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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Not Feeling the Boom

In Defying the Odds, we discuss the tax issue in the 2016 campaign.  The update  -- just published --includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms. and explains why the Trump tax cut backfired on Republicans.

From Monmouth University:
Few Americans feel they have personally benefited a great deal from the nation’s growing economy, with the wealthy seen as getting a lot more help from President Donald Trump’s policies than either the middle class or the poor. The Monmouth University Poll also finds health care costs continue to top a wide variety of concerns that American families are facing.
Only 12% of Americans say that their family has benefited a great deal from recent growth in the U.S. economy and another 31% say they have received some benefit from the economic upturn. A majority, though, say they have been helped either not much (27%) or not at all (27%) from the nation’s macroeconomic growth. These results are nearly identical to Monmouth polls taken in 2018 as well as just before Trump took office in January 2017. Only 34% of those earning less than $50,000 a year and 42% of those earning between $50,000 and $100,000 say they have benefited at least somewhat from the growing economy. This contrasts with those earning more the $100,000, where a majority (58%) say they have benefited.
Currently, just 18% of Americans say that middle-class families in general have benefited a lot from Trump’s policies so far, 37% say that middle-class families have benefited a little and 36% say they have not benefited at all. These results are similar to a year ago, when 14% said the middle class benefited a lot, 45% a little, and 36% not at all. Public expectations were somewhat more positive shortly before Trump took office in January 2017, when 26% predicted that the middle class would see a lot of benefit from the new president’s policies, 40% said the middle class would see a little, and 29% said the middle class would not see any change in their situation

Monday, April 29, 2019

Mueller Report: "A Significant Change in the President's Conduct"

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.

From the Mueller report (vol. 2, pp.158):
In considering the full scope of the conduct we investigated, the President's actions can
be divided into two distinct phases reflecting a possible shift in the President's motives. In the first phase , before the President fired Comey, the President had been assured that the FBI had not opened an investigation of him personally. The President deemed it critically important to make public that he was not under investigation, and he included that information in his termination letter to Comey after other efforts to have that information disclosed were unsuccessful.
Soon after he fired Comey, however, the President became aware that investigators were
conducting an obstruction-of-justice inquiry into his own conduct. That awareness marked a significant change in the President's conduct and the start of a second phase of action. The President launched public attacks on the investigation and individuals involved in it who could possess evidence adverse to the President, while in private, the President engaged in a series of targeted efforts to control the investigation. For instance, the President attempted to remove the Special Counsel; he sought to have Attorney General Sessions unrecuse himself and limit the investigation; he sought to prevent public disclosure of information about the June 9, 2016 meeting between Russians and campaign officials; and he used public forums to attack potential witnesses who might offer adverse information and to praise witnesses who declined to cooperate with the
government. Judgments about the nature of the President's motives during each phase would be informed by the totality of the evidence.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Bonkers in Late April, Continued

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

Trump at Green Bay, Wisconsin last night:
And if you look at what's happened with this scum that's leaving the very top of government people that others use to say, oh, that's one that dirty, these were dirty cops. These were dirty players. You take a look at what's going on. There's twenty-one of them already and I'm not even doing that just leaving because they got caught like nobody ever got caught.
... 
 The baby is born. The mother meets with the doctor. They take care of the baby, they wrap the baby beautifully. And then the doctor and the mother determine whether or not they will execute the baby.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Bonkers Trump Comments, Late April 2019 ed.

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

Boarding Marine One:
Q Mr. President, how old is too old to be President?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think that — I just feel like a young man. I’m so young. I can’t believe it. I’m the youngest person. I am a young, vibrant man.
Trump, age 72, has an official weight of 242 pounds, which defines him as obese. (He probably weighs much more.)  He gorges on junk food, does not exercise, and is is too weak to play golf without a golf cart.

