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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Friday, September 18, 2020

Trump and Puerto Rico

After a hurricane struck Puerto Rico in 2017, Trump made the obligatory trip to the disaster area. “I hate to tell you, Puerto Rico, but you’ve thrown our budget a little out of whack because we’ve spent a lot of money on Puerto Rico,” he said before adding for cover, “and that’s fine.” In a bizarre scene, he tossed rolls of paper towels to survivors as if they were wedding bouquets. 

Trump opposes statehood for Puerto Rico.

By taking that position, he reneges on the platform on which he won the White House.

He also renounces more than half a century of Republican history. 

The GOP officially supported Puerto Rican statehood in every platform from 1968 to 2016.

  • 2016: We support the right of the United States citizens of Puerto Rico to be admitted to the Union as a fully sovereign state. We further recognize the historic significance of the 2012 local referendum in which a 54 percent majority voted to end Puerto Rico's current status as a U.S. territory, and 61 percent chose statehood over options for sovereign nationhood. We support the federally sponsored political status referendum authorized and funded by an Act of Congress in 2014 to ascertain the aspirations of the people of Puerto Rico. Once the 2012 local vote for statehood is ratified, Congress should approve an enabling act with terms for Puerto Rico's future admission as the 51st state of the Union.
  • 2012: We support the right of the United States citizens of Puerto Rico to be admitted to the Union as a fully sovereign state if they freely so determine. We recognize that Congress has the final authority to define the constitutionally valid options for Puerto Rico to achieve a permanent non-territorial status with government by consent and full enfranchisement. As long as Puerto Rico is not a State, however, the will of its people regarding their political status should be ascertained by means of a general right of referendum or specific referenda sponsored by the U.S. government.
  • 2008: We support the right of the United States citizens of Puerto Rico to be admitted to the Union as a fully sovereign state after they freely so determine. We recognize that Congress has the final authority to define the constitutionally valid options for Puerto Rico to achieve a permanent non-territorial status with government by consent and full enfranchisement. As long as Puerto Rico is not a state, however, the will of its people regarding their political status should be ascertained by means of a general right of referendum or specific referenda sponsored by the U.S. government.
  • 2004: We support the right of the United States citizens of Puerto Rico to be admitted to the Union as a fully sovereign state after they freely so determine. We recognize that Congress has the final authority to define the Constitutionally valid options for Puerto Rico to achieve a permanent non-territorial status with government by consent and full enfranchisement. As long as Puerto Rico is not a state, however, the will of its people regarding their political status should be ascertained by means of a general right of referendum or specific referenda sponsored by the United States government.
  • 2000: We support the right of the United States citizens of Puerto Rico to be admitted to the Union as a fully sovereign state after they freely so determine. We recognize that Congress has the final authority to define the constitutionally valid options for Puerto Rico to achieve a permanent status with government by consent and full enfranchisement. As long as Puerto Rico is not a State, however, the will of its people regarding their political status should be ascertained by means of a general right of referendum or specific referenda sponsored by the United States government.
  • 1996: We support the right of the United States citizens of Puerto Rico to be admitted to the Union as a fully sovereign state after they freely so determine. We endorse initiatives of the congressional Republican leadership to provide for Puerto Rico's smooth transition to statehood if its citizens choose to alter their current status, or to set them on their own path to become an independent nation.
  • 1992: The Republican Party supports the right of the United States citizens of Puerto Rico to be admitted to the Union as a fully sovereign State after they freely so determine.
  • 1988: Puerto Rico has been a territory of the United States since 1898. The Republican Party vigorously supports the right of the United States citizens of Puerto Rico to be admitted into the Union as a fully sovereign State after they freely so determine. Therefore, we support the establishment of a presidential task force to prepare the necessary legislation to ensure that the people of Puerto Rico have the opportunity to exercise at the earliest possible date their right to apply for admission into the Union. We also pledge that a decision of the people of Puerto Rico in favor of statehood will be implemented through an admission bill that would provide for a smooth fiscal transition, recognize the concept of a multi-cultural society for its citizens, and ensure the right to retain their Spanish language and traditions.
  • 1984: The Republican Party reaffirms its support of the right of Puerto Rico to be admitted into the Union after it freely so determines, through the passage of an admission bill which will provide for a smooth fiscal transition, recognize the concept of a multicultural society for its citizens, and secure the opportunity to retain their Spanish language and traditions.
  • 1980: Puerto Rico has been a territory of the United States since 1898. The Republican Party vigorously supports the right of the United States citizens of Puerto Rico to be admitted into the Union as a fully sovereign state after they freely so determine. We believe that the statehood alternative is the only logical solution to the problem of inequality of the United States citizens of Puerto Rico within the framework of the federal Constitution, with full recognition within the concept of a multicultural society of the citizens' right to retain their Spanish language and traditions. Therefore we pledge to support the enactment of the necessary legislation to allow the people of Puerto Rico to exercise their right to apply for admission into the Union at the earliest possible date after the presidential election of 1980. We also pledge that such decision of the people of Puerto Rico will be implemented through the approval of an admission bill. This bill will provide for the Island's smooth transition from its territorial fiscal system to that of a member of the Union. This enactment will enable the new state of Puerto Rico to stand economically on an equal footing with the rest of the states and to assume gradually its fiscal responsibilities as a state.
  • 1976: The principle of self-determination also governs our positions on Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia as it has in past platforms. We again support statehood for Puerto Rico, if that is the people's choice in a referendum, with full recognition within the concept of a multicultural society of the citizens' right to retain their Spanish language and traditions; and support giving the District of Columbia voting representation in the United States Senate and House of Representatives and full home rule over those matters that are purely local.
  • 1972: The Republican Party adheres to the principle of self-determination for Puerto Rico. We will welcome and support statehood for Puerto Rico if that status should be the free choice of its people in a referendum vote.
  • 1968: We will support the efforts of the Puerto Rican people to achieve statehood when they freely request such status by a general election, and we share the hopes and aspirations of the people of the Virgin Islands who will be closely consulted on proposed gubernatorial appointments.


