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Divided We Stand

Divided We Stand
New book about the 2020 election.

Sunday, March 31, 2024

On Easter: Trump, Trumpists, and God

 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.  

Saturday, March 30, 2024

Trump Threats

Our most recent 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. Some Republican leaders -- and a measurable number of rank-and-file voters -- are open to violent rebellioncoups, and secession.  

Chris Cameron at NYT:
Former President Donald J. Trump posted a video on Friday to his social media website that features an image of President Biden with his hands and feet tied together.

Mr. Trump posted the video to Truth Social early Friday afternoon with a line that said it was filmed on Long Island on Thursday, when Mr. Trump attended the wake of a slain New York City police officer in Massapequa Park, N.Y. The video shows two moving trucks decorated with flags and decals supporting Mr. Trump. The tailgate of the second vehicle features the image of Mr. Biden.

Macabre imagery targeting Mr. Trump’s perceived enemies frequently circulates online among right-wing provocateurs and pro-Trump groups, and in some cases has been featured at conservative conferences. Photos of trucks featuring similar images of Mr. Biden tied up have been shared across social media, and online vendors sell vehicle stickers with the image.

Hugo Lowell at The Guardian:

Manhattan prosecutors asked the judge presiding in Donald Trump’s upcoming criminal trial on charges of covering up hush money to a porn star before the 2016 election to confirm that a recent gag order preventing the former president from making inflammatory comments extends to the judge’s family members.

The prosecutors in the Manhattan district attorney’s office suggested in a two-page letter on Friday that, as far as they were concerned, Trump had violated the gag order by attacking the judge’s daughter in a recent social media post and should be sanctioned for future violations.

“The court should warn defendant that his recent conduct is contumacious and direct him to immediately desist. If defendant continues to disregard such orders, he should face sanctions under judiciary law,” said the letter to New York supreme court justice Juan Merchan, referencing statutes for criminal contempt that include possible jail time.

At issue was a post Trump sent on Wednesday assailing the judge’s daughter on his Truth Social platform for supposedly using a photo of Trump behind bars as her profile picture for her X account. The photo “makes it completely impossible for me to get a fair trial”, Trump wrote.

The problem for Trump was that the account appears to be bogus. The handle for the X account did belong to the judge’s daughter, Lauren Merchan, but she has since deleted that account, a court spokesperson said. Someone else – it is unclear who – took over the handle and used the photo.

See last year's social media threat against D.A. Bragg.  

Friday, March 29, 2024

Biden's GOP Outreach Failure

Our most recent book is titled Divided We Stand: The 2020 Elections and American Politics. The 2024 race has begun.

 Jonathan Martin at Politico writes that Biden has not reached out to Chris Christie.

It’s political malpractice. And Christie isn’t the only anti-Trump Republican or independent waiting for their phone to ring.

Prominent former GOP officeholders, from George W. Bush to Mike Pence to Paul Ryan, also haven’t been contacted.

The same goes for former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, who, like Christie, flirted with a No Labels run. Asked in January if Biden ever contacted him, perhaps about an ambassadorship, Hogan said no. As if to drive home the point, Hogan, whose wife is Korean American, happened to mention that he has a nickname in South Korea that translates to “son-in-law.” About two months later, Hogan announced his candidacy, as a Republican, for the Senate.
I reached out to every current Republican lawmaker who has refused to commit to Trump in the general election. Sens. Susan Collins (Maine) Mitt Romney (Utah), Todd Young (Indiana), Bill Cassidy (Louisiana) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) all said the same: they’ve not heard from Biden.
“It is surprising,” Collins told me. “It’s especially surprising because President Biden does understand the Senate, he has personal relationships with some of us.”


The point, though, isn’t for Biden to turn all these figures into his campaign surrogates. Perhaps some will do that, former Rep. Liz Cheney being the most likely prospect to embrace that sort of Stop Trump mission. But the more realistic goal, certainly with GOP senators, is to soften their criticism of him and make them feel more comfortable denouncing Trump.

Would figures such as Romney or Collins still be uneasy with Biden’s immigration policy if the president had them and their spouses to Camp David or a private White House dinner? Of course. Yet would the senators be somewhat more restrained in their public judgment of Biden? Well, it’s a people business.

Thursday, March 28, 2024

God and Man and Trump

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.  