An April 26 interview with Hannity:

  • "We have nothing to do with Russia except that we have been tougher on Russia than any administration in 50 years -- a lot tougher than Obama." (See the Trump Tower Moscow letter of intent.)
  • "This was a coup. This wasn't stealing information from an office in the Watergate apartments. This was an attempted coup. And it's inconceive -- like a third world country -- and inconceivable."
  •  "No collusion and also no obstruction, because the statement was made and the attorney general, you know, understood it very well and he read it and he made a decision right on the spot. No obstruction."  (Some collusion and lots of obstruction)

Friday, April 26, 2019

Biden Begins

In Defying the Odds, we discuss the early stages of the 2016 campaign, when many candidates were unknowns.  The update  -- just published --includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms. We are now in the early stages of the 2020 race.

 

Lloyd Green at The Hill:
Biden runs well among working class and minority voters, unlike Buttigieg, who generates excitement but whose core supporters are reminiscent of those of Gary Hart, Michael Dukakis, and George McGovern. Those core supporters are largely white voters with a college degree. By the same measure, Biden does not turn off wealthier Democrats and those with a college degree, unlike Sanders. For some Democrats, the term “socialist” is not positive, especially if they live in the shadows of Wall Street and Silicon Valley. Back in 2016, Sanders lost the New York primary against Clinton, and it was not just because Clinton owns a home in Chappaqua.
In head to head polling against the president, Biden consistently leads. But if you cannot win the nomination, the case for electability becomes quickly moot. For Biden and the rest of the Democratic candidates, the contours of the primaries will soon emerge. In fact, they already are.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Mueller Report: Substantial Evidence

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.

Nearly every time the Mueller report (vol. 2) mentions "substantial evidence," it is bad for Trump:
  • After Comey's account of the dinner became public, the President and his advisors disputed that he had asked for Comey's loyalty. The President also indicated that he had not invited Comey to dinner, telling a reporter that he thought Comey had "asked for the dinner " because "he wanted to stay on." But substantial evidence corroborates Comey's account of the dinner invitation and the request for loyalty. (p. 35)
  • In private, the President denied aspects of Comey's account to White House advisors, but acknowledged to Priebus that he brought Flynn up in the meeting with Comey and stated that Flynn was a good guy. Despite those denials, substantial evidence corroborates Corney's account. (p. 44)
  • Substantial evidence indicates that the catalyst for the President 's decision to fire Comey was Corney 's unwillingness to publicly state that the President was not personally under investigation , despite the President's repeated requests that Corney make such an announcement. (p.75)
  • After news organizations reported that in June 2017 the President had ordered McGahn to have the Special Counsel removed, the President publicly disputed these accounts , and privately told McGahn that he had simply wanted McGahn to bring conflicts of interest to the Department of Justice 's attention . See Volume II, Section II.I, infra. Some of the President's specific language that McGahn recalled from the calls is consistent with that explanation. Substantial evidence , however , supports the conclusion that the President went further and in fact directed McGahn to call Rosenstein to have the Special Counsel removed. (p. 88)
  • Substantial evidence indicates that by June 17, 2017, the President knew his conduct was under investigation by a federal prosecutor who could present any evidence of federal crimes to a grand jury. (p. 89)
  • Substantial evidence indicates that the President 's effort to have Sessions limit the scope of the Special Counsel's investigation to future election interference was intended to prevent further investigative scrutiny of the President 's and his campaign's conduct. (p. 97)
  • As previously described, see Volume IT, Section ILE, supra, substantial evidence supports McGahn's account that the President had directed him to have the Special Counsel removed, including the timing and cont ext of the President's directive ; the manner in which McGahn reacted; and the fact that the President had been told the conflicts were insubstantial, were being considered by the Department of Justice , and should be raised with the President's personal counsel rather than brought to McGahn. (p. 118)
  • Substantial evidence indicates that in repeatedly urging McGahn to dispute that he was ordered to have the Special Counsel terminated , the President acted for the purpose of influencing McGahn 's account in order to deflect or prevent further scrutiny of the President's conduct towards the investigation. (p. 120)

Turnout in 2018

In Defying the Odds, we discuss state and congressional elections as well as the presidential race.   The update  -- just published --includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms.

