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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Announcements

In Defying the Odds, we discuss the early stages of the 2016 campaign, when many candidates were unknowns.  We are now in the early stages of the 2020 race.

Reid Wilson at The Hill:
“Most candidates then and now are running way before they announce that they’re running,” said Joe Trippi, who ran Dean’s campaign in 2004. “The candidates that make the big mistake are the ones that say I’m not going to start running until I decide I’m running. Much better to start running until I decide I’m not.”
The announcement itself, though, represents a major moment for a campaign, one of the few times when a candidate is completely in control of the story. It is also the most opportune time for a candidate to build the most valuable tool in his or her arsenal: an email list that can be mined for donations and volunteers.
“Everyone is going to seize that moment through content they control in a way that helps them build their list,” said David Wade, a longtime adviser to Kerry.
Some candidates have used their more formal announcement speeches to deliver a message they hope sets the narrative for the campaign ahead. Obama’s announcement in 2007, on the steps of the Illinois state capital in Springfield, attracted a large crowd despite the frigid weather, showcasing his grass-roots support.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) announced his 2016 bid at the Freedom Tower in downtown Miami, intending to show his roots as the son of Cuban immigrants.
This year, candidates are much more likely to make their case on social media, in carefully crafted videos aimed at going viral.
“Twenty years ago, 30 years ago, people waited, and an announcement itself was a unique opportunity for media attention. And that’s just completely been turned on its head, between social media, content that you can control,” Wade said. “The whole notion of a big formal ceremony is effectively gone.”
...
The demands of a modern campaign, with months on the trail and countless hours on the phone with donors and activists, are likely to mean a wave of announcements in the two months between the midterms and the holidays.

The Next 100 Days

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

The economy hums while storm clouds darken the White House. Welcome to the final 100 days before the 2018 midterms. Even as the economy is experiencing is highest rate of growth since 2014, the electorate is angry. Donald Trump has taken command of center stage, and the public is not thrilled with what it sees. When Trump is underwater in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Minnesota, it is time for Republicans to worry.
...
Still, it remains to be seen whether the Democrats can stick to the cultural script. Recent Democratic calls for the abolition of ICE may make the party’s activist base giddy, but in most of the country the position has few takers. Only a quarter of voters support ditching ICE, while a majority favor retaining the agency. Most Americans oppose separating children from their parent at the border. At the same time, however, they favor border security.
Already, 2020 Democratic hopefuls, such as Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Kirsten Gillibrand and Bernie Sanders have embraced the siren song of abolishing or reexamining ICE. If their views become dominant between now and November, the Republicans may yet snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
At The Washington Examiner, Byron York speaks to a GOP strategist:
And now: "The last 30 days have been really bad. I really wouldn't want to have the election today."
Looking back, each change in the strategist's mood has been the result of whatever President Trump was doing at that particular moment. His current anguish is the product of what he called "30 days of sh-t." By that, he meant the period of time beginning with Trump's decision to separate families crossing illegally into the United States and ending with his performance at the Helsinki summit.
Both hurt Republicans, the strategist said, but probably the Trump-Putin summit hurt more. When the president met with North Korea's Kim Jong Un, he said, many Republican-targeted voters saw a certain method in the madness. It actually helped GOP candidates. But when Trump met Vladimir Putin, those voters didn't see the method part.

If the past is any lesson, memories will fade. But the problem going forward is that as future Trumpian incidents occur, Republicans will have less and less time to recover before Nov. 6.

"The next couple of weeks/months are critical in that we have had peaks and valleys before, but they always got fixed," the strategist said. "The fear is that we're running out of time and maybe they won't get fixed."

Monday, July 30, 2018

"I Hate the Wind"

In Defying the Odds, we discuss Trump's approach to governing.

