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Divided We Stand

Divided We Stand
New book about the 2020 election.

Saturday, September 24, 2022

House GOP Botches Agenda Rollout

Our most recent book is titled Divided We Stand: The 2020 Elections and American Politics.  Among other things, it discusses state and congressional elections

Steve Benen at MSNBC:
It was 15 months ago when House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy first started talking publicly about rolling out a “Commitment to America” agenda. That should’ve given the would-be House speaker and other Republican leaders plenty of time to prepare for a big rollout.

They have reason to be disappointed with how it’s gone.

The first misstep was a couple of days ago, when the House GOP published its blueprint online, only to remove it soon after without explanation, and then republished the whole thing again a day later.

This morning, things got a little worse. The Daily Beast reported:

As he rolled out the first official Republican Party congressional platform in years, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy fittingly invoked the revered father of the GOP: Abraham Lincoln. At the top of a letter to Republican lawmakers thanking them for their contributions to the “Commitment To America” — the policy agenda they are launching near Pittsburgh on Friday — McCarthy included a quote attributed to Lincoln. “Commitment,” reads the quote, “is what transforms a promise into reality.”

It’s a nice quote, but there’s literally no evidence that Lincoln ever said it. The phrase did appear in advertising, however, for Lehman Brothers, a Wall Street giant that collapsed in 2008.

And in case that weren’t quite enough, House Republican leaders this morning also released a video to help promote their agenda, though as HuffPost noted, it had one key flaw.

House Republican leaders on Friday unveiled their “Commitment to America” agenda for 2023 ― and with it, an inspirational video full of scenes presented as exceptional imagery of America that were actually stock footage from Russia and Ukraine.

Friday, September 23, 2022

Ohio Throwaway

Our most recent book is titled Divided We Stand: The 2020 Elections and American Politics.  Among other things, it discusses state and congressional elections

Sometimes parties throw away easily-winnable seats by nominating bad candidates.

Ally Mutnick at Politico:
The House GOP campaign arm is slashing a near-$1 million ad buy meant to target Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) — essentially walking away from what could have been an easy pickup for the party.

The move comes a day after an Associated Press report that Kaptur’s opponent, JR Majewski, lied about his resume, including claiming that he deployed to Afghanistan. Majewski beat out two state legislators in a May primary contest for the northwest Ohio district.

The National Republican Congressional Committee booked $960,000 in the Toledo, Ohio market to help boost Majewski. It cut that buy entirely on Thursday, according to two sources familiar with the committee’s media purchasing.

Kaptur, one of the longest-serving women in the House, was redrawn into a district that President Donald Trump would have carried narrowly, making her one of the most vulnerable Democratic incumbents. National Republicans were not initially enthused about Majewski’s primary win — he is closely aligned with the MAGA wing of the party and gained fame for painting his lawn into a giant Trump shrine.

But they still booked TV time in the district and were set to begin airing ads to help him next week. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, meanwhile, traveled to the district to campaign with him over the summer.

House Democrats have been heartened that GOP primary voters in several districts have chosen more conservative candidates over moderates who would perhaps have more appeal in a swing seat. Ohio was one example: House Majority PAC, Democrats’ flagship congressional super PAC, and Kaptur have been airing ads hammering Majewski for traveling to D.C. for the Jan. 6 riots and painting him as anti-police.

Thursday, September 22, 2022

New York v. 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.  

From the NY Attorney General:
New York Attorney General Letitia James today filed a lawsuit against Donald Trump, the Trump Organization, senior management, and involved entities for engaging in years of financial fraud to obtain a host of economic benefits. The lawsuit alleges that Donald Trump, with the help of his children Donald Trump, Jr., Ivanka Trump, and Eric Trump, and senior executives at the Trump Organization, falsely inflated his net worth by billions of dollars to induce banks to lend money to the Trump Organization on more favorable terms than would otherwise have been available to the company, to satisfy continuing loan covenants, to induce insurers to provide insurance coverage for higher limits and at lower premiums, and to gain tax benefits, among other things. From 2011-2021, Mr. Trump and the Trump Organization knowingly and intentionally created more than 200 false and misleading valuations of assets on his annual Statements of Financial Condition to defraud financial institutions.

This conduct was in violation of New York Executive Law 63(12), which gives the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) special and broad powers to go after persistent and repeated fraud and illegality, which in this case includes violating other state laws prohibiting the submission of false financial statements, the falsification of business records, and the commission of insurance fraud.

As a consequence of these violations, OAG is seeking, among other relief, to: 1) permanently bar Mr. Trump, Donald Trump, Jr., Ivanka Trump, and Eric Trump from serving as an officer or director in any New York corporation or similar business entity registered and/or licensed in New York state; 2) bar Mr. Trump and the Trump Organization from entering into any New York real estate acquisitions for five years; 3) award disgorgement of all financial benefits obtained through the persistent fraudulent practices, estimated to total $250 million.

In conjunction with the lawsuit, OAG has referred the matter to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for criminal investigation.

“For too long, powerful, wealthy people in this country have operated as if the rules do not apply to them. Donald Trump stands out as among the most egregious examples of this misconduct,” said Attorney General James. “With the help of his children and senior executives at the Trump Organization, Donald Trump falsely inflated his net worth by billions of dollars to unjustly enrich himself and cheat the system. In fact, the very foundation of his purported net worth is rooted in incredible fraud and illegality. Mr. Trump thought he could get away with the art of the steal, but today, that conduct ends. There are not two sets of laws for people in this country; we must hold former presidents to the same standards as everyday Americans. I will continue to ensure that no one is able to evade the law, because no one is above it.”

