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TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  About That Citizenship Question...
      •  Trump Lashes Out, Part I: Mueller
      •  Trump Lashes Out, Part II: Mexico
      •  Moore Punches Back
      •  Kushner Peace Plan
      •  Democratic Presidential Candidate Update: Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)

About That Citizenship Question...

In a few weeks, the Supreme Court will decide whether or not the Trump administration is allowed to add a citizenship question to the next census. Administration officials have sworn, up and down, cross their hearts and hope to die, that their intent is not discriminatory and that they certainly had no thought of causing undocumented immigrants to be undercounted. The lower courts that have already heard the case weren't buying it. And now, as zero hour approaches, some new and quite damning evidence makes clear that Team Trump is full of it.

The new evidence comes from the computer of Thomas B. Hofeller, a longtime GOP activist and strategist, who died back in August. His particular expertise, which was much in demand, was gerrymandering. And after his passing, his daughter—from whom he was estranged—discovered vast amounts of information related to the citizenship question on his computer and hard drives. He conducted studies of how the GOP would benefit from the undercounting of undocumented immigrants. He wrote missives to Republican pooh bahs and to members of the Trump administration urging them to take this action. And once the President and his team were on board, Hofeller helped draft the Justice Department letter that announced and justified the decision. Ultimately, all of this material was turned over to watchdog activist group Common Cause.

When SCOTUS heard arguments in the case back in April, it appeared to observers that a 5-4 decision in favor of the administration was coming down the pike. Will this new information change that outcome? It might. On one hand, Chief Justice John Roberts is generally supportive of gerrymanders and other such maneuvering, and he wrote the majority decision in the case that effectively struck down the Voting Rights Act of 1965. On the other hand, as the guy most concerned with the Court's reputation, a 5-4 decision here would stink to high heaven. There is now overwhelming evidence that the administration intended to use the census to do something that is both undemocratic and illegal and, knowing that was the case, lied about it. Can five different justices really look past that? We will know by the time the calendar turns to July.

This is a hugely important case and could help the Republicans dominate Congress and the state legislatures for a decade, so a true conservative like Roberts is probably itching to allow the question on the census. He could personally write the opinion and base it entirely on the fact that Congress passed a law giving the Secretary of Commerce the authority to determine the census questions and that the Secretary is merely exercising power Congress gave to him. However worded, this would be a huge win for the Republicans. This is merely speculation, but Roberts could try to deflect some of the heat by shortly thereafter ruling that Deutsche Bank has to give Congress whatever documents it wants and maybe even that Don McGahn et al., must obey subpoenas to testify. We'll see. (Z & V)

Trump Lashes Out, Part I: Mueller

It is a well-established pattern by now: When Donald Trump is frightened, angry, or both, he lashes out. And given how badly upset he is about Robert Mueller's remarks earlier this week, it was entirely predictable that he spent Thursday pitching an extended fit, one directed in the direction of Mueller and all of the other usual suspects: the FBI, the deep state, the Democrats, etc. It started on Twitter, spilled over into a press conference, and then returned to Twitter. He even retweeted one of his own tweets declaring himself to be innocent.

Most of what the President said is standard stuff by now, and so isn't especially interesting. However, there was this, among the stream of tweets and complaints:

It might be easy to miss that Trump made quite the unforced error in his fit of pique. Certainly, he missed it. Anyhow, the first of the two tweets marks the first time that Trump has admitted that Russia helped him win the election. Previously, it's been constant denials, despite all evidence to the contrary. The president attempted to back off his words later in the day, but he wrote what he wrote. That means that twice in one day, the administration has been caught red-handed in a rather sizable fib, thanks to their own computer evidence. Apparently, it's not only Democratic politicians who are lousy with computers. (Z)

Trump Lashes Out, Part II: Mexico

Robert Mueller & Co. were not Donald Trump's only target on Thursday as he vented his sound and his fury. He also turned to another favorite, namely immigrants. The first target of the day was actually immigrants from Central America, as the President declared that he may try to end asylum for all people from that part of the world. Later in the day, however, Trump's eyes turned to Mexico, as the White House announced that a brand new 5% tariff would be imposed "on all goods imported from Mexico," starting on June 10, as punishment for not doing enough to curb immigration. If the folks down South continue to fail to live up to the President's expectations, the rates would go up to 10% by July, 15% by August, 20% by September, and would reach a permanent level of 25% by October.

This undoubtedly marks the first trade war in American history to be prompted by a temper tantrum. On the other hand, maybe there's some method to the madness. If the administration really does impose the tariffs, and then uses that money to pay for the border wall, it will set Trump up to say that he not only got the wall built, but that he delivered on his promise to make Mexico pay for it. That would not be true, but it wouldn't stop the President from saying it, and it wouldn't stop the base from believing it. Team Trump might even be able to make that arrangement fly with the courts, as opposed to taking the funds from the Dept. of Defense. Undoubtedly, the Senate isn't going to say 'boo.'

