• James Clapper: Russia Swung the Election to Trump
• Republicans, Democrats Get Briefing on Informant
• Stone Could Be a Bigger Threat to Trump Than Cohen
• Trump Thrilled with NFL's New Policy, but Maybe He Shouldn't Be
• Senior Republicans Blast Trump's Car Tariff
• Trump's Approval Rating Is Now Up to 45%
It looks like the Nobel Committee is going to have to find another winner for the Peace Prize, since Donald Trump not only failed to bring peace to the Korean Penninsula, he isn't even going to meet Kim Jong-Un. Yesterday he sent a letter to the North Korean dictator telling him the show is off. Here is the letter, which reads kind of like Trump is breaking up with Kim. The letter is reasonably calm, given the consequences, but it does note: "You talk about nuclear capabilities, but ours are so massive and powerful that I pray to God they will never have to be used." "Mine is bigger than yours" is a common theme with Trump."
Earlier in the day, Kim destroyed his nuclear test site in the presence of a number of foreign reporters. If that was an olive branch or simply a recognition that the site was already badly damaged (possibly beyond repair) is unclear. In any case, the juxtaposition is bad optics for Trump: Kim destroys his test site, then Trump says the meeting is canceled.
Nevertheless, congressional Republicans backed Trump up. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) said Trump was "right" to call off the meeting, adding: "I trust his judgment going forward." Democrats weren't so kind. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) tweeted: "The art of diplomacy is a lot harder than the art of the deal."
On the foreign side of things, the Chinese government is delighted that the talks fell apart, because they like being the puppetmasters on the Korean peninsula. In fact, it is generally believed that they are the ones who insisted Kim take a harder line with Trump, which in turn triggered the final meltdown. The South Koreans, on the other hand, are furious, believing that the Donald cost them the best chance they've had for peace in a long time. South Korean President Moon Jae-in is taking a particular beating, since he stuck his neck out here, and now has gotten burned.
The Hill has five takeaways from Thursday's news:
- The likelihood of war has increased
- This could be a negotiating tactic (by Trump)
- Rocky relations with China may have had a ripple effect
- Both sides got cold feet
- Trump's hawks flex their muscles
What happens next is really anyone's guess. For one thing, The Democrats are going to point out that the world's greatest negotiator blew it the first time he had a serious opponent. Meanwhile, the Trump administration is going to have a harder time securing cooperation from Moon & Co. in the future, whether on trade, or in future North Korea maneuvering. And future negotiations with China just got more difficult, rather than less. Finally, world leaders in general are going to take note that working with Trump is a good way to get left holding the bag, and they are going to be even more leery of chancing it. As the saying goes, "Fool me once..." (V & Z)
The new book by former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper concludes that the Russians handed Donald Trump the election. According to Clapper:
Of course the Russian efforts affected the outcome. Surprising even themselves, they swung the election to a Trump win. To conclude otherwise stretches logic, common sense, and credulity to the breaking point. Less than eighty thousand votes in three key states swung the election. I have no doubt that more votes than that were influenced by this massive effort by the Russians.
Clapper is now a private citizen. Nevertheless, he knows a lot of spooks and is probably much better plugged in than your garden-variety private citizen. Was there active collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians? He doesn't know, but he views Trump's "aggressive indifference" to the intelligence community's clear conclusion that the Russians were deeply involved in the election as "damning enough."
In early January 2017, less than 2 weeks before the inauguration, Clapper presented Trump with a report making it unambiguous that Putin had ordered the campaign to help Trump and that it was multifaceted. It documented attacks on state and local voter rolls as well as the massive propaganda effort via social media and other channels. It contained much more detail than has been made public. Trump's reaction was to discredit the report and the entire intelligence community. From the first day he took office, he has tried mightily to convince his base that Clapper, the FBI, and the entire intelligence community are liars and only he is speaking the truth. (V)
As planned, the Dept. of Justice gave two briefings about the FBI informant who talked to three members of the Trump campaign. The first briefing was at the White House, and included Trump staffers and allies. The second one happened on Capitol Hill, and included the Republican and Democratic leaders of Congress.