Statements of Financial Condition

This years-long fraudulent scheme centers on the annual Statements of Financial Condition (statements) for Donald Trump that contain Mr. Trump’s or his trustees’ assertions of his net worth. From 2011-2021, these statements were compiled by Trump Organization executives, and were issued as a compilation report by Mr. Trump’s accounting firm. The statements are explicit that the preparation was the responsibility of Mr. Trump or, starting in 2016, the trustees of his revocable trust, Donald Trump Jr., and Allen Weisselberg. The statements were personally certified as accurate by Mr. Trump or by one of his trustees when being presented to financial institutions with the purpose and intent that the information contained in the statement would be relied upon by those institutions.

Over the course of OAG’s three-year investigation, OAG found that between 2011-2021, Mr. Trump’s statements were fraudulent and misleading in both their composition and their presentation. Mr. Trump made known through Mr. Weisselberg that he wanted his net worth on his statements to increase every year, and the statements were the vehicle by which his net worth was fraudulently inflated by billions of dollars year after year. All told, Mr. Trump, his children, the Trump Organization, and the other defendants as part of a repeated pattern and common scheme, derived more than 200 false and misleading valuations of assets for the 11 statements covering 2011 through 2021.

Each statement represented that the values were prepared by Mr. Trump and others at the Trump Organization in consultation with “professionals,” however, no outside professionals were retained to prepare any of the asset valuations for the statements. To the extent Mr. Trump and the Trump Organization received any advice from outside professionals that had any bearing on how to approach valuing the assets, they routinely ignored or contradicted such advice.

They also issued statements that were in blatant violation of generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) in the United States, despite representing that the statements were prepared in accordance with these principles. They ignored the most basic rules and standards for financial reporting, including:Representing that Mr. Trump had cash on hand that he did not;
  • Ignoring critical restrictions that would significantly lower property values when setting valuations;
  • Changing the methodology used to value properties from year to year, without reason or notice;
  • Using vastly different methods to value different properties even in the same year; and
  • Including intangible items, such as brand premiums, when calculating an asset’s value, despite representing in the statements that such items were not included.

Values of Properties and Other Assets Presented in the Statements Were Fraudulent, Misleading, and Not Presented in Accordance with GAAP

In the 214-page complaint, which is the culmination of our investigation that included more than 65 witness interviews and review of millions of pages of documents, OAG lays out dozens of examples of this fraudulent activity and how Mr. Trump and the Trump Organization routinely and intentionally misvalued assets to further enrich Mr. Trump. The complaint includes fraudulent conduct across more than 23 different properties and other assets owned by Mr. Trump and the Trump Organization. Some examples of this misconduct include:

Trump Tower Triplex:

Valuations of this property relied on objectively false numbers to calculate property values. For example, Mr. Trump’s own triplex apartment in Trump Tower was valued as being 30,000 square feet when it was 10,996 square feet. As a result, in 2015 the apartment was valued at $327 million in total, or $29,738 per square foot. That price was absurd given the fact that at that point only one apartment in New York City had ever sold for even $100 million, at a price per square foot of less than $10,000, and that sale was in a newly built, ultra-tall tower. In 30 year-old Trump Tower, the record sale at that time was a mere $16.5 million at a price of less than $4,500 per square foot.

Trump Park Avenue:

This property is included as an asset on Mr. Trump’s Statement of Financial Condition from 2011 to 2021 with values ranging between $90.9 million and $350 million. Unsold residential condominium units owned by Mr. Trump or the Trump Organization represented the lion’s share of reported value for this property (in excess of 95% in some years). Reported values of the unsold residential units of the Trump Park Avenue building were significantly higher than the internal valuations used by the Trump Organization for business planning and failed to account for the fact that many units were rent stabilized. For example, an outside, bank-ordered appraisal in 2010 valued the 12 rent-stabilized at $750,000 total. Yet, in the 2011 and 2012 statements, the rent-stabilized apartments at Trump Park Avenue were valued as market rate for nearly $50 million total. In July 2020, the Trump Organization received an appraisal with a value of $84.5 million but on the 2020 Statement the Trump Organization valued Trump Park Avenue at $135.8 million.

40 Wall Street:

The Trump Organization owns a ground lease at 40 Wall Street, meaning it holds a leasehold interest in the land and buildings on the land, but pays rent to the owner. The Trump Organization received a bank-ordered appraisal for the commercial property at 40 Wall Street that calculated a value for the property of $220 million as of November 1, 2012. Yet in the statement that year and the next year (2013), 40 Wall Street was valued at $527 million and $530 million—more than twice the value calculated by the independent, professional appraisers. Even more egregiously, those increased valuations were attributed to information obtained from the same professional appraiser who valued the building at just over $200 million.

In 2015, the Trump Organization replaced the existing loan on the building with a loan from Ladder Capital Finance (working with Mr. Weisselberg’s son, a director there). The Ladder loan was approved based in part on an inflated appraisal prepared by Cushman & Wakefield. Ultimately, the final appraisal for the loan came to a valuation of $540 million through a number of unreasonable adjustments, including reducing costs and changing the assumptions concerning the ground lease. Even this increase was not enough for Mr. Trump and the Trump Organization. The 2015 statement, which was compiled in June, valued the building at $735.4 million — over 35% higher than the already inflated $540 million Cushman appraisal of that same date which the company knew about.

