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TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  Trump Administration to Launch Another Crackdown on Undocumented Immigrants
      •  Mulvaney: Secret Mexico Deal May Remain Secret Forever
      •  Iran Situation Is Deteriorating
      •  Bad Numbers All Around for Trump
      •  Democrats Prepare Ad Blitz
      •  SCOTUS Hands Democrats Two Wins
      •  Rep. Katie Porter Endorses Impeachment Proceedings

Trump Administration to Launch Another Crackdown on Undocumented Immigrants

Late Monday night, presumably while waiting for his evening cocoa, Donald Trump went on a Twitter rampage. It was mostly the usual suspects: "Fake News," "Crooked Hillary," "No Collusion, No Obstruction!," and the expected crowd for tonight's rally all made an appearance. However, the President also announced plans for a new, apparently imminent, crackdown on illegal immigrants:

Trump is presumably telling the truth here—or some version of it, at least. ICE hardly has the means to arrest and detain/deport "millions" of people at once. "Thousands," on the other hand, is doable. In fact, this appears to be the implementation of the plan that was a bridge too far for former DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, and that led to her departure and that of acting ICE director Ronald Vitiello back in April. That suggests that what happens in the next few weeks is not going to be pretty. In fact, before Trump spilled the beans, it was already known that the government was preparing Fort Sill, Oklahoma for use in holding 1,400 immigrant children. That would be the same Fort Sill that was originally built to aid in "pacifying" the Native Americans, and that was used during World War II as a Japanese internment camp. Optics? Who needs optics?

And now it is time for everyone's favorite parlor game: What prompted Trump to send these tweets? Here are the obvious explanations that present themselves:

  1. In view of tonight's rally, which marks the official launch of his 2020 campaign, he wants to start out with a "bang" that reminds anyone who has forgotten that he's the anti-immigration president.

  2. He's upset about all of the adverse internal polls that caused him to fire several staffers, and thinks this will improve his numbers.

  3. He's upset about all of the adverse internal polls that caused him to fire several staffers, and thinks this will take attention away from that story.

  4. All of the above

The one thing we can be certain of is this: it takes many months of careful and diligent planning for ICE to execute a maneuver like this. If their plans are tipped, it increases the risk faced by ICE officers, and it significantly increases the risk that their targets will have vanished by the time they arrive. This is not our opinion; during last year's crackdown, Oakland mayor Libby Schaaf tipped off the residents of her city, and the Dept. of Justice blew a gasket. Then-ICE deputy director Thomas D. Homan blasted Schaaf's decision as "irresponsible," said that she allowed "hundreds" of undocumented immigrants to elude the authorities, and declared that she put federal officers' lives in jeopardy. Consequently, the DoJ threatened to slap Schaaf with...wait for it...obstruction of justice charges. In view of Trump's tweets, we can only assume he will be promptly charged with obstruction by the DoJ, too. Right? (Z)

Mulvaney: Secret Mexico Deal May Remain Secret Forever

It is questionable that the Trump administration's recent arrangement with the government of Mexico to detain asylum-seekers while they await their hearings is going to do much to curb undocumented immigration to the United States. In fact, it could very well make it worse, by causing people to decide not to roll the dice waiting for legal asylum, and instead to take their chances with illegal entry. And, regardless of the efficacy of the plan, the administration's pretense that it came about due to the President's skilled diplomacy was cut off at the knees when it leaked out that the deal was actually hammered out months ago, by the now-departed Kirstjen Nielsen.

In an effort to save face, Donald Trump and his team have claimed that there is a secret element to the agreement that will have substantial benefits, but that cannot be revealed at this time. And on Monday, "Acting" White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney stopped coughing long enough to declare that the public may never know what the secret part of the deal is, merely that they will know it exists when they see its benefits.

This is so very convenient that it is hard to take seriously, especially from an administration that has already lied repeatedly about other "secret" plans, like the secret plan to defeat ISIS and the secret plan to replace Obamacare. And Mexico, for their part, claims there is no secret deal. But let us imagine for a moment that Trump is being truthful, or at least semi-truthful. There is, of course, a word for a legal agreement between nations—it's called a "treaty." And treaties do not carry the force of law in Mexico until they are approved by the Mexican Senate. The same is also true in the U.S., of course. If the administration can somehow secure ratification from both of those bodies and still keep things on the down-low, that will be quite the feat of magic, indeed. And if they do not secure ratification, or don't even try, then the alleged secret agreement is not worth the paper it's (probably) not written on. (Z)

Iran Situation Is Deteriorating

Speaking of foreign policy, Trump-style, things are not going very well with Iran these days. There have been several attacks on oil tankers in that part of the world, and intelligence suggests that the Iranians are behind those attacks. More significantly, perhaps, the Iranian government has announced that since they are being sanctioned by the U.S. (and other countries, at the instigation of the U.S.), they will disregard the limits on uranium enrichment that they agreed to as part of the Obama-era nuclear deal.

