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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Trump Off the Record


Thursday, August 30, 2018

Unready for Winter

In Defying the Odds, we discuss Trump's record of scandal

Trump tweeted that his counsel was leaving. WP reports that the White House legal team, already understaffed, is unready for a Democratic takeover of the House and the investigations that would follow.
Trump advisers also are discussing recruiting experienced legal firepower to the Office of White House Counsel, which is facing departures and has dwindled in size at a critical juncture. The office has about 25 lawyers now, down from roughly 35 earlier in the presidency, according to a White House official with direct knowledge.
...
One source of growing anxiety among Trump allies is the worry that the president and some senior White House officials are not anxious enough. Although Trump sometimes talks about impeachment with his advisers, in other moments, he gets mad that “the i-word,” as he calls it, is raised, according to his associates.
“Winter is coming,” said one Trump ally in close communication with the White House. “Assuming Democrats win the House, which we all believe is a very strong likelihood, the White House will be under siege. But it’s like tumbleweeds rolling down the halls over there. Nobody’s prepared for war.”

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Trump Lies to Evangelical Leaders, Warns of D Violence

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

Aliza Nadi and Ken Dilanian at NBC:
In a closed-door meeting with evangelical leaders Monday night, President Donald Trump repeated his debunked claim that he had gotten "rid of" a law forbidding churches and charitable organizations from endorsing political candidates, according to recorded excerpts reviewed by NBC News.
In fact, the law remains on the books, after efforts to kill it in Congress last year failed.
...
Trump addressed the law and the upcoming midterms in private remarks Monday during a dinner with evangelical supporters at the White House after the press had left.
At stake in the November midterms, Trump told the audience, are all the gains he has made for conservative Christians.
"The level of hatred, the level of anger is unbelievable," he said. "Part of it is because of some of the things I've done for you and for me and for my family, but I've done them. … This Nov. 6 election is very much a referendum on not only me, it's a referendum on your religion, it's a referendum on free speech and the First Amendment."

If the GOP loses, he said, "they will overturn everything that we've done and they'll do it quickly and violently, and violently. There's violence. When you look at Antifa and you look at some of these groups — these are violent people."
Politico Playbook:
The peaceful transition of power is one of the important pillars of democracy -- and the chances that Democrats would launch a violent revolution are slim to none.
COMBINE THAT WITH THE PRESIDENT’S insistence that Google is rigging search engine results against him and the Justice Department is filled with Democrats looking to bring him down, and it’s been quite a stretch of Trump trying to erode trust in public entities. NBCNYT

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

The Pariah President


Noah Bierman at LAT:
In April, Trump was asked to stay away from the funeral of Barbara Bush, wife to one president and mother of another, leaving it to former Presidents Clinton and Obama to serve as national consolers to the Bush family. In December, he opted to skip the president's traditional attendance at the annual Kennedy Center Honors gala after several of the artists being feted threatened a boycott.
The British royal family dispensed with inviting foreign dignitaries to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's wedding in May partly to avoid having to invite Trump, whom Markle had attacked as "divisive" and "misogynistic." Trump canceled the usual White House celebration for the NFL's Super Bowl champions when he learned most of the Philadelphia Eagles players were unwilling to attend. Only months earlier the Golden State Warriors had passed on their own invitation to celebrate their 2017 NBA championship title at the White House.
Ashley Parker at WP:
The latest snub comes in the form of the upcoming funeral for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), which, before his death, the late senator made clear he did not want the sitting president to attend. That the feeling is mutual — Trump nixed issuing a statement that praised McCain as a “hero” — only underscores the myriad ways Trump has rejected the norms of his office and, increasingly, has been rejected in turn.

Less than two years into first term, Trump has often come to occupy the role of pariah — both unwelcome and unwilling to perform the basic rituals and ceremonies of the presidency, from public displays of mourning to cultural ceremonies.
...
“We’re not talking about a president going and having a rally in a state that voted against him,” said Tim Naftali, a presidential historian at New York University who previously served as the director of the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum. “We’re talking about a president who can’t even go and participate in a ritual where presidents are usually welcomed, and that is one of the consequences of his having defined the presidency in a sectarian way.”
...

