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Divided We Stand

Divided We Stand
New book about the 2020 election.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Coercion? Blackmail? Stalking?

In mid-April, Scarborough texted with Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner about the pending Enquirer story. Kushner told Scarborough that he would need to personally apologize to Trump in exchange for getting Enquirer owner David Pecker to stop the story. (A spokesperson for Kushner declined to comment). Scarborough says he refused, and the Enquirerpublished the story in print on June 5, headlined “Morning Joe Sleazy Cheating Scandal!”
The Morning Joe co-hosts decided to talk about the episode a day after Trump inaccurately tweeted that Brzezinski attended a New Year’s Eve party at Mar-a-Lago “bleeding badly from a face-lift.” (A photo from that evening backs up Scarborough and Brzezinski’s denial of this.) While the Enquirer denies that Trump encouraged Pecker to investigate the MSNBC hosts, Trump himself has pushed the story publicly. Last August, he tweeted, “Some day, when things calm down, I’ll tell the real story of @JoeNBC and his very insecure long-time girlfriend, @morningmika. Two clowns!”

Rachel Stockman at Lawnewz:
So, if you believe Mika and Joe’s version about what happened, there are some significant legal considerations. First, the phone calls to Mika’s teenage children.
“These calls persisted for quite sometime,” Mika said on the morning talk show.
Number one. Under New York law (Mika reportedly lives in Westchester County), stalking is defined as:
Stalking in the 4th degree: intentionally and with no legitimate purpose engages in conduct that s/he knows or should reasonably know: will cause reasonable fear of material harm to victim or member of victim’s immediate family or causes material harm to mental or emotional health of victim or member of victim’s immediate family or causes a reasonable fear that victim’s employment or business is threatened.
We don’t know what these reporters said to Mika’s teenage children, or if she even reported this incident to police, but certainly the teenagers could have felt “material harm” to their emotional well-being if they were “harassed” with phone calls. Members of the paparazzi have been arrested for harassing subjects of a story especially when the allegations involve children. Photographers and reporters have also been cited for trespassing on private property. An editor for the Enquirer disputes Mika’s description about what happened saying “at no time did we threaten either Joe or Mika or their children in connection with our reporting on the story.”

The Winds of Trade War

In Defying the Odds, we talk about the social and economic divides that enabled Trump to enter the White House. Under Reagan and the Bushes, the GOP was the party of free trade.  Now,  Much of the Trump base believes in trade protectionism.

Mike Allen reports at Axios about a Monday White House meeting:
With more than 20 top officials present, including Trump and Vice President Pence, the president and a small band of America First advisers made it clear they're hell-bent on imposing tariffs — potentially in the 20% range — on steel.
The penalties could eventually extend to other imports. Among those that may be considered: aluminum, semiconductors, paper, and appliances like washing machines.
One official estimated the sentiment in the room as 22-3 — but since one of the three is named Donald Trump, it was case closed.
No final decision has been made, but the President is leaning toward imposing tariffs, despite opposition from nearly all his Cabinet.
In a plan pushed by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, and backed by chief strategist Steve Bannon (not present at the meeting), trade policy director Peter Navarro and senior policy adviser Stephen Miller, the United States would impose tariffs on China and other big exporters of steel. Neither Mike Pence nor Jared Kushner weighed in either way.
Everyone else in the room, more than 75% of those present, were adamantly opposed, arguing it was bad economics and bad global politics. At one point, Trump was told his almost entire cabinet thought this was a bad idea. But everyone left the room believing the country is headed toward a major trade confrontation.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Another Bit of Collusion Evidence

Shane Harris reports at The Wall Street Journal that Republican oppo guy Peter W. Smith -- now deceased -- tried to get Clinton emails stolen by Russian hackers.
Mr. Smith died at age 81 on May 14, which was about 10 days after the Journal interviewed him. His account of the email search is believed to be his only public comment on it.

The operation Mr. Smith described is consistent with information that has been examined by U.S. investigators probing Russian interference in the elections.

Those investigators have examined reports from intelligence agencies that describe Russian hackers discussing how to obtain emails from Mrs. Clinton’s server and then transmit them to Mr. Flynn via an intermediary, according to U.S. officials with knowledge of the intelligence.
In the interview with the Journal, Mr. Smith said he and his colleagues found five groups of hackers who claimed to possess Mrs. Clinton’s deleted emails, including two groups he determined were Russians.