 Zachary Basu at Axios:

Few politicians have commanded the loyalty of the religious right like former President Trump, whose decision to begin selling $60 Bibles for Holy Week has outraged his critics — but drawn little reaction from evangelical leaders.
What we're watching: 
  • On the 2024 campaign trail, the religious undertones employed by Trump and his allies have grown more apocalypticeven messianic — as his legal troubles have mounted.In one video shared on Truth Social and played at Trump's rallies, a narrator's voice booms: "On June 14, 1946, God looked down on his planned paradise and said, 'I need a caretaker.' So God gave us Trump."
  • On the first day of his New York civil fraud trial in October, Trump shared an AI-generated courtroom sketch depicting himself sitting next to Jesus.
  • This week, Trump posted a message he said he received from a follower: "It's ironic that Christ walked through His greatest persecution the very week they are trying to steal your property from you."
The bottom line: 64% of Republicans view Trump as "a man of faith," according to a November poll by Deseret News — more than his former vice president and vocal evangelical Mike Pence.

RFK Jr. Ballot Access and Veep Money

Our most recent book is titled Divided We Stand: The 2020 Elections and American Politics. The 2024 race has begun.

 Voters are not happy about having to choose between Trump and Biden.  Nevertheless, it is dawning on people that third parties face daunting barriers in American politics.

In the past week the Democratic Party and other outside groups have put together a team to oppose third-party and independent candidates, a sign that Democrats are ready to fight back against candidacies they perceive as spoiler threats, like Kennedy.

The effort is staffed by longtime operatives like communications consultant Lis Smith, who helped guide Pete Buttigieg’s 2020 presidential campaign, and Dana Remus, who until recently served as Biden’s White House counsel, underscoring the seriousness of the concern.

The Democratic National Committee calls Kennedy a “stalking horse” who will increase Trump’s chances of winning in November. They point to significant contributions from Timothy Mellon, a Trump mega donor, to American Values 2024, and to lingering concerns that in 2016 third-party candidates may have tipped the presidency to Trump.

While Democratic attention was initially directed toward the wide array of third-party contenders, such as independent Cornel West and the No Labels coalition, Kennedy has become the focus of more energy as of late.

Geoffrey Skelley at ABC:

At this still-early juncture, just one minor candidate or party has qualified in enough states to theoretically win the presidency with 270 of the Electoral College's 538 electoral votes (note our publication's name). So far, the Libertarian Party looks likely to appear on at least 37 state ballots worth 381 electoral votes, having made the ballot in 36 states, according to Ballot Access News, and submitted petition signatures in Ohio. (Because many states won't confirm qualification until later this year, we're including cases in which a party or candidate has submitted qualification signatures or claims to have enough backing to qualify, as long as such claims can't be contradicted by available data. In a few cases, qualification might not actually happen.)
The Libertarians are in this position because they're arguably the most well-supported minor party nationally, with about three times as many registered voters as the next-closest third party, the Green Party. For their part, the Greens look to have access in about 21 states, having recently submitted signatures in South Dakota. No Labels, the bipartisan group behind this cycle's most-ballyhooed third-party bid, seems on course to overtake the Greens: Overall, the organization claims to have qualified in 18 states, while Ballot Access News noted that the group had completed its registration or signature drives to qualify as a party in at least four other states — this despite No Labels's insistence that it's not a party. Meanwhile, the conservative Constitution Party has also made 12 state ballots and looks to have met the signature requirement for a 13th in North Carolina.

Beyond these party or quasi-party organizations, Kennedy's campaign has officially made the ballot in one state — Utah — and claims to have qualified in three others, while an allied super PAC claims to have sufficient signatures for Kennedy to make the ballot in four more. For his part, West claims to have made the ballot in four states so far.

Ballot access efforts take money.  RFK Jr. picked a running mate who has money: Nicole Shanahan.  Teddy Schleifer reports at Puck:

Shanahan, by all accounts a true believer in Kennedy’s third-party cause, discovered the candidate in a now familiar, almost stereotypical way. According to associates, her evolution away from the political mainstream began while researching her daughter’s autism diagnosis. Shanahan was consumed, she has said, spending more than half of her time investigating the condition and talking to scientists. (Connections between vaccines and autism have been repeatedly debunked.) In the end, her curiosity led her to Kennedy, an environmental lawyer now better known as one of the nation’s leading anti-vaccine advocates.

There was also her divorce, finalized last year, which gave her a checkbook without interference from Bayshore. In mid-2022, she started a new family office, Planeta Management, which gave the $4 million check to the super PAC. And presumably that’s just a taste of the capital Shanahan has at her disposal. The terms of her divorce settlement with Brin haven’t been made public, but as I’ve reported, some R.F.K. allies had been told cryptically in recent weeks that they wouldn’t have to worry about money anymore—intimating the arrival of some serious cash. Presidential and vice presidential candidates aren’t limited in their self-funding.

