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Divided We Stand

Divided We Stand
New book about the 2020 election.

Sunday, January 31, 2021

Decline of the GOP

 In Defying the Odds, we discuss the 2016 campaign. Divided We Stand, our next book looks at 2020.  One topic is the way Trump changed (or at least revealed) the GOP.

Jonathan Martin at NYT:

This past week illustrated Mr. McCarthy’s challenge. In a conference call on Wednesday, he instructed House Republicans to “cut the crap,” according to two officials who participated. While he didn’t specify what he had in mind, there were plenty of options, from Republicans’ trying to punish Representative Liz Cheney for voting to impeach former President Donald J. Trump to the extremism of Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, the QAnon devotee whose paper trail of conspiracy mongering keeps growing.

Then on Thursday, Mr. McCarthy made a pilgrimage to Mar-a-Lago to meet with Mr. Trump and declare that the former president was “committed to helping elect Republicans in the House and Senate in 2022.” Hours later, two of Mr. Trump’s most enthusiastic lieutenants, his eldest son and Representative Matt Gaetz, used a rally in Wyoming to highlight one Republican they’re committed to helping elect next year: whoever challenges Ms. Cheney in her primary.

By Saturday, after Mr. McCarthy’s aides said he would talk to Ms. Greene this week about her conduct, the congresswoman put out word that she had just had a conversation with Mr. Trump and he encouraged her on.

Tara Palmeri at Politico:

When the opportunity arose to fly across the country to see whether a slick-suited, 30-something congressman from Florida could stage a substantial rally in the name of DONALD TRUMP — in the district of a thrice-elected congresswoman with next-level name recognition — I knew I couldn’t resist.

And you know what, MATT GAETZ pulled it off.

On the steps of the Wyoming statehouse Thursday, at least 800 people were chanting “USA! USA!” while the GOP upstart (joined by DONALD TRUMP JR. via phone) blasted the state’s only congresswoman, LIZ CHENEY. It was a pocket-sized crowd compared to an actual Trump rally, but the maskless baby boomers in red MAGA caps emitted that same feverish voltage.

I knew going in this was Trump country, and that Cheney angered his many fans with her vote to impeach him. But I wanted to try to gauge just how deep the anger ran.

My takeaway, after an admittedly short stay and small sample size: If Cheney were up for reelection in 2021 instead of 2022, she’d be in serious trouble.

Honestly, it was hard to find anyone who would defend Cheney — and I really tried to talk to as many people as I could not at the rally. I stopped at a biker bar, a gun shop, a vape shop, a hardware store, a steakhouse, a diner, a dentist’s office and a pawn shop.

Michael Kranish, Reis Thebault and Stephanie McCrummen at WP:

Greene trounced neurosurgeon John Cowan in the runoff and easily won in the fall — paving the way for her emergence as a symbol of the radicalized ideology that believes in QAnon, which inspired the pro-Trump rioters who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 and has enveloped much of the Republican Party while sparking fears of additional violence.

While some Republicans have tried to portray Greene as a political anomaly, her ascent demonstrates the extent to which key party leaders embraced her and propelled her to victory despite her well-documented history of spreading false claims and violent rhetoric. Critical to Greene’s success was the early intervention on her behalf by some of the party’s most staunchly pro-Trump figures and Greene’s ability to tap into the far-right online world where baseless claims thrive.

“She really got ingratiated with the House Freedom Caucus, and they’re the ones who really spring-boarded her,” Cowan told The Washington Post. “They were clearly picking their favorite from very early on.

Greene said at a [2019] GOP breakfast that “I started getting phone calls from the most conservative members in the House Freedom Caucus. Debbie Meadows — Mark Meadows’ wife — Jim Jordan, Andy Biggs,” according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Biggs (R-Ariz.) is chairman of the Freedom Caucus.

At the time, Mark Meadows was preparing to resign his seat as a North Carolina member of the House to become Trump’s chief of staff, and Debbie Meadows would become executive director of Right Women, a political action committee devoted to electing women who agree to become members of the House Freedom Caucus. The website of Right Women said that it has a “robust vetting process,” suggesting it would have been aware of the reporting about Greene’s comments.
Jonathan Swan and Alayna Treene at Axios:
Greene also came up repeatedly during McCarthy's leadership meetings last summer, a source with direct knowledge told Axios.
  • Scalise, Cheney and Walker gathered for the weekly meeting in the conference room of McCarthy's office in the Capitol and plotted how they should deal with her.
  • Walker, now running for North Carolina's open Senate seat in 2022, strenuously argued they needed to do more to stop this "crazy" woman who threatened to bring down the party, according to a source with direct knowledge.
  • Cheney (R-Wyo.) also spoke up aggressively in these meetings about the danger of having Greene in the party.
  • Scalise (R-La.) and McCarthy (R-Calif.) ended up putting out statements condemning her, yet McCarthy didn't do much beyond that once it was clear she was going to win the race by a healthy margin.

