• Trump May Invite Little Rocket Man to the White House
• House Is Getting Stuff Done--Or Not
• Trump Administration Doing What it Can to Kill Obamacare
• Democrats Are Fighting over Superdelegates Again
• Preet Bharara Registers as a Democrat
• Another Lawyer Wants to Depose Trump
• Melania Trump Pushes Back on Giuliani's Comments
The G7 meeting in Quebec today is going to pit Donald Trump against America's closest allies, all of whom are furious with him for unilaterally imposing tariffs on their products and thus starting a trade war. They know that trade wars always end badly, but Trump thinks he can win one. Some of the comments from foreign leaders about the tariffs are:
- British Trade Minister Liam Fox: "Patently absurd"
- German Chancellor Angela Merkel: "Illegal"
- Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau: "Insulting and totally unacceptable"
It is not going to be a happy meeting with a pleasant joint statement at the end and a nice photo op. In fact, French President Emmanuel Macron has already warned that Trump will not be allowed to sign the usual statement of unity that is issued at the end of the conference, which will make it very clear that it's six against one. Rarely, if ever, have all of America's best friends in the world been so united against the country. There have been disagreements before, such as when George W. Bush invaded Iraq and when Ronald Reagan put missiles in Europe, but nothing like this has ever happened before. Likely, when they are behind closed doors the notoriously thin-skinned Trump will get an earful from all of them and is unlikely to be pleased with it.
The consequences of the meeting could be far-reaching. All the countries involved have beefs with China, but presenting a unified front against the Chinese is very unlikely with such a split among the allies looming. In addition, if Trump sticks by his tariffs, retaliatory tariffs focused like a laser to maximize the pain to his base are likely. If the differences are not ironed out at the meeting, the next step could be a trade war with the U.S. against the rest of the world, with unknowable consequences.
The biggest winner from the meeting may well be Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has long tried to drive a wedge between the U.S. and its closest allies without much success. Now Trump may have done it for him. (V)
While Trump has been attacking America's best friends in the world, lately he has been cozying up to Kim Jong-Un, who he used to call "Little Rocket Man." He even dangled a possible visit to the White House to Kim if next week's summit proves productive. With Trump fighting with America's allies and making nice to its worst enemies, the world of diplomacy is topsy turvy.
To some extent, a White House invite reflects Trump's own mentality and how he operates. If Kim does something that weakens his country (giving up nuclear weapons) then the leader will get a personal gift: a tour of the White House and a nice dinner there. To Trump, doing something bad for your country is fine if you get something out of it personally. Most recently, Trump agreed to keep the Chinese telecom firm ZTE alive, despite its sale of critical chips to Iran and North Korea, violating U.S. sanctions, just days after China agreed to invest $500 million in a Trump project in Indonesia.
What is also of note here is that Trump is not prepping for his historic meeting with Kim next week. Previous presidents involved in high-stakes diplomacy have met extensively with the National Security Council, secretary of state, and other foreign-policy experts before key meetings. Trump wants none of that. He's just going to wing it. He says it's all about "attitude." Foreign policy officials from the Obama and George W. Bush administrations have called this approach "troubling."
Further complicating the issue is Trump's on-again, off-again relationship with NSA John Bolton, a defense hawk, who was not present when a top North Korean official met Trump in the Oval Office last week. Bolton will go to Singapore for the meeting, but given his long history of not trusting North Korea, Trump may not listen to him because he badly wants a win and Bolton will certainly prefer nothing as opposed to a bad deal. Many Asian governments, including that of Japan, are worried that Trump will make a pointless deal that he can claim as a win, but which does nothing to reduce Kim's nuclear arsenal and missiles. (V)
On Thursday, House leadership announced two important pieces of news. The first is that, in a vote along party lines, they have passed a rescission bill. The White House has been crowing about the bill all week, including this tweet from Donald Trump:
The HISTORIC Rescissions Package we’ve proposed would cut $15,000,000,000 in Wasteful Spending! We are getting our government back on track.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 5, 2018
Presumably, he will declare a great victory when he gets on Twitter this morning. Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders got the party started with a statement late Thursday: "President Trump and this Administration are fully committed to protecting taxpayers, and Senate passage of this legislation is critical to reducing wasteful, unnecessary spending and making our Federal Government more efficient, effective, and accountable."