Jordan Misra at the Census Bureau:
The November 2018 election is widely recognized for its high voter turnout. Census Bureau data released today show who is behind the historic 11 percentage point increase from the last midterm election in 2014.
Voter turnout went up among all voting age and major racial and ethnic groups. Fifty-three percent of the citizen voting-age population voted in 2018, the highest midterm turnout in four decades, while the 2014 election had the lowest.
Among 18- to 29-year-olds, voter turnout went from 20 percent in 2014 to 36 percent in 2018, the largest percentage point increase for any age group — a 79 percent jump.
Data from the Current Population Survey’s Voting and Registration Supplement out today provide insight into the characteristics of those that cast their ballots in this record-breaking midterm election
behind-2018-united-states-midterm-election-turnout-figure-1
Who is Behind the Historic Increase?
Voter turnout went up more in some groups than others from 2014 to 2018:

  • Among 18- to 29-year-olds, voter turnout went from 20 percent in 2014 to 36 percent in 2018, the largest percentage point increase for any age group — a 79 percent jump.
  • Among men and women, voter turnout increased by 11 and 12 percentage points respectively.
  • Voter turnout increased among non-Hispanic Asians by 13 percentage points, a 49 percent increase.
  • Among Hispanics, voter turnout increased by 13 percentage points, a 50 percent increase in Hispanic voter turnout.
  • Non-Hispanic black voter turnout increased by 11 percentage points.
  • Those with higher levels of education had higher levels of voter turnout in 2018.  Those with less than a high school education had the smallest increase in voter turnout (5 percentage points). Those with a high school diploma or equivalent had the second-lowest increase (8 percentage points).
  • Voting by native-born and naturalized citizens both increased by 12 percentage points. This increase is not significantly different between native-born and naturalized citizens.
  • Unlike the 2014 midterm election, voter turnout among those living in nonmetropolitan areas (up 8 points) was lower than for those living in metropolitan areas (up 12 points).
behind-2018-united-states-midterm-election-turnout-table-1

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Mueller Report: Trump Does Not Want to Hear about the Russian Attack

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.

 Eric Schmitt, David E. Sanger and Maggie Haberman at NYT:
In the months before Kirstjen Nielsen was forced to resign, she tried to focus the White House on one of her highest priorities as homeland security secretary: preparing for new and different Russian forms of interference in the 2020 election.
President Trump’s chief of staff told her not to bring it up in front of the president.
Ms. Nielsen left the Department of Homeland Security early this month after a tumultuous 16-month tenure and tensions with the White House. Officials said she had become increasingly concerned about Russia’s continued activity in the United States during and after the 2018 midterm elections — ranging from its search for new techniques to divide Americans using social media, to experiments by hackers, to rerouting internet traffic and infiltrating power grids.
But in a meeting this year, Mick Mulvaney, the White House chief of staff, made it clear that Mr. Trump still equated any public discussion of malign Russian election activity with questions about the legitimacy of his victory. According to one senior administration official, Mr. Mulvaney said it “wasn’t a great subject and should be kept below his level.”
Several advisors recalled that the President-Elect viewed stories about his Russian
connections, the Russia investigations , and the intelligence community assessment of Russian interference as a threat to the legitimacy of his electoral victory. Hicks , for example, said that the President-Elect viewed the intelligence community assessment as his "Achilles heel " because,  even if Russia had no impact on the election, people would think Russia helped him win, taking away from what he had accomplished. Sean Spicer, the first White House communications director, recalled that the President thought the Russia story was developed to undermine the legitimacy of his election. Gates said the President viewed the Russia investigation as an attack on the legitimacy of his win .
And Priebus recalled that when the intelligence assessment came out , the President-Elect was concerned people would question the legitimacy of his win .

