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Divided We Stand

Divided We Stand
New book about the 2020 election.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Scenes from California

In Defying the Odds, we discuss state and congressional politics as well as the presidential race

An independent expenditure group is rough on Gavin Newsom:

Democrat Katie Hill is running a surprisingly strong race for the chance to face Rep. Steve Knight:


Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Not a Good Week for California Republicans

In Defying the Odds, we discuss state and congressional politics as well as the presidential race

Alexei Koseff at The Sacramento Bee:
Independents have surpassed Republicans to become the second-largest voting bloc in California, according to a firm that analyzes county voter registration information for campaigns.
Political Data Inc. on Tuesday released its latest count showing that voters registered with no party preference now outnumber Republicans by about 73,000 in California. The company regularly collects raw voter files from county registrars to maintain an updated database of the state's 19 million voters.
At the close of regular registration, 15 days before the June primary, there were 4,844,803 no-party-preference voters, according to Political Data Inc., compared with 4,771,984 Republicans. Both make up about a quarter of the California electorate, trailing 8,436,493 registered Democrats, about 44.4 percent.

It is the culmination of a trend that has been accelerating for years. California voters have shed their party affiliation at a growing rate, even as state politics are increasingly dominated by Democrats.
A GOP Senate contender is an anti-Semite.  So is a House candidate. Ron Nehring at The Flash Report:
It’s happened before: Some vile racist or anti-Semite runs for an office they have no chance of winning in the hopes of drawing attention to themselves, or their cause. This is exactly what happened earlier this year when Holocaust denier Arthur Jones ran for Congress as a Republican in the heavily Democratic 3rd Congressional District of Illinois. He has been denounced by the Republican Party but will still appear on the November ballot as a result of winning the uncontested GOP primary in the district.
Well, now we have another one of these guys. This time it’s here in California. Today’s vile anti-Semite is John Fitzgerald, who is running for Congress in the heavily Democratic 11th Congressional District in Contra Costa County. The district, in which Hillary Clinton won 71.% of the vote in 2016, is currently represented by Democrat Mark DeSaulnier.

Fitzgerald has zero chance of winning this seat, yet he currently has the official endorsement of the California Republican Party by virtue of being the only Republican running for the office. Under rules adopted by the party following the passage of California’s deeply flawed top-two primary system, the party endorsement goes to any Republican running for state legislature or Congress when they are the only party member running. The Board of Directors may take an affirmative step to reverse the endorsement, which of course should happen immediately.
In a post on his campaign website that went up on May 23rd, Fitzgerald peddles numerous anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. He asserts as “truth” that Jews “played a prominent role in the African slave trade,” linking to an article that further peddles this conspiracy theory. He goes on at length peddling numerous other anti-Semitic claims and theories. I won’t link to his website or post because I have no interest in driving up his search results, but you can Google this guy yourself.
A press release from the state party:
 The California Republican Party and the Republican Jewish Coalition issued the following statements Tuesday regarding the congressional race in CA-11:
California Republican Party Chairman Jim Brulte said:“Tonight, the California Republican Party’s Board of Directors took swift and decisive action to eliminate any support for John Fitzgerald due to anti-Semitic comments he made recently — those views have no home in the Republican Party. As always, California Republicans reject anti-Semitism, and all forms of religious bigotry, in the harshest terms possible. We reject John Fitzgerald’s campaign and encourage all voters to do the same.”
Matt Brooks, Executive Director of the Republican Jewish Coalition said: “We absolutely and unequivocally condemn John Fitzgerald and his campaign for Congress. His anti-Semitic views have no place in our political system, and especially not in our Republican party. Fitzgerald clearly has no grasp of the facts when it comes to the Jewish people, Israel and our nation’s relationship with the only democracy in the Middle East, and history in general. The California Republican Party has been a good ally in our fight against anti-Semitism in the past, and we proudly stand shoulder-to-shoulder with them on their decision to reject support for Fitzgerald. 