Sanders is conveniently overlooking a few things. First of all, $15 billion out of a $1.3 trillion budget is a drop in the bucket. A 1.15% drop in the bucket, to be precise. Further, a report issued by the Congressional Budget Office finds that most of the $15 billion involves money that was not already earmarked, or was earmarked for programs that are no longer in operation. In fact, the actual amount of money that will be saved is $1.1 billion. That's an even smaller drop in the bucket. A .084% drop, to be precise. And that assumes that the Senate passes the bill, which is far from certain. Meanwhile, the message has been sent to Congressional Democrats that Congressional Republicans do not abide by their budget deals. So, a process that was already incredibly difficult this year, and led to two different (brief) shutdowns of the government. In short, Trump's victory is more like a Pyrrhic victory.
With that said, the House Republican conference is making progress on the immigration issue. Time is short, because the maneuver that pro-Dreamer moderates want to use to force a vote on a bill will no longer be available after June 12. In order to avoid a very public civil war within his caucus, Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) held a two-hour long, closed-door meeting with key members of the Freedom caucus and the Tuesday Group. It was widely reported, around 12:30 p.m. EST, that a compromise had been reached. More specifically, that Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID), one of the most devoted Freedom Caucusers, had offered up a visa program that would eventually open up a path to citizenship. After the meeting ended, there was much lauding of the art of compromise and singing of "Kumbayah."
There is only one small problem: Most of this appears to be untrue. They apparently aren't making progress at all. Around 7:00 p.m. EST, reports revealed that the various factions weren't at all in agreement about what offer was on the table, while Labrador insisted that he never offered up any compromise. Now, the Tuesday Group is angry, feeling they have been double-crossed. Time is running out, and a compromise is now all the harder. The moderates are just three signatures from the 218 they need to force their bills to the floor, and there's a very good chance this fiasco will push them over the hump. So, it was a very unproductive productive day on Capitol Hill. (Z)
Texas, as a red state, does not much care for Obamacare (though more than 50% of Texans approve of the, uh, rather similar Affordable Care Act). Given their opposition, the Lone Star State has taken the lead in a 20-(red)-state lawsuit whose purpose is to get Obamacare declared unconstitutional. Legal experts agree that suit is unlikely to prevail, but the Texans (and their fellow states) have an unusual ally: The Justice Department. Under normal circumstances, Justice defends federal laws instead of trying to get them overturned. But dislike of Obamacare is one of the few things that Donald Trump and AG Jeff Sessions agree on these days, and so they are using all of their resources to help the case succeed. The case is currently in the federal district court of Texas judge Reed O'Connor, where several DoJ lawyers were present for oral arguments on Thursday.
Meanwhile, at roughly the same time that was going on, insurers in several states requested (as the terms of Obamacare require) the right to raise premiums next year. That includes a 24% bump in New York, 19% in Washington, and 18.5% in Maryland. That would be the second consecutive double-digit increase in those places. The insurers say that there are two things that are going to drive prices way up next year: (1) Healthy people who are going to skip buying insurance, since there is no penalty any more, and (2) Healthy people who buy "junk" health insurance. Both of these things will take many healthy folks out of the regular insurance pool, leaving many fewer to subsidize the costs of 2019's really sick people. All of this is going exactly to the plan cooked up by the Trump administration and Congressional Republicans (at least, the ones not named John McCain).