Amy Harder and Jonathan Swan at Axios:
During White House discussions about renewable energy, President Trump has declared — more than once and to the amusement of senior administration officials — "I hate the wind!"
  • Trump has a visceral hatred of wind turbines. He believes they are terrible returns on investment that blight coastlines and obstruct views, sources with direct knowledge tell Axios.
  • Trump has even told officials to "think of all the birds" that wind turbines are killing, though sources familiar with these comments tell us they doubt the president actually cares about endangered wildlife.
And yet, Axios' Amy Harder writes that the Trump administration is working hard to promote wind farms up and down the Atlantic Coast.
  • Trump's Interior Department is working with Democratic-led state governments to lease federal waters for wind off Massachusetts and nearby states, and also working to streamline permitting to make it easier for companies to build offshore wind farms.
... 
"His policy is, wherever he goes he likes what they have," said a source with direct knowledge of the internal White House energy discussions. "Even if it's contrary to what he said at the last place. He basically just tells everyone what they want to hear; that's his energy policy."

Trump and the Times

  In Defying the Odds, we discuss Trump's character and record of dishonesty.
Mark Landler at NYT:
In a telephone interview, Mr. Sulzberger described the meeting with Mr. Trump, whom he had met only once before, as cordial. But he said he went into the Oval Office determined to make a point about what he views as the dangers of the president’s inflammatory language.
Mr. Sulzberger recalled telling Mr. Trump at one point that newspapers had begun posting armed guards outside their offices because of a rise in threats against journalists. The president, he said, expressed surprise that they did not already have armed guards.
At another point, Mr. Trump expressed pride in popularizing the phrase “fake news,” and said other countries had begun banning it. Mr. Sulzberger responded that those countries were dictatorships and that they were not banning “fake news” but rather independent scrutiny of their actions.

Democratic Dark Money and the Iron Law of Emulation


The iron law of emulation is at work. Conservative groups have made extensive use of dark money, and liberal groups are copying their example.

At Politico, Scott Bland reports on a network of liberal dark money groups.
The groups have local members and names like Floridians for a Fair Shake, Michigan Families for Economic Prosperity and North Carolinians for a Fair Economy. But they are all linked to one obscure nonprofit in downtown Washington, D.C.: the Sixteen Thirty Fund, which has funneled millions of dollars to progressive causes in recent years and set up each of the new groups, according to D.C. corporation records.

Added together, the Sixteen Thirty Fund groups have been among the most prolific political advertisers of 2018. They have aired 6,885 broadcast TV ads since Jan. 1, according to Advertising Analytics, a TV tracking firm — more than the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and almost as many as Americans for Prosperity, two of the five biggest nonprofit political advertisers focused on the House and Senate in the first half of this year.
...
POLITICO has identified 12 groups set up through the Sixteen Thirty Fund that have been involved in local health care and tax debates: Arizonans United for Health Care, Colorado United for Families, Floridians for a Fair Shake, Healthcare Voters of Nevada, Keep Iowa Healthy, Mainers Against Health Care Cuts, Michigan Families for Economic Prosperity, New Jersey for a Better Future, North Carolinians for a Fair Economy, Ohioans for Economic Opportunity, SoCal Health Care Coalition, and Speak Out CNY.

The Sixteen Thirty Fund serves as the “fiscal sponsor” of the groups. The groups’ money flows through the parent nonprofit, which also “provides compliance, financial, back office, legal and HR support” to the startup groups, Sixteen Thirty Fund spokeswoman Beth Kanter wrote in an email. Kanter described Sixteen Thirty Fund as "an incubator for social justice projects focused on a variety of issues."
...
And because the groups are organized under the umbrella of the Sixteen Thirty Fund and not as standalone nonprofits, their fundraising and spending are even more opaque than those of a typical secret-money group. The “fiscally sponsored” groups, instead of filing individual tax returns that detail their finances, will have all of their activity aggregated in the Sixteen Thirty Fund’s tax filings, which will make it difficult to discern exactly how much money was raised for and spent by the different projects.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Primary Turnout

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

Drew DeSilver at Pew:
Americans appear to be more engaged with this year’s midterm elections than they typically are. Not only do about half of registered voters report being more enthusiastic than usual about voting, up from 40% in 2014, but turnout has surged in the 31 states that already have held their congressional primaries – particularly among Democrats.
In those states, nearly 13.6 million people – or 10.1% of registered voters – have voted in Democratic primaries for the U.S. House of Representatives, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of state election returns. By this point in the 2014 midterm election cycle, fewer than 7.4 million people – or 6% of registered voters – had cast ballots in Democratic House primaries. (The same 31 states have held primaries as by this date in 2014.)

