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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Monday, September 28, 2020

Trump's Taxes

In Defying the Odds, we discuss Trump's character and record of dishonestyThe update  -- just published --includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms.  New revelations about his taxes may play a role in the 2020 race.

 David Leonhardt at NYT:

The New York Times has obtained tax-return data for President Trump and his companies that covers more than two decades. Mr. Trump has long refused to release this information, making him the first president in decades to hide basic details about his finances. His refusal has made his tax returns among the most sought-after documents in recent memory.

Among the key findings of The Times’s investigation:
  • Mr. Trump paid no federal income taxes in 11 of 18 years that The Times examined. In 2017, after he became president, his tax bill was only $750.
  • He has reduced his tax bill with questionable measures, including a $72.9 million tax refund that is the subject of an audit by the Internal Revenue Service.
  • Many of his signature businesses, including his golf courses, report losing large amounts of money — losses that have helped him to lower his taxes.
  • The financial pressure on him is increasing as hundreds of millions of dollars in loans he personally guaranteed are soon coming due.
  • Even while declaring losses, he has managed to enjoy a lavish lifestyle by taking tax deductions on what most people would consider personal expenses, including residences, aircraft and $70,000 in hairstyling for television.
  • Ivanka Trump, while working as an employee of the Trump Organization, appears to have received “consulting fees” that also helped reduce the family’s tax bill.
  • As president, he has received more money from foreign sources and U.S. interest groups than previously known. The records do not reveal any previously unreported connections to Russia.

Sunday, September 27, 2020

ACB and ACA

In Defying the Odds, we discuss the health care issue in the 2016 campaign.  the 2019 update includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms.  As we explain, loss aversion made Obamacare a liability for Democrats at the time of its passage: voters worried about losing health benefits that they already had.  But by 2018, the roles had reversed.  Obamacare was now the status quo, and the GOP was threatening to take it awayThe issue now strongly favors the Democrats.

Gregory Krieg at CNN:

Democrats on Saturday night launched their case against federal Judge Amy Coney Barrett, President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee, saying support for her confirmation was equivalent to a vote to end the Affordable Care Act.
In a rush of statements following Barrett's Rose Garden introduction, top Democrats put the fate of the law -- and its popular protections for patients with pre-existing conditions -- front and center. They also made frequent reference to the coronavirus pandemic, and the chaos that could arise from stripping health insurance options from millions of Americans in its midst.
From the Democratic presidential ticket on down, criticism of Barrett repeatedly circled back to what has been a political winner for the party: health care -- and the backlash to Republican efforts to dismantle the ACA, former President Barack Obama's signature policy achievement.

And Trump walked right into it:

So did Senator Mike Lee:

Friday, September 25, 2020

Drug Gift Cards

In Defying the Odds, we discuss the 2016 campaign. The 2019 update includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms. The 2020 race, the subject of our next book, is well underway.  Trump is weaponizing the federal government for his political benefit. He is lagging badly with seniors, so he is trying to buy their votes.

Lev Facher and Nicholas Florko at STAT:

President Trump on Thursday pledged to send $200 prescription drug coupons to 33 million Medicare beneficiaries “in the coming weeks,” a political ploy to curry favor with seniors who view drug prices as a priority.

Trump’s promise comes less than six weeks before Election Day, and represents the latest step in his administration’s (and his campaign’s) efforts to amass health care talking points, even if their actions do little to save Americans money.

The administration is getting its authority to ship the coupons from a Medicare demonstration program, a White House spokesman told STAT in a statement. The nearly $7 billion required to send the coupons, he said, would come from savings from Trump’s “most favored nations” drug pricing proposal. That regulation has also not yet been implemented — meaning the Trump administration is effectively pledging to spend $6.6 billion in savings that do not currently exist. The cards, he said, would be “actual discount cards for prescription drug copays.”

Thursday, September 24, 2020

"Get Rid of the Ballots ..There Won't be a Transfer"

In Defying the Odds, we discuss the 2016 campaign. The 2019 update includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms. The 2020 race, the subject of our next book, is well underway


Donald Trump White House Press Briefing Transcript September 23:
Q: Right here, Mr. President, real quickly. Win, loser, draw in this election. Will you commit here today for a peaceful transfer of power after the election, either- Transferal of power after the election. And there has been rioting [inaudible 00:00:07], there’s been rioting in many cities across this country, your so-called red and blue states. Will you commit to making sure that there is a peaceful transferal of power after the election?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, we’re going to have to see what happens. You know that I’ve been complaining very strongly about the ballots. And the ballots are a disaster. I understand that but people are rioting. Do you commit to making sure that there’s a peaceful transferal of power?  We want to have… Get rid of the ballots and we’ll have a very peaceful… There won’t be a transfer frankly, there’ll be a continuation. The ballots are out of control. You know it, and you know who knows it better than anybody else? The Democrats know it better than anybody else.


