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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Reserving Judgment on Mueller

In Defying the Odds, we discuss partisan polarization and views of Trump.    The update  -- just published --includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms.

Carrie Dann at NBC:
According to a new NBC News/ Wall Street Journal poll, 29 percent of Americans say they believe Trump has been cleared of wrongdoing, based on what they have heard about Mueller’s findings, while 40 percent say they do not believe he has been cleared.

But a third of Americans — 31 percent — say they’re not sure if Trump has been cleared. That includes nearly half of independents (45 percent) and about a quarter of both Democrats (27 percent) and Republicans (25 percent.)
Respondents were asked about their views of the special counsel’
s work on March 25-27, beginning the day after Attorney General William Barr released his summary of Mueller’s report that stated the probe “did not find that the Trump campaign or anyone associated with it conspired or coordinated with Russia in its efforts to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election.”...

While a large majority of Americans — 78 percent — say they have heard about Mueller submitting his final report, only 39 percent say they have heard “a lot” about the story. That’s a smaller share of the population than those who said they had heard a lot about other significant stories in Trump’s political history, including his decision to fire James Comey (56 percent) or the release of the Access Hollywood videotape (66 percent).

However substantial this event was in the Washington, D.C., community and maybe our political culture, it was not an event that captured the American public,” said [pollster Bill] McInturff.

More Moore

 In Defying the Oddswe discuss the  conservative movement  The update  -- just published --includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms.

Jon Swaine and David Smith at The Guardian:
Stephen Moore, the economics commentator chosen by Donald Trump for a seat on the Federal Reserve board, was found in contempt of court after failing to pay his ex-wife hundreds of thousands of dollars in alimony, child support and other debts.
Court records in Virginia obtained by the Guardian show Moore, 59, was reprimanded by a judge in November 2012 for failing to pay Allison Moore more than $300,000 in spousal support, child support and money owed under their divorce settlement.
Moore continued failing to pay, according to the court filings, prompting the judge to order the sale of his house to satisfy the debt in 2013. But this process was halted by his ex-wife after Moore paid her about two-thirds of what he owed, the filings say.
In a divorce filing in August 2010, Moore was accused of inflicting “emotional and psychological abuse” on his ex-wife during their 20-year marriage. Allison Moore said in the filing she had been forced to flee their home to protect herself. She was granted a divorce in May 2011.
...

Moore has lamented the steady decline in US marriage numbers, asserting in an October 2014 article that “intact families” were important for the economy and criticising “those who cheer divorce as a form of women’s liberation”.
...
Moore’s 2018 book Trumponomics, co-authored with the veteran economist Arthur Laffer, said many Americans felt “a sense of not being loved (tied to divorce and family breakup)” and argued this was one reason people should be required to work to receive money from government assistance programs.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Stephen Moore

In Defying the Odds, we discuss Trump's approach to governing The update  -- just published --includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms.

Heather Long and Damian Paletta at WP:
Stephen Moore, President Trump’s new pick to join the Federal Reserve, took a highly unusual step this week for a nominee to serve on a central bank, which takes pains to distance itself from politics.
He went on conservative radio to sell his message, saying he would advocate lower interest rates, a position President Trump has demanded but that most Fed officials, including Chair Jerome H. Powell, oppose.
...
Moore could also face scrutiny over $75,000 in unpaid taxes and a $350,000 penalty the Club for Growth paid to settle Federal Election Commission violations when he was president of the political advocacy organization.
A number of prominent economists, including Greg Mankiw, a former top economist for President George W. Bush, oppose Moore’s nomination and urge the Senate to vote no.
...
... Moore was ousted from the Club for Growth in 2004. The FEC investigated the Club for Growth’s activities while he was at the helm of the organization and said it failed to register as a political committee and submit its expenditures properly “despite spending millions of dollars on federal campaign activity during the 2000, 2002, and 2004 election cycle.” The Club for Growth ultimately paid a $350,000 penalty to settle with the FEC.
...
In 2013, Moore told Politico that if he were president, he would allow Texas and other Southern states to secede from the Union.
In 2012, he said at a conservative fundraiser, “Greta [Van Susteren] is absolutely perfect for Fox News: She’s fair, balanced and blonde . . . one of the best things about working at Fox News is I have met a lot of beautiful women. ”
In a commentary for the National Review, he called soccer a “Marxist” sport that “teaches our kids all the wrong lessons” in life.
...
In September, he wrote in an op-ed that Trump “deserves the 2018 Nobel Prize in economics.”

