Browsing the archives for the Trump Maladministration category.


Today’s Atrocities

Trump Maladministration

While we’re waiting on primary returns —

Julia Ainsley of NBC News reports,

The Trump administration is expected to issue a proposal in coming weeks that would make it harder for legal immigrants to become citizens or get green cards if they have ever used a range of popular public welfare programs, including Obamacare, four sources with knowledge of the plan told NBC News.

The move, which would not need congressional approval, is part of White House senior adviser Stephen Miller’s plan to limit the number of migrants who obtain legal status in the U.S. each year.

Stephen Miller is an evil little Nazi toad. He’s also only a third generation Jewish American evil little Nazi toad. WTF?

At the Daily Beast, Sam Stein writes that 43% of Republicans Want to Give Trump the Power to Shut Down Media. Because freedom, I’m sure. Watch them show up at the Shut Down Media rallies wearing their Minuteman costumes.

Forbes has a staff-written expose of Wilbur Ross that you must read.

Here in Missouri, people are going to the polls to vote on Prop A, a right-to-work referendum. A “no” vote is a vote against right-to-work. The unions have run some effective (seems to me) television ads, and about every other lawn has a “Note NO on Prop A” sign out in front. Word is there is high turnout in the state, although there are thunderstorm hereabouts. I’ve got my fingers crossed that Prop A goes down in flames. Even if it does, the whackadoodle state legislature has vowed to pass right-to-work anyway. But that would give state Democrats a damn good issue to run on, seems to me.

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The Midterms Will Be a Referendum on Trump

Trump Maladministration

At least, that’s what Trump seems to want — he wants the midterms to be all about him. I suspect Democrats agree. Republicans, maybe not so much.

President Donald Trump‘s strategy of becoming aggressively involved in the midterm elections is prompting concern among some Republicans who worry he’s complicating the political calculus for GOP candidates trying to outrun his popularity.

Those Republicans worry their statewide candidates may rise or fall based on Trump’s standing, muddling their path to maintain control of Congress.

But Trump has no plans to step out of the spotlight. …

The president is casting himself as the star of the midterms, eagerly inserting himself into hotly contested primaries, headlining rallies in pivotal swing states and increasing his fundraising efforts for Republicans. Last week, Trump agreed to donate a portion of his reelection fund to 100 GOP candidates running in competitive House and Senate races.

He’s expected to be even more aggressive in the fall. White House officials say he’s reserving time on his schedule for midterm travel and fundraising likely to surpass that of former presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

“This is now about Donald Trump,” said Al Cardenas, a former Florida Republican chairman. “It’s a high-risk, high-stakes proposition.”

There’s a special election for a U.S. congressional seat in Ohio on Tuesday that may give us another clue how the midterms will go. It’s in a district that’s been reliably Republican for a long time, and even more so since it was gerrymandered into a mostly white exurban district in 2010. Trump won the district in 2016 by 11 points. But Monmouth says the special election is a toss-up between Republican Troy Balderson and Democrat Danny O’Connor.

Trump just held one of his signature unhinged rallies in a high school auditorium  — with no air conditioning; someone on the staff will be in trouble —  about 17 miles north of Columbus. It appears this was arranged on Trump’s initiative, not Balderson’s.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) said Sunday that an Ohio House candidate did not invite President Trump to appear at his campaign rally on Saturday.

The governor and former GOP presidential candidate, who has been critical of Trump, told George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s “This Week” that GOP hopeful Troy Balderson told him that he didn’t have anything to do with inviting Trump.

“I asked him the other day ‘Why are you bringing Trump in,’ he said ‘well, I don’t have anything to do with it,’ ” Kasich said, referring to Balderson, who is facing a tough challenge from Democrat Danny O’Connor in a district Trump won by double digits.

“I think Donald Trump decides where he wants to go, and I think they think they’re firing up the base,” Kasich added.

It’s also possible that Trump’s appearance in Ohio fired up the other base.

Ahead of the Saturday evening rally, some party strategists worried that it would do more harm than good for Balderson, who has campaigned as a mainstream figure. Their concerns were illustrated by a Monmouth University survey released earlier this week showing Trump’s approval at just 46 percent in Ohio’s 12th District, which stretches from the traditionally moderate Columbus suburbs to more conservative rural areas.

