• Trump Accepts Meeting With Kim
• Manafort to Go on Trial in Virginia for Bank Fraud in July
• Trump: Cohn's a "Globalist"
• Sarah Huckabee Sanders Is in the Dog House
• Kirsten Gillibrand Wins Big in Texas
• Poll: Five Senate Democrats Would Lose if Election Were Held Now
• Poll: Trump Would Lose if Election Were Held Now
• Richard Painter May Run for Franken's Seat
Donald Trump said he would impose tariffs on imported steel and aluminum and impose he did. Yesterday afternoon, he invoked a rarely used law to unilaterally impose a 25% tariff on steel and 10% tariff on aluminum on all countries except Canada and Mexico. However, their exemptions can be eliminated if they do not give enough ground on the NAFTA treaty that Trump wants to renegotiate.
The European Union will be given the opportunity to get an exemption by negotiating a deal that Trump likes. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer will be the American negotiator. One area in which Trump is demanding big concessions is on military spending. Most of the NATO countries do not spend as much on defense as the U.S., and Trump wants to force them to spend more. If they agree to ramp up military spending, out of the goodness of his big heart, he may (partially) exempt them from the tariffs. It is not immediately clear if they will take the bait. They could also implement their own tariffs and announce that they will rescind them if Trump does things more to their liking. Trump is known to greatly prefer one-on-one (bilateral) deals to multilateral deals with many partners, so be may be preparing to negotiate with each trading partner separately to extract specific concessions from each one.
Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) introduced a bill to nullify the tariffs, but there wasn't a rousing cheer from the Senate when he announced this. Most likely, Congressional Republicans are too scared of Trump to repeal the law that gives him the authority to impose tariffs, even though the Constitution makes it very plain that Congress, not the president, has the responsibility for managing foreign trade. So probably Trump will get his way for the moment, but some very difficult negotiations lie ahead with unpredictable results.
Meanwhile, U.S. investors were apparently pleased that the country's two closest trade partners aren't going to be slapped with tariffs quite yet, because the Dow Jones was up by 94 points at the close of business. Still, there remains much skittishness on Wall Street, with one executive predicting that the market is due for a correction of 20% to 40%. Certainly, everyone will be watching closely to see how the other nations of the world respond to Trump. Particularly China, which said on Thursday that it will "make a justified and necessary response." (V & Z)
After spending the last several months of 2017 waving his missile in everyone's face, North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un has done something of a 180, and has been as pleasant as can be since the Winter Olympics. He's been positively chatty with South Korean president Moon Jae-in, is promising a moratorium on future nuclear testing, and he extended an offer to meet with Donald Trump, which Trump agreed to on Thursday.
It's not entirely clear what is going on with Kim here. While it's possible the Chinese are putting pressure on him, there's no particular reason to believe they are doing so, or that they would even want to do so. It could be that he's moved on to the next phase of his master plan, and that he wants to demonstrate his people and the rest of the world that he's a major world leader who needs to be taken seriously and treated like any other major world leader. This could also be another game of cat and mouse; the members of the Kim dynasty have made promises like this before and then bailed out before following through. Or maybe he's just weary of the status quo. Surely, it must be very exhausting for someone like him to stay in power, and maybe he's not looking forward to trying to keep it going for another 20 or 30 years.
Meanwhile, as he so often does, Trump is playing with fire and hoping he does not get burned. If the meeting with Kim happens, and actually leads to a thawing of relations, then The Donald will get a great deal of credit from the American public (some of which he will deserve, some of which he won't). This would, in fact, become a signature accomplishment. However, past presidents have declined to meet with the Kims (or even to speak to them on the phone) for fear of being used as a pawn as the North Koreans attempt to achieve international legitimacy. Further, if Kim backs out of the meeting, or if the meeting is held and then Kim returns to his loose-cannon ways, Trump will end up with a great deal of bibimbap on his face. At the moment, both sides are targeting a May meeting date, so it looks like it won't be long until we learn how things are going to unfold. (Z)
Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort is going to have a busy year. He will go on trial in D.C. in September for conspiracy and failure to register as a foreign agent. And yesterday a federal judge in Virginia, Thomas Ellis III, an appointee of Ronald Reagan, announced a July 10 start date for Manafort's trial on charges of bank fraud and tax evasion. Ellis has a reputation for moving fast, such that lawyers refer to his courtroom as the "rocket docket." Special counsel Robert Mueller will thus face his first courtroom test this summer. Manafort chose to have this case tried in Virginia rather than combined with the other one and tried in D.C. because he expects a friendlier jury in (considerably whiter) Alexandria.
Andrew Weissmann is likely to take the lead in prosecuting Manafort in this case. He argued for an early trial date and got it. The charges against Manafort in Virginia are not related to the Russian interference in the election, but to various financial crimes that took place years ago. Weissmann is an expert at prosecuting financial crimes. (V)
At Thursday's cabinet meeting, Donald Trump held forth on outgoing economic advisor Gary Cohn. The President had generally good things to say about Cohn, because he's a mensch, even if some of his ideas are a little meshuggeneh, and he can sometimes be a real pain in the tuchus. But while Cohn was once willing to schlep some water for Trump on Capitol Hill, the schmuck had the chutzpah to stand up to the President on tariffs, and so he had to go. Oy, vey.