Friday, March 29, 2019

Trump Falsified Financial Documents

In Defying the Odds, we discuss Trump's character and record of dishonestyThe update  -- just published --includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms.

David A. Fahrenthold and Jonathan O'Connell at WP:
When Donald Trump wanted to make a good impression — on a lender, a business partner, or a journalist — he sometimes sent them official-looking documents called “Statements of Financial Condition.”
These documents sometimes ran up to 20 pages. They were full of numbers, laying out Trump’s properties, debts and multibillion-dollar net worth.
But, for someone trying to get a true picture of Trump’s net worth, the documents were deeply flawed. Some simply omitted properties that carried big debts. Some assets were overvalued. And some key numbers were wrong.
For instance, Trump’s financial statement for 2011 said he had 55 home lots to sell at his golf course in Southern California. Those lots would sell for $3 million or more, the statement said.
But Trump had only 31 lots zoned and ready for sale at the course, according to city records. He claimed credit for 24 lots — and at least $72 million in future revenue — he didn’t have.
He also claimed his Virginia vineyard had 2,000 acres, when it really has about 1,200. He said Trump Tower has 68 stories. It has 58.
TRUMP’S ‘STATEMENTS OF FINANCIAL CONDITION’

See the full documents here

Partisan Chasm on America's Future

In Defying the Odds, we discuss partisan polarization on issues such as immigration  The update  -- just published --includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms.

From Pew:
Across a range of issues, the difference between partisans is not merely apparent, but conspicuously large. Despite shared concern about the future quality of the nation’s public schools, about two-thirds of Democrats and those who lean Democratic (66%), but only 36% of Republicans and Republican leaners, rate increased spending on education as a top federal government priority. About six-in-ten Democrats (58%) but only 19% of Republicans say the news media will have a positive impact on solving the country’s future problems. About four-in-ten Democrats (42%) say a majority-nonwhite population will strengthen American customs and values, a view expressed by only 13% of Republicans. Similarly, about six-in-ten Democrats (61%) but just a third of Republicans consider the growth of interracial marriage to be a good thing for society. Partisan gaps on future priorities reflect similar gaps in current policy priorities. Recent research has shown that Republicans and Democrats have moved farther apart in recent decades in their views on what the top priorities for Congress and the president should be.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Mueller Report Has Little Effect on Public Opinion

In Defying the Odds, we discuss partisan polarization and views of Trump.    The update  -- just published --includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms.

At Politico, Steven Shepard reports on a  new Politico/Morning Consult poll:
The poll shows a plurality of voters, 47 percent, think Trump “tried to impede or obstruct the investigation into whether his campaign had ties to Russia” — despite the fact that Special Counsel Robert Mueller didn't reach a decision on the question. Thirty-nine percent don’t think Trump tried to impede the investigation, and 14 percent don’t know or had no opinion about whether Trump tried to obstruct the investigation.

Following the release of the report’s summary, the president is not riding a new wave of popularity. His approval rating in the poll remains underwater — 42 percent approve of the job he is doing, compared to 55 percent of voters who disapprove of the job he is doing — which is essentially unchanged over the past few weeks. And when asked whether Attorney General WIlliam Barr’s letter summarizing the report changed their opinions of Trump, voters fell predictably along partisan lines.
Quinnipiac University National Poll 
Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report should be made public, American voters say 84 - 9 percent in a Quinnipiac University National Poll released today. Republicans say 75 - 17 percent the report should be made public and every other listed party, gender, education, age and racial group supports making the report public by even wider margins.

Mueller conducted a "fair" investigation, 55 percent of voters say, as 26 percent say it was not fair, the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University National Poll finds. The survey was conducted March 21 through March 25.