The total number of votes cast in Democratic House primaries so far this year is 84% higher than the total for the equivalent point in 2014. One reason: There have been a lot more contested primaries, which tend to attract more voters.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

How Butina Did It

In Defying the Odds, we discuss Russian involvement in the 2016 campaign.

Monica Hesse has very perceptive observations at WP:
Whether or not Butina is actually a Russian spy, what becomes clear is that she was very good at being an American fantasy. While Cold War buffs spent the past week talking about how Butina was reminiscent of Jennifer Lawrence in “Red Sparrow” or Keri Russell in “The Americans,” the pop-culture reference I kept thinking of was author Gillian Flynn’s description of a “Cool Girl.” 
The concept was a major theme in Flynn’s novel “Gone Girl” — which is itself essentially a deep dive into the relationship equivalent of spycraft: the personas some women adopt in order to please men, and the boyfriends who buy into it. Cool Girls might package themselves in different formats for different types of guys, i.e., sports bros, earnest freegans, Star Wars cosplayers. The common thread, Flynn writes: A Cool Girl is “basically the girl who likes everything he likes and doesn’t ever complain.”
Maria Butina is an NRA Cool Girl, a unicorn dream of what a man who loved guns might be seeking in a woman to love him.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Blue Wave Math

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

Mike Allen at Axios:
We told you earlier this week about Democratic strength in midterm House races. Now in a special preview for Axios readers, here's a new analysis by David Wasserman of Cook Political Report, unpacking the GOP's daunting math: 
"With 102 days to go, Democrats remain substantial favorites for House control. A big reason: Republicans are defending 42 open or vacant seats, a record since at least 1930." (After the March victory by Democrat Conor Lamb in Pennsylvania, Democrats need to flip 23 seats to take the House.) 
"Of Republicans' 42 incumbent-less seats, eight are in districts that voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016, and an additional 13 are in districts where President Trump received less than 55 percent. 
Killer stat: "[S]ince 1992, in situations when a president's party was stuck defending an open seat two years after the president failed to carry it, that party has batted zero for 23 keeping it in their column." 
"Fundraising deficits are a growing GOP problem": 
"[I]n 20 of the 42 seats, the leading Democrat raised more than the leading Republican between April and June, including in seven of eight Clinton-carried districts (Rep. Dave Reichert's open WA-08 was the only exception) and 13 of 34 Trump-carried seats."

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Blue Wave? July Data

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

Dylan Scott at Vox:
The evidence just keeps piling up: Democrats are in a good position to take the House in the 2018 midterm elections
Two new data points arrived on Wednesday: Both Quinnipiac University and the Kaiser Family Foundation found Democrats with a 12-point lead in the generic congressional ballot. That is well above what political scientists think they need to win back the House (7 points or so). 
The specific results:
  • The Kaiser Family Foundation showed Democrats leading Republicans 49 percent to 37 percent, up from an 8-point 46-38 lead in April.
  • Quinnipiac had Democrats leading 51 percent to 39 percent over Republicans, up from a 9-point lead in late June.
As Vox reported on Tuesday, with a little more than three months left until Election Day, Democrats seem to be strengthening their position to win control of the House

"What you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening.”

  In Defying the Odds, we discuss Trump's character and record of dishonesty.

Katie Rogers and Maggie Haberman at NYT:
On the first couple’s recent trip overseas, Melania Trump’s television aboard Air Force One was tuned to CNN. President Trump was not pleased.
He raged at his staff for violating a rule that the White House entourage should begin each trip tuned to Fox — his preferred network over what he considers the “fake news” CNN — and caused “a bit of a stir” aboard Air Force One, according to an email obtained by The New York Times. The email, an internal exchange between officials in the White House Military Office and the White House Communications Agency last Thursday, also called for the ordering of two additional televisions to support Beam, a TiVo-like streaming device, to make sure the president and first lady could both watch TV in their separate hotel rooms when they travel.
At the end of the email chain, officials confirmed that tuning the TVs to Fox would be standard operating procedure going forward.
The channel-flipping flap was the latest example of how Mr. Trump, at a pivotal moment in his presidency, is increasingly living in a world of selected information and bending the truth to his own narrative. As his aides work to keep him insulated from the outside world, Mr. Trump is doubling down in his efforts to tell supporters to trust him over the words of critics and news reports.
For now, his approach is working: His standing with Republicans continues to rise, according to a series of new polls.
“Stick with us. Don’t believe the crap you see from these people, the fake news,” Mr. Trump said Thursday at the annual convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Kansas City, Mo.
And then: “What you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Cohen Tape

  In  Defying the Oddswe discuss  Trump's record of scandal.

