• Trump Reinstates Some Sanctions on Iran
• Trump Endorses Kobach
• Big Tech Declares War on Alex Jones
• Trump Scorches Jerry Brown
• West Virginia to Introduce Smartphone Voting App
• Karl Rove: Trump Shouldn't Be Talking about a Red Wave
• There Was a Small Blue Wave in Tennessee Last Week
Presumably, Paul Manafort's defense counsel had a "best case" and a "worst case" scenario in mind for how former associate Rick Gates' testimony would go on Monday. What they got was, at very least, the worst they could have possibly imagined, and may have been even worse than that.
According to those who witnessed it, Gates' testimony gripped the courtroom. He started by telling the jury that he and Manafort had conspired together for over a decade to commit a litany of crimes—bank fraud, tax evasion, money laundering, lying to federal authorities, and so forth. Observing that he knows everything because "I was the one who helped organize the paperwork," he went into great detail about the nature of the operation. He spoke of four Ukrainian oligarchs who sent millions to Manafort. In turn, using over a dozen shell companies, those millions were routed to secret bank accounts, mostly in Cyprus. Gates' memory was apparently remarkable, as he was able to recall even the smallest details, such as how much money was spent on Yankees season tickets.
Also not helping Manafort's case is that Gates proactively admitted to most of the things that will be used to undermine him. He conceded to his own vast wrongdoing, admitted to skimming from Manafort, and told the jury about his plea deal with Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Today, Manafort's defense team will do their best to tear him down, but they are in a rough spot. They will try to argue that Gates is a moral reprobate who was single-handedly responsible for all of the crimes he described, and that he's merely trying to turn Manafort into a patsy. It is hard to imagine that the jury will buy that, given the other evidence that has been presented, not to mention obvious questions like, "Were you really not aware that you had millions stashed in Cyprus in offshore accounts, Mr. Manafort?" The defense will also attempt the tried-and-true strategy of making the witness unlikable; there is talk they will bring up alleged extramarital affairs. The problem here is that he's already pretty unlikable, and yet the courtroom was entranced by his words. Bringing up the affairs, which are pretty obviously salacious and not too relevant, could actually backfire by making Team Manafort look desperate.
In short, then, Manafort's already bad position surely got worse on Monday. Maybe his lawyers will pull a rabbit out of a hat on Tuesday. Or maybe they'll put in a desperate call to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to ask exactly when the pardon is coming. (Z)
Donald Trump has always opposed the "Iran deal" and yesterday made good on his promise to reinstate (some) of the sanctions on Iran that were waived by the deal. The move will cause a huge conflict with European allies, who believe Iran has lived up to its part of the deal and don't want the sanctions reimposed.
Many European companies do business with Iran and if they continue to do so, they will find themselves in the administration's crosshairs. In fact, the battle is already starting. France, Germany, and the U.K. issued a stern warning to the U.S. and vowed to uphold the deal. They also said that they consider Trump's decision to be in violation of international law and they are prepared to recover damages to European companies from U.S. banks and businesses that tried to enforce the sanctions. On the other hand, many European companies do far more business with the U.S. than they do with Iran, and if forced to choose, would cut off their Iranian business to preserve their U.S. business.
Trump has warned other countries not to buy oil from Iran, in order to starve the country into submission. The problem with such a policy is that it is impossible to enforce. Iran can easily ship tankers full of oil to some distant port where it is removed and put into other ships that have (false) papers claiming it came from, say, Nigeria. Who's to know? In addition, China has already said it plans to continue buying oil from Iran and it will be tough for Trump to prevent China from doing precisely that.
Reaction in Congress broke along party lines, as with everything the administration does. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) tweeted: "Make Iran great again: Dump the Ayatollah." In contrast, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) said: "It risks reopening a resolved conflict, and will divide us further from our European allies." As a consequence, Congress will do nothing, as usual. (V)
Donald Trump likes winners and hates losers. When he endorses candidates for office, he usually picks people who he thinks are going to win, so he can take credit for their victory. However, yesterday Trump endorsed Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach. Many Republicans think he will lose today's gubernatorial primary and even more Republicans are praying that he will lose. If he wins the nomination, the Democrats actually have a decent chance of winning the general election. Against any other Republican, especially Gov. Jeff Colyer (R-KS), the Democrats have little chance.
Kobach is known in Kansas and beyond for being obsessed with (nonexistent) voter fraud. He was vice chair of Trump's voter fraud commission, which failed to uncover any voter fraud. This week a federal judge ordered Kobach to pay more than $26,000 for "contemptuous behavior" during a voting-rights case. Polls show the race between Colyer and Kobach to be close, so it could go either way. (V)
Alex Jones is a right-wing conspiracy theorist who has a radio show broadcast from Texas and a website, Infowars.com, dedicated to conspiracy theories and fake news. It is sometimes hard to distinguish it from The Onion, except that it is generally known that The Onion's fake news is satire and its writers don't actually believe what they write (Typical story: "Christian Pornographer Refuses To Film Sex Tape For Gay Couple").