But voters are divided on another question, as 49 percent say the investigation was "legitimate" and 43 percent say it was a "witch hunt."

...
American voters give President Donald Trump a negative 39 - 55 percent job approval rating, compared to a negative 38 - 55 percent approval rating March 5.

President Trump is mentally stable, 48 percent of voters say, as 44 percent say he is not stable. Voters say 72 - 21 percent that Trump is not a good role model for children.

And voters say 63 - 28 percent that Trump should stop tweeting from his personal account. Republicans say 49 - 39 percent that Trump should keep tweeting, the only listed group that supports this practice.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Vengeful

In Defying the Odds, we discuss Trump's dishonesty and his record of disregarding the rule of law.   The update  -- just published --includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms.


Ashley Parker and Josh Dawsey at WP:
President Trump and his allies signaled Monday that they intend to use the broad conclusions of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation — which found no criminal conspiracy with Russia to influence the 2016 election — to forcefully attack perceived opponents they say unfairly accused the president of wrongdoing.
The targets are diffuse, ranging from specific Democratic lawmakers to the media more generally. White House counselor Kellyanne Conway called on House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) to resign immediately, and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) urged Schiff to relinquish his committee chairmanship. Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) said he planned to investigate what he dubbed “all of the abuse by the Department of Justice and the FBI” during the 2016 presidential election. And the Trump campaign sent a memo to television hosts and producers that included a list of guests it suggested should no longer be booked because they “made outlandish, false claims” on air.
...
“What he says is, he wants this investigated,” said Trump’s lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani.
“I don’t think he’s thought it out like Lindsey has. But he wants these things investigated.”
Peter Baker and Nicholas Fandos at NYT:
There are a lot of people out there that have done some very, very evil things, very bad things, I would say some treasonous things against our country,” Mr. Trump told reporters at the White House. “I’ve been looking at them for a long time,” he added, “and I’m saying why haven’t they been looked at? They lied to Congress, many of them, you know who they are. They’ve done so many evil things.
The approach, if it lasts, contrasts with those of other presidents who survived major scandals. After the Iran-contra affair, President Ronald Reagan happily dropped the subject and focused on arms control talks with the Soviet Union and other issues. After being acquitted at his Senate impeachment trial, President Bill Clinton was just as eager to move on to Social Security and other initiatives.
But Mr. Trump and his allies on Monday sought to put his adversaries on the defensive and cement the view that Mr. Mueller’s report represents complete vindication. Mr. Mueller found no conspiracy between Mr. Trump’s campaign and Russia, but he pointedly declined to exonerate the president on obstruction of justice, according to a Justice Department letter to lawmakers on Sunday.
Mr. Mueller’s report has yet to be released, so it remains unknown whether it includes damning new details that question the actions of Mr. Trump or his associates, even if they do not represent a crime. Six House Democratic committee chairmen sent a letter on Monday to Attorney General William P. Barr demanding he provide them the full report by next Tuesday.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Pelosi v. the Mean Girls

In Defying the Odds, we discuss leftward drift of the Democratic Party.     The update  -- just published --includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms.

John Bresnahan and Heather Caygle at Politico:
Speaker Nancy Pelosi was right.
The California Democrat has been warning for months that impeachment isn't a magic wand to quickly remove President Donald Trump from office, especially if Republicans weren't signing onto the effort. She‘s repeatedly urged her party to wait to see what special counsel Robert Mueller uncovers before deciding on next steps.

Now that the results from Mueller's probe have been delivered to Capitol Hill — via a controversial summary from Attorney General William Barr — the pro-impeachment wing of the Democratic Caucus has taken a major blow. Suddenly Trump, who has spent the last two years bashing Mueller, has decided the results of the special counsel's probe are completely credible, while many Democrats are crestfallen.
“I think her instincts were correct, that we’re putting way too much into the Mueller report, and what if it disappoints?” Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) said of Pelosi. “What did we really think Mueller was going to do?”
Connolly said Barr’s report on Mueller’s finding “exposes some of those early calls [for impeachment] for being premature and not based on the evidence at hand. And I think it sets that back. It doesn’t let [Trump] off the hook, but you cried wolf way too early.”