 


Chris Cuomo, Kara Scannell and Eli Watkins at CNN: Presidential candidate Donald Trump is heard on tape discussing with his attorney Michael Cohen how they would buy the rights to a Playboy model's story about an alleged affair Trump had with her years earlier, according to the audio recording of the conversation aired exclusively on CNN's "Cuomo Prime Time."

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Clearances

  In Defying the Odds, we discuss Trump's character and record of dishonesty.

President Trump threatened on Monday to strip the security clearances of top former officials who criticized his refusal to confront Russia over its election interference, signaling a willingness to use the powers of the presidency to retaliate against some of his most outspoken detractors.

Among those who could lose access are John O. Brennan, the former C.I.A. director; Susan E. Rice, the former national security adviser; and James R. Clapper Jr., the former director of national intelligence, said Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary.

“The president is exploring the mechanisms to remove security clearances because they politicized, and in some cases monetized, their public service and security clearances,” Ms. Sanders said.

The suggestion marked an unusual politicization of the security clearance process by a president who has routinely questioned the loyalties of national security and law enforcement officials and dismissed some of their findings — particularly the conclusion that Moscow intervened in the 2016 election — as attacks against him.

Mr. Trump’s plan to review their clearances appeared to be an off-the-cuff idea — announced just after Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, suggested it to him — rather than a carefully considered proposal. Two of the targets Ms. Sanders cited, James B. Comey, who was fired by Mr. Trump as F.B.I. director last year, and Andrew G. McCabe, who was dismissed in March as deputy director of the F.B.I., no longer have security clearances.

Bradley P. Moss at Lawfare:
There is a critical distinction that often is misunderstood—even by individuals who have worked in the cleared community for decades—between “access” and “eligibility for access” to classified information. When an individual is granted a security clearance, all that means is that that person has been favorably adjudicated and is “eligible for access” to classified information at a particular level (whether confidential, secret or top secret). That eligibility remains valid for a certain number of years depending on the level of classification for which the individual was favorably adjudicated (for example, a secret-level clearance is valid for 10 years).
Access, in and of itself, is the subsequent step taken by the agency to provide the cleared individual with the means by which to use classified email accounts, utilize classified databases and work in a classified office space. When, for example, Comey was fired, his “access” was immediately cut off. He was “debriefed” from any compartmentalized programs to which he had been accessed, his credentials were taken away and he probably signed several “briefing acknowledgment” forms confirming that he had been debriefed. Comey’s “eligibility,” however, was not affected by his termination. What the White House threatened to do on Monday was to revoke Comey’s eligibility.

There are formal processes for doing so, but Trump seems ready to disregard them.
 The president could claim the inherent constitutional authority to revoke the clearance eligibility of each of the individuals without any due process. There is no precedent for such an action, as no president (at least as far as I am aware) has ever personally intervened in the clearance revocation (or approval) of an individual. That has never happened before because past presidents—whatever their flaws or scandals—knew there were certain institutional norms and customs that a president simply should not disturb.
Trump, though, is not burdened with an affinity for respecting institutional norms. He already bulldozed those norms when it came to hiring his daughter and son-in-law, refusing to place his assets in a blind trust, and refusing to disclose his tax returns. What is to stop him from running over another norm?