Friday, January 29, 2021

Woes for CA GOP

In Defying the Odds, we discuss the 2016 campaign. Divided We Stand, our next book, looks at 2020. Republicans picked up House seats in CA, but otherwise the party remained in decline. The Assembly currently has 60 Democrats and 19 Republicans, one vacancy. The State Senate has 30 Democrats and 9 Republicans, one vacancy.

Just days after tweeting a false claim about this month’s mob storming of the U.S. Capitol, state Sen. Shannon Grove of Bakersfield, a staunch supporter of former President Trump, was replaced Wednesday as the leader of the California Senate Republicans after having served in the position for two years.

Grove will be succeeded by state Sen. Scott Wilk of Santa Clarita. Her ouster as leader by the Senate Republican Caucus came after two of its 11 seats changed hands in the November election.
Lara Korte at The Sacramento Bee:
Robb Korinke of GrassrootsLab, who tracks California local government, said the number of Republicans winning city and county seats declined in recent years.

Previously, it wasn’t uncommon for Californians to vote Democratic in national and statewide elections while electing Republicans to their local councils. But that’s changed within the last decade.

“There were many of those, six or eight years ago, dozens of cities that were Democratic majority voters but had a Republican-majority council,” Korinke said. “That went away.”

California saw 607 newly elected city officials in 2020. Of those, Democrats outnumber Republicans two to one.

Winning local races is key for building the kind of name recognition and reputation that can bolster a candidate to state office. But now, in the wake of Trump, moderate Republicans are less likely to win seats in local government, Korinke said. More polarizing candidates could run for those local seats instead, but they’re unlikely to be viable at the state level.

“The brand has become so toxic at the top of the ticket that none of the people will wear it at the bottom of the ticket,” Korinke said.

Thursday, January 28, 2021

GOP, Q, and DJT


In Defying the Odds, we discuss Trump's dishonesty and his record of disregarding the rule of law.  Our next book, Divided We Stand, looks at the 2020 election and the January 6 insurrection.

Michael Scherer and Josh Dawsey at WP:
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell announced little more than a week ago that the mob that attacked the U.S. Capitol had been “provoked” by Donald Trump. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said Trump “bears responsibility” for failing to respond more quickly to the bloody incursion.

But that was then.

The nation’s two most powerful elected Republicans have signaled that they are ready to look past questions of responsibility for the violent effort to overturn the result of the presidential election, an attempt that left a Capitol Police officer and four rioters dead, as they maneuver to avoid a divisive battle within the Republican Party and try to position it to reclaim power in 2022.

McConnell (R-Ky.) voted Tuesday against a procedural motion to proceed with Trump’s impeachment in the Senate, while McCarthy (R-Calif.) planned to meet with Trump in Florida on Thursday to mend relations that were frayed by the Jan. 6 attack, according to an adviser to the former president.
Olivia Beavers at Politico:
McCarthy is meeting face-to-face with Trump today in the minority leader’s latest attempt to get back in the ex-president’s good graces. (H/t to Punchbowl News, which first reported these plans.) As many of you know, McCarthy incensed the former president with his impeachment floor speech, as well as floating censuring the president over the deadly Jan. 6 attacks.

Our friends at Playbook report that Trumpworld is elated: “It’s the first solid bit of evidence that Donald Trump is still in charge of the party,” one Trump adviser told them.

McCarthy has a lot to gain too: The House GOP is still Trump’s party. If McCarthy wants the confidence of his members – and the eventual speakership if Republicans take back the House – he needs the backing of the Trump wing.

Side note: In a sign of just how deep loyalty to Trump runs, one House staffer who works for an anti-certification GOP member tells me their office has received multiple calls from constituents who say the rioters didn’t inflict enough damage and that there should’ve been more people storming the Capitol.


Marjorie Taylor Greene isn’t doing McCarthy any favors. The freshman is facing widespread condemnation for her incendiary remarks before she ran for Congress, and she isn’t backing down.

The backlash over her social media activity, where she endorsed violent, QAnon-tied conspiracy theories, is escalating. Rep. Jimmy Gomez (D-Calif.) is introducing a resolution that pushes for Greene to be expelled from Congress over what he argued was her “advocacy for extremism and sedition,” a call that other Democrats have echoed if she doesn’t resign. 