Vornado Partnership:

Mr. Trump’s statements misrepresented his holdings of cash, cash equivalent, and marketable securities. Most notably, for several years, included in his “cash” were the amounts in the Vornado Partnership Interests in which Mr. Trump had a minority stake and did not control. In some years these restricted funds accounted for almost one-third of all the cash reported by Mr. Trump. For example, they accounted for $24 million of the total $76 million in cash reported for 2018. Mr. Trump was well aware of the restricted and limited nature of his 30% interest because he personally took part in extensive, contentious litigation regarding these partnerships in which control over partnership-held cash and partnership business choices were expressly addressed.

Clubs:

The statements do not list separate values for each of Mr. Trump’s club facilities. Instead, the values for those properties are lumped together into a single figure. This was done intentionally to conceal significant swings in the value attributed to individual clubs and to conceal the methods used to arrive at those values. This lump sum figure was by far the largest asset value on Mr. Trump’s statement of financial condition every year. Mr. Trump and the Trump Organization employed various deceptive schemes in valuing the clubs to inflate their values.Mar-a-Lago:
This property was valued as high as $739 million based on the false premise that it was unrestricted property and could be developed and sold for residential use, even though Mr. Trump himself signed deeds donating his residential development rights, sharply restricting changes to the property, and limiting the permissible use of the property to a social club. In reality, the club generated annual revenues of less than $25 million and should have been valued at closer to $75 million.Trump Aberdeen:
The valuation of this golf course in Aberdeen, Scotland assumed 2,500 homes could be developed when the Trump Organization had obtained zoning approval to develop less than 1,500 cottages and apartments, many of which were expressly identified as being only for short-term rental. The $267 million value attributed to those 2,500 homes accounted for more than 80% of the total $327 million valuation for Aberdeen on the 2014 Statement of Financial Condition.Trump National Golf Club, Jupiter:
Mr. Trump purchased this golf course in Jupiter Florida for $5 million. Less than a year later, Mr. Trump valued the same property at $62 million on the 2013 statement, a markup of 1,100%. For every year from 2013 to 2020, virtually all of the value attributed to Jupiter was fraudulently overstated due to several deceptive methods and assumptions. The golf course was valued using a fixed-asset approach even though that was not an acceptable method for valuing an operating golf course. The bulk of the value in that fixed-asset approach was based on the use of an inflated purchase price from the purported assumption of “refundable” membership liabilities. Mr. Trump claimed to have paid $46 million for the club, consisting of $5 million in cash he actually paid and $41 million in assumed membership liabilities. In the statements, Mr. Trump did not disclose the inclusion of those inflated liabilities in the price of the club and in fact took the opposite position that his potential liability for those membership deposits was zero. Additionally, the Trump Organization overstated the value of this golf course by adding an additional 30% for the Trump brand in 2013 and 2014 and 15% from 2015 through 2020 – even though the statements disclaimed that any of the valuations included a brand premium.

False and Misleading Statements of Financial Condition Were Used to Secure and Maintain Financial Benefits on Favorable Terms

The statements were used to obtain and maintain favorable loans over at least an 11-year period. All told, the financial benefit realized from this scheme was approximately $250 million, including interest savings and transaction profits, because of the favorable loan terms they were able to obtain using his false and misleading statements.

Trump National Doral:

The Trump Organization executed a $150 million purchase and sale agreement for this property in 2011. Mr. Trump’s statements were used to secure a $125 million loan from Deutsche Bank and were regularly submitted to the bank to fulfill the financial reporting requirements of Mr. Trump as guarantor on the loan. In multiple instances, the loan agreement required that Mr. Trump certify the truth and accuracy of his statements as a condition of the guaranty and the continuing loan covenants.

Trump International Hotel & Tower, Chicago:

Since 2009, this property’s value has been excluded from the statements because, according to sworn testimony, Mr. Trump did not want to take a position that would conflict with his contention to tax authorities that the property had become worthless, and thus formed the basis of a substantial loss under the federal tax code. However, in 2012, using the building or its components as collateral, Mr. Trump and the Trump Organization obtained a $107 million loan on the building from Deutsche Bank. The loan received a $45 million expansion in 2014. Mr. Trump’s supposed net worth of $4 billion reflected on his statement was used to personally guarantee the initial loan at an interest rate approximately four percentage points lower than it would have been without his guaranty.

Trump Old Post Office, Washington, D.C.:

In 2013, the Trump Organization obtained a ground lease from the federal General Services Administration to redevelop this property into a luxury hotel. This project was captained by Ivanka Trump, and Mr. Trump’s statements were central to their effort to win the bid to redevelop this site. They were able to obtain a $170 million loan for construction from Deutsche Bank on much more favorable terms by personally guaranteeing the loans using Mr. Trump’s statements. The loan agreement required that Mr. Trump certify the accuracy of his statements annually and included a provision that made him guarantee that the materials provided to the bank to obtain the loan did not include any misleading information. Any misrepresentation on those statements would constitute a default under the terms of the loan. In May 2022, the Trump Organization sold the Old Post Office property for $375 million. As a result, Mr. Trump obtained more than $100 million in net profit, which was the result of the loan he was able to obtain by using his false and misleading statements.

Here is the link to the full addendum.