Monday, August 27, 2018

House Republicans Expect a Big Loss, and Lots of D Investigations


Jonathan Swan at Axios:
Axios has obtained a spreadsheet that's circulated through Republican circles on and off Capitol Hill — including at least one leadership office — that meticulously previews the investigations Democrats will likely launch if they flip the House.
Why this matters: Publicly, House Republicans are putting on a brave face about the midterms. But privately, they are scrambling to prepare for the worst. This document, which catalogs requests Democrats have already made, is part of that effort.
...
The spreadsheet — which I'm told originated in a senior House Republican office — catalogs more than 100 formal requests from House Democrats this Congress, spanning nearly every committee.
The spreadsheet includes requests for administration officials to be grilled by committee staff, requests for hearings to obtain sworn testimony, efforts to seize communications about controversial policies and personnel decisions, and subpoena threats.
These demands would turn the Trump White House into a 24/7 legal defense operation.
The bottom line: Thanks to their control of Congress, Republicans have blocked most of the Democrats’ investigative requests. But if the House flips, the GOP loses its power to stymie. Lawyers close to the White House tell me the Trump administration is nowhere near prepared for the investigatory onslaught that awaits them, and they consider it among the greatest threats to his presidency.
Paul Blumenthal at The Huffington Post:
 Democrats win control of the House of Representatives in November, they will gain the most important tool available to investigate the Trump administration: subpoena power. And Democrats on the House oversight committee, that chamber’s main investigative panel, are prepared to use it.
Democratic members on the committee have asked the Republican majority to issue subpoenas related to the administration’s conduct 52 times during the first 20 months of Donald Trump’s presidency. Republicans turned down each of those 52 requests. If Democrats held the committee gavel, the subpoenas would be approved.
The 52 subpoena requests fell into three categories. First, Trump administration and Trump Organization corruption, conflicts of interest and violations of norms of good governance. Second, the committee’s core oversight functions, including agency reorganizations, the issuance of security clearances and the 2020 census. And third, overall issues of waste, fraud and abuse.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

McCain's Acceptance Speech

In Defying the Odds, we discuss Trump's character. Trump infamously said that John McCain was not a war hero. Signing a defense bill bearing McCain's name, he refused to utter it. Trumpist Arizona Senate candidate Kelli Ward suggested Saturday that the McCain family's Friday statement about stopping treatment was an effort to undercut her.

This passage from John McCain's acceptance speech, recounting his captivity in North Vietnam, is unlike any other.
I was dumped in a dark cell and left to die. I didn't feel so tough anymore.

When they discovered my father was an admiral, they took me to a hospital. They couldn't set my bones properly, so they just slapped a cast on me. And when I didn't get better and was down to about a hundred pounds, they put me in a cell with two other Americans.

I couldn't do anything. I couldn't even feed myself. They did it for me. I was beginning to learn the limits of my selfish independence. 
Those men saved my life. [applause]

I was in solitary confinement when my captors offered to release me. I knew why. If I went home, they would use it as propaganda to demoralize my fellow prisoners.

Our code said we could only go home in the order of our capture, and there were men who had been shot down long before me. I thought about it, though. I wasn't in great shape, and I missed everything about America, but I turned it down.

A lot of prisoners had it much worse...[applause]

A lot of -- a lot of prisoners had it a lot worse than I did. I'd been mistreated before, but not as badly as many others. I always liked to strut a little after I'd been roughed up to show the other guys I was tough enough to take it.

But after I turned down their offer, they worked me over harder than they ever had before, for a long time, and they broke me.

When they brought me back to my cell, I was hurt and ashamed, and I didn't know how I could face my fellow prisoners. The good man in the cell next door to me, my friend, Bob Craner, saved me.

Through taps on a wall, he told me I had fought as hard as I could. No man can always stand alone. And then he told me to get back up and fight again for my country and for the men I had the honor to serve with, because every day they fought for me. [applause]

I fell in love with my country when I was a prisoner in someone else's. I loved it not just for the many comforts of life here. I loved it for its decency, for its faith in the wisdom, justice, and goodness of its people.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Russians Stirred Discord on Vaccines


Helen Branswell at STAT:
In the lead-up to the 2016 U.S. election, Russian bots and trolls took to Twitter and other social media platforms to try to turn Americans against one another. But in addition to spreading false information and interfering in the election, a new study reports, a significant number of these malevolent actors tried to sow discord over vaccines.
An analysis of Twitter accounts previously identified as having been operated by Russian bots and trolls found they dove into the vaccine debate as early as January 2015, the researchers reported. They did not take one side or the other, but seemed to tweet pro-vaccine and anti-vaccine messages in roughly equal measure.
On a variety of issues, the overall aim of the Russian campaign appeared to be to erode social cohesion and generate confusion by amplifying the number of voices taking part in these debates on social media. But in the case of vaccines, that could have increased the misperception that the science on their safety and effectiveness isn’t settled — as is the case — but rather that it is still subject to debate.
“We do have a very strong suspicion that these accounts were attempting to generate discord,” said David Broniatowski, assistant professor in George Washington University’s department of engineering management and systems engineering and lead author of the study.
In the study, published Thursday in the American Journal of Public Health, Broniatowski and his co-authors focused on Twitter, analyzing tweets from accounts that had been identified as having been operated by Russian trolls, bots, and so-called content polluters whose aim is to disseminate spam and malware. The article is titled “Weaponized Health Communications: Twitter Bots and Russian Trolls Amplify the Vaccine Debate.”
And, of course, Trump notoriously reinforced the bogus idea that vaccines cause autism.

