Dem 49
image description
GOP 51
image description
New polls:  
Dem pickups vs. 2012: (None)
GOP pickups vs. 2012: (None)

Trump Punts on Three Major Goals until after the Midterms

In moves that show how nervous Donald Trump is about the midterms, he has decided to (temporarily) give up on three of his priorities until after the midterms. First, he is not going to rev up his trade war, even though he has said trade wars are good and easy to win. Second, he won't shut down the federal government in October if he doesn't get his wall on the Mexican border, something he has repeatedly promised to do. Third, he has decided to stop cuddling with Russian President Vladimir Putin until at least next year.

However, there is a potential problem with the delay. Historically, the president's party nearly always loses seats in the first midterm. Even if the Democrats fail to pick up the 23 seats they need to capture the House and/or the 2 they need to win back the Senate, the Republicans are almost certain to be in a weaker position in the House come January. That means that bending Congress to his will isn't going to be easier for Trump in January.

Trump is clearly worried about the Midwest. The $12 billion bailout for farmers he announced this week is one sign of it. Polls from three states in the Midwest are probably also gnawing on him. His job approval in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota is 36%, 36%, and 38%, respectively. Also in those states, only 28%, 30%, and 31% think he should be reelected. No wonder he wants to play it safe for the moment. (V)

Trump Administration May Be Getting Ready to Bomb Iran

Donald Trump is making very little progress on his domestic agenda (see above). At the same time, he and his administration are enmeshed in so many scandals that it would make Dick Nixon's head spin. And having made those two observations, let us now recall again some of the tweets that Trump sent out during the Obama years:

So, to summarize, Trump thinks that a president who doesn't negotiate well, and who has poor poll numbers and a need to show how tough he is, might seriously consider bombing Iran as a solution to those problems.

As of Thursday, speculation, an ALL CAPS tweet, and a hotheaded National Security Advisor (John Bolton) are not the only evidence that suggests attacking Iran might just be on the Trump docket. News outlets in Australia are reporting that many members of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's administration (although not Turnbull himself) think that the U.S. is prepared to bomb Iran's nuclear facilities, perhaps as early as next month.

Exactly why would the folks down under have any special insight into this matter? The answer is that they have reportedly been asked to provide the necessary intelligence for the bombing, which will come from the Pine Gap joint defence facility in the Northern Territory and from the Australian Geospatial-Intelligence Organisation. Conveniently for the Trump administration, perhaps, several high-ranking members of the Australian government were in San Francisco this week for a conference, where they met with U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

There is, of course, no question that a war (or a semi-war) with Iran would further inflame Trump's many opponents, and would drive even more anti-GOP voters to the polls. But what would the effect on his base be? They like "strength" and they dislike Iran/Muslims, so perhaps this move would please them. On the other hand, Trump campaigned on his negotiating skills, his opposition to the U.S. being the world's police in general, and his opposition to the Iraq War in particular. A bombing would run contrary to all of that. And given how unhappy many right-wing folks were after a relatively limited bombing in Syria (Alex Jones was literally in tears), a massive bombing of Iran would surely be all the worse. And that's before we consider the possibility that Iran responds by lobbing a missile or 20 in the direction of Israel. In short, it's entirely believable that Trump (and some of the people who have his ear) might see this as a game-changer and a political winner. But the available evidence does not seem to support that conclusion. (Z)

Mueller is Following the Tweets

It was very likely that Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his team would get around to looking carefully at Donald Trump's tweets. Indeed, it would be malpractice if they didn't do so, as the President's Twitter feed is a veritable treasure trove for someone looking for evidence as to his motivations and his state of mind. Yesterday, courtesy of the New York Times, we got confirmation that this is being done.

According to the Times' reporting, Team Mueller is particularly interested in tweets about AG Jeff Sessions and former FBI director James Comey. That points, once again, to obstruction of justice charges against the President. Trump's lawyers publicly pooh-poohed this possibility on Thursday, with Rudy Giuliani declaring that, "If you're going to obstruct justice, you do it quietly and secretly, not in public." That is the second time this week that Giuliani has made this basic argument; he also said something similar about the recording between Trump and Cohen that leaked earlier this week, insisting that Trump would never be foolish enough to leave a paper trail if he was really up to no good. When an attorney's best argument is, "C'mon, my client wouldn't be that stupid!," it is not a good sign. Particularly when the client in question might very well have been that stupid.

In any event, Giuliani might be putting up a good front for public consumption, but privately the President's lawyers are scared witless about this new phase of the Mueller investigation. After all, they can read the tweets as easily as Mueller can, and can see that a judge (or a jury) might well be convinced that a pattern of behavior exists. And making things even worse is that Trump gets out his phone nearly every morning, and gives the Special Counsel even more evidence to work with. (Z)

Administration Misses Deadline to Reunite Families

The deadline for the Trump administration to reunite all the families separated at the border has come and gone, and—to nobody's surprise—Team Trump came up way short. There are still 700 children left in government custody, and most of them could wait months (or years) to be returned to their families, if they ever are.

