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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Rudy Tuesday

In Defying the Odds, we discuss Russian involvement in the 2016 campaign

Jim VandeHei at Axios:
In remarks that he yesterday tried to walk back as "hypothetical," Giuliani admitted Trump's team may have been working on — and updating him on — a potential Trump Tower in Moscow all the way up to Election Day.

This possibility is a huge deal for four reasons:
  • Giuliani suggested that then-candidate Trump was aware of — and discussed — the deal far longer than previously disclosed. Giuliani, relaying a quote from the president that hardly sounds hypothetical, said in an interview with the N.Y. Times that Trump had told him the Trump Tower Moscow discussions were "going on from the day I announced to the day I won."
  • That would mean Trump was being untruthful or highly misleading with his repeated campaign denials of any Moscow business dealings, as late as his Oct. 9 debate with Hillary Clinton: "I don’t deal there."
  • This would mean Trump was cooking up a business deal with Vladimir Putin’s Russia while calling for warmer relations with Russia and questioning the U.S. role in Putin’s nemesis, NATO.
  • And Russian officials would have had negative information to hold over Trump, during the election and after. They would have known Trump was misleading the American people about his Moscow deal.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Vipers and Riffraff


At The Guardian, Lloyd Green reviews Team of Vipers, a tell-all by former Trump staffer Cliff Sims.
Sarah Sanders, Trump’s press secretary, possessed a casual attitude toward truth-telling when it came to the press, according to the book. In Sims’ words, Sanders “didn’t press as hard as she could have for the rock-bottom truth”, adding that her “gymnastics with the truth would tax even the nimblest of prevaricators, and Sanders was not that”. At least Sims believes that Sanders was not a “natural liar”.

Likewise, Kellyanne Conway, the high priestess of “alternative facts”, comes in for her share of incoming. Sims spills the beans on Conway repeatedly trashing Jared Kushner, Reince Priebus, Steve Bannon and Sean Spicer to the mainstream media, while recounting to the press ostensibly private conversations with the president.
While none of this is exactly news, it places Conway in the realm of performance artists. Think Roger Stone, without the special counsel breathing down her neck, a Nixon tattoo on her back or an organic attachment to the president. Who can forget Conway’s visual perorations on the word “collusion”? As Sims put it, “Kellyanne stood in a class of own in terms of her machinations – I had to admire her sheer gall.”
At Axios, Mike Allen excerpts Chris Christie's book, Let Me Finish:
Donald so urgently needed the right people around him and a solid structure in place. ... Far too often, he’s found himself saddled with the riffraff. ...
Instead of high-quality, vetted appointees for key administration posts, he got the Russian lackey and future federal felon Michael Flynn as national security adviser. He got the greedy and inexperienced Scott Pruitt as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.
He got the high-flying Tom Price as health and human services secretary. He got the not-ready-for-prime-time Jeff Sessions as attorney general, promptly recusing himself from the Justice Department’s Russian-collusion probe. He got a stranger named Rex Tillerson as secretary of state. ...
He got the Apprentice show loser Omarosa Manigault in whatever Omarosa’s job purported to be. (I never could figure that one out.) ... Too few Kellyanne Conways. A boatload of Sebastian Gorkas. Too few Steven Mnuchins.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Five Years Ago, Conservatives Were Okay with Cancelling the State of the Union

In Defying the Odds, we discuss polarization in the 2016 election.  In response to the shutdown, Speaker Pelosi suggested postponing the State of the Union, or having POTUS deliver it in writing.  Trump supporters denounced her statement. But a few years ago, some conservatives suggested the same thing.