“We knew the people who had these were probably around the Russian government,” Mr. Smith said.

In phone conversations, Mr. Smith told a computer expert he was in direct contact with Mr. Flynn and his son, according to this expert. The person said an anti-Clinton research document prepared by Mr. Smith’s group identified the younger Mr. Flynn as someone associated with the effort. The expert said that based on his conversations with Mr. Smith, he understood the elder Mr. Flynn to be coordinating with Mr. Smith’s group in his capacity as a Trump campaign adviser.

Uncontested Races

David A. Lieb reports at AP:
When voters cast ballots for state representatives last fall, millions of Americans essentially had no choice: In 42 percent of all such elections, candidates faced no major party opponents.
Political scientists say a major reason for the lack of choices is the way districts are drawn - gerrymandered, in some cases, to ensure as many comfortable seats as possible for the majority party by creating other districts overwhelmingly packed with voters for the minority party.
While the rate of uncontested races dipped slightly from 2014 to 2016, the percentage of people living in legislative districts without electoral choices has been generally rising over the past several decades.
About 4,700 state House and Assembly seats were up for election last year. Of those, 998 Democrats and 963 Republicans won without any opposition from the other major political party. In districts dominated by one party, election battles are fought mostly in the primaries; the winner from the majority party becomes a virtual shoo-in to win the general election.
-About 75 percent of the state House races in Arkansas and South Carolina lacked either a Democratic or Republican candidate. Under an Arkansas law passed this year, the names of unopposed candidates won't even have to be listed on future ballots.
Unchallenged candidates will automatically be declared the winners.
There are far fewer uncontested U.S. House races. Less than 15 percent of the 435 districts lacked a Republican or Democratic candidate last year.
But some of the same states were atop that noncompetitive list: Five of Massachusetts' nine U.S. House districts lacked Republican candidates. Three of Arkansas' four districts lacked Democratic opponents. And in Georgia, which has 14 U.S. House districts, four Republicans and one Democrat ran unopposed by the other major party.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Everybody Hates Trumpcare, Continued

Defying the Odds goes into some length on the economic and social distress that boosted Trump. Ironically,
Senate Republicans could end up passing an unpopular bill that would worsen this distress.

Susan Page and Emma Kinery report at USA Today:
Just 12% of Americans support the Senate Republican health care plan, a new USA TODAY/Suffolk University Poll finds, amid a roiling debate over whether the GOP will deliver on its signature promise to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.
In the survey, taken Saturday through Tuesday, a 53% majority say Congress should either leave the law known as Obamacare alone or work to fix its problems while keeping its framework intact.
But the dilemma for the GOP is this: Eight in 10 Republicans support repeal, and close to a third say the law should be repealed even if a replacement health care plan isn't ready yet. Just 11% of independents and 2% of Democrats feel that way.
The divide between the demands of the GOP base and the skepticism of the broader electorate helps explain why Senate Republican leaders have been forced to delay a vote as they scramble for the 50 votes needed to pass a measure.
A Tuesday release from AMA:
The American Medical Association (AMA) today released poll results showing that policies currently under consideration– particularly Medicaid cuts and narrowed coverage plans – are largely unpopular among voters in states representing nearly every region of the country.
In advance of the Senate’s vote on health system reform legislation, the AMA commissioned a poll of registered voters in seven states, including Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Nevada, Ohio, Tennessee, and West Virginia. Voters were asked their opinion of the health system reform legislation that was recently passed by the U.S. House of Representatives, provisions of the Senate legislation, and the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
Key findings from the polls show:
Widespread support in each state for Medicaid and opposition to reducing spending on the program—as both the House and Senate bills would do.
When asked if federal funding for Medicaid expansion should be eliminated or reduced in their state, respondents in each of the seven states were overwhelmingly opposed—ranging from a 54 percent majority to as much as a 63 percent majority.
Voters in each state surveyed oppose provisions in the bill that would cause socioeconomically-disadvantaged people to purchase health care plans with a low cost, but very limited access to care, so-called “skinny plans.” For instance, when asked if low-income people should be provided with assistance from the federal government to purchase inexpensive plans that would only protect them from very serious illness and not offer any preventive or routine services, a majority of respondents in all states but Arkansas were strongly opposed.
In addition to polling these specific fixes, the polls also found that respondents in each state had an overall low opinion of the House-passed health care bill. In fact, when asked whether the House-backed reform bill was a good idea or a bad idea, no more than 26 percent of voters in any of the seven states support the bill.
Public Opinion Strategies conducted the statewide polls by phone in Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Nevada, Ohio, and Tennessee between June 13 and 20, 2017. The samples were drawn from the voter file proportional to the statewide registered voter population. Quotas were set by specific demographics such as region, age, gender, and ethnicity based on data from the U.S. Census and the voter file in order to ensure the sample is representative statewide. Polling in West Virginia was conducted by Voter/Consumer Research from June 19-22, 2017.
Yesterday, the AMA expressed its opposition to the Senate’s proposed health care bill based on its health system reform objectives released in January and shared at the time with Members of Congress – primary among them that people who currently have insurance, including Medicaid coverage, should not become uninsured.
Complete interview schedules for Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Nevada, Ohio, Tennessee, and West Virginia are available online.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Trumpcare: Stupid Is as Stupid Does