 Em Steck and Andrew Kaczynski, CNN:

Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene repeatedly indicated support for executing prominent Democratic politicians in 2018 and 2019 before being elected to Congress, a CNN KFile review of hundreds of posts and comments from Greene's Facebook page shows.
Greene, who represents Georgia's 14th Congressional District, frequently posted far-right extremist and debunked conspiracy theories on her page, including the baseless QAnon conspiracy which casts former President Donald Trump in an imagined battle against a sinister cabal of Democrats and celebrities who abuse children.
In one post, from January 2019, Greene liked a comment that said "a bullet to the head would be quicker" to remove House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. In other posts, Greene liked comments about executing FBI agents who, in her eyes, were part of the "deep state" working against Trump.

  Paul LeBlanc, CNN:

Video of Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene confronting Parkland shooting survivor David Hogg before she was elected to Congress went viral Wednesday amid an uproar over newly surfaced comments she made in 2018 and 2019 as reported by CNN's KFile.
In the video from March 2019, Greene follows Hogg as he walks toward the US Capitol. She can be heard making false and baseless claims as she asks him a series of questions related to gun rights and how he was able to meet with senators. Hogg continues to walk without addressing Greene.
"He's a coward," Greene says at the end of the video as Hogg walks away, claiming his activism was funded by billionaire philanthropist George Soros, who is often the subject of far-right conspiracy theories, and other liberals. "He can't say one word because he can't defend his stance."
Greene -- who has previously called Hogg "#littleHitler" -- said in a written statement to CNN that the video was taken while she was in Washington, "going from office to office in the Senate to oppose the radical gun control agenda that David Hogg was pushing."

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

The Trump Party

In Defying the Odds, we discuss Trump's dishonesty and his record of disregarding the rule of law.  Our next book, Divided We Stand, looks at the 2020 election and the January 6 insurrection.

 Barbara Sprunt at NPR:

After senators were sworn in Tuesday afternoon as jurors in the impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump, Sen. Rand Paul quickly pressed for a vote to force lawmakers on the record over the issue of the trial's constitutionality.

The Senate voted 55-45 to reject the Kentucky Republican's argument that the impeachment trial is unconstitutional because Trump is no longer in office.

Just five Republicans — Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Ben Sasse of Nebraska, Mitt Romney of Utah and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania — joined Democrats in voting to table the motion. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., notably voted with most of the GOP conference in support of Paul's motion.


David Siders at Politico:
In Washington state, several Republican Party county chairs called Monday for the resignation of Republican Rep. Dan Newhouse, who voted for impeachment. The Republican Party of Oregon formally condemned “the betrayal” of the 10 House members who voted to impeach. Over the weekend, Arizona Republicans, despite watching their party founder during the Trump era, voted to censure Cindy McCain, former Sen. Jeff Flake and Gov. Doug Ducey, while reelecting a Trump loyalist, Kelli Ward, as state party chair.

And in Wyoming — a state that went 70 percent for Trump in November — the Republican Party of Carbon County voted to censure the state’s representative, Liz Cheney, for her vote to impeach Trump.



In Defying the Odds, we discuss Trump's dishonesty and his record of disregarding the rule of law.  Our next book, Divided We Stand, looks at the 2020 election and the January 6 insurrection.

 Ryan Goodman and Justin Hendrix at Just Security:

How direct is the connection between what President Donald Trump communicated to his supporters and their actions in laying siege to the U.S. Capitol? Videos recorded by many individuals over the course of the day provide some answers. A portion of these videos have not been seen widely before, including video footage largely from the platform Parler showing how the crowd reacted in real time to some of the most potent lines in Trump’s speech at the Ellipse. The videos, along with other information in the public record, provide strong evidence of a causal link between Trump’s messages to his supporters and their dangerous, illegal conduct. The collection of videos, viewed chronologically, also shows the ways in which Trump placed the life of Vice President Mike Pence, among others, in grave danger.

Monday, January 25, 2021

Old Gun McCarthy


  Our next book, Divided We Stand, discusses the 2020 results. Congress is a big part of the story.

Alayna Treene at Axios:

What they're saying: "We're eating sh*t for breakfast, lunch and dinner right now," a McCarthy aide told Axios. The aide requested anonymity to speak frankly about his boss's situation.