Wray on Russia

In Defying the Odds, we discuss Russian involvement in the 2016 campaign  The update includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms.  Russia is making a similar effort this year.

House Homeland Security Hearing Chris Wray Testimony Transcript September 17: FBI Director Testifies:
Chairman Thompson: (28:33)

Thank you. Can you tell me if, as of this date, you have information that Russia is trying to influence the election for 2020?

Director Christopher Wray: (28:49)
Yes. I think the intelligence community’s consensus is that Russia continues to try to influence our elections primarily through what we would call malign foreign influence, as opposed to what we saw in 2016, where there was also an effort to target election infrastructure, cyber targeting. We have not seen that second part yet this year, or this cycle, but we certainly have seen very active, very active efforts by the Russians to influence our election in 2020 through what I would call more the malign foreign influence side of things. Social media, use of proxies, state media, online journals, et cetera. An effort to both sow divisiveness and discord and, and I think the intelligence community has assessed this publicly, primarily to denigrate vice President Biden in what the Russians see as kind of an anti-Russian establishment. That’s essentially what we’re seeing in 2020.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Happy Constitution Day

In Defying the Odds, we discuss Trump's dishonesty and his record of disregarding the rule of law.

Even if Reinoehl’s killing was justified, in a country where the rule of law held, the government would have treated it as regrettable. For Donald Trump’s administration, Reinoehl’s death was cause for celebration.

Calling Reinoehl a “dangerous fugitive, admitted antifa member, and suspected murderer,” Attorney General William P. Barr said in a statement, “The streets of our cities are safer with this violent agitator removed.” Trump, in a Fox News interview on Saturday, said of the killing, “That’s the way it has to be. There has to be retribution when you have crime like this.” (Perhaps needless to say, law enforcement is not permitted to kill suspects in “retribution.”) Trump continued the theme at his Nevada rally Sunday night, saying to cheers, “We sent in the U.S. marshals, it was taken care of in 15 minutes.”

Trump, of course, defended Kyle Rittenhouse, a supporter of his charged with killing two people at a protest last month, and who, like Reinoehl, claimed self-defense. For the president, it’s not Reinoehl’s alleged actions that justify extrajudicial killing. It’s his politics, and those of his victim. Trump and Barr are all but declaring certain Americans beyond the law’s protections.
Hours before law enforcement forcibly cleared protesters from Lafayette Square in early June amid protests over the police killing of George Floyd, federal officials began to stockpile ammunition and seek devices that could emit deafening sounds and make anyone within range feel like their skin is on fire, according to an Army National Guard major who was there.