With that said, one GOP senator did say 'boo' on Thursday. That would be Chuck Grassley (R-IA), who just so happens to represent a state that would be hurt badly by the tariff. He called the newly announced tariffs "a misuse of presidential tariff authority." However, he's spoken up on this subject before, and nothing's come of it, so there's no reason to expect a different outcome this time. Notably, Grassley did not introduce legislation to repeal the law that gives the president the authority to levy tariffs under certain circumstances. A profile in courage this is not. Whether Trump and the GOP pay a price at the polls next November is a different question. However, the President undoubtedly doesn't give a damn, even if that does come to pass. He lives in the now, not the 17 months from now. (Z)

Moore Punches Back

The Donalds Trump, both Senior and Junior, have made clear that they do not want Roy Moore to take another crack at Jeff Sessions' old U.S. Senate seat. Given that Moore was happy to defy the Supreme Court when they told him to remove the Ten Commandments from his courtroom several years back, it should be no surprise that he has no real regard for the opinion of the executive branch, either. On Thursday, he talked to Politico, and declared that, "The President doesn't control who votes for the United States Senate in Alabama. People in Alabama are smarter than that. They elect the senator from Alabama, not from Washington, D.C."

This story undoubtedly sent the folks at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee into paroxysms of glee. A person does not make a statement like that unless they intend to run, so we can pretty much pencil Moore in right now. Meanwhile, the single-biggest hedge he has against all of his flaws (the lack of experience, the bigotry, the child molestation) is Donald Trump's coattails. If Moore is going to do everything he can to trim those coattails, then there literally could not be a better scenario for the blue team when it comes to Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL) possibly keeping his seat for another six years. (Z)

Kushner Peace Plan

Anyone who tries to achieve lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians is facing long odds. Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama failed, and that is a list that includes four skilled diplomats and two Nobel peace laureates. The odds grow even longer when the person who is trying to bring peace has zero experience or expertise in diplomacy, or in the issues that shape that part of the world. Jared Kushner, for example, who was assigned the task by his father-in-law. And this week's developments in Israeli politics probably put the final nail in the coffin for his efforts.

The details of the Kushner plan are not publicly known, but what is known is that the Palestinians are absolutely not buying what he is selling, and the Israelis are not on board yet, either. The First Son-in-Law was actually in Jerusalem to try to rally support for the secret plan this week. So, he had a front row seat when talks to form a new government collapsed and a new election was called. While the Trump-friendly Benjamin Netanyahu regime will remain in power until at least September, it's in no position to negotiate long-term deals right now. And once the new government is in place, Donald Trump will be gearing up for the 2020 election, and will be in pretty much the same situation—unable to make long-term deals. So, Kushner will have to hope that his efforts to end opioid addiction and/or to reinvent the federal government bear fruit, because this looks to be a dead end. (Z)

Democratic Presidential Candidate Update: Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)

Now that the Democratic field is set, we are going to start revisiting the candidates. The first round was meant to introduce each of the candidates, and to consider them in the context of the general election. The second round will focus on the state of their campaign as of the date of the update, and consider them in the context of the Democratic primaries.

Here is our original profile of Gillibrand.

Kirsten Gillibrand
  • Where Have They Been Recently?: As we have noted several times, taking a look at where the candidate is spending their time affords some insight into their current strategy. In Gillibrand's case, as a sitting senator, she's tied down to Washington much of the time. When she's able to get away, she's made token visits to Nevada (which is a wildcard), New Hampshire (which is Sanders territory), and South Carolina (which is certainly out of reach for her). Her focus, then, is Iowa. She's had five events there in the last week, covering such major metropolises as Waterloo, Charles City, and Fort Dodge.

  • Recent News: The Senator was one of several Democratic candidates this week who flipped to the "impeach" camp after hearing what former special counsel Robert Mueller had to say. She's also made a point of talking about her religious beliefs, and ruffled a few feathers by declaring that, "I don't think the Republican Party is a faith-driven party. I really don't."

  • Offbeat News: Gillibrand produced her first widely propagated meme of the campaign back in February, and not by design. She was holding a meet-and-greet/town hall type of event at a bar (in Iowa, naturally) and a young lady was determinedly making her way through the crowd. Sensing an eager supporter, Gillibrand asked her what she would like to know. The answer was, "I'm just trying to get some ranch [dressing]." A bit embarrassing, to rank below a condiment on the "items of interest" list, but the Senator is making the best of it:

  • Finances: For Q1, the most recent quarter candidates have filed disclosures for, Gillibrand's take was modest: $3 million. However she transferred $10 million from her Senate account, giving her $12 million to play with after paying her Q1 bills. That puts her fourth in the Democratic field, behind three of her fellow Senators: Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Kamala Harris (D-CA).