Pressure is mounting on McCarthy financially, politically and publicly.
  • Corporate donors are freezing him out for challenging the Electoral College vote on Jan. 6.
  • The media is lampooning him for initially saying "the president bears responsibility" for the Capitol attack but amending that last week to say, “I don’t believe he provoked it, if you listen to what he said at the rally."
  • McCarthy also got hit for saying during an interview this weekend that "everyone" bears responsibility for the political temperature in the country.
  • Meanwhile, the pro-Trump wing of his conference is angry with him for not condemning Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) more forcefully after she voted to impeach Trump.
Driving the news: McCarthy explained his comments on Thursday during an interview this weekend with van Susteren. He also signaled limits to his support for Cheney, the conference chair and No. 3 House Republican.
  • "Look, I support her, but I also have concerns," he said, adding there are “a lot of questions” she needs to address during a conference meeting later this week.

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Full-Metal Crackpot


Our forthcoming book is titled Divided We Stand: The 2020 Elections and American Politics.  Among other things, it discusses the state of the parties:

Ronald J. Hansen and Yvonne Wingett Sanchez at The Arizona Republic:

Kelli Ward, the fractious leader of the Arizona Republican Party, narrowly beat back significant competition on Saturday to win another two-year term as the organization's chairwoman despite the endorsement of former President Donald Trump.

The closely watched result offers an early, state-level indication that Trump retains sway over the activist base of the GOP, though it is more tenuous. The election also suggests the longstanding divisions in the state party in the Trump era have not abated.  

Ward’s reelection was considered a foregone conclusion weeks ago, but many in the GOP had misgivings about the party’s past electoral performance on her watch and an uncertain future heading into the 2022 midterm elections. 

The party members later passed three resolutions censuring high-profile Republicans: Gov. Doug Ducey, former Sen. Jeff Flake and Cindy McCain. It was another sign of the party's move to the right.

The party censured Ducey over his decision to impose emergency rules during the pandemic that the GOP said "restrict personal liberties and force compliance to unconstitutional edicts."

McCain, who endorsed President Joe Biden, "has supported globalist policies and candidates" and "condemned President Trump for his criticism of her husband and erroneously placed behaviors over actual presidential results."

Flake has "condemned the Republican Party, rejected populism, and rejected the interests of the American people over globalist interests." The party suggested Flake join the Democrats.

Josh Dawsey and Michael Scherer at WP:

 Former president Donald Trump threw himself back into politics this weekend by publicly endorsing a devoted and divisive acolyte in Arizona who has embraced his false election conspiracy theories and entertained the creation of a new "MAGA Party."

In a recorded phone call, Trump offered his “complete and total endorsement” for another term for Arizona state party chairwoman Kelli Ward, a lightning rod who has sparred with the state’s Republican governor, been condemned by the business community and overseen a recent flight in party registrations. She narrowly won reelection, by a margin of 51.5 percent to 48.5 percent, marking Trump’s first victory in a promised battle to maintain political relevance and influence after losing the 2020 election.

In recent weeks, Trump has entertained the idea of creating a third party, called the Patriot Party, and instructed his aides to prepare election challenges to lawmakers who crossed him in the final weeks in office, including Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R), Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Rep. Tom Rice (R-S.C.), according to people familiar with the plans.

 Multiple people in Trump’s orbit, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations, say Trump has told people that the third-party threat gives him leverage to prevent Republican senators from voting to convict him during the Senate impeachment trial. Trump advisers also say they plan to recruit opposing primary candidates and commission polling next week in districts of targeted lawmakers. Trump has more than $70 million in campaign cash banked to fund his political efforts, these people say.


Katie Benner and Catie Edmondson at NYT:

When Representative Scott Perry joined his colleagues in a monthslong campaign to undermine the results of the presidential election, promoting “Stop the Steal” events and supporting an attempt to overturn millions of legally cast votes, he often took a back seat to higher-profile loyalists in President Donald J. Trump’s orbit.

But Mr. Perry, an outspoken Pennsylvania Republican, played a significant role in the crisis that played out at the top of the Justice Department this month, when Mr. Trump considered firing the acting attorney general and backed down only after top department officials threatened to resign en masse.

It was Mr. Perry, a member of the hard-line Freedom Caucus, who first made Mr. Trump aware that a relatively obscure Justice Department official, Jeffrey Clark, the acting chief of the civil division, was sympathetic to Mr. Trump’s view that the election had been stolen, according to former administration officials who spoke with Mr. Clark and Mr. Trump.

Michael Warren Davis at The American Conservative praises Portuguese dictator António de Oliveira Salazar (d. 1970).

 If we Americans lack the self-discipline necessary for self-government, if liberalism is off the table, the only alternative to a tyrant like Lenin or Hitler may be a man like Salazar: a paternalistic traditionalist, a philosopher-king.


