• Manafort Trial: Judge's Errors, Mystery Conference
• Trump Uses Market Pain to Get His Way around the World
• Unfortunately, Market Pain Doesn't Work with North Korea
• Judge Holds Roger Stone's Aide in Contempt of Court
• Trump vs. NFL Enters Year Two
• National Republicans Want Trump to Endorse Martha McSally
• Cruz Is Getting Nervous
Omarosa Manigault-Newman worked for Donald Trump's campaign and White House until chief of staff John Kelly fired her on Dec. 13, 2017. She was not a happy camper about this and had to be removed from the White House grounds by force. To get revenge and make some money while doing so, she wrote a book about Trump and the White House that will be out on Tuesday. Even though the book isn't even out yet, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders really lit into it yesterday, saying it is "riddled with lies and false accusations," and adding that the author is a disgruntled former employee who is trying to "profit off of these false attacks."
Sanders is probably just following orders tearing into Manigault-Newman, but the effect is to give the book publicity that no amount of money could buy. Supposedly, it claims that Trump often used the n-word when he was host of Celebrity Apprentice, and there are tapes to prove it. Furthermore, the book claims that it wasn't just a problem of vocabulary. According to her, Trump is truly a racist.
When the book comes out next week, the more shocking claims will no doubt be in the news for a few days. Comparison has already been drawn with Michael Wolff's Fire and Fury, which described a totally dysfunctional White House. The difference between the two is that unlike Wolff, Manigault Newman knows Trump very well, so she probably has lots of first-hand information.
Trump dearly wanted to stop this book from ever being written. Manigault-Newman has claimed that Trump offered her $15,000 a month to keep quiet and also arranged for his daughter-in-law, Lara Trump, to give her a job. Unlike some of Trump's playmates, she turned down the offer, saying the associated NDA was "as harsh and restrictive" as anything she had ever seen. She may have been thinking of writing a book while still in the White House, since she, like former Trump fixer Michael Cohen, recorded some of her conversations with the President. The Washington Post has confirmed that recordings exist and that at least some of the quotes in the book are backed up by those recordings. Manigault-Newman is going to appear on "Meet the Press" tomorrow, and no doubt sparks will fly. (V)
There has been much drama in the trial of former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort in the past two days. The prosecution has shifted its attention to bank fraud, including testimony from immunized banker Dennis Raico, who was questioned about $16 million in loans his bank (Federal Savings Bank) gave to Manafort. However, far and away the biggest stories of the last two days are Judge T.S. Ellis' errors and a lengthy, and thus far unexplained, conference that delayed the start of Friday's proceedings until after the lunch break.
Ellis, who is 78 and has been on the bench for more than 30 years, has a reputation for shooting from the hip, running quick trials, and being more than a bit cranky. Those tendencies have been on full display during the nine days of Manafort's trial, and led the Judge to make two remarks this week that he later had to apologize for. The first of those came on Wednesday, when Ellis chastised the prosecution for allowing one witness to be in the courtroom for the testimony of another. The prosecution pointed out that Ellis had given permission for that arrangement. After he reviewed the court reporter's transcript, the Judge gave a gruff apology to the jury on Thursday and told them to ignore the dressing-down he gave to the prosecution. The second ill-considered remark came on Thursday when Ellis chewed the prosecution out for dwelling on a $5.5 million loan that never actually came to fruition, snapping, "You might want to spend time on a loan that was granted!" The prosecution pointed out that the fraudulent behavior related to this particular loan was one of the charges against Manafort. And so, for the second time in as many days on Friday, Ellis was compelled to apologize to the jury and to tell them to disregard his words.