In the short term, the Trump administration has responded to these developments by deploying 1,000 additional troops to the Middle East. Further, the Jerusalem Post is reporting that some sort of tactical assault on the Iranians is planned for Thursday. We shall see if that comes to pass, but Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and NSA John Bolton are undoubtedly dancing in the streets right now, as they have longed to hit Iran for years.

Long term, Donald Trump has created a real pickle for himself. He could, of course, escalate this to the point of war. However, readers who can remember all the way back to the George W. Bush years may recall that invading Middle Eastern nations does not tend to work out all that well. Oh, it's easy enough to topple the government, if that is what the U.S. wants to do. But stabilizing the country afterward takes an enormous commitment in terms of time, money, and manpower. To be more precise, the generally accepted figure is roughly 1 soldier per every 40 members of the foreign populace, for a period of no less than 10 years. America was unwilling to make that sort of commitment in Iraq (750,000 soldiers or so), which left that nation with a shaky government and helped give rise to ISIS. One might argue about exactly how much of a commitment is needed (1 soldier per 50 civilians? 1 per 60?), but what one cannot argue is that Iran is more than twice as large as Iraq in terms of population (82 million people to 38 million), and six times larger in terms of area. So if the U.S. was unwilling or unable to make the necessary commitment to properly rebuild Iraq, then it surely cannot or will not make the necessary commitment to rebuild Iran, should it come to that.

There are additional considerations that make the path of war a tricky one. First of all, Donald Trump ran for office as an anti-war, isolationist candidate—one who specifically blasted the invasion of Iraq. If he starts a war in Iran, that may be the only thing—besides an economic collapse—that could cause his base to rebel against him. The President also has an intelligence problem (no, not one related to the cognitive decline we've alleged). The United States' intelligence-gathering in the Middle East has always been tricky, and domestic and international faith in that intel took a big hit when it turned out Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction after all. Trump, for his part, has badmouthed America's intelligence pros for two years, alternating between accusations of incompetence and outright treason. He can hardly turn around and use whatever intelligence the U.S. has to rally the support of the American public, or of other nations, for military action against Iran, if that's what he wants to do.

Alternatively, Trump could try to de-escalate the situation. However, that's not generally his style. Further, his actions thus far have completely undermined Iran's trust in him, given that he did not discuss the Obama-era nuclear deal with them in good faith. The Iranians also see Trump, not without reason, as being on the side of their enemies, namely Israel and Saudi Arabia. The very best case scenario available, if diplomacy is the preferred option, would be to resume the Obama-era nuclear deal. This is not to say that accord is perfect, merely that it's the best option that is still plausible. However, the Iranians probably wouldn't go for it at this point, and Trump definitely wouldn't go for it, since he loathes anything and everything Obama.

Time will tell, but with two hawks—particularly Bolton—encouraging aggressive action, don't be too surprised if the U.S. backs into a war with Iran. (Z)

Bad Numbers All Around for Trump

When Donald Trump gets bad polling numbers from his campaign staffers, he can (and does) fire them. When he gets them from Fox, he doesn't exactly have that option. Instead, following a dismal Fox poll that affirmed Trump's underdog status against most of the Democratic field, the President took this approach:

It's really remarkable how much eyebrow-raising stuff he can fit into no more than 280 characters. To start, outside of Rasmussen, Fox News polls have always provided his best numbers. In fact, he's bragged about Fox polling results many, many times, including as recently as three weeks ago:

As to Trump's claim that his campaign's internal polling shows him leading in "all 17 Swing States," does anyone actually believe that? Does even Trump believe it? Are there even 17 swing states? A recent ABC News poll has Trump ahead of Joe Biden by just 2% in Texas, so if Texas has become a swing state, maybe there are 17.

And then there is the pooh-poohing of ABC News. That's also a lie, unless one believes that George Stephanopoulos has suddenly developed a penchant for telling wild and easily disprovable falsehoods. That said, Trump's response is not surprising, because if there is one thing he hates more than bad polls, it's bad ratings. And his numbers for the ABC interview were lousy, trailing far behind both 60 Minutes on CBS and U.S. Open golf coverage on Fox. Trump also did half the ratings of the program in the same slot on ABC last week: Celebrity Family Feud.