D.C. National Guard Maj. Adam D. DeMarco told lawmakers that defense officials were searching for crowd control technology deemed too unpredictable to use in war zones and had authorized the transfer of about 7,000 rounds of ammunition to the D.C. Armory as protests against police use of force and racial injustice roiled Washington.

In sworn testimony, shared this week with The Washington Post, DeMarco provided his account as part of an ongoing investigation into law enforcement and military officers’ use of force against D.C. protesters.
Katie Benner at NYT:
Attorney General William P. Barr told federal prosecutors in a call last week that they should consider charging rioters and others who had committed violent crimes at protests in recent months with sedition, according to two people familiar with the call.

The highly unusual suggestion to charge people with insurrection against lawful authority alarmed some on the call, which included U.S. attorneys around the country, said the people, who described Mr. Barr’s comments on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution.

The attorney general has also asked prosecutors in the Justice Department’s civil rights division to explore whether they could bring criminal charges against Mayor Jenny Durkan of Seattle for allowing some residents to establish a police-free protest zone near the city’s downtown for weeks this summer, according to two people briefed on those discussions. Late Wednesday, a department spokesman said that Mr. Barr did not direct the civil rights division to explore this idea.

The directives are in keeping with Mr. Barr’s approach to prosecute crimes as aggressively as possible in cities where protests have given way to violence. But in suggesting possible prosecution of Ms. Durkan, a Democrat, Mr. Barr also took aim at an elected official whom President Trump has repeatedly attacked.
...

The most extreme form of the federal sedition law, which is rarely invoked, criminalizes conspiracies to overthrow the government of the United States — an extraordinary situation that does not seem to fit the circumstances of the protests and unrest in places like Portland, Ore., and elsewhere in response to police killings of Black men.

The wording of the federal sedition statute goes beyond actual revolutions. It says the crime can also occur anytime two or more people have conspired to use force to oppose federal authority, hinder the government’s ability to enforce any federal law or unlawfully seize any federal property — elements that might conceivably fit a plot to, say, break into and set fire to a federal courthouse.

Congress has stipulated that a conviction on a charge of seditious conspiracy can carry up to 20 years in prison.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

COVID Continues to Hurt: "Herd Mentality"

In Defying the Odds, we discuss the 2016 campaign. The 2019 update includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms. The 2020 race, the subject of our next book, is well underway.   It unfolds as Coronavirus presents unprecedented challenges to public policy and the electoral process.

Pew finds that COVID had dragged down America's world standing:
Since Donald Trump took office as president, the image of the United States has suffered across many regions of the globe. As a new 13-nation Pew Research Center survey illustrates, America’s reputation has declined further over the past year among many key allies and partners. In several countries, the share of the public with a favorable view of the U.S. is as low as it has been at any point since the Center began polling on this topic nearly two decades ago.
...

