Dec. 04

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New Senate: DEM 48             GOP 52

New polls:  
Dem pickups: (None)
GOP pickups: (None)

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Feinstein Thinks Mueller Is Building an Obstruction of Justice Case against Trump

Yesterday, Sen. Dianne Feinstein told "Meet the Press" that she thinks special counsel Robert Mueller is building an obstruction of justice case against Donald Trump. Mueller, of course, is not talking, but Feinstein sees a pattern in the indictments and guilty pleas so far that suggest that. Trump's tweet on Friday that he fired former NSA Michael Flynn because he lied to the FBI strengthens the obstruction case because it indicates that he knew Flynn had lied. When he asked former FBI Director James Comey to drop the case against Flynn, he knew he was trying to protect someone who had committed a crime. That's obstruction of justice.

In a possible attempt to get Trump off the hook, Trump's lawyer, John Dowd, claims that he (and not Trump) drafted the tweet. Whether Dowd's attempt to fall on his sword impresses Mueller remains to be seen; though whether Dowd is telling the truth or he is lying, he is putting himself in serious jeopardy of disbarment. The only Republican to appear on the Sunday talk shows asked to address this was Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) and she pointedly didn't want to comment on the subject of obstruction of justice. All she said was: "Now, really, the special counsel is in the driver's seat." (V)

Did Flynn Wear a Wire?

There has been time for everyone to go through Michael Flynn's plea agreement with a fine-toothed comb, and some observers have noted that it includes a promise to participate in "covert law enforcement activities," if asked. That generally means wearing a wire, which raises the question of whether he's already done so. Did Flynn, for example, have a frank conversation with Jared Kushner after turning state's evidence? If so, Robert Mueller knows, and Flynn knows, and Kushner must certainly suspect what happened. On the other hand, there may not have been a wire at all, and Mueller's game might be to merely bluff that one existed. That could cause someone who was less-than-truthful to come forward and spill their guts, for fear that they were caught on tape lying. 3-D chess, indeed.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump says he's not worried about Flynn's plea deal. This means absolutely nothing, first because Trump is an inveterate liar, and second because that is the only answer he could possibly give. Were Trump to admit he was worried, it would be tantamount to admitting that he has something to hide. Nonetheless, the President—who cannot help but wear his emotions on his sleeve—has made clear that he's very worried, indeed. First, with the frequency that he's insisted that he's not worried—he's made sure to reiterate that at least a dozen times since Friday. Second, because he had one of the biggest Twitter meltdowns of his presidency this weekend, lashing out at a plethora of his favorite targets. Among them:

After years of Comey, with the phony and dishonest Clinton investigation (and more), running the FBI, its reputation is in Tatters - worst in History! But fear not, we will bring it back to greatness.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 3, 2017

Congratulations to @ABC News for suspending Brian Ross for his horrendously inaccurate and dishonest report on the Russia, Russia, Russia Witch Hunt. More Networks and “papers” should do the same with their Fake News!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 3, 2017

So General Flynn lies to the FBI and his life is destroyed, while Crooked Hillary Clinton, on that now famous FBI holiday “interrogation” with no swearing in and no recording, lies many times...and nothing happens to her? Rigged system, or just a double standard?

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 3, 2017

Trump also posted a video expressing his admiration for Rosa Parks. Perhaps next week, he can post one explaining exactly what he thinks the differences are between Black Lives Matter, which he apparently hates, and the Civil Rights Movement, which he apparently likes. (Z)

Differences Will Have to Be Ironed Out between the Senate and House Bills

The tax bills passed by the Senate and House are similar, but not identical. Unless the House swallows the Senate bill whole (unlikely), the differences will have to be ironed out in a conference committee. Here are some of the major differences between the two bills. The numbers in parentheses indicate how much the deficit will increase over 10 years (in billions or trillions of dollars) if that version is accepted:

Item House bill Senate bill
Obamacare mandate Mandate is retained Fine is set to $0 ($-338B)
Tax cuts for individuals Permanent They expire in 2025
Estate tax Eliminated in 2024 ($151B) Exemption raised to $11 million ($83B)
Child tax credit Raised to $1,600 ($430B) Raised to $2,000 ($580B)
Mortgage interest Only on first $500,000 of loan Only on first $1 million of loan
Tax brackets Four brackets ($1.1T) Seven brackets ($1.17T)
When does corporate cut start? 2018 ($0) 2019 ($-127B)

There are also many minor points that have to be reconciled, such as the alternative minimum tax (modified in the Senate bill, eliminated in the House bill). Given how badly all Republicans want a this massive tax cut, the conferees will very likely find a way to resolve all the differences. (V)

