• Trump Endorses Roby
• Manafort's Judge Refuses to Throw Out the Money Laundering Charge
• Mueller Wants to Bar Manafort from Claiming Political Persecution
• Dow Bounces Back, Despite Trump's Best Efforts
• U.N.: Poverty Is Getting Worse in America
• George Will: Don't Vote for Republicans
• Steve Schmidt Jumps Ship, Too
• Republican Pollster Says Democrats Will Take the House in November
For a week, Donald Trump told the world that he couldn't stop families from being broken up at the border because it was the law and the Democrats passed it. None of that is true, but he repeated it often. He also called on Congress to pass a new immigration law. Now that the House failed to pass a harsh immigration bill written by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and apparently doesn't have the votes to pass a slightly less harsh bill, the only plausible remaining possibility is for a discharge petition that is circulating in the House to get two more signatures and force four other pending bills to the House floor for a vote. Yesterday, Donald Trump implicitly made clear what he thought of those bills by telling Congress not to pass any immigration bill until after the midterms:
Republicans should stop wasting their time on Immigration until after we elect more Senators and Congressmen/women in November. Dems are just playing games, have no intention of doing anything to solves this decades old problem. We can pass great legislation after the Red Wave!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 22, 2018
This strategy serves multiple purposes. First, it makes sure no Republicans in Congress have to take tough votes on immigration before the elections. Second, if the House passes one of the not-so-harsh bills, there is a fair chance it can also clear the Senate, in which case the President will have to make a politically fraught decision to sign or veto it, which he would prefer to avoid. Third, Trump (alone) is assuming there will be more Republicans in Congress next January, so he can get a bill more to his liking then. Everyone else is assuming there will be fewer Republicans in Congress in January than there are now. In about 90% of the midterms since WW II, the president's party has lost seats in the House, and the less popular the president is, the bigger the hit. The key question is whether there will be at least 23 fewer Republicans in the House, which would give the Democrats control.
What Trump hasn't mentioned is that he is one of the main reasons Congress hasn't passed a bill. He visited the Capitol on Tuesday and talked to the Republican leadership there. They practically begged him to tell them what they wanted in the immigration bill. If he had given them clear instructions, they would have written the bill and tried to pass it. But he didn't give them any directions at all, so the whole process has floundered.
Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) no doubt feels betrayed by Trump now. He has spent 2 weeks desperately trying to pass an immigration bill and now Trump says "Don't bother." Furthermore, in order to stave off the discharge petition, Ryan promised to bring two other bills up for a vote. The first one was voted on this week and failed. If he brings up the second one, it will also fail spectactularly now that Trump has said he doesn't want a bill. On the other hand, if he doesn't bring up the other bill, the moderate Republicans will be furious as they stopped the discharge process because he promised a vote on his bill. If there is no vote, they will be livid. That could restart the discharge process. During the campaign, Trump promised to do things differently. Previous presidents didn't undercut their own party in a horrendous way. So, things are definitely different now. (V)
Although Donald Trump has been more than happy to cut off his own party at the knees on occasion (see above), and to carry on personal vendettas against fellow Republicans, he may finally be realizing that sometimes a politician has to suck it up and put politics first. On Friday, he sent this tweet in support of Rep. Martha Roby (R-AL) on Friday:
Congresswoman Martha Roby of Alabama has been a consistent and reliable vote for our Make America Great Again Agenda. She is in a Republican Primary run-off against a recent Nancy Pelosi voting Democrat. I fully endorse Martha for Alabama 2nd Congressional District!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 22, 2018
The tweet is a little early, since Roby's runoff election isn't until July 17. Given that this tweet immediately followed a very similar tweet about Gov. Henry McMaster (R-SC), who faces a runoff on June 26, we have to assume that Fox News did a segment about key upcoming runoff contests.