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

The DCCC Is Not Being Subtle

In Defying the Odds, we discuss state and congressional politics as well as the presidential race

In the 48th district of CA, national Democrats are backing Harley Rouda in hopes of knocking off Dana Rohrabacher.

Jonathan Martin at NYT writes about the possibility that the top-two system will result in R-on-R general elections that Democrats could otherwise carry.  In there Rohrabacher race, for instance, there is a chance that the Democrats will split their vote, resulting in a general election pitting the incumbent against Republican challenger Scott Baugh.
The “top two” system was meant to create incentives for political moderation in a state where about a quarter of the voters are independents, but it has created immense stakes for Democrats: They need to win 23 seats to take back the House, and party officials believe the path runs through the seven competitive California districts, all of which Hillary Clinton carried in 2016.
“It’s a disaster,” Gail Reisman, a retired gerontologist and Toronto native who lives in Representative Dana Rohrabacher’s district, said after attending a candidate forum Tuesday. “If we have two Republicans running I think I’m going back to Canada.”


Monday, May 28, 2018

"Trump and his kids knew what they were doing, and who they were doing it with."

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

Trump says that the FBI spied on his campaign.  As John Schindler points out at The Observer, the US intelligence community was just following a trail of breadcrumbs that led from the Kremlin.
In truth, NSA understood quite a bit about Trump’s connections to Moscow, and by mid-2016 it had increased its efforts to get to the bottom of the mystery regarding the candidate’s Russian ties. In response to urgent FBI requests for more information, NSA rose to the occasion, and by the time that Donald Trump officially accepted the Republican nomination in mid-July 2016, “We knew we had a Russian agent on our hands,” as a senior NSA official put it to me recently.

The official went on: “We had several reports in late 2015 and early 2016, mostly from Second and Third Party”—that being spy-speak for NSA’s foreign friends—“but by the spring of 2016 we had plenty of our own collection.” These reports, based on multiple intercepts, were tightly compartmented, that is, restricted to a small group of counterintelligence officials, given their obvious sensitivity, but they painted an indelible picture of a compromised GOP nominee. “The Kremlin talked about Trump like he was their boy, and their comments weren’t always flattering.” The NSA official stated that those above-top-secret reports left no doubt that the Russians were subverting our democracy in 2016—and that Team Trump was a witting participant in the Kremlin’s criminal conspiracy: “Trump and his kids knew what they were doing, and who they were doing it with,” the official explained.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Trump Says FBI Didn't Tell Him About Russian Spying. (It Did.)

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

Ken Dilanian, Julia Ainsley and Carol E. Lee reported at NBC in December:
In the weeks after he became the Republican nominee on July 19, 2016, Donald Trump was warned that foreign adversaries, including Russia, would probably try to spy on and infiltrate his campaign, according to multiple government officials familiar with the matter.
The warning came in the form of a high-level counterintelligence briefing by senior FBI officials, the officials said. A similar briefing was given to Hillary Clinton, they added. They said the briefings, which are commonly provided to presidential nominees, were designed to educate the candidates and their top aides about potential threats from foreign spies.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Springtime for Russia

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

Michael Isikoff at Yahoo News:
The FBI has obtained secret wiretaps collected by Spanish police of conversations involving Alexander Torshin, a deputy governor of Russia’s Central Bank who has forged close ties with U.S. lawmakers and the National Rifle Association, that led to a meeting with Donald Trump Jr. during the gun lobby’s annual convention in Louisville, Ky., in May 2016, a top Spanish prosecutor said Friday.
José Grinda, who has spearheaded investigations into Spanish organized crime, said that bureau officials in recent months requested and were provided transcripts of wiretapped conversations between Torshin and Alexander Romanov, a convicted Russian money launderer. On the wiretaps, Romanov refers to Torshin as “El Padrino,” the godfather.

“Just a few months ago, the wiretaps of these telephone conversations were given to the FBI,” Grinda said in response to a question from Yahoo News during a talk he gave at the Hudson Institute, a conservative think tank in Washington. Asked if he was concerned about Torshin’s meetings with Donald Trump Jr. and other American political figures, Grinda replied: “Mr. Trump’s son should be concerned.”