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Mueller Report: Trump Tells WH Counsel to Lie

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.

From the Mueller report (vol. 2, pp.116-117):
The President began the Oval Office meeting by telling McGahn that the New York Times story did not " look good" and McGahn needed to correct it. McGahn recalled the President said , "I never said to fire Mueller. I never said 'fire. ' This story doesn't look good. You need to correct this. You're the White House counsel."

In response , McGahn acknowledged that he had not told the President directly that he
planned to resign , but said that the story was otherwise accurate. The President asked McGahn,  "Did I say the word 'fire'?"  McGahn responded, "What you said is, 'Call Rod [Rosenstein] ,tell Rod that Mueller has conflicts and can't be the Special Counsel. "' The President responded, "I never said that. "The President said he merely wanted McGahn to raise the conflicts issue with Rosenstein and leave it to him to decide what to do. McGahn told the President he did not understand the conversation that way and instead had heard , "Call Rod. There are conflicts. Mueller has to go." The President asked McGahn whether he would "do a correction," and McGahn said no.  McGahn thought the President was testing his mettle to see how committed McGahn was to what happened. Kelly described the meeting as "a little tense."

The President also asked McGahn in the meeting why he had told Special Counsel's Office investigators that the President had told him to have the Special Counsel removed. McGahn responded that he had to and that his conversations with the President were not protected by attorney-client privilege. The President then asked , "What-about these notes? Why do you take notes? Lawyers don 't take notes. I never had a lawyer who took notes."  McGahn responded that he keeps notes because he is a "real lawyer" and explained that notes create a record and are not a bad thing. The President said, "I've had a lot of great lawyers, like Roy Cohn . He did not take notes."
On June 24, 1986,  the Appellate Division of the New York Supreme Court disbarred Cohn on charges of "dishonesty, fraud, deceit and misrepresentation."

College Whites and Noncollege Whites

In Defying the Odds, we discuss social divides of the 2016 electiion. The update -- just published --includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms.

White Americans without college degrees helped propel Donald Trump to an upset victory in the 2016 election and have been one of his most supportive subgroups during his presidency. The group's support for Trump may largely reflect their political leanings as much as their affinity for Trump, as currently, 59% of non-college whites identify as Republicans or say they are independents who lean toward the Republican Party.

But non-college-educated whites were firmly aligned with the GOP well before Trump announced his presidential candidacy on June 16, 2015. In 2014, 54% of whites without college degrees identified as Republicans or were Republican-leaning independents, compared with 34% who were Democrats or Democratic leaners.
In fact, white college nongraduates have preferred the GOP to the Democratic Party for most of the past two decades, with at least a slight Republican advantage in affiliation for 15 of the past 20 years.
...

.At the same time that non-college whites' attachment to the GOP has grown, there has been a shift in the political allegiance of whites with college degrees toward the Democratic Party. Since the 2016 presidential election year, white college graduates have gone from being evenly divided in their political preferences to preferring the Democratic Party by double-digit margins in 2018 (52% to 42%) and 2019 (54% to 41%).

Monday, April 22, 2019

Mueller Report: Polling and Targeting

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.

From the Mueller report (volume 1, p. 140), a description of an August 2 meeting between Paul Manafort (with Rick Gates and Ukrainian/Russian fixer Konstantin Kilimnik
Manafort briefed Kilimnik on the state of the Trump Campaign and Manafort's
plan to win the election. That briefing encompassed the Campaign's messaging and its internal polling data. According to Gates, it also included discussion of "battleground" states, which Manafort identified as Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Minnesota. Manafort did not refer explicitly to "battleground" states in his telling of the August 2 discussion.
 On October 4, 2017, Manu Raju, Dylan Byers and Dana Bash reported at CNN:
A number of Russian-linked Facebook ads specifically targeted Michigan and Wisconsin, two states crucial to Donald Trump's victory last November, according to four sources with direct knowledge of the situation. Some of the Russian ads appeared highly sophisticated in their targeting of key demographic groups in areas of the states that turned out to be pivotal, two of the sources said. The ads employed a series of divisive messages aimed at breaking through the clutter of campaign ads online, including promoting anti-Muslim messages, sources said.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Faithful Execution and Non-Exoneration

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.