Defendants

The 16 defendants in this case include: Donald Trump, Donald Trump, Jr., Ivanka Trump, Eric Trump, the Trump Organization Inc., the Trump Organization LLC, the Donald J. Trump Revocable Trust, DJT Holdings LLC, DJT Holdings Managing Member, Allen Weisselberg, Jeffrey McConney, as well as the entities that received the loans that are the subject of the action, including: Trump Endeavor 12 LLC, 401 North Wabash Venture LLC, Trump Old Post Office LLC, 40 Wall Street LLC, and Seven Springs LLC.

Causes of Action

The OAG alleges fraud and illegality under 63(12) in connection with the defendants’ conduct in preparing the statements and submitting those statements to financial institutions to obtain financial benefits. As part of demonstrating illegality under 63(12), OAG alleges that Mr. Trump and the other defendants violated state laws, including:Falsification of business records in violation of Penal Law § 175.10;
Issuing a false financial statement in violation of Penal Law § 175.45;
Engaging in insurance fraud by submitting false and misleading information in a written application for insurance and to obtain other insurance benefits in violation of Penal Law § 176.05;
Engaging in a conspiracy to commit each of aforementioned state law violations.

The conduct alleged in this complaint also violates federal criminal law, including issuing false statements to financial institutions and bank fraud.

Relief

As a consequence of this persistent and repeated fraud and illegality, OAG is asking the court to:Permanently bar Mr. Trump, Donald Trump, Jr., Ivanka Trump, and Eric Trump from serving as an officer or director in any New York Corporation or similar business entity registered and/or licensed in New York state;
Bar Mr. Trump and the Trump Organization from entering into any New York state commercial real estate acquisitions for a period of five years;
Bar Mr. Trump and the Trump Organization from applying for loans from any financial institution registered with the New York Department of Financial Services for a period of five years;
Award disgorgement of all financial benefits obtained through the persistent fraudulent practices of an amount to be determined at trial and estimated to total at least two hundred and fifty million dollars ($250 million).
Permanently bar Allen Weisselberg and Jeffrey McConney from serving in the financial control function of any New York Corporation or similar business entity registered and/or licensed in New York state;
Appoint an independent monitor to oversee compliance, financial reporting, valuations, and disclosures to lenders, insurers, and tax authorities at the Trump Organization for a period of no less than five years;
Replace the current trustees of the Donald Trump Revocable Trust with new independent trustees, and require independent governance in any newly formed trust should the Revocable Trust be revoked and replaced with another trust structure;
Require the Trump Organization to prepare, on an annual basis for the next five years, a GAAP-compliant, audited statement of financial condition showing Mr. Trump’s net worth, to be distributed to all recipients of his prior Statements of Financial Condition; and,
Cancel any certificate filed under and by virtue of the provisions of section 130 of the General Business Law for the corporate entities named as defendants and any other entity controlled by or beneficially owned by Donald Trump which participated in or benefitted from the foregoing fraudulent scheme.

This investigation has been conducted by Senior Enforcement Counsel Kevin Wallace, Special Counsel Andrew Amer, Assistant Attorney General Colleen K. Faherty, Assistant Attorney General Alex Finkelstein, Assistant Attorney General Wil Handley, Assistant Attorney General Stephanie Torre, Assistant Attorney General Austin Thompson, Special Counsel to the Solicitor General Eric R. Haren, Enforcement Section Chief Louis M. Solomon and Legal Support Analyst Samantha Stern. Additional support was provided by Data Analyst Anushua Choudhury, Senior Data Analyst Akram Hasanov, Data Scientist Chansoo Song, Deputy Director of Research and Analytics Megan Thorsfeldt, and Director of Research and Analytics Jonathan Werberg; as well as Information Technology Specialist Hewson Chen, Information Technology Specialist Paige Podolny, and Information Technology Specialist John Roach. Appellate support was provided by Deputy Solicitor General Judith Vale and Assistant Solicitor General Eric Del Pozo. The investigation was overseen by First Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Levy.

To access the full complaint with exhibits:

Part 1
Part 2

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Cheney on the Threat

Our book, Divided We Stand, looks at the 2020 election and the January 6 insurrection.  Some Republican leaders -- and a measurable number of rank-and-file voters -- are open to violent rebellioncoups, and secession. 

Liz Cheney Remarks At AEI’s Walter Berns Annual Constitution Day Event

And now, Donald Trump has been suggesting, not even subtly, that any legal action against him could result in violence. Our former president is apparently now suggesting that if he is prosecuted, his supporters should stand up to our constitutional order and the rule of law, stand up and, through whatever means are needed, prevent his prosecution – prevent the application of the law. It is hard to see this as anything but a direct threat to our Constitution, to our Republic – and a credible one at that. One can only wonder, is this where the Republican Party will go next? That prosecution is inappropriate, because MAGA will violently oppose it.  

All of us have an obligation to acknowledge what is happening. Those activities that I have just listed for you – those are the erosion of the rule of law, and they are the undermining of our constitutional system. Our constitutional system has been defended and handed down to us by every generation since 1789. It comes to us with a duty of inheritance. It doesn’t belong to us. It belongs to our children and our grandchildren, and we must not be the generation that allows it to unravel.  

My friends, I say this to you as a conservative. I believe deeply in conservative policies. I believe in limited government. I believe in low taxes. I believe in a strong national defense. I believe that the family has got to be the central building block of our society. And I share the concerns that many of us, many of you have – justifiable concerns about radical liberalism and about ‘wokeness.’  

But those concerns cannot justify what the Republican Party is doing now. The means do not justify the ends. This is how democracies fail. That cannot happen and it must not happen. Stopping this erosion requires men and women of goodwill showing courage and remembering that no office is worth holding if you enable, through your action or your inaction, the dismantling of our Republic. 

