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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

The Day After Mueller Monday

In Defying the Oddswe discuss Russian involvement in the 2016 campaign.


  • “The Campaign Supervisor”: Trump campaign national co-chairman Sam Clovis
  • “High-Ranking Campaign Official”: Campaign manager Corey Lewandowski
  • “Another high-ranking campaign official”: Campaign chairman Paul Manafort
  • “Another campaign official”: Manafort deputy Rick Gates
  • “Senior Policy Advisor”: Unknown
  • “The Professor”: Joseph Mifsud, director of the London Academy of Diplomacy
  • “The Female Russian National”: Unknown
  • “A Russian National Connected to the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs”: Ivan Timofeev
Scott Shane at NYT explains the significance of the Papadopoulos plea:
The guilty plea of a 30-year-old campaign aide — so green that he listed Model United Nations in his qualifications — shifted the narrative on Monday of the Trump campaign’s interactions with Russia: Court documents revealed that Russian officials alerted the campaign, through an intermediary in April 2016, that they possessed thousands of Democratic emails and other “dirt” on Hillary Clinton.
That was two months before the Russian hacking of the Democratic National Committee was publicly revealed and the stolen emails began to appear online. The new court filings provided the first clear evidence that Trump campaign aides had early knowledge that Russia had stolen confidential documents on Mrs. Clinton and the committee, a tempting trove in a close presidential contest.
By the time of a crucial meeting in June of last year, when Donald Trump Jr. and other senior Trump campaign officials met with a Russian lawyer offering damaging information on Mrs. Clinton, some may have known for weeks that Russia had material likely obtained by illegal hacking, the new documents suggested. The disclosures added to the evidence pointing to attempts at collaboration between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, but they appeared to fall short of proof that they conspired in the hacking or other illegal acts.
John Schindler at The Observer:
The importance of the Papadopoulos case to the Mueller investigation in terms of national security is obvious and troubling. Already “the Professor” has been identified as Joseph Mifsud, a Maltese academic resident in Great Britain. Mifsud brushed off the FBI’s accusations of his role in this affair, stating he has “a clear conscience.” So far, the Russian female and the senior MFA official have not been firmly identified, yet in truth it hardly matters since, to any seasoned counterspy, their roles in this hush-hush saga are perfectly clear, no matter who they really are.
This was a textbook Russian espionage operation, presumably run by Moscow’s Foreign Intelligence Service, the SVR. Here, Mifsud served as a cut-out, offering plausible deniability as the Kremlin assessed if Papadopoulos was worth the SVR’s time—which obviously he was. Here “the Russian MFA” is merely a pleasant fiction covering the tracks of the SVR. It’s safe to assume that the Russian female and the “diplomat” were SVR representatives too, since spies—not legitimate diplomats—handle this sort of sensitive matter for Moscow.
Even though very little concrete results came of Papadopoulos’s effort at currying the Kremlin’s favor—indeed this operation appears rather amateurish overall, given that Moscow knows that Western intelligence can intercept emails—it’s certain that the SVR was pleased to have direct access to the Trump campaign.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Mueller Books `Em!

 In Defying the Oddswe discuss Russian involvement in the 2016 campaign.

U.S. v. Paul J. Manafort, Jr., and Richard W. Gates III (1:17-cr-201, District of Columbia)
Paul J. Manafort, Jr., of Alexandria, Va., and Richard W. Gates III, of Richmond, Va., have been indicted by a federal grand jury on Oct. 27, 2017, in the District of Columbia. The indictment contains 12 counts: conspiracy against the United States, conspiracy to launder money, unregistered agent of a foreign principal, false and misleading FARA statements, false statements, and seven counts of failure to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts. The case was unsealed on Oct. 30, 2017, after the defendants were permitted to surrender themselves to the custody of the FBI.
Indictment

U.S. v. George Papadopoulos (1:17-cr-182, District of Columbia)
George Papadopoulos, of Chicago, Illinois, pleaded guilty on Oct. 5, 2017, to making false statements to FBI agents, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1001. The case was unsealed on Oct. 30, 2017.

Criminal Information
Plea Agreement
Statement of the Offense
A professor with close ties to the Russian government told an adviser to Donald J. Trump’s presidential campaign in April 2016 that Moscow had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton in the form of “thousands of emails,” according to court documents unsealed Monday.
The adviser, George Papadopoulos, has pleaded guilty to lying to the F.B.I. about that conversation. The plea represents the most explicit evidence connecting the Trump campaign to the Russian government’s meddling in last year’s election.
“They have dirt on her,” the professor told him, according to the documents. “They have thousands of emails.”
Mr. Papadopoulos was quietly arrested in July and has since been cooperating with the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, records show. Mr. Papadopoulos’s conversation in April raises more questions about a meeting in June at Trump Tower, where Mr. Trump’s eldest son and senior advisers met with Russians who were similarly promising damaging information on Mrs. Clinton. 