Peggy Noonan writes of the"mean girls of Congress.
 In less than three months in office they have established a new mood, an approach to national politics that is combative, angry, polarizing. Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota surely meant to oppose U.S. policy toward Israel but somehow couldn’t quite manage to do it without being obviously anti-Semitic—“Israel has hypnotized the world,” “It’s all about the Benjamins baby.” It caused an uproar, she apologized, but it seems never to have occurred to her that you can’t talk about your fellow Americans that way. Or that she is a public figure and has to actually model admirable behavior.

Ms. Ocasio-Cortez is quick—quicker—to aggression. Her default position, behind the smiles and hugs and warmth and dancing, is the pointed, accusatory finger. From just the past two weeks: The New Deal was “an extremely economically racist policy,” Ronald Reagan “pitted white working-class Americans against brown and black working Americans in order to just screw over all working-class Americans,” so he too was racist. Pretty much everyone on the political scene was racist until Ms. Ocasio-Cortez arrived.
...

I think we all know where this started, the political brutishness, the ignoring of traditions and norms. Donald Trump is both origin and rationale.

The mean girls of Congress have learned at his knee. They have taken their tactics from him. They claim to be his reluctant imitators but I think they admire his ferocity. They have a taste for it, and a talent.

They are good at being the thing they supposedly despise. They are not the antidote to the current brutality but an iteration of it.

They are his natural children.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Investigations Go On

In Defying the Odds, we discuss Trump's dishonesty and his record of disregarding the rule of law.  In our forthcoming update, we bring the story up through the 2018 election.

Ben Protess, William K. Rashbaum, Benjamin Weiser and Maggie Haberman at NYT:
[The] prosecutorial center of gravity has shifted from Mr. Mueller’s office in Washington to New York.
“The important thing to remember is that almost everything Donald Trump did was in the Southern District of New York,” said John S. Martin Jr., a retired federal judge who was the United States attorney in the Southern District during the Carter and Reagan administrations.
“He ran his business in the Southern District. He ran his campaign from the Southern District,” Judge Martin said. “He came home to New York every night.”

...

The precise number of federal investigations around the country that have grown out of the special counsel’s work remains unknown because such inquiries are conducted in secret. But the special counsel’s office farmed out strands of its inquiry to at least three other United States attorneys’ offices, including in Brooklyn, the District of Columbia and the Eastern District of Virginia.
...
Separately, state authorities in New York are pursuing several investigations focused on the president, his associates and his business. Those matters include a mortgage fraud case against Mr. Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul J. Manafort, as well as civil inquiries into the Trump Organization’s insurance practices, real estate deals, and whether the family’s charitable foundation violated tax laws.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Incompetence Update, Economics Edition

In Defying the Odds, we discuss Trump's approach to governing The update  -- just published --includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms.

The U.S. posted its biggest monthly budget deficit on record last month, amid a 20 percent drop in corporate tax revenue and a boost in spending so far this fiscal year.

The budget gap widened to $234 billion in February, compared with a fiscal gap of $215.2 billion a year earlier. That gap surpassed the previous monthly record of $231.7 billion set seven years ago, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
On the advice of a media pundit turned adviser, Trump picked another pundit for a job requiring actual expertise.

Eamon Javers and Jacob Pramuk at CNBC:
Earlier this week, Trump spoke to National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow. The president had seen a column in The Wall Street Journal, co-written by Moore, with the headline: “The Fed Is a Threat to Growth.” In it, Moore argued that the “last major obstacle to staying on this path [of economic growth] is the deflationary monetary policy of the Federal Reserve.”
Trump asked his top economic advisor whether he had seen the column. Kudlow replied that he had and “liked it a lot.”

