Dem 48
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GOP 52
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New polls:  
Dem pickups vs. 2012: (None)
GOP pickups vs. 2012: (None)

More Businessmen Distance Themselves from Trump

Donald Trump promised to run the government more like a business. As it turns out, increasingly many businessmen do not like how Trump is doing at all. Four CEOs who were on Trump's Manufacturing Advisory Council already left on account of his failure to unambiguously say whose fault the Charlottesville violence was. Two union leaders also left. Yesterday, a seventh person left, 3M CEO Inge Thulin. Upon his departure he said that the council was "no longer an effective vehicle to advance the goals of sustainability, diversity, and inclusion."

But it gets worse. With the Manufacturing Council, the CEOs left one at a time. In addition to that panel, the President also has—no, make that "had"—a Strategic and Policy Forum, chaired by Stephen Schwarzman, CEO of Blackstone. The group is so disgusted by the events of the past few days, that they decided to disband. Basically, none of the CEOs wanted to have anything to do with Trump. And these were no small fry. The group included the CEOs of GM, JP Morgan Chase, Wal-Mart, PepsiCo, IBM, Ernst & Young, and GE, among others. When the captains of industry run screaming from a Republican president, you know there is a problem. Trump's voting base may still be with him to some extent (but see below), but losing the confidence of big business is something no other Republican president has ever done before. It can't be a good omen.

Trump tried to save face by claiming that he disbanded the Forum, but that came only after the group pulled the plug itself. However, Trump did terminate the Manufacturing Advisory Council before it terminated itself, or before more members could resign in protest. (V)

Pence: I Stand with the President

Vice President Mike Pence is between a rock and a hard place. If he supports Donald Trump, some Republicans will love him and others will hate him. Ditto if he distances himself from Trump. Yesterday, he told reporters: "I spoke at length about this heartbreaking situation on Sunday night in Colombia, and I stand with the president and I stand by those words." For better or worse, he is now joined at the hip with Trump. If Trump ultimately goes down, it will be hard for Pence to escape The Donald's long shadow. He could have just remained silent or said something mushy about praying for Heather Heyer's soul and left it at that, but he chose to back Trump. Is he making a calculation that Trump will run for reelection in 2020 and he wants to be on the ticket? He wasn't saying. He also won't be speaking. At the Kochs' summit this weekend, that is. He was supposed to give an address, but either canceled, or was disinvited, depending on whom you believe. If the Kochs, aka the GOP's most important money machine, have soured on the VP, that's bad news for his political future. Maybe Sheldon Adelson is looking for a new horse to bet on. (V)

Three Democrats Want to Censure Trump

Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), and Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) have introduced a House resolution to:

[C]ensure and condemn President Donald Trump for his inadequate response to the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia on August 12, 2017, his failure to immediately and specifically name and condemn the white supremacist groups responsible for actions of domestic terrorism, for re-asserting that "both sides" were to blame and excusing the violent behavior of participants in the 'Unite the Right' rally, and for employing people with ties to white supremacist movements in the White House, such as Steve Bannon and Sebastian Gorka...

The resolution also calls for the President to fire anyone in the administration who is part of the "alt-right."

The House Judiciary Committee would have to advance the measure to the full House before anything could come of it, but if they do it certainly would create an interesting dilemma for House Republicans. Do they participate in a public shaming of Trump, knowing that he would be furious, and might sic his base on them? Or do they decline to condemn him? We know how well it went over when Trump failed to condemn the white supremacists, it might not look much better for those who fail to condemn Trump for failing to condemn the white supremacists.

Only one president has ever been censured by Congress, and it was arguably the most Trump-like chief executive of them all, namely Andrew Jackson. He got busted for refusing to release his tax returns—er, paperwork related to the killing of the Bank of the United States. There are also 10 senators and 23 representatives in the club, though only three—David Durenberger, Charles Rangel, and Dan Crane—are still living. The censure has no official implications, but its rarity hints at its seriousness. If it does happen to Trump, brace yourself for a Twitter apocalypse. (Z)

John Kelly Already Growing Weary

Newly-appointed White House Chief of Staff John Kelly was a man with a plan. He knows that his boss gets easily distracted, and tends to embrace the positions of whoever talked to him last, and is a loose cannon. So, when he replaced Reince Priebus, Kelly began controlling access to the President, requiring all visitors—even family—to go through him. He also micromanaged the flow of information into and out of the Oval Office—phone calls to or from The Donald, for example, don't get put through without Kelly's say-so.

All of this is a pretty good plan. And yet, it didn't work one bit. As soon as Trump was out from under Kelly's watchful eye on Tuesday, the President uncorked a press conference for the ages, shooting himself in the foot so many times that it seemed like he was trying to dodge service in the Vietnam War...again. Trump can't help himself, and he may even do this sort of thing as a deliberate act of defiance.