Mitch McConnell had to delay Senate Trumpcare.  Jonathan Martin and Glenn Thrush report at The New York Times:
Mr. McConnell made clear his unhappiness to the White House after a “super PAC” aligned with Mr. Trump started an ad campaign against Senator Dean Heller, Republican of Nevada, when he said last week that he opposed the health care bill.
The majority leader called the White House chief of staff, Reince Priebus, to complain that the attacks were “beyond stupid,” according to two Republicans with knowledge of the tense exchange on Saturday.
Mr. McConnell, who has been toiling for weeks, mostly in private, to put together a measure that would satisfy hard-liners and moderates, told Mr. Priebus in his call that the assault by the group, America First, not only jeopardized the bill’s prospects but also imperiled Mr. Heller’s already difficult path to re-election.
America First was founded by a group of Mr. Trump’s loyalists — many of them with deep connections to Mr. Pence, including Nick Ayers, a Republican consultant who is regarded as the vice president’s top political adviser. The PAC compared Mr. Heller to Representative Nancy Pelosi, the House Democratic leader, and vowed a seven-figure advertising campaign against him.
Josh Holmes, Mr. McConnell’s former chief of staff, said, “That the White House is asking people to take a tough vote and then running ads against members while we’re still in negotiations is so dumb it’s amazing we even have to have the conversation.”

Senate Trumpcare Effects

Defying the Odds goes into some length on the economic and social distress that boosted Trump. Ironiclly,
Senate Republicans could end up passing an unpopular bill that would worsen this distress.

At Kaiser, GaryClaxton shows that Senate Trumpcare would hurt older and poorer Americans.
Marketplace enrollees with incomes below 200 percent of poverty would see an average increase in their premium costs of 177 percent, while higher income enrollees would see an increase of 57 percent.
There are important differences by age within these income groups: among enrollees with incomes below 200 percent of poverty, those in 18 to 34 age group would see an average increase of 82 percent while those in the 55 to 64 age group would see an average increase of 288 percent. Among enrollees with incomes 200 percent of poverty and above, enrollees in the 18 to 34 age group would not see an increase while those age 55 to 64 would see their premium costs almost double.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Democrats Who Speak to the Forgotten America

Defying the Odds goes into some length on the economic and social distress that boosted Trump.

Randy Bryce is running against Paul Ryan.  Stacey Evans is running for governor of Georgia.  It is too early to estimate their chances, but these ads show how Democrats can reconnect with many of voters who abandoned them in 2016.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Impact of Redistricting

David A. Lieb reports at AP
The AP scrutinized the outcomes of all 435 U.S. House races and about 4,700 state House and Assembly seats up for election last year using a new statistical method of calculating partisan advantage. It’s designed to detect cases in which one party may have won, widened or retained its grip on power through political gerrymandering.
The analysis found four times as many states with Republican-skewed state House or Assembly districts than Democratic ones. Among the two dozen most populated states that determine the vast majority of Congress, there were nearly three times as many with Republican-tilted U.S. House districts.
Traditional battlegrounds such as Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Florida and Virginia were among those with significant Republican advantages in their U.S. or state House races. All had districts drawn by Republicans after the last Census in 2010.
The AP analysis also found that Republicans won as many as 22 additional U.S. House seats over what would have been expected based on the average vote share in congressional districts across the country. That helped provide the GOP with a comfortable majority over Democrats instead of a narrow one.
The AP’s findings are similar to recent ones from the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law, which used three statistical tests to analyze the 2012-2016 congressional elections. Its report found a persistent Republican advantage and “clear evidence that aggressive gerrymandering is distorting the nation’s congressional maps,” posing a “threat to democracy.” The Brennan Center did not analyze state legislative elections.
The AP’s analysis was based on a formula developed by University of Chicago law professor Nick Stephanopoulos and Eric McGhee, a researcher at the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California. Their mathematical model was cited last fall as “corroborative evidence” by a federal appeals court panel that struck down Wisconsin’s state Assembly districts as an intentional partisan gerrymander in violation of Democratic voters’ rights to representation.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Leftward on the Left Coast

In Defying the Odds, we discuss the Sanders candidacy and the liberal drift of the Democratic Party.