Ok, Trump didn't quite say it that way. What he did say, however, was this:
He may be a globalist, but I still like him. He's seriously globalist, there's no question, but you know what, in his own way he's also a nationalist because he loves our country.
The problem here is that 'globalist' is a not-too-subtle dog whistle, used regularly in the alt-right and white nationalist communities to mean "Jewish." Especially followed by that final clause, which effectively boils down to, "at least he's sorta loyal to America." And this is coming from the same politician who neglected to mention Jews in his Holocaust Day proclamation, who often retweets anti-Semitic Twitter followers, and who used another anti-Semitic dog whistle just weeks ago when referring to Dianne Feinstein:
The fact that Sneaky Dianne Feinstein, who has on numerous occasions stated that collusion between Trump/Russia has not been found, would release testimony in such an underhanded and possibly illegal way, totally without authorization, is a disgrace. Must have tough Primary!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 10, 2018
At a certain point, this is no longer a coincidence or an accident. There are really only three possibilities: (1) Trump is himself an anti-Semite, or (2) He's deliberately courting anti-Semitic voters, or (3) He's so unsophisticated about language that he doesn't recognize encoded anti-Semitism when he sees it. That third option is more viable than it might seem; it's very well within the realm of possibility that Trump's remarks on Thursday were just parroting something he'd read online, or on his Twitter feed, and he didn't grasp what he was really communicating. Whatever the case may be, though, there is one thing we do know: Anti-Semitic incidents in America increased by 57 Percent in 2017. Whoever might be driving this trend, we're pretty sure it's not the fake news, Crooked Hillary, the deep state, Barack Obama, Christopher Steele, or MS-13. (Z)
Earlier this week, it was reported that porn star/alleged Trump mistress Stormy Daniels was trying to break her non-disclosure agreement with the President, presumably so she can tell her story to a bidder than will pay more than the $130,000 she already got. When reporters asked White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders about this, she said it was a non-story because the matter had gone to arbitration that was won "in the President's favor."
Oops. Not only is this statement not really correct, it's also an acknowledgment that there was a court hearing, that there is an agreement of some sort, and that there is a connection between Trump and Daniels. This is the first time an administration official has admitted any of this, and runs entirely contrary to the impossible-to-believe story that Trump has been telling—that he has no connection to Daniels.
In short, then, Sanders failed to keep her lies straight, and so both embarrassed and undermined her boss. "POTUS is very unhappy," said one White House insider. "Sarah gave the Stormy Daniels storyline steroids yesterday." Depending on exactly how unhappy Trump is, the revolving door that is the White House Communications Office could soon revolve again.
In time, Sanders may either be pushed out or forgiven, but Daniels is a bigger problem. In 1997, the Supreme Court ruled 9-0 in Clinton v. Jones that the president is not immune to civil lawsuits. If the judge accepts Daniels' case and there is a trial, Daniels' lawyer is likely to ask the judge to put Trump on the witness stand, under oath, to answer a few questions. Lying under oath in a civil case is grounds for impeachment, as Bill Clinton discovered the hard way. (Z & V)
Although the junior senator from New York, Kirsten Gillibrand (D), was not on the ballot in Texas Tuesday, she won big time. She endorsed seven women running for Congress. Two of them won their primaries outright and the other five advanced to a runoff in May. Gillibrand is expected to run for president in 2020, and her strategy seems to be appealing to women. If the candidates she endorses get elected to Congress, she can expect their endorsements when the time comes.
Texas isn't the only state in which Gillibrand has taken an active interest. She is also backing four women in the upcoming Illinois primaries and is likely to continue endorsing women throughout the year. If come 2020, a few dozen women in Congress let it be known that she has supported female candidates all over the country, that could aid her presidential campaign. She clearly knows exactly what she is doing with these endorsements. (V)
A new Axios/SurveyMonkey poll shows that if Senate elections were held today, five endangered Democrats would lose. All of them are in states Donald Trump won and in which his approval rating is above 50%. These senators are: Jon Tester (MT), Joe Manchin (WV), Claire McCaskill (MO), Joe Donnelly (IN), and Heidi Heitkamp (ND). One important footnote here is that in all the races except Missouri, the Republican challenger isn't known, so this is not a candidate-to-candidate match-up, but more of a generic Democrat vs. Republican poll.
In five other states that Trump won, the Democratic incumbent looks likely to survive. These Democrats are: Tammy Baldwin (WI), Debbie Stabenow (MI), Sherrod Brown (OH), Bob Casey (PA), and Bill Nelson (FL). In all these states except Ohio, Trump is under 50%. Thus, the chances of a Democrat winning a state seems to correlate strongly with how well Trump is doing in that state.