The end result of all this is clear: There are going to be people who had insurance under Barack Obama, but who will not be able to afford it under Donald Trump. The GOP is betting that those folks will blame Obama for their troubles. Generally speaking, that's not been a winning approach. After all, the sign on Harry S. Truman's desk said "The buck stops here," and not "Go find the last guy, because the buck stops with him." (Z)
Supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) in 2016 were incensed over the party's "superdelegates'—elected politicians and party officials—nearly all of whom supported Hillary Clinton. Sanders and his supporters said that having senators, representatives, governors, and other officials have a say in who their party's presidential nominee is patently undemocratic.
The fight is looming again. The DNC has a plan that would allow the superdelegates to attend the national convention but not be allowed to vote on the first ballot. They could vote their consciences on the second and subsequent ballots, though. Many Democratic House members oppose this proposal, saying that they were elected by hundreds of thousands of voters and that therefore they have every right to have a say in who the party's nominee is. Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA), for example, said: "It disenfranchises the elected leadership of the party. The last time we allowed that to happen was 1972, and we had the worst landslide in our history." Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) said: "I think this is absolutely an insult to us."
The idea of having superdelegates was introduced in 1976 to try to prevent someone who was popular with the activist base (as George McGovern was) but unelectable, from getting the nomination. An argument that no Democrat has made so far, but could yet make before the change is finally approved, is that if the Republicans had superdelegates, they would all have opposed Donald Trump and the Republican nominee would probably have been Jeb Bush or Chris Christie. As it turns out, Trump won, but in private, very few Republican office holders are happy with him, and they would have preferred an experienced politician. (V)
Former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara has registered to vote as a Democrat. When he was U.S. attorney, he was not registered. Democratic donors have pressed Bharara to run for New York attorney general in November as a Democrat. The filing deadline is in the second week of July and the primary is in September.
Early in his administration, Donald Trump fired Bharara, a widely respected prosecutor. Bharara has been critical of Trump since then. He is widely known and would make a strong candidate for AG. So far he has been very coy about his future plans, but registering as a Democrat brings him one step closer to announcing a run. Of course, at this point, only he knows if he is going to make the plunge. (V)
Between porn stars and former Trump "university" students and special counsels, there are quite a few folks out there who would love to interview Donald Trump under oath. The latest to join the list are the lawyers representing Colin Kaepernick, the original NFL kneeler, who believes he is being blackballed by the league and has sued for collusion (not the Russian kind). Kaepernick's legal team believes that Trump (and Vice President Mike Pence, whom they also want to depose) had a material impact on the NFL's behavior, and they want to chat about it.
It's hard to believe a judge would agree to the request, and yet, legal experts say that Team Kaepernick has a real chance to prevail here. And if they don't, then eventually one of the many lawyers who are suing Trump will. And as we all know, given Trump's unwillingness to prepare for things or heed legal advice, all bets are off when that happens. (Z)
Donald Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani has a way of saying things that keep him in the news all the time, something he clearly loves. On Wednesday, Giuliani made a statement that Melania Trump 100% believes her husband when he says he did not have sexual relations with that woman (Stormy Daniels, not Monica Lewinisky). Yesterday Melania's spokeswoman, Stephanie Grisham, piped up and announced: "I don't believe Mrs. Trump has ever discussed her thoughts on anything with Mr. Giuliani." In other words, stop making stuff up. Melania knows very well that her husband has a very long and very public history of philandering. She knows that he reimbursed Michael Cohen $130,000 for paying off Daniels. Maybe she doesn't care about The Donald's extracurricular activities, but she would have to be unbelievably naive not to at least suspect there was something to the story. Besides, she doesn't like Giuliani putting words in her mouth.
