• Trump Is Consumed by the "Russia Thing"
• Trump Should Fire Kushner
• Trump Can't Decide How to Deal with the News
• Trump Staffer Says that the Portland Attacks are Unacceptable
• Can the President Be Indicted?
• The CBO Score and Election Year Pain
• The Sanders Revolution is Fizzling
• Georgia Republican Is Running with Trump and against Trump at the Same Time
• Wisconsin Democrats Like Their Chances of Knocking Off Scott Walker
We have two major changes today, one visible and one invisible. The visible one is the new map on top. It shows the 2018 Senate races. While it may be a bit early, both parties are starting to think about them already. It is clear from the map that 2018 favors the Republicans very strongly. They have to defend only eight seats, and six of them are in extremely red states. It is almost inconceivable that a Democrat could win any of them unless the incumbent senator is caught in bed with, in the words of Edwin Edwards, "either a dead girl or a live boy." Of the other two, the Democrats will have a tough time unseating Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), so Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV) is the only truly endangered Republican.
The Democrats, in contrast, have to defend 25 seats (including those of the two independents who caucus with them). Ten of these are in states President Donald Trump won, so the Democrats are very much on the defensive.
The other change today—which is not visible—is that we are now on a new server. Hosting is still at Hostrocket.com, which does a great job, but our old Celeron was getting a bit long in tooth and the hard disk was on its last legs (well, disks don't have legs, but it could have failed at any moment). We have migrated to a virtual machine on modern hardware. For the record, it is a dual-core, 4 GB machine with 50 GB of fast SSD storage and updated software. We have also switched from using lighttpd as the Web server to nginx. You will notice this because page load times will be appreciably faster now. It is suggested that you clear your browser cache now to avoid getting a mix of pages from the old server and the new server, which may not be consistent.
If you are not seeing the 2018 Senate map above, clear your browser's cache and reload the page. If that doesn't work, enter this address in the address bar: https://www.electoral-vote.com. Within a day or so, "www.electoral-vote.com" should work again (V)
Since returning to D.C. from his trip abroad, President Donald Trump has spent all his time thinking about the Russia probe, including establishing a communications team, getting his legal team in order, and generally coming to the realization that it is not going to go away. Senior Adviser Steve Bannon is convinced there is a conspiracy from the "deep state" to destroy the Trump presidency. The odd thing here is that it may be true: The leaks might be coming from the CIA (but see below).
Having Trump behave even more erratically than usual is taking a real toll on the White House staff. No one knows when he will lash out and against whom. No one knows if they will have a job tomorrow. No one knows if they can avoid going to jail. It's hard to run an administration in which 90% of the top positions are still vacant and the 10% who are there are scared of what might happen next.
One thing Trump appears to be considering is bringing back some old hands. These may include his first campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, the former president of Citizens United, David Bossie, and Newsmax CEO Chris Ruddy. None of these are fresh faces who could make the problems go away. They are more like the kind of old friends he wants in his bunker while he is hunkering down and trying to weather the storm.
As to legislation, that appears to be on the back burner for now. Sooner or later the Senate will come up with a healthcare bill, but that is on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's plate, not Trump's. However, the Senate bill is likely to be vastly different from the House bill, so they will have to be reconciled. That is where a president can play a powerful role, by saying: "This is what I want." But if Trump is completely obsessed by Russia, he is probably not going to be banging heads together to get the Senate and House to agree on a bill.
But maybe Trump's help won't be needed to reconcile a Senate healthcare bill and a House bill. Yesterday, McConnell said that he will bring a bill to the Senate floor, but he can't promise there will be 50 votes for it. That sounds very much like "the votes aren't there." The problem is that his caucus is badly divided and what Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) wants in the bill is unacceptable to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and vice versa. So Trump may be spared the job of wheeling and dealing to get a bill both chambers can agree on if the Senate itself can't agree on a bill. (V)
Given how thoroughly the Russia scandal has spun beyond the White House's control, there isn't much that Donald Trump can do to change the narrative. Even his tried-and-true strategy of misdirection is unlikely to work; as he traveled the globe last week, the news he made was relegated to 1B, while Russia-related revelations remained 1A. However, as the Washington Post's Eugene Robinson observes, there is one thing that Trump can and should so: Fire his son-in-law.