Yesterday, YouTube and Facebook followed Apple and Spotify in removing Jones' content from their sites for violating their policies relating to hate speech and fake news (Typical story, for which he has been sued, is that the mass shooting of 20 children at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012 was a hoax and never took place). Many of his items are out-and-out violent, racist, or anti-Semitic. Sometimes they are all three. Jones is a strong supporter of Donald Trump and claims to be close to him, so the tech companies' ban on him is causing an uproar in conservative circles, which maintain that the companies are denying him his right to free speech. Of course, the First Amendment doesn't apply to private companies, which are free to set whatever terms and conditions they want and ban anyone who violates them. Still, the battle over who can say what on social media is not going away any time soon. (V)
There is no tragedy so great that Donald Trump will not try to utilize it for political gain. And there is no "fact" in support of his point that Trump won't repeat, regardless of how badly he misunderstood it, or how ridiculous it is. As the latest illustration of both of these tendencies, we give you: The President's response to the massive fire currently underway in California.
The fire, which is properly known as the Mendocino Complex fire, just surpassed the Thomas fire as the largest conflagration in California history. The Thomas fire, incidentally, happened in December of last year. Also in the top five: the Rush fire (2012) and the Rim fire (2013). The only member of the top five not to take place in the last five years was the Cedar fire, all the way back in 2003. In the 15 years since the Cedar fire, in fact, 14 of California's 20 biggest fires have taken place. By contrast, six took place in the 70 years between 1932 (when accurate record-keeping began) and 2002. So, California is either right in the middle of a very unlucky run, or there is something going on that is making the climate warmer and drier, and is causing natural disasters to be more intense. Something like, oh, global warming?
Perhaps Trump has some sense that he could get the blame for this, given the climate denial of his EPA, not to mention his withdrawal from the Paris accord. Or, maybe he just likes to take any opportunity to make California into a whipping boy (it is one of the two or three states where he is least popular, after all). In any event, he has sent zero tweets expressing condolences for the seven people who died, or the hundreds who have lost their houses, or showing support for the firefighters who are trying to do their jobs. However, he did send two very similar tweets blaming Gov. Jerry Brown (D) for the everything:
Governor Jerry Brown must allow the Free Flow of the vast amounts of water coming from the North and foolishly being diverted into the Pacific Ocean. Can be used for fires, farming and everything else. Think of California with plenty of Water - Nice! Fast Federal govt. approvals.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 6, 2018
California wildfires are being magnified & made so much worse by the bad environmental laws which aren’t allowing massive amounts of readily available water to be properly utilized. It is being diverted into the Pacific Ocean. Must also tree clear to stop fire from spreading!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 6, 2018
Where on earth did Trump come up with this? Is he butchering a Fox News op-ed of some sort? Did he find a way to access InfoWars material after all the shutdowns (see above)? Who knows? But surely most people know that water scarcity has been a problem for the Golden State for over a century. So much so that they even made a movie about it. There is absolutely no chance that any governor, Democratic or Republican, would allow "vast amounts" of water to be dumped into the sea. Similarly, there are no limits in how much water firefighters can use when it is needed—in the case of a wildfire like this one, their needs are priority 1A. As to the need for "tree clear," that is not a useful anti-fire strategy, since it would require removing more trees than are kept. What it is, however, is something that the timber industry would love to have a president endorse.
Again, this is par for the course for Trump. And for Republican politicians in general over the last 20 years or so, who love to make a target out of a big, blue state (in fairness, many Democrats use Texas in the same way). Needless to say, the President will suffer no consequences for his lies, since his base doesn't care, and California isn't going to give him their votes, anyhow. Although, it's possible his words could come back to haunt some of the GOP members of Congress who are up for reelection in swing districts this year. Particularly the districts that are, you know, ablaze right now. (Z)
The state of West Virginia, generally not thought of as a hotbed of high-tech developments, is the first state to introduce voting by smartphone, to make it easier for service members abroad to vote, including (secret) Russian, Chinese, and Iranian service members. Security experts are absolutely appalled. The app combines the worst aspects of electronic voting with the fragility and hackability of the Internet. To use the app, a (secret) service member must first photograph a (potentially forged) ID card, then take a selfie (followed by doctoring it in Photoshop, if need be), and upload it all from a completely insecure phone over an equally insecure WiFi network, possibly in a country where the government closely monitors (and can modify) all communications. Then the (secret) service member can vote, and if, religious, can pray it isn't altered somewhere along the path to the (very likely insecure) server. Needless to say there is no paper trail anywhere in the process. The only thing an adversary has to worry about is not casting so many fake votes that the total number of votes cast using the app exceeds the number of (U.S.) service members abroad.