Aaron Blake at WP:
When it was revealed that a U.S. firm with ties to Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg had paid Michael Cohen half a million dollars, the firm, Columbus Nova, assured the oligarch had nothing to do with it. “Columbus Nova is an investment management company solely owned and controlled by Americans,” the company assured. “Neither Viktor Vekselberg nor anyone else outside of Columbus Nova was involved in the decision to hire Cohen or provided funding for his engagement.”
We still have no proof that's not the case, but it just got more difficult to believe Vekselberg was a bystander. And it could complicate both Cohen's legal situation and the Russia investigation.
The New York Times and CNN both reported Friday that Vekselberg joined Columbus Nova head Andrew Intrater at a meeting with Cohen at Trump Tower on Jan. 9, 2017 — 11 days before Donald Trump was inaugurated.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Newsom's McCaskill Ploy

In Defying the Odds, we discuss state and congressional politics as well as the presidential race

Earlier this year, the Democratic Governors Association copied the Claire McCaskill playbook by running "attack" ads that aimed to boost conservative primary turnout for an unelectable right-winger.  The ploy fell just short, but Democrat Gavin Newsom is using it in the California gubernatorial race

At The Hill, Reid Wilson writes:
Public polls show Newsom solidly in the lead, given his strong base in the liberal San Francisco area, where voters turn out at disproportionately higher rates than in other parts of the state. But television viewers might not get that impression based on Newsom’s focus on [Republican John] Cox.
“John Cox stands with Donald Trump and the NRA. Cox called gun laws a waste of time,” Newsom’s latest ad says. “Gavin Newsom took on the gun lobby and won.”
Cox seems to relish the opportunity to engage one-on-one with the Democrat.
“For Republicans, the race for governor is crystal clear. There’s conservative businessman John Cox, leading the opposition to Jerry Brown’s sanctuary state,” Cox’s latest advertisement says. “Then there’s career politician Gavin Newsom, who never met a tax he didn’t love.”
The back-and-forth between Newsom and Cox serves both candidates’ ends. Newsom’s path to the governor’s mansion will be easier if he faces a Republican in the general election — the GOP has been shut out of statewide office in recent years. At the same time, Cox benefits from a feud with Newsom, a candidate Republicans have long painted as a liberal boogeyman.
Newsom’s tactics recall those of Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), who used a barrage of advertising just before the 2012 Republican primary to attack one of her potential rivals, then-Rep. Todd Akin (R), as being “too conservative” — an attack that had the side effect of boosting Akin with conservative Republican primary voters. Akin went on to make his notorious remarks about “legitimate rape,” blowing the GOP’s chances against McCaskill.
A text messgae from the Gavin Newsom gubernatorial campaign:
Hi John, this is Alex, a volunteer from Gavin Newsom's campaign for governor. Did you see President Trump's tweet? It's attached below - he just endorsed our opponent, John Cox, for governor. Trump's attempt to implement his backwards agenda in CA makes one thing clear: this election is too important to sit out. When you receive your ballot in the mail, will you stand with Gavin, or will you support Trump's choice, John Cox?
A neat trick, but Newsom's interests clash with those of Democratic House candidates, who would love a Dem-on-Dem gubernatorial race, which would depress GOP turnout.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

“They look so innocent. They’re not innocent.”

In Defying the Odds, we discuss Trump's positions on immigration.

 Seung Min Kim at WP:
President Trump and his top administration officials repeatedly warned Wednesday that unaccompanied migrant children arriving at the southern border are potentially exposing the nation to eventual gang crime. 
Immigrant advocates have long said that the children, primarily from Central America, are fleeing violence in their home countries and seeking safe harbor in the United States.
But the Trump administration has used their plight to justify cracking down on policies that allow these migrants to be released and obtain hearings before immigration judges, rather than being deported immediately. 
“We have the worst immigration laws of any country, anywhere in the world,” Trump said at the roundtable held at the Morrelly Homeland Security Center. “They exploited the loopholes in our laws to enter the country as unaccompanied alien minors.”
Trump added: “They look so innocent. They’re not innocent.”