  • Polls: Gillibrand's best showing in the polls is 1% support. She's reached that (very modest) level several times, most recently in the Quinnipiac poll released on May 21. Her average across all major polls is 0.4%.

  • What Did We Guess Her Signature Issue Would Be?: MeToo.

  • What Appears to Be Her Signature Issue Now?: For obvious reasons, she's been making abortion rights the centerpiece of her campaign. That's certainly MeToo-adjacent. She's also been trying out a line that Donald Trump is waging a "War on Women." If that lands, it would allow the Senator to squeeze MeToo, abortion rights, the wage gap, Planned Parenthood, maternal leave, etc., into one tidy package.

  • Strengths for the Democratic Primaries: (1) New York is a big state, and there's only one other New Yorker in the field (Bill de Blasio); (2) She's got the inside lane when it comes to women's issues, and has a chance to become the face of the abortion law resistance; and (3) Few members of the blue team are as good at branding and rebranding themselves as she is.

  • Weaknesses for the Democratic Primaries: (1) New York may be a big state, but its primary is pretty late in the process (April 28)—Gillibrand may not hang on that long; (2) Can a campaign based entirely on women's issues get votes from the 48% of the electorate that is not female?; (3) On a related note, there is a backlash emerging in response to the Senator's takedown of former colleague Al Franken, aided in part by the fact that Franken has just launched a fairly popular podcast.

  • Gillibrand on Trump: "President Trump is tearing apart the moral fabric of this country. He demonizes the vulnerable and he punches down. He puts his name in bold on every building. He does all of this because he wants us to believe he is strong. He is not. Our President is a coward." (3/24/19)

  • Trump on Gillibrand: "Lightweight Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a total flunky for Chuck Schumer and someone who would come to my office 'begging' for campaign contributions not so long ago (and would do anything for them), is now in the ring fighting against Trump. Very disloyal to Bill & Crooked-USED!" (12/12/17)

  • The Bottom Line: Of the folks expected to be heavy hitters as the campaign was getting underway, Gillibrand has probably gotten the least traction. All the money in the kitty gives her a fair bit of time to turn things around, but she's got her work cut out for her.

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)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
May30 Mueller: Congress, the Ball is in Your Court
May30 How the Media Reported Mueller's Speech
May30 Fox News Legal Analyst: Mueller Wanted to Indict Trump but Couldn't
May30 Trump Is Restructuring His Legal Team
May30 Perez Raises the Bar for the Third Debate
May30 Poll: Americans Don't Believe China Is Paying the Tariffs
May30 National Journal Ranks the Most Competitive Senate Races
May30 Trump Warns Moore Not to Run for the Senate
May30 Democrat Jaime Harrison Will Challenge Lindsey Graham
May30 Not so Fast, Bibi
May30 Thursday Q&A
May29 To Impeach or Not to Impeach, That Is the Question
May29 SCOTUS Sends Mixed Messages on Abortion
May29 McConnell to Ginsburg: Don't Die
May29 Elaine Chao Turns Out to Be Kinda Swampy
May29 The States of the Democratic Field
May29 Roy Moore Plans to Run
May29 Texas Secretary of State Falls on His Sword
May28 Trump Sides With Kim Again
May28 Bolton Under Attack
May28 Judge Halts Border Wall Construction
May28 Trump's Clumsy Legal Strategy
May28 Bernie Sanders Wants to Be President
May28 The War Against Climate Science Is in Full Swing
May28 Voter Registration Meets Voter Suppression
May28 With Women Candidates, GOP Not Putting Its Money Where Its Mouth Is
May28 Faithless Electors Hit With Fines
May27 In Japan, Trump Plays Golf and Supports Kim Jong-Un
May27 Deutsche Bank Case Will Be Expedited
May27 Some Candidates Are Betting the Farm on the Early States
May27 SCOTUS Blocks Gerrymandering Rulings
May27 Perez Is Scared Witless of the One Percenters
May27 Buttigieg Is Pushing for a Massive Q2 Money Haul
May27 Republicans Have Spent $4 Million at Trump Properties
May27 Trump Takes Steps that Hurt His Base--Again
May27 Facebook Will Not Remove Doctored Pelosi Video
May27 EU Elections Go Against Trend, Sort Of
May27 Monday Q&A
May24 D.C. Appeals Court Will Expedite Ruling on Trump's Accountants
May24 Robbing Peter to Pay Paul?
May24 Spring Storm Was Apparently a Summer Breeze
May24 Another Day, Another Indictment
May24 Secretaries of State Give Trump Headaches
May24 Democrats: State of the Race
May24 Alabamians Want More Moore
May24 Tillis a Top Target...for Republicans
May24 The Backlash Continues...
May24 ...And it Claims Another Victim
May23 Trump Storms Out of Meeting with Pelosi and Schumer
May23 Judge Allows Deutsche Bank Subpoena to Stand