Saturday, January 23, 2021

Pustch Update

In Defying the Odds, we discuss Trump's dishonesty and his record of disregarding the rule of law.  Our next book, Divided We Stand, looks at the 2020 election.

Katie Benner at NYT:

The Justice Department’s top leaders listened in stunned silence this month: One of their peers, they were told, had devised a plan with President Donald J. Trump to oust Jeffrey A. Rosen as acting attorney general and wield the department’s power to force Georgia state lawmakers to overturn its presidential election results.

The unassuming lawyer who worked on the plan, Jeffrey Clark, had been devising ways to cast doubt on the election results and to bolster Mr. Trump’s continuing legal battles and the pressure on Georgia politicians. Because Mr. Rosen had refused the president’s entreaties to carry out those plans, Mr. Trump was about to decide whether to fire Mr. Rosen and replace him with Mr. Clark.

The department officials, convened on a conference call, then asked each other: What will you do if Mr. Rosen is dismissed?

The answer was unanimous. They would resign.

Their informal pact ultimately helped persuade Mr. Trump to keep Mr. Rosen in place, calculating that a furor over mass resignations at the top of the Justice Department would eclipse any attention on his baseless accusations of voter fraud. Mr. Trump’s decision came only after Mr. Rosen and Mr. Clark made their competing cases to him in a bizarre White House meeting that two officials compared with an episode of Mr. Trump’s reality show “The Apprentice,” albeit one that could prompt a constitutional crisis.

Anna Massoglia at Open Secrets:

Former President Donald Trump’s presidential campaign aides played key roles orchestrating a rally protesting certification of President-elect Joe Biden‘s victory in the 2020 presidential election before hundreds of rioters breached the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

But the full extent of the Trump campaign’s ties to the protests may not be not fully known due to its use of shell companies that hide details of its financial dealings and the central role “dark money” played in the protests.

Multiple individuals listed on the permit granted by the National Park Service worked for Trump’s presidential campaign, as first reported by the Associated Press over the weekend. That raises new questions about the Trump campaign’s lack of spending transparency and the unknown extent of the event’s ties to Trump aides. 
Trump’s campaign disclosed paying more than $2.7 million to the individuals and firms behind the Jan. 6 rally. But FEC disclosures do not necessarily provide a complete picture of the campaign’s financial dealings since so much of its spending was routed through shell companies, making it difficult to know who the campaign paid and when.

Friday, January 22, 2021

You Will Tell Your Grandchildren About These Days:

The past few years have brought many events without clear parallels in living memory.

The1918-20 Great Influenza was not a national political issue.  Wilson never said a word in public about it, though it did affect Congress. From the House historian:

October 07, 1918 On this date, the House public galleries were closed due to the severity of the Spanish influenza pandemic. According to some modern estimates, more than 50 million persons perished worldwide in the 1918–1919 outbreak; most sources attribute approximately 675,000 deaths in the U.S. alone to the Spanish flu. Washington, D.C., swollen by an influx of government workers during the First World War, was particularly hard hit.

And Trump:

And Trump was the first president whom the House impeached twice.

  • In 2019, for pressuring Ukraine to release dirt on Joe Biden.
  • In 2021, for inciting the Capitol insurrection.

It was the first large-scale breach of the Capitol since the War of 1812.

Aversive Partisanship

Just over 42 percent of the people in each party view the opposition as “downright evil.”

Each party views itself and the other:

Domestic Enemies:

We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.

Legal Jeopardy for Trump and Company

In Defying the Odds, we discuss Trump's dishonesty and his record of disregarding the rule of law.  Our next book, Divided We Stand, looks at the 2020 election.

 Lloyd Green at The Guardian:

In case anyone forgot, the US attorneys’ office for the southern district of New York previously treated Trump aka “Individual-1” as un-indicted co-conspirator in Michael Cohen’s case. As a result, the confirmation hearings of Joe Biden’s pick for attorney general, Merrick Garland, will certainly be interesting.

Already, prosecutors in Manhattan have the Orange Don and his crew in their cross-hairs. According to court filings and published reports, Cyrus Vance Jr, Manhattan’s district attorney, is investigating the truthfulness of the Trump Organization’s financial reporting and the company’s relationship with Deutsche Bank.

It is not for nothing that Trump again appealed to the US supreme court to quash a subpoena issued to his accountants for eight years of tax returns. Trump previously lost a similar bid last summer.

Back in July, Chief Justice John Roberts derailed Trump’s efforts to shroud his tax filings from Vance’s office. “No citizen, not even the president, is categorically above the common duty to produce evidence when called upon in a criminal proceeding”, wrote Roberts. For good measure, Brett Kavanaugh, the infamous Trump appointee added: “In our system of government, as this court has often stated, no one is above the law.”