Monday, July 23, 2018

America Rising and Early Oppo for 2020


America Rising PAC is already researching potential 2020 Democratic presidential candidates. Christopher Cadelago at Politico:
The oppo-research carpet-bombing has commenced against Sens. Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren, among others: America Rising was responsible for spotting and blasting out a video of Warren telling an audience she wants to “cut open” the bodies of Republicans to see if they have hearts, generating a spate of 2017 stories.
With a potentially colossal field of Democratic presidential contenders and no one close to being a front-runner, the mission figures to be an expensive endeavor. So donors across the country are quietly getting the hard sell as the group moves toward its goal of raising $8 million for the 2020 cycle — roughly three times as much as it took in during the successful three-year quest to help defeat Clinton.
...
Many of the opportunities begin at America Rising, which traces its roots to a co-founder’s apartment and now occupies the fifth floor of an office building in downtown Rosslyn, Virginia, just outside Washington. With two years still to go until the convention that crowns the Democratic presidential nominee, the number of employees has grown to 75, including 25 full-time candidate trackers.
Together, the team has already filed more than 300 Freedom of Information requests on potential 2020 candidates and monitored more than 700 livestreamed events. On a recent afternoon, dozens of researchers crouched over scattered desks, piecing together research “books” on each of the Democratic prospects.
...
Inside the group’s war room — which it staffs seven days a week — a group of 20- and 30-something men were seated at desks, staring at a bank of televisions tuned to C-SPAN and cable news, and uploading clips to a shared, searchable console.
The platform is designed to provide instant access to all of the war room alerts, including print, social media, TV, radio, tracking reports, event livestreams and video transcripts, an aide explained. All of the content can quickly be filtered and sorted by date, type and subject matter, given the large volumes.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Russia Infiltrates US Religious Groups

In Defying the Odds, we discuss Russian involvement in the 2016 campaign.

Katherine Stewart at NYT:
Does it seem strange that, according to a criminal complaint unsealed on Monday by the Justice Department, a Russian woman stands accused of “acting as an agent of a foreign government” in part because she hoped “to establish a back-channel of communication” with American politicians at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington?
It shouldn’t. As Jeff Sharlet, an associate professor of English at Dartmouth, has pointed out, the National Prayer Breakfast has long offered “a backdoor to American power.” And America’s homegrown Christian nationalists have evinced an admiration for Russia’s authoritarian leader that appears to have grown apace with his brutality.
On Tuesday, Maria Butina, a 29-year-old Russian whose name was spelled Mariia in court papers, was indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of conspiracy and acting as an unregistered foreign agent for the Russian Federation. According to the complaint unsealed on Monday, Ms. Butina’s promotional activities for Russian political interests included attending the National Prayer Breakfast twice.
...
In the run-up to the 2016 election, the passion for Russian values among America’s religious extremists grew still more ardent. In 2013, Bryan Fischer, then a spokesman for the American Family Association, called Mr. Putin a “lion of Christianity.” In 2014, Franklin Graham — the politically influential evangelist and vocal Trump supporter — defended Mr. Putin for his efforts “to protect his nation’s children from the damaging effects of any gay and lesbian agenda,” even as he lamented that Americans have “abdicated our moral leaders

Friday, July 20, 2018

Rohrabacher's Bad Week

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

David Lauter at LAT:
One of California’s most hotly contested congressional races — the campaign between incumbent Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher and his Democratic challenger, Harley Rouda — is starting off as a dead heat, according to a new poll that shows a Democratic edge on enthusiasm countering the Orange County district’s Republican leanings.

Rouda, who barely squeaked through the June primary to emerge as Rohrabacher’s opponent, has a 46%-43% edge among potential voters, the poll found — a nominal lead well within the survey’s margin of error.
inRead invented by Teads

The survey by Monmouth University is the first public, nonpartisan poll of the district since the June primary. The poll is one of a series that Monmouth, in West Long Branch, N.J., is conducting of key congressional races nationwide. The nonpartisan survey has compiled one of the country’s best records for accuracy in recent years.
Jordan Graham at The Orange County Register:
Orange County GOP Rep. Dana Rohrabacher met in Russia in 2015 with a woman later charged by federal officials for allegedly acting as an unregistered agent of the Kremlin in a covert endeavor to shape American politics.
News of the 2015 meeting — confirmed Tuesday by Rohrabacher’s office — came the same day he told Politico that Monday’s indictment of 29-year-old Maria Butina was “bogus” and “stupid,” saying he believes the allegations are part of a larger plot to undermine President Donald Trump’s relationship with Russia.
The Justice Dept. accused Butina of establishing back-channel lines of communications to American politicians in recent years “to penetrate the U.S. national decision-making apparatus to advance the agenda of the Russian Federation.”
The indictment states that as part of that plot, Butina had discussions with a Russian official – reported to be Alexander Torshin, an influential deputy governor of the Russian central bank – about his plans to “meet with a U.S. Congressman during a Congressional Delegation trip to Moscow in August 2015.”
 Gideon Resnick at The Daily Beast:
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) lashed out Monday against comedian Sacha Baron Cohen after appearing in a damning segment featured in Cohen’s new Showtime series Who Is America?