Friday, August 24, 2018

POTUS and the Law

In Defying the Odds, we discuss Trump's record of scandal

Fox interview:
He continued: “For 30, 40 years I’ve been watching flippers. Everything’s wonderful and then they get 10 years in jail and they—they flip on whoever the next highest one is, or as high as you can go.”
“It almost ought to be outlawed. It’s not fair. Because if somebody’s going to give—spend five years like Michael Cohen, or 10 years, or 15 years in jail because of a taxi cab industry, because he defrauded some bank—the last two were tiny ones,” Trump explained. “You know, campaign violations are considered not a big deal, frankly. But if somebody defrauded a bank and he’s going to get 10 years in jail or 20 years in jail, but if you can say something bad about Donald Trump and you’ll go down to two or three years, which is the deal he made.”
..
 Trump, though, went on to criticize Attorney General Jeff Sessions, saying he “never took control of the Justice Department." When asked whether he would fire Sessions or Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, he maintained that he wants to “stay uninvolved” with the DOJ.
“Jeff Sessions recused himself, which he shouldn’t have done. Or he should have told me,” Trump said. “Even my enemies say that Jeff Sessions should have told you that he was going to recuse himself and then you wouldn’t have put him in. He took the job and then he said I’m going to recuse myself. I said, ‘what kind of man is this?’”
Trump added that the “only reason” he appointed him as attorney general was “because I felt loyalty.”



Neal Katyal at WP:
But the rule of law is about more than simple transparency; it demands justice, too. We have sworn, solemn statements that show the president almost certainly committed at least one felony. Trump’s lawyers are quick to claim that a sitting president cannot be indicted. That view doesn’t seem to have convinced even his own legal team, as they keep saying they don’t want the president to testify before Mueller because of a “perjury trap.” If there is no such thing as perjury for a sitting president, the claim’s a bit weird. Probably, Trump’s lawyers know the “no indictment” claim isn’t nearly as ironclad as they make it out to be. That’s why they resort to claptrap such as “Presidents cannot by definition obstruct Justice.” Absurd. The Declaration of Independence itself accused King George III of having “obstructed the Administration of Justice.” The Trump view would elevate the presidency above the 1776 British king and immunize Trump from one of the offenses that caused the American Revolution in the first place. Trump can’t cite actual law or history to support him, with the exception of Nixon’s widely mocked utterance that “when the president does it, that means that it is not illegal.”

Thursday, August 23, 2018

They've Got Receipts

In  Defying the Oddswe discuss  Trump's record of scandal.  In a plea dealMichael Cohen has now implicated Trump in criminal activity.
Chuck Todd, Mark Murray and Carrie Dann at NBC:huck Todd, Mark Murray an
So, lordy, there are tapes. And emails. And phone records. Of course, we already know of one tape — of Cohen apparently talking about one of the payments to Trump — which CNN reported on last month.
In his interview with Fox News, Trump was asked about Cohen’s payments to Daniels and McDougal.
FOX NEWS: Did you direct him to make these payments?
TRUMP: He made the deal. He made the deals. By the way, he pled to two counts which aren't a crime which nobody understands. I watched a number of shows, sometimes you get some pretty good information by watching shows, those two counts aren't even a crime. They weren't campaign finance. 
FOX NEWS: Did you know about the payments? 
TRUMP: Later on I knew. Later on. But you have to understand, Ainsley, what he did - and they weren't taken out of campaign finance. That's a big thing. That's a much bigger thing. Did they come out of the campaign. They didn't come out of the campaign. They came from me.
Let’s repeat those last two sentences: “They didn’t come out of the campaign. They came from me.” That is PRECISELY the allegation of illegal activity here — funds intended for a campaign are SUPPOSED to come from the campaign, not from another source.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Michael Cohen Implicates Trump in Crimes

In  Defying the Oddswe discuss  Trump's record of scandal.  In a plea deal, Michael Cohen has now implicated Trump in criminal activity.

“On or about the summer of 2016, in coordination with, and at the direction of, a candidate for federal office, I and the CEO of a media company at the request of the candidate worked together to keep an individual with information that would be harmful to the candidate and to the campaign from publicly disclosing this information,” Cohen said.
“After a number of discussions, we eventually accomplished the goal by the media company entering into a contract with the individual under which she received compensation of $150,000. I participated in this conduct, which on my part took place in Manhattan, for the principal purpose of influencing the election,” he said. “On or about October of 2016,” a second payment was arranged, “in coordination with, and at the direction of, the same candidate,” he said
Robert Khuzami, Attorney for the United States, Acting Under Authority Conferred by 28 U.S.C. § 515, William F. Sweeney Jr., the Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), and James D. Robnett, the Special Agent-in-Charge of the New York Field Office of the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation (“IRS-CI”), announced today the guilty plea of MICHAEL COHEN to charges of tax evasion, making false statements to a federally-insured bank, and campaign finance violations. The plea was entered followed the filing of an eight-count criminal information, which alleged that COHEN concealed more than $4 million in personal income from the IRS, made false statements to a federally-insured financial institution in connection with a $500,000 home equity loan, and, in 2016, caused $280,000 in payments to be made to silence two women who otherwise planned to speak publicly about their alleged affairs with a presidential candidate, thereby intending to influence the 2016 presidential election. COHEN pled guilty today before U.S. District Judge William H. Pauley III.
...
Campaign Finance Violations
The Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971, as amended, Title 52, United States Code, Section 30101, et seq., (the “Election Act”), regulates the influence of money on politics. At all relevant times, the Election Act set certain limitations and prohibitions, among them: (a) individual contributions to any presidential candidate, including expenditures coordinated with a candidate or his political committee, were limited to $2,700 per election, and presidential candidates and their committees were prohibited from accepting contributions from individuals in excess of this limit; and (b) Corporations were prohibited from making contributions directly to presidential candidates, including expenditures coordinated with candidates or their committees, and candidates were prohibited from accepting corporate contributions.
On June 16, 2015, Individual-1 [TRUMP] began his presidential campaign. While COHEN continued to work at the Company and did not have a formal title with the campaign, he had a campaign email address and, at various times, advised the campaign, including on matters of interest to the press, and made televised and media appearances on behalf of the campaign.