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Bad Days for Ryan

In Defying the Odds, we discuss state and congressional politics as well as the presidential race

Melanie Zanona at The Hill:
Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on Tuesday pushed back against reports that some Republicans want him to give up the gavel before November, arguing that holding leadership elections before the midterms would be “divisive” for the GOP conference.
“Obviously I serve at the pleasure of the members. Those are the people who drafted me in this job in the first place,” Ryan told reporters. “But I think we all agree, the best thing for us is to complete our agenda and not wedge into the middle of the completion of our agenda divisive leadership elections.”
The Weekly Standard reported over the weekend that House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and some White House officials were weighing an effort to push out Ryan before he retires in January so that McCarthy could take over as Speaker. That plan would also put Democrats on the record voting for Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) before the midterms.

Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney appeared to back up some of the reporting during a conference sponsored by The Weekly Standard, saying he has discussed the idea of Ryan handing over the gavel to his successor before November.
"I've talked with Kevin about this privately but not as much publicly,” Mulvaney reportedly said. “Wouldn't it be great to force a Democrat running in a tight race to have to put up or shut up about voting for Nancy Pelosi eight weeks before an election? That's a really, really good vote for us to force if we can figure out how to do it."
McCarthy vehemently denied the report on Tuesday.
A group of moderates frustrated with the lack of action to protect Dreamers from deportation is expected to collect enough signatures to force bipartisan immigration votes in the coming days, according to lawmakers and aides tracking the effort. And conservatives who oppose those bills are threatening to hold Republican leaders — starting with Ryan — responsible if they don’t stop it.
“If we run an amnesty bill out of a Republican House, I think all options are on the table,” Freedom Caucus member Scott Perry (R-Pa.) told reporters Monday night when asked whether Ryan could remain speaker if the so-called discharge petition succeeds.
“If leadership doesn’t stop it, they would be violating their own word, which was the Hastert rule, majority of the majority,” agreed Rep. Dave Brat (R-Va.), referring to an unofficial Republican policy of not holding votes on matters that aren’t backed by more than half of the conference.
Conservatives are so desperate to stop the discharge petition that they’re suggesting Ryan strong-arm moderates to get them to back down — though they decried ex-Speaker John Boehner’s use of such tactics against them in the past. Leaders should consider revoking National Republican Congressional Committee financial help or other perks to keep moderates from forcing the issue, several have said. Such a move would be devastating for those centrists, many of whom hail from swing districts targeted by Democrats.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

The Future of Parties

In Defying the Odds, we discuss changes in the major parties.

Bruce Cain at The American Interest considers the future the party system,.
I am more inclined to think that U.S. politics is headed down a third path where we retain the duopoly form and the essential intermediating function of political parties, but the party as organization moves into the largely unregulated internet space. The history of U.S. political reform is that political activity gravitates into the areas of least legal resistance. This is no clearer example of that principle than campaign finance reform. We imposed stricter restrictions on campaign donations after Watergate, and it eventually gave rise to PACs, independent spending, and now Super PACs. We passed disclosure regulations, and big money found safer ground in nonprofit 501c4s. We tried to offset private campaign money with public subsidies, but the restrictions proved too burdensome, and presidential candidates now avoid the public finance system entirely.

In this third scenario, the Democratic and Republican parties are still dominant and favored in many ways by state and federal laws. But the political parties continue the present trend of morphing into networks of party affiliated groups that spend “independently” on behalf of candidates. Outside groups and social media figures with large followings enforce party discipline rather than Congressional leaders.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Oppo 2018

 In  Defying the Oddswe discuss opposition research.