“Why isn’t [Moore] the Fed chairman?” Trump asked rhetorically.
After Kudlow answered that the Fed board had two openings, the president asked his advisor to talk to Moore about one of the posts. Kudlow asked whether Moore was interested, and he said he was. Trump offered Moore the Fed board job, which will not become official until he goes through a vetting process.
I first started writing about Moore in 1997. Four years before, President Clinton had raised the top tax rate to 39.6 percent, and supply-siders had insisted this would without question cause tax revenues to drop. This prediction was a necessary corollary of supply-side economic theory, which holds that tax revenue moves in the opposite direction of the top tax rate. The prediction was spectacularly wrong — revenue not only rose, it rose much, much faster than even the most optimistic advocates of Clinton’s plan had predicted.
...
He is capable of writing entire columns that contain no true facts at all. He made so many factual errors he achieved the rare feat of being banned from the pages of a Midwestern newspaper. He has sold his policy elixir to state governments which have promptly experienced massive fiscal crises as a direct result of listening to him. He believes what he calls “the heroes of the economy: the entrepreneur, the risk-taker, the one who innovates and creates the things we want to buy” should be lionized, and that the idea that a recession might be caused by anything other than excessively high rates on these heroes defies “common sense.” He was pulled into Trump’s orbit during the 2016 campaign and co-wrote a ludicrous hagiography of Trump and his agenda. By all appearances, Moore opposes mainstream fiscal theories because he simply doesn’t understand them.
Conservative economist Greg Mankiw:
A couple of weeks ago, I gave a talk at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. I said that, although I am not a fan of President Trump, I have to give him credit for making good appointments to the Fed. I was thinking about people like Jay Powell, Rich Clarida, and Randy Quarles.
Then today the president nominates Stephen Moore to be a Fed governor. Steve is a perfectly amiable guy, but he does not have the intellectual gravitas for this important job. If you doubt it, read his latest book Trumponomics (or my review of it).
It is time for Senators to do their job. Mr. Moore should not be confirmed.



...

What We Already Know Is Damning

In  Defying the Oddswe discuss Russian involvement in the 2016 campaign The update  -- just published --includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms.

Rosalind S. Helderman and Tom Hamburger at WP:
Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III has concluded his investigation without charging any Americans with conspiring with Russia to interfere in the 2016 campaign and help elect Donald Trump.
But hundreds of pages of legal filings and independent reporting since Mueller was appointed nearly two years ago have painted a striking portrayal of a presidential campaign that appeared untroubled by a foreign adversary’s attack on the U.S. political system — and eager to accept the help.
When Trump’s eldest son was offered dirt about Hillary Clinton that he was told was part of a Russian government effort to help his father, he responded, “I love it.”
When longtime Trump friend Roger Stone was told a Russian national wanted to sell damaging information about Clinton, he took the meeting.
When the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks published documents that the Democratic National Committee said had been stolen by Russian operatives, Trump’s campaign quickly used the information to its advantage. Rather than condemn the Kremlin, Trump famously asked Russia to steal more.
Even after taking office, Trump has been hesitant to condemn Russia’s actions, instead calling the investigation a “witch hunt” and denouncing the work of federal investigators seeking to understand a Russian attack on the country he leads.

Incompetence Update, March 2019

In Defying the Odds, we discuss Trump's approach to governing The update  -- just published --includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms.


John Hudson and Josh Dawsey at WP:
The source of the confusion was Trump’s reference to “today.” No sanctions had been announced Friday, leading analysts to assume the president was referring to a round of sanctions imposed Thursday by the Treasury Department.
In fact, Trump was referring to a future round of previously unknown sanctions scheduled for the coming days, said administration officials familiar with the matter. The officials declined to specify what those sanctions would entail.
The move to forestall future sanctions represents an attempt by the president to salvage his nuclear negotiations with North Korea in the face of efforts by national security adviser John Bolton and others to increase punitive economic measures against the regime of Kim Jong Un.
The confusion created by policy differences inside the administration was compounded by the president’s imprecise tweet.
When asked to explain the tweet, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders simply noted that “President Trump likes Chairman Kim, and he doesn’t think these sanctions will be necessary.”