Sunday, October 29, 2017

Manafort Might Be Going Down

 In  Defying the Oddswe discuss Russian involvement in the 2016 campaign.

Former CIA officer "Alex Finley" in Politico:
Generally, an intelligence officer looks for a person’s vulnerabilities and explores ways to exploit them. It usually comes down to four things, which—in true government style—the CIA has encompassed in an acronym, MICE: Money, Ideology, Coercion, Ego. Want to get someone to betray his country? Figure out which of these four motivators drives the person and exploit the hell out of it.

Jason Leopold and Anthony Cormier at Buzzfeed:
The FBI's investigation of Donald Trump's former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, includes a keen focus on a series of suspicious wire transfers in which offshore companies linked to Manafort moved more than $3 million all over the globe between 2012 and 2013.
Much of the money came into the United States.
These transactions — which have not been previously reported — drew the attention of federal law enforcement officials as far back as 2012, when they began to examine wire transfers to determine if Manafort hid money from tax authorities or helped the Ukrainian regime close to Russian President Vladimir Putin launder some of the millions it plundered through corrupt dealings.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Russia Weekend!

 In  Defying the Oddswe discuss Russian involvement in the 2016 campaign.

Callum Borchers at WP:
The Washington Free Beacon disclosed in congressional testimony on Friday that it is the mysterious client that initially paid for opposition research on Donald Trump performed by Fusion GPS, the firm that later worked with a former British spy to produce a dossier of claims about ties between Trump and Russia.
Just three days earlier, the Free Beacon, a conservative news site founded in 2012, told its readers that before Democrats hired Fusion GPS in April 2016, the firm's work “was funded by an unknown GOP client while the primary was still going on."
The GOP client was not “unknown” — not to the Free Beacon, anyway. The site's feigned ignorance would have led any reasonable reader to conclude, wrongly, that it was not involved in the work of Fusion GPS.
Free Beacon editor in chief Matthew Continetti did not immediately respond to a Fix inquiry about his site's lack of disclosure. But he and Free Beacon chairman Michael Goldfarb posted a statement on the site Friday night, in which they said that the Free Beacon routinely “has retained third-party firms to conduct research on many individuals and institutions of interest to us and our readers.”
Sharon Lafraniere and Andrew E. Kramer at NYT:
Natalia V. Veselnitskaya arrived at a meeting at Trump Tower in June 2016 hoping to interest top Trump campaign officials in the contents of a memo she believed contained information damaging to the Democratic Party and, by extension, Hillary Clinton. The material was the fruit of her research as a private lawyer, she has repeatedly said, and any suggestion that she was acting at the Kremlin’s behest that day is anti-Russia “hysteria.”
But interviews and records show that in the months before the meeting, Ms. Veselnitskaya had discussed the allegations with one of Russia’s most powerful officials, the prosecutor general, Yuri Y. Chaika. And the memo she brought with her closely followed a document that Mr. Chaika’s office had given to an American congressman two months earlier, incorporating some paragraphs verbatim.
The coordination between the Trump Tower visitor and the Russian prosecutor general undercuts Ms. Veselnitskaya’s account that she was a purely independent actor when she sat down with Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, and Paul J. Manafort, then the Trump campaign chairman.
It also suggests that emails from an intermediary to the younger Mr. Trump promising that Ms. Veselnitskaya would arrive with information from Russian prosecutors were rooted at least partly in fact — not mere “puffery,”as the president’s son later said.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Congress Exempts Itself from Rules on Sexual Harassment

Congress makes its own rules about the handling of sexual complaints against members and staff, passing laws exempting it from practices that apply to other employers.
The result is a culture in which some lawmakers suspect harassment is rampant. Yet victims are unlikely to come forward, according to attorneys who represent them.
Under a law in place since 1995, accusers may file lawsuits only if they first agree to go through months of counseling and mediation. A special congressional office is charged with trying to resolve the cases out of court.
When settlements do occur, members do not pay them from their own office funds, a requirement in other federal agencies. Instead, the confidential payments come out of a special U.S. Treasury fund.
Madison in Federalist 57:  If this spirit shall ever be so far debased as to tolerate a law not obligatory on the legislature, as well as on the people, the people will be prepared to tolerate any thing but liberty.