In August 2015, the Chairman and Chief Executive of Corporation-1 [American Media Inc. (AMI)] , a media company that owns, among other things, a popular tabloid magazine (“Chairman-1” [David Pecker] and “Magazine-1,” [National Enquirer]  respectively”), in coordination with COHEN and one or more members of the campaign, offered to help deal with negative stories about Individual-1’s relationships with women by, among other things, assisting the campaign in identifying such stories so they could be purchased and their publication avoided. Chairman-1 agreed to keep COHEN apprised of any such negative stories.
Consistent with the agreement described above, Corporation-1 advised COHEN of negative stories during the course of the campaign, and COHEN, with the assistance of Corporation-1, was able to arrange for the purchase of two stories so as to suppress them and prevent them from influencing the election.
First, in June 2016, a model and actress (“Woman-1” [Karen McDougal] ) began attempting to sell her story of her alleged extramarital affair with Individual-1 that had taken place in 2006 and 2007, knowing the story would be of considerable value because of the election. Woman-1 retained an attorney (“Attorney-1”), who in turn contacted the editor-in-chief of Magazine-1 (“Editor-1” [Dylan Howard]), and offered to sell Woman-1’s story to Magazine-1. Chairman-1 and Editor-1 informed COHEN of the story. At COHEN’s urging and subject to COHEN’s promise that Corporation-1 would be reimbursed, Editor-1 ultimately began negotiating for the purchase of the story.
On August 5, 2016, Corporation-1 entered into an agreement with Woman-1 to acquire her “limited life rights” to the story of her relationship with “any then-married man,” in exchange for $150,000 and a commitment to feature her on two magazine covers and publish more than 100 magazine articles authored by her. Despite the cover and article features to the agreement, its principal purpose, as understood by those involved, including COHEN, was to suppress Woman-1’s story so as to prevent it from influencing the election.

Between late August 2016 and September 2016, COHEN agreed with Chairman-1 to assign the rights to the non-disclosure portion of Corporation-1’s agreement with Woman-1 to COHEN for $125,000. COHEN incorporated a shell entity called “Resolution Consultants LLC” for use in the transaction. Both Chairman-1 and COHEN ultimately signed the agreement, and a consultant for Corporation-1, using his own shell entity, provided COHEN with an invoice for the payment of $125,000. However, in early October 2016, after the assignment agreement was signed but before COHEN had paid the $125,000, Chairman-1 contacted COHEN and told him, in substance, that the deal was off and that COHEN should tear up the assignment agreement.

Second, on October 8, 2016, an agent for an adult film actress (“Woman-2”) informed Editor-1 that Woman-2 was willing to make public statements and confirm on the record her alleged past affair with Individual-1. Chairman-1 and Editor-1 then contacted COHEN and put him in touch with Attorney-1, who was also representing Woman-2. Over the course of the next few days, COHEN negotiated a $130,000 agreement with Attorney-1 to himself purchase Woman-2’s silence, and received a signed confidential settlement agreement and a separate side letter agreement from Attorney-1.