Still, there’s the question that everyone is asking: How much capital does she really have to commit to their joint bid? My sense, for what it’s worth, is that I’d be surprised if she put in $50 million—but wouldn’t be surprised by $15 million. Perhaps that’s why a Kennedy campaign aide called me late Monday night to ask if her divorce settlement was a public document.

The money, of course, also accelerated her entry into Kennedy’s inner circle. Shanahan did not know Kennedy well before she made her first donation in mid-2023, I’m told by a source familiar with the relationship. But over the course of that year, Shanahan—enticed by R.F.K.’s appearances on various podcasts—began making connections with Kennedyworld, which was elated to welcome a hyper-connected Silicon Valley impresario.


Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Abortion Wins for Democrats, Vulnerabilities for Republicans

Our 2020 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. Abortion was a big issue in the 2022 midtermIt will be a big issue in 2024.

Colby Itkowitz at WP:

Democrat Marilyn Lands on Tuesday decisively won an Alabama state House seat in a long-held Republican district, notching a special-election victory after centering her campaign on promoting access to abortion and in vitro fertilization.

Lands’s win was the latest in a string of Democratic victories around reproductive rights after abortion rights advocates experienced a huge blow nearly two years ago. Since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade — which had established a constitutional right to abortion — in 2022, Democrats have found success in battleground elections and ballot referendums by focusing heavily on protecting abortion rights and running against GOP opposition to them.
Andrew Solender at Axios:
House Democrats are seizing on an anti-IVF push by a group of right-wing House Republicans to accuse the GOP of trying to "have it both ways," Axios has learned.

Why it matters: Republicans have painstakingly tried to distance from an Alabama Supreme Court ruling that restricted access to fertility services.

The backdrop: Four right-wing House Freedom Caucus members wrote to Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough last week voicing "strong objections" to a policy expanding IVF access to veterans.


Our most recent book is titled Divided We Stand: The 2020 Elections and American Politics.  Among other things, it discusses the politics of economic policy.

The president has had an off-and-on relationship with "Bidenomics" during the past year, however.Biden initially was reluctant to use the term, but last June he decided to embrace it. His advisers calculated that voters were going to blame — or credit — him for the country's economy regardless of what anyone called it.

The goal was to co-opt Biden's Republican critics and do for "Bidenomics" what former President Obama did with "Obamacare" — take a word that seemed a political liability and turn it into an asset.

In recent months, though, "Bidenomics" mentions by Biden, Democrats in Congress and others in the party have fallen off a table.It's a shift that amounted to an acknowledgement that the White House's messaging effort was falling flat with many voters.

By the numbers: Congressional Democrats initially followed Biden's plunge into touting "Bidenomics." They used the word 483 times last July in tweets, Facebook posts, press releases and floor statements, according to data from Quorum.But it wasn't long before those Democrats were grumbling to Biden's team that the White House was tone deaf in its branding as voters were struggling with inflation.
Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.), a close ally of the White House, was publicly critical.

The Cost of Money is Part of the Cost of Living: New Evidence on the Consumer Sentiment Anomaly
Marijn A. Bolhuis, Judd N. L. Cramer, Karl Oskar Schulz & Lawrence H. Summers
DOI 10.3386/w32163
ISSUE DATE February 2024
Unemployment is low and inflation is falling, but consumer sentiment remains depressed. This has confounded economists, who historically rely on these two variables to gauge how consumers feel about the economy. We propose that borrowing costs, which have grown at rates they had not reached in decades, do much to explain this gap. The cost of money is not currently included in traditional price indexes, indicating a disconnect between the measures favored by economists and the effective costs borne by consumers. We show that the lows in US consumer sentiment that cannot be explained by unemployment and official inflation are strongly correlated with borrowing costs and consumer credit supply. Concerns over borrowing costs, which have historically tracked the cost of money, are at their highest levels since the Volcker-era. We then develop alternative measures of inflation that include borrowing costs and can account for almost three quarters of the gap in US consumer sentiment in 2023. Global evidence shows that consumer sentiment gaps across countries are also strongly correlated with changes in interest rates. Proposed U.S.-specific factors do not find much supportive evidence abroad.

Tuesday, March 26, 2024

Trump Legal: W and L

 Our next book will look at the 2024 campaign and the impact of Trump's legal problems.

