• Trump Teaches History Class
• Many Trump Allies Welcome Democratic-Controlled House
• Cohen Charges Likely Coming Soon
• "Stephen Miller Is an Immigration Hypocrite"
• Brennan May Take Trump to Court
• Ohio Begins Compiling Final Vote Count in OH-12
War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength. And truth isn't truth. The first three of those come from George Orwell's dystopian novel 1984. The reader will be forgiven for thinking that the fourth also comes from Orwell, but in fact it was uttered by Donald Trump's television lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who made the statement yesterday on NBC's "Meet the Press".
The declaration came during a discussion of—naturally—Robert Mueller's investigation, and whether or not Trump will testify willingly. As chance would have it, Giuliani led with something very truthful indeed, acknowledging that Trump would likely perjure himself during such testimony. Then, "America's (Former) Mayor" tried to make it seem like perjury isn't actually perjury. Here is the whole exchange:
Giuliani: When you tell me that, you know, he should testify because he's going to tell the truth and he shouldn't worry, well that's so silly because it's somebody's version of the truth. Not the truth.
Chuck Todd: Truth is truth.
Giuliani: No, no, it isn't truth. Truth isn't truth. The President of the United States says, "I didn't..."
Todd: Truth isn't truth?
Giuliani: "No, no, no."
Todd: This is going to become a bad meme.
Todd was right about that last part, since Giuliani's words quickly spread like wildfire across the news sites, and Facebook, and Twitter.
Of course, this is hardly the first time that Team Trump has indulged in the Orwellian (and authoritarian) habit of behaving as if they have the right to craft their own reality. From Sean Spicer and the inauguration photos, to Kellyanne Cownway's "alternative facts," to Giuliani's previous assertion that facts are "in the eye of the beholder," this is actually getting pretty old hat.
The thought process behind the administration's statements is abundantly clear. Nonsensical notions like "truth isn't truth" and "alternative facts" won't fly in any court, but Team Trump already knows that Robert Mueller won't indict the President (he's said so), and instead will present his findings to Congress and let them decide what to do. That means that, when it comes to charging and/or sanctioning Trump himself, it is a political decision and not a legal one. And what Giuliani is doing is telling the base that they are free to believe whatever feels right to them, because all versions of "the truth" are equally valid. It's really very postmodern of him. As long as the 40% of the country who are Trump loyalists continue to embrace their preferred reality, and do not give serious consideration to anything Mueller comes up with, then the Donald is safe. After all, Giuliani may not be as sharp as he once was, but he can still do basic math, and he knows that he just needs 34% of the Senate to stay on board the S.S. Trump. And 34% is a fair bit less than 40%, so the President maybe even has a little margin for error (although the Senate is not exactly proportional to anything).
Of course, these rhetorical tricks aren't going to help anyone who does find themselves in front of a judge and jury. Paul Manafort, for example, or Donald Trump Jr., or Roger Stone. Who knows what the plan is when it comes to those folks. Presidential pardons? Sell them up the river? Plea bargains? Do the "head in the sand" approach, and keep insisting they're not guilty of anything? Given the ad hoc way in which the President approaches most things, your guess is probably as good as his. (Z)
On Saturday, the New York Times revealed that White House counsel Don McGahn has spent much time speaking with Robert Mueller, without any of the limits imposed by attorney-client privilege. There is a near-universal consensus that waiving privilege was a big mistake by Team Trump. And even if the consensus is wrong, it is the case that the Times article certainly made Trump and his lawyers look dumb. So, the chances that Trump would respond angrily via Twitter on Sunday morning were roughly equal to the odds that the sun would come up. And, indeed, both things came to pass. We won't bother to show proof of the sunrise (you would probably have heard about it if it didn't happen), but here are the tweets:
The failing @nytimes wrote a Fake piece today implying that because White House Councel Don McGahn was giving hours of testimony to the Special Councel, he must be a John Dean type “RAT.” But I allowed him and all others to testify - I didn’t have to. I have nothing to hide......— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 19, 2018
....and have demanded transparency so that this Rigged and Disgusting Witch Hunt can come to a close. So many lives have been ruined over nothing - McCarthyism at its WORST! Yet Mueller & his gang of Dems refuse to look at the real crimes on the other side - Media is even worse!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 19, 2018
There were actually five other tweets on the subject, scattered across the day, but these cover the gist of what Trump said.
