• A Bad Day for Trump, Part II: Cohen Cops a Plea
• A Bad Day for Trump, Part III: Rep. Duncan Hunter Indicted
• A Bad Day for Trump, Part IV: Mueller Delays Flynn's Sentence Again
• Wyomingites, Alaskans Go to the Polls
• Trump Will Spend 40 Days on the Campaign Trail
• Trump Rallies in West Virginia
• Former Top NRCC Officials Blast the Group's Midterm Strategy
• Elizabeth Warren Releases Her Platform
It is singularly unlikely that Donald Trump reads the Huffington Post, since it is (1) left-leaning, and (2) not Fox News. However, if he was somehow looking at the site on Tuesday at about 4:30 EDT, he would have seen something that would have made his heart sing:
Those police sirens are a particularly...festive touch. Even more interesting, though, is the question of how HuffPo blew it so badly. Manafort was most certainly not acquitted. In fact, he was convicted on 8 of the 18 counts against him, while the jury was hung on the other 10.
This is, by any measure, a disaster for Manafort. The eight guilty verdicts included five tax fraud charges, one charge of hiding foreign bank accounts and two counts of bank fraud. Among the eight, the biggie was felony tax fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 30 years. The other charges could add up to a maximum of 50 years, meaning Manafort is looking at the possibility of 80 years in the hoosegow based on Tuesday's verdicts. No first-time convict serves their full sentence, but even 10 years would be devastating for a fellow who is already 69 years old. And then, on top of that, Manafort's got his second trial next month, and he could well be retried on the 10 counts that were left unresolved Tuesday. He is, to use the formal legal term, screwed.
So, what does Manafort do next? If he's going to flip, now is presumably the time. No matter how well the second trial goes (and there's every reason to think it will go as badly as the first), he is already looking at spending most or all of the rest of his life in prison. If he's going to sing like a canary in order to save himself, why not avoid the hassle and expense of a second (and possibly third) trial? Further, the more hoops that Team Mueller is forced to jump through, the less charitable they will be in their plea offerings. If Manafort does not flip in the next two or three weeks, then he's presumably all-in on a presidential pardon. Or he really is trying to keep Oleg Deripaska's secrets at all costs.
As to Trump, when he was asked to comment on the verdict on Tuesday night, he said: "Paul Manafort's a good man. [The verdict] doesn't involve me, but I still feel, you know, it's a very sad thing that happened." There really wasn't much else he could have said, but there is zero chance that he really believes that, as the verdict absolutely does involve him, and was disastrous for him, too. First, because of the heightened risk that Manafort turns traitor. Second, because of the horrible optics. Robert Mueller has now secured indictments, guilty pleas, and—as of Tuesday—convictions in a federal court. Undoubtedly, Trump will continue to shout "witch hunt" and "fake news" and the like, but such claims are rapidly becoming so absurd that surely even some of the base is going to say, "Wait a minute." And it does not help that Trump's former campaign manager's guilt was announced on the same day (indeed, within the same hour) as the guilt of his former lawyer/fixer Michael Cohen (see below). The New York Daily News, as they so often do, captured the essence of the moment:
There are quite a few days that have been labeled "the worst" of Trump's presidency. Between Manafort and Cohen, with Duncan Hunter, Michael Flynn, and the defeat of Foster Friess as the icing on the cake (see below), August 21, 2018 is now at (or very near) the top of the list. (Z)
At very nearly the same time that the Paul Manafort jury was announcing its verdict in Virginia, prosecutors in New York were in court asking Judge William H. Pauley to sign off on the plea deal that Michael Cohen has agreed to, which he did. By the terms of the agreement, Cohen pleaded guilty on eight counts, and (at the moment) is slated to spend between 3 and 5 years in jail, and to pay a hefty fine.
One of the big elements of the Cohen news, repeated in just about every piece on the plea deal, is that he's "not cooperating" with the feds (either Robert Mueller or anyone else). At first glance, this seems like good news for Donald Trump, but it is not. This is a little bit tricky, so bear with us, but a more accurate way of describing things is that Cohen did not trade a guilty plea for his cooperation. In fact, he was so concerned about the costs of a trial, and the risk that his family would be left penniless, that he made a garden-variety plea deal of the sort that white-collar criminals make all the time: "I will spare you the necessity of prosecuting me in court if you give me a reduced penalty."