Roby famously refused to vote for Trump following the pu**ygate scandal, and she is now in the fight of her life against Bobby Bright, a former Congressman who was a Democrat until January of this year. A very conservative Democrat, but a Democrat nonetheless. While Roby did not vote for Trump, she has indeed been a consistent supporter of his policies in Congress, and so is less of a wildcard than Bright.
Of course, this all assumes that Trump is actively assessing the situation, and is weighing the pros and cons of an endorsement, as he sits holding his phone at seven in the morning. It's also possible that he is only vaguely aware of who Roby is, that he does not remember her "insult" from two years ago, that he has no real idea about her voting record, and that he's merely parroting whatever Fox News said. So, before we can confidently declare that he's actually changed his approach, we'll need to see him support at least a couple of other candidates with whom he's had personal differences. (Z)
Paul Manafort's lawyers keep asking the judge in one of his cases, Amy Berman Jackson, to do things he would like done and she keeps saying "no." First they asked her if Manafort could stay out of jail until his trial and she said "no." Then they asked her to rule that the records the FBI took from Manafort's storage unit could be banned as evidence in his trial. She said "no" again. Yesterday, she rejected Manafort's attempt to get out of a money laundering charge. His lawyers argued that the millions of dollars he laundered didn't count as the proceeds of criminal activity because the only crime he is accused of is failing to register as a foreign agent. Jackson didn't buy that, saying that the law makes it a crime to act for a foreign government unless you have registered as its agent, which Manafort did not do, and any money he received as a result of committing that crime counts as the proceeds of criminal activity. In other words, "Nice try, but no dice." The trial in Jackson's court is scheduled to begin on Sept. 17. (V)
In addition to the Sept. 17 trial in D.C., Manafort is also facing a trial on July 25 in Alexandria, VA, on charges of bank fraud, tax evasion, and other things, none of which overlap with the D.C. trial. Prosecutors in the Virginia trial filed documents yesterday asking Judge T.S. Ellis III to prevent Manafort from arguing that he is the victim of political persecution because he was Donald Trump's campaign manager. His lawyers were planning to tell the jury that if he hadn't been involved in Trump's campaign, no one would have cared about his bank fraud and tax evasion. The government is asking the judge to forbid this line of argument during the trial.
The government's position is that the only thing the jury has to decide is whether Manafort committed bank fraud, tax evasion, and a few other things. Analyzing the reasons why the government is bringing the case is not something the jury is to consider at all. The judge will take this motion under consideration and rule in due course of time. (V)
On Friday, Donald Trump fired the latest round in his budding trade war, and announced his intention to impose a 20% tariff on all cars imported into the United States from the European Union. This is in retaliation for the EU's announcement that they are planning to slap a tariff on American cars imported into Europe. All of this is bad news for car manufacturers on both sides of the Atlantic, and so share prices of BMW, Volkswagen, Fiat Chrysler, Daimler, Ford and General Motors all dropped on Friday.
Trump might have been well advised to wait until Monday to share this news, so as to avoid a ninth straight day of losses for the Dow Jones, and with it headlines about the market being on its worst run since 1978. However, he got lucky. Thanks to a decision by OPEC to increase production, all of the energy and petroleum companies were up Friday, allowing the index to post a 119-point gain at close. That said, Trump is far from being out of the woods. This is shaping up to be the worst June the stock market has had in decades. Further, the worst months for the market, historically, are August and September. So, if the President follows through on his tariff threats, he could be setting the stage for some ugly financial news just as the midterms are upon us. (Z)
On Thursday, the United Nations issued a report on poverty in the United States, declaring, "The United States, one of the world's richest nations and the 'land of opportunity,' is fast becoming a champion of inequality." The report observes that despite its great wealth, the U.S. has the highest child mortality and child poverty rates among the 20 richest countries in the world, and that over 40 million Americans live in poverty. While these things are not all Donald Trump's doing, the report also argues that the GOP tax bill, "overwhelmingly benefited the wealthy and worsened inequality."