COHEN did not immediately execute the agreement, nor did he pay Woman-2. On the evening of October 25, 2016, with no deal with Woman-2 finalized, Attorney-1 told Editor-1 that Woman-2 was close to completing a deal with another outlet to make her story public. Editor-1, in turn, texted COHEN that “[w]e have to coordinate something on the matter [Attorney-1 is] calling you about or it could look awfully bad for everyone.” Chairman-1 and Editor-1 then called COHEN through an encrypted telephone application. COHEN agreed to make the payment, and then called Attorney-1 to finalize the deal.
The next day, on October 26, 2016, COHEN emailed an incorporating service to obtain the corporate formation documents for another shell corporation, Essential Consultants LLC, which COHEN had incorporated a few days prior. Later that afternoon, COHEN drew down $131,000 from the fraudulently obtained HELOC and requested that it be deposited into a bank account COHEN had just opened in the name of Essential Consultants. The next morning, on October 27, 2016, COHEN went to Bank-3 and wired approximately $130,000 from Essential Consultants to Attorney-1. On the bank form to complete the wire, COHEN falsely indicated that the “purpose of wire being sent” was “retainer.” On November 1, 2016, COHEN received from Attorney-1 copies of the final, signed confidential settlement agreement and side letter agreement.
COHEN caused and made the payments described herein in order to influence the 2016 presidential election. In so doing, he coordinated with one or more members of the campaign, including through meetings and phone calls, about the fact, nature, and timing of the payments. As a result of the payments solicited and made by COHEN, neither Woman-1 nor Woman-2 spoke to the press prior to the election.
In January 2017, COHEN in seeking reimbursement for election-related expenses, presented executives of the Company with a copy of a bank statement from the Essential Consultants bank account, which reflected the $130,000 payment COHEN had made to the bank account of Attorney-1 in order to keep Woman-2 silent in advance of the election, plus a $35 wire fee, adding, in handwriting, an additional “$50,000.” The $50,000 represented a claimed payment for “tech services,” which in fact related to work COHEN had solicited from a technology company during and in connection with the campaign. COHEN added these amounts to a sum of $180,035. After receiving this document, executives of the Company “grossed up” for tax purposes COHEN’s requested reimbursement of $180,000 to $360,000, and then added a bonus of $60,000 so that COHEN would be paid $420,000 in total. Executives of the Company also determined that the $420,000 would be paid to COHEN in monthly amounts of $35,000 over the course of 12 months, and that COHEN should send invoices for these payments.
On February 14, 2017, COHEN sent an executive of the Company (“Executive-1”) the first of his monthly invoices, requesting “[p]ursuant to [a] retainer agreement, . . . payment for services rendered for the months of January and February, 2017.” The invoice listed $35,000 for each of those two months. Executive-1 forwarded the invoice to another executive of the Company (“Executive-2”) the same day by email, and it was approved. Executive-1 forwarded that email to another employee at the Company, stating: “Please pay from the Trust. Post to legal expenses. Put ‘retainer for the months of January and February 2017’ in the description.”
Throughout 2017, COHEN sent to one or more representatives of the Company monthly invoices, which stated, “Pursuant to the retainer agreement, kindly remit payment for services rendered for” the relevant month in 2017, and sought $35,000 per month. The Company accounted for these payments as legal expenses. In truth and in fact, there was no such retainer agreement, and the monthly invoices COHEN submitted were not in connection with any legal services he had provided in 2017.
During 2017, pursuant to the invoices described above, COHEN received monthly $35,000 reimbursement checks, totaling $420,000.

Topic(s): 
Financial Fraud
Component(s): 
Press Release Number: 
18-288

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Trumpworld as Employer of Last Resort

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
When Carl Higbie’s degrading comments about African-Americans, women, gays and Muslims surfaced in January, he resigned from his job in the Trump administration. Yet just two months later, the former Navy SEAL landed at the pro-Trump group America First Policies, earning roughly the same amount as his White House salary, he says.
Higbie, who worked on advocacy issues and tax events for America First, said he never intended to stay at the group forever. But he acknowledges it gave him a soft landing among sympathetic peers at a low point in his career.

“Trumpworld is still very small, and people within Trumpworld generally try to stay within it. Because of my profile, I could never go to a company like Deloitte or McKinsey,” Higbie told POLITICO. “When you are publicly supporting Trump you close a significant number of doors, given how adamantly some people hate the president. Once you’re on Trump’s bandwagon, 80 percent of companies do not want political baggage when they hire you,” he added.
Higbie is just one of the motley crew of die-hard Trump loyalists, ranging from Trump’s ex-bodyguard to visible surrogates such as Katrina Pierson and Corey Lewandowski, who have found their way to a constellation of pro-Trump entities and outside political groups including the Republican National Committee, the Trump campaign, America First, or the Great America PAC.

Monday, August 20, 2018

"Truth Isn't Truth"

CHUCK TODD: What, what, I mean, I mean let’s talk with collusion, I mean the Trump tower meeting itself is at least evidence of you better investigate --
RUDY GIULIANI: (laughs) (OVERTALK)
CHUCK TODD: It’s, it’s, it’s --
RUDY GIULIANI: It’s not.
CHUCK TODD: -- how is it not?
RUDY GIULIANI: Well, because the meeting was originally for the purpose of getting information about, about Clinton. The meeting turned into a meeting --
CHUCK TODD: Which in itself it’s attempted collusion. I understand --
RUDY GIULIANI: No it’s not.
CHUCK TODD: You just said it. The meeting was intended to get dirt on Hillary Clinton from a criminal lawyer. (OVERTALK)
RUDY GIULIANI: No, it wasn’t. No, no.
CHUCK TODD: That was the intention of the meeting, you just said it.
RUDY GIULIANI: That was the original intention of the meeting. It turned out to be a meeting about another subject and it was not pursued at all. And, of course, any meeting with regard to getting information on your opponent is something any candidate’s staff would take. If someone said, I have information about your opponent, you would take that meeting. If it happens to be a person with a Russian --
CHUCK TODD: From the Russian government?
RUDY GIULIANI: She didn’t represent the Russian government, she’s a private citizen. I don’t even know if they knew she was Russian at the time. All they had was her name.
 Her name is Natalia Veselnitskaya.  Emails prove that Donald Jr. knew that the information came from the Russian government.
RUDY GIULIANI: Yes, each time, by 3 or 4 days, so we could write a letter in response. They have taken 2-3 weeks to get back to us, so what I have to tell you is, look, I am not going to be rushed into having him testify so that he gets trapped into perjury. And when you tell me that, you know, he should testify because he’s going to tell the truth and he shouldn’t worry, well that’s so silly because it’s somebody’s version of the truth. Not the truth. He didn’t have a, a conversation --
CHUCK TODD: Truth is truth. I don’t mean to go like --
RUDY GIULIANI: No, it isn’t truth. Truth isn’t truth. The President of the United States says, “I didn’t -- ”
CHUCK TODD: Truth isn’t truth? Mr. Mayor, do you realize, what, I, I, I--
RUDY GIULIANI: No, no, no--
CHUCK TODD: This is going to become a bad meme.
RUDY GIULIANI: Don’t do, don’t do this to me.
CHUCK TODD: Don’t do truth isn’t truth to me.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Postmodern Rudy