At New York, Gabriel Debenedetti writes about American Bridge, America Rising, and the changing world of oppo:
In the old days, the group’s trackers — junior staffers with cameras who follow Republicans around, waiting for a gaffe — were instructed to identify themselves as American Bridge operatives when they got to an event, and they were told to remain passive, not asking questions or trying to trick their targets. Rule eliminated. (It took just until May 2017 for the group to post unflattering footage of a Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate grabbing a tracker’s camera and then angrily pushing him away.) In the pre-Trump era, the group stopped short of snooping for dirt beyond publicly available documents or clips. The no-digging-and-no-working-the-phones-and-no-sniffing-around-in-person guideline is now gone, fully thrown out the window by the time American Bridge dispatched staff to Alabama to look into Roy Moore last winter. And, after consulting local campaign finance and consent laws, Brock convinced some of his funders to set up a small fund that trackers can now tap into if they want to pay their way into GOP candidates’ private events where that’s legal. That move opened up a massive new stream of potentially damaging material for Republicans who think they’re speaking behind closed doors to friends and supporters. The tactic didn’t take long to pay off, either: it’s how the group caught Ed Gillespie, 2017’s Republican candidate for governor of Virginia, calling the northern part of his state “enemy territory” in a private fundraiser last September.

American Bridge’s bet is that most of the old laws of politics remain intact, but that it takes a new kind of alert system to call out violations. At a time that Missouri’s Republican governor is hanging onto his seat while he fights a handful of scandalous charges — including an explicit accusation of sexual assault — a Montana GOP congressman was elected one day after body-slamming a reporter (and is now favored for reelection), and, of course, Trump remains firmly ensconced in the Oval Office, it’s not clear that politicians around the country are so confident in the old rules’ stability.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Ryan Signed Discharge Petitions

In Defying the Odds, we discuss state and congressional politics as well as the presidential race.

House GOP leaders oppose a discharge petition to consider immigration bills. Last week, Speaker Paul Ryan said “[W]e don’t like discharge petitions because it surrenders the floor to the minority. So, I don’t think the majority should ever do a discharge petition. So yes, we do not think our members should be doing discharge petitions.”

As a member of the minority, however, Ryan signed at least 17 discharge petitions:
  1. H.Res. 220 to consider HR 511, 110th Congress, support for military, signature #63
  2. H.Res. 559 to consider H.Res. 479, 110th Congress, House rules, signature #153
  3. H.Res. 694 to consider HR2905, 110th Congress, Fairness Doctrine, signature #144
  4. H.Res. 1025 to consider HR1843, 110th Congress, temporary workers, signature #15
  5. H.Res. 1331 to consider HR1399, 110th Congress, DC gun rights, signature #116
  6. HR2279, 110th Congress, refining on military facilities, signature #135
  7. HR3089, 110th Congress, energy, signature #83
  8. HR4088, 110th Congress, immigration, signature #113
  9. HR5440, 110th Congress, FISA, signature #122
  10. H. Res. 359 to consider H. Res. 251, 111th Congress, AIG, signature #170
  11. HR391, 111th Congress, greenhouse gases, signature #85
  12. H.Res. 554, 111th Congress, require bills & reports on Internet, signature #59.
  13. H.Res. 847, 111th Congress, health legislation transparency, signature #123
  14. HR2294, 111th Congress, Gitmo, signature #30
  15. HR3105,111th Congress, Central Valley Project, signature #28
  16. HR4972,111th Congress, Obamacare repeal, signature #136
  17. HR5141, 111th Congress, corporate reporting, signature #107

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Top Two News

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

Jonathan Cooper at AP:
Cox is backed by much of California's GOP establishment, including U.S. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield, who is close with Trump.
"I am honored and deeply grateful to my President and I am looking forward to working with him to make California great again," Cox said in a statement. "Like the President, I'm businessman who knows how to get things done."
Trump's decision is a blow to Allen, a Huntington Beach Republican who has been aggressively courting Trump supporters and often points out that he's the only candidate for governor who voted for the president. Cox voted for Libertarian Gary Johnson — a decision he now says he regrets.
Following the announcement, he declared on Twitter that Californians deserve a governor who actually voted for Trump.
If conservative voters split between Cox and Allen two Democrats could advance to November — an outcome Republicans fear would hurt them in down-ballot races for Congress and the Legislature, potentially compromising GOP control of the House.
Lisa Hagen at The Hill:
California and national Democrats have brokered an agreement between two House candidates to cease negative campaigning ahead of the June 5 primary in a key race that had gotten increasingly nasty.
California Democratic Party Chairman Eric Bauman announced that he had helped to engineer a deal between health insurance executive Andy Thorburn and veteran and lottery winner Gil Cisneros.
Bauman said Cisneros and Thorburn agreed to stop attacking each other and instead will focus on “promoting their positive visions” and “highlighting their contrast with the corrupt, incompetent Trump Republicans.”

