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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

The Amash Thread

In Defying the Odds, we discuss Trump's dishonesty and his record of disregarding the rule of law.   The update  -- just published --includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms.  Representative Justin Amash (R-MI) has become the first Republican to call for Trump's impeachment.

And of course, the response:

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Bullock in Iowa

Defying the Odds, we discuss the early stages of the 2016 campaign, when many candidates were unknowns.  The update  -- just published --includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms.  We are now in the early stages of the 2020 race.

Jeff Zeleny at CNN:
Steve Bullock knows he's late to the 2020 dance, but nothing he's seen so far has scared him away from joining the party.
"Voters in Iowa and everywhere else don't want to make a fast decision, they want to make the right decision," Bullock said as he set off across the state to introduce himself as one of the newest Democratic presidential hopefuls.
With Bullock, the governor of Montana, in the race, along with New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, the party's field of candidates is now large enough to suit up a football team of offense, defense and one player to spare.
For Bullock and many contenders, even though they may be reluctant to say so out loud, it's Iowa or bust. Their candidacies will either break out or be broken by the Iowa caucuses less than nine months away.

"Iowa is important to everyone's campaign," Bullock said in an interview Friday as he bounced from stop to stop on his first visit to the state since declaring his candidacy earlier this week. "Iowa has always played that traditional starting out role, but it's certainly significant to mine."

Friday, May 17, 2019

Case Not Closed

In Defying the Odds, we discuss Russian involvement in the 2016 campaign  The update  -- just published --includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms.

Katelyn Polantz at CNN:
Michael Flynn told special counsel Robert Mueller that people connected to the Trump administration or Congress had contacted him, potentially attempting to influence his willingness to help prosecutors, newly unsealed court records show.
Flynn, President Donald Trump's one-time national security adviser, gave Mueller a voicemail recording of one of the conversations. A federal judge has ordered that the voicemail's transcript, transcripts of Flynn's calls with Russian officials and potentially redacted parts of the Mueller report related to Flynn be made public, setting up the likelihood that even more details will be made public in the coming weeks.
The communications, from "persons connected to the Administration or Congress," Mueller wrote, "could have affected both (Flynn's) willingness to cooperate and the completeness of that cooperation."
"In some of those instances, the (Special Counsel's Office) was unaware of the outreach until being alerted to it" by Flynn, the newly unsealed court record from the Justice Department said.

The revelations raise the possibility that others around the President may have attempted to obstruct justice with the outreach to Flynn. However, Mueller, in both the Flynn court filing and his final report, did not go into detail on that possibility.
(Two days after the election, Obama did warn Trump about Flynn.)

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Republicans and the Rule of Law

In Defying the Odds, we discuss Trump's dishonesty and his record of disregarding the rule of law.   The update  -- just published --includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms.

Chris Jackson and Mallory Newall at Ipsos:
While some have advocated for delaying the 2020 elections due to the Russia investigations, just 16% of Americans agree with this. Republicans largely drive support (31%, compared to 12% of Independents and 9% of Democrats). Americans also reject the notion that President Trump should ignore the results of the 2020 election and stay in office if he loses; just 7% think he should do this.
Six in ten Americans (61%) believe that Trump does not respect the customs or traditions of the presidency. Views on this are highly partisan; while 86% of Democrats and 61% of Independents agree, only 29% of Republicans feel the same way. A majority of Americans also think Trump does not respect the laws of the U.S. (56%), with Democrats again driving sentiment (83%). Most Republicans think that President Trump achieved many of his goals in his first two years in office (75%) and that there is a “deep state” trying to undermine his presidency (77%). Finally, less than a third of Americans (30%) think the Mueller investigation prevented President Trump from achieving significant portions of his agenda. Over half of Republicans (60%) agree, compared to only a quarter of Independents (26%) and ever fewer Democrats (14%).

Go deeper:

Percent agreeing with "To fix America, we need a strong leader willing to break the rules."


Beto's Bust

In Defying the Odds, we discuss the early stages of the 2016 campaign, when many candidates were unknowns.  The update  -- just published --includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms.  We are now in the early stages of the 2020 race.

The most obvious reason for Beto’s boom-and-bust media cycle is that running against a reviled Republican in Texas is a far cry from running in a Democratic primary against a bevy of qualified opponents, many of whom have devoted followings in various corners of the left. “It’s not good enough to not be Ted Cruz anymore,” said Republican media strategist Matt Gorman. “In a state, you have a baseline of party support that’s with you no matter what if you’re running against a Republican. Not in a primary. He needs to make an identity for himself. When he is on that debate stage, what’s the rationale against Kamala [Harris] or Mayor Pete or Joe Biden? Why Beto?” Force of personality is not enough to carry a campaign without an underlying reason for running, Gorman said, especially in a Democratic Party flush with options. But having a clearly defined reason to run for president—that simple thing called “a message”—is what carries a campaign forward, inoculating a candidate from the daily traps and potholes of the presidential media storms. Buttigieg is one of only a handful of Democratic candidates who is using his campaign to tell a story—his is about generational change—and it’s allowed him to parry attacks and mostly avoid stepping in mud. Even though it’s doubtful that a Harvard-educated polyglot who can name every Radiohead B-side since The Bends doesn’t know who Alfred E. Neuman is, Buttigieg brushed off Trump’s name-calling this week with a simple, youthful aside: “I had to Google that.” Next question.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Trump Likes Chinese Dictatorship

In Defying the Odds, we discuss Trump's character.   The update  -- just published --includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms.