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.
Josh Dawsey, WP, 5/23/18:
Giuliani said he was concerned that the president would become a target or that the interview would be a perjury trap, because the “truth is relative.” The president’s legal team continues to try to set limitations on an interview, including the duration and questions posed, he said.
“They may have a different version of the truth than we do,” Giuliani said.
Chris Cuomo interview of Giuliani on CNN, 8/15/18:
 CUOMO: If fact counting is anything, we've never had anybody with the level of mendacity that he has, not even close. But we'll leave it there -
GIULIANI: It's in the eye of the beholder.
CUOMO: No, facts are not in the eye of the beholder. 

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Cyberattacks


Joel Schectman and Christopher Bing at Reuters:
The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation is investigating a cyber attack on the congressional campaign of a Democratic candidate in California, according to three people close to the campaign.
The hackers successfully infiltrated the election campaign computer of David Min, a Democratic candidate for the House of Representatives who was later defeated in the June primary for California’s 45th Congressional district.
FBI agents in California and Washington, D.C., have investigated a series of cyberattacks over the past year that targeted a Democratic opponent of Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA). Rohrabacher is a 15-term incumbent who is widely seen as the most pro-Russia and pro-Putin member of Congress and is a staunch supporter of President Trump.
The hacking attempts and the FBI’s involvement are described in dozens of emails and forensic records obtained by Rolling Stone.
The target of these attacks, Dr. Hans Keirstead, a stem-cell scientist and the CEO of a biomedical research company, finished third in California’s nonpartisan “top-two” primary on June 5th, falling 125 votes short of advancing to the general election in one of the narrowest margins of any congressional primary this year. He has since endorsed Harley Rouda, the Democrat who finished in second place and will face Rohrabacher in the November election.
Maya Kosoff at Vanity Fair:
Similar phishing attacks have been reported by the campaign for Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill—according to the Daily Beast, Russian operatives tried and failed to access the McCaskill campaign’s data using a variant of the password-stealing technique employed by “Fancy Bear” hackers who targeted Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta in 2016. (In that instance, hackers sent fake e-mails to targets alerting them that their Microsoft Exchange password had expired, and asking them to enter a new one.) Last month, Microsoft revealed that it had detected and blocked hacking attempts against three different congressional candidates so far in 2018; the hackers, Microsoft V.P. of security and trust Tom Burt, announced at the Aspen Security Forum, had used “a fake Microsoft domain . . . as the landing page for phishing attacks.” Separate attempts at meddling have occurred on social-media sites. A few weeks ago, Facebook announced that it had discovered new, malicious accounts on Facebook and Instagram designed to influence elections by targeting divisive social issues, similar to the effort put forth by the Russia-linked Internet Research Agency in advance of the 2016 election. The operators behind the 17 profiles and 8 Pages, which were set up between March 2017 and May 2018, appeared to be more sophisticated, disguising their identities more effectively than the I.R.A.

On July 13, DNI Dan Coats said at The Hudson Institute:
You only need to go back less than two decades ago to put, I think, the current cyber threat into its proper context. In 2001, our vulnerability was heightened because of the stovepipe approach of our intelligence and law enforcement communities that produced what they called "silos of information." At the time, intelligence and law enforcement communities were identifying alarming activities that suggested that an attack was potentially coming to the United States. It was in the months prior to September 2001 when, according to then CIA Director George Tenet, the system was blinking red. And here we are nearly two decades later, and I'm here to say the warning lights are blinking red again. Today, the digital infrastructure that serves this country is literally under attack.

Every day, foreign actors — the worst offenders being Russia, China, Iran and North Korea — are penetrating our digital infrastructure and conducting a range of cyber intrusions and attacks against targets in the United States. The targets range from U.S. businesses to the federal government (including our military), to state and local governments, to academic and financial institutions and elements of our critical infrastructure — just to name a few. The attacks come in different forms. Some are tailored to achieve very tactical goals while others are implemented for strategic purpose, including the possibility of a crippling cyberattack against our critical infrastructure.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Very Tough Democratic Ad

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

The House Majority PAC goes after:

Apocrypha Now

In Defying the Odds, we discuss Trump's personal qualities. Among those qualities is his ignorance of important details and his tendency to make things up.