In our view, the five predicted to lose are indeed the most vulnerable, although Tester and Manchin are probably closer to the bottom of the list than to the top. And again, the Republican is not even known in six of these ten contests, and a lot can change between now and November. (V)
The good news for the current administration is that if current polling numbers prove predictive, then they'll have a much larger margin for error in the U.S. Senate. The bad news is that if current polling numbers prove predictive, Trump will be one-and-done. A new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll has him trailing "generic Democrat" by 8 points, 44 to 36. Although Trump is doing ok with men, where he recorded a 42-42 split, women voters are not buying what he's selling, 46-to-31.
Of course, the usual caveats apply. "Generic Democrat" won't be on the ballot, it's a long time to 2020, and the popular vote does not correlate exactly to the electoral vote (as we've been reminded twice in the past 18 years). However, an 8-point hole is very poor, and arguably even worse is that 19% of voters say they are undecided. Surely those folks are not waiting for more information about Donald Trump, so it must be the case that they are largely wanting to make certain that the Democrats' nominee is acceptable. If the blue team can find someone with better unfavorables than Hillary Clinton—a category that includes just about everyone whose name does not rhyme with Warvey Heinstein—then presumably most of those 19% will break for the Democrats. And then Trump will be in a real world of hurt. (Z)
Richard Painter, who was George W. Bush's ethics lawyer, is forming an exploratory committee to see if he is a viable candidate in the Minnesota Senate race for the seat vacated by Al Franken. The seat is currently held by appointed senator Tina Smith (DFL-MN). Painter is a life-long Republican, but is very unhappy to what has happened to the Party of late. He has been an endless source of criticism of Donald Trump, mostly for his continuing unethical behavior.
Painter hasn't decided whether to run as a Republican, an independent, or even a Democrat. Given that Minnesota is a fairly blue state, there is little reason to expect Democrats to prefer him to Smith in a Democratic primary, as Smith is an actual life-long Democrat. So if he runs, it will most likely be as a Republican. Up until now, no high-profile Republicans have announced a run against Smith, but the filing deadline isn't until June 5. (V)Email a link to a friend or share:
---The Votemaster and Zenger
Mar08 Stock Market Has a Shaky Day
Mar08 Mueller Is Looking at Attempt to Set Up Back Channel from Trump to Russia
Mar08 The Excuses Have Already Begun in Pennsylvania
Mar08 The Exodus from Puerto Rico Keeps Growing
Mar08 Trump Administration Sues California
Mar08 Sex and the President
Mar08 Sex and the Governor
Mar08 Sex and the Mayor
Mar08 Sex and Smokey the Bear
Mar08 Poll: Trump Is the Worst President Since WW II
Mar07 Texas Primaries: Democrats Did OK, Not Great
Mar07 Another One Bites the Dust
Mar07 Nunberg Goes Wild
Mar07 McCarthy May Become House Republican Leader if Democrats Win the House
Mar07 Conway Violated the Hatch Act Twice
Mar07 Lamb Won't Be Slaughtered in Pennsylvania
Mar07 Americans Don't Want Tariffs on Steel and Aluminum
Mar06 Key Court Case on Voting Rights Starts Today
Mar06 Thad Cochran to Resign April 1
Mar06 Sam Nunberg Will Refuse to Comply with Mueller's Subpoena
Mar06 Cohen Complained about Non-Payment
Mar06 Next Tuesday's Special Election in PA-18 Could Be the Canary in the Coal Mine
Mar06 Trump Pumps Up the Trade Pressure on Canada and Mexico
Mar06 Washington Passes Net Neutrality Law
Mar05 McConnell Opposed Better Election Security in 2016
Mar05 Mueller Is Casting a Wide Net
Mar05 Trump Officials: Tariffs Are on Course
Mar05 DACA Deadline Is...Today
Mar05 Jeff Flake: Trump Will Be Challenged in 2020
Mar05 The Decline and Fall of the House of Bush
Mar05 Democrats Are Declaring War--on Other Democrats
Mar05 Oscars Once Again Get Political
Mar04 Trump Doubles Down on Trade War
Mar04 Trump Begins Raising Funds for 2020
Mar04 Trump Says He Will Dodge Russiagate
Mar04 This May Be Why Hope Hicks Quit
Mar04 Would-be Strongman Pays Respects to Actual Strongman
Mar04 Deficit May Be on Its Way to $2 Trillion
Mar04 Florida Bans AR-15s...for 15 Minutes
Mar04 Man Commits Suicide Outside of White House
Mar03 Trade War Revs Up
Mar03 One Beneficiary of the Tariffs: Carl Icahn
Mar03 Jared Kushner Is in Deep Doodoo
Mar03 The U.S. May Yet Get One of the Russian Hackers
Mar03 Russiagate Just Keeps Getting Stranger
Mar03 Trump, Pence Attend Funeral
Mar03 Trump Has a Personnel Problem
Mar02 Trump Announces Tariffs, Market Responds by Tanking
Mar02 Ivanka Trump Being Investigated