The segment in question features a number of Republican members of Congress endorsing a fictional program to train preschoolers to fire guns as a means to preventing school shootings. All Rohrabacher says in the segment is: “Maybe having many young people trained and understand how to defend themselves and their school might actually make us safer here."

Among the other members featured are freshman Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), who remained skeptical of the proposal from Baron Cohen’s character, Col. Erran Morad, a self-proclaimed Israeli anti-terror expert.
Rohrabacher, who is viewed as an endangered incumbent in an Orange County district won by Hillary Clinton in 2016, wrote in a statement: “Cohen’s people apparently used footage from an interview I submitted to earlier this year for a bogus Israeli television company supposedly celebrating the country’s 70th anniversary.”

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Infiltration


Philip Ewing at NPR:
Charges accusing a woman of trying to build bridges between the Russian government and American political leaders via the National Rifle Association have delivered a breakthrough in understanding one aspect of the attack on the 2016 election: "infiltration."
After months of questions and speculation as to how or whether the NRA connection might have worked, prosecutors proffered an answer on Monday: The Russian woman, Maria Butina, was the intermediary between Russian government officials and Americans, both in the NRA and elsewhere in politics, according to court documents.
The government says she was acting as a foreign agent without registering. Her attorney called the charges overblown, as NPR's Carrie Johnson reported.
A grand jury in Washington D.C. returned an indictment against Butina on Tuesday afternoon.
Butina allegedly serves or served as the deputy to someone identified in court papers only as a "Russian official," who is probably Alexander Torshin, a now-sanctioned Kremlin official who cultivated relationships with American political leaders and the NRA over several years.
The two "took these steps in order to infiltrate these groups and advance the interests of the Russian Federation," FBI Special Agent Kevin Helson said in an affidavit that accompanied the criminal complaint.



Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Profiles in ... Something Other Than Courage

In Defying the Odds, we discuss congressional elections as well as the presidential race.
Mike Allen and Jonathan Swan at Axios:
Yes, almost every elected Republican we talk to privately thinks President Trump’s warm embrace of Vladimir Putin was unexplainable, unacceptable and un-American. Yes, they wish they could say this publicly. No, they won’t — not now, and probably never.

The cold, hard reason: They see no upside in speaking out — and fear political suicide if they do, numerous Republican officials tell us.
  • Why it matters: This is the mind-control power Trump has, thanks to 90 percent of Republicans approving of his tactics and performance.
  • These 90 percent empower and are empowered by Fox News and a pro-Trump social media ecosystem that always comes to the president’s defense, even if they flinch for a moment or two.
We just witnessed this power on full display:
  • You had a rare moment where virtually every Republican was aghast at Trump’s words.
  • But almost every Republican — except those leaving the stage — softened their direct criticism of Trump and ran from TV or reporters like the plague.
GOP lawmakers' immediate complaints about the press conference were quickly tempered. Trump’s cleanup and turnaround yesterday ("I said the word 'would' instead of 'wouldn't'") had one audience: Capitol Hill.
Senior staff saw a real risk of backlash — worse than after Charlottesville — if the brewing rebellion wasn’t nipped in the bud quickly, per sources close to White House.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

The Surrender Summit

In Defying the Odds, we discuss Russian involvement in the 2016 campaign.