Senate Democrats Are Doing Well at Fundraising


Cam Joseph at TPM:
Nine of the 10 Democratic senators from states President Trump won raised more than $1 million in the last fundraising quarter, easily outpacing most of their rivals. All 10 have at least $3 million stashed away, and seven of them have more than $5 million cash on hand.
On the flip side, the few Senate Republicans who might face real challenges posted less-than impressive hauls. Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV) was out-raised by his likely Democratic opponent, Rep. Jacky Rosen (D-NV). Sen. Jeff Flake’s (R-AZ) decision to retire came after he was out-raised by Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), who begins the Arizona Senate race with a big cash advantage over any of her likely opponents with $4.2 million in the bank.
Senate GOP challengers also struggled with fundraising. Only two Senate Republican candidates raised even half as much as the Democratic senator they’re hoping to take out next fall — Rep. Luke Messer (R-IN) and West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrissey (R). Like many other Republican Senate candidates, they’ll have to spend much of that money to win primaries.
Democrats even raised more than their GOP opponents in long-shot races. Democrat Doug Jones brought in more and had more money in the bank than former Judge Roy Moore (R) in Alabama ahead of their Dec. 12 special election, and Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-TX) out-raised Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), though Cruz still has much more cash on hand.
Democrats aren’t counting their chickens yet — but they admit things seem to be going their way.
“This has been an amazing year. I’ve never seen anything like it,” Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO), who raised $2.7 million and has $7.1 million in the bank, told TPM.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

The 2018 Election Is Still Looking Good for House Democrats


Record numbers of Democrats continue to emerge who are willing to defy the normal odds by mounting early challenges to sitting House incumbents. As of June 30, we counted 209 Democratic challengers who had raised $5,000 or more. Three months later, the 209 had grown to 391 Democratic challengers with at least $5,000. Of these 391, 210 raised at least $50,000 and 145 raised at least $100,000. The following table shows the comparison across years with the columns showing the number of challengers who have raised at least the amount indicated. (A full set of data, including for each of the candidates, is available on the Campaign Finance Institute’s website.)
...
What we really want to know, therefore, is not how many challengers are running, but how many incumbents are facing challengers. The following bar chart graphically shows the number of incumbents running against challengers who have raised at least $50,000.
...
[M]any more Republican incumbents are facing Democratic challengers at this time of the year (at each funding level) than any other set of incumbents since 2003. Because multiple candidates are in fact running in some districts, the advantage is not quite as large as it was for the raw number of challengers. There were more than twice as many Democratic challengers in 2017 as Republicans in 2009. When we flip the question around, there are just short of one-and-a-half times as many Republican incumbents facing Democratic challengers in 2017 (at the various funding levels) as the other way around in 2009. While not as large an advantage as the raw number of challengers suggests, this is still considerable. The 2009 GOP cohort was larger than any other before this year. It was large enough to feed a major partisan shift in 2010—and larger than the Democrats need to become a majority in 2018.

Given the field of challengers, should we expect a Democratic wave in 2018 that could rival the 2010 wave for Republicans? These numbers tell us that Democrats are poised to take advantage of a wave if one develops. And based on past experience, a wave election would likely sweep out some incumbents who are not yet even challenged. But the challengers cannot make a wave election by themselves. That will depend upon the President’s performance, Congress’s performance, and the mood of the public. In other words, it is still the second inning. There are many more yet to be played.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

The New Washington Way

In Defying the Odds, we discuss the tax issue in the 2016 campaign. 

In his coauthored 2010 book Young Guns, Paul Ryan wrote:
This new Washington Way isn't open debate broadcast on C-SPAN; it's closed-door, backroom deals. The Washington Way doesn't seek input from both sides of the issue; it muscles through bills on strict one-party votes. And the Washington Way isn't interested in honest up-or-down votes on transformational programs. It rigs the process to produce the outcome it desires through any means necessary. The ends justify the means. Bend the Constitution to keep up with the change.

The Pee Pee Tape Dossier

 In  Defying the Oddswe discuss Russian involvement in the 2016 campaign.

Mike Allen at Axios:
"The Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee helped fund research that resulted in a now-famous dossier containing allegations about President Trump's connections to Russia and possible coordination between his campaign and the Kremlin," the WashPost's Adam Entous, Devlin Barrett and Roz Helderman scoop:
  • What happened: "Marc E. Elias, a lawyer representing the Clinton campaign and the DNC, retained Fusion GPS ... Fusion GPS hired dossier author Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence officer with ties to the FBI and the U.S. intelligence community."
  • Why it matters: "The dossier has become a lightning rod amid the intensifying investigations into the Trump campaign ... Trump tweeted ... Saturday that the Justice Department and FBI should 'immediately release who paid for it.'"
  • "Elias and his law firm, Perkins Coie, retained the company in April 2016 ... The Clinton campaign and the DNC, through the law firm, continued to fund Fusion GPS's research through the end of October 2016."
  • Remaining mystery: "Before that agreement, Fusion GPS's research into Trump was funded by an unknown Republican client during the GOP primary."
Brian Fallon, former Hillary Clinton campaign spokesman, tweets: "I have no idea what Fusion or Steele were paid but if even a shred of that dossier ends up helping Mueller, it will prove money well spent."

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Exit Jeff Flake

Mr. President, I rise today to address a matter that has been much on my mind, at a moment when it seems that our democracy is more defined by our discord and our dysfunction than it is by our values and our principles. Let me begin by noting a somewhat obvious point that these offices that we hold are not ours to hold indefinitely. We are not here simply to mark time. Sustained incumbency is certainly not the point of seeking office. And there are times when we must risk our careers in favor of our principles.
Now is such a time.

