What’s Happening Now

Trump is terrified of losing in November, for good reason. The crew at FiveThirtyEight say, with lots of caveats and cautions, that 2020 could be a “blue wave” election year. That’s not a prediction, mind you; it’s just their reading of the state of things at the moment. Opinions can change. Voter suppression can tip elections. But see also Martin Longman, How Is the Democrats’ Race to Take Back the Senate Looking? (The answer: Pretty good, but don’t get complacent.)

Speaking of voter suppression, Trump is so certain that vote-by-mail will work against him that he’s threatening states that are preparing to implement it.

And I “think” that’s what got him impeached already. He doesn’t have the constitutional authority to not disburse funds already allocated by Congress, whether the funds are for Ukraine or Nevada. Or Michigan.

Those were applications, not actual ballots. Of course, there’s nothing “illegal” about vote by mail. It’s just absentee voting without having to declare a reason one can’t go to the polls. States can make decisions about who qualifies to vote absentee without getting permission from the feds. There is no evidence vote-by-mail enables fraud. There’s not even any evidence it favors Democrats over Republicans.

Regarding Trump’s threat, Greg Sargent writes,

During the impeachment of President Trump, an expert witness called by Democrats floated a theoretical scenario involving the president threatening a state hammered by a natural disaster, to illustrate the corruption of Trump’s shakedown of Ukraine.

What would we think if Trump dangled federal disaster aid as leverage to force a governor to do his political biddingasked Stanford law professor Pamela Karlan, adding: “Wouldn’t you know in your gut that the president had abused his office? That he betrayed the national interest?”

Trump has now done something very close to this. And the answer to Karlan’s question is: Yes, Trump is abusing his office and betraying the national interest.

Trump probably will need Michigan in November if he’s going to pull off another Electoral College win. In 2016 he won Michigan and its 16 EC votes in a squeaker, 47.6 percent to 47.3 percent. A Fox News poll taken in mid-April has Trump 8 percentage points behind Joe Biden in Michigan. Michiganders also prefer their own governor, Gretchen Whitmer, to Trump, the same poll says. I’m not sure that threatening to withhold federal funds from the state is a smart campaign tactic, though.

As a threshold matter, what Trump is threatening is illegal, according to Stephen Vladeck, a law professor at the University of Texas at Austin.

“The federal government does not have the power to withhold funding from states because the president disagrees with something the states are doing,” Vladeck told me. “There’s no legal mechanism by which he can do that.”

Theoretically, Trump might try to do this. Under the Cares Act, which recently passed Congress, states get allotted aid money from the Treasury Department, and then subsequently certify that they used it all on coronavirus-related purposes, a spokesperson for the House Appropriations Committee tells me.

So Trump could try to instruct the Treasury Department not to dole out that money. Note that Trump actually cc’d the Treasury Department in his tweet-threat, an act that becomes a lot more disgusting when you understand that this is how the mechanism actually does work.

Yesterday two dam breaks in central Michigan caused about 10,000 people to be evacuated. Trump’s tweet:

“Governor must now ‘set you free’ to help”? What the bleep does that mean? Well, stay strong, Michigan.

Elsewhere — You probably heard the story about how Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) got the Trump Administration to declassify an email from Susan Rice that was supposed to blow the lid off Obamagate! Finally, here was the proof that President Obama targeted Michael Flynn with investigations to damage Donald Trump, or whatever the theory is. However, the email did no such thing. It describes an Oval Office meeting in which Obama administration officials were asking if they should be concerned about Flynn’s contacts with Russians. No conclusions were reached; no investigations were ordered. There was just a concern.  You can read the email here. The facts of the email haven’t stopped right-wing media from framing it as somehow scandalous, of course.

In spite of Breitbart’s best efforts to keep flogging the Susan Rice email as a scandal, Senate Republicans appear to be falling back on investigating Hunter Biden. See also Declassified Susan Rice email reveals FBI concern about Flynn, further debunks Trump’s ‘Obamagate’ accusations at the New York Daily News.

Other stuff:

The Daily Beast reports that Trump Fans Gobble Up His Favorite, Unproven COVID Drug—Some Are Even Trying To Cook It Themselves. Let’s encourage them, I say.

Nice investigation by Stephanie Mencimer at Mother Jones: Jared Kushner Had One Job: Solve America’s Supply Crisis. He Helped Private Companies Instead.

More “gate” commentary: Nancy LeTourneau, The Glaring Inconsistency Behind the Russiagate Conspiracy Theory

Is Mike Pompeo in trouble? See Pompeo’s elite taxpayer-funded dinners raise new concerns at MSNBC.