The administration's position/excuse is that they have done everything within their power, and that the 700-plus children who remain either belong to parents who are criminals, drug addicts, etc. or else belong to parents who simply cannot be found. So, Team Trump says they have fulfilled Judge Dana Sabraw's instructions, and they are congratulating themselves on a job well done. The ACLU disagrees, and they are continuing to press the matter. The Judge, for his part, is taking a "wait and see" approach, which is presumably a reflection of the lack of options he has for actually sanctioning the administration. (Z)

Democrats Up by Double Digits in Generic House Poll

The generic House poll has been all over the map this year. Democrats have led consistently, but the lead has gone up and down with the news. According to two new polls, Democrats now lead by double digits again. Quinnipiac University has the blue team ahead 51% to 39%. The Kaiser Family Foundation has similar results, with the Democrats at 49% and the Republicans at 37%. But given the ups and downs of politics in this era, all it would take is one interesting story to shake things up.

Of course, the generic House poll is just a very rough indicator of what might happen, not unlike popular vote polls for presidential elections. Generic Democrat is not actually running against Generic Republican. There are 435 House races, each with specific candidates with their own characteristics, history, funding, and more. Nevertheless, there is definitely some correlation between the generic poll and how many seats the leading party wins, as this graph from the Princeton Election Consortium shows:

Generic poll

Taking all the relevant factors into consideration. most election experts this year think that the Democrats need to win the House popular vote by at least 7 points to have a good chance to flip the House. If the final tally is D+12, it is very likely that Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) will be the speaker in January. But remember, in politics, a week is a long time.

That said, Republicans, starting with Donald Trump, are very worried and are starting to take action. Trump has authorized his campaign to transfer thousands of dollars to up to 100 Republicans running for House seats. In addition, the RNC will give $4 million to the NRCC, which supports Republican House candidates. The money moves may help, since over 50 Democratic candidates for the House have outraised their incumbent Republican opponents. Moving over money from Trump's campaign and the RNC could help even the score. (V)

West Virginia Secretary of State Blocks Blankenship's Senate Bid

Coal baron and convicted felon Don Blankenship, who was responsible for the deaths of 29 miners in a mine explosion, ran in the West Virginia Republican senatorial primary and lost to state AG Pat Morrisey. After losing, he tried to get on the ballot using the Constitution Party's ballot line. Yesterday, West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner (R) shot down Blankenship's dream of a Senate seat by invoking a state "sore loser" law that says anyone who loses one party's primary can't be the candidate of another party.

Although the law is fairly clear, Blankenship is going to fight it in court. His argument will be a minor ambiguity in the wording of the law, which says the people who are candidates of one party can't run on another ticket. Blankenship says he is no longer a Republican candidate, so the law doesn't apply to him.

The national GOP will move mountains to keep Blankenship off the ballot because if he makes it, the conservative vote will be split between him and Morrisey, thus ensuring a victory for Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV). With such a closely divided Senate, every seat matters. (V)

Jordan Is Running for House Speaker

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) made it official yesterday: He is running for Speaker of the House, despite being enmeshed in a sex scandal. When Jordan was a wrestling coach at Ohio State University, the team doctor sexually abused many of the boys, some of whom told Jordan. He proceeded to do nothing and tell no one. Normally, a scandal like this would drive a member from the House, but Jordan is pushing back hard by running for speaker. Jordan is a cofounder of the House Freedom Caucus and can probably count on the votes of its 30-40 members, but getting elected speaker takes 218 votes. It is inconceivable that he will get anywhere near that number, even if the current Republican leader, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), falters. Of course, if the Democrats capture the House, they will choose the speaker, not the Freedom Caucus.

Given that he has almost no chance of winning, even if the Republicans hold the majority, many people are wondering what Jordan is up to. CNN has three theories. First, Jordan is an ambitious politician and running for the #4 slot is not what ambitious politicians do. Second, the run may be a way to try to clear his name by showing that he considers all the allegations to be lies that won't deter him. Third, if the entire Freedom Caucus votes for him, that will effectively block McCarthy, even if there is a Republican majority, giving Jordan great negotiating leverage. In this scenario, he wouldn't be the king, but the kingmaker, and could force the new speaker to give the Freedom Caucus whatever it wants. (V)

Surprise! No Rosenstein Impeachment

It is surely no coincidence that, one day before he announced a run for the speakership, Jim Jordan said he was planning to file articles of impeachment against Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein. That announcement/threat was purely for theatrical purposes, since there is zero chance that Rosenstein would be impeached, much less convicted. Indeed, once the articles of impeachment became public, it was immediately clear how slap-dash they are. For example, Rosenstein is accused of withholding key information from Congress in mid-2016. That would be the same mid-2016 when Barack Obama was still president, and Rosenstein was still United States Attorney for the District of Maryland.

