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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Trump Threatens California


KQED:
President Trump said Thursday he is considering pulling U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers from California, warning that the nation’s most populous state would turn into a “crime nest” without the federal agents.
Trump said heavily Democratic California, which gave Hillary Clinton a resounding victory in the 2016 presidential race, was “doing a lousy management job.” He pointed to “a disgrace, the sanctuary city situation” and lamented the “protection of these horrible criminals.”
...
“Frankly, if I wanted to pull our people from California, you would have a crime nest like you’ve never seen in California. All I’d have to do is say is, ‘ICE and Border Patrol, let California alone,’ you’d be inundated. You would see crime like nobody has ever seen crime in this country.”
He added: “If we ever pulled our ICE out, and we ever said, ‘Hey, let California alone, let them figure it out for themselves,’ in two months they’d be begging for us to come back. They would be begging. And you know what, I’m thinking about doing it.”

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The Guns of the GOP

In Defying the Odds, we discuss congressional elections as well as the presidential race

Anna Palmer, Jake Sherman, and Daniel Lippman at Politico:
MANY REPUBLICANS FEEL LIKE THEY GO HOME to their safely red district and interact with constituents who are gun-toting NRA members -- many of whom show up to barbecues, fundraisers and political events carrying a weapon. Multiple Republicans told us they have held events at high-end shooting ranges. Gabe Debenedetti: “AR-15 auction removed from McMorris Rodgers fundraiser” http://politi.co/2GwJiSp
FORGET THE MONEY that the NRA gives -- it’s relatively inconsequential compared to other industries, and it’s a lazy explanation for the position that many Republicans hold. But many GOP voters exist in a media environment where they read the NRA’s magazines, pay attention to their scorecards come election time and wonder if the long arm of the U.S. government will come get their guns.
MOST REPUBLICANS exist in a climate in which their only political fear is a primary challenger on the right. To these Republicans, national polls mean squat. Getting on the “wrong side” of the gun issue would be going soft on guns -- that’s the way to lose a primary election. Few of these Republicans believe they’ll lose an election by not supporting stringent gun regulations.

CONSIDER THIS: In the House -- the more conservative of the two bodies -- 36 lawmakers sit in seats that elect Republicans by an average of 20 points or more. If you start looking wobbly there on any core issue -- which lawmakers say is immigration, abortion and gun rights -- you could be looking for a new job.
THEN THERE’S THEIR ARGUMENT that new gun laws wouldn’t do much. Ban assault weapons? Well there are plenty on the streets now. And if you ban assault weapons and someone shoots up a school with a pistol, then what’s next? Will the government move to make pistols illegal. How about tightening background checks? Many Republicans will tell you the laws in place now aren’t being enforced as they should be. Why add new regulations?
THERE IS A CLEAR SPLIT AMONG TOP REPUBLICANS WE TALK TO.Many believe this shooting is a tipping point. Others say, “eh.” Remember, Republicans didn’t do anything after one of their own — House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) — was shot. And in 2011, they did nothing when Gabby Giffords -- then a member of the House -- was shot in the head meeting constituents outside a supermarket.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Pennsylvania Redistricting

In Defying the Odds, we discuss congressional elections as well as the presidential race

Elena Schneider at Politico:
Democrats’ hopes of winning the House this fall got a boost Monday with the release of a new congressional-district map in Pennsylvania that could help the party pick up several seats in the battleground state.
Under the previous map, drawn by a Republican Legislature in 2011 and approved by the then-Republican governor, Republicans won 13 of the state's 18 congressional districts in 2016, when President Donald Trump carried 12 of the 18 districts.

But early estimates of the new, court-drawn map suggest there are now 10 Trump seats — opening the door for Democrats to inch closer to the House majority when voters go to the polls this November. The extra Democratic-leaning seats are primarily in the Philadelphia suburbs.
“This is pretty close to a Democratic wet dream,” Christopher Nicholas, a Republican consultant based in Pennsylvania, said of the new map.
Christopher Ingraham at WP:
Michael McDonald, an elections expert at the University of Florida, wrote that the new Pennsylvania mapshares characteristics with a court-drawn map in Florida. “We've now had two state Supreme Courts — FL and PA — order the creation of fairer congressional redistricting plans for their states that obviously are more compact and respect more political boundaries than the Republican gerrymanders they replace,” he wrote.

Dave Wasserman, House editor for the Cook Political Report, wrote that “the PA Supreme Court's map doesn't just undo the GOP's gerrymander. It goes further, actively helping Dems compensate for their natural geographic disadvantage in PA.”