Part of the decline over the past year is linked to how the U.S. had handled the coronavirus pandemic. Across the 13 nations surveyed, a median of just 15% say the U.S. has done a good job of dealing with the outbreak. In contrast, most say the World Health Organization (WHO) and European Union have done a good job, and in nearly all nations people give their own country positive marks for dealing with the crisis (the U.S. and UK are notable exceptions). Relatively few think China has handled the pandemic well, although it still receives considerably better reviews than the U.S. response.
ABC Town Hall Meeting:
 STEPHANOPOULOS: I want to move onto some other subjects. But we’re still – are dealing with 195,000 deaths in the United States right now. When you see that...when you think about that, does that give you any pause? Does it make you think, is there anything I could have done differently? Anything…
TRUMP: I think we could have had two million deaths if we didn’t close out the country...
STEPHANOPOULOS: So you regret nothing?
TRUMP: We did close it -- no, I think we did a great job.
If we didn’t close the country...look, we created...I created, we all created together...you helped everybody. The fact is, we created the greatest economy in the history of the world, best employment numbers for African-American, Asian-American, Hispanic-America, women, everything.
The best employment, high school, no high school, college, we had the best economy we’ve ever had. One hundred and sixteen million people – almost just short of 160 million people – we were never close.
And then somebody comes in and then somebody else, doctors, and they start talking about the pandemic and about closing, they want to close up our country.
I said, wait a minute. We’re the greatest country, the greatest economy, and it was coming together even in terms of unity, because it was so successful that people that weren’t getting along were starting to get along, George. That’s the way we solved that problem.
But, we had the greatest economy ever, and we have to close it. If I didn’t close it, I think you’d have two million deaths instead of having the 185,000 – 190,000. It’s a terrible number – one is too many.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Earlier on there would have been fewer deaths.
TRUMP: George, I was so far ahead of my closing – and I’ll give you an example. When I closed at the end of January, Joe Biden was talking about, in March, about, it’s totally over exaggerated. Nancy Pelosi was standing in the streets of Chinatown in San Francisco late – a month – more than a month after that -- saying this thing’s totally exaggerated. Come, you know, to try and build up tourism.
And all of these people now they say…
STEPHANOPOULOS: You were saying it was going to disappear.
TRUMP: What?
STEPHANOPOULOS: You were saying it was going to disappear.
TRUMP: It is going to disappear. It’s going to disappear, I still say it
.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But not if we don’t take action, correct?
TRUMP: No, I still say it. It’s going to disappear, George. We’re going to get back – we’re not going to have studios like this, where you have all of this empty space in between.
I want to see people, and you want to see people. I want to see football games. I’m pushing very hard for Big Ten, I want to see Big Ten open – let the football games – let them play sports.
But no, it’s going to disappear, George, and I say this –
STEPHANOPOULOS: But Dr. Fauci said we have to be prepared for – we have to hunker down. We have to be prepared for a possible second wave.
I understand that you don’t want to panic people, you said you want people to be calm. You’ve often talked about Winston Churchill and FDR, and they did reassure people, they were strong. They did keep people calm.
But they also were straight. They said this war is going to be tough, it’s going to be a real fight, we have to persevere.
TRUMP: When Churchill was on the top of a building, and he said everything’s going to be good, everything’s going to be – be calm. And you have the Nazis dropping bombs all over London, he was very brave because he was at the top of a building. It was very well known that he was standing on buildings, and they were bombing. And he says everyone's going to be safe.
I don't think that's being necessarily honest, and yet I think it's being a great leader. But he said, you're going to be safe. Be calm, don't panic. And you had bombers dropping bombs all over London.
So I guess you could say that's not so honest, but it's still a great leader.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So do you think it's OK to be dishonest?
TRUMP: I'm not looking to be dishonest. I don't want people to panic. And we are going to be OK. We're going to be OK, and it is going away. And it's probably going to go away now a lot faster because of the vaccines.
It would go away without the vaccine, George, but it's going to go away a lot faster with it.
STEPHANOPOULOS: It would go away without the vaccine?
TRUMP: Sure, over a period of time. Sure, with time it goes away.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And many deaths.
TRUMP: And you'll develop -- you'll develop herd -- like a herd mentality.
It's going to be -- it's going to be herd-developed, and that's going to happen. That will all happen.
But with a vaccine, I think it will go away very quickly.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Climate Politics

In Defying the Odds, we discuss state and congressional elections as well as the presidential race. The update -- recently published -- looks at political and demographic trends through the 2018 midterm.

Climate change is an extremely important issue, but it has been a peripheral concern in presidential campaigns.  For most Americans, the impact has seemed abstract and speculative.  But the Western wildfires may be making it more visible and urgent.  The effects are not limited to coastal areas.  As of this week, the smoke had drifted as far east as Illinois.

Seung Min Kim and Brady Dennis at WP:
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden excoriated President Trump on Monday over his environmental record as wildfires continued to burn through much of the West and as the president used a trip to California to question the scientific consensus that climate change is a leading cause of the devastating blazes.

Biden said during a speech in Wilmington, Del., that the “undeniable, accelerating, punishing reality” of global warming was playing out in the wildfires and hurricanes that have marked the end of summer, arguing it is a problem that “requires action, not denial.”

Across the country in California, Trump sought to pin the blame for the fires on another culprit — forest management — while shrugging off warnings that human-caused climate warming will continue to make Western states a tinderbox with annual fires that destroy communities.

“It will start getting cooler. You just watch,” he said during a briefing with state and local leaders in McClellan Park, Calif.
The issue is showing up in Senate races:

Monday, September 14, 2020

Endangerment

In Defying the Odds, we discuss the 2016 campaign. The 2019 update includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms. The 2020 race, the subject of our next book, is well underway.   It unfolds as Coronavirus presents unprecedented challenges to public policy and the electoral process.