In other words, it is not the case that Cohen refused to cooperate, or has been excused from cooperating. It is merely he hasn't reached agreement with the government on that point. And the odds are that, sometime soon, he will sing like a canary. Just by copping a plea, in fact, Cohen has already cut Trump off at the knees. Not only because yet another Trump associate is now a felon, but because one of the crimes that the former fixer pleaded guilty to was breaking campaign finance laws at the President's direction. In other words, Cohen is already officially on the record throwing Trump under the bus. The plea itself is a form of cooperation with Mueller.
Beyond that, however, is that Cohen still has a lot to lose, between the jail sentence and the fine. That means that Mueller has something to offer: "We'll shave some time/money off that sentence, Michael, if you tell us what else you know." And just in case there was any doubt that Cohen is open to such an offer, his lawyer Lanny Davis appeared on Rachel Maddow's program (and also talked to the Washington Post) and suggested that Cohen can verify that the President personally conspired with the Russians to hack the Democrats' e-mails. He also said that, "my client is more than happy to tell the special counsel all that he knows." Pretty much the only thing Davis didn't do was turn to the camera and mouth the words "Robert...call me."
Needless to say, only a dozen or so people know exactly what evidence Robert Mueller has, and none of them are talking, as yet. But, between Manafort, and Cohen, and Michael Flynn, and—don't forget—White House Counsel Don McGahn spilling his guts, it certainly looks like the Special Counsel is going to have an ironclad case. The imminent Trump meltdown, whenever it comes, is going to be a sight to see. (Z)
In a development that came as a rather big surprise, the Department of Justice indicted Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) and his wife Margaret on Tuesday for illegally using campaign funds for personal expenses. This included big expenses (luxury vacations) and small ones (their kids' lunches at school). While it's true that Hunter and his wife are innocent until proven guilty, the feds' investigation of them lasted for over a year, the indictment contains 17 pages' worth of counts against them, and the conviction rate in federal courts is very, very high. So, the two should probably start shopping for paddles on amazon.com for their trip up the river.
What does this have to do with Donald Trump? Well, first of all, Hunter was near the top of the Democrats' target list before this; his suburban California district is exactly the sort they think they can flip. Now, he will presumably drop out (or will be inviting defeat if he stays in). So, the blue team's chances of flipping that seat just improved quite a bit, regardless of what Duncan does. And, of course, every step the Democrats take toward regaining control of the House is a step backward for the administration.
The bigger problem for Trump, however, is this: Hunter was the second sitting member of Congress to endorse his presidential bid. The first, Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY), got indicted just two weeks ago for insider trading. Perhaps that's just a coincidence, or perhaps not, but the optics are very bad (especially on the same day that Cohen and Manafort both came up guilty). It makes it pretty easy for the Democrats to say, "You know what kind of politicians support Trump? The crooked ones." Needless to say, if Collins and Hunter both end up behind bars, it's all the worse for the President. Although, depending on how things work out, that could give Trump someone to play gin rummy with. (Z)
While the big news is about Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen, another important development occurred yesterday under the radar. Robert Mueller asked a judge to delay sentencing former NSA Michael Flynn. This is the fourth delay Mueller has asked for and almost certainly means that Mueller is still working with Flynn and possibly getting new information from him. It could also mean that things might come out during the sentencing that Mueller wants to keep hidden for the moment, perhaps until he has had a chance to have a chat with Donald Trump. Or it could mean that Mueller wants Flynn to testify in some upcoming trial and is using the possibility of a lenient sentence to keep him in a talkative mood. (V)
When election results are pushed down to the fifth item on the page, you know it was either a wild day, or some very boring elections. Or, in this case, both. In any case, two more primaries were held on Tuesday, in Wyoming and Alaska.
The big story of the day in Wyoming was the race for the GOP's gubernatorial nomination. There, the least Trumpy candidate—state treasurer Mark Gordon—got the nod, outpacing his nearest competitor (Foster Friess) by 7 points (33% to 26%). This is something of a poke in the President's eye, especially since he gave an 11th-hour endorsement to Friess on Tuesday morning. However, it's not that big a poke (and certainly nowhere near as bad as all the other setbacks Trump suffered on Tuesday). Gordon triumphed primarily because the fire-breathing, Trump-loving, "we want an outsider" vote was divided three ways. Under those circumstance, the 33% of Republicans who like normal, bland nominees were able to triumph over the 67% who felt otherwise. In the general election, Gordon will face State Rep. Mary Throne (D). Given that 16,000 Democrats cast votes on Tuesday night, as compared to 112,000 Republicans, there is no "get out the vote" operation on the planet that can save Throne. So, Gordon will be your next governor of Wyoming.