It must also be said that I rise today with no small measure of regret. Regret, because of the state of our disunion, regret because of the disrepair and destructiveness of our politics, regret because of the indecency of our discourse, regret because of the coarseness of our leadership, regret for the compromise of our moral authority, and by our – all of our – complicity in this alarming and dangerous state of affairs. It is time for our complicity and our accommodation of the unacceptable to end.

In this century, a new phrase has entered the language to describe the accommodation of a new and undesirable order – that phrase being “the new normal.” But we must never adjust to the present coarseness of our national dialogue – with the tone set at the top.

We must never regard as “normal” the regular and casual undermining of our democratic norms and ideals. We must never meekly accept the daily sundering of our country - the personal attacks, the threats against principles, freedoms, and institutions, the flagrant disregard for truth or decency, the reckless provocations, most often for the pettiest and most personal reasons, reasons having nothing whatsoever to do with the fortunes of the people that we have all been elected to serve.

None of these appalling features of our current politics should ever be regarded as normal. We must never allow ourselves to lapse into thinking that this is just the way things are now. If we simply become inured to this condition, thinking that this is just politics as usual, then heaven help us. Without fear of the consequences, and without consideration of the rules of what is politically safe or palatable, we must stop pretending that the degradation of our politics and the conduct of some in our executive branch are normal. They are not normal.

Reckless, outrageous, and undignified behavior has become excused and countenanced as “telling it like it is,” when it is actually just reckless, outrageous, and undignified.

And when such behavior emanates from the top of our government, it is something else: It is dangerous to a democracy. Such behavior does not project strength – because our strength comes from our values. It instead projects a corruption of the spirit, and weakness.

It is often said that children are watching. Well, they are. And what are we going to do about that? When the next generation asks us, Why didn’t you do something? Why didn’t you speak up? -- what are we going to say?

Mr. President, I rise today to say: Enough. We must dedicate ourselves to making sure that the anomalous never becomes normal. With respect and humility, I must say that we have fooled ourselves for long enough that a pivot to governing is right around the corner, a return to civility and stability right behind it. We know better than that. By now, we all know better than that.

Here, today, I stand to say that we would better serve the country and better fulfill our obligations under the constitution by adhering to our Article 1 “old normal” – Mr. Madison’s doctrine of the separation of powers. This genius innovation which affirms Madison’s status as a true visionary and for which Madison argued in Federalist 51 – held that the equal branches of our government would balance and counteract each other when necessary. “Ambition counteracts ambition,” he wrote.

But what happens if ambition fails to counteract ambition? What happens if stability fails to assert itself in the face of chaos and instability? If decency fails to call out indecency? Were the shoe on the other foot, would we Republicans meekly accept such behavior on display from dominant Democrats? Of course not, and we would be wrong if we did.

When we remain silent and fail to act when we know that that silence and inaction is the wrong thing to do – because of political considerations, because we might make enemies, because we might alienate the base, because we might provoke a primary challenge, because ad infinitum, ad nauseum – when we succumb to those considerations in spite of what should be greater considerations and imperatives in defense of the institutions of our liberty, then we dishonor our principles and forsake our obligations. Those things are far more important than politics.

Now, I am aware that more politically savvy people than I caution against such talk. I am aware that a segment of my party believes that anything short of complete and unquestioning loyalty to a president who belongs to my party is unacceptable and suspect.

If I have been critical, it not because I relish criticizing the behavior of the president of the United States. If I have been critical, it is because I believe that it is my obligation to do so, as a matter of duty and conscience. The notion that one should stay silent as the norms and values that keep America strong are undermined and as the alliances and agreements that ensure the stability of the entire world are routinely threatened by the level of thought that goes into 140 characters - the notion that one should say and do nothing in the face of such mercurial behavior is ahistoric and, I believe, profoundly misguided.

A Republican president named Roosevelt had this to say about the president and a citizen’s relationship to the office:

“The President is merely the most important among a large number of public servants. He should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able, and disinterested service to the nation as a whole. Therefore, it is absolutely necessary that there should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and this means that it is exactly as necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile.” President Roosevelt continued. “To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public.”

Acting on conscience and principle is the manner in which we express our moral selves, and as such, loyalty to conscience and principle should supersede loyalty to any man or party. We can all be forgiven for failing in that measure from time to time. I certainly put myself at the top of the list of those who fall short in that regard. I am holier-than-none. But too often, we rush not to salvage principle but to forgive and excuse our failures so that we might accommodate them and go right on failing—until the accommodation itself becomes our principle.

In that way and over time, we can justify almost any behavior and sacrifice almost any principle. I’m afraid that is where we now find ourselves.

When a leader correctly identifies real hurt and insecurity in our country and instead of addressing it goes looking for somebody to blame, there is perhaps nothing more devastating to a pluralistic society. Leadership knows that most often a good place to start in assigning blame is to first look somewhat closer to home. Leadership knows where the buck stops. Humility helps. Character counts. Leadership does not knowingly encourage or feed ugly and debased appetites in us.