Giuliani attempted to deflect attention from Melania's rebuttal by saying: "I'm sorry, I don't respect a porn star the way I respect a career woman or a woman of substance or a woman who has great respect for herself as a woman and as a person and isn't going to sell her body for sexual exploitation." Of course, the issue is not whether Giuliani respects Daniels. It is about whom Melania believes and only Melania knows that. Needless to say, Daniels' lawyer, Michael Avenatti, who rarely misses an opportunity to get in the news himself, hit back at Giuliani with this tweet:
Mr. Giuliani is a misogynist. His most recent comments regarding my client, who passed a lie detector test and who the American people believe, are disgusting and a disgrace. His client Mr. Trump didnt seem to have any moral issues with her and others back in 2006 and beyond.— Michael Avenatti (@MichaelAvenatti) June 6, 2018
Giuliani couldn't let the matter die quietly, so he came back with: "The only reason I answered it was to, I think, say what the vast majority of Americans would say to somebody engaged in the kind of behavior she's been engaged in—which is looking for money." In other words, Daniels only makes adult films for the money. That's probably true, but lawyers only take on clients for the money and garbage men only pick up garbage for the money. A lot of people do their job only for the money. (V)Email a link to a friend or share:
---The Votemaster and Zenger
Jun07 Democrats Probably Avoided Disaster in California
Jun07 The November Election Will Be about Racism and Authoritarianism
Jun07 In California, the November Election Will Be about Immigration and Gas Taxes
Jun07 Ryan Distances Himself from Trump
Jun07 Manchin Hugs Trump Close
Jun07 The Public Doesn't Like Giuliani
Jun07 Trump Doesn't Know History, Does Know How to Insult Canadians
Jun06 Voters in Eight States Have Their Say
Jun06 Eaglesgate Enters Second Day
Jun06 Trump Is Obsessed with Pardons
Jun06 The Gender Gap Could Hurt Democratic Hopes to Win the House
Jun06 McConnell Cancels Most of the August Recess
Jun06 Sadler Is out at the White House
Jun06 David Koch Is Seriously Ill
Jun06 Mexico Levies Tariffs on U.S. Products
Jun05 Trump Asserts His Right to Pardon Himself
Jun05 Eight States Hold Primaries Today
Jun05 Trump Is Now Willing to Support Candidates Who Didn't Vote for Him
Jun05 Mueller Wants Manafort Jailed Due to Witness Tampering
Jun05 Koch Brothers Will Spend Millions to Defeat Trump's Tariffs
Jun05 House Moving Toward Immigration Showdown
Jun05 SCOTUS Kicks the Gay Wedding Cake Down the Road
Jun05 Philadelphia Eagles Disinvited From White House
Jun05 More Fuel for the Pruitt Fire
Jun05 Melania Trump Is Sighted
Jun04 Giuliani: Trump Could Pardon Himself but He Probably Won't
Jun04 Team Trump Seems to Be in Full-Blown Panic Mode
Jun04 Republicans Are Getting More Optimistic about Holding the Senate
Jun04 Charlie Cook: Tax Cuts Won't Save the House
Jun04 Russians Are Already Hard at Work on the Midterms
Jun04 Jungle Primaries Make Strange Bedfellows in California
Jun04 Trump's Tariffs Are Not Popular
Jun03 Trump Attorneys' Letter to Mueller Leaks
Jun03 Tariffs Already Coming Home to Roost
Jun03 Corker Says GOP Senators are Talking About Reining Trump In
Jun03 Blue States Working to Save Obamacare
Jun03 Where Is Melania?
Jun03 Pruitt Spent $1,560 on 12 Pens
Jun03 Who Will Pay for Kim's Hotel Bill?
Jun02 North Korea Summit Is on Again
Jun02 Trump Is Actually a Poor Negotiator
Jun02 Mattis Issues Warning to China
Jun02 Trump Leaks Jobs Information Early
Jun02 Trump Is Trying to Save the Coal Industry
Jun02 Koch Brothers Support a Key Democrat
Jun02 Brown Has Big Lead over Renacci in Ohio Senate Race
Jun02 Cell Phone Spying Equipment May Be in Operation near White House
Jun01 Trump Denies that He Fired Comey to Stop Russia Probe
Jun01 European Union and Mexico Will Retaliate for Trump's Tariffs