On November 20, 2014, Joel Pollak wrote at Breitbart:
Congressional Republicans are searching for ways–short of impeachment or shutting down the government–to respond to President Barack Obama’s seizure of arbitrary power over immigration law and enforcement. One way would be to cancel the State of the Union address next year, so that the elected representatives of the people do not have to listen to, or applaud, a man who is violating his oath of office and governing as a tyrant.
On November 21, 2014, Ace of Spades blogged:
Yesterday we saw a number of ideas floated about how to respond....rescission, lawsuits, de-fundingand withholding votes on nominees to name a few on the table. There's one idea I'd like to add that is in many ways symbolic but that would focus the nation on the seriousness of this problem, do not invite Obama to address a joint session of Congress to deliver the State of the Union address.
The Constitution simply requires that "He shall from time to time give to the Congress information of the state of the union, and recommend to their consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient." Nothing requires that he do so in person. The modern in person State of The Union dates back to Woodrow Wilson but Truman, Eisenhower and Nixon all gave written reports as was the custom from Thomas Jefferson to Wilson.
And Presidents don't simply show up whenever they please to address the Congress, they must be formally invited. That's where Boehner and McConnell can strike a blow for the legislature...simply don't invite him.
On November 25, 2014, Jeremy Peters reported at NYT:
“Yes, there’s a risk to overreacting, but there’s a risk to underreacting as well,” said Rich Lowry, the editor of National Review. “And I fear that’s the way the congressional leadership is leaning.”
Mr. Lowry suggested one way Congress could react. “If I were John Boehner,” he said, referring to the House speaker, “I’d say to the president: ‘Send us your State of the Union in writing. You’re not welcome in our chamber.’ ”

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Mueller Office Replies to Buzzfeed


Devlin Barrett, Matt Zapotosky and Karoun Demirjian at WP:
Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s office on Friday denied an explosive report by BuzzFeed News that his investigators had gathered evidence showing President Trump directed his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, to lie to Congress about a prospective business deal in Moscow.
“BuzzFeed’s description of specific statements to the special counsel’s office, and characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office, regarding Michael Cohen’s congressional testimony are not accurate,” said Peter Carr, a spokesman for Mueller.
The statement was remarkable on several levels — first, the special counsel’s office speaks exceedingly rarely, and second, the statement seemed to drive a stake through a sensational allegation that Democratic lawmakers suggested earlier in the day could spell the end of the Trump presidency. As earthshaking as the claims in the story were, no other media organizations were able to match them.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Obsruction?

In Defying the Odds, we discuss Russian involvement in the 2016 campaign. Jason Leopold and Anthony Cormier at Buzzfeed:
President Donald Trump directed his longtime attorney Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, according to two federal law enforcement officials involved in an investigation of the matter.
Trump also supported a plan, set up by Cohen, to visit Russia during the presidential campaign, in order to personally meet President Vladimir Putin and jump-start the tower negotiations. “Make it happen,” the sources said Trump told Cohen.
Cohen pleaded guilty in November to lying about the deal in testimony and in a two-page statement to the Senate and House intelligence committees. Special counsel Robert Mueller noted that Cohen’s false claim that the project ended in January 2016 was an attempt to “minimize links between the Moscow Project and Individual 1” — widely understood to be Trump — “in hopes of limiting the ongoing Russia investigations.”
Now the two sources have told BuzzFeed News that Cohen also told the special counsel that after the election, the president personally instructed him to lie — by claiming that negotiations ended months earlier than they actually did — in order to obscure Trump’s involvement.
The special counsel’s office learned about Trump’s directive for Cohen to lie to Congress through interviews with multiple witnesses from the Trump Organization and internal company emails, text messages, and a cache of other documents. Cohen then acknowledged those instructions during his interviews with that office.
This revelation is not the first evidence to suggest the president may have attempted to obstruct the FBI and special counsel investigations into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.
But Cohen's testimony marks a significant new frontier: It is the first known example of Trump explicitly telling a subordinate to lie directly about his own dealings with Russia.


From the first article of impeachment against Nixon:
In his conduct of the office of President of the United States, Richard M. Nixon, in violation of his constitutional oath faithfully to execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in violation of his consitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, has prevented, obstructed, and impeded the administration of justice, in that:
On June 17, 1972, and prior thereto, agents of the Committee for the Re-election of the President committed unlawful entry of the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee in Washington, District of Columbia, for the purpose of securing political intelligence. Subsequent thereto, Richard M. Nixon, using the powers of his high office, engaged personally and through his close subordinates and agents, in a course of conduct or plan designed to delay, impede, and obstruct the investigation of such illegal entry; to cover up, conceal and protect those responsible; and to conceal the existence and scope of other unlawful covert activities.
The means used to implement this course of conduct or plan included one or more of the following:
making false or misleading statements to lawfully authorized investigative officers and employees of the United States;

withholding relevant and material evidence or information from lawfully authorized investigative officers and employees of the United States;

approving, condoning, acquiescing in, and counselling witnesses with respect to the giving of false or misleading statements to lawfully authorized investigative officers and employees of the United States and false or misleading testimony in duly instituted judicial and congressional proceedings;