Indeed, at many points at Saturday, Trump seemed more focused on revisiting his greatest hits than on Tuesday’s special election. He slashed the media (“MSNBC is so corrupt, is so disgusting”), went after political rivals (recently ousted South Carolina Rep. Mark Sanford, he joked, “likes flamingo [sic] dancers from Argentina”), and ripped the Russia investigation.

Well, we’ll see on Tuesday how it turns out.

Some other factors that could impact the midterms:

Brent Budowsky, writing for The Hill, predicts that there will be an “obstruction of justice bombshell” before the midterms. “… odds are very high that Mueller will offer a declarative public statement before the midterm elections, and very likely before Labor Day, that the president is guilty of obstruction of justice,” says Budowsky.

The gender gap is huge and possibly historic, according to the nerds at fivethirtyeight.

See Jennie Neufeld at Vox: Republicans have begun to sever ties with the Koch brothers. It isn’t just Trump and Steve Bannon; the RNC itself is souring on the Kochs. “Republicans have won more elections at every governmental level than they have since the 1920s partly due to the Kochs’ immense support,” Neufeld writes. “The Kochs were going to donate $400 million to various GOP campaigns in the midterm elections; it’s unclear if this feud will change those plans.”

For your reading pleasure, see David Atkins, Does Trump Even Understand What He Did Wrong?

Even the briefest observation of Donald Trump is adequate to confirm that he is not a man of profound intellect. He certainly possesses his share of social intelligence, a knack for salesmanship and an obsessive drive to dominate and humiliate others stemming from a yawning maw of overlapping insecurities. But in terms of how we traditionally measure intelligence in the modern developed world–the acquisition of knowledge over time and the ability to process, digest and act cogently in response to complex information–Trump probably doesn’t even reach the 50th percentile of Americans. And that is being generous.

This basic fact is difficult to keep in mind when assessing his decisions because we have never had a president like this. Society tends to dramatically overestimate the talent and intelligence of those fortunate enough to be rich and powerful, but rarely are they as objectively ignorant and lacking in basic competency as Trump. Far too often we look for a schema or strategy behind Trump’s actions, only to discover that his decisions were precipitated by the dumbest of reasons: because he saw a Fox News segment that made him angry, or because he heard that Barack Obama had originated a policy, because some extraneous person mentioned some falsehood to him that he was credulous enough to believe, or because he was openly bribed. This principle has become known as “Trump’s Razor“: when seeking to understand the president’s behavior, look for the stupidest possible reason.

Atkins argues that “it’s entirely possible that at a moral level and, crucially, at a legal one, he simply isn’t smart enough to grasp the enormity of the crimes he and his associates seem to have committed.” If so, we can count on Trump continuing to make one blunder after another to “defend” himself.

Update: See also emptywheel on why Trump’s conspiracy trial is going to be awesome.

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Fashion in the Age of Trump

Trump Maladministration

Has a single garment ever gotten so much press commentary than Paul Manafort’s ostrich skin jacket? (Update: Yeah, okay, Monica’s blue dress.)

The jacket is infamous for costing $15,000 and still being ugly. I’m having a hard time visualizing Manafort wearing it, although I guess all the photos I’ve seen of him show him wearing a suit that looks like just about every other suit any man wears.

People have pointed out that the $15,000 pales in comparison to a $51,000 Dolce & Gabbana jacket worn by Melania awhile back.

To me, that looks like what might happen if the Etsy website got stomach flu. Yes, everybody says it’s a $51,000 jacket. No, I don’t know what kind of markup over cost is involved, but I suspect a lot. It has also been noted that Melania very rarely uses jacket sleeves. I assume the thing in her hand is a clutch of some sort and not some alien being expelled by the jacket.

Back to the ostrich jacket. Washington Post fashion editor Robin Givhan wrote,

Where to begin in the dumbfounding tale of Paul Manafort and his fashion habit? The gluttony. The indulgence. The preening bad taste.

The pathetic pretentiousness of it all.

His is the story of a man’s inexorable slide into a nauseating spectacle of insatiable consumption — a parable, or perhaps, a farce that included salivating merchants flying across the country to cater to his appetites. There are so many enticing, beguiling entry points in this story of unbridled decadence: the use of wire transfers from foreign bank accounts to pay his clothing bills, the capacity to spend more than $929,000 on suits in a five-year period, a perplexing fixation on plaid sport jackets.  But ultimately, the one thing that most folks will remember from the first week of Manafort’s trial on bank and tax fraud charges is his $15,000 ostrich-leather bomber jacket.