Beyond that, upstart Senate candidate Dave Dodson ran a solid campaign in his race against Sen. John Barrasso (R), racking up some big endorsements, and using $1 million of his money to blanket the airwaves with ads. The race was unpolled, and so it seemed that Dodson just might actually make a contest of it. Not so much, as it turns out. Barrasso won with 65% of the vote to Dodson's 28.2%, which means that the Senator outpaced his main challenger by an only slightly smaller margin than his House colleague Rep. Liz Cheney (R), who got 68% of the vote to her opponent's 20%. The duo will defeat Gary Trauner (D) and Greg Hunter (D), respectively, in the general election.
In the Alaska gubernatorial race, only the GOP slot was contested. Former Alaska state senator Mike Dunleavy triumphed there with 61% of the vote, compared to just 33% for his nearest challenger, Mead Treadwell. He will now face off against former U.S. Senator Mark Begich (D) and Gov. Bill Walker (I), who were both running unopposed. There is much pressure on Begich to drop out, so that most Democrats will vote Walker. If he doesn't do so, it will be a very interesting race.
For Alaska's at-large House seat, Alyse Galvin easily secured the Democratic nomination, outpacing the Russian-born Dimitri Shein 56% to 23%. She is expected to turn the nomination down, and to run as an independent. We will see if that scheme works up against Rep. Don Young (R), who secured his party's nomination for the 24th time, crushing his nearest competitor by 55 points.
All in all, then, it was a pretty low-drama night. Next week will have a fair bit more intrigue, particularly in some of the House races in Florida, and in the ugly GOP Senate race in Arizona. (Z)
Donald Trump loves campaigning—much more than he loves hanging around the White House. So he is planning to spend 40 days out campaigning for Republican candidates across the country this fall. Whether this is a good idea is something else. While it is true that he can whip crowds into a frenzy at rallies, it is also true that his presence also energizes Democrats against him. Which effect is bigger is hard to say, but his campaigning is certainly not an unmixed blessing for Republicans.
To a large extent, where he campaigns is very important. If he just goes to states and districts where he is very popular, he will get large adoring crowds, something very important to him. But for the most part, it won't help his party much. The battle for the House will be fought in affluent suburban districts, where he is not popular at all, and a rally might draw a big counter-rally. The battle for the Senate will be fought in rural areas, but going to some small town of 1,000 people in, say, the middle of Montana, may not get a big crowd.
Also of note are the longer-term consequences of Trump tying himself closely to the midterms. Since WW II, the president's party has lost seats in the House in every midterm except 1998 (while the GOP was threatening to impeach Bill Clinton) and 2002 (after Sept. 11). If Trump makes the midterms a referendum on himself and the Democrats take over the House, it will be reported as a personal humiliation of Trump. If, instead, he were to stay above the fray, then a potential loss could be labeled as an RNC failure, not Trump's failure. But he has decided to take to the hustings, not because he made a careful calculation, but because he likes speaking to adoring crowds. (V)
These Donald Trump rallies are, at this point, pretty rote affairs. He tells a few falsehoods, brags about himself, slams a few opponents (or perceived opponents, like the NFL), and then pretty much calls it a day. So it was on Wednesday, when the only things that made the script distinguishable from any other rally appearance were his smears on Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), and his attempt to quickly turn the murder of Mollie Tibbetts—the Iowa student who was missing for a month, and whose body was found Tuesday—to his political advantage.
It might seem odd—or reprehensible, perhaps—that the violent death of an innocent teenager would be co-opted by a president for his own gain. And for any other president, it would be unheard of. But Trump simply could not wait to crow that the man accused of the murder is an undocumented immigrant, and that this only happened because "the immigration laws are a disgrace". Because if one undocumented immigrant commits a violent crime, they must all be violent criminals, of course. Shades of Willie Horton. We will see how much more mileage Trump tries to get out of this particular story, though, because news broke late Tuesday night that the accused killer worked for the Lang family, one of the most prominent Republican families in the Hawkeye State.
Probably the most newsworthy thing about the rally, though, was what Trump didn't say. Given all the setbacks he suffered on Tuesday (see above), and his propensity to vent whenever he's angry or fearful, reporters were waiting with interest to see what the President might say about Cohen and/or Manafort. Other than the usual Robert Mueller "witch hunt" complaints, however, there was nothing on that front, and neither man was mentioned by name. Was Trump unaware of the news, because he was traveling to West Virginia when it broke? Did he decide (or did someone convince him) that it was unwise for him to say anything? Is he waiting for Fox News to tell him what to think? Will he unleash on Twitter when he wakes up in the morning? These are all good questions. Trump did briefly speak to reporters about Manafort after the rally (see above), so he's definitely aware now of what happened.