Thursday, January 17, 2019

Tax Fraud Timeline

In  Defying the Oddswe discuss  Trump's record of scandal In a landmark article last year, NYT revealed that much of Trump's fortune rests on tax fraud.

Accountant Ken Boyd sums it up at Tax Fraud By The Numbers: The Trump Timeline

Trump Tax Fraud Timeline

Trump Impact: A Lump of Coal

 In Defying the Odds, we talk about the social and economic divides that enabled Trump to enter the White House.  Those divides, however, are now working against him. Despite reports of robust economic growth, Trump's approval rating is sagging and key indicators are breaking bad.

The partial government shutdown is inflicting far greater damage on the United States economy than previously estimated, the White House acknowledged on Tuesday, as President Trump’s economists doubled projections of how much economic growth is being lost each week the standoff with Democrats continues.

The revised estimates from the Council of Economic Advisers show that the shutdown, now in its fourth week, is beginning to have real economic consequences. The analysis, and other projections from outside the White House, suggests that the shutdown has already weighed significantly on growth and could ultimately push the United States economy into a contraction.
...
 Mr. Hassett said on Tuesday that the administration now calculates that the shutdown reduces quarterly economic growth by 0.13 percentage points for every week that it lasts — the cumulative effect of lost work from contractors and furloughed federal employees who are not getting paid and who are investing and spending less as a result. That means that the economy has already lost nearly half a percentage point of growth from the four-week shutdown. (Last year, economic growth for the first quarter totaled 2.2 percent.)

 More U.S. coal-fired power plants were shut in President Donald Trump’s first two years than were retired in the whole of Barack Obama’s first term, despite the Republican’s efforts to prop up the industry to keep a campaign promise to coal-mining states.
In total, more than 23,400 megawatts (MW) of coal-fired generation were shut in 2017-2018 versus 14,900 MW in 2009-2012, according to data from Reuters and the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).
Trump has tried to roll back rules on climate change and the environment adopted during the Obama administration to fulfill pledges to voters in states like West Virginia and Wyoming.
But the second highest year for coal shutdowns was in Trump’s second year, 2018, at around 14,500 megawatts, following a peak at about 17,700 megawatts in 2015 under Obama.
One megawatt can power about 1,000 U.S. homes.
The number of U.S. coal plants has continued to decline every year since coal capacity peaked at just over 317,400 MW in 2011, and is expected to keep falling as consumers demand power from cleaner and less expensive sources of energy.
Stephen Gandel at Bloomberg:
President Donald Trump and the Republicans’ tax cut is proving to be vastly more generous for corporate America, and vastly more expensive for taxpayers, than expected. Worse, the Trump Slump is erasing the bump the stock market received from the tax cuts. And evidence is mounting that the promised economic boost isn’t materializing. The administration’s signature political achievement is being eclipsed by disarray over trade, immigration and a government shutdown.

First, the headline number: $600 billion, at least. That’s how much more than expected I estimate the companies in the S&P 500 are on pace to save. It is also how much more the tax cut is likely to add to the national debt if it runs as planned for 10 years. The total savings for all of corporate America will be well into the 13 figures.

In late 2017, soon before Congress passed the tax cut — which reduced the U.S. corporate rate to a flat 21 percent from a previous marginal rate that topped out at 35 percent — the Joint Committee on Taxation estimated it would cost $1.4 trillion over 10 years. White House officials criticized that estimate as being too high. In fact, it wasn’t nearly high enough. My current estimate, now that companies have completed 2018, is nearly $2 trillion, and that’s just for the S&P 500. That’s nearly $400 billion more than I calculated in May. And the actual bill could rise even more while the lasting benefits are still pretty questionable.