 Stephen Collinson at CNN:

President Donald Trump offered a glaring new example of his refusal to put medical science before politics with a large indoor rally Sunday night that made a mockery of social distancing, while the pandemic he mismanaged has now claimed more than 194,000 American lives.
The event in Nevada -- his second rally in the state in as many days -- did not only risk the health of those present, thousands of whom were packed together inside a manufacturing facility in defiance of the state's ban on local gatherings of 50 people or more. It also has the potential to turn into a super spreader event that could seed Covid-19 outbreaks in the wider community. Trump hadn't held an indoor rally in nearly three months, since his last one, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, after which the city saw a surge in cases and multiple campaign staffers along with Secret Service agents tested positive for the virus.


Sunday, September 13, 2020

South Asian Voters

In Defying the Odds, we discuss the 2016 campaign. The 2019 update includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms. The 2020 race, the subject of our next book, is well underway

Sonia Paul at The Guardian
Growing numbers among multiple south Asian communities underscore their strength within the Asian American demographic, the fastest-growing racial or ethnic group in the US electorate.

The south Asian American population – those who trace their ancestry to the southern region of Asia – grew by 43% from 2011 to 5.7 million people in 2018, according to the American Community Survey, while the total US population grew by only 4.7% during that same time period. And about 2 million Indian Americans, the second largest immigrant group in the country, are eligible to vote in the US, according to Devesh Kapur, professor of south Asian studies at Johns Hopkins University and co-author of The Other One Percent: Indians in America.

Meanwhile, Democratic activists and donors hope Joe Biden’s running mate Kamala Harris, the daughter of immigrants from India and Jamaica, can help sway undecided Indian Americans – as Donald Trump’s campaign also tries to double-down on outreach to the community it began four years ago with a new ad targeting Indian American voters.

...

But given the south Asian community’s booming numbers, distinguishing how different south Asians – not just Indian Americans – vote bears significance. The 2016 Post-Election National Asian American survey shows that Bangladeshi and Pakistani Americans were much more inclined to Hillary Clinton than Indian Americans: 90% of Bangladeshi Americans and 88% of Pakistani Americans voted for Clinton compared with 77% of Indian Americans.


It’s also important to look at where voters live – for example, according to data from 2018, of the estimated 2 million Indian American voters in the US, about 500,000 live in battleground states. With razor-thin margins in these regions, voter mobilization within the south Asian community could have the greatest impact in Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas and Wisconsin, said Karthick Ramakrishnan, a political scientist at University of California Riverside and founder of AAPI Data.

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Abuse of Power Saturday

In Defying the Odds, we discuss the 2016 campaign. The 2019 update includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms. The 2020 race, the subject of our next book, is well underway Trump is exploiting presidential power in unprecedented ways.

Stephen Collinson at CNN:

President Donald Trump on Tuesday went further than ever before in putting the degradation of the rule of law at the center of his reelection campaign.

Trump called on his supporters in North Carolina to act as poll watchers, to watch out for "thieving, and stealing and robbing" that he is warning without evidence will taint Election Day. He made his call at a packed rally in Winston-Salem where he and many of his fans made a mockery of the state's mask mandate -- as well as the advice of his own government amid a pandemic that has killed nearly 190,000 Americans and was exacerbated by his prioritizing politics over science.

But most shockingly, and in one of the most stunning maneuvers in the modern history of the Department of Justice, government lawyers Tuesday applied to take over the defense of Trump in a defamation lawsuit filed against him by a woman who accused him of rape in the 1990s.

Kyle Cheney and Josh Gerstein at Politico:

Former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s lies to the FBI are so clear — and their effect on the FBI’s Russia probe so obvious — that the Justice Department’s decision to drop the case can only be a pretext to help an ally of President Donald Trump, a court-appointed adviser to Judge Emmet Sullivan argued Friday.

In an unsparing, 30-page brief, John Gleeson, tapped by Sullivan to argue against the dismissal of the case, suggests that the Justice Department’s arguments for letting Flynn off the hook conflict with its positions in other cases — and even in earlier rounds of the Flynn case itself — and therefore can only be chalked up to Trump’s pressure campaign.

“There is clear evidence that this motion reflects a corrupt and politically motivated favor unworthy of our justice system,” wrote Gleeson, a former federal judge in Manhattan who was appointed by President Bill Clinton.