In addition, Trump’s recent bouts of wrath have given lawyers in Washington and Georgia plenty to ponder. Local authorities in the Peach state are weighing a criminal investigation into his failed efforts to browbeat Brad Raffensperger, the state’s secretary of state, into submission. Trump telling Raffensperger to “find” 11,779 more votes and interfering with election certification may have been a step too far.

And then there is the Trump-fomented insurrection. When Bill Barr, Trump’s second attorney general, lays the blame at his one-time boss’ feet, it is clear that the story is no longer simply about over-zealous House Democrats. Likewise, when Senator Mitch McConnell accuses the president of “feeding the mob lies” and provoking insurrection, conviction of Trump by the US senate is very much on the table.

In a word, Trump’s problems aren’t disappearing. Two separate federal statutes and a law on DC’s books may have criminalized Trump’s exhortations to his devotees to “fight like hell” in the face of his loss, a reality acknowledged by Karl Racine, the District’s attorney general.

Andrew Weissman at Just Security:

[O]ddly, not all of Trump’s pardons followed the Flynn model. Indeed, many are narrowly drawn.

The pardon for Paul Manafort (on Dec. 23, 2020), is illustrative. By its own terms, the pardon covers only the crimes “for his conviction” on specific charges and not any other crimes (charged or uncharged). Specifically, the pardon is solely for the crimes of conviction — eight in the Eastern District of Virginia and two in the District of Columbia. That leaves numerous crimes as to which Manafort can still be prosecuted, as in Virginia there were 10 hung counts. In Washington, the situation is even more wide open. In that district, Manafort pleaded to a superseding information containing two conspiracy charges, while the entire underlying indictment — containing numerous crimes from money laundering, to witness tampering, to violation of the Foreign Agents Registration Act — now remains open to prosecution as there was no conviction for those charges.

What’s more, the trial on such charges would be unusually simple. First, as part of his plea agreement, Manafort admitted under oath the criminal conduct in Virginia as to which the jury hung (although he did not plead to those counts and thus they are not subject to the pardon). In addition, he admitted in writing the underlying criminal conduct in Washington. Thus, proving the case could largely consist of introducing Manafort’s sworn admission to the charges.

Second, all such charges could be brought in Washington, and not require two separate trials (in Virginia and D.C.), since Manafort waived venue in his plea agreement Third, Manafort waived the statute of limitations — the deadline by which a prosecution must be brought — and thus all these charges would not be time-barred.

Finally, because the Washington, D.C. district judge, the Honorable Amy Berman Jackson, ruled in February 2019 that Manafort breached his cooperation agreement by repeatedly lying to the government, the court found that the government is not bound by the provision in the cooperation agreement not to pursue these other charges. That cooperation agreement explicitly provides that Manafort’s admissions as part of his plea can be used against him in a future trial of such charges.


Thursday, January 21, 2021

Planless: An Unpleasant COVID Surprise

IDefying the Odds, we discuss the 2016 campaign. The 2019 update includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms.  Our next book, title TBA, discusses the 2020 race, which unfolded in the shadow of the Coronavirus pandemic.  News about the development and approval of vaccines is good.  Other COVID news is bad.

More than 400,000 Americans have died.

MJ Lee at CNN:'
Newly sworn in President Joe Biden and his advisers are inheriting no coronavirus vaccine distribution plan to speak of from the Trump administration, sources tell CNN, posing a significant challenge for the new White House.

The Biden administration has promised to try to turn the Covid-19 pandemic around and drastically speed up the pace of vaccinating Americans against the virus. But in the immediate hours following Biden being sworn into office on Wednesday, sources with direct knowledge of the new administration's Covid-related work told CNN one of the biggest shocks that the Biden team had to digest during the transition period was what they saw as a complete lack of a vaccine distribution strategy under former President Donald Trump, even weeks after multiple vaccines were approved for use in the United States.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Crooked to the End

In Defying the Odds, we discuss Trump's dishonesty and his record of disregarding the rule of law.  Our next book, Divided We Stand, looks at the 2020 election.

Chief Justice William Howard Taft, writing for the majority in Ex Parte Grossman, 267 U.S. 87 (1925):
To afford a remedy, it has always been thought essential in popular governments, as well as in monarchies, to vest in some other authority than the courts power to ameliorate or avoid particular criminal judgments. It is a check entrusted to the executive for special cases. To exercise it to the extent of destroying the deterrent effect of judicial punishment would be to pervert it; but whoever is to make it useful must have full discretion to exercise it. Our Constitution confers this discretion on the highest officer in the nation in confidence that he will not abuse it

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Unpopular Trump

In Defying the Odds, we discuss the 2016 campaign, where Trump suggested that he would not acknowledge defeat.  Divided We Stand, our next book, explains that his legal challenges to the election of Joseph Biden have toggled between appalling and farcical.    But his base continues to believe the bogus narrative.