 

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Democratic Fake News Farms

In Defying the Odds, we talk about the social and economic divides that enabled Trump to enter the White House. In Divided We Stand, we discuss how these divides played out in 2020.

Lorenzo Arvanitis and McKenzie Sadeghi at NewsGuard:

The five news websites that launched in April 2022 look like benign, politically independent state news outlets, with local stories about the best Pennsylvania lakes to visit in the summer and The Michigan Museum of Natural History. But a NewsGuard review has uncovered that the network of five websites — which publishes articles online and in print and then invests in ads on Facebook to give them a far broader audience — is part of a coordinated effort ahead of the 2022 U.S. midterms to push voters to vote Democrat in battleground states.

The network, which appears to be connected to The American Independent, a national progressive organization founded by Democratic operative David Brock, is the latest example of mass-produced, partisan news sites masquerading as local news, known as “pink slime” journalism — a reference to the meat-based filler that was supposedly added without a label to ground beef products. The tactic has been used by groups on the left and right, most notably by Metric Media, which operates approximately 1,200 websites disguised as local news outlets that were set up before the 2020 elections to promote Republicans.

As the pivotal 2022 midterm elections loom, this network — which includes The Arizona Independent, The Michigan Independent, The Ohio Independent, The Pennsylvania Independent, and The Wisconsin Independent — has been publishing a steady stream of partisan content aimed at influencing potential voters without revealing its agenda and the source of its funding. As a result, last week NewsGuard rated all five websites Red, with each having a score of 44.5 points out of 100. Readers are alerted to, “Proceed with caution: This website fails to adhere to several basic journalistic standards.”

Sunday, September 18, 2022

Trump Goes Q

Our book, Divided We Stand, looks at the 2020 election and the January 6 insurrection.  Some Republican leaders -- and a measurable number of rank-and-file voters -- are open to violent rebellioncoups, and secession. 

Alan Feuer and Maggie Haberman at NYT
Former President Donald J. Trump appeared to more fully embrace QAnon on Saturday, playing a song at a political rally in Ohio that prompted attendees to respond with a salute in reference to the cultlike conspiracy theory’s theme song.

While speaking in Youngstown in support of J.D. Vance, whom he has endorsed as Ohio’s Republican nominee for the Senate, Mr. Trump delivered a dark address about the decline of America over music that was all but identical to a song called “Wwg1wga” — an abbreviation for the QAnon slogan, “Where we go one, we go all.”

As Mr. Trump spoke, scores of people in the crowd raised fingers in the air in an apparent reference to the “1” in what they thought was the song’s title. It was the first time in the memory of some Trump aides that such a display had occurred at one of his rallies.

...

As president, Mr. Trump often had a winking relationship with QAnon, amplifying social media posts related to the conspiracy theory movement, which holds that when he was in the White House he was locked in a war against satanic, child-trafficking liberals and Democrats. A chief tenet of the movement, which has gradually spread from the fringes of the far right closer to the center of the Republican Party, is that Mr. Trump will ultimately be returned to power.

But what was once a flirtation with a movement that the F.B.I. has warned could increasingly turn violent now appears to be a full embrace.

Last week, for example, Mr. Trump posted an image of himself on Truth Social, wearing a Q pin on his lapel and under a slogan reading “The Storm is Coming.” Adherents to QAnon believe that the “storm” is the moment when Mr. Trump will retake power after vanquishing his enemies, having them arrested and potentially executed on live TV.


 

Friday, September 16, 2022

Heritage in Decline

 Our new book is titled Divided We Stand: The 2020 Elections and American Politics.  Among other things, it discusses the state of the partiesThe state of the GOP is not good.  Neither is the condition of the conservative movement.

Audrey Fahlberg and Charlotte Lawson at The Dispatch:
With the Heritage Foundation’s 50th anniversary approaching, some former employees believe Dr. Kevin Roberts, president of the Heritage Foundation since December 2021, and other senior leaders have lost sight of the think tank’s original mission. Where it used to function as a haven for conservative intellectuals to shape the Republican Party’s agenda, many worry that the institution is attaching itself to a faction of the conservative movement that prioritizes partisanship over policy.

Interviews with more than a dozen current and former employees reveal restrictive workplace practices to keep scholars in line with positions favored by Heritage’s lobbying arm. With Heritage Action’s growing influence has come a wave of staff turnover from the rank-and-file to senior leadership. Fifty-one employees have departed the Heritage Foundation and 73 new employees have joined since January 1, a Heritage spokesperson confirmed. There are 275 staff members on the foundation’s payroll and 30 at Heritage Action as of Tuesday.




Thursday, September 15, 2022

Political Derailment, Averted

Our most recent book is titled Divided We Stand: The 2020 Elections and American Politics.  Among other things, it discusses state and congressional elections.   A railroad strike would have hurt Democrats this fall by disrupting supply chains.  But...

 Jim Tankersly at NYT:

Freight rail companies and unions representing tens of thousands of workers reached a tentative agreement to avoid what would have been an economically damaging strike, after all-night talks brokered by Labor Secretary Martin J. Walsh, President Biden said early Thursday morning.

The agreement now heads to union members for a ratification vote, which is a standard procedure in labor talks. While the vote is tallied, workers have agreed not to strike.

The talks brokered by Mr. Walsh began Wednesday morning and lasted 20 hours. Mr. Biden called in around 9 p.m. Wednesday, a person familiar with the talks said, and he hailed the deal on Thursday in a long statement.


Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Another Bad GOP Senate Candidate

Our most recent book is titled Divided We Stand: The 2020 Elections and American Politics.  Among other things, it discusses state and congressional elections

 Chris Cillizza at CNN:

Don Bolduc, who put election denialism at the center of his campaign, defeated establishment favorite Chuck Morse in New Hampshire’s GOP Senate primary, the latest in a series of blows to Republicans’ hopes of winning back the majority in the chamber this fall.

Bolduc now joins the likes of Herschel Walker in Georgia, J.D. Vance in Ohio, Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania and Blake Masters in Arizona as Republican candidates who ran – and won – primaries by aligning themselves with the coalition built by former President Donald Trump but who appear to have much work to do when it comes to courting a general election audience. (Sidebar: Trump did not endorse Bolduc – or any other candidate – in the New Hampshire primary.)

Throughout the campaign, Bolduc embraced a series of controversial positions – most notably, contra facts, that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump. “I signed a letter with 120 other generals and admirals saying Trump won the election, and damn it, I stand by [it],” the retired Army brigadier general said at an August debate. He has also called for the repeal of the 17th Amendment, which allows voters to directly elect their senators. After the FBI executed a search warrant on Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home, Bolduc questioned whether the agency was needed.

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Bizarro Lindsey Graham

 Our most recent book is titled Divided We Stand: The 2020 Elections and American Politics.  Among other things, it discusses state and congressional elections

On a day when bad economic news might have given the GOP a political opening, Senator Lindsey Graham proceeds to emphasize the issue that poses the greatest danger to the party.

Annie Karni at NYT:
Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina introduced legislation on Tuesday that would institute a federal ban on abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, reigniting debate on an issue that Republicans have worked to confront before midterm elections in which abortion rights have become a potent issue.

There is no chance that Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the majority leader, would allow such a bill to receive a vote in the Senate, where his party has been focused on preserving abortion access after the Supreme Court’s ruling in June ending the constitutional right to abortion.

And the proposal quickly divided Republicans, splitting their leaders and reflecting the difficult politics of abortion for the party in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision.

Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the minority leader, who has previously said his party was unlikely to pursue an abortion ban, told reporters on Tuesday that he thought the issue should be left up to the states and that most members of his conference agreed. When pressed on the details of Mr. Graham’s bill, Mr. McConnell sought to distance himself, saying, “You’ll have to ask him about it.”

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Monday, September 12, 2022

Poll Warning

 In Defying the Odds, we talk about the social and economic divides that enabled Trump to enter the White House. In Divided We Stand, we discuss how these divides played out in 2020.  In both elections, however, polls tended to overstate Democratic margins. 

Nate Cohn at NYT:

That warning sign is flashing again: Democratic Senate candidates are outrunning expectations in the same places where the polls overestimated Mr. Biden in 2020 and Mrs. Clinton in 2016.

...

If the polls are wrong yet again, it will not be hard to explain. Most pollsters haven’t made significant methodological changes since the last election. The major polling community post-mortem declared that it was “impossible” to definitively ascertain what went wrong in the 2020 election.

The pattern of Democratic strength isn’t the only sign that the polls might still be off in similar ways. Since the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision on abortion, some pollsters have said they’re seeing the familiar signs of nonresponse biaswhen people who don’t respond to a poll are meaningfully different from those who participate — creeping back into their surveys.

Sunday, September 11, 2022

Some Midterm Green Shoots for Democrats

 Our most recent book is titled Divided We Stand: The 2020 Elections and American Politics.  Among other things, it discusses state and congressional elections

Michael Scherer, Josh Dawsey, Isaac Arnsdorf and Jeff Stein at WP:
Biden’s Gallup approval rating jumped six points, from 38 percent to 44 percent before Labor Day, after Democrats passed their signature climate and health care legislation. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York in August showed “substantial” declines in Americans’ inflation expectations. Gasoline prices, in particular, are down more than $1 dollar a gallon since their June peak, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Gallup’s economic confidence index, which measures American views of both current conditions and outlook, has similarly bounced back from a June low point to reach levels from March and April after the start of the Ukraine war. Steve Moore, a former economic policy adviser to Trump, said he has communicated to GOP lawmakers that they should be prepared to expand the party’s message beyond inflation this fall.

“This is one of the things I’m telling Republicans: ‘Yes inflation is high, but it is coming down,’” Moore said. “Inflation is not going to be like it was in March and April with huge increases, and I think broadening the message is going to be necessary.”

Pennsylvania Republican Senate candidate Mehmet Oz, left, is joined by former president Donald Trump at a rally in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., on Sept. 3. (Mary Altaffer/AP)

That shift is already showing up in the Republican advertising mix. About 1 in every 6 ads mentioned “gas prices” in July, but only 1 percent of ads mentioned the words in early September, according to AdImpact data. In their place, “crime” has become a central message of Republicans, with the word being used in 29 percent of ads, up from about 12 percent in July.

In competitive Midwest House races such as ones in Minnesota and Michigan, there’s been a marked shift since June of 18- to 35-year-old voters becoming more engaged and viewing Biden and Democrats more favorably, driven by student debt relief and the Supreme Court’s abortion decision. Those target races are still competitive but now much harder for Republicans, according to a person familiar with Republican campaign research.

Democrats, meanwhile, have become newly confident about Biden’s efforts to frame the election as a referendum on Republican extremism — a category that they have defined to include the recent Supreme Court decision, the resistance to gun regulation following mass shootings and the efforts by Trump and his supporters to undermine the validity of the 2020 election.