Well, why not? The Manafort saga has a distinctively freak show quality to it. How does a man stash $30 million in offshore bank accounts and still go broke?

Mueller has alleged a years-long scheme of astonishing scope: that Manafort first laundered $30 million from a web of undeclared offshore accounts into the US without paying taxes on it, and then (after the Ukrainian money stopped coming in) defrauded several US banks to get more than $20 million in loans. Manafort has pleaded not guilty on all counts.

The man owns a lot of real estate, including a condo in Trump tower, another condo in Manhattan’s SoHo district, a brownstone in Brooklyn, an estate in the Hamptons, an unremarkable single-family home in Arlington, Virginia, and a home in Palm Beach, Florida. I understand that if he’s convicted, all those homes will be forfeited.

The man is 69 years old. He could have announced his retirement, sold some of that real estate to cover debt and still live more than comfortably for the rest of his life. Instead, he talked himself into the Trump campaign as a way back into the lobbying game. That’s how he got his start, years ago; he turned a mid-level position in the Reagan campaign into a big-ticket lobbying career.

The trial that began this past week was all about the money he earned working for Viktor Yanukovych, one-time president of the Ukraine, and several Russian oligarchs.

The first set of charges, which Mueller calls “the tax scheme,” relate to Manafort’s flush years, when the Ukrainian money was pouring in to the tune of tens of millions of dollars. Mueller says Manafort set up a complex web of offshore shell companies and then spent $30 million of that offshore cash in the US between 2008 and 2014.

About $12 million of that cash was allegedly spent on “personal items” for Manafort and his family, spread across more than 200 different transactions. This included about $5.4 million to a home improvement company in the Hamptons, $1.3 million tied to an antique rug store in Virginia, $849,000 or so to a men’s clothing store in New York, $819,000 on landscaping, and payments related to several Range Rovers and a Mercedes-Benz.

Then another $6.4 million was allegedly wired from offshore for three real estate payments: $1.5 million for a condo in New York City, $3 million for a brownstone in Brooklyn, and $1.9 million for a house in Virginia. On top of that, Manafort allegedly sent another $13 million as “loans” to US companies he controlled — but the government calls these loans “shams” designed to fraudulently reduce his taxable income.

There are allegations that he was wiring money from a bank in Cypress for “home improvements” that he didn’t actually buy. Money laundering?

The New York Times reports that Manafort wasted no time trying to monetize the Trump campaign gig, for which he was not paid:

In April 2016, just days after becoming a Trump campaign strategist, he tried to use his positive news media coverage as leverage in a debt dispute with a Russian oligarch, Oleg V. Deripaska.

“I assume you have shown our friends my media coverage, right?” Mr. Manafort wrote in an email to a business partner.

“Absolutely,” the partner, Konstantin V. Kilimnik, responded. “Every article.”

“How do we use to get whole,” Manafort asked. The emails were reported by The Washington Post and The Atlantic.

Later, Mr. Manafort suggested providing campaign briefings to Mr. Deripaska. No evidence has emerged that such briefings occurred.

In short, no sensible person would have let Manafort anywhere near a presidential campaign. Apparently Trump was the one who hired him.

As Mr. Manafort ascended to one of the premier jobs in American politics, prosecutors now say, his career was privately in shambles. In early 2016, his accountant testified, he worked to mortgage some of his seven or eight homes. Prosecutors said he had become accustomed to a lavish lifestyle and was preoccupied with clinging to it.

Back to Robin Givhan and the ostrich jacket:

Prosecutors argued that the luxurious nature of Manafort’s purchases was important because it offered the jury insight into it their case. That Manafort “had an expensive lifestyle that required lots of money to maintain is important proof as to why he would commit the bank frauds,” prosecutors wrote. Manafort had grown accustomed to Bijan, ostrich and python and when his income declined “he resorted to bank fraud as a means to maintain his lifestyle.”

Perhaps. But prosecutors missed a more significant argument. The fashion industry has long recognized and exploited the fact that its customers are not just buying accoutrements to a lifestyle. They are buying the building blocks to a public identity.

And when those blocks elevate a man to the tippy-top of the pyramid, he might do just about anything to prevent a perilous fall.

Apparently, the yawning emptiness that is Paul Manafort required a lot of accoutrements to maintain an identity.

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Q-razy

Trump Maladministration

To me, the most bizarre belief of the QAnon hoax is that the military chose Trump to be president. This is from a fascinating interview with a real-life QAnon believer in the Washington Post.

The Clintons, he said, “subverted” Barack Obama, whose presidency, according to QAnon, caused mounting dissatisfaction in the military, where Burton has been led to believe the seed of “Q” was planted.

“Apparently military brass in the Pentagon got sick and tired of it, and they found a candidate that they could discuss everything with,” Burton said. “And apparently they went to Trump and asked Trump to run.”

I asked him why these renegades chose Trump. “They probably thought he would win,” he said.

Or, maybe it’s this part:

The Russia investigation is a sham. It’s actually a cover story for special counsel Robert Mueller and Donald Trump working together to expose thousands of pedophiles hidden in plain sight — including Hillary Clinton (and Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama), who will soon be under arrest. (Or perhaps already have been and are on their way to Guantanamo Bay.)

Another theory is that the Clintons and Obamas are under a weird house arrest, even though they travel a lot, and must wear ankle bracelets. Also, too:

The GOP lost the Alabama special election for Jeff Sessions’s Senate seat on purpose — a plan devised years ago to reveal the use of fraudulent voting machines and, ultimately, take down none other than George Soros. Or the Rothschilds. Or the Illuminati.

Conspiracy theories about George Soros are a whole genre in themselves, of course. A few months ago I started seeing references to the Rothschilds in social media posts and thought I was hallucinating. But no, we don’t have enough curren craziness but must resurrect 19th century conspiracy theories. And who knows how old the hoaxes about the Illuminati have been in circulation.

But talk about crazy —

And there’s no White House chaos at all; in fact, despite legal scandals and special counsel investigations and bile-laden tweets, everything, absolutely everything, is going just as Donald Trump intended it. …

… [QAnon] has one overarching — and, if you’re a Trump supporter, hopeful — message: Donald Trump is in complete control. Of everything.

Which begs the question — if he has all this control, why evey play games? Why not just use executive power to smite his deep state enemies?

It doesn’t seem to matter that Q’s prophecies don’t come  true.

In a posting on November 1, 2017, Q said that on November 3 and 4, John Podesta, chair of Clinton’s 2016 campaign, would be arrested, military control would take hold, and “public riots would be organized in serious numbers to prevent the arrest and capture of more senior public officials.”

And who is Q? Maybe Trump himself. Or, maybe John F. Kennedy, Jr., faked his own death in order to establish himself as Q. Yeah, that makes sense.

Richard Hofstadter wrote in 1964:

The spokesmen of those earlier movements felt that they stood for causes and personal types that were still in possession of their country—that they were fending off threats to a still established way of life. But the modern right wing, as Daniel Bell has put it, feels dispossessed: America has been largely taken away from them and their kind, though they are determined to try to repossess it and to prevent the final destructive act of subversion. The old American virtues have already been eaten away by cosmopolitans and intellectuals; the old competitive capitalism has been gradually undermined by socialistic and communistic schemers; the old national security and independence have been destroyed by treasonous plots, having as their most powerful agents not merely outsiders and foreigners as of old but major statesmen who are at the very centers of American power. Their predecessors had discovered conspiracies; the modern radical right finds conspiracy to be betrayal from on high.

Now we’ve evolved to a new level in which the government is still evil (except for the military part), but Trump is some kind of messiah figure come to save it. I have noticed that in the theorists’ addled brains Trump is not part of “the government.” If anyone tries to reason with any of them, they often retort something along the lines of “Oh, you believe THE GOVERNMENT story, huh?” If you point out to them that Trump is part of THE GOVERNMENT, and in fact is in charge of it, that visibly disorients them.

The Hofstadter article reminds us that the extreme right has believed since the end of World War II that the U.S. government has been infiltrated by evil people trying to undermine America, and so in some ways the “deep state” isn’t anything new.  It used to be Communists, of course. I’m not sure all the conspiracists agree who the deep state serves. Many put Them — whether liberals, radical jihadists, homosexuals, whatever — all in the same camp, as illogical as that may be.

Is it worse now than it used to be? The crazies used to believe that Dwight Eisenhower was working for the Communists. But now we have social media, which tends to act as a feedback loop that drivess people further and further into the fever swamp.

Hofstadter:

The paranoid spokesman sees the fate of conspiracy in apocalyptic terms—he traffics in the birth and death of whole worlds, whole political orders, whole systems of human values. He is always manning the barricades of civilization. He constantly lives at a turning point. Like religious millennialists he expresses the anxiety of those who are living through the last days and he is sometimes disposed to set a date fort the apocalypse. (“Time is running out,” said Welch in 1951. “Evidence is piling up on many sides and from many sources that October 1952 is the fatal month when Stalin will attack.”)

As a member of the avant-garde who is capable of perceiving the conspiracy before it is fully obvious to an as yet unaroused public, the paranoid is a militant leader. He does not see social conflict as something to be mediated and compromised, in the manner of the working politician. Since what is at stake is always a conflict between absolute good and absolute evil, what is necessary is not compromise but the will to fight things out to a finish. Since the enemy is thought of as being totally evil and totally unappeasable, he must be totally eliminated—if not from the world, at least from the theatre of operations to which the paranoid directs his attention. This demand for total triumph leads to the formulation of hopelessly unrealistic goals, and since these goals are not even remotely attainable, failure constantly heightens the paranoid’s sense of frustration. Even partial success leaves him with the same feeling of powerlessness with which he began, and this in turn only strengthens his awareness of the vast and terrifying quality of the enemy he opposes.

Let’s just say that this all bears watching. If something happens that forces them to face reality — Bob Mueller exposes Trump as a traitor, say — they could get very dangerous.

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Trump Panic

Trump Maladministration

Yesterday’s tweet in which Trump demanded (even though he did say “should”) that Robert Mueller be fired has cranked the Russian collusion drama up to another level. Do read:

Josh Marshall, I Don’t Buy This Explanation

Paul Waldman, Trump’s impotence on the Mueller investigation is driving him batty

Margaret Hartman, Team Trump’s Explanations for Mueller Tirade Make Less and Less Sense

 

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The Trump Vs. Koch Smackdown

Trump Maladministration

Trump may change his tune very quickly, but as of today he’s at war with the Koch Brothers.


We may learn some day that Stephen Miller is the true author of all of Trump’s tweets. Otherwise, Trump certainly is a really stupid judge of which fights to pick. As Charles Pierce said, the Koch brothers “can buy and sell him back two generations.” If Trump makes Republican candidates for office choose between him and the Kochs, I believe most would choose the Kochs. They owe the Kochs a lot more favors.

However, the Kochs are sitting on a lot of their money in this election cycle. Jane Coaston writes for Vox:

The tweets come a day after representatives of the Koch network — founders of the Cato Institute, one of the main funders behind the Tea Party movement and a major force in GOP politics over the past decade — announced that the group will not support North Dakota Republican Rep. Kevin Cramer in his incredibly tight race against Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp. …

… the Koch network — which, despite a contentious relationship with Trump, had previously voiced support for the president’s tax bill and other planned legislation — is pushing away from not just Trump but the GOP, with founder Charles Koch telling reporters at that weekend event that his groups had made “mistakes” and that he has “regrets” about the one-party focus the network has had in past elections.

Specifically, while Koch-connected groups have worked closely with the White House on issues like criminal justice reform, the Koch network is unhappy with the GOP’s handling of two specific policy areas: trade and immigration, issues on which the Kochs’ libertarian leanings cause them to break with the administration. …

… Koch network groups had planned in January to spend as much as $400 million on the 2018 midterms — including $20 million on selling the GOP tax cuts to voters.

I’m sure you’ve noticed the Kochs put much more money into state-level candidates and legislative initiatives than they do presidential politics. If you control most of the states, who needs the feds?

Steve Bannon, who controls absolutely nothing, issued a laughable warning:

“You take Koch money, it’s going to be toxic. We are going to let people know that if you take Koch money there’s a punishment,” Bannon, former chief White House strategist and Trump campaign chief executive, told CNBC in an exclusive interview. “If you take money from people who are against the president and are looking to put a knife in the back of the president, you are going to pay.”

So are they going to get money from Trump or Bannon instead? Fat chance.

This particular tiff, by itself, may go nowhere. But I suspect that someday, when historians are investigating the smoldering ruins of Trumpism, pissing off the Kochs will be identified as an accelerant.

See also Philip Bump,   Trump’s two-track strategy: The rich get richer, and the poor get distracted. Also Greg Sargent, In a new tweetstorm, Trump gives his voters the middle finger.

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Mnuchin Wants Another Tax Cut!

Trump Maladministration

This just in, from the New York Times:

The Trump administration is considering bypassing Congress to grant a $100 billion tax cut mainly to the wealthy, a legally tenuous maneuver that would cut capital gains taxation and fulfill a long-held ambition of many investors and conservatives.

What the bleep? The executive branch can’t change tax law, can it?

Steven Mnuchin,

Let us not forget that Mnuchin is a parasite who made a bundle foreclosing on people during the 2008 meltdown.

the Treasury secretary, said in an interview on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit meeting in Argentina this month that his department was studying whether it could use its regulatory powers to allow Americans to account for inflation in determining capital gains tax liabilities. The Treasury Department could change the definition of “cost” for calculating capital gains, allowing taxpayers to adjust the initial value of an asset, such as a home or a share of stock, for inflation when it sells.

Even I can figure out that if you’ve got rising inflation and low capital gains rates, you could erase a whole lot of  profit for tax purposes.

“If it can’t get done through a legislation process, we will look at what tools at Treasury we have to do it on our own and we’ll consider that,” Mr. Mnuchin said, emphasizing that he had not concluded whether the Treasury Department had the authority to act alone. “We are studying that internally, and we are also studying the economic costs and the impact on growth.”

Would this provide economic stimulus?

 Independent analyses suggest that more than 97 percent of the benefits of indexing capital gains for inflation would go to the top 10 percent of income earners in America. Nearly two-thirds of the benefits would go to the super wealthy — the top 0.1 percent of American income earners.

Nope, probably not.

Making the change by fiat would be a bold use of executive power — one that President George Bush’s administration considered and rejected in 1992, after concluding that the Treasury Department did not have the power to make the change on its own. Larry Kudlow, the chairman of the National Economic Council, has long advocated it.

Larry Kudlow is the moron who declared a month ago that the U.S. deficit was going down. Grover Norquist also thinks this is a great idea.

“This would be in terms of its economic impact over the next several years, and long term, similar in size as the last tax cut,” Mr. Norquist said, suggesting that making the change would raise revenue for the government by creating new economic efficiencies and faster growth. “I think it’s going to happen and it’s going to be huge.”

He and others said last year’s tax cut would also pay for itself, but despite strong economic growth, corporate tax receipts have plunged and the deficit has soared.

Sober people with calculators weigh in:

According to the budget model used by the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, indexing capital gains to inflation would reduce government revenues by $102 billion over a decade, with 86 percent of the benefits going to the top 1 percent. A July report from the Congressional Research Service said that the additional debt incurred by indexing capital gains to inflation would most likely offset any stimulus that the smaller tax burden provided to the economy.

“It is unlikely, however, that a significant, or any, effect on economic growth would occur from a stand-alone indexing proposal,” the report said.

Of course it won’t. But, you know, I really want Mnuchin to push for this so that it gets in the news and everybody hears that the Trump Administration is pushing for another giveaway to the rich. Because tax cuts for the rich are unpopular with voters. This is from June 2018:

This month, an NBC/WSJ poll of registered voters in swing congressional House districts found that a candidate’s support for the tax law passed in December might cost them in this November’s election.

Forty-two percent of voters were less likely to vote for a candidate who supported the tax law compared to 36 percent who said that they were more likely. That difference might seem small but in a highly competitive House race, it’s huge.

I also want The Creature to keep threatening to shut down the government if Congress doesn’t fund his fool wall. And then I want to see lots and lots of ads juxtapoxing Trump’s threats with videos of him swearing Mexico will pay for the wall. Even the Democrats ought to be able to use this nonsense to club the entire Republican party to death.

See also Paul Krugman, Trump’s Supreme Betrayal.

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Trump Lies Like a Rug

Trump Maladministration

What Trump (or some designated flunky) tweeted this morning:

What A.G. Sulzberger says what happened:

My main purpose for accepting the meeting was to raise concerns about the president’s deeply troubling anti-press rhetoric.

I told the president directly that I thought that his language was not just divisive but increasingly dangerous.

I told him that although the phrase “fake news” is untrue and harmful, I am far more concerned about his labeling journalists “the enemy of the people.” I warned that this inflammatory language is contributing to a rise in threats against journalists and will lead to violence.

I repeatedly stressed that this is particularly true abroad, where the president’s rhetoric is being used by some regimes to justify sweeping crackdowns on journalists. I warned that it was putting lives at risk, that it was undermining the democratic ideals of our nation, and that it was eroding one of our country’s greatest exports: a commitment to free speech and a free press.

Throughout the conversation I emphasized that if President Trump, like previous presidents, was upset with coverage of his administration he was of course free to tell the world. I made clear repeatedly that I was not asking for him to soften his attacks on The Times if he felt our coverage was unfair. Instead, I implored him to reconsider his broader attacks on journalism, which I believe are dangerous and harmful to our country.

Sad!

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Stuff to Read

Trump Maladministration

Here are two opinion pieces to read together; they are saying about the same thing.

One, and IMO the better of the two, is Andrew O’Hehir, Democratic moderates fear the “socialist left” will wreck the party: They want to keep that gig.

Just a taste:

Hubert Humphrey, the leading Democratic moderate of Hillary Clinton’s youth, would find little to object to in Ocasio-Cortez’s platform, beyond the labeling on the package. (Once the Happy Warrior figured out what ICE and super PACs were, and what they had done to America, he’d go out and ring doorbells in her district.) Then again, Humphrey had no fear of open and often heated ideological conflict, which was a staple of Democratic discourse for decades and is exactly what the “democratic socialist” insurrection has reintroduced since 2016.

Those who shut down such internal conflict and purged the activist left from the Democratic Party, on the premise that it was the only possible way to win elections in a “centrist,” anti-ideological nation, have never faced the consequences of their historic blunder. They have lost repeatedly and on a grand scale, insisting every time that they really should have won — or in some other, better world, did win — and that whatever went wrong was somebody else’s fault. They are the ones who appear committed to an inflexible, dogmatic ideology that is out of step with political reality. They are surprised and outraged to learn that if they want to continue their losing streak, they will have to fight for it.

Two, Thomas Frank, Can liberals please work out how to win back the working class?

For all their cunning, Republicans are a known quantity. Their motives are simple: they will do anything, say anything, profess faith in anything to get tax cuts, deregulation and a little help keeping workers in line. Nothing else is sacred to them. Rules, norms, traditions, deficits, the Bible, the constitution, whatever. They don’t care, and in this they have proven utterly predictable.

The Democrats, however, remain a mystery. We watch them hesitate at crucial moments, betray the movements that support them, and even try to suppress the leaders and ideas that generate any kind of populist electricity. Not only do they seem uninterested in doing their duty toward the middle class, but sometimes we suspect they don’t even want to win.

Do read them both. Frank is perhaps a degree more “shrill” than I am, but I am not going to say he’s wrong.

Just this morning I saw a paid ad on social media with Nancy Pelosi asking for donations to help the Democrats “protect Obama’s legacy.” I wanted to throw rocks at her.  Not that I wouldn’t give a lot to just put everything back to where it was before Trump took office, but I always saw “Obama’s legacy” — which was mostly Obamacare — as just provisional, just a foot in the door that might be built into something better. But the establishment Dems want to sell it as the whole pie and not just a taste.

For your daily dose of Why Trump is a Pile of Crap, do read ‘Deleted’ families: What went wrong with Trump’s family-separation effort.

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Trump Is Coming Apart

Trump Maladministration

Let’s review:

We still don’t know exactly who leaked the revelation that Cohen can testify that Trump knew about the 2016 Trump Tower meeting in advance, and why. There are all kinds of theories, including one that it came from Trump’s camp to take away Cohen’s biggest bargaining chip and/or diffuse the impact of what would inevitably come out, anyway.

Jonathan Chait writes that at least two other people had previously said Trump knew about the meeting in advance. Former Trump aide Sam Nunberg told Jake Tapper in an interview last March that Trump had been told. Also,

Steve Bannon has said the same thing. (“The chance that Don. Jr did not walk these Jumos up to his father’s office on the 26th floor is zero.”) This is obvious. In a loosely structured campaign, with people coming in and out of Trump’s office at will, and all of them desperately vying for the boss’s approval, the notion that they could set up what they believed to be a meeting that would deliver devastating dirt on Crooked Hillary and not tell Trump what they had done is preposterous.

See also Josh Marshall:

Two days before the Trump Tower meeting, on June 7th 2016, President Trump made a statement teasing a big speech with new dirt about Hillary Clinton that he said would probably happen on June 13th.

You can video of that statement here.

The speech never happened. It was supposedly delayed because of the Pulse Night Club massacre on June 12th. But it was never rescheduled. There was a different speech. But it seemed clearly not to be the one he promised on June 7th.

So, yeah, he knew about the meeting; he green-lighted the meeting; he was all in on colluding with Russia to get dirt on Hillary Clinton. That’s beyond doubt at this point.

Then there’s what happened in the aftermath of the Times stories breaking the news about the Trump Tower meeting that were published just over a year ago. Mueller’s investigators have focused closely on the fact that President Trump dictated a statement which was released in the name of his son Don Jr. about the meeting. It was a false cover story which quickly fell apart. He claimed it was about adoptions. How did he know about it? Well, it seems that he knew about it in advance. But there’s another thread to the story.

Trump dictated that false statement, with the cover story about adoptions only hours after he had a one on one meeting with Vladimir Putin (with no other US persons involved) which was apparently also about adoptions. As I explain here, if you put all this information together, there’s a pretty strong case to be made that not only did President Trump know about the Trump Tower meeting in advance but that he concocted his false cover story with the assistance of Vladimir Putin. See the details here.

After that ghastly spectacle in Helsinki, who can doubt that Trump is Putin’s poodle? Other than hard-core Trump cultists? Speaking of which,

Donald Trump’s historic unpopularity has yet to harden into conventional wisdom, even as he’s trailed previous presidents in job approval at nearly every point in his administration. Instead, mainstream pundits and reporters focus on his relatively high marks with Republican voters, convinced that this gives insight into his political standing.

But, as centrist Democrats keep reminding us, it’s those swing voters you have to persuade. You might remember that the day after the 2016 election, the New York Times ran an analysis showing that Clinton truly lost in the election in the rust belt:

The red indicates biggest change from Democrat to Republican votes from 2012.

A whole lot of what had been considered reliable Democratic precincts went to Trump in 2016. The latest polls show us that support for Trump has eroded in those same areas, big-time.

In Michigan, where Trump won by 11,000 votes, 54 percent of registered voters disapprove of his performance, compared to 36 percent who approve. In Minnesota, where he narrowly lost, 51 percent currently disapprove, compared to 38 percent who approve. And in Wisconsin, a state he won by 23,000 votes, 52 percent disapprove, compared to 36 who approve.

By wide margins, voters in these states want a Democratic Congress. They want that Congress to act as a “check and balance” on Trump. Despite the growing economy, few give him credit for economic improvement, and looking ahead to 2020, nearly two-thirds in each state say it’s time to “give a new person a chance” in the White House.

The hard Trump support is unwavering. But the “soft” support, the voters who maybe weren’t crazy about him but were even less crazy about Hillary Clinton, are getting over Trump now. Unfortunately, major news media still play along with a meta message that Trump is wildly popular with his base and is therefore untouchable.

But let’s now review what else we knew, as of yesterday.

One, Bob Mueller is still investigating. We don’t know what he knows.

Two, the Southern District of New York has subpoenaed Allen Weisselberg, who has managed money for the Trump organization since Donald’s daddy was in charge of it. Weisselberg probably knows more about Trump’s money and where it came from than Trump does.

Three, the emoluments lawsuit is going forward, as of now, and unless Trump’s lawyers can stop it will almost certainly lead to more revelations about Trump’s money.

Four, the New York Attorney General also recently filed suit against the Donald Trump Foundation, “accusing the charity and the Trump family of sweeping violations of campaign finance laws, self-dealing and illegal coordination with the presidential campaign.”

Meanwhile, Dems are looking pretty good to take back the House in the midterms, at least.

Even through it feels as if these things are happening with excruciating slowness, they are happening. I predict that from here on out, events and revelations will slowly but surely grind Trump to bits.

Update: See also the Putin Factor. This opinion piece argues that the Russians will not hesitate to finish Trump off by releasing whatever it is they have on him if they decide he is no longer useful.

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