Leadership lives by the American creed: E Pluribus Unum. From many, one. American leadership looks to the world, and just as Lincoln did, sees the family of man. Humanity is not a zero-sum game. When we have been at our most prosperous, we have also been at our most principled. And when we do well, the rest of the world also does well.

These articles of civic faith have been central to the American identity for as long as we have all been alive. They are our birthright and our obligation. We must guard them jealously, and pass them on for as long as the calendar has days. To betray them, or to be unserious in their defense is a betrayal of the fundamental obligations of American leadership. And to behave as if they don’t matter is simply not who we are.

Now, the efficacy of American leadership around the globe has come into question. When the United States emerged from World War II we contributed about half of the world’s economic activity. It would have been easy to secure our dominance, keeping the countries that had been defeated or greatly weakened during the war in their place. We didn’t do that. It would have been easy to focus inward. We resisted those impulses. Instead, we financed reconstruction of shattered countries and created international organizations and institutions that have helped provide security and foster prosperity around the world for more than 70 years.

Now, it seems that we, the architects of this visionary rules-based world order that has brought so much freedom and prosperity, are the ones most eager to abandon it.

The implications of this abandonment are profound. And the beneficiaries of this rather radical departure in the American approach to the world are the ideological enemies of our values. Despotism loves a vacuum. And our allies are now looking elsewhere for leadership. Why are they doing this? None of this is normal. And what do we as United States Senators have to say about it?

The principles that underlie our politics, the values of our founding, are too vital to our identity and to our survival to allow them to be compromised by the requirements of politics. Because politics can make us silent when we should speak, and silence can equal complicity.

I have children and grandchildren to answer to, and so, Mr. President, I will not be complicit.

I have decided that I will be better able to represent the people of Arizona and to better serve my country and my conscience by freeing myself from the political considerations that consume far too much bandwidth and would cause me to compromise far too many principles.

To that end, I am announcing today that my service in the Senate will conclude at the end of my term in early January 2019.

It is clear at this moment that a traditional conservative who believes in limited government and free markets, who is devoted to free trade, and who is pro-immigration, has a narrower and narrower path to nomination in the Republican party – the party that for so long has defined itself by belief in those things. It is also clear to me for the moment we have given in or given up on those core principles in favor of the more viscerally satisfying anger and resentment. To be clear, the anger and resentment that the people feel at the royal mess we have created are justified. But anger and resentment are not a governing philosophy.

There is an undeniable potency to a populist appeal – but mischaracterizing or misunderstanding our problems and giving in to the impulse to scapegoat and belittle threatens to turn us into a fearful, backward-looking people. In the case of the Republican party, those things also threaten to turn us into a fearful, backward-looking minority party.

We were not made great as a country by indulging or even exalting our worst impulses, turning against ourselves, glorying in the things which divide us, and calling fake things true and true things fake. And we did not become the beacon of freedom in the darkest corners of the world by flouting our institutions and failing to understand just how hard-won and vulnerable they are.

This spell will eventually break. That is my belief. We will return to ourselves once more, and I say the sooner the better. Because to have a heathy government we must have healthy and functioning parties. We must respect each other again in an atmosphere of shared facts and shared values, comity and good faith. We must argue our positions fervently, and never be afraid to compromise. We must assume the best of our fellow man, and always look for the good. Until that days comes, we must be unafraid to stand up and speak out as if our country depends on it. Because it does.

I plan to spend the remaining fourteen months of my Senate term doing just that.

Mr. President, the graveyard is full of indispensable men and women -- none of us here is indispensable. Nor were even the great figures from history who toiled at these very desks in this very chamber to shape this country that we have inherited. What is indispensable are the values that they consecrated in Philadelphia and in this place, values which have endured and will endure for so long as men and women wish to remain free. What is indispensable is what we do here in defense of those values. A political career doesn’t mean much if we are complicit in undermining those values.

I thank my colleagues for indulging me here today, and will close by borrowing the words of President Lincoln, who knew more about healing enmity and preserving our founding values than any other American who has ever lived. His words from his first inaugural were a prayer in his time, and are no less so in ours:

“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 will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

Thank you, Mr. President. I yield the floor.

Monday, October 23, 2017

The Sexual Harrasser in the White House

In  Defying the Oddswe discuss  Trump's record of sexual harassment and other scandals.

Karen Tumulty, Mark Berman and Jenna Johnson at WP:
Almost a year after New Yorker Jessica Leeds and other women stepped forward with harrowing accounts of being sexually assaulted by a powerful man, another scandal with similar elements exploded.
Only this time, the punishment was swift and devastating.
“It is hard to reconcile that Harvey Weinstein could be brought down with this, and [President] Trump just continues to be the Teflon Don,” said Leeds, who claims she was groped 30 years ago on a plane by the man whose presence she cannot escape now that he sits in the Oval Office.
In Florida, Melinda McGillivray was having much the same reaction.
“What pisses me off is that the guy is president,” McGillivray, who a year ago went public with allegations that Trump grabbed her at Mar-a-Lago in 2003 when she was 23. “It’s that simple.”
Leeds and McGillivray were among the 11 women who came forward in the 2016 campaign to accuse the then-Republican presidential candidate of unwanted touching or kissing. Trump called the charges “pure fiction” and referred to the women as “horrible, horrible liars.”