Both candidates are running in a crowded Democratic primary in the race to replace retiring GOP Rep. Ed Royce. The race is seen as leaning Democrat given Royce’s retirement.
Democrats are growing fearful that they'll get boxed out of the general election, however, thanks to California's unique election laws.
The state’s “jungle primary” puts all candidates, regardless of party, in a single primary, with the top two vote-getters moving on to the general election. Democrats worry that the crowded primary fields could split up the party's vote and lead to two Republicans moving on to the November election.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Life After Trump

In  Defying the Oddswe discuss the people surrounding Trump.
The choice of servants is of no little importance to a prince, and they are good or not according to the discrimination of the prince. And the first opinion which one forms of a prince, and of his understanding, is by observing the men he has around him; and when they are capable and faithful he may always be considered wise, because he has known how to recognize the capable and to keep them faithful. But when they are otherwise one cannot form a good opinion of him, for the prime error which he made was in choosing them.
-- Machiavelli
Tarini Parti at Buzzfeed:
Trump administration officials looking to escape to the private sector are getting a rude awakening: No one wants to hire them.
Companies and firms who used to recruit from presidential administrations and brag when they were successful in poaching an aide are making the calculation that the risks of bringing on a Trump administration official outweigh the rewards, according to interviews with 10 current and former administration officials, top recruiters, and lobbyists who did not want to be named to talk candidly. BuzzFeed News reached out to them after previously reporting during an especially chaotic stretch for the Trump White House that some officials were trying to leave but finding their job prospects to be “pretty bleak.” That’s especially pronounced for more junior staff.
The leadership at a prominent, bipartisan Washington public affairs firm went as far as to make an active decision not to hire from the Trump White House because of the "reputational risk" associated with it, a former White House official was recently told. The official asked BuzzFeed News not to disclose the name of the firm.
In another case, a White House official said he was rejected out of the blue for a job after being given indications he would be hired and was explicitly told his affiliation with the Trump White House had been a problem for some at the company.
Annie Linskey at The Boston Globe:
Part of the problem, especially for the White House staffers who came from Trump’s ragtag campaign, is they don’t necessarily know how Washington works.
“There are not as many people who have the experience downtown,” said a Republican with ties to Trump who runs a lobbying firm.
The person has talked to some West Wing aides looking to jump ship and hasn’t been all that impressed. “When they talk about drafts, sometimes there’s a weak draft,” the lobbyist said. “This is a middle-of-the-road draft.”