George Skelton, no right-winger, writes at The Los Angeles Times:
Democrats in the state Legislature are walking a tightrope, seemingly oblivious to potential danger.
First, they raised gas taxes and vehicle fees. Then the Senate passed a ridiculously costly universal healthcare plan. Now, the Legislature is getting close to helping undocumented criminals avoid deportation.
How far left can the majority party careen, even in deep blue California, before Republicans start benefiting at the ballot box?
Patrick McGreevy reports at The Los Angeles Times:
A majority of California voters oppose the state's recently passed gas tax and vehicle fee increases that will pay for state roads and expand mass transit, according to a poll released Friday.
About 58% of registered voters surveyed said they oppose the increases that were recently approved by the Legislature and Gov. Jerry Brown, according to the IGS Poll, a survey by the Institute of Governmental Studies at UC Berkeley. About 35% said they support the new taxes and fees.

A large majority of respondents who identified themselves as strongly liberal said they support the change.
But overall, they poll found, the new law is opposed by big majorities of Republicans and no-party-preference respondents, political conservatives and moderates, members of all major races and ethnic groups, men, women, and people over 30.

Friday, June 23, 2017

In August, They Knew Putin Backed Trump

Greg Miller, Ellen Nakashima and Adam Entous report at The Washington Post:
Early last August, an envelope with extraordinary handling restrictions arrived at the White House. Sent by courier from the CIA, it carried “eyes only” instructions that its contents be shown to just four people: President Barack Obama and three senior aides.

The White House debated various options to punish Russia, but facing obstacles and potential risks, it ultimately failed to exact a heavy toll on the Kremlin for its election interference.

Inside was an intelligence bombshell, a report drawn from sourcing deep inside the Russian government that detailed Russian President Vladi­mir Putin’s direct involvement in a cyber campaign to disrupt and discredit the U.S. presidential race.

But it went further. The intelligence captured Putin’s specific instructions on the operation’s audacious objectives — defeat or at least damage the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, and help elect her opponent, Donald Trump.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Trump Voters

In Defying the Odds, we talk about the social and economic divides that enabled Trump to enter the White House.

  • This analysis finds five unique clusters of Trump voters: American Preservationists (20%), Staunch Conservatives (31%), Anti-Elites (19%), Free Marketeers (25%), and the Disengaged (5%)
  • There is no such thing as “one kind of Trump voter” who voted for him for one single reason. Many voted with enthusiasm for Trump while others held their noses and voted against Hillary Clinton.
  • Trump voters hold very different views on a wide variety of issues including immigration, race, American identity, moral traditionalism, trade, and economics.
  • Four issues distinguish Trump voters from non-Trump voters: attitudes toward Hillary Clinton, evaluations of the economy, views about illegal immigration, and views about Muslim immigration.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Special House Elections

Republicans won a high-profile special House election in Georgia, as well as a lower-profile race in South Carolina.  The latter was surprisingly close. David Wasserman writes:
The divergent results in GA-06 and SC-05 prove saturation-level campaigns can backfire on the party with a baseline enthusiasm advantage—in this case, Democrats. The GA-06 election drew over 259,000 voters—an all-time turnout record for a stand-alone special election and an amazing 49,000 more than participated in the 2014 midterm in GA-06. The crush of attention motivated GOP voters who might have otherwise stayed home, helping Handel to victory.

Credit must be given to the NRCC and the House GOP leadership-allied Congressional Leadership Fund, who did more with less and ran straightforward, but effective ads to buttress Handel's imperfect campaign and neutralize Ossoff's enormous advantage on the airwaves. Trump's approval rating in GA-06 was still mired in the low 40s by this week, but the GOP was still able to compound and capitalize on serious Ossoff fatigue.