 

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Russian Interference, September

In Defying the Odds, we discuss Russian involvement in the 2016 campaign  The update includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms.  Russia is making a similar effort this year.

"I like Putin, he likes me. We get along."  -- Donald J. Trump, Vandalia, Ohio, September 21, 2020

 Josh Rogin at WP:

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his top aides are “probably directing” a Russian foreign influence operation to interfere in the 2020 presidential election against former vice president Joe Biden, which involves a prominent Ukrainian lawmaker connected to President Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani, a top-secret CIA assessment concluded, according to two sources who reviewed it.

On Aug. 31, the CIA published an assessment of Russian efforts to interfere in the November election in an internal, highly classified report called the CIA Worldwide Intelligence Review, the sources said. CIA analysts compiled the assessment with input from the National Security Agency and the FBI, based on several dozen pieces of information gleaned from public, unclassified and classified intelligence sources. The assessment includes details of the CIA’s analysis of the activities of Ukrainian lawmaker Andriy Derkach to disseminate disparaging information about Biden inside the United States through lobbyists, Congress, the media and contacts with figures close to the president.

“We assess that President Vladimir Putin and the senior most Russian officials are aware of and probably directing Russia’s influence operations aimed at denigrating the former U.S. Vice President, supporting the U.S. president and fueling public discord ahead of the U.S. election in November,” the first line of the document says, according to the sources.

David E. Sanger and Zolan Kanno-Youngs  at NYT:

Four years ago, when Russian intelligence agencies engaged in a systematic attempt to influence the American presidential election, the disinformation they fed American voters required some real imagination at the troll farms producing the ads.

There was the exaggerated Texas secession movement, a famous ad in which Satan arm-wrestles Jesus while declaring, “If I win, Clinton wins,” and an effort to recruit protesters and counterprotesters to the same, invented rally over the rapid spread of Islamic influence in the United States.

This year, their task is much easier. They are largely amplifying misleading statements from President Trump, mostly about the dangers of mail-in ballots.

In interviews, a range of officials and private analysts said that Mr. Trump was feeding many of the disinformation campaigns they were struggling to halt. And rather than travel the back roads of America searching for divisive issues — as three Russians from the Internet Research Agency did in 2016 — they are staying home, grabbing screenshots of Mr. Trump’s Twitter posts, or quoting his misleading statements and then amplifying those messages.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Attila the Georgian


Melanie Zanona at Politico:

YOUNG HUNS -- GOP Sen. Kelly Loeffler, who is on the ballot in Georgia this fall, is out with a wild new campaign ad that paints her as “more conservative than Attila the Hun.” And then it depicts Hun grunting to a translator that he wants to “eliminate the liberal scribes.” Remember: Loeffler and Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) are running in a special election, so it's been a race to the right. Watch the ad here.

Team Collins responds: “Kelly thinks conservatives are grunting, filthy, mass-murdering open borders atheist polygamists. She lives in a seriously warped palace with an odd view of the peasants.”

Monday, September 21, 2020

Biden Has More Cash on Hand than Trump

 In Defying the Odds, we discuss campaign finance and campaign technology.



Shane Goldmacher at NYT:

Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s campaign said on Sunday that it entered September with $466 million in the bank together with the Democratic Party, providing Mr. Biden a vast financial advantage of about $141 million over President Trump heading into the intense final stretch of the campaign.

The money edge is a complete reversal from this spring, when Mr. Biden emerged as the Democratic nominee and was $187 million behind Mr. Trump, who began raising money for his re-election shortly after he was inaugurated in 2017. But the combination of slower spending by Mr. Biden’s campaign in the spring, his record-setting fund-raising over the summer — especially after he named Senator Kamala Harris of California as his running mate — and heavy early spending by Mr. Trump has erased the president’s once-formidable financial lead.

Mr. Trump and his joint operations with the Republican National Committee entered September with $325 million, according to Mr. Trump’s communications director, Tim Murtaugh.

The Trump campaign pulled back on its television spending in August to conserve money, as some campaign insiders fretted about a cash crunch in the closing stretch of the campaign. But other officials argued that the Trump campaign would continue to raise heavily from small donors and that the cutbacks over the summer were shortsighted.