Rick Hasen, an elections expert at the University of California at Irvine, wrote that “the early indications are that this is a much more competitive map which will help the Democrats compared to the gerrymandered maps drawn by the Republican legislature.”


Monday, February 19, 2018

Trump, Russia, and the Oath of Office

In Defying the Odds, we discuss Trump's place in the American constitutional system.  His response to the Russia indictment -- which spelled out a cyber-attack on American democracy -- was not to plan a tough response or improve our defenses.  Instead, he faulted the FBI for spending too much time on the issue.


Article 2, Section 1, Clause 8 of the Constitution spells out the presidential oath: "I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

Arguably, his failure to react to the attack is a violation of this oath.

But he is also breaking his oath on an even deeper level.

Madison wrote that the stability of the constitutional order depended on the veneration of its institutions "without which perhaps the wisest and freest governments would not possess the requisite stability."

Trump routinely attacks anything or anyone who gets in his way -- including Congress, the courts, and public servants. And his constant lying undermines respect for the presidency.

He is not preserving, protecting, and defending the Constitution.

He is damaging and deserting it.




Sunday, February 18, 2018

"Russia did not help me."


And by the way, folks, just in case you're, like, curious—no, Russia did not help me, okay? [Laughter] Russia. I call it the "Russian hoax." One of the great hoaxes. Actually, that's the thing I was thinking about. That's the thing that the Democrats did best. They lost the election, and they didn't know what happened, and they needed an excuse, so they said "Russia." And then they said, wait a minute, wait a minute, "Russia and Trump." Honestly, it's the thing they did best. They did a rotten job of running, but to convince people about this hoax, that was probably the thing that they did best. But it is one great hoax. No, Russia did not help me, that I can tell you, okay? Any Russians in the audience? [Laughter] Are there any Russians in the audience, please? I don't see too many Russians. I didn't see too many Russians in Pennsylvania. [Laughter] I didn't see too many Russians.
-- Donald Trump, September 22, 2017

And I have to say, the whole Russian thing is what it's turned out to be. This was the Democrats coming up with an excuse for losing an election. It's an election that's very hard for a Democrat to lose because the Electoral College is set in such a way that it's very hard to lose that election for a Democrat. They lost it. They lost it very badly and very easily.

I mean, you look at the votes; it was 306 to what -- 223 or something. They lost it by a lot. They didn't know what to say, so they made up the whole Russia hoax. Now it's turning out that the hoax has turned around. And you look at what's happened with Russia, and you look at the uranium deal, and you look at the fake dossier. So that's all turned around.
-- Donald Trump, October 12, 2017


Saturday, February 17, 2018

How the Russians Helped Trump

In  Defying the Oddswe discuss Russian involvement in the 2016 campaign




Philip Rucker at WP:
But Trump’s own Justice Department has concluded otherwise. A 37-page federal indictment released Friday afternoon spells out in exhaustive detail a three-year Russian plot to disrupt America’s democracy and boost Trump’s campaign, dealing a fatal blow to one of the president’s favorite talking points.
A Russia “hoax” this was not.
The indictment — signed by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and announced by Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, both of whom Trump has at times mused about wanting to fire — reveals that the scope of Russia’s alleged efforts to help Trump defeat Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton was extraordinary.
From the indictment: 
Defendants, posing as U.S. persons and creating false U.S. personas, operated social media pages and groups designed to attract U.S. audiences. These groups and pages, which addressed divisive U.S. political and social issues, falsely claimed to be controlled by U.S. activists when, in fact, they were controlled by Defendants. Defendants also used the stolen identities of real U.S> persons to post on ORGANIZATION [the Internet Research Agency] -controlled social media accounts. Over time, these social media accounts became Defendants' means to reach significant numbers of Americans for purposes of interfering with the U.S. political system, including the presidential election of 2016.

5.Certain Defendants travelled to the United States under false pretenses for the purpose of collecting intelligence to inform Defendants' operations. Defendants also procured and used computer infrastructure, based partly in the United States, to hide the Russian origin of their activities and to avoid detection by U.S. regulators and law enforcement.