At The Daily Beast, Asawin Suebsaeng reports on a meeting between Trump and principals from veterans groups on March 17, 2017.  The conversation turned to Agent Orange.
Attendees began explaining to the president that the VA had not made enough progress on the issue at all, to which Trump responded by abruptly derailing the meeting and asking the attendees if Agent Orange was “that stuff from that movie.”
He did not initially name the film he was referencing, but it quickly became clear as Trump kept rambling that he was referring to the classic 1979 Francis Ford Coppola epic Apocalypse Now, and specifically the famous helicopter attack scene set to the “Ride of the Valkyries.”

Source present at the time tell The Daily Beast that multiple people—including Vietnam War veterans—chimed in to inform the president that the Apocalypse Now set piece he was talking about showcased the U.S. military using napalm, not Agent Orange.

Trump refused to accept that he was mistaken and proceeded to say things like, “no, I think it’s that stuff from that movie.”

One clue belying the president’s insistence is that the famous Robert Duvall line from the scene in Apocalypse Now, “I love the smell of napalm in the morning,” is not “I love the smell of Agent Orange in the morning.”

He then went around the room polling attendees about if it was, in fact, napalm or Agent Orange in the famous scene from “that movie,” as the gathering—organized to focus on important, sometimes life-or-death issues for veterans—descended into a pointless debate over Apocalypse Now that the president simply would not concede, despite all the available evidence.

Finally, Trump made eye contact again with Weidman [Rick Weidman, co-founder of Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA)] and asked him if it was napalm or Agent Orange. The VVA co-founder assured Trump, as did several before him, that it was in fact napalm, and said that he didn’t like the Coppola film and believed it to be a disservice to Vietnam War veterans.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Security Clearances and Russia

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

Peter Nicholas and Michael C. Bender at WSJ:
President Trump drew a direct connection between the special counsel investigation into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election and his decision to revoke the security clearance of former CIA Director John Brennan and review the clearances of several other former officials.
In an interview Wednesday, Mr. Trump cited Mr. Brennan as among those he held responsible for the investigation, which also is looking into whether there was collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. Mr. Trump has denied collusion, and Russia has denied interfering.
Mr. Brennan was director of the Central Intelligence Agency in the Democratic administration of former President Obama and one of those who presented evidence to Mr. Trump shortly before his inauguration that Russia had interfered in the 2016 election.
“I call it the rigged witch hunt, [it] is a sham,” Mr. Trump said in an interview. “And these people led it!”
He added: “So I think it’s something that had to be done.”
Was the timing designed to distract from the Omarosa tapes?

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

The Return of the Cognitive Madisonians


In 1994, 2006, and 2010, there was widespread voter concern that one-party control of government was having bad effects, and voters opted for divided government.  Some voters are what Everett Carll Ladd called "cognitive Madisonians."  Even if they never read The Federalist, the idea of checks and balances affects their vote choice.

Perhaps the strongest argument the GOP made on “Meet” was this: Republicans in control of Congress will be a check and balance on the Obama White House. “I think what people are looking for … are checks and balances,” Cornyn said. “They've had single party government, and it's scaring the living daylights out of them.” As it turns out, our NBC/WSJ poll from May showed a whopping 62% preferring different parties controlling the White House and Congress. And as National Journal’s Ron Brownstein noted in his Friday column, that preference has played out over the last 40 years. “Since 1968, neither party has simultaneously controlled the White House and Congress for more than four consecutive years.” The "check" argument is most powerful with indie voters, who personally may have a favorable opinion of the president but have been disappointed in his policies. The "check" allows Republicans to make the pitch to a voter who isn't ready to give up on Obama's presidency but wants to send him a message.
Republicans have made clear they plan to run close to President Donald Trump in the campaign for November’s midterm elections, believing his ability to energize the Republican base is the only way to offset a blue wave of enthusiastic Democratic voters.

A new poll from a coalition of Democratic groups casts doubt on that strategy, showing the GOP will suffer as campaigns center around the president’s personality and record, and Democrats portray Republicans as Trump’s servants.

The survey of likely voters from Navigator Research, conducted by the Global Strategy Group, found Democrats had a 8-point lead on a generic ballot for Congress, 45 percent to 37 percent.

The Democratic lead grows, however, when the battle for Congress is framed as a referendum on the president. Asked if they would prefer a Democrat who mostly opposes Trump or a Republican who mostly supports him, 52 percent picked the Democrat, and 39 percent choose the Republican.

When presented with a Democrat who will be a “check and balance” on Trump against a Republican who will help Trump pass his agenda, Democrats led 50 percent to 38 percent.