By contrast, SC-05 drew fewer than 88,000 voters despite its similar population. Norman, the Republican nominee, had just emerged from a tight runoff with critical backing from the Club for Growth, but had alienated some of the district's chamber of commerce types. Meanwhile, Parnell benefited from a base of highly motivated Democrats, including a modest and low-profile DCCC effort to turn out African-American voters.
Although it's true Democrats have agonizingly yet to capture a red district, they have outperformed their "generic" share of the vote significantly in every contest. Measured against the Cook Political Report's Partisan Voter Index (PVI), Democrats have outperformed the partisan lean of their districts by an average of eight points in the past five elections...
If Democrats were to outperform their "generic" share by eight points across the board in November 2018, they would pick up 80 seats. Of course, that won't happen because Republican incumbents will be tougher to dislodge than special election nominees. But these results fit a pattern that should still worry GOP incumbents everywhere, regardless of Trump's national approval rating and the outcome of the healthcare debate in Congress.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

What Divides the Parties

In Defying the Odds, we talk about the social and economic divides that enabled Trump to enter the White House.

Lee Drutman analyzes survey data at the Democracy Fund Voter Study Group:
  • The primary conflict structuring the two parties involves questions of national identity, race, and morality, while the traditional conflict over economics, though still important, is less divisive now than it used to be. This has the potential to reshape the party coalitions.
  • By making questions of national identity more salient, Donald Trump succeeded in winning over “populists” (socially conservative, economically liberal voters) who had previously voted for Democrats.
  • Among populists who voted for Obama, Clinton did terribly. She held onto only 6 in 10 of these voters (59 percent). Trump picked up 27 percent of these voters, and the remaining 14 percent didn’t vote for either major party candidate.
  • To the extent that the Democratic Party is divided, these divisions are more about faith in the political system and general disaffection than they are about issue positions.
  • By contrast, Republican voters are more clearly split. For the most part, Trump and Cruz supporters look fairly similar, though Cruz supporters are considerably more conservative on moral issues, and notably less concerned about inequality and the social safety net, and more pro- free trade. Kasich supporters are the true moderates, caught in between the two parties on almost every issue, both economic and social.
  • In both parties, the donor class is both more conservative on economic issues and more liberal on social issues, as compared to the rest of the party
  • Democrats may be pressured to move further left on identity issues, given that both younger voters and the party’s donor class are quite far to the left on identity issues. If so, American politics would become further polarized along questions of culture and identity.

Monday, June 19, 2017

The Rural-Urban Divide

In Defying the Odds, we talk about the social and economic divides that enabled Trump to enter the White House.

Jose A. DelReal and Scott Clement report at The Washington Post:
The political divide between rural and urban America is more cultural than it is economic, rooted in rural residents’ deep misgivings about the nation’s rapidly changing demographics, their sense that Christianity is under siege and their perception that the federal government caters most to the needs of people in big cities, according to a wide-ranging poll that examines cultural attitudes across the United States.
The Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation survey of nearly 1,700 Americans — including more than 1,000 adults living in rural areas and small towns — finds deep-seated kinship in rural America, coupled with a stark sense of estrangement from people who live in urban areas. Nearly 7 in 10 rural residents say their values differ from people who live in big cities, including about 4 in 10 who say their values are “very different.”
That divide is felt more extensively in rural America than in cities: About half of urban residents say their values differ from rural people, with about 20 percent of urbanites saying rural values are “very different.”

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Trump Weakened His Own Standing on Human Rights

In Defying the Odds, we discuss Trump's curious lack of devotion to American principles.  His rhetoric is more Putin than Reagan.

Havana has blasted US President Donald Trump’s decision Friday to roll back much of Barack Obama’s policy of rapprochement and imposing new restrictions on Cuba using the pretext of human rights concerns, calling it a case of double standards.
The United States is not in a position to give us lessons. We have serious concerns about the respect and guarantees of human rights in that country, where there are numerous cases of murders, brutality and police abuses, particularly against the African American population,” the Cuban government said in a statement, published by the Communist Party's official Granma newspaper
Trump invited this comeback.  It echoes what he himself has said, which in turn echoes Putin.