McConnell Backs Off Position that Moore Should Drop Out of the Senate Race

For weeks, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has been saying that alleged child molester Roy Moore should drop out of the Alabama Senate race. Yesterday, he changed his tune and said the people of Alabama should make the decision about whom they want to represent them in the Senate. His new position is unlikely to sway many votes, as McConnell is the least popular politician in the country, but it could signal a change in what happens if Moore wins. Previously, McConnell has said he would move to expel Moore if he won. It now sounds like he is more likely to say: "Personally, I believe his accusers, but the people of Alabama don't, and it's their decision, not mine." The result could be McConnell gritting his teeth and allowing Moore to stay in the Senate, where he could be a loose cannon. Not to mention an anchor around the Republican Party's neck, as the GOP leadership makes it easier and easier to argue that the Republicans don't care one bit about sexual assault. (V)

Bush is Back

No, not that one. Or that one. Or that one. The political Bushes are keeping a relatively low profile these days, excepting those days when Poppy Bush is accused by another woman of unwanted groping. The Bush that is making his return to the headlines is Billy, he of pu**ygate fame. On Sunday, he wrote an op-ed for the New York Times, and on Monday he'll be appearing on "Late Night with Stephen Colbert."

Bush's re-emergence comes a week after Donald Trump began expressing private doubts as to whether or not the pu**ygate tape is real. The notion that it's fake is absurd; among other problems, why did Trump apologize if it wasn't real? Nonetheless, Bush wants to make sure that The Donald does not somehow manage to rewrite the narrative, so the headline of his op-ed is, "Yes, Donald Trump, You Said That." Presumably, the same observation will be made on Colbert.

It is interesting that Bush is coming out of hibernation just days after Matt Lauer got fired from "The Today Show." Bush was supposed to be Lauer's successor-in-waiting; maybe he's angling for a triumphant return to NBC, where he was certainly popular with viewers. It seems unlikely, but if he somehow is rehired, then he'd be a permanent thorn in The Donald's side, as opposed to just making some waves this week and then receding back into the mists. (Z)

CBS Poll: Moore Ahead by 6%, but Don't Believe It

A new CBS/YouGov poll puts Roy Moore (R) ahead of Doug Jones (D) among likely voters in the race for Jeff Sessions' old seat. Among registered voters it is even. The election is a week from tomorrow. The poll also found that among Republican likely voters, 17% think the allegations of sexual misconduct against Moore are true and 71% think they are false. This raises the excellent question of what, exactly, the other 12% are waiting for before they can make a decision.

Politico is skeptical about this and all other polls of this race. Why?

In short, for better or worse, you should take all the polling results of this race with a barrel of salt. Sorry about that. We'll keep reporting polls down there, but keep this in mind.

The candidates may be conducting their own private polling, but it is hardly necessary because they both know what they have to do. Moore has to repeat over and over that the women accusing him of child molestation when they were teenagers are lying and the media and the Democrats are framing him. This will encourage Republicans to go vote next week.

Jones has to get black voters to the polls. One thing he did to get them excited is visit the Edmund Pettus bridge, the site of Bloody Sunday in Selma, AL on March 7, 1965, when police attacked civil rights marchers with billy clubs and tear gas. Most black voters understand the significance of that bridge. (V)

Trump Tries to Keep Hatch in the Senate

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) is, by all accounts, leaning towards retiring. He's 83 and has served seven terms, so he's certainly earned a nice rest. However, Donald Trump is now doing a full-court press, trying to get Hatch to stand for an eighth term. It appears to be working, as Hatch is now making clear that he has made no decision yet, and he may run in 2018 after all.

What is Trump's game here? Well, it has nothing to do with Orrin Hatch, and everything to do with the man who would certainly succeed him. That would be Mitt Romney, who has made clear he will run if Hatch does not, and who remains wildly popular in Utah. The 70-year-old Romney surely does not dream of a long career in the Senate, where it takes 20 years to gain real power. No, his purpose would be to stand up to Donald Trump, as part of a larger effort by the "establishment" wing of the Party to re-assert itself. Romney would have absolutely no need to go along with anything Trump does or says; the former Massachusetts governor presumably would not run for re-election in 2024, and even if he did, Trump is widely loathed in Utah. In other words, Romney would be a version of Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), except with a higher profile, a greater likelihood of opposing the President, and six years to resist instead of one. It's no surprise that Trump would rather have Hatch. (Z)

Clinton for U.S. Senate?

No, not her—she's a carpetbagger, and is not especially popular in Arkansas anyhow. Not him, either—he's not a carpetbagger, and remains pretty popular, but is too fully ensnared in stories about his dubious sexual past right now. The suggestion, thrown out there by Politico's Bill Scher, is that maybe Chelsea should run.

Scher's notion, which is entirely speculative, is based on a number of observations:

This is a just a long shot at the moment, unsupported by the slightest amount of evidence. Nonetheless, stranger things have happened. (Z)

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