This naturally triggered an offensive on the part of the administration. Since the facts of the report are inarguable, Team Trump decided to attack the messenger. "It is patently ridiculous for the United Nations to examine poverty in America," declared UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, who said the U.N. should only be looking at poor people in places like Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi (or, as Donald Trump calls them, sh**holes). Exactly why poor people in the United States are not worthy of attention was not made clear. What is clear is that the U.S. tried to spike the report, obliquely threatening chief investigator Philip G. Alston that if he proceeded, the U.S. might just leave the U.N. Human Rights Council. Since the Trump administration did exactly that earlier this week, apparently they weren't bluffing.
Of course, few voters pay attention to U.N. reports. Undoubtedly, poor people know they are poor without Alston's help. In the past couple of elections, the GOP has managed to keep a lot of poor folks out of the Democratic column, either with voter ID laws and other restrictions (which disproportionately affect the poor), or else by focusing on cultural issues like abortion and Muslims. Whether these things keep working will be one of the big stories of 2018's elections. (Z)
Conservative columnist George Will is about as staunch a Republican as they come. He worked for a Republican senator, Gordon Allot of Colorado, from 1970 to 1972. Then he became an editor of the conservative magazine National Review. He has been a contributor to Fox News. His columns in the Washington Post have won him a Pulitizer Prize for commentary. Now that Charles Krauthammer is no longer with us, he is probably the most respected conservative columnist in the country. Yesterday in his Post column, he wrote:
The congressional Republican caucuses must be substantially reduced. So substantially that their remnants, reduced to minorities, will be stripped of the Constitution's Article I powers that they have been too invertebrate to use against the current wielder of the Article II powers.
Wow. Will telling people to vote Democratic so Republicans will be in the minority is like Rachel Maddow telling her viewers to vote a straight Republican ticket. Will added that there is nothing wrong with the system James Madison devised. The problem is basically that congressional Republicans are cowards and refuse to exercise the authority they clearly have. Case in point: If Republicans don't like what Trump is doing at the border (and they clearly don't), then they have the authority to pass a law telling him exactly how he should handle undocumented families, but are afraid to do so. Under those conditions, having Republicans control Congress isn't worth anything, according to Will. (V)
George Will isn't the only prominent Republican who has given up on the Party, at least as it currently stands. Longtime GOP strategist, and prominent Bush administration spokesman Steve Schmidt has also reached the limits of his tolerance. Earlier this week, he tweeted:
29 years and nine months ago I registered to vote and became a member of The Republican Party which was founded in 1854 to oppose slavery and stand for the dignity of human life. Today I renounce my membership in the Republican Party. It is fully the party of Trump.— Steve Schmidt (@SteveSchmidtSES) June 20, 2018
This was actually the first tweet in a lengthy string of them. Schmidt also made clear that the breakup of families at the border was his breaking point, and he joined Will in hoping that the Democrats take over Congress. "The first step to a season of renewal in our land," Schmidt wrote, "is the absolute and utter repudiation of Trump and his vile enablers in the 2018 election by electing Democratic majorities."