There is also one other storyline worth noting. Knowing that he would be visiting "coal country" on Tuesday, Trump arranged for the EPA to officially roll back standards for coal-burning power plants. According to the new directive, states will be allowed to decide for themselves how much pollution is too much. There are going to be lawsuits aplenty, with those pinkos in California leading the way. In the short term, then, the only impact of the EPA's decision is to give the Democrats yet another concrete example to point to during the midterms of how they and the GOP differ on one of the blue team's core issues. (Z)
The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), the group responsible for electing Republicans to the House, has come under fire from former top NRCC officials who are accusing it of making strategic blunders that could cost the GOP dearly in November. The (anonymous) officials told The Hill that it was a huge mistake to stay off the airwaves in August and leave them entirely to the Democrats. One of them said: "Republicans are in real danger of losing the majority, and it seems that the NRCC is asleep at the switch." The officials are worried that when the NRCC starts running ads in September, it will be too little, too late, as many voters will have already formed their impressions of the candidates and it will be too late to change them.
Another complaint is that the NRCC is allocating funds for future ads in districts that the officials say are already lost. One name that came up is Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-VA), who most observers see as a dead woman walking. Nevertheless, the NRCC plans to spend big money in her expensive Northern Virginia district, despite her very likely defeat no matter how much it spends. In addition, there are dozens of open seats in territory favorable to the Democrats where money spent helping the Republican challenger is probably money being flushed down the toilet.
However, other Republicans have said that the situation is not as dire as it seems because outside groups have been spending money in August, even if the NRCC has gone radio silent. For example, the Congressional Leadership Fund, which is aligned with Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), has spent money in Minnesota attacking AG candidate Rep. Keith Ellison (D). How that helps hold the House, though, is anyone's guess.
In any case, the contrast between the silent NRCC and the highly active DCCC is striking. In Minnesota, for example, the DCCC is on the air attacking Republican candidates in four swing districts, which are going to be battlegrounds. They are also investing in many other states across the country, and in Internet advertising. So, if those kinds of expenses still matter, the blue team has the clear upper hand. (V)
While Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) has to win reelection in November before she can openly start running for president, that is a mere formality in blue, blue Massachusetts. Yesterday, she released a Senate bill that has zero chance of becoming law before 2021, but is likely to be a major part of her platform in her presidential run. Warren clearly understands that she will need Republican votes in 2020, so focusing entirely on things like a $15/hr minimum wage, Medicare for all, and other Democratic themes won't be enough. So, her platform will have a substantial focus on something that Republican voters are likely with agree to: Fighting corruption.
Some of the highlights are as follows:
- A ban on elected officials owning individual stocks (broad mutual funds are OK)
- A lifetime lobbying ban for former presidents and members of Congress
- Limits on lobbying on behalf of foreign governments
- A rule that presidential candidates disclose years of tax returns and that presidents to do so while in office
- A prohibition on all federal workers from lobbying their former employers for at least 2 years
- A rule preventing lobbyists from accepting a federal job for at least 2 years
- Put new taxes on excessive lobbying
- Make Supreme Court justices follow the code of conduct that applies to federal judges
Many of these items are a direct result of people in the Trump administration violating the principles, especially those involving lobbyists, and of course, Donald Trump's refusal to release his tax returns. (V)Email a link to a friend or share:
---The Votemaster and Zenger
Aug21 Wyoming, Alaska Have Primaries Today
Aug21 Russians Tried to Hack Senate, Conservative Think Tanks
Aug21 Giuliani: OK, the Truth Is the Truth
Aug21 No Verdict in Manafort Trial Yet
Aug21 Auto Industry Unites to Oppose Trump's Tariffs
Aug21 A Blue Wave May Carry the House but Not the Senate
Aug21 Oppo Research Ramps Up in House Races
Aug20 Giuliani: "Truth Isn't Truth"
Aug20 Trump Teaches History Class
Aug20 Many Trump Allies Welcome Democratic-Controlled House
Aug20 Cohen Charges Likely Coming Soon
Aug20 "Stephen Miller Is an Immigration Hypocrite"
Aug20 Brennan May Take Trump to Court
Aug20 Ohio Begins Compiling Final Vote Count in OH-12
Aug19 White House Counsel Don McGahn Has Been Cooperating with the Special Counsel
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