Nobody has leaked anything substantive about the briefings, so little is known about exactly how in-depth they were. The major issue, thus far, is that the first meeting included White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and Trump lawyer Emmet Flood. The Democrats, led by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), said that was inappropriate, since some of the documents reviewed on Thursday could show up in a court case lodged against the President. This complaint, of course, did not change anything. (Z)
While Donald Trump's former fixer Michael Cohen knows where a lot of skeletons are buried, his old friend Roger Stone has known Trump longer and has a broader knowledge of Trump's personal, business, and political histories. Currently, special counsel Robert Mueller has been interviewing Stone's friends, assistants, protégés, and ex-drivers. Stone has said he is "preparing" for a possible indictment because Mueller knows that Stone seemed to know that Hillary Clinton's email account was hacked before anyone else in the U.S. That could indicate that he was in direct or indirect contact with the hackers.
Gwenda Blair, who has written a biography of Trump, puts Stone in the same category as Trump's adult children, son-in-law, Michael Cohen, body man Keith Schiller, and executive assistant Rhona Graff. But unlike Trump's kids, Stone has had multiple high-profile feuds with Trump. In a published article in 2008 in the New Yorker, Trump once said: "Roger is a stone-cold loser. He always tries taking credit for things he never did." More recently, Trump hired Stone in June 2015 to help out with the campaign. By August, Stone was gone. Trump says he was fired. Stone said he quit. Either way, there was a lot of bad blood.
A key question is what Stone will do if indicted. Will he stonewall or will he flip? A long-time friend of Stone's said: "While he really supports the president's agenda and the President of the United States, he's not taking a bullet for him. That ain't happening." Stone's friends say he won't fall on his sword for Trump, but Trump's friends think he will make G. Gordon Liddy, who spent 52 months in prison rather than rat on Richard Nixon, look like a tower of Jell-O. We may soon find out. (V)
Donald Trump was on Fox & Friends on Thursday morning, as planned, and a major topic of conversation was the NFL's newly-implemented policy aimed at stopping players from kneeling during the national anthem. "You have to stand proudly for the National Anthem and the NFL owners did the right thing," declared Trump. "You have to stand proudly for the National Anthem or you shouldn't be playing. You shouldn't be there. Maybe you shouldn't be in the country," he continued. Because nothing says "freedom of expression" like threatening protesters with deportation.
As with nearly everything he gets involved with, however, Trump may have created an unexpected headache for himself. On Thursday, Mark Geragos—the lawyer who represents Colin Kaepernick, the first player to kneel—directed attention to 18 U.S. Code § 227, which says that federal employees (and the president and vice president are specifically included, in section b3) are forbidden to "influence, solely on the basis of partisan political affiliation, an employment decision or employment practice of any private entity." The code was specifically written to keep a president or senator from calling up a newspaper and getting an overly critical reporter fired, but it very clearly describes what happened here as well.
There's no indication that anyone in the Justice Dept. is planning to prosecute Trump for this, but if they do decide to press the matter, the punishment is up to 15 years in prison along with loss of any office held. It seems unlikely that, with more weighty issues like collusion, obstruction of justice, and possible money laundering, that this could be the thing that brings the Trump administration down. However, as we have been wont to point out, Al Capone went up the river for tax evasion because that was the easiest thing to prove. So, anything is possible. (Z)
Donald Trump has threatened to impose a tariff on imported cars in the name of national security. It is not going over well with senior Republicans in Congress, and several of them blasted Trump yesterday. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) said the move would amount to a tax on American car buyers. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) said Congress should revoke Trump's power to impose tariffs. Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) said the administration is using trade policy too transactionally.
