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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Saturday, January 23, 2021

Pustch Update

In Defying the Odds, we discuss Trump's dishonesty and his record of disregarding the rule of law.  Our next book, Divided We Stand, looks at the 2020 election.

Katie Benner at NYT:

The Justice Department’s top leaders listened in stunned silence this month: One of their peers, they were told, had devised a plan with President Donald J. Trump to oust Jeffrey A. Rosen as acting attorney general and wield the department’s power to force Georgia state lawmakers to overturn its presidential election results.

The unassuming lawyer who worked on the plan, Jeffrey Clark, had been devising ways to cast doubt on the election results and to bolster Mr. Trump’s continuing legal battles and the pressure on Georgia politicians. Because Mr. Rosen had refused the president’s entreaties to carry out those plans, Mr. Trump was about to decide whether to fire Mr. Rosen and replace him with Mr. Clark.

The department officials, convened on a conference call, then asked each other: What will you do if Mr. Rosen is dismissed?

The answer was unanimous. They would resign.

Their informal pact ultimately helped persuade Mr. Trump to keep Mr. Rosen in place, calculating that a furor over mass resignations at the top of the Justice Department would eclipse any attention on his baseless accusations of voter fraud. Mr. Trump’s decision came only after Mr. Rosen and Mr. Clark made their competing cases to him in a bizarre White House meeting that two officials compared with an episode of Mr. Trump’s reality show “The Apprentice,” albeit one that could prompt a constitutional crisis.

Anna Massoglia at Open Secrets:

Former President Donald Trump’s presidential campaign aides played key roles orchestrating a rally protesting certification of President-elect Joe Biden‘s victory in the 2020 presidential election before hundreds of rioters breached the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

But the full extent of the Trump campaign’s ties to the protests may not be not fully known due to its use of shell companies that hide details of its financial dealings and the central role “dark money” played in the protests.

Multiple individuals listed on the permit granted by the National Park Service worked for Trump’s presidential campaign, as first reported by the Associated Press over the weekend. That raises new questions about the Trump campaign’s lack of spending transparency and the unknown extent of the event’s ties to Trump aides. 
Trump’s campaign disclosed paying more than $2.7 million to the individuals and firms behind the Jan. 6 rally. But FEC disclosures do not necessarily provide a complete picture of the campaign’s financial dealings since so much of its spending was routed through shell companies, making it difficult to know who the campaign paid and when.


Friday, January 22, 2021

You Will Tell Your Grandchildren About These Days:

The past few years have brought many events without clear parallels in living memory.

The1918-20 Great Influenza was not a national political issue.  Wilson never said a word in public about it, though it did affect Congress. From the House historian:

October 07, 1918 On this date, the House public galleries were closed due to the severity of the Spanish influenza pandemic. According to some modern estimates, more than 50 million persons perished worldwide in the 1918–1919 outbreak; most sources attribute approximately 675,000 deaths in the U.S. alone to the Spanish flu. Washington, D.C., swollen by an influx of government workers during the First World War, was particularly hard hit.

And Trump:

And Trump was the first president whom the House impeached twice.

  • In 2019, for pressuring Ukraine to release dirt on Joe Biden.
  • In 2021, for inciting the Capitol insurrection.

It was the first large-scale breach of the Capitol since the War of 1812.

Aversive Partisanship

Just over 42 percent of the people in each party view the opposition as “downright evil.”

Each party views itself and the other:




Domestic Enemies:






We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.

Legal Jeopardy for Trump and Company

In Defying the Odds, we discuss Trump's dishonesty and his record of disregarding the rule of law.  Our next book, Divided We Stand, looks at the 2020 election.

 Lloyd Green at The Guardian:

In case anyone forgot, the US attorneys’ office for the southern district of New York previously treated Trump aka “Individual-1” as un-indicted co-conspirator in Michael Cohen’s case. As a result, the confirmation hearings of Joe Biden’s pick for attorney general, Merrick Garland, will certainly be interesting.