From the Mueller report (volume 2, page 8):
Under applicable Supreme Court precedent, the Constitution does not categorically and permanently immunize a President for obstructing justice through the use of his Article II  powers. The separation-of-powers doctrine authorizes Congress to protect official proceedings, including those of courts and grand juries, from corrupt, obstructive acts regardless of their source. We also concluded that any inroad on presidential authority that would occur from prohibiting corrupt acts does not undermine the President's ability to fulfill his constitutional mission. The term "corruptly" sets a demanding standard. It requires a concrete showing that a person acted with an intent to obtain an improper advantage for himself or someone else, inconsistent with official duty and the rights of others. A preclusion of"corrupt" official action does not diminish the President's
ability to exercise Article II powers. For example, the proper supervision of criminal law does not demand freedom for the President to act with a corrupt intention of shielding himself from criminal punishment, avoiding financial liability, or preventing personal embarrassment. To the contrary, a statute that prohibits official action undertaken for such corrupt purposes furthers, rather than hinders, the impartial and evenhanded administration of the law. It also aligns with the President's constitutional duty to faithfully execute the laws. Finally, we concluded that in the rare case in which a criminal investigation of the President's conduct is justified, inquiries to determine whether the President acted for a corrupt motive should not impermissibly chill his performance of his constitutionally assigned duties. The conclusion that Congress may apply the obstruction laws to the President's corrupt exercise of the powers of office accords with our constitutional system of checks and balances and the principle that no person is above the law.
CONCLUSION
Because we determined not to make a traditional prosecutorial judgment, we did not draw ultimate conclusions about the President's conduct. The evidence we obtained about the President's actions and intent presents difficult issues that would need to be resolved if we were making a traditional prosecutorial judgment. At the same time, if we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state. Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, we are unable to reach that judgment. Accordingly, while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.

Friday, April 19, 2019

The Mueller Report: Gaps

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.

From the Mueller report: (volume 1, page 10):
The investigation did not always yield admissible information or testimony, or a complete picture of the activities undertaken by subjects of the investigation. Some individuals invoked their Fifth Amendment right against compelled self-incrimination and were not, in the Office's judgment, appropriate candidates for grants of immunity. The Office limited its pursuit of other witnesses and information-such as information known to attorneys or individuals claiming to be members of the media-in light of internal Department of Justice policies. See, e.g. , Justice Manual§§ 9-13.400, 13.410. Some of the information obtained via court process, moreover, was presumptively covered by legal privilege and was screened from investigators by a filter ( or "taint") team. Even when individuals testified or agreed to be interviewed, they sometimes provided information that was false or incomplete, leading to some of the false-statements charges described above. And the Office faced practical limits on its ability to access relevant evidence as well-numerous witnesses and subjects lived abroad, and documents were held outside the United States.
Further, the Office learned that some of the individuals we interviewed or whose conduct we investigated-including some associated with the Trump Campaign---deleted relevant communications or communicated during the relevant period using applications that feature encryption or that do not provide for long-term retention of data or  communications records. In such cases, the Office was not able to corroborate witness statements through comparison to contemporaneous communications or fully question witnesses about statements that appeared inconsistent with other known facts.
Accordingly, while this report embodies factual and legal determinations that the Office believes to be accurate and complete to the greatest extent possible, given these identified gaps, the Office cannot rule out the possibility that the unavailable information would shed additional light on (or cast in a new light) the events described in the report.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

The Mueller Report: McGahn and Obstruction

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.