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Prudence and Impeachment

In  Defying the Oddswe discuss Russian involvement in the 2016 campaign and other scandals.

At The Hill, Lloyd Green writes that the Clinton impeachment holds lessons for those who would immediately impeach Trump.
Back then, Newt Gingrich, the ever priapic House Speaker, and his Republican congressional colleagues thought it a good idea to impeach Bill Clinton for being, well, ever priapic. For his efforts, Gingrich lost the speakership as his own “hobbies” became the focus of attention, and the Republicans managed to lose four seats in the 1998 midterm elections, despite the fact that they were the “out” party. President Clinton ended up the winner as he completed his term with a 65 percent approval rating, a number higher than every other president since Harry Truman.
Instead, the Democrats and the country would be better served by waiting for what the special counsel ultimately says and does about President Trump. Conceivably, Mueller could indict Trump, label him an unindicted conspirator much like Richard Nixon, or recommend that the House consider Trump’s impeachment. It also possible that Trump escapes legal jeopardy. The bottom line is that prudence is in order. There is plenty of time left on the clock.
In 2014, some Republicans talked about impeaching Obama. Democrats used such talk to raise money. 

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Deaths and Lies

In Defying the Odds, we discuss Trump's character and relationship to the media.

John M. Donnelly at Roll Call:
In the hours after President Donald Trump said on an Oct. 17 radio broadcast that he had contacted nearly every family that had lost a military servicemember this year, the White House was hustling to learn from the Pentagon the identities and contact information for those families, according to an internal Defense Department email.

The email exchange, which has not been previously reported, shows that senior White House aides were aware on the day the president made the statement that it was not accurate — but that they should try to make it accurate as soon as possible, given the gathering controversy.

Not only had the president not contacted virtually all the families of military personnel killed this year, the White House did not even have an up-to-date list of those who had been killed.

The exchange between the White House and the Defense secretary’s office occurred about 5 p.m. on Oct. 17. The White House asked the Pentagon for information about surviving family members of all servicemembers killed after Trump’s inauguration so that the president could be sure to contact all of them.
Chris Cillizza at CNN:
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said something during her daily press briefing Friday that actually took my breath away.
CBS News' Chip Reid asked Sanders about a factual inaccuracy in White House chief of staff and retired Marine Corps Gen. John Kelly's attack on Florida Democratic Rep. Frederica Wilsonon Thursday. Here's how Sanders responded:
"If you want to go after General Kelly, that is up to you. If you want to get into a debate with a four-star Marine general, I think that is something highly inappropriate.
Just in case you don't get what Sanders is suggesting, it's something like this: General Kelly is a highly decorated soldier. As such, questioning things that he says is "highly inappropriate."

That's not how democracy works. Not at all. In fact, it's the opposite of how democracy works.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Things Are Looking Good for Hill Democrats in 2018


An unprecedented wave of well-funded Democrats have launched campaigns against Republican members of Congress this year, setting the stage for a true battle for control of the House of Representatives in the 2018 midterm election. Animated by opposition to President Donald Trump and Republicans’ congressional majorities, at least 162 Democrats in 82 GOP-held districts have raised over $100,000 so far this year, according to a POLITICO analysis of FEC data. ... The Democrats’ fundraising success, especially from a glut of candidates who have never run for office before, has set off alarm bells for GOP strategists watching the House landscape develop. 'That’s something that should get every Republican’s attention in Washington,' said Jason Roe, a Republican strategist who works on House races. 'These first-timers are printing money.'"
Also at Politico, Rachel Bade reports on GOP retirements and resignations:
Rep. Pat Tiberi, a loyal ally of Ryan, is the latest departure. The Ohio Republican announced Thursday that he will resign by the end of January to take a job in the private sector. House GOP leaders had hoped the senior Ways and Means Committee member would lead the powerful tax panel in the coming years, House GOP sources told POLITICO. But Tiberi, a longtime tax reform proponent, made other plans just as tax talks are kicking off in earnest.
Tiberi will hardly be the last to leave, multiple House GOP sources say.
Lawmakers have grown increasingly frustrated with Trump’s penchant for drama and inability to focus on the legislative agenda, numerous House GOP lawmakers and staffers said. While Trump and most Republican voters blame Congress for nothing substantial getting done, GOP lawmakers are privately exasperated that they don’t have a coherent leader who can help them deliver. 
Jennifer Agresta reports on a new CNN poll:
Amid that Republican divide, the poll also finds Democrats holding a lead in the generic congressional ballot -- 51% to 37% overall, driven by a unified base of Democrats. Nearly all self-identified Democrats (98%) say they prefer the Democratic candidate in their congressional district, compared to 88% of Republicans who prefer the GOP candidate in their district. Among independents, Democrats have an edge of just four points, within the margin of sampling error for that group.
Jennifer Duffy at Cook Political Report:
Senate Republicans started the cycle with a good electoral map that gave them some hope that they could gain seats, even in a mid-term election when history strongly suggests that they should lose them. But, a growing schism in the Republican Party is threatening to erode many of the advantages Senate Republicans have, and is beginning to jeopardize their ability to gain seats as they are forced to fight multiple primaries that have the potential to provide Democrats with opportunities that didn’t exist just a month ago.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