Not surprisingly, the historical parallels that Trump made are getting the most attention. So, let's take a look at them. Trump may well know something about McCarthyism, since he was very friendly with Tailgunner Joe's right-hand man, Roy Cohn. If so, the President knows that McCarthy was known for a few behaviors, preeminent among them: (1) Accusing people of bad behavior without evidence; (2) Keeping lists of enemies; (3) Attacking media outlets who dared to question him, and (4) Insisting, without proof, that there was a vast, invisible conspiracy within the government—a "deep state," if you will. In short, there may be a person in Washington right now who is displaying behavior somewhat reminiscent of McCarthy, but it's not Robert Mueller. When even the folks who work for Fox News start rolling their eyes, you know that the President's tweet landed with a thud:
This is ridiculous. https://t.co/Qvu2IfcJBr— Brit Hume (@brithume) August 19, 2018
More interesting, perhaps, is the John Dean reference. For those who are rusty on their Watergate details, Dean was—wait for it—White House Counsel. He served Richard Nixon in that capacity for about three years (1970-73), which meant he was a participant in—though not the instigator of—some pretty shady stuff. Eventually, and in part to save his own rear end, Dean flipped on Nixon and cooperated with special prosecutor Archibald Cox and with Congress. His testimony was key, as it shifted the focus from the Watergate break-in (which did not involve any crimes by Nixon) to the cover-up of the break-in (which most certainly did involve presidential wrongdoing). Dean was fired by Nixon (naturally), disbarred, and given a slap-on-the-wrist sentence of four months for obstruction of justice.
Was Dean a rat? Sorry, a "RAT!"? Nixon undoubtedly thought so, and surely some of Tricky Dick's intimates agreed. And it's true that one of Dean's primary motivations, perhaps even his main motivation, was saving his own skin. That said, he helped bring Americans' attention to some of the worst corruption and abuses of power that the White House has ever seen, and so history generally regards him as something of a hero. A flawed hero, yes, but one who ultimately did much more good than harm.
Dean, for his part, has already weighed in on the matter:
@realDonaldTrump (I still have trouble using the title Mr. President for someone installed by Putin), I doubt you have ANY IDEA what McGahn has told Mueller. Also, Nixon knew I was meeting with prosecutors, b/c I told him. However, he didn’t think I would tell them the truth!— John Dean (@JohnWDean) August 19, 2018
Nixon, generally very competent, bungled and botched his handling of Watergate. Trump, a total incompetent, is bungling and botching his handling of Russiagate. Fate is never kind to bunglers and/or botchers! Unlike Nixon, however, Trump won’t leave willingly or graciously.— John Dean (@JohnWDean) August 18, 2018
In short, there is a salient comparison to be made to be made between Dean and McGahn. However, as with McCarthy, Donald Trump does not appear to know his history well enough to realize that the comparisons most certainly do not work in his favor. (Z)
It is increasingly likely that the Democrats will take the House in the midterms. And if they do, that means that Donald Trump will spend the second half of his first term dealing with a divided government. Given that Trump's idea of compromise is "do exactly what I want," and given that many Democratic voters will get their pitchforks out if their elected representatives work with the President, we're looking at two years of gridlock. Politico's Christopher Cadelago talked to a dozen Trump loyalists about what they think will happen if that comes to pass, and they were largely enthusiastic, arguing that it may be the only way he can get reelected in 2020.
There are two dimensions of this that Cadelago examined. The first is "Who will get the blame if nothing gets done?" The Trump supporters argue that the Democrats most certainly will, especially since the President is so good at pointing the finger and passing blame. They are perhaps recalling Harry S. Truman's successful 1948 campaign, in which he primarily ran against the "Do-Nothing Congress" (which was then under GOP control), and won a surprise re-election victory (and with it, Democratic control of Congress). And Harry S. didn't even have Twitter; he had to shout from the back of a train.