From the Mueller report:
On Saturday, June 17, 2017, the President called McGahn and directed him to have the Special Counsel removed.  McGahn was at home and the President was at Camp David. In interviews with this Office, McGahn recalled that the Pre sident called him at home twice and on both occasions directed him to call Rosenstein and say that Mueller had conflicts that precluded him from serving as Special Counsel. 
On the first call, McGahn recalled that the President said something like , "You gotta do this. You gotta call Rod."  McGahn said he told the President that he would see what he could do.  McGahn was perturbed by the call and did not intend to act on the request.  He and other advisors believed the asserted conflicts were "silly" and "not real, " and they had previously communicated that view to the President.  McGahn also had made clear to the President that the White House Counsel's Office should not be involved in any effort to press the issue of conflicts.  McGahn was concerned about having any role in asking the Acting Attorney General to fire the Special Counsel because he had grown up in the Reagan era and wanted to be more like Judge Robert Bork and not " Saturday Night Massacre Bork." McGahn considered the President 's request to be an inflection point and he wanted to hit the brakes. 
When the President called McGahn a second time to follow up on the order to call the Department of Justice, McGahn recalled that the President was more direct , saying something like, "Call Rod, tell Rod that Mueller has conflicts and can 't be the Special Counsel."  McGahn recalled the President telling him "Mueller has to go" and "Call me back when you do it." McGahn understood the President to be saying that the Special Counsel had to be removed by Rosenstein. To end the conversation with the President , McGahn left the President with the impression that McGahn would call Rosenstein. McGahn recalled that he had already said no to the President's request and he was worn down , so he just wanted to get off the phone. 
McGahn recalled feeling trapped because he did not plan to follow the President's directive but did not know what he would say the next time the President  alled.  McGahn decided he had to resign. He called his personal lawyer and then called his chief of staff, Annie Donaldson, to inform her of his decision.  He then drove to the office to pack his belongings and submit his resignation letter.  Donaldson recalled that McGahn told her the President had called and demanded he contact the Department of Justice and that the President wanted him to do something that McGahn did not want to do.  McGahn told Donaldson that the President had called at least twice and in one of the calls asked "have you done it?" McGahn did not tell Donaldson the specifics of the President's request because he was consciously trying not to involve her in the investigation , but Donaldson inferred that the President's directive was related to the Russia investigation. Donaldson prepared to resign along with McGahn. 
That evening, McGahn called both Priebus and Bannon and told them that he intended to resign. McGahn recalled that, after speaking with his attorney and given the nature of thePresident 's request, he decided not to share details of the President's request with other White House staff. Priebus recalled that McGahn said that the President had asked him to "do crazy shit, " but he thought McGahn did not tell him the specifics of the President 's request because McGahn was trying to protect Priebus from what he did not need to know.  Priebus and Bannon both urged McGahn not to quit, and McGahn ultimately returned to work that Monday and remained in his position.  He had not told the President directly that he planned to resign, and when they next saw each other the President did not ask McGahn whether he had followed through with calling Rosenstein. 
Around the same time, Chris Christie recalled a telephone _call with the President in which the President asked what Christie thought about the President firing the Special Counsel. Christie advised against doing so because there was no substantive basis for the President to fire the Special Counsel, and because the President would lose support from Republicans in Congress if he did so.
...