"Russia Loaded the Gun. The Trump Team Fired"

 In  Defying the Oddswe discuss Russian involvement in the 2016 campaign.

Craig Timberg, Elizabeth Dwoskin and Adam Entous at WP:
Russian operatives used a fake Twitter account that claimed to speak for Tennessee Republicans to persuade American politicians, celebrities and journalists to share select content with their own massive lists of followers, two people familiar with the matter said.
The list of prominent people who tweeted out links from the account, @Ten_GOP, which Twitter shut down in August, includes political figures such as Michael Flynn and Roger Stone, celebrities such as Nicki Minaj and James Woods, and media personalities such as Ann Coulter and Chris Hayes.
There is no evidence that any of them knew the account was run by Russians.
Independent researchers had suspected the account was Russian, and their work was confirmed Wednesday by two people familiar with the investigations into the Kremlin’s meddling in the 2016 U.S. election.
Betsy Woodruff & colleagues at The Daily Beast:
Former FBI counterterrorism agent Clint Watts, who testified to the Senate Intelligence Committee on Russian cyberattacks, told The Daily Beast that this is “exactly what I was talking about” in his testimony in March.
“If what you said is true, I’d say, ‘My job is done,’” said Watts. “If this account is definitely an (Internet Research Agency) account, it proved Russian Active Measures (like the 2016 propaganda campaign) works, because Americans will use it against other Americans.”
Watts said the content of these pages is “made to look organic” so that “Americans will use it against their political enemies.”
“If you take rumors, false information, plants, and just repeat them, you’re doing the job of a foreign country. They are seeding out information or narratives they know candidates or partisans will use. They were so effective, they had the very top people in the campaign using it,” said Watts.
“Basically, Russia loaded the gun. The Trump team fired.”

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Polarization and Views of Media

In Defying the Odds, we discuss Trump's relationship to the media.

Steven Shepard at Politico:
Nearly half of voters, 46 percent, believe the news media fabricate news stories about President Donald Trump and his administration, according to a new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll.
Just 37 percent of voters think the media do not fabricate stories, the poll shows, while the remaining 17 percent are undecided.

More than three-quarters of Republican voters, 76 percent, think the news media invent stories about Trump and his administration, compared with only 11 percent who don’t think so. Among Democrats, one-in-five think the media make up stories, but a 65 percent majority think they do not. Forty-four percent of independent voters think the media make up stories about Trump, and 31 percent think they do not.
Among the voters who strongly approve of Trump’s job performance in the poll, 85 percent believe the media fabricate stories about the president and his administration.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Democrats and Republicans Like to Live in Different Places

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

One reason for GOP control of the House is deliberate gerrymandering.  Another is partisan clustering, that is, the tendency of Democrats to huddle up in cities, where they create huge margins for their party, which means wasted votes.

A new Pew poll confirms that Democrats and Republicans like to live in different kinds of places.
Our studies of political polarization and partisan antipathy both found that the disagreements between Republicans and Democrats go far beyond political values and issues. They also have markedly different preferences about where they would like to live. Most Republicans (65%) say they would rather live in a community where houses are larger and farther apart and where schools and shopping are not nearby. A majority of Democrats (61%) prefer smaller houses within walking distance of schools and shopping.

Monday, October 16, 2017

New Details on Russia's War Against American Democracy

In  Defying the Oddswe discuss Russian involvement in the 2016 campaign.

Paul Manafort, a former campaign manager for President Donald Trump, has much stronger financial ties to a Russian oligarch than have been previously reported.

An NBC News investigation reveals that $26 million changed hands in the form of a loan between a company linked to Manafort and the oligarch, Oleg Deripaska, a billionaire with close ties to the Kremlin.