As a result of Tuesday's performance, as well as a string of other fiascoes during the 2-1/2 weeks he's been in his new position, Kelly is already disappointed and frustrated. "The Kelly era was a bright, shining interlude between failed attempts to right the Trump presidency and it has now come to a close after a short but glorious run," said one White House insider. "Like all people who work for the president, he has since experienced the limits of the president's promises to cooperate." Meanwhile, Trump is already chafing at Kelly's discipline, sometimes using his personal cell phone to do an end run around Kelly's call screening. One person close to the President went so far as to describe him as a "caged animal." So, we have another high-profile member of the administration that doesn't seem too long for his job. (Z)

Trump's Air Traffic Overhaul Would Add $100 Billion to the Deficit

One might think that Donald Trump, after so many high-profile defeats and reverses, and an approval rating that's looking Nixonesque, would try to come up with at least one viable policy proposal. Even if that means aiming low, just to get some positive momentum going. But no, that's apparently not how this White House works. The latest item on the Trump agenda to be going down in flames is his proposal to privatize air traffic controllers.

This particular idea is something of a longshot. Some Republicans like it, because the GOP is the party of small government and privatization. However, others—who represent the more sparsely-populated states—are opposed, because they know their smaller airports would end up understaffed. Most Democrats don't like it either, and now the CBO says that the plan would add $100 billion to the government's expenditures over the course of the next 10 years. Much of that would be offset by revenue increases, but the plan would still add another $2 billion or so in deficits annually, so there goes many of the budget hawks. Consequently, yet another Trump proposal is well on its way to turning into a steaming pile of covfefe. (Z)

Trump Will Visit Phoenix Next Week

Donald Trump will make a rare trip west of the Mississippi next week, going to Phoenix on Tuesday. He doesn't like to travel that far because he likes to sleep in his own bed every night. The flight from D.C. to Phoenix takes about 5 hours, not including the time it takes to get to and from the nearest military airports. The real purpose of the trip could be any combination of:

  • To speak to an adoring crowd and get them revved up
  • To pardon Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who is facing prison for defying a federal court
  • To endorse someone to run against Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) in the Arizona Republican primary
  • To tell Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) to die quickly so he can be replaced by someone who will vote to kill Obamacare

It could be any or all of them, of course. If Trump is planning to endorse someone to take on Flake, who just wrote a book wiping the floor with him, it probably won't be Kelli Ward, the only declared Flake challenger so far. More likely is state Treasurer Jeff DeWit, an early Trump supporter. However, if Trump endorses DeWit and Ward stays in the primary, the anti-Flake vote will split between DeWit and Ward, with Flake being the likely winner. If Trump's goal is to take down Flake, he would be better off endorsing Ward. She ran aginst McCain in 2016, a fool's errand if there ever was one, and is not likely to drop out just because Trump prefers someone else.

It is also possible that Trump is feeling irritated since a large number of people, including many Republicans, have been hitting on him for equating neo-Nazis with people fighting neo-Nazis. By getting thousands of miles from Charlottesville, he may hope to get some relief.

Not everyone will welcome the President with open arms, however. Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton (D) would prefer that Trump stay home. He worries that the visit will "enflame emotions" after Charlottesville, and he also doesn't want to see Arpaio pardoned. Stanton's not likely to get his way on keeping Trump away, and might end up disappointed about Arpaio, as well. (V)

Lobbyists Are Pessimistic about Tax Reform

While Donald Trump hasn't said it yet, expect him to soon say: "Who knew tax reform was so complicated?" Actually everyone in D.C. knows that, especially the lobbyists whose job depends on getting the provisions their employer wants into the tax code. Many of the lobbyists have abandoned all hope that major tax reform is possible this year. Randy Hardock, a partner at Davis & Harman, put it this way: "We'll end up with some lower rates and some business tax changes and probably some tax cuts that are probably temporary because they're doing it all with Republican votes." If all Senate Democrats vote against the Republicans' tax bill, it has to be revenue neutral to be permanent, so the GOP may have to settle on temporary tax cuts and leave it at that. And that is assuming they can agree on whose taxes to cut.

Despite the low chance that a major tax reform bill will pass, there is one sector of the economy that is cheering: the tax lobbying sector. Lobbying firms have signed 355 contracts so far this year, and the battle hasn't even started yet. Many of the companies that have hired these lobbyists are not likely to get their money's worth in the end, but the lobbying firms don't work on a no-cure, no-pay basis. They get paid, no matter what the outcome.

One big difference between 2017 and 1986, the last time a big tax bill passed, is that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has made the strategic decision to pass the bill using only Republican votes, which means that if two Republican senators vote "no" the bill is dead (assuming John McCain is too ill to vote). In 1986, Ronald Reagan had an approval rating of 60% and through sheer force of personality managed to get a substantial number of Democrats to vote for his bill. Reagan also had the good sense to spend 10 months working out the bill in the first place (with Democratic input) and then allowing Congress to spend 2 years tweaking it, to make sure both sides of the aisle could live with it. McConnell's not even trying, which means his margin for error is tiny and he could easily fail. (V)

Russian Hackers May Have Used Software Written by a Ukrainian Freelancer

Many people have the view that the Russian hackers are employees of the FSB (successor to the KGB) or the GRU (Russian military intelligence) and work 9 to 5 in high-tech offices in a nice building in Moscow. A report in the New York Times suggests otherwise. According to the report, one of the main tools used by the Russians during the election hacking was written by a Ukrainian known as Profexer who put it up on the Russian-language dark Web for free, asking for voluntary donations ranging from $3 to $250. Supposedly he had no idea the Russians were going to use it to meddle in the U.S. election. This discovery, if it proves true, suggests that rather than having a tight-knit team working at the FSB or GRU, the Russians are getting at least some of their malware wherever they can find it.