Substantial evidence indicates that the President's attempts to remove the Special Counsel were linked to the Special Counsel's oversight of investigations that involved the President's conduct- and, most immediately , to reports that the President was being investigated for potential obstruction of justice.
Before the President terminated Corney , the President considered it critically important that he was not under investigation and that the public not erroneously think he was being investigated. As described in Volume TI, Section TI.D, supra, advisors perceived the President , while he was drafting the Corney termination letter, to be concerned more than anything else about getting out that he was not personally under investigation. When the President learned of the appointment of the Special Counsel on May 17, 2017, he expressed further concern about the investigation, saying "[t]his is the end of my Presidency. " The President also faulted Sessions for recusing , saying "you were supposed to protect me. "
On June 14, 2017, when the Washington Post reported that the Special Counsel was investigating the President for obstruction of justice, the President was facing what he had wanted to avoid: a criminal investigation into his own conduct that was the subject of widespread media attention. The evidence indicates that news of the obstruction investigation prompted the President to call McGahn and seek to have the Special Counsel removed. By mid-June, the Department of Justice had already cleared the Special Counse l's service and the President's advisors had told him that the claimed conflicts of interest were "silly" and did not provide a basis to remove the Special Counsel. On June 13, 2017, the Acting Attorney General testified before Congress that no good cause for removing the Special Counsel existed, and the President dictated a press statement to Sanders saying he had no intention of firing the Special Counsel. But the next day, the media reported that the President was under investigation for obstruction of justice and the Special Counsel was interviewing witnesses about events related to possible obstruction - spurring the President to write critical tweets about the Specia l Counsel's investigation. The President called McGahn at home that night and then called him on Saturday from Camp David . The evidence accordingly indicates that news that an obstruction investigation had been opened is what led the President to call McGahn to have the Special Counsel terminated.
There also is evidence that the President knew that he should not have made those calls to McGahn. The President made the calls to McGahn after McGahn had specifically told the President that the White House Counsel's Office-and McGahn himself-could not be involved in pressing conflicts claims and that the President should consult with his personal counsel if he wished to raise conflicts. Instead of relying on his personal counsel to submit the conflicts claims, the President sought to use his official powers to remove the Special Counsel. And after the media reported on the President's actions, he denied that he ever ordered McGahn to have the Special Counsel terminated and made repeated efforts to have McGahn deny the story, as discussed in Volume II, Section II.I, infra. Those denials are contrary to the evidence and suggest the President's awareness that the direction to McGahn could be seen as improper. 

Monday, April 15, 2019

Tax Day

In Defying the Odds, we discuss the tax issue in the 2016 campaign.  The update  -- just published --includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms. and explains why the Trump tax cut backfired on Republicans.

Ben White at Politico:
Polling data suggest Democrats have fertile ground to rip into Trump’s tax cuts.
A recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll found that just 17 percent of Americans believe their own taxes will go down as a result of the bill. A CBS News poll found that 40 percent said they saw no change from the tax bill. And more said it drove their taxes up (32 percent) than lowered their tax bill (25 percent.)
The bill itself has been unpopular from the start and remains so.
A Pew Research Center survey conducted last month found that 36 percent of Americans approve of the tax-cut law while 49 percent disapprove. Even the number of Republicans who strongly approve of the law dipped in the latest Pew survey.
Megan Brenan at Gallup:
Americans continue to have net-negative views of the 2017 tax bill -- 49% disapprove and 40% approve. Since Gallup began measuring reaction to the law before its passage, approval has ranged from 29% to the current 40%.
The legislation passed without a single Democratic vote in either chamber of Congress, and Americans' views of it are similarly divided along party lines. Democrats' approval of the law is 16% and Republicans' is 78%. Independents' approval stands at 32%.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Bonkers Trump Comments, April 2019 ed.

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

Elaina Plott at The Atlantic quotes Trump on Ivanka:
“She went into the whole helping-people-with-jobs, and I wasn’t sure that was going to be the best use of her time, but I didn’t know how successful she’d be,” the president said. “She’s created millions of jobs, and I had no idea she’d be that successful.”
The “millions of jobs” claim is not true. (Through Ivanka’s work as an adviser to the president, companies such as Walmart and IBM have pledged to provide re-skilling opportunities over the next five years, mainly to people with jobs already.) But it’s true that when jobs open up in the Trump administration—a frequent occurrence—Ivanka is at the top of her father’s mind. “She’s a natural diplomat,” Trump said. “She would’ve been great at the United Nations, as an example.” I asked why he didn’t nominate her. “If I did, they’d say nepotism, when it would’ve had nothing to do with nepotism. But she would’ve been incredible.” Warming to the subject, he said, “I even thought of Ivanka for the World Bank … She would’ve been great at that because she’s very good with numbers.”
During the campaign, Trump cited Wikileaks more than 100 times.  He said he loved it.  Last week Trump reacted to the arrest of Julian Assange:
I know nothing about WikiLeaks. It’s not my thing. And I know there is something having to do with Julian Assange. I’ve been seeing what’s happened with Assange. And that will be a determination, I would imagine, mostly by the Attorney General, who’s doing an excellent job.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Impeachable Pardon Offer?