Maggie Haberman, Ben Protess and William K. Rashbaum at NYT:

At 11 a.m. Monday, a New York appeals court made Donald J. Trump’s day, rescuing him from financial devastation in a civil fraud case.

By noon, the New York judge overseeing his criminal case had nearly ruined it, setting Mr. Trump’s trial for next month and all but ensuring he will hold the dubious distinction of becoming the first former American president to be criminally prosecuted.


 Rather than mount a traditional cross-country campaign in the lead-up to the Republican National Convention in July, Mr. Trump, the presumptive nominee, is preparing to work around the criminal trial that will begin April 15 and last for at least six weeks.

His schedule will be built around the four days each week that the trial is expected to take place in court, with Wednesdays expected to be an off day. One person familiar with his preliminary plans described weekend events held in strategically important states near New York, like Pennsylvania, or in hospitable areas outside Manhattan.


Mr. Trump was on the clock to secure a half-billion dollar bond to block the attorney general, Letitia James, from collecting the judgment while he appeals. When Mr. Trump failed, Ms. James was free to freeze his bank accounts and even to begin the long process of trying to seize his properties.

Yet the appeals court handed him a lifeline, allowing him to post a much smaller bond: $175 million. The ruling staved off a looming financial crisis and gave Mr. Trump’s team hope that he will succeed in reducing the overall judgment on appeal.


Victory was fleeting. Within minutes of reconvening the hearing, Justice Merchan finalized an April 15 trial date, rejecting Mr. Trump’s bid to delay the criminal case or throw it out altogether.

Monday, March 25, 2024

Christians, Troops, GOP

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.  

"I can tell you I have the support of the police, the support of the military, the support of the Bikers for Trump – I have the tough people, but they don’t play it tough — until they go to a certain point, and then it would be very bad, very bad." -- Donald J. Trump, March 13, 2019

Ruth Graham at NYT:
As a core faction in the Republican coalition, conservative evangelicals have long influenced the party’s policy priorities, including opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage. And the influence extended to conservative culture, where evangelical norms against vulgarity were rarely challenged in public.

In some ways, they remain intact. Most pastors don’t cuss from the pulpit, or at all. Mainstream conservative churches still teach their young people to save sex for marriage and avoid pornography.

Yet a raunchy, outsider, boobs-and-booze ethos has elbowed its way into the conservative power class, accelerated by the rise of Donald J. Trump, the declining influence of traditional religious institutions and a shifting media landscape increasingly dominated by the looser standards of online culture.

Others see the cause as partly technological. Evangelicalism is a decentralized movement, and has always embraced new technology as a way to reach more people. But the old institutions and personalities that defined the culture are fading: Church attendance has declined at the same time that several lions of the movement have died, retired or been felled by scandal. Influencers and outsiders have filled the vacuum.

Risa Brooks at Foreign Affairs:

Perhaps the most sobering example of the effort to inject partisan politics into military appointments is the right’s treatment of Charles Q. Brown, Jr., an air force general who now serves as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Prior to becoming chairman, Brown was confirmed as air force chief of staff in 2020 in a Senate vote of 98-0. Then, last July, leaders of 30 political groups on the right signed an open letter opposing Brown’s appointment as chairman. Despite his accomplished career as fighter pilot, 11 Republican senators voted against him when he was confirmed as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff last year. The number of “no” votes for the chairmanship was unprecedented, as were the stated reasons for them. Tuberville attributed his “no” vote to the general’s support for “equal opportunity” in the military. Senator Mike Braun, an Indiana Republican, asserted that the general, who is Black, had favored “woke policy initiatives” over effectiveness in the air force.


 If elected, Trump may seek to appoint a pliable general to replace Brown as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. It is customary for secretaries of defense to compile a list of potential candidates from which a president chooses a chairman. A healthy rapport between the president and a candidate for chairman is usually an important criterion for selection. The candidate’s party affiliation is not. That norm might be one of the first to go.

Sunday, March 24, 2024

Democrats' Cash Advantage, Trump's Cash Crisis

Our most recent book is titled Divided We Stand: The 2020 Elections and American Politics.  Among other things, it discusses party organizations and campaign finance.

Zachary Basu and Erin Doherty at Axios:

President Biden and his campaign have begun openly taunting former President Trump over the massive — and growing — disparity in fundraising between the two parties' presumptive nominees.

Why it matters: Democrats hold a staggering cash advantage over Republicans at virtually every level of national politics. And the money raised by Trump's political operation is increasingly flowing into a black hole of legal expenses.