The loan brings the total of their known business dealings to around $60 million over the past decade, according to financial documents filed in Cyprus and the Cayman Islands.
The Russians who worked for a notorious St. Petersburg “troll factory” that was part of Vladimir Putin’s campaign to influence the 2016 presidential election were required to watch the “House of Cards” television series to help them craft messages to “set up the Americans against their own government,” according to an interview broadcast Sunday (in Russian) with a former member of the troll factory’s elite English language department.
The interview, broadcast by the independent Russian TV station Rain, provides new insight into how the troll factory formerly known as the Internet Research Agency targeted U.S. audiences in part by posting provocative “comments” pretending to be from Americans on newspaper articles that appeared on the websites of the New York Times and Washington Post.
A central theme of this messaging was demonizing Hillary Clinton by playing up the past scandals of her husband’s administration, her wealth and her use of a private email server, according to the interview with the agency worker, identified only as “Maksim,” with his face concealed.
“Maksim” says he worked for the agency during 2015, the year before the election, when it was already focusing its attention on Clinton.
“The main message is: Are not you, my American brothers, tired of the Clintons? How many have they already been?” Maksim says, adding that he and his colleagues were told to emphasize the Clintons’ past “corruption scandals.”
But more broadly, the instructions given to employees of the English language department were to stoke discontent about the U.S. government and the Obama administration in particular. “We had a goal to set up the Americans against their own government,” he says. “To cause unrest, cause discontent [and] lower [President] Obama’s rating.”

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Redistricting: A 1990 RNC Pamphlet

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

There has been much discussion of the role of gerrymandering in House races. Democrats blame unfair districts for GOP control.  Although they may stretch the argument and overlook the role of natural clustering ("unintentional gerrymandering'), there is little doubt that deliberate gerrymandering by GOP state lawmakers pads the party's majorities in the House and the state legislatures.

During the 1980s and 1990s, roles were reversed, as Democrats controlled most legislatures.  During this period, Republicans complained about gerrymandering. In 1990, the Republican National Committee issued a pamphlet about the topic.  "The gerrymander is unfair to voters," it said.  "`Packing' wastes votes while `cracking' makes them ineffectual. With a predetermined outcome, people have little reason to vote."

I am familiar with this pamphlet.  As an RNC staffer at the time, I wrote it.

I have embedded it below.  (Sorry for the light copy.)

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Sinister Agendas and Anti-Constitutional Impulses

In Defying the Odds, we explain that Trump has renounced the conservatism of Ronald Reagan.
He usually dismissed high ideals by reducing them to crude material terms. Consider for instance, America’s foundational proposition that all men are created equal. “The world is not fair,” Trump said in a 2006 video. [here] “You know they come with this statement `all men are created equal.’ Well, it sounds beautiful, and it was written by some very wonderful people and brilliant people, but it's not true because all people and all men [laughter] aren't created [equal] … you have to be born and blessed with something up here [pointing to his head]. On the assumption you are, you can become very rich.” Similarly, Trump did not think of “American exceptionalism” as a way of thinking about the nation’s role as a beacon for equality and liberty. As he said in 2015 [here] , it was all about the Benjamins.
I want to take everything back from the world that we’ve given them. We’ve given them so much. On top of taking it back, I don’t want to say, “We’re exceptional, we’re more exceptional.” Because essentially we’re saying, “We’re more outstanding than you. By the way, you’ve been eating our lunch for the last 20 years, but we’re more exceptional than you.” I don’t like the term. I never liked it.
Trump’s disdain for these ideas put him at odds with a major strain of conservative thought that revered the Declaration. It surely set him apart from conservatives who loved to quote Reagan’s rhetoric of a “shining city on a hill” and who faulted President Obama for seeming to belittle American exceptionalism. Trump just did not care very much for conservative ideology. In May of 2016, he said: “This is called the Republican Party. It’s not called the Conservative Party.” Trump pollster Tony Fabrizio told a post-election conference: “One of the problems is many people tried to look at the Donald Trump phenomenon through the ideological lenses which had defined previous Republican presidential nominating contests. Donald Trump is post ideological. His movement transcends ideology.”
With Trump turning and turning in a widening gyre, his crusade to make America great again is increasingly dominated by people who explicitly repudiate America’s premises. The faux nationalists of the “alt-right” and their fellow travelers such as Stephen K. Bannon, although fixated on protecting the United States from imported goods, have imported the blood-and-soil ethno-tribalism that stains the continental European right. In “Answering the Alt-Right” in National Affairs quarterly, Ramon Lopez, a University of Chicago PhD candidate in political philosophy, demonstrates how Trump’s election has brought back to the public stage ideas that a post-Lincoln America had slowly but determinedly expunged. They were rejected because they are incompatible with an open society that takes its bearing from the Declaration of Independence’s doctrine of natural rights.
...
Trump is, of course, innocent of this (or any other) systemic thinking. However, within the ambit of his vast, brutish carelessness are some people with sinister agendas and anti-constitutional impulses. Stephen Miller, Bannon’s White House residue and Trump’s enfant terrible, recently said that “in sending our [tax reform] proposal to the tax-writing committees, we will include instructions to ensure all low- and middle-income households are protected.” So, Congress will be instructed by Trump’s 32-year-old acolyte who also says the president’s national security powers “will not be questioned.” We await the response of congressional Republicans, who did so little to stop Trump’s ascent and then so much to normalize him.