On September 11, 2013, Putin wrote in The New York Times:
My working and personal relationship with President Obama is marked by growing trust. I appreciate this. I carefully studied his address to the nation on Tuesday. And I would rather disagree with a case he made on American exceptionalism, stating that the United States’ policy is “what makes America different. It’s what makes us exceptional.” It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation. 
The next day, Trump told Greta Van Susteren that he agreed with Putin:
And when he criticizes the president for using the term "American exceptionalism," if you're in Russia, you don't want to hear that America is exceptional. And if you're in many other countries, whether it's Germany or other places, you don't want to hear about American exceptionalism because you think you're exceptional. So I can see that being very insulting to the world.
And that's basically what Putin was saying is that, you know, you use a term like "American exceptionalism," and frankly, the way our country is being treated right now by Russia and Syria and lots of other places and with all the mistakes we've made over the years, like Iraq and so many others, it's sort of a hard term to use.
But other nations and other countries don't want hear about American exceptionalism. They're insulted by it. And that's what Putin was saying.  
On September 27, 2015, Putin told Charlie Rose:
How long did it take the democratic process to develop in the United States? Do you believe that everything is perfect now from the point of view of democracy in the United States? If everything was perfect there wouldn't be the problem of Ferguson. There would be no abuse by the police. 
On July 21 of last year, Trump told The New York Times:
I think right now when it comes to civil liberties, our country has a lot of problems, and I think it’s very hard for us to get involved in other countries when we don’t know what we are doing and we can’t see straight in our own country. We have tremendous problems when you have policemen being shot in the streets, when you have riots, when you have Ferguson. When you have Baltimore. When you have all of the things that are happening in this country — we have other problems, and I think we have to focus on those problems. When the world looks at how bad the United States is, and then we go and talk about civil liberties, I don’t think we’re a very good messenger.
And on February 7 of this year, Trump had this exchange with Bill O'Reilly:
O'REILLY: He is a killer though. Putin is a killer.
TRUMP: There are a lot of killers. Do you think our country is so innocent? Do you think our country is so innocent?
O'REILLY: I don't know of any government leaders that are killers in America.
TRUMP: Take a look at what we have done too. We've made a lot of mistakes. I've been against the war in Iraq from the beginning.
O'REILLY: Yes. Mistakes are different then --
TRUMP: A lot of mistakes, okay? But a lot of people were killed. So, a lot of killers around, believe me.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Never Heard of...

In Defying the Odds, we discuss the early stages of the 2016 campaign, when many candidates were unknowns.

Steven Shepard reports at Politico:
President Donald Trump’s poor poll numbers have dozens of Democrats reportedly considering challenging him in 2020. But voters haven’t heard of the vast majority of them.
According to a new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll that tested voters’ views of 19 potential Democratic presidential candidates — a list that includes eight senators, five governors, one congressman, a big-city mayor and a failed Senate candidate — most of the prospects are unknown among at least half the electorate.

The poll was conducted June 8-12, surveying 1,990 registered voters. The margin of error is plus or minus 2 percentage points.
Here are the "never heard of" percentages

Jason Kander
Kirsten Gillibrand
Chris Murphy
Al Franken
John Hickenlooper
Robert Iger
Seth Moulton

Tony Soprano's Legal Team Had More Class

Mary Papenfuss reports at The Huffington Post:
Complaints have been lodged with the District of Columbia and New York City Bar Associations against President Donald Trump’s personal defense attorney Marc Kasowitz, calling for an investigation to determine if he has breached rules of professional conduct.

Separate complaints were filed over the week against Kasowitz by the Campaign for Accountability, a nonprofit government watchdog organization, and by attorney Neil Goldfarb, a former board member of the American Civil Liberties Union. They both allege that Kasowitz may have inappropriately counseled other White House staffers while representing the president, raising conflict-of-interest concerns.

In addition, the CfA complaint alleges that Kasowitz is not currently authorized to practice law in Washington, D.C.



Trump does not respect democratic norms or institutions.  An AP-NORC poll shows that people are catching on:

Friday, June 16, 2017

Gingrich, Trump, Obstruction, History

So, the fantasy that didn't occur is now being replaced by -- by the way, technically, the president of the United States cannot obstruct justice. The President is the chief executive officer of the United States, if he wants to fire the FBI director, he can just fire him.
In 1998, Gingrich took a very different position when he attacked the Clinton scandals.  Juliet Eilperin reported at The Washington Post:
"The American people have the right to expect that the rule of law will prevail, that no one is above the law," Gingrich said on the floor.
In venues ranging from his filing for reelection at the Georgia state Capitol to a speech before his former political committee GOPAC, the speaker asserted that Americans will respond to the message that the White House must tell the truth. He encouraged fellow Republican leaders to hammer on this theme.
"We have never seen the level of complex, interlocking lawbreaking that we have stumbled upon the more we look into it," he elaborated to reporters on Capitol Hill.