Ryan J. Reilly at Huffington Post:

An elected prosecutor who took a role in Donald Trump’s presidential commission on law enforcement has resigned, telling Attorney General William Barr that he is concerned the commission was “intent on providing cover for a predetermined agenda that ignores the lessons of the past” and will issue a final report that “will only widen the divisions in our nation.”

Trump formed the Presidential Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice late last October, announcing its formation at the International Association of Chiefs of Police’s annual meeting. Trump’s order mandated that the commission issue a report within one year ― a deadline that falls just days ahead of the 2020 presidential election.

The commission is stacked with members of law enforcement, and the American Civil Liberties Union has questioned whether it is a “sham commission formed only for the purposes of advancing a ‘Thin Blue Line’ law and order agenda.”

John Choi, the elected prosecutor in Ramsey County, Minnesota, served as a member of the commission’s criminal justice system personnel intersection working group. But Choi, whose county includes the city of St. Paul, wrote in a letter to Barr that he was quitting his role on one of the commission’s 17 working groups because he worries the final report “will vilify local prosecutors who exercise their well settled prosecutorial discretion consistent with their community’s values and the interests of justice.”

Morgan Chalfant at The Hill:

President Trump said Thursday that he would “very quickly” stifle riots on election night if Democrats organize protests against his potential victory, suggesting he would do so by employing a law allowing him to deploy active-duty troops domestically.

“We’ll put them down very quickly if they do that. We have the right to do that, we have the power to do that if we want,” Trump told Fox News host Jeanine Pirro when asked how he would stop potential riots on election night should he win.

“Look, it’s called insurrection. We just send in and we do it, very easy. I mean, it’s very easy. I’d rather not do that because there’s no reason for it, but if we had to we’d do that and put it down within minutes,” Trump continued.

Trump appeared to be referring to the Insurrection Act, an 1807 law that authorizes the commander in chief to deploy U.S. troops domestically to enforce federal or state laws under certain circumstances. The law has been used in rare and extreme cases in U.S. history, and Trump endured backlash when he suggested he could use the provision earlier this year to quell protests following the police killing of George Floyd.
Dan Diamond at Politico:
The CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports are authored by career scientists and serve as the main vehicle for the agency to inform doctors, researchers and the general public about how Covid-19 is spreading and who is at risk. Such reports have historically been published with little fanfare and no political interference, said several longtime health department officials, and have been viewed as a cornerstone of the nation's public health work for decades.

But since Michael Caputo, a former Trump campaign official with no medical or scientific background, was installed in April as the health department's new spokesperson, there have been substantial efforts to align the reports with Trump's statements, including the president's claims that fears about the outbreak are overstated, or stop the reports altogether.

Caputo and his team have attempted to add caveats to the CDC's findings, including an effort to retroactively change agency reports that they said wrongly inflated the risks of Covid-19 and should have made clear that Americans sickened by the virus may have been infected because of their own behavior, according to the individuals familiar with the situation and emails reviewed by POLITICO.

Friday, September 11, 2020

Russia Russia Russia, Redux

In Defying the Odds, we discuss Russian involvement in the 2016 campaign  The update includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms.  Russia is making a similar effort this year.