6.Defendant ORGANIZATION had a strategic goal to sow discord in the U.S. political system, including the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Defendants posted derogatory information about a number of candidates, and by early to mid-2016, Defendants'' operations included supporting the presidential campaign of the -candidate Donald J. Trump ("Trump Campaign") and disparaging Hillary Clinton. Defendants made various expenditures to carry out those activities, including buying political advertisements on social media in the names of U.S. persons and grassroots entities and U.S. persons, and without revealing their Russian identities and ORGANIZATION affiliation, solicited and compensated real U.S. persons to promote or disparage candidates. Some Defendants, posing as U.S> persons and without revealing their Russian association, communicated with unwitting individuals associated with the Trump Campaign and with other political activists to seek to coordinate political activities

...
33.ORGANIZATION employees, referred to as "specialists," were tasked to create social media accounts that appeared to be operated by U.S. persons. The specialists were divided into the day-shift and night-shift hours and instructed to make posts in accordance with the appropriate U.S. time zone. The ORGANIZATION also circulated lists of U.S. holidays so that specialists could develop and post appropriate account activity. Specialists were instructed to write about topics germane to the United States such as U.S. foreign policy and U.S. economic issues. Specialists were directed to create "political intensity through supporting radical group, users dissatisfied with [the] social and economic situation and oppositional social movements."
34.Defendants and their co-conspirators also created thematic group pages on social media sites, particularly on the social media platforms Facebook and Instagram. ORGANIZATION-controlled pages addressed a range of issues, including: immigration (with group names including "Secured Borders"); the Black Lives Matter movement (with group names including "Blacktivist"); religion (with group names including "United Muslims of America" and "Army of Jesus")' and certain geographic regions within the United States (with group names including "South United" and "Heart of Texas"). By 2016, the size of many ORGANIZATION-controlled groups had grown to hundreds of thousands of online followers.
35.Starting at least in or around 2015, Defendants and their co-conspirators began to purchase advertisements on online social media sites to promote ORGANIZATION-controlled social media groups, spending thousands of U.S. dollars every month. These expenditures were included in the budgets the ORGANIZATION submitted to CONCORD.
36.Defendants and their co-conspirators also created and controlled numerous Twitter accounts designed to appear as if U.S. personas or groups controlled them. For example, the ORGANIZATION created and controlled the Twitter account "Tennessee GOP," which used the handle @TEN_GOP. The @TEN_GOP account falsely claimed to be controlled by a U.S. state political party. Over time, the @TEN_GOP account attracted more than 100,000 online followers.


Thursday, February 15, 2018

Culture of Corruption, Mid-February

 In  Defying the Oddswe discuss  Trump's record of scandal

Carol E. Lee, Mike Memoli, Kristen Welker and Rich Gardella at NBC:
More than 130 political appointees working in the Executive Office of the President did not have permanent security clearances as of November 2017, including the president’s daughter, son-in-law and his top legal counsel, according to internal White House documents obtained by NBC News.
Of those appointees working with interim clearances, 47 of them are in positions that report directly to President Donald Trump. About a quarter of all political appointees in the executive office are working with some form of interim security clearance.
White House officials said Wednesday they would not comment, as is their policy, on the nature of security clearances. CNN also reported on the clearances earlier Wednesday evening. It is unclear whether some employees have had their clearance levels changed since mid-November.
EPA on Wednesday retracted its claim that Administrator Scott Pruitt has received a “blanket waiver” to fly first class whenever he travels, after POLITICO pointed officials to federal travel rules that appeared to bar such arrangements.
Pruitt has been routinely flying first class at taxpayers’ expense after securing what EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox had described as "blanket waiver,” POLITICO reported Tuesday. But the General Services Administration says federal rules require agencies’ oversight staffers to sign off on officials’ first- or business-class travel "on a trip-by-trip basis ... unless the traveler has an up-to-date documented disability or special need.”

Wilcox changed his explanation after POLITICO pointed out that section of the regulations. GSA does allow first-class travel for security reasons, but only if agencies request a waiver for each trip.
Lisa Rein at Politico:
Veterans Affairs Secretary David J. Shulkin’s chief of staff doctored an email and made false statements to create a pretext for taxpayers to cover expenses for the secretary’s wife on a 10-day trip to Europe last summer, the agency’s inspector general has found.
Vivieca Wright Simpson, VA’s third-most-senior official, altered language in an email from an aide coordinating the trip to make it appear that Shulkin was receiving an award from the Danish government, then used the award to justify paying for his wife’s travel, Inspector General Michael J. Missal said in a report released Wednesday. VA paid more than $4,300 for her airfare.
The account of how the government paid travel expenses for the secretary’s wife is one finding in an unsparing investigation that concluded that Shulkin and his staff misled agency ethics officials and the public about key details of the trip. Shulkin also improperly accepted a gift of sought-after tickets to a Wimbledon tennis match, the investigation found, and directed an aide to act as what the report called a “personal travel concierge” to him and his wife.