By the numbers: The Biden campaign and the DNC ended February with more than twice as much cash on hand ($97.5 million) as Trump and the RNC ($44.8 million), according to new campaign finance reports.
Zoom in: Trump's leadership PAC, Save America, spent more than $6.9 million on legal-related expenses last month — equivalent to a staggering $238,000 per day, according to The Daily Beast.

Maggie Haberman and Ben Protess at NYT:
Donald J. Trump is expected to spend his Monday morning in the courtroom of a New York judge who might soon preside over his criminal trial and, ultimately, throw him behind bars. And that’s not even the legal predicament that worries Mr. Trump most that day.

The hearing in his Manhattan criminal prosecution — in which he is accused of covering up a sex scandal to pave his way to the presidency — comes as he races to fend off a financial crisis arising from a $454 million judgment in another case. The New York attorney general, Letitia James, who brought that civil fraud suit against the former president and his family business, might begin to collect as soon as Monday.

To avoid a mortal threat to the Trump Organization, Mr. Trump must persuade another company to post a bond on his behalf, promising that it will cover the judgment if he loses a pending appeal and fails to pay. Yet Mr. Trump’s lawyers in court papers said that securing the bond would be a “practical impossibility,” because he would need to pledge some $550 million in cash and liquid investments as collateral to the bond company — an admission that laid bare the former president’s cash crunch.

Unless Mr. Trump strikes an 11th-hour deal, Ms. James could freeze his bank accounts, and begin the long and complicated process of seizing some of his properties. And barring Mr. Trump’s lawyers achieving an improbable legal triumph, the judge in his criminal case could set a trial date for as soon as next month.

Saturday, March 23, 2024

A Bad Day for the House GOP

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

The 118th Congress has been rough on the House GOP.

 Sahil Kapur at NBC:

Friday began with House conservatives holding a press conference to trash the $1.2 trillion spending bill their leaders negotiated with Democrats, sparking some fears about its prospects.

It squeaked through — requiring 67% of the House, it ended up winning 68% — but a majority of Republicans voted against it.

It was just the first headache of the day for House Republicans as they adjourned for a two-week recess, offering a distillation of the infighting and disenchantment that continues to plague the party 15 months into its narrow majority. Things were about to get worse.

Moments later, far-right Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., shocked her colleagues by filing a motion to overthrow Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., blasting his stewardship of the chamber and threatening renewed turmoil at the helm of her party.

In the afternoon, Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wis., the rising star who recently said he’ll retire from Congress, announced he’ll be quitting early — on April 19. His move will further thin the GOP majority and risks leaving Johnson with a one-vote margin in the coming months.

Within moments of Gallagher’s move, House Appropriations Chair Kay Granger, R-Texas, made the unusual decision to step down early from her powerful post, asking Johnson to replace her as chair of the committee that doles out federal funding “as soon as possible.” In a letter, Granger said she has “accomplished more than I ever could have imagined,” and thanked Johnson for stepping up to lead “during a very tumultuous time.”

Granger already said she won’t seek re-election this fall. But her move to relinquish the coveted gavel mid-session highlights the paralysis that has defined the government funding process, which took four stopgap measures and six months into the fiscal year to resolve. The next funding deadline looms at the end of September.

Jonathan Allen and Scott Wong at NBC:

Gallagher’s decision to leave April 19 also means that there will not be a special election to fill his seat. Under Wisconsin state law, vacancies after the second Tuesday in April are filled in the general election, so Gallagher’s replacement will be decided in November and his seat will remain empty until January.

Friday, March 22, 2024

Trump Legal, Trump Bucks

 Our next book will look at the 2024 campaign and the impact of Trump's legal problems.

 Michelle L. Price at AP:

Donald Trump’s new joint fundraising agreement with the Republican National Committee directs donations to his campaign and a political action committee that pays the former president’s legal bills before the RNC gets a cut, according to a fundraising invitation obtained by The Associated Press.

The unorthodox diversion of funds to the Save America PAC makes it more likely that Republican donors could see their money go to Trump’s lawyers, who have received at least $76 million over the last two years to defend him against four felony indictments and multiple civil cases. Some Republicans are already troubled that Trump’s takeover of the RNC could shortchange the cash-strapped party.

Trump has invited high-dollar donors to Palm Beach, Florida, for an April 6 fundraiser that comes as his fundraising is well behind President Joe Biden and national Democrats. The invitation’s fine print says donations to the Trump 47 Committee will first be used to give the maximum amount allowed under federal law to Trump’s campaign. Anything left over from the donation next goes toward a maximum contribution to Save America, and then anything left from there goes to the RNC and then to state political parties.