Already, prosecutors in Manhattan have the Orange Don and his crew in their cross-hairs. According to court filings and published reports, Cyrus Vance Jr, Manhattan’s district attorney, is investigating the truthfulness of the Trump Organization’s financial reporting and the company’s relationship with Deutsche Bank.

It is not for nothing that Trump again appealed to the US supreme court to quash a subpoena issued to his accountants for eight years of tax returns. Trump previously lost a similar bid last summer.

Back in July, Chief Justice John Roberts derailed Trump’s efforts to shroud his tax filings from Vance’s office. “No citizen, not even the president, is categorically above the common duty to produce evidence when called upon in a criminal proceeding”, wrote Roberts. For good measure, Brett Kavanaugh, the infamous Trump appointee added: “In our system of government, as this court has often stated, no one is above the law.”

...

In addition, Trump’s recent bouts of wrath have given lawyers in Washington and Georgia plenty to ponder. Local authorities in the Peach state are weighing a criminal investigation into his failed efforts to browbeat Brad Raffensperger, the state’s secretary of state, into submission. Trump telling Raffensperger to “find” 11,779 more votes and interfering with election certification may have been a step too far.

And then there is the Trump-fomented insurrection. When Bill Barr, Trump’s second attorney general, lays the blame at his one-time boss’ feet, it is clear that the story is no longer simply about over-zealous House Democrats. Likewise, when Senator Mitch McConnell accuses the president of “feeding the mob lies” and provoking insurrection, conviction of Trump by the US senate is very much on the table.

In a word, Trump’s problems aren’t disappearing. Two separate federal statutes and a law on DC’s books may have criminalized Trump’s exhortations to his devotees to “fight like hell” in the face of his loss, a reality acknowledged by Karl Racine, the District’s attorney general.

Andrew Weissman at Just Security:

[O]ddly, not all of Trump’s pardons followed the Flynn model. Indeed, many are narrowly drawn.

The pardon for Paul Manafort (on Dec. 23, 2020), is illustrative. By its own terms, the pardon covers only the crimes “for his conviction” on specific charges and not any other crimes (charged or uncharged). Specifically, the pardon is solely for the crimes of conviction — eight in the Eastern District of Virginia and two in the District of Columbia. That leaves numerous crimes as to which Manafort can still be prosecuted, as in Virginia there were 10 hung counts. In Washington, the situation is even more wide open. In that district, Manafort pleaded to a superseding information containing two conspiracy charges, while the entire underlying indictment — containing numerous crimes from money laundering, to witness tampering, to violation of the Foreign Agents Registration Act — now remains open to prosecution as there was no conviction for those charges.

What’s more, the trial on such charges would be unusually simple. First, as part of his plea agreement, Manafort admitted under oath the criminal conduct in Virginia as to which the jury hung (although he did not plead to those counts and thus they are not subject to the pardon). In addition, he admitted in writing the underlying criminal conduct in Washington. Thus, proving the case could largely consist of introducing Manafort’s sworn admission to the charges.

Second, all such charges could be brought in Washington, and not require two separate trials (in Virginia and D.C.), since Manafort waived venue in his plea agreement Third, Manafort waived the statute of limitations — the deadline by which a prosecution must be brought — and thus all these charges would not be time-barred.

Finally, because the Washington, D.C. district judge, the Honorable Amy Berman Jackson, ruled in February 2019 that Manafort breached his cooperation agreement by repeatedly lying to the government, the court found that the government is not bound by the provision in the cooperation agreement not to pursue these other charges. That cooperation agreement explicitly provides that Manafort’s admissions as part of his plea can be used against him in a future trial of such charges.

 

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Planless: An Unpleasant COVID Surprise

IDefying the Odds, we discuss the 2016 campaign. The 2019 update includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms.  Our next book, title TBA, discusses the 2020 race, which unfolded in the shadow of the Coronavirus pandemic.  News about the development and approval of vaccines is good.  Other COVID news is bad.