It is nearly impossible to say if Trump can pull off what Truman did. It's true that the Donald is very good at passing the buck. However, it's also true that Trump has gotten very little done even with his own party in control of Congress. Voters tend to notice things like that, and may decide that the common factor between 2016-2018 and 2018-2020 is the fellow residing at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Also, while Trump is very good at getting his base riled up over those infernal, obstructionist Democrats, the Democrats are getting pretty good at riling their base up over that infernal, obstinate, Democracy-killing Trump. So, two years of gridlock could cut either way.
The second issue that Cadelago looked at is, "What will happen if the Democrats impeach Trump?" Again, most of the Trump supporters were enthusiastic, believing that such a move would alienate moderates and would engender sympathy for the President. Here, they are unquestionably thinking about Bill Clinton, whose approval numbers shot up after he was impeached in late 1998. Those on board the S.S. Trump are hoping and praying that the same would happen here.
On this point, we are working with limited evidence, since there have only been two impeachments (Andrew Johnson and Clinton) and one near-impeachment in U.S. history (Richard Nixon). Still, using those three incidents, we might be able to draw some reasonably firm conclusions:
- Andrew Johnson, 1868: It's a bit tricky to infer modern-day historical
lessons from something that happened 150 years ago, and under very unusual circumstances (the
aftermath of the Civil War). Further, there were no such thing as opinion polls or approval ratings
back then. The one thing we can say, however, is that Johnson left office widely reviled, with
Northerners finding him too pro-Southern, Southern whites finding him too pro-Northern, and black
folks finding him racist. It may also be worth noting that Johnson was a Democrat (elected on a
fusion ticket with Abraham Lincoln) and that his party most certainly did not retain the White House
when he left.
- Richard Nixon, 1974: Nixon's near-impeachment is the only one of the
three that took place prior to midterm elections. In those midterms, the Democrats picked up 49
seats in the House and four in the Senate. Nixon most certainly did not get any sympathy when he was
nearly impeached, and his approval ratings remained mired in the 20s long after he was gone.
Meanwhile, the GOP surrendered the White House in the next presidential election.
- Bill Clinton, 1998: Again, this is the scenario that Trump loyalists
are hoping for; as Clinton's impeachment added something like 10 points to his approval ratings. The
problem for the pro-Trump faction is that there are some pretty big differences between the Clinton
impeachment and a hypothetical Trump impeachment. One big one is that Clinton (though often a bit
sleazy) was among the more charming fellows ever to occupy the Oval Office. It's no surprise that
"Bubba" generated some sympathy points. Trump, by contrast, is not charming and (outside his base)
not very likable. He is more likely to get the Tricky Dick treatment from moderate/independent
voters than he is the Bubba treatment. A second distinction between Clinton and Trump is that the
Clinton impeachment (like the Johnson impeachment) was pretty obviously motivated by partisanship,
rather than by the commission of "high crimes and misdemeanors." GOP partisans didn't think so, of
course, but moderates and independents did, which is why things shifted in Clinton's favor. If Trump
is impeached, his loyalists will believe it is a "witch hunt," but it's unlikely many fence-sitters
will feel that way, particularly if the proceedings are backed by a voluminous report by the Special
Oh, and by the way: Clinton may have benefited personally from his impeachment, but he was still effectively a lame duck for the rest of his presidency. And his party did lose the White House at the next election.