Roger Sollenberger and Reese Gorman at The Daily Beast:

In the month of February, Donald Trump finally neared the start of his general election campaign against Joe Biden—while burning through his political operation’s coffers for even more cash to support his legal defenses.

On Wednesday night, Trump’s “Save America” leadership PAC—the political committee that now functions primarily as his legal slush fund—reported paying lawyers $5.6 million last month, according to Federal Election Commission filings. That’s well above the $5 million total the PAC raised in the same period.

Nikki McCann Ramirez at Rolling Stone:

ONCE UPON A time, long before he set his sights on the White House, Donald Trump leveraged his massive real estate empire into a braggadocious reality TV show called The Apprentice. The show’s bombastic theme song sang “money, money, money, money,” at viewers over shots of Trump’s New York properties, private planes, and helicopters. Now, two decades after the show first premiered, the former president is begging his followers to fork over cash in order to preserve the assets on which he built his throne.

“KEEP YOUR FILTHY HANDS OFF TRUMP TOWER!” Trump’s campaign screamed in a text message sent out Wednesday morning to potential donors. “Insane radical Democrat AG Letitia James wants to SEIZE my properties in New York. THIS INCLUDES THE ICONIC TRUMP TOWER!” Trump added in a memo linked in the text message.

“Before the day is over, I’m calling on ONE MILLION Pro-Trump patriots to chip in and say: STOP THE WITCH HUNT AGAINST PRESIDENT TRUMP!” the donation page read.


 Richard Briffault at The Copnversation:

In several advisory opinions, the FEC has repeatedly allowed campaign funds to pay legal expenses that are connected to an election campaign or officeholder action, such as litigation to get on the ballot or defense against a criminal investigation concerning whether the candidate misused his office.

Many of Trump’s legal cases, and therefore their expenses, do relate to campaign activities – such as his efforts to challenge the results of the 2020 election. Others relate to his role as an officeholder or former officeholder, such as the allegedly criminal retention of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago.

Even the New York state criminal case about paying hush money to former porn actress Stormy Daniels is election-related: It involves an alleged scheme to prevent potentially damaging stories about Trump’s personal life from becoming public during his 2016 presidential campaign.
However, the civil lawsuits brought by E. Jean Carroll, in which Trump was found to have sexually abused her and then to have repeatedly defamed her, are different. They do not involve either an election or Trump’s use of office. So I would expect that his legal fees for those cases would be considered personal.

Also likely personal is the civil case in New York alleging business fraud, in which he has been ordered to pay more than $350 million in penalties.

But it appears that Save America has been paying legal fees in those cases, too. Those payments may be legal under a different provision of federal campaign law. The prohibition on personal use of campaign funds applies most clearly to the funds in the candidate’s own campaign account. But federal election law also allows a candidate to set up a separate fund, known as a “leadership PAC,” which can be used for election-related activities other than support for their own campaign.


It is less clear whether a leadership PAC can legally help pay the multimillion-dollar fines Trump has been assessed as a result of those trials. The logic of the FEC’s interpretation of the personal use exception would appear to permit the use of leadership PAC funds here too, but this is a truly unprecedented situation, so it is difficult to say for sure.

Thursday, March 21, 2024

RSC Proposes to Raise the Social Security Retirement Age

Our latest book is titled Divided We Stand: The 2020 Elections and American Politics. The 2024 race has begun.  Trump and the GOP are providing early Christmas presents to Democratic oppo guys.

Oops, they did it again.

Sahil Kapur at NBC:
A new budget by a large and influential group of House Republicans calls for raising the Social Security retirement age for future retirees and restructuring Medicare.

The proposals, which are unlikely to become law this year, reflect how many Republicans will seek to govern if they win the 2024 elections. And they play into a fight President Joe Biden is seeking to have with former President Donald Trump and the Republican Party as he runs for re-election.

The budget was released Wednesday by the Republican Study Committee, a group of more than 170 House GOP lawmakers, including many allies of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. Apart from fiscal policy, the budget endorses a series of bills “designed to advance the cause of life,” including the Life at Conception Act, which would aggressively restrict abortion and potentially threaten in vitro fertilization, or IVF, by establishing legal protections for human beings at “the moment of fertilization.” It has recently caused consternation within the GOP following backlash to an Alabama Supreme Court ruling that threatened IVF.

The RSC, which is chaired by Rep. Kevin Hern, R-Okla., counts among its members Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., and his top three deputies in leadership. Johnson chaired the RSC from 2019 to 2021; his office did not immediately respond when asked about the new budget.