It is not easy to be more boring than golf, and it must be galling for a reality-star president to be outdrawn by a game show that's been on the air (in various forms) for more than 40 years. We've pointed this out before, but when he was a literal reality star, as host of The Apprentice, he proved to be a one- (or maybe two-) trick pony, and his ratings declined noticeably over time (with upticks for "Celebrity" editions). If the current reality show is no longer holding people's interest, then it could be a real problem for the Trump 2020 campaign, given his reliance on literally hundreds of millions of dollars in free advertising that his stunts and shenanigans got him in 2016. (Z)

Democrats Prepare Ad Blitz

Donald Trump may not be getting as much free advertising this time around, but regardless, the Democrats aren't taking any chances. They don't want him to spend the next 12 months coasting while the vast field of Democratic presidential candidates knocks the stuffing out of one another. So, they are planning a massive ad buy to try to counter the advantage the President enjoys from being effectively unopposed.

How massive? Well, over the next year, super PACs controlled by the DNC will spend a staggering $150 million on print, television, and digital ads. Their efforts will be supplemented by those of outside groups and donors, like billionaire Tom Steyer, pushing the overall total closer to a quarter of a billion dollars. Some of the advertising will poke Trump in the eye, another portion will be devoted to explaining and promoting Democratic proposals, while significant attention will also be paid to explaining to people how to register to vote, and encouraging them to do so.

Undoubtedly, Democrats across the country will be delighted to hear that their party is not taking Will Rogers' old line—"I'm not a member of any organized party; I'm a Democrat"—to heart. On the other hand, the month or so of political ads that Americans get peppered with around the primaries, and then again around the general, is now going to be extended to fill pretty much all of the next 16 months. Nobody can be too happy about that. (Z)

SCOTUS Hands Democrats Two Wins

Admittedly, these two Supreme Court cases don't have much in common, beyond being handed down on the same day, and being favorable to the Democrats. Nonetheless, the first, Terance Gamble v. U.S., was about double jeopardy, and whether or not someone can be convicted in both federal and state court for the same offense. Specifically, Gamble got convicted of a gun-related offense in Alabama, and then got an additional three years for the same offense in federal court. On Monday, SCOTUS ruled 7-2 that double jeopardy does not protect Gamble. This was unhappy news for the associates of Donald Trump, like Paul Manafort, who are currently facing both federal and state-level sentences for the same bad behavior. It was also unhappy news for Trump himself, since it affirms that any pardons he issues (or that are issued by others, for his benefit) will not help him in state court.

In the second case, Virginia Republicans wanted to return to the state's older, more gerrymandered maps, and Virginia (and national) Democrats wanted to stick with the new, less gerrymandered maps that were drawn in accordance with state law and decisions made by state courts. SCOTUS ruled that the new maps will stand. This does not constitute a definitive statement on the question of the gerrymander, since the questions the case raised were particular to Virginia law. However, it does increase the odds that this November, the blue team will take the two seats they need in each chamber of the state legislature to have a trifecta in the Old Dominion State.

The decision in the second case, incidentally, was 5-4. That's not so surprising these days, but what is surprising is the list of justices that made up the 5: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Clarence Thomas, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, and Neil Gorsuch. That's not a list you see every day. Or ever, for that matter. Again, the Virginia case raised issues distinct to that state, but this list nonetheless makes clear that anyone who is trying to predict what the Court will do about gerrymandering is on a fool's errand. (Z)

Rep. Katie Porter Endorses Impeachment Proceedings

On Monday, Rep. Katie Porter (D-CA) announced that, "After weeks of study, deliberation and conversations with Orange County families, I've decided to support an impeachment investigation of the president." That makes her roughly the 60th member of the House to publicly support impeachment.

So, is #60 really a bigger deal than #59? Maybe. First of all, the list just keeps getting longer. Every week, one or two or three more members comes out in favor of impeachment. By contrast, we are unaware of anyone who has said, "You know, I did say we should impeach, but now I've thought better of it." So, the trendline is definitely not heading in a good direction for Donald Trump.

More importantly, however, is that Porter's district is CA-45. That's an R+3 swing district in the formerly Republican bastion of Orange County. She and Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-NJ) are the only swing district members to come out publicly for impeachment thus far. If they are the canaries in the coal mine, however, then that is all kinds of bad news for Trump & Co. First, it suggests that pro-impeachment sentiment is not merely the province of outspoken leftists, but also of moderates. And if so, that 60 is going to keep growing. Second, it suggests that the many swing districts the GOP lost in 2018 aren't returning to the fold in 2020. And third, it also suggests that the fiscally conservative but socially liberal suburbanites that were the Republicans' bread and butter for generations may well be lost for good. (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
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