The argument here, then is twofold: (1) A hypothetical Trump impeachment looks to be more similar to the near-impeachment of Nixon (where the president enjoyed no "benefits"), and not to the impeachment of Clinton (where the president did benefit); and (2) Each of the three presidents who was impeached or nearly-impeached saw his party lose the White House in the next presidential election. So, the Trump partisans who "welcome" impeachment are either trying to invent a silver lining in this cloud, or else should think very carefully about what they are wishing for. (Z)
Like former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort, former Trump fixer Michael Cohen has managed to dig quite a hole for himself. There is his involvement in the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels (nee Stephanie Clifford), which may have been bank fraud or a violation of campaign finance law or both. On top of that, the feds are examining $20 million in loans that Cohen obtained for his taxi medallion business, some (or all) of which may have been fraudulent. Someone with that profile is also unlikely to have been scrupulously honest on his tax returns, so those are getting a look-see as well. And then there may be other things on top of that, revealed in the sweep of Cohen's office, residence, and hotel room. Add it all up, and a bunch of charges against Cohen are coming, and likely very soon. In fact, the list might be announced by the end of the month.
The $64,000 question, of course, is: What impact will these charges have on the investigation(s) into Donald Trump? It is entirely possible that Cohen knows some things that would be useful to Robert Mueller or to others who are looking into bad behavior by Team Trump, and that the criminal case against Cohen is intended to increase pressure on him to flip. For what it's worth, Cohen has signaled several times that he's willing to do so. On the other hand, it's possible that Cohen doesn't have any dirt to dish. Or, even more likely, that any dirt he has was captured in the raids upon him, and that he no longer has anything left to trade in order to save himself. In that case, the imminent Cohen prosecution is just a garden-variety action against an alleged lawbreaker. We may find out soon if Cohen is or is not part of the larger puzzle. (Z)
That, at least, is the contention of a piece that got a lot of attention last week because it was written by Dr. David S. Glosser, who just so happens to be Miller's uncle. In the article, Glosser documents the family's history, pointing out that Miller's great-grandfather (Sam Glosser) was an immigrant, and that he brought much of his family to the United States through chain immigration (including Izzy Glosser, who is Miller's grandfather). Of course, all Americans who are not full-blooded Native Americans are the offspring of immigrants, but it is interesting to learn that Miller's immigrant forebears are well within living memory.
Needless to say, Miller is not the only member of the administration whose verbiage on rhetoric seems hypocritical. Also on the list, most obviously, is Donald Trump, whose grandfather Freidrich (Americanized to Frederick) was also an immigrant who made use of chain immigration to bring his family to the United states. Trump's wife Melania is also an immigrant, one who used chain immigration just last month to gain citizenship for her parents, the Knavses.
So, are Miller and Trump hypocrites? It seems self-evident that they are, and it's pretty hard to argue otherwise. However, that overlooks the most important dimension of their xenophobia. Miller and Trump aren't really bothered by immigrants like the Glossers, the Trumps, and the Knavses because all of those people are (or were) white. When Trump and Miller (and other members of the administration) say they "oppose" immigrants, what they really oppose is brown-skinned immigrants (plus white-skinned Muslims). They can't say it quite that way, though Trump has come pretty close between his tweets and his not-very-subtle dog whistles. And the base certainly knows what they mean, because most of them feel the same way. Anyhow, that is how two grandsons of immigrants can whine and moan about MS-13 and Muslim travel bans and walls along the border and feel no shame at all. (Z)
The "People Who Are Suing Donald Trump" club is pretty large, and may be about to add another member. Former CIA director John Brennan, whose security clearance was stripped in high-profile fashion this week, said on Sunday that he might sue the President in retaliation. "I am going to do whatever I can personally to try to prevent these abuses in the future, and if it means going to court, I will do that," Brennan declared.
Legally speaking, Brennan has virtually no leg to stand on. Awarding and revoking security clearances is the clear province of the executive branch and its chief, and even the most left-wing court would be reluctant to infringe on that. Brennan knows that, undoubtedly, and so would be suing in order to create a nuisance for Team Trump and to generate some publicity. Which, in truth, is how Trump has been using the legal system for five decades. He who lives by the sword, dies by the sword, as they say. (Z)
According to Ohio law, election officials cannot begin tallying absentee and provisional ballots until 10 days after an election, so as to make sure that all materials have been received. The 10 days expired on Saturday, and so the final counting for the special election in OH-12 is now underway.