More than 400,000 Americans have died.

MJ Lee at CNN:'
Newly sworn in President Joe Biden and his advisers are inheriting no coronavirus vaccine distribution plan to speak of from the Trump administration, sources tell CNN, posing a significant challenge for the new White House.

The Biden administration has promised to try to turn the Covid-19 pandemic around and drastically speed up the pace of vaccinating Americans against the virus. But in the immediate hours following Biden being sworn into office on Wednesday, sources with direct knowledge of the new administration's Covid-related work told CNN one of the biggest shocks that the Biden team had to digest during the transition period was what they saw as a complete lack of a vaccine distribution strategy under former President Donald Trump, even weeks after multiple vaccines were approved for use in the United States.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Crooked to the End

In Defying the Odds, we discuss Trump's dishonesty and his record of disregarding the rule of law.  Our next book, Divided We Stand, looks at the 2020 election.




Chief Justice William Howard Taft, writing for the majority in Ex Parte Grossman, 267 U.S. 87 (1925):
To afford a remedy, it has always been thought essential in popular governments, as well as in monarchies, to vest in some other authority than the courts power to ameliorate or avoid particular criminal judgments. It is a check entrusted to the executive for special cases. To exercise it to the extent of destroying the deterrent effect of judicial punishment would be to pervert it; but whoever is to make it useful must have full discretion to exercise it. Our Constitution confers this discretion on the highest officer in the nation in confidence that he will not abuse it

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Unpopular Trump

In Defying the Odds, we discuss the 2016 campaign, where Trump suggested that he would not acknowledge defeat.  Divided We Stand, our next book, explains that his legal challenges to the election of Joseph Biden have toggled between appalling and farcical.    But his base continues to believe the bogus narrative.

Outside the base, people have noticed.

 Jeffrey M. Jones at Gallup:

As President Donald Trump prepares to leave the White House, 34% of Americans approve of the job he is doing as president, the worst evaluation of his presidency. His 41% average approval rating throughout his presidency is four points lower than for any of his predecessors in Gallup's polling era. Trump's ratings showed a record 81-percentage-point average gap between Republicans and Democrats -- 11 points wider than the prior record.
...
Trump's refusal to concede the election and his attempts to overturn the results, the Jan. 6 riots on Capitol Hill, a U.S. surge in coronavirus cases and deaths, and his second impeachment contributed to a postelection erosion in support for him.

The total 12-point drop in approval for Trump after the election is especially notable in that most departing presidents -- including two who were defeated for a second term -- enjoyed increases in job approval ratings between the time of the election to choose their successor and his inauguration. On average, "lame duck presidents" before Trump saw a seven-point increase in job approval. Jimmy Carter is the only other president whose approval ratings declined during the transition period.

Domenico Montanaro at NPR:

As President Trump is set to leave the White House after a tumultuous and chaotic four years, having been the first president to ever be impeached twice and having his last year dominated by a worldwide pandemic, most Americans say he will go down as either below average or one of the worst presidents in U.S. history, according to an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist survey.
Ben Leonard at Politico:
Republican support for convicting President Donald Trump in his Senate impeachment trial has grown in his final days in office, according to a POLITICO/Morning Consult poll released Tuesday.

About 20 percent of Republicans said they “strongly” or “somewhat” approved of convicting in the latest poll, conducted Jan. 15-17. That’s an increase from the previous poll, conducted Jan. 8-11, in which 14 percent of Republicans said the same.

Monday, January 18, 2021

Complicity in the Insurrection

In Defying the Odds, we discuss the 2016 campaign, where Trump suggested that he would not acknowledge defeat.  Divided We Stand, our next book, explains that his legal challenges to the election of Joseph Biden have toggled between appalling and farcical.    But his base continues to believe the bogus narrative.


Last week, Trump's insurrection resulted in his impeachment, 232-197.