The polling memo recommended the “check and balance” language, saying it is less likely to repel white voters without a college degree and voters who live in small towns and rural areas.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Leftward Ho: Capitalism, Socialism, and Democrats

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

Frank Newport at Gallup:
For the first time in Gallup's measurement over the past decade, Democrats have a more positive image of socialism than they do of capitalism. Attitudes toward socialism among Democrats have not changed materially since 2010, with 57% today having a positive view. The major change among Democrats has been a less upbeat attitude toward capitalism, dropping to 47% positive this year -- lower than in any of the three previous measures. Republicans remain much more positive about capitalism than about socialism, with little sustained change in their views of either since 2010.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Trump's Weak Knowledge


Daniel Lippman at Politico:
Trump’s desire to call world leaders at awkward hours is just one of many previously unreported diplomatic faux-pas President Trump has made since assuming the office, which go beyond telephone etiquette to include misconceptions, mispronunciations and awkward meetings. Sometimes the foibles have been contained within the White House. In one case, Trump, while studying a briefer’s map of South Asia ahead of a 2017 meeting with India’s prime minister, mispronounced Nepal as “nipple” and laughingly referred to Bhutan as “button,” according to two sources with knowledge of the meeting.
...

Trump’s apparent ignorance about world affairs, geography and leaders has also repeatedly emerged in internal staff meetings. Ahead of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s June 2017 White House visit, Trump asked his national security aides whether the Indian leader would be bringing along his wife. Staffers explained that Modi has long been estranged from his wife. “Ah, I think I can set him up with somebody,” Trump joked, according to two people briefed on the meeting. It was in that same meeting that Trump appeared confused by Nepal and Bhutan, which lie sandwiched between India and China.

“He didn’t know what those were. He thought it was all part of India,” said one person familiar with the meeting. “He was like, ‘What is this stuff in between and these other countries?’”
...
Trump at times also betrays an ignorance of regional history and rivalries. During his meeting with Abe at Mar-A-Lago in April this year, Trump repeatedly praised Chinese strongman Xi Jingping, according to a former NSC official from a prior administration.

“Everyone was cringing because Japan and China are rivals and the Japanese and the Chinese are nervous about the president tilting too far towards the other side,” that person said. A White House official said Trump explained to Abe that his relationship with Xi would be useful in dealing with North Korea and insisted it “wasn’t considered a negative” by the Japanese side.

At times Trump has done more than make ignorant slips: The Washington Post reported in January that he sometimes puts on an Indian accent and imitates the way Modi speaks. And in an infamous Oval Office remark in January that sparked a global furor, Trump branded several African nations along with Haiti and El Salvador as “shithole countries.”

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Romney, Trump, and Race

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

From Mitt Romney:
A year ago in Charlottesville, a Nazi white supremacist plowed his car into a group of people, killing Heather Heyer and injuring several others. His object was to brutalize and terrorize demonstrators whom he and his hate brigade opposed. The President opined that there were good people in both groups, a statement for which he was widely criticized. My view —then and now — is that people who knowingly march under the Nazi banner have disqualified themselves as “good people.” Accordingly, I wrote:


Prior to and after Charlottesville, the President made public statements that were viewed by some as expressing or evoking racism. He objected to this characterization and insisted that he opposes racism. What followed has been a national conversation about the implications of race in America. Today, one year after Charlottesville, I again add my voice to this discussion.
I firmly believe in the moral foundation that underlies and is enshrined in the Declaration of Independence and in the Constitution: “all men are created equal.” I recognize that while individuals are born with unequal talents, unequal family circumstances, and unequal opportunity for education and advancement, the equality of the intrinsic worth of every person is a truth fundamental to our national founding and moral order.

As citizens of a nation founded on the principle of human equality, we must categorically and consistently reject racism and discrimination. We must refuse to allow our estimation of others to be based upon their ethnicity rather than upon their qualities as individuals. We must insist that those we elect as our leaders respect and embrace Americans of every race, sexual orientation, gender, and national origin. In this country, it must be electorally disqualifying to equivocate on racism.

There are some who feel that in our effort to create equality of opportunity for some we have, in certain circumstances, created discrimination for others. That surely would be unfortunate and ill-advised. Our aim must be equality of opportunity, not superiority of opportunity. That said, my personal experience working in communities of color is that in the great majority of circumstances, it is still a distinct disadvantage of opportunity to be African-American or Hispanic-American. My understanding of the Black Lives Matter movement, for example, is that it is not intended to elevate minority lives above white lives; it is intended to draw vivid attention to the too frequent reality of deadly racial discrimination in law enforcement and in the courts.

My convictions regarding the equality of mankind were unquestionably shaped by my parents and by my belief that we are all children of God. Civil rights were a passion for both my father and mother; Dad refused to support a presidential nominee of his party due in part to that person’s perceived equivocation on civil rights. As a governor, he established the first state Civil Rights Commission. In our home, Mom and he taught us to respect people different than ourselves and to champion racial equality.

There are some besotted and misguided souls who long for a population that is more homogeneous—more white. They even disparage legal immigration, ignoring the fact that nearly all Americans are immigrants or descendants of immigrants. But can they not at least recognize—whether or not they like it—we are, in fact, a highly diverse population? And given this reality, “united we stand and divided we fall.”


The matter of race and racism is not tangential to the great issues of our day: it is one of them. It is impossible for America to achieve and sustain high growth, economic superiority, and global leadership if our citizenry is divided, disengaged, and angry. But more than this, we must foster equality if we are to remain a great and good nation. And we ourselves must embrace the dignity of all God’s children if we are to merit His love.