In addition, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce strongly opposes the tariffs and said that if imposed, they could start a trade war. In a statement, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, which represents GM, Ford, Fiat Chrysler, and Toyota, said: "We are confident that vehicle imports do not pose a national security risk to the U.S." Trump's only real ally here is the United Auto Workers Union, whose president, Dennis Williams, told reporters: "The United States became a dumping ground for a lot of countries at a very low cost."
Trump's remarks might be an attempt to bludgeon Canada and Mexico into giving him his way renegotiating NAFTA. However, those countries undoubtedly have noted the domestic opposition to Trump's plan and are unlikely to give much ground when they know he may well give in to congressional and industry opposition without their doing anything. So far, he tends to cave whenever there is serious opposition to anything he proposes. (V)
Donald Trump's approval keeps creeping up. A new Harris poll puts it at 45%, the same percentage who say the economy is on the right track. On the other hand, the co-director of the poll, Mark Penn, said the Democrats are maintaining their edge on the generic congressional ballot and remained poised to win the House. (V)Email a link to a friend or share:
---The Votemaster and Zenger
May24 Democrats to Get Intel Briefing, Too
May24 The First Amendment Is Taking a Beating These Days
May24 BBC: Cohen Was Paid at Least $400,000 to Give Ukrainian President Access to Trump
May24 Schneiderman Is Out, Grewal Is In
May24 Congress Does Not Want Trump to Cave on ZTE
May24 Glenn Beck Climbs on Board the S.S. Trump
May23 Georgia Democrats Pick Stacey
May23 Trump's Nobel Is on Hold
May23 Trump Finally Has a Mueller Strategy
May23 Cohen's Partner in the Taxi Business Has Flipped
May23 Officials Warn Congress of 2018 Election Hacking
May23 Trump Uses an Unsecure Cell Phone
May23 EPA Blocks Media Outlets from Covering Pruitt Speech
May22 Trump Lashes Out; Rosenstein Is on the Hot Seat
May22 Pompeo Announces Iran Policy
May22 Pence Threatens North Korea
May22 Blankenship Wants to Sink Morrisey's Ship
May22 Sanders Supporters Are in Disarray
May22 "Drain the Swamp" Set to Be a Major Theme of 2018 Midterms
May22 Nathan Gonzales Moves 19 House Races Toward the Democrats
May21 Trump Demands Justice Dept. Determine if FBI Spied on His Campaign
May21 Stone to Be Indicted
May21 Three (or Four) States Will Hold Primaries This Week
May21 The Trade War Is on Hold
May21 Europe Thinks the Current State of the U.S. Might Be the New Normal
May21 Young Voters Might Actually Show Up This Year
May21 GOP Appears to Be Foundering on Key Issues for Young People
May21 Tax-Law Supporters Are Helping Republicans
May21 Help Wanted--But Not if You Worked for the Trump Administration
May20 Another Meeting at Trump Tower
May20 Prison Reform Bill Could Pass
May20 Ryan Can't Do His Job Any More
May20 Trump Nominates Robert Wilkie for VA
May20 The 800-Pound Trump in the Corner of the Room
May20 Why Michael Avenatti Is a Big Threat to Donald Trump
May20 Royals Get Married, Trump Becomes Part of the Story
May19 Trump Claims Conspiracy "Bigger than Watergate"
May19 Discovery Can Proceed in Summer Zervos Case
May19 Manafort's Former Son-in-law Flips
May19 School Shooting in Texas
May19 Trump Tried to Get the Post Office to Double Amazon's Shipping Rates
May19 House Freedom Caucus Kills the Farm Bill
May19 China Offers to Cut Trade Surplus by $200 Billion
May19 Trump Likes Cox
May18 The Plot Thickens Around Cohen's Bank Account
May18 Giuliani Keeps on Keepin' On
May18 Avenatti: Two More Women May Have Gotten Hush Money from Trump
May18 Bolton Is trying to Take Trump's Nobel Prize Away from Him
May18 Paul Ryan Has a Mess on His Hands