From the transcript of the instantly-infamous Putin-Trump presser in Helsinki:
  • "As president, I cannot make decisions on foreign policy in a futile effort to appease partisan critics, or the media, or Democrats who want to do nothing but resist and obstruct."
  • "No, actually I called him a competitor and a good competitor he is. And I think the word competitor is a compliment.:
  • "I  hold both countries responsible. I think that the United States has been foolish. I think we've all been foolish. We should have had this dialogue a long time ago, a long time frankly before I got to office. And I think we're all to blame."
  • :I think that the, the probe is a disaster for our country. I think it's kept us apart, it's kept us separated."
  • "My people came to me, Dan Coats, came to me and some others they said they think it's Russia. I have President Putin. He just said it's not Russia. I will say this: I don't see any reason why it would be. But I really do want to see the server but I have, I have confidence in both parties."
  • "I have great confidence in my intelligence people but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today and what he did is an incredible offer.He offered to have the people working on the case come and work with their investigators, with respect to the 12 people. I think that's an incredible offer."
And Putin:
REPORTER: Did you want President Trump to win the election and did you direct any of your officials to help him do that?
PUTIN: Yes, I did. Yes, I did. Because he talked about bringing the U.S. Russia relationship back to normal.
A non-denial denial on kompromat:
Yeah, I did heard these rumors that we allegedly collected compromising material on Mr. Trump when he was visiting Moscow. Our distinguished colleague, let me tell you this. When President Trump visited Moscow back then I didn't even know that he was in Moscow. I treat President Trump with utmost respect. But back then, when he was a private individual, a businessman, nobody informed me that he was in Moscow.

But let's take St. Petersburg economic forum, for instance. There were over 500 American businessmen - the high ranking, the high level ones, I don't even remember the last names of each and every one of them. Do you think that we tried to collect compromising material on each and every single one of them? Well, it's difficult to imagine an utter nonsense of a bigger scale than this.

Well, please just disregard these issues and don't think about this anymore again.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Putin Wins

In Defying the Odds, we discuss Russian involvement in the 2016 campaign.

The Russian Foreign Ministry:

From Russia with Love

In Defying the Odds, we discuss Russian involvement in the 2016 campaign.

At The Guardian, Lloyd Green reviews Sean Spicer's book:
For three consecutive pages, The Briefing: Politics, the Press and the President graphically details how Manafort beat back the efforts of Never Trump Republicans to steal the presidential nomination. Spicer gushes: “How Manafort and company did this was a scene out of 1950s politics – alternating between carrot and stick and sometimes bat.”
Time flies. In March 2017, Spicer was spinning a whole other yarn. Back then, at the White House podium, he was channeling the president, telling the press there was nothing to see: “Obviously there’s been discussion of Paul Manafort, who played a very limited role for a very limited amount of time.”
Manafort now sits in prison, having violated the conditions of his bail, awaiting trial on money laundering and tax evasion charges.
Jonathan Swan at Axios:
President Trump no longer doubts the basic intelligence assessment that Russia interfered in the 2016 election — he just seems incapable of taking it seriously, and tells staff that is simply what nations do, several sources close to Trump tell me.
Between the lines: There is no evidence that could ever change Trump’s mind, the sources said.

Why it matters: To the extent that Trump does confront Putin over meddling at tomorrow's summit in Finland with Vladimir Putin — and the president has publicly promised to — it's not with any genuine seriousness or enthusiasm, the sources say. It'll be purely for domestic/media consumption. Trump has signaled as much in the sarcastic way he's talked about this with the press.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

The Conspirators

In Defying the Odds, we discuss Russian involvement in the 2016 campaign.

