Announce a Run Imminently
Jan28 President Schultz?
Jan28 President Coulter?
Jan28 Monday Q&A
Jan26 Our Long National Nightmare Is Over (For Three Weeks, at Least)
Jan26 Stone Indictment Is Bad News for Team Trump
Jan26 Invisible Primary Claims Its First Victim
Jan25 Shutdown Inches Closer to Either Resolution or "National Emergency"
Jan25 Shutdown's Effects Grow More Serious Every Day
Jan25 Roger Stone Arrested
Jan25 Cohen Subpoenaed by the Senate Intelligence Committee
Jan25 Koch Network Won't Back Trump in 2020
Jan25 NBA Champions Visit President
Jan25 Democratic Presidential Candidate of the Week: Pete Buttigieg
Jan24 Cohen Postpones Testimony Due to Trump's Threats
Jan24 Trump Announces He Will Deliver the SOTU Speech as Planned—Or Not
Jan24 Buttigieg Is In
Jan24 The Conservative Take on the Democratic 2020 Primaries
Jan24 Kansas Republicans Are Scared of Kobach
Jan24 Why Is There No Liberal Federalist Society?
Jan24 Judge May End Stormy Daniels Lawsuit
Jan24 Thursday Q&A
Jan23 Senate to Perform Some Bipartisan Kabuki
Jan23 Giuliani Is in the Doghouse