Zolan Kanno-Youngs and Nicholas Fandos at NYT:
Top officials with the Department of Homeland Security directed agency analysts to downplay threats from violent white supremacy and Russian election interference, a Homeland Security official said in a whistle-blower complaint released on Wednesday.
Brian Murphy, the former head of the Homeland Security Department’s intelligence branch, said in the complaint that he was ordered this spring by Chad F. Wolf, the acting secretary of the department, to stop producing assessments on Russian interference and focus instead on Iran and China. That request, Mr. Murphy said, was routed through Mr. Wolf from Robert C. O’Brien, the White House national security adviser.
Mr. Wolf later told him not to disseminate a report on a Russian disinformation campaign to denigrate Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s mental health because it “made the president look bad,” said Mr. Murphy, who warned that the actions in their totality threatened national security.
Zachary Cohen, Kylie Atwood and Marshall Cohen at CNN:
The US Treasury Department on Thursday announced new sanctions against a Ukrainian lawmaker, accusing him of being an "active Russian agent" who is part of Moscow's interference in the 2020 campaign.
The controversial Ukrainian lawmaker, Andrii Derkach, has close ties to President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and was already singled out earlier this summer by the US intelligence community for helping Moscow's ongoing efforts to weaken Democratic nominee Joe Biden.
Now, Derkach has been explicitly labeled a Russian agent by the US government and sanctioned for attempting to influence the upcoming election.
...
The announcement on Thursday was an extraordinary step by the US government to publicly condemn Russia's ongoing interference in the 2020 election. It shows how some parts of the US government are cracking down on Russia's anti-Biden meddling, while Trump has openly embraced the Russian effort and hasn't spoken out against it.
The news also raises the stakes for Giuliani, who collaborated with Derkach to spread anti-Biden material during Trump's impeachment. The Treasury statement now means Giuliani collaborated with "an active Russian agent," which is precisely the type of behavior that led to allegations of Trump-Russia collusion in the 2016 election. Asked about the news, Giuliani texted CNN, "Who cares."
...
Derkach is among a small group of Ukrainian political figures who have, over the past year, injected themselves into the 2020 election by promoting dubious claims of corruption against Biden and releasing alleged audiotapes from Biden's diplomatic work as vice president.
He has worked closely with Giuliani to peddle anti-Biden material, much of which has also been embraced by Republican lawmakers and right-wing outlets like OANN, according to CNN reporting and Derkach's public statements.
From Microsoft:
In recent weeks, Microsoft has detected cyberattacks targeting people and organizations involved in the upcoming presidential election, including unsuccessful attacks on people associated with both the Trump and Biden campaigns, as detailed below. We have and will continue to defend our democracy against these attacks through notifications of such activity to impacted customers, security features in our products and services, and legal and technical disruptions. The activity we are announcing today makes clear that foreign activity groups have stepped up their efforts targeting the 2020 election as had been anticipated, and is consistent with what the U.S. government and others have reported. We also report here on attacks against other institutions and enterprises worldwide that reflect similar adversary activity.
We have observed that:
  • Strontium, operating from Russia, has attacked more than 200 organizations including political campaigns, advocacy groups, parties and political consultants
  • Zirconium, operating from China, has attacked high-profile individuals associated with the election, including people associated with the Joe Biden for President campaign and prominent leaders in the international affairs community
  • Phosphorus, operating from Iran, has continued to attack the personal accounts of people associated with the Donald J. Trump for President campaign

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Trump Knew

In Defying the Odds, we discuss the 2016 campaign. The 2019 update includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms. The 2020 race, the subject of our next book, is well underway.   It unfolds as Coronavirus presents unprecedented challenges to public policy and the electoral process.

On February 26, Trump said the coronavirus case count "within a couple days is going to be down close to zero."  The case count now stands at 6.4 million.

This week, the death toll topped 190,000.

Jamie Gangel, Jeremy Herb and Elizabeth Stuart at CNN:

President Donald Trump admitted he knew weeks before the first confirmed US coronavirus death that the virus was dangerous, airborne, highly contagious and "more deadly than even your strenuous flus," and that he repeatedly played it down publicly, according to legendary journalist Bob Woodward in his new book "Rage."

"This is deadly stuff," Trump told Woodward on February 7.

In a series of interviews with Woodward, Trump revealed that he had a surprising level of detail about the threat of the virus earlier than previously known. "Pretty amazing," Trump told Woodward, adding that the coronavirus was maybe five times "more deadly" than the flu.


Josh Dawsey, Felicia Sonmez and Paul Kane at WP:

Democrats, led by presidential nominee Joe Biden, denounced Trump’s actions as part of a deliberate effort to lie to the public for his own political purposes when other world leaders took decisive action to warn their people and set those nations on a better path to handling the pandemic....

 The president’s top political advisers, including campaign manager Bill Stepien, have long viewed the coronavirus as the president’s biggest albatross and have argued for Trump to address it more forcefully. The book, particularly with the audio, could be a potent attack area for Biden’s campaign, Republicans close to Trump said, with internal and public polling consistently showing a majority of voters do not agree with the president’s response to the pandemic.

“Our problem is that every day we are focused on something other than defining Joe Biden as a liberal is a bad day for us,” said one campaign adviser, also speaking on the condition of anonymity to comment freely about internal deliberations.


 

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Election Fraud

In Defying the Odds, we discuss the 2016 campaign. The 2019 update includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms. The 2020 race, the subject of our next book, is well under way Coronavirus has prompted some states to expand voting by mail.