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Senators Report on Russia

A release from Senator Richard Burr (R-NC):
 Senator Richard Burr (R-NC), Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and Senator Mark Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, today held a closed hearing to complete its review of the Intelligence Community Assessment (ICA) on “Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections.”  The testimony of former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, former Director of CIA John Brennan, and former Director of NSA Mike Rogers will inform the Committee’s final report on this “chapter” of its Russia inquiry.
Chairman Burr said, “The first task in our inquiry was to evaluate the Intelligence Community’s work on this important piece of analysis.  Committee staff have spent 14 months reviewing the sources, tradecraft, and analytic work, and we see no reason to dispute the conclusions.  There is no doubt that Russia undertook an unprecedented effort to interfere with our 2016 elections.  I look forward to completing the Committee’s inquiry and issuing our findings and recommendations to the American people.” 
“Despite the short time frame they had to prepare it, the intelligence community did a very good job with the ICA,” said Vice Chairman Warner. “After a thorough review, our staff concluded that the ICA conclusions were accurate and on point. The Russian effort was extensive, sophisticated, and ordered by President Putin himself for the purpose of helping Donald Trump and hurting Hillary Clinton. In order to protect our democracy from future threats, we must understand what happened in 2016. And while our Committee’s investigation remains ongoing, one thing is already abundantly clear – we have to do a better job in the future if we want to protect our elections from foreign interference.”
Today’s closed hearing is a bookend to the hearing the Committee held in January 10, 2017, on Russian Active Measures.  Staff will finalize this chapter of the report on the Intelligence Community’s work and submit it for a classification review.
A release from Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA):
Senate Judiciary Democrats today released preliminary findings from the Committee’s investigation into the June 9, 2016, Trump Tower meeting where top Trump campaign officials sought incriminating information on Hillary Clinton from a Russian lawyer.
Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Cory A. Booker (D-N.J.) and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) released the following statement along with the findings:
The June 9, 2016, meeting is one piece of a much larger puzzle and confirms that the Trump campaign was willing to accept Russia’s assistance. The Committee’s staff interviews reveal that top Trump campaign officials were frustrated and angry that the meeting did not produce enough damaging information on their opponent. Their efforts to conceal the meeting and its true purpose are consistent with a larger pattern of false statements about the Trump campaign’s relationship with Russia.”

“We still do not know the full story about the June 9 meeting or, more broadly, the degree to which the campaign cooperated or communicated with Russia. While Senate Judiciary Democrats have sought to conduct a robust and independent investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, there are more questions than answers given the lack of cooperation by many of the individuals involved. The investigation has yet to be completed and dozens of witnesses’ testimony as well as critical documents have yet to be obtained. In addition, without the cooperation of Republicans and the ability to subpoena witnesses, much of the truth remains hidden.”

In its investigation so far, the Committee has found evidence of multiple contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian government officials or their intermediaries, including offers of assistance and purported overtures from Vladimir Putin, which warrant further investigation. The transcripts released today represent limited examples of Committee interviews with just five of the eight participants in one such meeting.
The Committee’s investigation remains incomplete, including review of this meeting. Nonetheless, the following preliminary findings are clear and described in more detail here.
  • The Trump campaign was willing to accept Russia’s assistance.
  • Top campaign officials Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort, and Jared Kushner accepted the offer of incriminating information on the campaign’s opponent from a hostile foreign government.
  • These Trump campaign officials did not report the offer of Russian assistance to proper authorities.
  • Top campaign officials made clear their frustration that more damaging information was not produced at the June 9 meeting in Trump Tower.
  • Donald Trump Jr. and the White House misled the public about the June 9 meeting with Russians and other campaign contacts with Russia.
  • Several significant questions remain unanswered about this meeting and the numerous other contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian associates.
To read the preliminary findings of the Senate Judiciary Democrats in full, click here. To read the appendix of pending requests, click here.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Primary Voters Don't Always Pick the Most Electable Candidates

At FiveThirtyEight, Nathaniel Rakich discusses the upset victory of liberal Kara Eastman over moderate former Rep. Brad Ashford in a Nebraska primry for the US House.  Other liberals prevailed in the night's primaries, too.
The potential problem for Democrats is that Eastman’s outspoken liberalism may turn off general-election voters in Nebraska’s 2nd District, which, while not ruby red, is still red. True, Barack Obama carried it 50 to 49 percent in 2008 — but that was 10 years ago and in an election where Democrats won the popular vote by 7 percentage points. Since then, Mitt Romney carried the district by 7 points (while losing nationally by 4 points), and Trump won it by 2 (while losing nationally by 2).2 All in all, the 2nd is 6 percentage points more Republican-leaning than the nation as a whole, according to FiveThirtyEight’s partisan lean metric.3 Democrats currently lead the generic ballot by that same 6 points. If that remains true in November, that would theoretically translate to a tie ballgame in the 2nd District — the kind where small considerations, like a candidate’s appeal to the median voter, could tilt the outcome.
And Ashford would have probably bought Democrats a few extra percentage points. In 2016, he lost his re-election race in Nebraska’s 2nd District by 1 percentage point, running slightly ahead of Hillary Clinton. In 2014, he won the seat by 3 points in a year in which Democrats lost the national House popular vote by 6 points. While it’s possible that excitement for Eastman’s candidacy among the progressive grassroots will draw more Democrats out of the woodwork, she may have trouble winning over persuadable voters too. There’s plenty of evidence that candidates closer to the ideological poles do worse than moderate ones; it’s been demonstrated in political science research, and we saw reallife examples of it in 2010, when Republicans had a wave election of their own against an unpopular first-term president. Although Eastman could certainly still win in a strong Democratic year, we may also look back on her nomination as Democrats’ first “tea party” moment: a general-election opportunity squandered in the primary (or, at least, made more difficult).