Fred Barbash and Deanna Paul at WP report that federal judges have ruled against the administration at least 63 times since 2017.
Two-thirds of the cases accuse the Trump administration of violating the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), a nearly 73-year-old law that forms the primary bulwark against arbitrary rule. The normal “win rate” for the government in such cases is about 70 percent, according to analysts and studies. But as of mid-January, a database maintained by the Institute for Policy Integrity at the New York University School of Law shows Trump’s win rate at about 6 percent.
Seth Jaffe, a Boston-based environmental lawyer who represents corporations and had been looking forward to deregulation, said the administration has failed to deliver.
...

Some errors are so basic that Jaffe said he has to wonder whether agency officials are more interested in announcing policy shifts than in actually implementing them. “It’s not just that they’re losing. But they’re being so nuts about it,” he said, adding that the losses in court have “set regulatory reform back for a period of time.”
Contributing to the losing record has been Trump himself. His reported comments about “shithole countries,” for example, helped convince U.S. District Judge Edward M. Chen in San Francisco that the administration’s decision to end “temporary protected status” for hundreds of thousands of immigrants from Central America, Haiti and Sudan was motivated by racial and ethnic bias.
At least a dozen decisions have involved Trump’s tweets or comments.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Attacking a Hero, and Getting Away with It

While Trump’s nonstop effort to mar the late senator’s memory should surprise no one, the response of McCain’s Republican Senate colleagues to Trump’s posthumous onslaught is both telling and disgraceful. The barons of the Senate live in fear of the president and his base. When Trump told Iowans in early 2016 that he could stand on New York’s Fifth Avenue “and shoot somebody” and still not lose voters, he knew of what he spoke.
Senator Lindsey Graham, McCain’s “best friend” and a naval reserve officer, is the most obvious case in point. Graham would only offer up tweeted mush in defense of his one-time “Amigo”: “As to @SenJohnMcCain and his devotion to his country: He stepped forward to risk his life for his country, served honorably under difficult circumstances, and was one of the most consequential senators in the history of the body.” We are comforted.
...
And yet politically, who can blame Graham for going full weasel?
The polls tell the story, namely that embrace of Trump is a surefire way to defuse a prospective GOP primary. To illustrate, in 2017 Graham had one of the highest disapproval ratings in his home state of any senator, 40%. By January 2019, Graham’s disapproval numbers had dropped to 32%.
Playing Trump’s hatchet man at the Kavanaugh confirmation clearly paid off for Graham, and with McCain lying soundly in the grave, their friendship could lie there too. Said differently, if Graham could stand idly by as Trump trashed McCain, it was a green light for others to do the same.
Robert Costa, Josh Dawsey and Seung Min Kim at WP:
By attacking McCain, Trump allies said Thursday, the president is stoking his supporters’ rawest emotions and suspicions about the GOP’s political elite.
“You’re talking about a group of people who have felt powerless and voiceless for many years until President Trump came along, and they’re going to be loyal to him. It’s part of the fabric of their life,” said Mississippi state Sen. Chris McDaniel (R), who has run Trump-style insurgent campaigns in his state. “To those people, McCain was the embodiment of a lifetime career politician.”
Mike Shields, a Republican consultant who has worked with Trump’s political team, said Trump is tapping into how “a significant number of voters in this country have seen politicians that lie to them, make promises, are disingenuous, who are basically not themselves. They aren’t real. When the president does things like this, he is real. There’s a currency for that.”
And there is an audience. On social media, Fox News and other conservative-leaning platforms, Trump’s searing critiques of the late senator are acceptable to many rank-and-rile Republicans.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Trump v. Distinguished Attorney, a Deceased War Hero, and the Truth

In Defying the Odds, we discuss Trump's character.   The update  -- just published --includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms.