And then there was the mystery conference on Friday morning. Two conferences, actually. At the start of the day's proceedings, the Judge called lawyers from both sides up to his bench for a chat. Then, after a brief break, he called them up for a second conversation, this time with the courtroom security officer participating as well. Then, Ellis said he needed to recess for 15 minutes to "to consider an issue," and left the courtroom through the door that the jury uses, rather than the door to his chambers. After being gone for much longer than 15 minutes (more like an hour), Ellis returned, called the jury in, gave them an extra-long and extra-firm version of his usual lecture about the jurors not discussing the trial with anyone, even each other. He concluded with: "Keep an open mind until all the evidence is in." Then the Judge broke for lunch, and testimony resumed at roughly 2:30 p.m.
Given the kind of judge that Ellis is, he would not have wasted four hours on something unless it was pretty substantive. And if there were any doubt about that, he made a point of telling the courtroom that, "I assure you this was all necessary." Initial speculation was that a settlement/guilty plea of some sort was on the table, but the evidence clearly suggests some sort of issue with the jury. It would not be surprising if, after having the weekend to reflect, Ellis dismisses one or more jurors. Less likely, but not impossible, would be for him to declare a mistrial. In any event, between the judge's errors and the jury's behavior, both sides look to have a fair bit of ammunition in the event of an appeal. (Z)
On Friday, Donald Trump suddenly doubled steel and aluminum tariffs on Turkey, and then cheered as the Turkish currency, the lira, cratered against the dollar. He also cheered when Chinese markets dropped in response to his tariff on Chinese exports to the U.S. In short, he sees causing chaos and losses in foreign markets and economies as a valuable tool to bend other governments to his will. No previous president has been exuberant when foreign markets dropped—especially not those of NATO allies, like Turkey. But one of Trump's guiding principles his entire life has always been: "I can't win unless you lose."
Economists have warned Trump that trying to cause foreign markets and currencies to tank is looking for trouble. The world is interconnected, and if some country is in economic trouble, it will buy less from other countries, including the U.S., allowing trouble in one place to spread to others. Unlike most recent presidents, who entered office during recessions and were thus cautious about causing more economic trouble, Trump entered office during the eighth year of an expansion and thinks it will naturally go on as long as he is president, so he doesn't mind doing things that economists see as foolish. History shows that markets can sometimes turn on a dime, mostly in the downward direction. (V)
Thus far, the only diplomatic tool that Donald Trump has wielded in any serious way is tariffs. Maybe that will work with Turkey and China, and maybe it won't, but a nation that it definitely won't work with is North Korea. The North Koreans basically don't have exports, and to the extent they do have them, they are strictly sanctioned already by the U.S. and are basically subject to China's will. That is to say, Kim Jong-Un needs only be concerned with whether or not Xi Jinping will do business with him. Tariffs and other economic punishments imposed by Trump are not much of a concern.
We bring this up because Trump tried to schmooze with Kim, and was so pleased with the result that he declared the nuclear threat from North Korea to be over. As anyone outside the White House (and probably most people inside the White House) knew at that time, that was nonsense. And on Friday, we got another reminder of how far off the mark Trump was, as the North Koreans publicly rejected, the latest round of proposals from the Trump administration, calling them "gangster-like."
There are really two major problems here. The first is that Team Trump wants complete, verifiable de-nuclearization. Kim is never going to go for that, and if he ever promises otherwise, he's lying. That leads to the second problem, which is that Kim, his father, and his grandfather have been running this same basic playbook for generations: Appear reasonable for a couple of months, gain some concessions (and/or bring an end to talk of a military strike), then backpedal and bog down negotiations until the next presidential administration begins. The only major difference this time is that Trump gave up a fair bit more than his predecessors (the status of a face-to-face meeting, most obviously) in exchange for concessions that basically cost Kim nothing. In short, this is a situation that Team Trump is not likely to improve upon from this point forward, and that probably doesn't get markedly better until the regime in North Korea falls. (Z)
Special counsel Robert Mueller is investigating Donald Trump's adviser Roger Stone for his role in Russiagate. Stone seemed to know that Hillary Clinton's emails were going to be released before anyone else, and Mueller is curious how he knew that. Part of the investigation consists of talking to Stone's aides and associates, including Andrew Miller. Mueller subpoenaed Miller to testify before his grand jury and Miller said "Nope, not going to do it." U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell didn't like that so much, and has held Miller in contempt of court. However, she stayed her ruling to allow Miller to appeal. Most likely the matter will end up in the Supreme Court, with or without Brett Kavanaugh, depending on the timing.