After months of arguing publicly that the Supreme Court’s abortion ruling would not impact the midterms, Republicans now admit that it has helped excite Democratic voters and increase voter registration in some states. Democrats took the lead this summer in polling averages of the question of whether Americans prefer Republican or Democrat in Congress. A Pew Research Center poll found the share of voters who call abortion “very important” to their vote rose from 43 to 56 percent between March and August, with Democrats showing far more interest in the subject.

Saturday, September 10, 2022

MAGA Threatens Democracy

Our most recent book, Divided We Stand, looks at the 2020 election and Trump's disregard for law.

Jason Lange at Reuters:
Days after Democratic President Joe Biden gave a fiery speech attacking former President Donald Trump and his Republican allies as an extremist threat, a Reuters/Ipsos poll completed on Wednesday found a majority of Americans believe Trump's movement is undermining democracy.

Fifty-eight percent of respondents in the two-day poll - including one in four Republicans - said Trump's "Make America Great Again" movement is threatening America's democratic foundations.

Biden's Sept. 1 speech marked a sharp turn for his efforts to boost Democrats in the Nov. 8 midterm elections, when Republicans aim to win control of the U.S. Congress. read more

At Rolling Stone, Tim Dickinson reports on Pennsylvania GOP gubernatorial nominee Doug Mastriano:

A WEEK BEFORE Jan. 6, on a Zoom call organized by far-right Christian Nationalists seeking to reinstall Donald Trump in the White House, a man with a booming baritone voice bowed his bald head and began to pray. “We remember the promises of old,” he said, before invoking the book of Revelations and its account of the End Times: “We know we overcome Satan by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony and not loving our lives unto death.”

Seated before a Revolutionary War flag with the motto “An Appeal to Heaven,” the man spoke of the nation’s founding in biblical terms: “We remember 1776, our Declaration of Independence, speaking God’s Truth and Word over what would become the United States of America.” He tied Pennsylvania to God’s divine plan, from the Battle of Gettysbug to the fate of Flight 93, which crashed after a “strong Christian man” confronted Islamist hijackers on 9/11, with the cry, “Let’s roll!”

“God I ask you that you help us roll in these dark times, that we fear not the darkness, that we will seize our Esther and Gideon moments,” the man said, invoking a pair of Old Testament heroes who made themselves instruments of God’s vengeance. “We’re surrounded by wickedness and fear, and dithering, and inaction,” he added, “But that’s not our problem. Our problem is following Your lead.” Looking ahead to Jan 6, the man said: “I pray that… we’ll seize the power that we had given to us by the Constitution, and as well by You, providentially. I pray for the leaders also in the federal government, God, on the Sixth of January that they will rise up with boldness.”

 

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

Nuclear Secrets at Mar-a-Lago

Our most recent book, Divided We Stand, looks at the 2020 election and Trump's disregard for law.

Destruction of government documents is a crime.  So is the retaining classified material.


Devlin Barrett and Carol D. Leonnig at WP:
A document describing a foreign government’s military defenses, including its nuclear capabilities, was found by FBI agents who searched former president Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence and private club last month, according to people familiar with the matter, underscoring concerns among U.S. intelligence officials about classified material stashed in the Florida property.

Some of the seized documents detail top-secret U.S. operations so closely guarded that many senior national security officials are kept in the dark about them. Only the president, some members of his Cabinet or a near-Cabinet-level official could authorize other government officials to know details of these special-access programs, according to people familiar with the search, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe sensitive details of an ongoing investigation.

Documents about such highly classified operations require special clearances on a need-to-know basis, not just top-secret clearance. Some special-access programs can have as few as a couple dozen government personnel authorized to know of an operation’s existence. Records that deal with such programs are kept under lock and key, almost always in a secure compartmented information facility, with a designated control officer to keep careful tabs on their location.

But such documents were stored at Mar-a-Lago, with uncertain security, more than 18 months after Trump left the White House.

After months of trying, according to government court filings, the FBI has recovered more than 300 classified documents from Mar-a-Lago this year: 184 in a set of 15 boxes sent to the National Archives and Records Administration in January, 38 more handed over by a Trump lawyer to investigators in June, and more than 100 additional documents unearthed in a court-approved search on Aug. 8.

It was in this last batch of government secrets, the people familiar with the matter said, that the information about a foreign government’s nuclear-defense readiness was found. These people did not identify the foreign government in question, say where at Mar-a-Lago the document was found or offer additional details about one of the Justice Department’s most sensitive national security investigations.

Tuesday, September 6, 2022

The Abortion Midterm

Our most recent book is titled Divided We Stand: The 2020 Elections and American Politics.  Among other things, it discusses state and congressional elections

Natalie Allison at Politico:
Republicans this election cycle thought they had finally achieved a breakthrough with suburban women after years of losing support.

Now, as the primary season has all but ended, the GOP is back where it once was: Appealing directly to skeptical female voters, the women whose support will make or break the party’s drive to retake the Senate majority.

A sure sign: One after the other, Republican nominees in top Senate battlegrounds have softened, backpedaled and sought to clarify their abortion positions after the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision that overturned Roe v. Wade. Another is that male candidates have begun putting their wives in front of the camera to speak directly to voters in new television ads.