With a single insult-filled morning tweet, tapped out from the White House residence before 8 a.m., the president extended his dispute with Conway’s anti-Trump spouse, George, into a bewildering second day. By the afternoon, Trump had complemented it with new attacks on a dead man: the late Republican senator and war hero John McCain. Speaking in Ohio, Trump declared that he “never liked [McCain] much … [and] probably never will.”
From RealClearPolitics:
 At a speech Wednesday at a tank factory in Ohio, President Trump took a moment to talk about his feud with the late Sen. John McCain. 
"I gave him the kind of funeral that he wanted, which as president I had to approve. I don't care about this. I didn’t get thank you. That's ok. We sent him on the way, but I wasn't a fan of John McCain," Trump said. 
He also noted: "John McCain received the fake and phony dossier. You hear about the dossier? It was paid for by Crooked Hillary Clinton. And John McCain got it. And what did he do? He didn’t call me. He turned it over to the FBI hoping to put me in jeopardy."
 Linda Qiu at NYT:
Senator John McCain did obtain a copy of the so-called Steele Dossier, which outlined a range of often salacious but unproven misdeeds by President Trump and his associates — and he did turn it over to the F.B.I. — but this occurred after the 2016 presidential election. The information provided by Christopher Steele, the former British spy who compiled the dossier, had already reached F.B.I. agents investigating Mr. Trump in September, and he met with agents in October.
...
Mr. Trump did authorize facets of Mr. McCain’s funeral arrangements, namely the use of military transportation, military pallbearers and band support. He also ordered the flag to be flown at half-staff at the White House and other public buildings — after pressure from his own staff, veterans groups and lawmakers.
But other elements of Mr. McCain’s funeral were not up to Mr. Trump. The senator was lain in the Capitol Rotunda, a decision approved by Congress, and his Washington memorial service took place at Washington National Cathedral.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Brazil Nuts

In Defying the Odds, we discuss Trump's dishonesty and his record of disregarding the rule of law.  In our forthcoming update, we bring the story up through the 2018 election.

Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, and Carrie Dann at NBC:
When historians look back on the Trump years, they will wonder why the president of the United States cozied up to some of the most authoritarian, controversial and brutal leaders in the world.
On Tuesday, Trump held a joint press conference with Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro, who has been accused of making homophobic, misogynistic and anti-gay statements.

...
It’s hardly a first:
  • Last month, Trump came to Kim Jong Un’s defense over the death of American Otto Warmbier, saying: “I don’t believe that he would've allowed that to happen.”
  • Back in 2017, Trump praised the Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte for combating illegal drugs. Duterte’s method: extrajudicial killings.
  • The Trump administration has rolled out the red carpet for Saudi Arabia’s Mohammed bin Salman, who has authorized a campaign against dissenters, one of whom was Jamal Khashoggi.
  • Oh, and there’s Vladimir Putin.
Remarks by President Trump and President Bolsonaro of the Federative Republic of Brazil in Joint Press Conference

Bolsonaro: "In conclusion, may I say that Brazil and the United States stand side by side in their efforts to ensure liberties and respect to traditional family lifestyles, respect to God, our Creator, against the gender ideology or the politically correct attitudes, and against fake news."

Trump: "You look at the networks, you look at the news, you look at the newscasts — I call it “fake news.”  I’m very proud to hear the President use the term “fake news.”  But you look at what’s happening with the networks.  You look at what’s happening with different shows.  And it’s hard to believe we win."

Rick Noack at WP:
During a news conference with right-wing Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, Trump said: “I also intend to designate Brazil as a major non-NATO ally, or even possibly — if you start thinking about it — maybe a NATO ally. I have to talk to a lot of people, but maybe a NATO ally.”
This might be an interesting suggestion — if Brazil was located somewhere between Greece and Britain. NATO stands for North Atlantic Treaty Organization and is a European-North American alliance, which is in many ways tailored to the two regions. To add Brazil, Trump wouldn’t just have to “talk to a lot of people,” but he would also need to get all NATO member states to agree to change Article 10 of the alliance’s 1949 founding treaty, which states that only European countries can join, besides Canada and the United States.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Racial Ideology

In Defying the Odds, we discuss  social divides and the leftward drift of the Democratic Party.     The update  -- just published --includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms.