For Social Security, the budget endorses "modest adjustments to the retirement age for future retirees to account for increases in life expectancy." It calls for lowering benefits for the highest-earning beneficiaries. And it emphasizes that those ideas are not designed to take effect immediately: "The RSC Budget does not cut or delay retirement benefits for any senior in or near retirement."

Wednesday, March 20, 2024

Ohio Senate

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

As in California, the Akin ploy worked again.

Steven Shepard, Madison Fernandez and Zach Montellaro at Politico
Donald Trump got his man in the Ohio Senate race — but so did Senate Democrats.

Bernie Moreno’s victory Tuesday in the fractious Republican primary demonstrated the former president’s sway: He helped drag Moreno to a runaway win.

It set up what will likely be the premier and potentially decisive race for control of the Senate between Moreno and vulnerable Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown. But Moreno is also the candidate for whom Democrats pined — one of the party’s top super PACs meddled in the primary to boost Moreno in the final week of the race, viewing him as the easiest to defeat in November.

Moreno’s win capped a strong night for the former president down the ballot: Trump went three-for-three in competitive primaries, boosting Moreno and two other House candidates who won close races.

But there were also warning signs for Trump as hundreds of thousands of Republicans — particularly in suburban areas where the GOP has struggled in the Trump era — chose Nikki Haley or Ron DeSantis on the presidential ballot, despite the fact that neither is an active candidate anymore.

The Moreno spot 

Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Trump Makes Common Cause with Criminals

Our recent 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. Trump and his minions falsely claimed that he won the election, and have kept repeating the Big Lie And we now know how close he came to subverting the Constitution.  

Shelby Talcott at Semafor:

The former president and presumptive 2024 Republican presidential nominee has put the devoted supporters charged with January 6 crimes at the heart of his campaign. He began his first major campaign rally last March firing up the Waco, Texas crowd by playing “Justice for All,” a song he helped produce with the “J6 Prison Choir.” It has since become a staple of his events. On Truth Social last week, Trump wrote that one of his “first acts as your next President” would be to “Free the January 6 Hostages being wrongfully imprisoned.”

The story of Trump’s shift — from reluctant denunciations to direct support for those charged in connection with the day’s events — offers a glimpse into the workings of his mind, and of his political operation. The change began gradually, soon after he left office and weathered impeachment proceedings. Two months after he resumed civilian life at Mar-a-Lago, the president described the crowd to two visiting Washington Post reporters as “loving,” and offered a defense of their behavior: Capitol Police had “ushered” them into the building, he said, and were “hugging and kissing” them — a view belied by video footage and widely rejected by the courts. Aides to Trump point to remarks from this period as evidence he always cared about the cause of January 6th defendants.

A detailed examination of his public statements and ten interviews with people now involved in the movement to support January 6 defendants show a gradual path from Trump’s instinctive support for some of the most hardcore members of his own MAGA movement to a semi-formal alliance with an organization founded by the family member of a January 6 convict.

That path was smoothed in part by a handful of women — from the high-profile Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene to lesser-known figures like Trump campaign staffer Joanna Miller Wischer and Cynthia Hughes, who founded the Patriot Freedom Project. They made the case to him that at least some of his devoted followers charged in the riot were jailed unjustly, and were being treated poorly.

Another crucial factor in Trump’s growing support for the cause may have been his own confrontation with American law enforcement, including over charges related to his efforts to overturn the 2020 election, which has become a centerpiece of his campaign for president.

“The biggest thing that helped us was him getting arrested, so that the rest of the world can see what is happening to J-6’ers,” Tamara Perryman, whose husband Brian Jackson was charged in connection with the riot, told Semafor during the nightly vigil

Monday, March 18, 2024

The Return of the Russian Assets

Josh Dawsey at WP:
Former president Donald Trump is expected to enlist Paul Manafort, the former campaign manager he pardoned, as a campaign adviser later this year, according to four people familiar with the talks.

The job discussions have largely centered around the 2024 Republican convention in Milwaukee in July and could include Manafort playing a role in fundraising for the presumptive GOP nominee’s campaign, according to these people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe private deliberations. While no formal decision has been made, the four people described the hiring as expected and said Trump was determined to bring Manafort back into the fold.

Manafort worked for Trump in 2016 before being ousted and later convicted of tax and bank fraud felonies as part of Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. He served time in prison before receiving a pardon in the final days of Trump’s time in office.