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

Maggie Haberman, Annie Karni and Eric Schmitt at NYT:
President Trump last week privately urged Kevin McAleenan, the border enforcement official he was about to name as acting secretary of homeland security, to close the southwestern border to migrants despite having just said publicly that he was delaying a decision on the step for a year, according to three people briefed about the conversation.

It was not clear what Mr. Trump meant by his request or his additional comment to Mr. McAleenan that he would pardon him if he encountered any legal problems as a result of taking the action. Federal judges have already blocked the administration’s attempts to limit asylum seekers who illegally enter the country, and it is not likely that Mr. McAleenan would have ended up in jail if he had followed the president’s directive.

One of the people briefed on the conversation said it was possible Mr. Trump had intended the comments to Mr. McAleenan as a joke. But the conversation, which took place during the president’s visit to the border town of Calexico, Calif., alarmed officials at the Department of Homeland Security who were told of it, according to the people familiar with the remarks.

It was another instance of the president trying to undo a decision and to stretch the boundaries of his power, even when told there were legal issues at stake. The same situation played out on Friday, when Mr. Trump said he was considering releasing asylum seekers into so-called sanctuary cities after administration officials told reporters the proposal was rejected because of legal issues.
Quinta Jurecic at The Atlantic:
It is entirely reasonable to ask whether this, in itself, is an impeachable offense. Jamal Greene, a professor at Columbia Law School, sparked discussion on Twitter as to whether Trump’s actions might fall afoul of the Constitution’s requirement that the president “shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of … Bribery”—the pardon being the bribe offered. The legal scholar Charles Black, in his 1974 Impeachment: A Handbook, suggests that a president’s choice to pardon “all government police who kill anybody under any circumstances” would be impeachable insofar as it is “obviously wrong, in [itself], to any person of honor.”


Friday, April 12, 2019

Trump Threat

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.

Rachel Bade and Nick Miroff at WP:
White House officials have tried to pressure U.S. immigration authorities to release detainees onto the streets of “sanctuary cities” to retaliate against President Trump’s political adversaries, according to Department of Homeland Security officials and email messages reviewed by The Washington Post
Trump administration officials have proposed transporting detained immigrants to sanctuary cities at least twice in the past six months — once in November, as a migrant caravan approached the U.S. southern border, and again in February, amid a standoff with Democrats over funding for Trump’s border wall.
Senior Trump adviser Stephen Miller discussed the proposal with ICE, according to two DHS officials. Matthew Albence, who is ICE’s acting deputy director, immediately questioned the proposal in November.
From February 2018:
President Trump said Thursday he is considering pulling U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers from California, warning that the nation’s most populous state would turn into a “crime nest” without the federal agents.

Trump said heavily Democratic California, which gave Hillary Clinton a resounding victory in the 2016 presidential race, was “doing a lousy management job.” He pointed to “a disgrace, the sanctuary city situation” and lamented the “protection of these horrible criminals.”
...
“Frankly, if I wanted to pull our people from California, you would have a crime nest like you’ve never seen in California. All I’d have to do is say is, ‘ICE and Border Patrol, let California alone,’ you’d be inundated. You would see crime like nobody has ever seen crime in this country.”

He added: “If we ever pulled our ICE out, and we ever said, ‘Hey, let California alone, let them figure it out for themselves,’ in two months they’d be begging for us to come back. They would be begging. And you know what, I’m thinking about doing it.”