Those ads, along with public and internal polling data, suggest that the GOP’s struggle to attract women voters may turn out to be the biggest obstacle standing between the party and a potential Senate majority in 2023. A Wall Street Journal poll released Thursday showed that abortion was the single issue most likely to drive respondents to vote this fall, above inflation. And 52 percent of white suburban women say they would support a Democratic candidate in the election, the poll found, while only 40 percent said they would vote for the Republican.

Sunday, September 4, 2022

NRSC = "Not Really Supporting Candidates"

Our most recent book is titled Divided We Stand: The 2020 Elections and American Politics. Among other things, it discusses state and congressional elections.  NRSC  chair Rick Scott is proving to be the cycle's biggest asset ... for the Democrats.

 Shane Goldmacher at NYT on the National Republican Senatorial Committee:

By the end of July, the committee had collected a record $181.5 million — but had already spent more than 95 percent of what it had brought in. The Republican group entered August with just $23.2 million on hand, less than half of what the Senate Democratic committee had ahead of the final intense phase of the midterm elections.

Now top Republicans are beginning to ask: Where did all the money go?

The answer, chiefly, is that Mr. Scott’s enormous gamble on finding new online donors has been a costly financial flop in 2022, according to a New York Times analysis of federal records and interviews with people briefed on the committee’s finances. Today, the N.R.S.C. is raising less than before Mr. Scott’s digital splurge.
...
The committee had squeezed donors with hyperaggressive new tactics. And all the money coming in obscured just how much the committee was spending advertising for donors. Then inflation sapped online giving for Republicans nationwide. And the money that had rolled in came at an ethical price.
...

One internal N.R.S.C. budget document from earlier this year, obtained by The Times, shows that $23.3 million was poured into investments to find new donors between June 2021 and January 2022. In that time, the contributors the organization found gave $6.1 million — a more than $17 million deficit.

Saturday, September 3, 2022

Bad Times for Mitch

Our most recent book is titled Divided We Stand: The 2020 Elections and American Politics. Among other things, it discusses state and congressional elections.


Democrats have, in the space of a few months, managed to pass a gun safety compromise, a major technology and manufacturing bill, a huge veterans health measure, and a climate, health and tax package — either by steering around Mr. McConnell or with his cooperation.

At the same time, the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade appears to have handed Democrats a potent issue going into the midterm elections, brightening their hopes of keeping control of the Senate.

Mr. McConnell has acknowledged the challenges. He conceded recently that Republicans had a stronger chance of winning back the House than of taking power in the Senate in November, in part because of “candidate quality.”

The comment was widely interpreted to reflect Mr. McConnell’s growing concern about Republicans’ roster of Senate recruits, heavily influenced by former President Donald J. Trump and his hard-right supporters, who have earned Mr. Trump’s endorsement but appear to be struggling in competitive races.

It also hinted at a more basic problem that has made Mr. McConnell’s job all the more difficult: his increasingly bitter rift with Mr. Trump, which has put him at odds with the hard-right forces that hold growing sway in the Republican Party.

“Why do Republicans Senators allow a broken down hack politician, Mitch McConnell, to openly disparage hard working Republican candidates for the United States Senate,” Mr. Trump wrote in a social media post last month that also took aim at Mr. McConnell’s wife, Elaine Chao, calling her “crazy.” Ms. Chao served as transportation secretary in the Trump administration until she abruptly resigned after the Jan. 6 attack.
...

McConnell has had a nasty break with Senator Rick Scott of Florida, the chairman of the party campaign committee, who has styled himself in Mr. Trump’s image, recruited candidates loyal to the former president, visited him regularly in Florida and New Jersey, and this week attacked Mr. McConnell, without naming him, for questioning those candidates’ chances.
“Unfortunately, many of the very people responsible for losing the Senate last cycle are now trying to stop us from winning the majority this time by trash-talking our Republican candidates,” Mr. Scott wrote, calling such remarks “cowardice” and “treasonous.”

Thursday, September 1, 2022

Democrats Defibrillated

Our most recent book is titled Divided We Stand: The 2020 Elections and American Politics.  Among other things, it discusses state and congressional elections

John McCormick at WSJ:
Democrats are entering the homestretch before November’s election in better shape than earlier this year, boosted by gains among independent voters, improved views of President Biden and higher voting enthusiasm among abortion-rights supporters, a Wall Street Journal poll shows.

Republicans have electoral fuel to tap into if they can keep the debate focused on the economy and what has been the highest inflation in four decades. Nearly two-thirds of registered voters say the economy isn’t good or poor—a larger share than in the last Journal survey, in March—and close to two-thirds say the pain of higher costs makes them more likely to cast a ballot.

Democrats hold a slight edge over Republicans, 47% to 44%, when voters are asked which party they would support in their congressional district if the election were held today, a lead that is within the poll’s margin of error of plus or minus 2.7 percentage points. Republicans had a five-point advantage in March.

The Democratic gains come from increased support among independents, women and younger voters. Black and Hispanic voters, who have traditionally favored Democrats heavily, are also more solidly supportive of the party than they were earlier this year.

Among political independents, typically the key to victory in close elections, more voters now favor a Democratic candidate for Congress than a Republican, 38% to 35%. In March, Republicans led among independents by 12 percentage points.

Before the Supreme Court’s late-June reversal of the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade abortion ruling, the GOP had been more optimistic about its prospects, in part because the party that doesn’t control the White House typically makes midterm-election gains.

“Republicans were cruising, and Democrats were having a hard time,” said Republican pollster Tony Fabrizio, who conducted the survey along with Democrat John Anzalone. “It’s almost like the abortion issue came along and was kind of like a defibrillator to Democrats.