Ginsberg continues:
The president’s words make his and the Republican Party’s rhetoric look less like sincere concern — and more like transactional hypocrisy designed to provide an electoral advantage. And they come as Republicans trying to make their cases in courts must deal with the basic truth that four decades of dedicated investigation have produced only isolated incidents of election fraud.

These are painful conclusions for me to reach. Before retiring from law practice last month, I spent 38 years in the GOP’s legal trenches. I was part of the 1990s redistricting that ended 40 years of Democratic control and brought 30 years of GOP successes in Congress and state legislatures. I played a central role in the 2000 Florida recount and several dozen Senate, House and state contests. I served as counsel to all three Republican national party committees and represented four of the past six Republican presidential nominees (including, through my law firm, Trump 2020).

Each Election Day since 1984, I’ve been in precincts looking for voting violations, or in Washington helping run the nationwide GOP Election Day operations, overseeing the thousands of Republican lawyers and operatives each election on alert for voting fraud. In every election, Republicans have been in polling places and vote tabulation centers. Republican lawyers in every state have been able to examine mail-in/absentee ballot programs.

The president has said that “the only way we can lose … is if cheating goes on.” He has asserted that mail-in voting is “very dangerous” and that “there is tremendous fraud involved and tremendous illegality.”

The lack of evidence renders these claims unsustainable. The truth is that after decades of looking for illegal voting, there’s no proof of widespread fraud. At most, there are isolated incidents — by both Democrats and Republicans. Elections are not rigged. Absentee ballots use the same process as mail-in ballots — different states use different labels for the same process.

The Trump 2016 campaign, of which I was not a part, could produce no hard evidence of systemic fraud. Trump established a Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity in 2017 to expose all the fraud he maintains permeates our elections. He named the most vociferous hunters of Democratic election fraud to run the commission. It disbanded without finding anything.

The Heritage Foundation Election Fraud Database has compiled every instance of any kind of voter fraud it could find since 1982. It contains 1,296 incidents, a minuscule percentage of the votes cast. A study of results in three states where all voters are mailed actual ballots, a practice at the apex of the president’s outrage, found just 372 possible cases of illegal voting of 14.6 million cast in the 2016 and 2018 general elections — 0.0025 percent.

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Campaign Finance: Trump's Wasted Interregnum

In Defying the Odds, we discuss campaign finance and campaign technology.
Shane Goldmacher and Maggie Haberman at NYT:
Money was supposed to have been one of the great advantages of incumbency for President Trump, much as it was for President Barack Obama in 2012 and George W. Bush in 2004. After getting outspent in 2016, Mr. Trump filed for re-election on the day of his inauguration — earlier than any other modern president — betting that the head start would deliver him a decisive financial advantage this year.
It seemed to have worked. His rival, Joseph R. Biden Jr., was relatively broke when he emerged as the presumptive Democratic nominee this spring, and Mr. Trump and the Republican National Committee had a nearly $200 million cash advantage.
Five months later, Mr. Trump’s financial supremacy has evaporated. Of the $1.1 billon his campaign and the party raised from the beginning of 2019 through July, more than $800 million has already been spent. Now some people inside the campaign are forecasting what was once unthinkable: a cash crunch with less than 60 days until the election, according to Republican officials briefed on the matter.
Brad Parscale, the former campaign manager, liked to call Mr. Trump’s re-election war machine an “unstoppable juggernaut.” But interviews with more than a dozen current and former campaign aides and Trump allies, and a review of thousands of items in federal campaign filings, show that the president’s campaign and the R.N.C. developed some profligate habits as they burned through hundreds of millions of dollars. Since Bill Stepien replaced Mr. Parscale in July, the campaign has imposed a series of belt-tightening measures that have reshaped initiatives, including hiring practices, travel and the advertising budget.
How the pandemic helped Biden:
One of the reasons Mr. Biden was able to wipe away Mr. Trump’s early cash edge was that he sharply contained costs with a minimalistic campaign during the pandemic’s worst months. Trump officials derisively dismissed it as his “basement” strategy, but from that basement Mr. Biden fully embraced Zoom fund-raisers, with top donors asked to give as much as $720,000.
These virtual events typically took less than 90 minutes of the candidate’s time, could raise millions of dollars and cost almost nothing. Mr. Trump has almost entirely refused to hold such fund-raisers. Aides say he doesn’t like them.