In his GOPAC speech, Gingrich berated the president for allowing his staff to attack Starr. "If he doesn't want to fire Ken Starr, he should tell his staff to shut up," Gingrich said. "I am sickened by how unpatriotically they undermine the Constitution of the United States on behalf of their client."
After questioning Clinton's use of executive privilege as well, Gingrich then delivered a similarly harsh address before his former political committee, GOPAC. "What you have lived through for 2 1/2 years is the most systematic, deliberate obstruction of justice, coverup and effort to avoid the truth we have ever seen in American history, and the time has come to say to the president, Quit undermining the law in the United States. Turn over the evidence,' " he said.
He also said:
There is something profoundly demeaning and destructive to have the White House systematically undermine an officer of the Department of Justice

He had been at it for some time.  From ABC World News Tonight, January 2, 1994:
[VO] The question is whether Mr Clinton used his influence, while governor of Arkansas, to keep a savings and loan from falling into bankruptcy. ...House minority whip Newt Gingrich said the current investigation is inadequate because it's controlled by the Clinton administration.
[This Week With David Brinkley] If they're innocent, why don't they go ahead and agree to an independent counsel to clear their name?

On October 14, 1996, Eric Schmitt reported at The New York Times:
Speaking on the CBS News program ''Face the Nation,'' Mr. Gingrich cited recent news reports of the $425,000 that the Democratic Party had received this year from Arief Wiriandinata, an Indonesian who lived briefly in northern Virginia as a legal immigrant and whose father-in-law was a senior adviser to the billionaire Riady family of Indonesia. The Riadys are longtime friends of Mr. Clinton. 

''It's unavoidable that there will be Congressional investigations; it is unavoidable that there will be a special counsel,'' Mr. Gingrich said. ''This makes Watergate look tiny. I mean, this is a potential abuse of the American system on behalf of an Indonesian billionaire in a way that we have never seen in American history.''

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Obstruction of Justice

Mike Allen at Axios:
With the Washington Post bombshell report that the obstruction probe is in full swing ("Trump's actions now a focus of Mueller inquiry"), the reality has White House officials and Republicans sweating profusely for several reasons:
  • They know Trump talked to countless people about ending the Flynn probe, so they assume Comey's version of events is true.
  • They assume he did, indeed, ask Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and Mike Rogers, head of the National Security Agency, if they could help derail the Flynn probe, as the WashPost reported. They also assume he said similar things to other officials.
  • Nobody has privately mounted a straight-faced argument to us that Trump didn't say this stuff to Comey or to Coats/Rogers. That's telling in itself. The fact that the Trump public position — that Comey is a perjurer — isn't being argued in private.
  • Any obstruction probe requires context, which means investigators digging into the finances of Flynn, Trump and Jared Kushner. This is the phase of the probe many Republicans have always feared most.
  • The obstruction probe is simply a new layer to the bigger underlying matters: Did Flynn have illegal or improper contacts, and did the Trump campaign collude with the Russians to influence the 2016 campaign? So the investigation is metastasizing.
  • Trump's wife and Chief of Staff had to dissuade him from firing Mueller this week, the N.Y. Times reported. Why fire someone if you have nothing to hide?
  • Text to Jonathan Swan from a GOP operative close to the White House: "Leak was probably a response to stories about POTUS firing Mueller. Can't fire him now."

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Steve King: "Let's Beat That Other Side to a Pulp!"

A Bernie Sanders supporter shot several people -- including House Republican Whip Steve Scalise -- at a GOP practice for the congressional baseball game, Mark Berman and Amber Phillips report at The Washington Post:
Lawmakers reacting to the shooting Wednesday assailed the anger simmering in the country, and one Republican congressman tied the shooting to what he said was anger from the political left.
“America has been divided,” said Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), who, in suit and tie, stopped by the crime scene to pray and was viscerally angry about his colleagues being attacked. “And the center of America is disappearing, and the violence is appearing in the streets, and it’s coming from the left.”
On March 21, 2010. King told protesters on Capitol Hill:
If I could start a country with a bunch of people, they’d be the folks who were standing with us the last few days. Let’s hope we don’t have to do that! Let’s beat that other side to a pulp! Let’s take them out. Let’s chase them down. There’s going to be a reckoning!