Outside the base, people have noticed.

 Jeffrey M. Jones at Gallup:

As President Donald Trump prepares to leave the White House, 34% of Americans approve of the job he is doing as president, the worst evaluation of his presidency. His 41% average approval rating throughout his presidency is four points lower than for any of his predecessors in Gallup's polling era. Trump's ratings showed a record 81-percentage-point average gap between Republicans and Democrats -- 11 points wider than the prior record.
Trump's refusal to concede the election and his attempts to overturn the results, the Jan. 6 riots on Capitol Hill, a U.S. surge in coronavirus cases and deaths, and his second impeachment contributed to a postelection erosion in support for him.

The total 12-point drop in approval for Trump after the election is especially notable in that most departing presidents -- including two who were defeated for a second term -- enjoyed increases in job approval ratings between the time of the election to choose their successor and his inauguration. On average, "lame duck presidents" before Trump saw a seven-point increase in job approval. Jimmy Carter is the only other president whose approval ratings declined during the transition period.

Domenico Montanaro at NPR:

As President Trump is set to leave the White House after a tumultuous and chaotic four years, having been the first president to ever be impeached twice and having his last year dominated by a worldwide pandemic, most Americans say he will go down as either below average or one of the worst presidents in U.S. history, according to an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist survey.
Ben Leonard at Politico:
Republican support for convicting President Donald Trump in his Senate impeachment trial has grown in his final days in office, according to a POLITICO/Morning Consult poll released Tuesday.

About 20 percent of Republicans said they “strongly” or “somewhat” approved of convicting in the latest poll, conducted Jan. 15-17. That’s an increase from the previous poll, conducted Jan. 8-11, in which 14 percent of Republicans said the same.

Monday, January 18, 2021

Complicity in the Insurrection

In Defying the Odds, we discuss the 2016 campaign, where Trump suggested that he would not acknowledge defeat.  Divided We Stand, our next book, explains that his legal challenges to the election of Joseph Biden have toggled between appalling and farcical.    But his base continues to believe the bogus narrative.

Last week, Trump's insurrection resulted in his impeachment, 232-197.

Veterans of President Donald Trump’s failed reelection campaign had key roles in orchestrating the Washington rally that spawned a deadly assault on the U.S. Capitol, according to an Associated Press review of records, undercutting the grassroots image pushed by groups involved in the event.

A pro-Trump nonprofit organization called Women for America First hosted the “Save America Rally” on Jan. 6 at the Ellipse, a federally owned patch of land near the White House. But an attachment to the permit, granted by the National Park Service, lists more than half a dozen people in staff positions who just weeks earlier had been paid thousands of dollars by Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign. Other staff scheduled to be “on site” during the protest have close ties to the White House.


 Caroline Wren, a veteran GOP fundraiser, is named as a “VIP Advisor” on an attachment to the permit that Women for America First provided to the Park Service. Between mid-March and mid-November, Donald J. Trump for President Inc. paid Wren $20,000 a month, according to Federal Election Commission records. During the campaign, she was a national finance consultant for Trump Victory, a joint fundraising committee.


Maggie Mulvaney, a niece of former top Trump aide Mick Mulvaney, is listed on the permit attachment as the “VIP Lead.” She worked as director of finance operations for the Trump campaign, according to her LinkedIn profile. FEC records show Maggie Mulvaney was earning $5,000 every two weeks from Trump’s reelection campaign, with the most recent payment reported on November 13.

Robert O'Harrow WP
The fiery rallies that preceded the deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 were organized and promoted by an array of established conservative insiders and activists, documents and videos show.

The Republican Attorneys General Association was involved, as were the activist groups Turning Point Action and Tea Party Patriots. At least six current or former members of the Council for National Policy (CNP), an influential group that for decades has served as a hub for conservative and Christian activists, also played roles in promoting the rallies.

The two days of rallies were staged not by white nationalists and other extremists, but by well-funded nonprofit groups and individuals that figure prominently in the machinery of conservative activism in Washington.

On an online ride-sharing forum, Patriot Caravans for 45, more than 4,000 members coordinated travel from as far away as California and South Dakota. Some 2,000 people donated at least $181,700 to another site, Wild Protest, leaving messages urging ralliers to halt the certification of the vote.