Veterans of President Donald Trump’s failed reelection campaign had key roles in orchestrating the Washington rally that spawned a deadly assault on the U.S. Capitol, according to an Associated Press review of records, undercutting the grassroots image pushed by groups involved in the event.

A pro-Trump nonprofit organization called Women for America First hosted the “Save America Rally” on Jan. 6 at the Ellipse, a federally owned patch of land near the White House. But an attachment to the permit, granted by the National Park Service, lists more than half a dozen people in staff positions who just weeks earlier had been paid thousands of dollars by Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign. Other staff scheduled to be “on site” during the protest have close ties to the White House.

... 

 Caroline Wren, a veteran GOP fundraiser, is named as a “VIP Advisor” on an attachment to the permit that Women for America First provided to the Park Service. Between mid-March and mid-November, Donald J. Trump for President Inc. paid Wren $20,000 a month, according to Federal Election Commission records. During the campaign, she was a national finance consultant for Trump Victory, a joint fundraising committee.

...

Maggie Mulvaney, a niece of former top Trump aide Mick Mulvaney, is listed on the permit attachment as the “VIP Lead.” She worked as director of finance operations for the Trump campaign, according to her LinkedIn profile. FEC records show Maggie Mulvaney was earning $5,000 every two weeks from Trump’s reelection campaign, with the most recent payment reported on November 13.

Robert O'Harrow Jr.at WP
The fiery rallies that preceded the deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 were organized and promoted by an array of established conservative insiders and activists, documents and videos show.

The Republican Attorneys General Association was involved, as were the activist groups Turning Point Action and Tea Party Patriots. At least six current or former members of the Council for National Policy (CNP), an influential group that for decades has served as a hub for conservative and Christian activists, also played roles in promoting the rallies.

The two days of rallies were staged not by white nationalists and other extremists, but by well-funded nonprofit groups and individuals that figure prominently in the machinery of conservative activism in Washington.

On an online ride-sharing forum, Patriot Caravans for 45, more than 4,000 members coordinated travel from as far away as California and South Dakota. Some 2,000 people donated at least $181,700 to another site, Wild Protest, leaving messages urging ralliers to halt the certification of the vote.

Oath Keepers, a self-identified militia whose members breached the Capitol, had solicited donations online to cover “gas, airfare, hotels, food and equipment.” Many others raised money through the crowdfunding site GoFundMe or, more often, its explicitly Christian counterpart, GiveSendGo. (On Monday, the money transfer service PayPal stopped working with GiveSendGo because of its links to the violence at the Capitol.)

...

A chief sponsor of many rallies leading up to the riot, including the one featuring the president on Jan. 6, was Women for America First, a conservative nonprofit. Its leaders include Amy Kremer, who rose to prominence in the Tea Party movement, and her daughter, Kylie Jane Kremer, 30. She started a “Stop the Steal” Facebook page on Nov. 4. More than 320,000 people signed up in less than a day, but the platform promptly shut it down for fears of inciting violence. The group has denied any violent intent.

By far the most visible financial backer of Women for America First’s efforts was Mike Lindell, a founder of the MyPillow bedding company, identified on a now-defunct website as one of the “generous sponsors” of a bus tour promoting Mr. Trump's attempt to overturn the election. In addition, he was an important supporter of Right Side Broadcasting, an obscure pro-Trump television network that provided blanket coverage of Trump rallies after the vote, and a podcast run by the former Trump adviser Stephen K. Bannon that also sponsored the bus tour.

Supporters of President Donald Trump are among a handful of groups that have applied for permits to hold protests during Joe Biden’s inauguration. But it appears unlikely their application will be approved as the National Park Service greatly curtails protests as part of a major security lockdown.

The NPS released details Friday of the five permit applications it had received so far for demonstrations. Among them, was a group called “Let America Hear Us, Roar For Trump.”

NPS spokesman Mike Litterst told The Associated Press that the pro-Trump group had “not responded to our repeated attempts to contact them and set up a meeting regarding their application and their permit is therefore unlikely to be issued.”