At the moment, Republican Troy Balderson has 101,772 votes, while Democrat Danny O'Connor has 100,208. That is a gap of 0.8% of the vote. There are roughly 3,500 outstanding ballots to be counted, and if the final margin is less than 0.5%, it will trigger an automatic recount. If the margin is greater than 0.5%, the loser can request a recount in writing, but might not do so for fear of looking like a sore loser just two months before Ohioans do this all over again. On the other hand, "help me pay for the recount" e-mails have already gone out, so maybe looking like a sore loser is not a concern. It's not clear when things will be wrapped up, but the deadline for the final tally is August 24, so it will be sometime this week. (Z)Email a link to a friend or share:
---The Votemaster and Zenger
Aug19 Judge Guts Trump NDA
Aug19 No Security Clearances Revoked on Saturday
Aug19 Trump's Knowledge of the World and Foreign Affairs Is Sad
Aug19 This Week's Senate News
Aug19 Democratic Presidential Candidate of the Week: John Hickenlooper
Aug18 Manafort Jury Goes Home for the Weekend without a Verdict
Aug18 Why Hasn't Manafort Flipped?
Aug18 Trump Says He Will Yank Bruce Ohr's Security Clearance Next
Aug18 Trump Cancels Military Parade
Aug18 U.S.-Supplied Bomb Kills 40 Children in Yemen
Aug18 Nathan Gonzales Changes House Ratings toward the Democrats
Aug18 The Hill Sees a 72-Seat Wipeout as the Worst Case Scenario for House Republicans
Aug18 FiveThirtyEight Has New House Ratings Out, Too
Aug17 Newspapers Assert Freedom of the Press; Trump Fires Back
Aug17 Omarosa Releases a Recording of Lara Trump Offering Her a $15,000/Month Job
Aug17 No Verdict Yet in Manafort Case
Aug17 Another Piece of the Stormygate Puzzle
Aug17 Admiral Who Oversaw the Raid on Bin Laden Wants His Security Clearance Revoked
Aug17 Trump Badly Wants to Take the Show on the Road
Aug17 Trump Has Praised All the Candidates in the Arizona Senate Primary
Aug17 Who's Who on the House Judiciary Committee?
Aug16 Takeaways from the Primaries
Aug16 Does Trump's Endorsement Matter?
Aug16 Trump Revokes Security Clearance of Former CIA Director John Brennan
Aug16 Manafort's Trial Ends
Aug16 Republican Midterm Strategy Is to Play Nice for a Few Months
Aug16 Democratic Midterm Strategy Is to Go Local
Aug16 Researchers Show that Votes Can Be Hacked in Nearly 30 States
Aug16 Defeated Democrat Says He Was Targeted by Hackers
Aug15 Election Results, States that Held a Primary Last Night Edition
Aug15 Kobach Advances, Johnson Throws His Hat in the Ring
Aug15 White House Staffers Scared Witless of Omarosa's Next Tape
Aug15 Trump Doing His Best to Prove that Yes, He Is a Racist Who Used the N-Word
Aug15 The Five Most Competitive House Races
Aug15 Americans Want Mueller to Finish by Election Day
Aug15 Latinos in Florida Prefer Nelson to Scott, but Barely
Aug14 FBI Fires Peter Strzok
Aug14 Prosecution Rests Its Case in the Manafort Trial
Aug14 Stone Says He Won't Testify Against Trump
Aug14 Omarosa Keeps Dishing
Aug14 Team Trump Decides on a New Flynn Narrative
Aug14 Florida Might Have a Red Tide Instead of a Blue Wave
Aug14 Political Spending at Trump's Properties Is $3.5 Million Since His Inauguration
Aug13 Omarosa: Trump Is a Racist
Aug13 Hawaii Chooses the Democrats Who Will Be Elected in November
Aug13 Four States to Vote on Tuesday
Aug13 A Year Later, What Is the Lesson from Charlottesville?
Aug13 Charlottesville, Part II Fizzles
Aug13 Over 100 Newspapers Will Fight Back on Trump's Attacking the Media