From a bipartisan report by the Senate Intelligence Committee:

Manafort hired and worked increasingly closely with a Russian national, Konstantin Kilimnik. Kilimnik is a Russian intelligence officer. Kilimnik became an integral part of Manafort's operations in Ukraine and Russia, serving as Manafort's primary liaison to Deripaska and eventually managing Manafort's office in Kyiv. Kilimnik and Manafort formed a close and lasting relationship that endured to the 2016 U.S. elections. and beyond. 

Last year, Michelle Price reported at AP:

Former President Donald Trump called into an event hosted by his former national security adviser Michael Flynn over the weekend, telling his ex-adviser, “We’re going to bring you back.”

After scrubbing a rally in Iowa on Saturday night because of bad weather, Trump spoke via telephone at an event for Flynn’s “ReAwaken America Tour” held at the former president’s Miami resort. The retired lieutenant general, a top figure in the far-right movement, has been one of the leading proponents of Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election.

During the call, which was captured on a video of the event posted online, Flynn is seen holding a cellphone up to a microphone as Trump, on the line, says to Flynn, “You just have to stay healthy because we’re bringing you back. We’re going to bring you back.”

Flynn, who resigned from the Trump administration less than a month after Trump’s inauguration in 2017, was charged later that year with lying to the FBI about conservations he had with the Russians on Trump’s behalf. He twice pleaded guilty, but Trump ultimately pardoned him in the final weeks of his presidency.

Sunday, March 17, 2024

Trump Rhetoric

 Our books have discussed Trump's low character, which was on display yesterday in Ohio.  Marisa Iati at WP:

Former president Donald Trump ratcheted up his dehumanizing rhetoric against immigrants Saturday by saying that some who are accused of crimes are “not people.”

“I don’t know if you call them people,” he said at a rally near Dayton, Ohio. “In some cases they’re not people, in my opinion. But I’m not allowed to say that because the radical left says that’s a terrible thing to say.”

Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, was in Ohio to stump for Senate candidate Bernie Moreno, who is in a tight three-way race for the Republican nomination to challenge Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown. Moreno, a businessman, is facing Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose and state Sen. Matt Dolan in Tuesday’s primary.

Later in the rally, Trump warned it will be a “bloodbath for the country” if he is not elected. The comment came as he was promising to hike tariffs on foreign-made cars, and it was not clear exactly what Trump was referring to with his admonition.

“Now we’re going to put a 100 percent tariff on every single car that comes across [the] line, and you’re not going to be able to sell those guys — if I get elected,” he said. “Now, if I don’t get elected, it’s going to be a bloodbath for the whole. That’s going to be the least of it. It’s going to be a bloodbath for the country.”

Immigration is shaping up to be an explosive issue in the presidential campaign. Trump and President Biden staged dueling visits to Texas border towns last month, castigating each other for a recent surge in illegal immigration.

Trump said the influx of migrants was “a Joe Biden invasion.” Biden blamed Trump for the death of a $20 billion bipartisan bill to increase detention capacity and hire thousands of Border Patrol officers.

Trump’s comments Saturday represent an escalation of his long-harsh language on the topic. Since beginning his 2016 campaign by calling Mexican immigrants “rapists,” Trump has made inflammatory attacks on migrants a theme of all of his campaigns. He accused immigrants in October of “poisoning the blood of our country” — a remark some likened to the “contamination of the blood” concept that Adolf Hitler laid out in “Mein Kampf.” Trump has rejected that comparison and has continued to use similar language.

 Trump has been referring to nonwhite people as "animals" for a very long time.

Saturday, March 16, 2024

Trump Trial Delays

In Divided We Stand: The 2020 Elections and American Politicswe look at Trump's dishonesty and disregard for the rule of law.

 Our next book will look at the 2024 campaign and the impact of Trump's legal problemsNew York courts have found that he is a rapist and a fraud.

Ben Protess, Alan Feuer, William K. Rashbaum and Maggie Haberman at NYT:

The schedule seemed stacked against Donald J. Trump: four criminal trials in four cities, all in the same year he is running for president.

But rather than doom Mr. Trump, the chaotic calendar might just save him.

Mr. Trump, who as president helped reshape the federal judiciary, has already persuaded the Supreme Court to delay his trial in Washington. His lawyers have buried judges in Florida and Georgia in enough legal motions and procedural complaints that his cases there have no set trial dates, either.

The case in Manhattan, where the district attorney accused Mr. Trump of covering up a sex scandal during and after the 2016 presidential campaign, was the only one not mired in potential postponements.

Until now.

On Friday, Justice Juan M. Merchan, who is overseeing the case, delayed the trial at least three weeks, until mid-April.