Oath Keepers, a self-identified militia whose members breached the Capitol, had solicited donations online to cover “gas, airfare, hotels, food and equipment.” Many others raised money through the crowdfunding site GoFundMe or, more often, its explicitly Christian counterpart, GiveSendGo. (On Monday, the money transfer service PayPal stopped working with GiveSendGo because of its links to the violence at the Capitol.)


A chief sponsor of many rallies leading up to the riot, including the one featuring the president on Jan. 6, was Women for America First, a conservative nonprofit. Its leaders include Amy Kremer, who rose to prominence in the Tea Party movement, and her daughter, Kylie Jane Kremer, 30. She started a “Stop the Steal” Facebook page on Nov. 4. More than 320,000 people signed up in less than a day, but the platform promptly shut it down for fears of inciting violence. The group has denied any violent intent.

By far the most visible financial backer of Women for America First’s efforts was Mike Lindell, a founder of the MyPillow bedding company, identified on a now-defunct website as one of the “generous sponsors” of a bus tour promoting Mr. Trump's attempt to overturn the election. In addition, he was an important supporter of Right Side Broadcasting, an obscure pro-Trump television network that provided blanket coverage of Trump rallies after the vote, and a podcast run by the former Trump adviser Stephen K. Bannon that also sponsored the bus tour.

Supporters of President Donald Trump are among a handful of groups that have applied for permits to hold protests during Joe Biden’s inauguration. But it appears unlikely their application will be approved as the National Park Service greatly curtails protests as part of a major security lockdown.

The NPS released details Friday of the five permit applications it had received so far for demonstrations. Among them, was a group called “Let America Hear Us, Roar For Trump.”

NPS spokesman Mike Litterst told The Associated Press that the pro-Trump group had “not responded to our repeated attempts to contact them and set up a meeting regarding their application and their permit is therefore unlikely to be issued.”

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Trump's Insurrection

In Defying the Odds, we discuss the 2016 campaign, where Trump suggested that he would not acknowledge defeatDivided We Stand, our next book, explains that his legal challenges to the election of Joseph Biden have toggled between appalling and farcical.    But his base continues to believe the bogus narrative.

Last week, Trump's insurrection resulted in his impeachment, 232-197.

A man from Kentucky told the FBI that he and his cousin began marching toward the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 because “President Trump said to do so.” Chanting “Stop the steal,” the two men tramped through the building and snapped a photo of themselves with their middle fingers raised, according to court documents.

A video clip of another group of rioters mobbing the steps of the Capitol caught one man screaming at a police officer: “We were invited here! We were invited by the president of the United States!”

A retired firefighter from Pennsylvania who has been charged with throwing a fire extinguisher at police officers felt he was “instructed” to go to the Capitol by the president, a tipster told the FBI, according to court documents.

The accounts of people who said they were inspired by the president to take part in the melee inside the Capitol vividly show the impact of Trump’s months-long attack on the integrity of the 2020 election and his exhortations to supporters to “fight” the results.

Some have said they felt called to Washington by Trump and his false message that the election had been stolen, as well as by his efforts to pressure Congress and Vice President Pence to overturn the result.

But others drew an even more direct link — telling the FBI or news organizations that they headed to the Capitol on what they believed were direct orders from the president issued at a rally that day

The Pardon Market

In Defying the Odds, we discuss Trump's dishonesty and his record of disregarding the rule of law.  Our next book, Divided We Stand, looks at the 2020 election.

Michael S. Schmidt and Kenneth P. Vogel at NYT:
As President Trump prepares to leave office in days, a lucrative market for pardons is coming to a head, with some of his allies collecting fees from wealthy felons or their associates to push the White House for clemency, according to documents and interviews with more than three dozen lobbyists and lawyers.

The brisk market for pardons reflects the access peddling that has defined Mr. Trump’s presidency as well as his unorthodox approach to exercising unchecked presidential clemency powers. Pardons and commutations are intended to show mercy to deserving recipients, but Mr. Trump has used many of them to reward personal or political allies.

The pardon lobbying heated up as it became clear that Mr. Trump had no recourse for challenging his election defeat, lobbyists and lawyers say. One lobbyist, Brett Tolman, a former federal prosecutor who has been advising the White House on pardons and commutations, has monetized his clemency work, collecting tens of thousands of dollars, and possibly more, in recent weeks to lobby the White House for clemency for the son of a former Arkansas senator; the founder of the notorious online drug marketplace Silk Road; and a Manhattan socialite who pleaded guilty in a fraud scheme.