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Scrubbing Jared

Monday presented a jarring split screen between U.S. and Israeli officials jubilantly inaugurating a U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem and Palestinian protesters being shot and gassed by Israeli forces at the Gaza border, a few miles away. Israeli forces shot dead 57 people, wounded 2,700 more, and a small child died after inhaling tear gas, the Gaza Health Ministry said. Jared Kushner, President Trump's son-in-law and White House adviser, briefly alluded to the protests in his speech at the embassy ceremony, but for some reason, the White House removed that section from its official transcript.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Trump and Jesse Jackson

In Defying the Odds, we trace Trump's outsiderism to earlier figures. As I mentioned in a previous post, Elizabeth Drew's Election Journal, I came across this passage, which sounds as if it could apply to Trump.
For a large portion of [his] supporters and would-be supporters, whether his proposals stand up to scrutiny is irrelevant. Their support for him is in a different category -- as the leader of a movement. [He] has become the vehicle for their discontent -- with current policies, with the other candidates. He stands in bold, interesting contrast to some fairly dull candidates. He is the anti-politics candidate. Measuring his program is linear, rational, while most of the support for him is based on emotion.
In this case, the candidate was ... Jesse Jackson. The comparison is less bizarre than it may seem at first. Like Trump was also a morally-compromised leader with deep prejudices and a disregard for factual accuracy Jackson was an sought adulation for himself while giving voice to the inchoate frustrations of large group of Americans who thought that the system was rigged against them. In the book, we quote Jackson's description of his followers: "My constituency is the desperate, the damned, the disinherited, the disrespected, and the despised."
Trump voters complain that there is no respect for President Trump or for people like them who voted for him. One older white working class woman from Macomb recalled when she first started voting “there was so much respect for the president. And I don't care what he did, or what he said, there was always respect. It was always ‘Mr. President.’ And now, it disgusts me.”

The Rahm Playbook: Recruit Candidates Who Fit Their Districts

At NYT, Alan Blinder and Alexander Burns:
In a string of important races across the country, national Democrats have been embracing recruits near the political center, hoping they will give the party the chance to compete in states like Utah and Kansas where a liberal Democrat might stand little chance of winning. About a dozen crucial House races this fall are likely to feature Democratic nominees who are positioned markedly closer to the middle than the national party’s activist base — more than enough to determine control of the House.
ImageIn a string of key races across the country, national Democrats have been embracing recruits near the political center, hoping they will help the party compete in conservative states.

The party scored an early upset with just such a candidate, Conor Lamb, in a Pennsylvania special election in March. Mr. Lamb, a veteran, opposed Ms. Pelosi, single-payer health care and most new gun regulations, but with a populist economic message captured a district Mr. Trump carried easily in 2016.
Democratic voters have largely been going along in the primaries held so far in these districts, which are often in rural areas. In Illinois the voters chose Brendan Kelly, a prosecutor with a mend-it, don’t-end-it message on the Affordable Care Act, to take on a conservative Republican in a rural district. And on Tuesday, Democrats in several states that President Trump carried in 2016 selected ideological mavericks to carry their banner in difficult House races.