Getting rid of Jared Kushner would allow Trump to put a little distance between himself and the current epicenter of the scandal. It would also allow the President to claim he takes the charges seriously, and is dealing with them aggressively, and to the best of his ability. By contrast, allowing Kushner to linger is reminiscent of what happened with Michael Flynn, whom the administration knew was tainted, and who was allowed to remain on the job until public pressure made the situation untenable.
By all evidence, cashiering Kushner would be no loss for the administration. He's done nothing to win over the hearts of Democrats, and has made no progress on the many projects that landed on his desk: re-inventing the federal government, combating the opioid crisis, and bringing peace to the Middle East. Meanwhile, his lack of political sophistication has been laid bare time and again—for example, it was he who advised the President that firing James Comey was a slam dunk, and would be celebrated on both sides of the aisle. Oops. There's also the small matter of Kushner's sister traveling to China and appearing to offer green cards in exchange for cash.
Of course, this is not actually going to happen. Trump is loyal to a fault, particularly with family members. Further, there's a good chance that Kushner was acting on the President's orders, and might even spill his guts if he is made a scapegoat. The Donald made his views clear when speaking to the New York Times on Sunday, declaring "Jared is doing a great job for the country. I have total confidence in him." As they say, "He who lives by the Kushner, dies by the Kushner." (Z)
Donald Trump clearly does not like the news, with the daily drip-drip-drip of things he doesn't want anyone to know. A problem with his response, however, is that he claims two things, which are mutually incompatible:
- The leaks are from White House or CIA insiders who need to be rooted out and punished/li>
- The leaks are fake news made up by scheming journalists who hate him
Trump seems to say both are true, which is impossible. Either they are true and being released by rogue employees or they are false and are being invented out of thin air by biased, malicious journalists. It is hard for them to be both, yet within the course of a single day he will say both. (V)
On Friday, white-supremacist Jeremy Joseph Christian, riding on a light-rail train in Portland, OR, began yelling racist remarks at two young women, one of whom was wearing a headscarf. Several tried to stop him and Christian stabbed two of them to death. All weekend people have been waiting for Trump to condemn Christian, but no tweets were forthcoming. Yesterday, a tweet came from @POTUS, which is run by Trump's staff, and said: "The violent attacks in Portland on Friday are unacceptable. The victims were standing up to hate and intolerance. Our prayers are w/ them." There were no tweets from Trump's personal Twitter account, @realDonaldTrump.
All this brings up a couple of questions, such as:
- Why didn't Trump tweet as soon as the news broke?
- Why didn't he personally tweet the response?
- Is "unacceptable" the strongest word he or his staff could find?
Also noteworthy was a lack of any plan to combat attacks by white supremacists. (V)
Not since Richard Nixon was trying to cover up a "third-rate burglary" has there been serious discussion about whether a sitting president can be indicted. The House has the power to impeach a president, but what then? Art. I, Sec. 3, sixth paragraph of the Constitution says:
The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments. When sitting for that Purpose, they shall be on Oath or Affirmation. When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside: And no Person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two thirds of the Members present.
We still don't have an answer to the question of whether a sitting president can be indicted, though. But wait, the next paragraph of Sec. 3 reads:
Judgment in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States: but the Party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to Indictment, Trial, Judgment and Punishment, according to Law.