On the other hand, Miller's apparent willingness to take a bullet for his boss might not matter much at all. On Friday, news broke that Mueller has subpoenaed Randy Credico, a comedian and talk show host, and a friend of Stone's. Credico has already made clear that he will obey the summons. While it's not clear exactly what Mueller wants to talk to him about—after all, the Special Counsel always keeps things close to the vest—it is the case that Stone once described Credico as his back-channel to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. So, the odds are pretty good that Wikileaks, its founder, and Hillary Clinton's e-mails will come up during Credico's chat with Mueller. (V & Z)
The NFL's preseason began this week, which meant opportunities for NFL players to kneel or otherwise demonstrate during the national anthem. Several availed themselves of the opportunity, including the Miami Dolphins' Kenny Stills and Albert Wilson (kneeled) and Robert Quinn (raised fist), the Philadelphia Eagles' Malcolm Jenkins and De'Vante Bausby (also raised fists) and Chris Long (stood next to Jenkins, hand on his shoulder, as a sign of support), and the Oakland Raiders' Marshawn Lynch (sat).
Like clockwork, Donald Trump took to Twitter to express his displeasure:
The NFL players are at it again - taking a knee when they should be standing proudly for the National Anthem. Numerous players, from different teams, wanted to show their “outrage” at something that most of them are unable to define. They make a fortune doing what they love......— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 10, 2018
.....Be happy, be cool! A football game, that fans are paying soooo much money to watch and enjoy, is no place to protest. Most of that money goes to the players anyway. Find another way to protest. Stand proudly for your National Anthem or be Suspended Without Pay!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 10, 2018
As he is wont to do, Trump managed to squeeze at least three factually-dubious assertions into his two tweets. First, the players have consistently been very happy to explain what they are protesting: systemic racism in the United States, particularly as manifested in white-on-black police violence. Second, by the terms of their collectively-bargained contract, the players receive 47% of the league's revenue, excluding some revenue streams (like parking and concessions, which they get none of), and also excluding (of course) any appreciation in team values (which is where the big bucks are). So, the players most certainly do not receive "most" of the money. Finally (and speaking of collectively-bargained work conditions), the NFL owners cannot suspend non-standing players without pay. If they tried, the NFL Players' Association would hit NFL commissioner Roger Goodell with a grievance so fast it would make his head spin.
Of course, Trump cares about none of this. He just wants to gin up the base, and hammering the NFL did the job better than just about anything last season. The big question is: Will it keep working, or will this line of attack start to lose its salience? A secondary question is: Will the NFL continue to take a beating from Trump, or will Goodell actually do something to respond to the President's provocations? Other than craft a wishy-washy "stay in the locker room if you want to protest" policy that has zero chance of satisfying anyone, that is. (Z)
Rep. Martha McSally (R-AZ) already caught one break when two different right-wing fringe candidates decided to oppose her for the Republican nomination for the seat being vacated by Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ). She hoped that they would split the right-wing fringe vote and let her win the primary easily. But apparently things are not going swimmingly, even though the entire Republican establishment is behind her. The evidence for this is that the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) has asked Donald Trump to endorse her, even though he came close to endorsing one of her opponents, Kelli Ward, earlier this year, and he pardoned the other one (former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio). Asking Trump to intervene against two of the Trumpiest politicians in the country to support a generic Republican seems unusual, at the very least. Trump has so far refused to endorse anyone for the August 28 primary. One factor that always plays a role with Trump is wanting a win. He might endorse McSally the day before the primary—but only if he was convinced she was going to win.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is very concerned that either Ward or Arpaio would be a very weak candidate against Democrat Kyrsten Sinema, with either of them throwing away a crucial Republican seat. Democrats are aware of this and are already meddling in the Arizona race, running ads accusing McSally of being too liberal and putting Washington ahead of Arizona. (V)
Rep. Beto O'Rourke is running a heck of a campaign, visiting all of Texas's 254 counties, making skilled use of social media, and raising money as if it grows on trees. And, by all accounts, he's definitely making a race of it with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX). Most national pollsters have Cruz's lead down to roughly 7 points, which is definitely within striking distance, especially since about 40% of Texans say they don't really know O'Rourke. Local pollsters have the race even closer. For example, Texas Lyceum's latest, released last week, gives the Senator just a two-point edge.