From the indictment of Russian agents:
On or about August 15, 2016, the Conspirators, posing as Guccifer 2.0, received a request for stolen documents from a candidate for the U.S. Congress. The Conspirators responded using the Guccifer 2.0 persona and sent the candidate stolen documents related to the candidate’s opponent.
... 
The Conspirators, posing as Guccifer 2.0, also communicated with U.S. persons about the release of stolen documents. On or about August 15, 2016, the Conspirators, posing as Guccifer 2.0, wrote to a person who was in regular contact with senior members of the presidential campaign of Donald J. Trump, “thank u for writing back . . . do u find anyt[h]ing interesting in the docs i posted?” On or about August 17, 2016, the  conspirators added, “please tell me if i can help u anyhow . . . it would be a great pleasure to me.” On or about September 9, 2016, the Conspirators, again posing as Guccifer 2.0, referred to a stolen DCCC document posted online and asked the person, “what do u think of the info on the turnout model for the democrats entire presidential
campaign.” The person responded, “[p]retty standard.”
From Lawfare:
Finally, the factual allegations in this document significantly improve the possibility of criminal conspiracy charges involving Americans. Until this action, there was little indication in the public record that the hacking operation persisted beyond the date the documents were released. While there were questions about whether the Trump campaign participated in some way in coordinating the release of these documents, the presumption based on public evidence was that the hacking scheme—that is, the violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which constituted the most obvious criminal offense—was complete. This left a bit of a puzzle for “collusion” purposes. If the crime was completed at the time the hacking and theft were done, what crime could constitute conspiracy? One year ago to the day, Helen Murillo and Susan Hennessey analyzed the possibility of conspiracy to violate the CFAA. At the time, they noted a stumbling block to the analysis even if individuals in the Trump campaign encouraged the release of documents or coordinated timing:
While the precedent isn’t entirely clear on the matter, it is possible prosecutors here would need to prove not just that a member of the Trump team was aware of the CFAA scheme when he or she took steps to support the tortious act or violation of another state or federal law, but also that the Russians had the intention of publishing the emails at the time they obtained the information in the first instance. It isn’t at all clear from the public record that the Russians initially obtained the emails for the purpose of publishing them. Indeed, there is some suspicion the original intrusion was just in furtherance or ordinary espionage and the plan to release the emails came later.
The Internet Research Agency indictment, in February, offered a potential legal solution to that puzzle.
This indictment, by contrast, offers a potential factual breakthrough. It tells us that the prior factual premise was wrong: the alleged conduct violating the CFAA continued to occur throughout the summer of 2016. That affects the earlier analysis in two ways. First, it makes clear that the Russians did intend to release the information at the time the hacking occured. Second, and perhaps more important, the indictment alleges that the criminal hacking conspiracy was ongoing at the time individuals in the Trump campaign were in contact with charged and uncharged Russian conspirators, raising the possibility of more straightforward aiding and abetting liability.
In other words, stay tuned. This indictment represents a tightening of the ring in the story of criminal prosecution for the 2016 election hacking. The government has now alleged that the social media manipulations by Russian actors constituted a criminal conspiracy. It has alleged as well that the hacking of Democratic Party and Clinton campaign emails were crimes conducted by officers of the Russian state. The question remains: Who, if anyone, helped?

Friday, July 13, 2018

The Dirty Russian Dozen

In Defying the Odds, we discuss Russian involvement in the 2016 campaign.

Ken Dilanian et al. at NBC:
Twelve Russian intelligence officers have been indicted in connection with the bitcoin-funded hacking of Democratic organizations and the Hillary Clinton campaign "with the intent to interfere" in the 2016 election, officials announced Friday.
The charges, brought by special counsel Robert Mueller and announced by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, come at a diplomatically sensitive time — just days before President Donald Trump meets formally for the first time with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki.

Among the new details: the conspirators allegedly first tried to compromise email accounts used by Clinton's personal office on July 27, 2016, the same day that Trump appeared to urge Russia to go after her emails at a campaign press conference in Florida.

Prosecutors say that in August 2016, a U.S. congressional candidate requested and received from stolen documents related to an opponent from an online persona created by the Russian cabal. And a state lobbyist received stolen data on Democratic donors later that month, the indictment alleges.


Thursday, July 12, 2018

The Million-Dollar Club for Democratic House Challengers

In Defying the Odds, we discuss congressional elections as well as the presidential race. Campaign finance is a big part of the story.
Zach Montellaro and Scott Bland at Politico:
At least 13 Democratic House challengers have already announced they raised over $1 million in the second quarter of 2018, with a few more days to go until the FEC filing deadline: Josh Harder (CA-10), Andrew Janz (CA-22), Katie Hill (CA-25), Katie Porter (CA-45), Jason Crow (CO-06), Angie Craig (MN-02), Andy Kim (NJ-03), Lizzie Pannill Fletcher (TX-07), Gina Ortiz Jones (TX-23), MJ Hegar (TX-31), Colin Allred (TX-32), Jennifer Wexton (VA-10) and Randy Bryce (WI-01).

There is no historical parallel to this class of seven-figure fundraisers. In the second quarter of 2016, only 2 House challengers raised over $1 million without self-funding, according to a review of FEC records: Democratic challengers Zephyr Teachout in NY-19 and Tim Canova in FL-23, where he was waging a primary campaign against Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz.