It Ain’t 1991 Any More

Trump Maladministration

Public hearings Monday. The bobbleheads on the news already are comparing the current situation to Anita Hill’s testimony in 1991. But it ain’t 1991 any more. And a big reason Republicans are expected to lose the House in the midterms is that the gender gap is at an all-time high.

This week [August], we got a poll showing that same 24-point gender gap in the only “national” election of 2018: the national popular vote for the U.S. House. A YouGov survey found that male voters preferred the Republican candidate by 9 percentage points, while female voters preferred the Democratic candidate by 15 points. It was a bit of an outlier, but not egregiously so: A RealClearPolitics-style average1 of generic-ballot polls taken in the past two weeks reveals a gender gap of 16 points, and the two highest-quality polls from that period — Quinnipiac and Marist — each showed a gap even bigger than 24 points. If YouGov, Quinnipiac or Marist is correct, then just like 2016 broke a gender-gap record for presidential races, 2018 will have the widest gender gap in congressional elections since at least 1993.

1993? or 1992?

In 1992, 24 women were elected as new members to the House and four to the Senate, more than in any previous decade. Many cited anger over Hill’s treatment during the Thomas hearings as a reason for running.

And that was a long, long time ago, and we’ve had that #MeToo thing going on lately. Democrats don’t dare help cover Kavanaugh’s ass the way they made excuses for Clarence Thomas back then. And women are watching.

To sum up our current situation, a president who is on tape bragging about his ability to sexually assault women with impunity, who has been credibly accused of sexual misconduct by a dozen women, who emphatically supported accused abusers such as Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly and Roy Moore, and who promised that he would appoint only Supreme Court justices who would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade, has appointed a man who is now accused of an attempted rape. Virtually the entire Republican Party is coming to that man’s defense, a defense that promises to include relentless attacks on the accuser. Just like what every other woman in her position goes through.

As Bloomberg News reports, the Trump team will try to discredit Ford’s credibility by raising questions about why she didn’t tell anybody at the incident at the time it happened. But every woman in the world knows why that 15-year-old girl didn’t tell anybody about it: because it would turn her trauma into an absolute nightmare. She’d be the one blamed. She’d be disbelieved, she’d be ostracized, she’d be called a liar and a slut and a hundred other names. Every woman knows that because every woman has seen it happen.

Orrin Hatch, who obviously didn’t get the sensitivity memo, has already said the allegations are not credible and the accuser is “mixed up.” And, of course, Trump Junior has been his trademark creepy self.

The choice for Republicans is to behave like the troglodyte jerks they are and treat Professor Ford as a nut and a slut.  Or, they can try to project “sensitivity.” But if they vote to confirm Kavanaugh they won’t be fooling anybody. Paul Waldman continues:

Not all of them are saying that; many Republicans are worried about how this controversy will make them look, and they’re trying to step carefully. But if they’re going to insist that Kavanaugh be confirmed, as they will, that means they’re saying one of three things:

They can say Ford is a liar who concocted this story for political effect, falsified therapist’s notes from 2012 to corroborate her story, pretended to be unwilling to go public until journalists discovered her identity, and has volunteered to withstand the tsunami of hate and death threats guaranteed to come her way on the chance that she could torpedo Kavanaugh’s nomination.

Sensitivity is as sensitivity does. See also Women Are Being Reminded of What Republicans Think of Them.

 

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Can Kavanaugh Be Stopped?

Trump Maladministration

There’s a lot that’s very hinky about Brett Kavanaugh besides his association with right-wing politics. See, for example, The Many Mysteries of Brett Kavanaugh’s Finances. The man has been living way beyond his apparent means.

Before President Donald Trump nominated Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, he had a lot of debt. In May 2017, he reported owing between $60,004 and $200,000 on three credit cards and a loan against his retirement account. By the time Trump nominated him to the high court in July 2018, those debts had vanished. Overall, his reported income and assets didn’t seem sufficient to pay off all that debt while maintaining his upper-class lifestyle: an expensive house in an exclusive suburban neighborhood, two kids in a $10,500-a-year private school, and a membership in a posh country club reported to charge $92,000 in initiation fees. His financial disclosure forms have raised more questions than they’ve answered, leading to speculation about whether he’s had a private benefactor and what sorts of conflicts that relationship might entail.

There is also copious evidence that Kavanaugh lied to the Senate Judiciary Committee during the hearings on his nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals in 2004 and 2006. See The Evidence Is Clear: Brett Kavanaugh Lied to the Senate Judiciary Committee. It took two sets of hearings because Kavanaugh was obviously, um, problematic even then.

And then there’s the little matter of a large trove of Kavanaugh documents that Republicans have managed to keep hidden from view. The Republicans have been steamrolling Kavanaugh’s hearings with all possible speed so that no one gets a chance to look at him real hard.

But now he’s been accused of sexual assault, and the accuser has gone public. Will that slow down the nomination? Greg Sargent writes,

Now that Brett Kavanaugh’s accuser has gone public with her story that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when both were teenagers, the White House and Republicans have signaled that they plan to aggressively undercut her credibility, a strategy that some conservatives have already launched.

You would think that this alone should obligate Republicans to invite Christine Blasey Ford to testify, publicly, before the Senate Judiciary Committee — before there is any vote. This would afford her a chance to defend her own recollections and character — that is, in direct, face-to-face response to the hostile questioning and extreme skepticism of Republicans, which they would no doubt throw at her if this does happen.

Bloomberg reports this morning that President Trump’s team plans to “try to discredit the charges for surfacing late in the confirmation process and to question the credibility of the accuser because she didn’t tell anybody about the incident at the time.”

This is getting old. How many times does it have to be explained why victims of sexual assault often keep quiet? It’s well known that sexual assault victims keep silent more often than not.

Meanwhile, Judiciary Committee Republicans put out a statement claiming that the “disturbing” timing of the allegations raises “questions about Democrats’ tactics and motives,” suggesting Ford’s story is the reflection of Democratic dirty tricks. Some prominent conservatives suggested that the charges are orchestrated by Democrats.

But let’s look at the accuser:

Christine Margaret Blasey Ford (born c. 1967) is an American psychologist. She is a professor in clinical psychology at Palo Alto University. Her work specializes in designing statistical models for research projects. She has been a visiting professor at Pepperdine University, a research psychologist for Stanford’s Department of Psychiatry, and a professor at the Stanford School of MedicineCollaborative Clinical Psychology Program.

This is not some nobody who was discovered by dragging hundred-dollar bills through a trailer park. This is a serious professional with a serious career who is knowingly walking into a maelstrom of ridicule and character assassination from which her personal and professional life will likely never recover.

Now the Democrats and a handful of Republicans are calliing for delaying the committee vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination until Professor Ford can be heard. She is willing to testify publicly. Kavanaugh is willing to lie about it testify publicly. I think if this steamroller can be slowed down, there’s a faint hope it can be stopped before it’s too late.

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Manafort to Plead Guilty

Trump Maladministration

So this happened:

President Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort has agreed to plead guilty to federal crimes at a hearing Friday morning, ending his long losing battle with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.

We don’t know if any sentencing deal was involved. It’s possible that Manafort’s and Trump’s lawyers decided Manafort should plead guilty, avoid a trial that likely would look bad for Trump, and then Trump can pardon him sometime down the road, likely after the midterms. We may know something later today.

Update: Politico is reporting that Manafort has agreed to cooperate with Mueller.

The deal dismisses deadlocked charges against Manafort from an earlier trial, but only after “successful cooperation” with Mueller’s probe into Russian election interference and whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Moscow on its efforts. Later, U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson said Manafort is agreeing to “cooperate fully and truthfully” with the investigation.

However, a source close to the defense told POLITICO, “the cooperation agreement does not involve the Trump campaign. … There was no collusion with Russia.”

Separately, the agreement calls for a 10-year cap on how long Manafort will be sent to prison, and for Manafort to serve time from his separate Virginia and Washington cases concurrently. But it will not release Manafort from jail, where he has been held since Mueller’s team added witness tampering charges during the run-up to the longtime lobbyist’s trial.

Let’s hope “the source close to the defense” is wrong.

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Is the Fix In?

Trump Maladministration

There’s been talk that Manafort might be discussing a plea deal. However, Politico reported something else this morning that clouds the issue quite a bit.

Giuliani also confirmed that Trump’s lawyers and Manafort’s have been in regular contact and that they are part of a joint defense agreement that allows confidential information sharing.

“All during the investigation we have an open communication with them,” he said. “Defense lawyers talk to each other all the time, where, as long as our clients authorize it, therefore we have a better idea of what’s going to happen. That’s very common.”

So, allegedly the Trump team knows what Manafort knows. Stay tuned.

Elsewhere, Trump is complaining that the revised death toll in Puerto Rico is a fake number put out to make him look bad. Even some Republicans are backing away from that one.

Rep. Ileana Ros Lehtinen (R-Fla.) told reporters she believes the figure of nearly 3,000 is sound.

“What kind of mind twists that statistic into ‘Oh, fake news is trying to hurt my image,’” she said. “How can you be so self-centered and try to distort the truth so much? It’s mind boggling.”

Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R), whose Senate bid has been endorsed by Trump, said in a tweet that he disagreed with the president, relaying that “an independent study said thousands were lost” and that he had been to Puerto Rico seven times and “saw the devastation firsthand.”

Also, Senate Democrats Have Referred A Secret Letter About Brett Kavanaugh To The FBI.

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Heck of a Job, Trumpie

Trump Maladministration

As we wait for Hurricane Florence to hit the east coast, Sen. Jeff Markley revealed that the Trump Administration raided the FEMA budget to pay to incarcerate children. Nearly $10 million was transfered from FEMA to ICE to pay for detention camps.

Merkley, a Democrat from Oregon, said on MSNBC’s “Rachel Maddow Show” that the administration is taking money from “response and recovery” and “working hard to find funds for additional detention camps.”

FEMA has countered that the money specifically was taken from the agency’s budgets for travel, training, public engagement and information technology work, and not from the rescue and recovery budget.

“I would dispute the statement that this has no bearing on … addressing the challenges from hurricanes,” Merkley said.

You be the judge.

CNN received a copy of the document from Merkley’s office. It details the effects the transfer would have on FEMA’s operations and from where in the budget the money would come.

“FEMA will curtail training, travel, public engagement sessions, IT security support and infrastructure maintenance, and IT investments in the legacy grants systems for transition to the Grants Management Modernization Program,” the document reads.

It still sounds like weakening FEMA, which was pathetic enough already, to pay for ICE.

And The Creature actually tweeted this morning,

Literally nobody is giving Trump A Pluses for Texas and Florida, and the only reason Puerto Rico wasn’t Trump’s Katrina on steroids is that the networks couldn’t or wouldn’t do the same kind of real-time, up-close coverage they did in New Orleans.

Last month the Houston Chronicle reported on Harvey recovery in Texas.

It’s been nearly a year since Hurricane Harvey ravaged the region and for many the road to recovery appears to be mostly complete. They are back in their homes and upended lives are now mostly righted.

Then there are the others: the overlooked, the still-displaced, those who have been thrown into financial peril. They now suffer from unexplained medical problems, probably the legacy of slogging through contaminated floodwaters. Others battle with an anxiety that does not ease.

As the anniversary approaches, don’t tell them Hurricane Harvey is past.

As with most things in America, upscale areas were put right quickly while the poor and vulnerable were left to rot.

Nearly a quarter of those surveyed said their financial situation is worse, and 1 in 6 report their overall quality of life has gone down.

Four in 10 also said they are not getting the help they need to recover and rebuild their lives. Their biggest needs are housing, finances and help navigating the different assistance systems.

Not an A Plus. D plus, maybe. But Puerto Rico definitely is an F. Richard Wolffe:

After almost 3,000 civilians died in the terrorist attacks on 9/11 there were multiple hearings, investigations, reports and commissions. Everything from airport security to national security changed. But after a similar number of civilians died in Puerto Rico, there have been only two hearings with the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (Fema) administrator.

That’s in spite of the multiple contracting debacles by Fema that we already know about. There was the $156m food contract that went to an Atlanta contractor with a single employee, whose track record was so bad that the company was supposedly barred from getting new government cash. That contractor handed the job to a wedding caterer, who unsurprisingly couldn’t handle the work.

Fema wrote an additional $30m contract for half a million tarps to protect people from the rain, but the tarps never arrived because the two brothers running the newly-formed company had no idea how to source them. That represented a third of Fema’s spending on tarps at the time.

In one hearing, Fema administrator Brock Long said those bungled contracts were just a handful among many thousands of good ones. Perhaps he’ll use the same excuse to respond to the recent report from the Government Accountability office, that found that more than half of Fema’s employees were unqualified to do their job after Maria. The agency also couldn’t find enough Spanish speakers to help out. We don’t know how many more Fema scandals there are because the GOP leadership in Congress refuses to investigate further.

So maybe taking nearly $10 million from FEMA doesn’t matter, because they probably would have pissed it off anyway.

Wolff also notes that the Red Cross spent less than half of the money it raised for Puerto Rico in Puerto Rico, and somehow managed to piss off a lot of what it did spend. I absolute do not ever give money to the Red Cross any more.

Finally, yesterday we learned another sad statistic — that FEMA received 2,431 requests for funeral assistance related to Hurricane Maria and approved only 75 of them. Maybe we should just abolish ICE and hand out all the money saved in the budget to the people of Puerto Rico. Not the government, directly to the people. With a letter of apology.

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John Bolton Plays Tough Guy

Trump Maladministration

It has been truly said of John Bolton that somewhere there’s a cave full of bats wondering where their shit went. Ed Kilgore writes,

The U.S. has had an up-and-down relationship with the I.C.C. — founded to provide sanctions against individuals committing war crimes, crimes against humanity, and acts of genocide — since it was founded by the Rome Statute in 1998. Bill Clinton signed the statute in 2000 but did not submit it to the Senate for ratification, saying he wanted to observe the I.C.C.’s record first. George W. Bush formally renounced any U.S. obligations to the court when it began operating in 2002. Barack Obama announced a policy of cooperation with the I.C.C. as an observer nation.

Now the pendulum is swinging back with a vengeance, as Bolton labeled the court “illegitimate” and “dead to us.”

“Dead to us”? The Guardian reported,

Bolton vowed that the United States would retaliate by banning ICC judges and prosecutors from entering the US, imposing sanctions on any funds they had in the States and prosecuting them in the American court system.

“If the court comes after us, Israel, or other US allies we will not sit quietly,” he said, also threatening to impose the same sanctions on any country that aided the investigation.

He condemned the inquiry into war crimes in Afghanistan as an “utterly unfounded, unjustifiable investigation” and the court as illegitimate.

“We will let the ICC die on its own. After all, for all intents and purposes, the ICC is already dead,” Bolton said.

He said the US would negotiate more binding, bilateral agreements to prohibit countries from surrendering Americans to the court in The Hague.

So Bolton is like …

And then, showing appreciation of the subtle finesse required to settle delicate international disagreements, the Trump Administration closed the PLO office in Washington, apparently to bully the PLO into caving to Israel. Yeah, sure, that’ll work.

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We’re All Bleeped

Trump Maladministration

Right now I feel as if we’re on an endless loop of Trump Is Awful and the country is completely bleeped up. What else is new? I’d like to believe that there’s a faint hope Kavanaugh, who has been thoroughly outed as a liar and partisan tool, won’t be confirmed. It could happen if all the Dems and just a couple of Republicans vote no, but we are repeatedly told that’s not going to happen.

And the possibiity of a solid Dem vote is considered even more unlikely than the couple of Republican votes. This is why the lame “rallying” cry “vote blue no matter who” doesn’t work for me.

Try to think of something cheerfull.

 

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Democrats Are Spartacus?

Trump Maladministration

This happened this morning:

During a round of remarks before the questioning kicked off, Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) said he was going to release an email titled “racial profiling,” which the senator referenced Wednesday, that had been designated committee confidential.

Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) had complained that Democrats had been asking Kavanaugh about confidential documents without going through the process he laid out of getting permission to make them public.

“I come from a long line, as of all us do as Americans, of understanding of what that kind of civil disobedience is and I understand the consequences, so I am, before your process is finished, I’m going to release the email about racial profiling,” Booker said. “And I understand that the penalty comes with potential ousting from the Senate.”

Also:

After Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) said he was willing to violate Senate rules and release confidential documents, Senate Democrats on the committee appeared in open revolt as Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) read aloud from the rules on expulsion. Raj Shah, a White House spokesman, also tweeted the rules on Thursday morning.

Cornyn read aloud from rules stating that a senator who discloses “the secret or confidential business” of the Senate could be “liable … to suffer expulsion.”

Booker responded by saying: “Bring the charges.” His comment was echoed by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), who said: “Apply the rule, bring the charges. All of us are ready to face that rule.”

“This is about the closest I’ll ever have in my life to an ‘I am Spartacus’ moment,” Booker said.

Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) also joined in, saying: “If there’s going to be some retribution against the senator from New Jersey, count me in.”

Their comments were echoed by Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), who tweeted during the debate: “I stand w/ Judiciary Committee Democrats who are well within their rights to release these very important documents that a former Kavanaugh deputy designed as ‘committee confidential.’ The American ppl deserve to know the truth about Judge Kavanaugh’s record. #WhatAreTheyHiding?”

Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee have been protesting the extraordinary secrecy and changes from standard procedure surrounding Kavanaugh’s paper trail. Republicans clearly are determined to railroad Kavanaugh’s approval, apparently believing he wouldn’t survive an open and deliberate process even with a Republican majority in the Senate.

One leaked letter has made headlines for casting doubt on Kavanaugh’s claim about Roe v. Wade being “settled law,” but I think this is even more interesting.

In another document, Judge Kavanaugh expressed a critical view about some Department of Transportation affirmative action regulations, writing:

“The fundamental problem in this case is that these DOT regulations use a lot of legalisms and disguises to mask what is a naked racial set-aside,” he wrote, adding that he thought the court’s four conservative justices at the time would probably “realize as much in short order and rule accordingly.”

[Read the email.]

Still another includes language about Native Hawaiians that could prove problematic not only to Hawaii’s two Democratic senators but to Senator Lisa Murkowski, Republican of Alaska, a key swing vote who guards the interests of Native Alaskans. In the email, Mr. Kavanaugh questions Native Hawaiians as a protected group like Indian tribes. He wrote that prepared testimony “needs to make clear that any program targeting Native Hawaiians as a group is subject to strict scrutiny and of questionable validity under the Constitution.”

Anyway, I would like to see Chuck Grassley expel all the Democrats on the committee. There isn’t anything democratic about this nomination, and they might as well admit it.

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Trump Gets Pwned

Trump Maladministration

I don’t know who wrote the anonymous op ed in the New York Times, but boy howdy, it sure pushed Trump over the edge.

Of course it’s not treason. It’s arguably not all that partiotic, either, but not because it’s disrespectul of The Creature. There’s nothing “patriotic” about continuing to cover The Creature’s ass. Charles Pierce:

Enough of this stuff. Stand up in the light of day and tell your stories. All of them, right from the beginning. Admit that what you’re confronting now is the end result of 40 years of conservative politics and all the government-is-the-problem malfeasance you’ve been imbibing since you were wingnuts in swaddling. The fire’s licking at your ankles at last. Come out of the cupboards, you boys and girls. None of you are heroes.

There’s a lot of guessing about who anonymous is. Lots of votes for Mike Pence, even though he doesn’t quite fit the Times’s description of a senior official in the Trump administration whose identity is known to us and whose job would be jeopardized by its disclosure. Pence can’t be fired, and his job can’t very well be jeaopardized.

On the other hand, Pence being an ambitious, unscrupulous weasel, he would be the one person most interested in planting the notion of getting rid of Trump via the 25th Amendment. He must realize by now that the only way he’s going to be president is if Trump is deposed first.

Otherwise, there’s nothing in the op ed that’s shockingly new. It’s all been pretty obvious, including the part about how the Administration is running on two tracks. It’s not at all unusual for the White House/Washington bureaucracy to fail to follow through on Trump’s policy announcements.

Anonymous wrote,

The root of the problem is the president’s amorality. Anyone who works with him knows he is not moored to any discernible first principles that guide his decision making.

Charles Pierce:

Jesus H. Christ on an auto-glass ad, everybody who watched him for 11 seconds on the campaign trail figured this out. You’d have to have had the brain of a marmoset not to be convinced of this back in 19-goddamn-79. More than 60 million people voted for him anyway. You took a job with him. When the scales fall from your eyes, make sure they don’t hit you in the feet.

Anonymous:

Given the instability many witnessed, there were early whispers within the cabinet of invoking the 25th Amendment, which would start a complex process for removing the president. But no one wanted to precipitate a constitutional crisis. So we will do what we can to steer the administration in the right direction until — one way or another — it’s over.

This is self-serving crap. There is no Constitutional crisis involved in removing Trump from office via the 25th Amendment if not impeachment. Anonymous just wants to be a good party apparatchik.

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The Trump Referendum

Trump Maladministration

I don’t want to even read about the Kavanaugh hearings. We all know that every Republican will vote to confirm the clueless anti-labor, pro-big money in elections, anti-reproductive rights establishment dweeb, so what’s the point? If I’m wrong I’ll be delighted, but in the meantime let’s talk about something more cheerful.

Today the FiveThirtyEight nerds upgraded the Dems’ chances of retaking the House to four out of five, or 79.5 percent. It had been five out of seven for awhile. Four out of five is the best odds they’ve given the Dems this election cycle. Trump’s approval also is moving into the “getting worse” column, but it’s not yet quite as bad as his all-time worst.

The Senate, alas, probably is out of reach.

Possibly as a sign of the times, a local car dealership ran a television ad telling people to come in and buy a new car before Trump’s tariffs raise the prices. I only saw it once; maybe people complained. But if even “normal” folks in Trump Country get a clue that his policies are raising the cost of living, that’s going to hurt Republicans more than a hundred political ads.

Scott Clement and Dan Balz write in WaPo that the midterms are shaping up into a referendum on Trump.

Two months ahead of the midterm elections, Democrats hold a clear advantage over Republicans in congressional vote support, with antipathy toward President Trump fueling Democratic enthusiasm, even among those in the party who stayed home four years ago, a new Washington Post-ABC News poll finds.

The survey also points to broad unrest and frustration with the political system generally. More than 6 in 10 Americans say Trump and the Republican Party are out of touch with most people in the country. While Democrats fare better, a narrower 51 percent majority also judged them out of touch.

The new Dem Party rallying cry — We’re not as out of touch as they are!

Ironically, the GOP’s weak position comes even as 58 percent of Americans say the economy is excellent or good, tying ratings from January as the most positive marks in 17 years.

We can quibble over what constitutes “good.” All the talking heads on the teevee keep saying the economy is “good,” so it must be “good,” but that doesn’t mean that the sort of “good” it is makes any difference to most people. The cost of living is heading up; wages, especially for blue-collar workers, are going down. That’s “good”?

Greg Sargent writes,

new Post-ABC News poll strongly suggests that this kind of talk from Trump is only hurting Republicans, particularly in many of the GOP-held districts that Democrats need to win to take the House: It finds that a solid majority of voters wants a Democratic-led House to act as a check on Trump. And it finds a big swing in this direction since July.  …

… Notably, the Post-ABC poll also finds that by 60-34, voters want a Democratic-controlled Congress to act as a check on Trump as opposed to a Republican-controlled Congress that will support Trump’s agenda. This is up from 52-38 in mid-July, a swing of 12 points toward wanting a check on Trump. (Previous polls have found that majorities in the competitive House districts want this as well.)

What’s more, the new Post-ABC poll suggests that the anti-Trump backlash we’ve seen throughout this cycle among suburban, college-educated and independent voters is running strong: According to the cross-tabs, college-educated whites want a Democratic-led Congress as a check on Trump by 62-34, and suburban voters want the same by 58-37. Independents want a check by 63-27.

In other news: Bob Woodward has a new book out, or about to be out, and this one’s about the Trump Administration. It sounds as if the entire White House staff does little else but try to manage Trump.

A central theme of the book is the stealthy machinations used by those in Trump’s inner sanctum to try to control his impulses and prevent disasters, both for the president personally and for the nation he was elected to lead.

Woodward describes “an administrative coup d’etat” and a “nervous breakdown” of the executive branch, with senior aides conspiring to pluck official papers from the president’s desk so he couldn’t see or sign them.

Again and again, Woodward recounts at length how Trump’s national security team was shaken by his lack of curiosity and knowledge about world affairs and his contempt for the mainstream perspectives of military and intelligence leaders.

At a National Security Council meeting on Jan. 19, Trump disregarded the significance of the massive U.S. military presence on the Korean Peninsula, including a special intelligence operation that allows the United States to detect a North Korean missile launch in seven seconds vs. 15 minutes from Alaska, according to Woodward. Trump questioned why the government was spending resources in the region at all.

“We’re doing this in order to prevent World War III,” Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told him.

After Trump left the meeting, Woodward recounts, “Mattis was particularly exasperated and alarmed, telling close associates that the president acted like — and had the understanding of — ‘a fifth- or sixth-grader.’ ”

Also: Recent tweet by Trump slamming Jeff Sessions just adds to Mueller’s obstruction of justice case.

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