Yesterday he said that his "respect and friendship with President Xi is unlimited."

From the 1990 Playboy interview with Trump:
What were your other impressions of the Soviet Union?
I was very unimpressed. Their system is a disaster. What you will see there soon is a revolution; the signs are all there with the demonstrations and picketing. Russia is out of control and the leadership knows it. That's my problem with Gorbachev. Not a firm enough hand.
You mean firm hand as in China?
When the students poured into Tiananmen Square, the Chinese government almost blew it. Then they were vicious, they were horrible, but they put it down with strength. That shows you the power of strength. Our country is right now perceived as weak ... as being spit on by the rest of the world—
George H.W. Bush was president at the time. 

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Hail, Caesar

In Defying the Odds, we discuss Trump's dishonesty and his record of disregarding the rule of law.   The update  -- just published --includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms.

LLoyd Green at The Daily Beast:
Donald Trump thinks Congress has as much clout as a potted plant.

William Consovoy, the president’s personal lawyer, told a federal judge on Tuesday that Congress was powerless to hold the president’s feet to the fire, and that the Watergate and Whitewater hearings exemplified congressional overreach. As for a House committee’s subpoena to Trump’s accountants, Rep. Elijah Cummings and all those damn Democrats might as well pound sand. The Oval Office was out of bounds for congressional oversight—even in the face of presidential corruption.

Hail Caesar! Hello praetorian. As Consovoy saw things: “That is law enforcement… Are you complying with federal law?… I don’t think that’s the proper subject of investigation as to the president.”
According to Cosovoy’s Kafkaesque syllogism, Congress is barred from investigating the president because that is a proper function of law enforcement, not Congress, and in turn, law enforcement may not investigate President Trump because he is immune from prosecution.
Confused? That’s the point.
After the court hearing, our constitutional democracy stands at the precipice of being transformed into an updated version of ancient Rome, helmed by a leader who demands unaccountability for himself and tribute from the rest of us. As for Congress in this script, think part rubber stamp, part tax collector, and part tourist attraction.
Andrew Desiderio and Kyle Cheney at Politico:
A federal judge raised pointed doubts Tuesday about arguments by President Donald Trump’s legal team that a Democratic effort to subpoena Trump’s financial records was an invalid exercise of congressional power.
Amit Mehta, a U.S. District Court judge in Washington, indicated that he would have trouble ruling that Congress’ goal in accessing the president’s records was unconstitutional — as Trump’s lawyers have argued — and he underscored that he believes Congress has a significant “informing function” that doesn’t necessarily require an explicit legislative purpose to justify an investigation involving the president.Does Congress have to do that — do they have to identify a bill in advance? The Supreme Court has said the opposite,” Mehta said during a round of questioning with Trump’s attorney William Consovoy during a hearing.
Consovoy argued throughout Tuesday’s hearing that Congress has no basis for investigating whether Trump’s financial disclosures are accurate, contending that it’s a “law enforcement issue” that’s not tied to a specific legislative agenda.
Mehta cast serious doubt on those claims, suggesting at one point that investigations of such financial violations are “strictly” under Congress’ purview and that the courts have “very little, if any” discretion over Congress’ asks.
Bart Jansen at USA Today:
Mehta didn't indicate whether he found those reasons sufficiently persuasive to block the House subpoena. But he suggested history might not be on the president's side, saying courts had not found that Congress overstepped its subpoena authority since 1880 and questioning Trump's lawyers about the basis for previous investigations of presidents.


At one point, Mehta asked whether Congress could investigate if the president was engaged in corrupt behavior in office.

“I don’t think that’s the proper subject of investigation as to the president,” Consovoy said, although executive agencies could be investigated.

Mehta sounded incredulous, asking whether Congress could have investigated Watergate, which led to President Richard Nixon's resignation, and Whitewater, which led to President Bill Clinton's impeachment. Consovoy initially said he’d have to look at the basis for those investigations.

“They were inquiring as to violations of criminal law,” Mehta said. “It’s pretty straightforward – among other things.”

Consovoy said the question is whether the legislation the committee cited was a valid reason for the subpoena.

“That is still law enforcement," Consovoy said.

But Douglas Letter, the general counsel for the House, argued that Congress has broad investigative authority.

“His main client, President Trump, has taken the position really that Congress and particularly the House of Representatives is a nuisance and we’re just getting in his way when he’s trying to run the country,” Letter said. “The problem with that is that this is a total and basic and fundamental misunderstanding of the system that is set up by the Constitution.”