King's comments are at 2:25 in this video compilation:

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Trump Threatens the GOP Future

At The Daily Beast, Matt Lewis writes:
A recent Quinnipiac poll contained an under-examined finding: A scant 19 percent of respondents between the ages of 18 and 34 approve of Donald Trump’s presidency, while 67 percent disapprove. Even among self-described Republicans of this age range, a mere 35 percent approve.
Obviously, this is a problem.
William Kristol writes:
Now we are not knee-jerk respecters of youth. We give no greater weight to the opinions of the young than to those of the old. In fact, we're inclined to give them less, as the young lack experience, and experience is a great teacher. We would even go so far as to say that the overvaluation of the sentiments of the young may be one of the curses of our age.
On the other hand, one would have to be blind not to see the political risk for Republicans and conservatives in these numbers. First impressions matter. Most people don't change their political views radically from the ones they first hold. For young Americans today, Donald Trump is the face of Republicanism and conservatism.

Monday, June 12, 2017

The Party of Bernie?

In Defying the Odds, we discuss the Sanders candidacy and the liberal drift of the Democratic Party.

At The New York Times, Alexander Burns and Jonathan Martin write of the tension between the Democratic Party's hard left and its more pragmatic liberal wing:
Party strategists say they have taken steps to build a relationship with Mr. Sanders and his organization, and a top Sanders lieutenant, Jeff Weaver, attended a recent briefing hosted by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, along with representatives from Planned Parenthood, the liberal group Swing Left and the centrist think tank Third Way, according to a person involved in planning the meeting.
But Mr. Sanders and his supporters have continued to seek out victory on their own terms — so far with little success — by venturing into party leadership races, primaries and long-shot special elections that establishment Democrats have avoided. The biggest test so far of Mr. Sanders’s clout may come on Tuesday in Virginia, where he has backed Tom Perriello, a liberal former congressman, in a contested primary for governor.
Still, even some Democrats competing in difficult elections have taken up ideas once associated with the hard left. Doug Applegate, a retired Marine colonel who narrowly lost a race last year to Representative Darrell Issa, Republican of California, said he would endorse single-payer health care in a new bid for Mr. Issa’s affluent coastal district.
“Single payer has become a moral issue,” Mr. Applegate said, adding he would be delighted to campaign with Mr. Sanders.

Others are warier: Representative Emanuel Cleaver, a Missouri Democrat and former chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, said the party should give “some leeway” to candidates to match the politics of their districts. Mr. Cleaver said he recently ran into former Representative John Barrow of Georgia, one of the last moderate white Democrats elected from the South, and recalled telling him, “We’ll know that we’re on the winning track when you can get back to Congress.”
“We are going to lose every possible winnable seat, in a year where there are many winnable seats, if we come across as inflexible left-wingers,” Mr. Cleaver said. “I respect Bernie — I just don’t think we can become the party of Bernie.”

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Alt-Right Fake News Conveyor Belt

Jeremy W. Peters reports at The New York Times on right-wing conspiracy theorist Jack Posobiec, who tweeted in May that James Comey had denied under oath that Trump had asked him to stop the Kremlingate investigation. The claim was false:  Comey had answered a question about DOJ, not Trump.
Once Mr. Posobiec pushed the send button on Twitter, the conservative media machinery kicked into gear. Later that day, Breitbart News published an account of Mr. Comey’s May 3 testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee under the headline “Comey Under Oath: ‘Have Not Experienced Any Requests to Stop FBI Investigations.’”, a website that often misrepresents media accounts of the Russia investigation to cast Mr. Trump in a more favorable light, repeated the claim but also raised the possibility of a more serious offense. Mr. Comey, the site said, might have perjured himself if he had claimed in a memo — as outlets including The New York Times have reported — that Mr. Trump pressured him to call off an investigation into Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn.
The next day, the perjury question was the subject of an article on InfoWars, the home of Alex Jones, a conspiracy theorist who has called the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks an inside job and questioned whether the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., really happened. InfoWars had almost five million visitors in the last month.
That afternoon, Mr. Limbaugh was also onto the story, telling his audience, “Comey said, under Senate oath, he had never been pressured to halt any investigation.” As evidence, Mr. Limbaugh read straight from the article. The whole Russia investigation, he declared, is “a political witch hunt.”
That account of the Comey testimony has lived on in the weeks since, with Sean Hannity of Fox News citing it as recently as Tuesday night. “And by the way,” he insisted on his program, “James Comey also said it never happened.”