Joseph Lorenzo Hall, chief technologist at the Center for Democracy and Technology, said: "It's internet voting on people's horribly secured devices, over our horrible networks, to servers that are very difficult to secure without a physical paper record of the vote." Marian Schneider, president of Verified Voting, was asked by CNN if she thought mobile voting is a good idea. Her answer: "No." The good news for West Virginia is that if the system is hacked, it will be nearly impossible for anyone to detect it, so no one will be able to successfully sue the state. (V)
Karl Rove, George W. Bush's top strategist, sometimes called "Bush's brain" (although Bush himself called Rove "Turd Blossom"), said on Fox News yesterday that Donald Trump should stop talking about a "red wave" and lower expectations. Rove noted that the president's party nearly always loses seats in both the House and Senate and he expects losses in the House, in governor's mansions, and in state legislatures. He said the President should say "we face an uphill fight." Rove understands, as few others do, that if Trump raises expectations too high and this is a normal midterm, with big losses for the Republicans, it will hit the GOP and its base hard. In contrast, if Trump were to set the bar far lower, then modest losses would be a lot easier to explain and less dramatic.
At this point, most political handicappers give the Democrats a good chance to win the House although few expect them to capture the Senate on account of an extraordinarily bad map for them. Most generic House polls give the Democrats a lead in the range of 7-12 points, with 7 points considered the minimum to flip the House. (V)
Last week's election in Tennessee was not too interesting, at least at the state level. Generally speaking, the favorites won comfortably. And while there will likely be drama centered on the governor's mansion and the open U.S. Senate seat in November, there wasn't much in the primary.
However, that overlooks what happened at the municipal level, where the results thrilled Tennessee Democrats. There were 26 countywide offices up for election, and the Democrats claimed 21 of them, flipping over a dozen. Of the 10 most significant offices up (sheriffs and mayors, primarily), Republicans held 9 prior to last week's contests. Now, they hold zero. And broadly speaking, the results weren't even close, with members of the blue team wresting away GOP-held offices by 5 and 10 and 15 points.
What does it all mean? Well, it's hard to draw national generalizations from municipal-level results in one state. However, it is clear that Tennessee Democrats are organized and are energized. That, in turn, suggests that the blue team is in excellent position to claim the governor's mansion and/or Bob Corker's Senate seat. And if they are able to pull off the latter, that gives them a little extra margin of error when it comes to the possibility of retaking the Senate. (Z)Email a link to a friend or share:
---The Votemaster and Zenger
Aug06 Trump Doesn't Seem to Get It
Aug06 CIA and NSA Know What Trump and Putin Discussed
Aug06 Four States Will Hold Primaries Tomorrow
Aug06 How Is the "Year of the Woman" Going?
Aug06 Biden Leads in 2020 Presidential Polls
Aug06 Takeaways from the First Week of Manafort's Trial
Aug05 Trump Knows It's No Hoax
Aug05 This Is Why Trump Hates Judges, Part I: Mueller's Investigation Is Legitimate
Aug05 This Is Why Trump Hates Judges, Part II: DACA Must Be Reinstated
Aug05 Panel Member: There Was No Voter Fraud
Aug05 LeBron James Tweet Not Working Out So Well
Aug05 Time to Stop Covering Trump Rallies?
Aug05 Former Representative: Trump Wants the Democrats to Win
Aug04 China Threatens Retaliation if Trump Imposes More Tariffs
Aug04 Manafort's Accountants Testify
Aug04 Democrats Are Hoping for a Blue Wave, But Are Experiencing a Green Wave
Aug04 Trump to Visit Ohio Today
Aug04 Trump Slams LeBron James
Aug04 Butina Connected with Trump Campaign
Aug04 Manhattan Madam Met Mueller
Aug04 FBI Can't Keep Top Computer Security People from Leaving
Aug03 Coats: The Russians Are Coming
Aug03 The Trumps and the Nazis, Part I: Don Jr.
Aug03 The Trumps and the Nazis, Part II: Don Sr. (and His Base)
Aug03 Not Many Surprises in Tennessee Primary
Aug03 Last Bellwether Election Is Next Tuesday
Aug03 Why Has Congress Ceded All Its Power to Trump?
Aug03 RNC Tells Donors to Drop the Koch Network
Aug03 The Democrats Are Having an Identity Crisis at an Inconvenient Moment
Aug02 Trump Demands that Sessions Fire Mueller Right Now
Aug02 The Manafort Trial: Day 2
Aug02 Manafort Is Facing Long Odds
Aug02 Senate Rejects Proposal to Beef Up Election Security
Aug02 Trump Continues to Chip Away at Obamacare
Aug02 Cruz Could Be in Real Trouble
Aug02 Koch Network Pushes Back Against Turning Point USA
Aug01 Facebook Shuts Down Disinformation Campaign
Aug01 Manafort's Trial Gets Underway
Aug01 Trump Wants to Give a Tax Cut to the Rich
Aug01 Trump Attacks the Koch Brothers
Aug01 Trump's Former Right-hand Woman Says Trump Knew about Meeting with Russians
Aug01 Giuliani Keeps Shooting His Client in the Foot
Aug01 Kelly Will Remain Chief of Staff until 2020
Aug01 Cuomo Leads Nixon by 30 Points in New York Democratic Gubernatorial Primary
Jul31 Giuliani: Colluding with Russia Is Not a Crime
Jul31 North Korea Situation Deteriorates; Trump Likes His Chances with Iran, Though
Jul31 Rand Paul Supports Kavanaugh
Jul31 Manafort's Trial Begins Today
Jul31 Koch Brothers Will Not Oppose Heitkamp