So it is unambiguous that a president can be tried and punished after being removed from office, but what about while he is still in office? The Constitution isn't much help here. Constitutional lawyers are divided on the topic. Brett Kavanaugh, who worked for independent counsel Kenneth Starr, wrote in a 1998 law review article: "Whether the Constitution allows indictment of a sitting president is debatable." On the other hand, Eric Freedman, a law professor at Hofstra University, wrote a 1999 law review article stating that presidential immunity from prosecution was "inconsistent with the history, structure and underlying philosophy of our government, at odds with precedent and unjustified by practical considerations."
So what is special counsel Robert Mueller to do if he believes Donald Trump has committed a crime? The simplest thing for him would be to write in his report: "The evidence shows without any doubt that President Trump committed a felony when he obstructed justice, but it is up to the House of Representatives to take action, should it so desire." That puts the ball in Congress's court and gets him off the hook. (V)
The Congressional Budget Office has analyzed the AHCA from a medical point of view. Now the Kaiser Family Foundation has analyzed it from a political point of view. The biggest effect before the 2018 midterms is a likely rise in premiums in the individual market due to the repeal of the mandate to buy insurance. Younger, healthier people are expected to drop out of the insurance market, leaving an older, sicker pool behind.
For 2020, other issues will kick in. As Medicaid expansion is dialed back or eliminated, the states will have to make some tough decisions about how much to spend on healthcare for poor people. If millions of them lose it, they might be more inclined to vote in 2020 than they normally are. It is hard to see how this will be a major motivator on the right though unless the Republicans openly campaign on a slogan of "We have forced those lazy good-for-nothing poor people to earn their healthcare now. No more freebies," which could be dangerous. The article linked to above also gives a timeline of when the various effects of the AHCA kick in. Of course, if the Senate is unable to come up with its own bill or the Senate does write a bill and the House votes it down, all this is moot. (V)
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) remains one of America's most popular politicians (at least, north of the Mason-Dixon line). He is in high demand for speeches, rallies, and campaigns. In his re-election bid next year, he is likely to win by 30 or 40 points. However, as Politico's David Siders observes, the Senator has had little luck transferring his mojo to other political aspirants. And without that, all we have is a political star, and not a political revolution.
The list of high-profile defeats is getting pretty long at this point. Heath Mello defeated for the mayorship of Omaha. Keith Ellison for chair of the national Democratic Party, Kimberly Ellis for chair of the California Democratic Party. Rob Quist for Congress. There have been a few low-profile victories—seats in the New York and New Hampshire legislatures—but even those were balanced out by state-level defeats in California and Nevada.
It's true that most of the Sanders-backed candidates were longshots, though if they weren't, it wouldn't be a revolution. There is still time for the Senator and his supporters to prove they can change the direction of the Democratic Party, but it's also the case that they are fighting an uphill battle, given that the Democrats are already doing fine in the bastions of progressivism (e.g., large, coastal cities), and are currently worried much more about the Midwest and the Upper South, where even members of the blue team lean conservative. (Z)
The GA-06 special election is a testing ground for the 2018 midterms in many ways. One of the most important ones is whether Republican candidates should stick close to Donald Trump or stay as far from him as they can. The Republican candidate in the suburban Atlanta district, Karen Handel, is trying to do both. She knows that rejecting Trump will anger his supporters in the district, but hugging him will energize the Democrats who hate him.
So how is she doing both at once? Her main strategy is to focus on narrowcasting rather than broadcasting. Her message is being sent laser-like to his supporters. For example, she made up a flyer telling how liberal her opponent, Democrat Jon Ossoff, is but it is being distributed only in churches. Her campaign has identified about 100,000 potential voters for her and has sent them campaign literature and volunteers. By trying to focus on Republicans and by attacking her opponent as a liberal, she hopes to get Republicans to vote without energizing the Democrats.
However, controlling the strategy won't be easy since all the big Republican guns are active in the race. These include the Koch brothers, the NRA, and the Chamber of Commerce, among many other Republican groups. On the Democratic side, the Daily Kos Website has raised millions of dollars for Ossoff. Both sides are blanketing the airwaves. The Democrats, in particular, want to make the race about Trump, not about Handel. No matter what happens, this race is going to be analyzed down to the last voter after the June 20 runoff. (V)
Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) is up for reelection in 2018. The Democrats don't have anyone yet who is willing to take him on, and yet, they are feeling very good about their chances of retaking the governor's mansion.