Eric Kaufmann at NYT:
Amid the uproar over the Ralph Northam blackface photograph, a Washington Post poll asked Virginians if he should remain governor. The results were striking: Only 48 percent of whites felt that he should stay in office. That percentage was exceeded by the nearly 60 percent of black Virginians who thought Mr. Northam should remain.
In another survey, part of my own research, I asked Americans whether President Trump’s wall is racist. White Democrats overwhelmingly said it was, virtually no Republicans did — and minorities placed in the middle.
We find this pattern across numerous issues. And taken as a whole, it reveals something about the United States in the Trump era: The country is not divided by racial conflict, but by conflict over racial ideology. This is a crucial difference — and it is also grounds for optimism.
Race pertains to communities defined by ancestry and physical appearance. Racial ideology turns instead on race as a political idea. Questions like “Should Northam resign?” or “Is the wall racist?” divide voters today by ideology far more than race.
“White” is a description of a person’s race, whereas feelings about whether whites are privileged or whether diversity makes the country stronger are part of a person’s racial ideology.
Liberal whites — not minorities — are setting the tone on these issues.
Since 2012, white liberals have moved considerably left on questions related to race, reflecting both a campus- and online-driven cultural awakening that has accelerated in response to Mr. Trump. On the American National Election Study’s scale measuring how respondents feel about a group — white liberals are warmer toward minorities than their own racial group.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Broidy, Inaugural Money: Scandalabra Rolls On

In  Defying the Oddswe discuss  Trump's record of scandal The update  -- just published --includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms.

Federal authorities raided the office of Republican fundraiser Elliott Broidy last summer, seeking records related to his dealings with foreign officials and Trump administration associates, according to a sealed search warrant obtained by ProPublica.
Agents were authorized to use the megadonor’s hands and face to unlock any phones that required fingerprint or facial scans.
The Washington Post reported in August that the Justice Department was investigating Broidy. The sealed warrant offers new details of federal authorities’ investigation of allegations that Broidy had attempted to cash in on his Trump White House connections in dealings with foreign officials. It also shows that the government took a more aggressive approach with the Trump ally than was previously known, entering his office and removing records — just as it did with Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen.
Michael Kranish et al. report at WP:
Dubbed the Chairman’s Global Dinner, it was the brainchild of billionaire Thomas J. Barrack Jr., Trump’s close friend and his inaugural committee chairman, who conceived of the night as a glittery overture to a diplomatic corps anxious about the change in Washington.
Paid for by donors to the inaugural committee, the event put Barrack’s style of global networking on display and gave foreign guests an unparalleled chance to mingle with the incoming vice president, other members of the new administration and lawmakers.
The dinner serves as an extrava­gant symbol of Trump’s inaugural festivities, which involved record fundraising, lavish spending and a large concentration of foreign guests. Now, state, federal and congressional investigators are scrutinizing those issues as part of five inquiries of activities related to the inaugural committee.
...
The scope of the various inquiries remains unknown. But federal prosecutors in New York issued a wide-ranging subpoena last month to the inaugural committee indicating that they are investigating possible conspiracy, money-laundering and false statements. The subpoena sought all information related to the committee’s donors and vendors, as well as any information related to foreign contributors.
A separate federal investigation already has revealed that illegal foreign money was funneled into the inaugural committee. Last year, political consultant W. Samuel Patten admitted that he steered a donation from a Ukrainian politician to the committee through an American straw donor. The Ukrainian subsequently attended the inauguration, according to prosecutors in Washington. Patten agreed to assist the investigation as part of a plea deal.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

The Yang Scandal, Continued

 In  Defying the Oddswe discuss  Trump's record of scandal The update  -- just published --includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms.

 Frances Robles, Michael Forsythe and Alexandra Stevenson at NYT:
The Republican National Committee promised an “evening reception with Donald J. Trump” last March at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Fla.
A contribution of $2,700 toward the president’s re-election would get you in the door. Two seats for dinner were on offer for $25,000. And there was a third option: for $50,000, dinner for two and a photo with Mr. Trump.
Cindy Yang was determined to get the photo.
But there was a hurdle. The invitation limited campaign contributions to $5,400 per person, so Ms. Yang, a Chinese immigrant who had set up a string of day spas in Florida and was active in groups backed by the Chinese government and Communist Party, needed others to chip in.
Over the weeks leading up to the event, at least nine people in Ms. Yang’s orbit, some of them with modest incomes, made donations at exactly $5,400. She ended up at the dinner.