According to the report, when Profexer discovered what his software was being used for, he went to the Ukrainian police. He wasn't arrested because writing the software wasn't a crime and he never used it to hack anything. The report also said that Profexer has talked to the FBI. If that is true, it could give special counsel Robert Mueller valuable information. (V)

Mueller's Team Takes a Hit

Robert Mueller has assembled an all-star team of lawyers and law enforcement pros as he investigates Russiagate, and anything else that strikes his fancy. One of the all-stars has been sent to the showers, however. It's veteran FBI agent Peter Strzok, who is an expert in counterespionage and counterintelligence. He's handled high-profile investigations before, including leading the investigation into Hillary Clinton's e-mail server, so it is not likely the pressure got to him. Maybe there was a conflict of personalities, or over the direction of the investigation, or maybe his skills proved to be less useful than expected. For now, nobody's talking. (Z)

Marist Poll: Trump's Approval is 35%

Earlier this week Gallup released a poll putting Donald Trump's approval rating at 34%. Now the Marist poll seconds the motion. It has him at 35% approve and 55% disapprove. To make it worse, he is dropping with people who identify as strong Republicans. Of that group, 79% approve of him, compared to 91% who approved in June. At this point in his term, Barack Obama was at 55% approval and 35% disapproval. (V)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Aug16 Trump Once Again Blames Both Sides for the Charlottesville Violence
Aug16 Companies Are Distancing Themselves from the Charlottesville Marchers
Aug16 What Would Trumpism Be Like without Bannon?
Aug16 Elaine Chao Stands by Her Man
Aug16 Democrats Will Test Out Two Different Strategies in 2018
Aug16 Donald Trump Lies--A Lot
Aug16 White House Communications Director #4? Looks Like it's Hope Hicks
Aug16 No Surprises in Alabama, Utah
Aug15 Three Days Too Late and Under Pressure, Trump Denounces White Supremacists
Aug15 Trump Attacks Business Leader He Praised Last Month
Aug15 Trump May Pardon Arpaio
Aug15 Trump's Approval Falls to Lowest Level Ever
Aug15 Strange Election in Alabama Today
Aug15 Utah Also Has an Election Today
Aug15 "Kid Rock" May be Ineligible to Appear on the Michigan Senate Ballot
Aug15 Mooch Chats with Colbert, Bannon Death Watch Underway
Aug14 Trump's Advisers Try to Stem Fallout from Trump's Remarks about Charlottesville
Aug14 Trump Has Other Defenders, Too
Aug14 Tax Reform Will Probably Be Tougher than Health Care
Aug14 Senate May End Blue-Slip Courtesy
Aug14 CNN's "Jeffrey Lord Problem"
Aug14 Donald Trump Is Making People Sick
Aug14 Trump To Roll Back Obamacare Protections for Transgender Individuals
Aug13 Trump Condemns Violence in Charlottesville but Doesn't Mention Who Started It
Aug13 Bannon on Thin Ice
Aug13 Republican Representative Is Holding a Ticket Lottery for His Town Hall
Aug13 The 86 Million Reasons Trump Can't Win a Battle with McConnell
Aug13 RNC Has Adopted Bernie Sanders' Fundraising Approach; the DNC Hasn't
Aug13 Trump Hotel Turns a $2M Profit
Aug12 Report: China Would Not Help North Korea If It Attacks the U.S.
Aug12 Trump Threatens Venezuela
Aug12 Republicans Come under Pressure at Town Halls
Aug12 Manafort Changes Lawyers as Mueller Turns the Screws on Him
Aug12 Wall Street Growing Bearish
Aug12 Kyrsten Sinema Is Considering a Run Against Flake
Aug12 Secretary of Energy...Joe Manchin?
Aug12 McConnell Is Backing Kid Rock in Michigan Senate Race
Aug11 McConnell and Trump Are Taking Potshots at Each Other
Aug11 Kim and Trump Are Also Taking Potshots at Each Other
Aug11 Trump Thanks Putin for Expelling Diplomats
Aug11 Trump's Legal Team is Completely Outmatched by Mueller's Team
Aug11 Mercer Donates $300,000 to Take Down Flake
Aug11 Indiana Made it Easier for White Voters, Harder for Black Voters, to Cast Ballots Early
Aug11 Poll: Half of Republicans are OK with Postponing 2020 Election
Aug11 Poll: Trump's Finances Are Fair Game
Aug11 Northam Leads Gillespie in Virginia Gubernatorial Race
Aug11 It's Open Season on the Environment
Aug11 Rohrabacher Steps in It
Aug10 FBI Agents Raided Paul Manafort's Home in July
Aug10 Transgender Soldiers Sue