The basic problem here is that Will and Schmidt are both conservatives, while Trump is not. There are many lists of conservative principles out there, a custom that began with William F. Buckley Jr. during his time as editor of the National Review. Here is a particularly short and sweet one:
- Protect and maximize individual rights
- Ensure a limited government
- Uphold the rule of law
- Commitment to federalism and the separation of powers
- Maintain free and open markets
Trump comes up short on every item on the list, but particularly on the last three. It is interesting, however, that while some of Trump's non-conservatism is a part of his political program—being anti-free trade, for example—most of it is personal. That is to say, his disdain for the rule of law, his trampling of individual rights (particularly free speech), and his low regard for the separation of powers are not in service of any particular policy objective, they're in service of his own ego and his own personal needs. Other GOP officeholders have been happy to play along, and to behave in a similar fashion, though, so Will and Schmidt are very likely correct in thinking that the Republican Party has undergone a permanent change. (Z)
Ed Goeas, CEO of the Tarrance Group, a Republican strategy, research, and polling firm that works to elect Republicans, told The Hill yesterday that Democrats are poised to take control of the House in January. Generally, partisan pollsters don't announce that their side is going to lose. On the other hand, calling the election correctly months in advance enhances the pollster's reputation, but of course, it is going out on a limb. When pressed for a number of seats that will flip, Goeas picked 23, which indeed would be enough to give the Democrats a bare majority. This would also give them all the committee chairmanships and the power to investigate anything they want (Hint: It won't be Hillary Clinton's e-mails). Nevertheless, remember that in politics, a week is a long time. (V)Email a link to a friend or share:
---The Votemaster and Zenger
Jun22 Trump Is on the Cover of Time Magazine Again
Jun22 Melania Trump Doesn't Care--Do U?
Jun22 Judge Allows Prosecutors to Use Evidence Seized from Manafort's Storage Unit
Jun22 Dow Jones Is Taking a Beating
Jun22 Giuliani Steps in the Swamp
Jun22 NFL Players to Trump: Here's How to Use Your Pardon Power
Jun22 Krauthammer Dies
Jun21 Trump Sort of Backs Down on Family Seperation...er, Separation
Jun21 Selected Companies Are Making Millions off the Child Separation Policy
Jun21 Immigration Bills Are Expected to Fail Today
Jun21 Michael Bloomberg Will Spent $80 Million to Flip the House
Jun21 China Knows How to Fight a Trade War
Jun21 Trade War Casualties are Already Mounting
Jun21 Clawback Fails in the Senate
Jun20 Trump Visits Capitol Hill
Jun20 Separating Families Could Be Trump's Katrina
Jun20 U.S. Quits U.N. Human Rights Council
Jun20 Whoever Wins Immigration Debate, Nielsen Has Already Lost
Jun20 John Kelly Doesn't Care Any More
Jun20 Cohen Is Apparently Willing to Sing Like a Canary
Jun20 Russians Bought Trump Properties for over $100 Million in Cash
Jun20 Donald Trump Could Be Done in by a Club Sandwich
Jun20 Gillibrand: Trump Is Doing the Devil's Work
Jun19 Trump Doubles Down on Separating Families at the Border
Jun19 Let the Trade Wars Begin
Jun19 Supreme Court Dodges the Gerrymandering Issue
Jun19 North Carolina Moves Forward, Kansas Backward, on Voter ID Laws
Jun19 Trump Signs "Space Force" Directive
Jun19 Claw Back Looks Unlikely
Jun19 It Takes a Village--to Elect Rick Scott
Jun18 Strzok Is Willing to Testify before Congress
Jun18 Roger Stone Met with a Russian Offering Dirt on Clinton
Jun18 All Hell Will Break Loose When Mueller Issues His Report
Jun18 Trump Encourages WaPo Staff to Strike
Jun18 First Ladies Blast Trump on Border Separations
Jun18 Steve King: Ryan Might Be Removed
Jun18 Trump's Approval Has Dropped in All 50 States
Jun18 Poll: Too Early to Judge if Singapore Summit Was a Winner
Jun17 Trump Makes Immigration Mess Even Messier
Jun17 Trump Taps Unknown to Lead Consumer Bureau
Jun17 Pruitt Might Finally Be in Real Trouble
Jun17 Giuliani Bloviates Some More
Jun17 Breitbart is Flailing
Jun17 Sanders Won't Endorse His Son
Jun17 There Aren't Going to Be Three Californias
Jun16 Trump Imposes Tariffs on China
Jun16 Manafort Goes to Jail
Jun16 Giuliani: Trump Won't Sit for an Interview with Mueller
Jun16 What's Going on with Immigration, for Christ's Sake?