As of yesterday, however, the impeachment is off. Jordan (and his partner in crime, Rep. Mark Meadows, R-NC) announced that they had met with senior GOP leadership, and had been persuaded to hold off, at least for now. Undoubtedly, Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) said something like, "There is no chance of this succeeding, and I'm not going to allow you to embarrass the party right before the midterms, or to give the Democrats additional political cover should they gain control of the House and decide to impeach Donald Trump." Jordan and Meadows said they might return to this subject later, but the odds are good they've already achieved what they wanted to achieve with their (brief) performance of "Much Ado About Nothing". (Z)

Cohen Claims Trump Knew in Advance about the Meeting with Veselnitskaya

CNN is reporting that Donald Trump knew about the Trump Tower meeting in which Natalia Veselnitskaya was supposedly going to provide dirt on Hillary Clinton in advance and approved it. If that is true, it strengthens the case that Trump colluded with Russia. Trump has vigorously denied knowing about the meeting in advance. Cohen said that he has no proof of his assertion and his track record is less than stellar. So clearly either Trump is lying or Cohen is lying. Trump's television lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, tried to solve the puzzle yesterday by announcing that Cohen was the liar.

Robert Mueller may have to sort this one out, but he may have one clue to work with. While Donald Trump Jr. was arranging the meeting, he made two calls to a blocked number, possibly to an emergency burner phone Trump used when maximum security was needed. Mueller could subpoena phone company records to try to get a better idea of whom Junior called and where that person was at the time of the calls. (V)

Email a link to a friend or share:

---The Votemaster and Zenger
Jul26 Trump Claims Cohen's Audio Tape May Have Been Doctored
Jul26 Trump Makes Trade Deal with EU
Jul26 Republicans Move to Impeach Rosenstein
Jul26 Emoluments Case Against Trump Can Go Forward
Jul26 Trump Won't Meet Putin This Year
Jul26 White House Appears to Be Rewriting History
Jul26 Sabato Says Democrats Are Now Favorites to Take the House
Jul25 Trump Promises Farmers $12 Billion, Republicans Revolt
Jul25 Trump Claims to Be Worried that Russians May Help Democrats in 2018
Jul25 Giuliani Has New Demands for Trump Interview
Jul25 Cohen-Trump Recording Leaks
Jul25 Georgians Go to Polls
Jul25 Republican Leaders Renege on Immigration Promise
Jul25 White House Will No Longer Announce Calls with Foreign Leaders
Jul25 Majority of Americans Think Putin Has Something on Trump
Jul24 Trump in the Midst of a Meltdown
Jul24 Rand Paul Still Undecided about Kavanaugh
Jul24 Judge Delays Manafort's Trial
Jul24 Number of Cohen Recordings: 12
Jul24 Republicans Are Already Starting Oppo Research for 2020
Jul24 Wilkie Confirmed to Lead VA
Jul24 Democrats' Chances Improving in Gubernatorial Races
Jul23 Trump Engages in War of Words with Rouhani
Jul23 Mariia Butina Got Funding from Russian Oligarch Close to Putin
Jul23 Carter Page: I Advised the Russian Government
Jul23 Trump's Meeting with Putin Didn't Move the Needle Much
Jul23 Progressive Democrats Are Not Doing Well in New York and California
Jul23 Democratic Governors Are Testing the 2020 Waters
Jul23 How Is the Senate Looking?
Jul22 Cohen Tapes Plot Thickens
Jul22 Did Trump Give Away Crimea?
Jul22 Congress Won't Talk to Trump's Interpreter
Jul22 Does GOP Have an Alger Hiss Problem?
Jul22 Is Will Hurd the New Whittaker Chambers?
Jul22 FBI (Sort of) Releases Carter Page Warrant Applications
Jul22 Tariffs Will Have Predictable Effects, Starting at the Worst Possible Time for the GOP
Jul21 Cohen Secretly Recorded Trump
Jul21 McConnell Threatens Democrats over Kavanaugh
Jul21 Trump Threatens Tariffs on $500 Billion in Chinese Goods
Jul21 Mueller Wants to Chat with "Manhattan Madam"
Jul21 Charlotte to Host 2020 RNC Convention
Jul21 Dan Coats Could Be Next to Go
Jul21 Post-Helsinki Polls Are Starting to Roll In
Jul20 Trump Wants a Rematch
Jul20 What Did Trump Agree To?
Jul20 Be Careful What You Wish For, GOP, You Just Might Get It
Jul20 White House Morale Is in the Gold-Plated Toilet
Jul20 Trump Fed Up
Jul20 NRA Is Getting What it Paid For
Jul20 Jason Lewis Sticks to His Slutty Guns