In part, their thinking is a reflection of the fact that Walker has become rather unpopular, with an approval rating consistently below 50%. Further, Party leaders say that there is a groundswell of Democratic (read: anti-Trump) enthusiasm in the state. "All of the makings are there for a really good year for Democrats if we can walk and chew gum at the same time," said Democratic strategist Joe Zepecki. They feel that their primary concern is not finding the right candidate, as such, but finding the right messaging that will allow the blue team to recapture the hearts of blue-collar workers who went for Trump. Needless to say, the national Party will be watching with great interest to see what they come up with. (Z)Email a link to a friend or share:
---The Votemaster and Zenger
May29 Trump Calls Kushner Reports "Fake News"
May29 Intel Pros See No Legitimate Explanation for Kushner Plan
May29 Rosen: Trump No Media Master
May29 Mattis: ISIS Policy Now "Annihilation"
May29 Trump Pressed to Speak Out on Portland Attack
May29 Trump's Budget Got a Chillier Reception than Bush's
May29 Who Is Trump Most Like?
May28 Trump: I Think We Hit a Home Run
May28 Trump Plans to Back Out of Paris Accord
May28 Florida Republican Worked with the Russians
May28 McMaster: I am Not Concerned about a Backchannel with Russia
May28 Follow the Money
May28 Is Trump Stuck?
May28 Bannon May Return to Prominence as "Wartime" Consigliere
May28 Tillerson Will Not Host Ramadan Reception
May25 Former CIA Director Tells House that Russia May Have Recruited Trump Campaign Aides
May25 Did Russia Buy Ads on Facebook during the Election?
May25 Trump Administration May Have Spilled the Beans Again
May25 Trump Tax Plan Contains $2 Trillion Error
May25 Does Trump Have Brain Disease?
May25 CBO Will Release Its Assessment of the AHCA This Afternoon
May25 The Midwest Shifted Sharply toward the Republicans in 2016
May25 At Fox News, No Matter How Much Things Change, They Stay the Same
May25 Texas Adopts New Voter ID Bill
May25 Maine Supreme Court Nixes "Instant Runoff" Voting
May24 Former CIA Director Tells House that Russia May Have Recruited Trump Campaign Aides
May24 Did Russia Buy Ads on Facebook during the Election?
May24 Trump Administration May Have Spilled the Beans Again
May24 Trump Tax Plan Contains $2 Trillion Error
May24 Does Trump Have Brain Disease?
May24 CBO Will Release Its Assessment of the AHCA This Afternoon
May24 The Midwest Shifted Sharply toward the Republicans in 2016
May24 At Fox News, No Matter How Much Things Change, They Stay the Same
May24 Texas Adopts New Voter ID Bill
May24 Maine Supreme Court Nixes "Instant Runoff" Voting
May23 Trump Budget to Drop Today
May23 Flynn Defies Subpoena and Invokes the Fifth Amendment
May23 Mueller Inquiry: The Plot Thickens
May23 Trump Is Working on Picking a Legal Defense Team
May23 Israelis Angry with Trump about Failing to Move the U.S. Embassy
May23 Melania Trump Delivers the "Swat Heard 'Round the World"
May23 Supreme Court Rules that North Carolina Racially Gerrymandered Map
May23 Amateur Cartographer Produces Precinct-Level Map of 2016 Election
May23 Poll Gives Ossoff Comfortable Lead
May21 Trump Makes Nice to Muslims in Saudi Arabia
May21 Trump Speech Earns Mostly Negative Reviews
May21 The Government Is Running on Empty
May21 McMaster Becoming a Case Study in the Price of Working for Trump
May21 Trump's Base Appears to Be Eroding