Given the way the trendlines are headed, Cruz is getting nervous. The problem for him is that he doesn't really run for things, he runs against them. And so, as the race tightened, his natural inclination was to unleash a trio of anti-Beto attack ads. Undoubtedly, the ads will resonate with Cruz's base, but one wonders if fence-sitting voters won't find them a little insulting to their intelligence. One ad claims, without evidence, that O'Rourke is an extremist whose immigration policy is left of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's (D-CA). Another says that O'Rourke wants to legalize heroin (which, of course, is not true).
Whether the ads will help arrest Cruz's slide in the polls is not yet clear. What is clear, however, is that O'Rourke was able to send out an e-mail blast in response to the ads, which resulted in $1.2 million in donations from 39,000 contributors. That's an average of $31 a person—well below the $2,700 annual limit—so those folks can be hit up again, and again, as needed. Normally, one's ads are not supposed to raise money for the opposition, but perhaps Cruz is running a new type of campaign we don't know about. (Z)Email a link to a friend or share:
---The Votemaster and Zenger
Aug10 Pence Announces "Space Force" Proposal
Aug10 Kobach's Lead Is Cut in Half
Aug10 Morrisey Is Struggling against Manchin
Aug10 Democrats Still Don't Get the White Working Class
Aug10 Time for Pelosi to Go?
Aug10 Bill Nelson Claims that Russians Have Penetrated Florida Voter Registration Systems
Aug10 "Chain Migration" Is Alive and Well
Aug09 Takeaways from Tuesday's Elections
Aug09 Gates' Testimony Concludes, Bank Fraud Likely to Be Next Up in Manafort Trial
Aug09 Michael Cohen Isn't the Only One with a Tape Recorder
Aug09 China Makes Tit-for-Tat Official
Aug09 Trump Administration Hits Russia with More Sanctions
Aug09 As Many as 66 Republican Districts Could Flip
Aug09 Why Trump Wants to Talk to Mueller
Aug09 Republican Congressman Is Charged with Securities Fraud
Aug09 Republicans Are Worried about Losses in State Legislatures
Aug09 Which Trifectas Are Within Reach for the Democrats?
Aug08 Overall, a Solid Night for the Democrats
Aug08 Gates Continues to Dish on Manafort
Aug08 Next Round of Tariffs on Chinese Goods Revealed
Aug08 Cohen Is Under Investigation for Tax Fraud
Aug08 Trump Has Raised $135 Million, Much of it for His Reelection
Aug08 Corporations Have Discovered the Democrats
Aug08 Nearly Half of Republicans Want the President to Be Able to Ban News Outlets
Aug07 Gates Levels Manafort from the Witness Stand
Aug07 Trump Reinstates Some Sanctions on Iran
Aug07 Trump Endorses Kobach
Aug07 Big Tech Declares War on Alex Jones
Aug07 Trump Scorches Jerry Brown
Aug07 West Virginia to Introduce Smartphone Voting App
Aug07 Karl Rove: Trump Shouldn't Be Talking about a Red Wave
Aug07 There Was a Small Blue Wave in Tennessee Last Week
Aug06 Trump Throws His Son Under the Bus
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