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Friday, August 31, 2018

Friday Night Soother: baby elephant walk

by digby


Animal care staff at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park are celebrating the birth of a baby Elephant, born just before midnight on World Elephant Day, August 12. The calf, a male, was born to mother Ndlulamitsi, better known as ‘Ndlula,’ without complications and began nursing shortly after birth.

“Mother and baby were in a small area of the yard, separate from the rest of the herd,” said Curtis Lehman, animal care supervisor at the Safari Park. “This separation, much like what would occur in natural habitats in Africa, allows mom and baby time for bonding.”

The baby Elephant, named Umzula-zuli, tipped the scales at more than 270 pounds—making him the largest Elephant calf ever born at the Safari Park. A newborn calf generally weights 200 to 268 pounds at birth. By late morning, with the baby appearing healthy and well bonded to his mother, animal care staff offered the pair the opportunity to move into a larger area of the habitat with the rest of the herd.

“This morning’s introduction of ‘Zuli’ to the other 12 Elephants in the herd was one of the most endearing animal scenes I have had the privilege of seeing,” said Mindy Albright, lead keeper, San Diego Zoo Safari Park. “The other Elephants were clearly excited to meet the new baby—touching him, trumpeting and smelling him with their trunks.”

The average gestation period for African Elephants is 649 days, or 22 months, so Zuli’s birth had been long anticipated. When the Park opened at 9 a.m., guests at the African Elephant overlook were able to see Ndlula and her newborn interacting with the herd. The new baby and his herd may also be seen on the Safari Park’s Elephant Cam.

The Safari Park is now home to 13 Elephants—4 adults and 9 youngsters. The adults were rescued in 2003 from the Kingdom of Swaziland, where they faced being culled. A lack of space and long periods of drought had created unsuitable habitat for a large Elephant population in the small southern African country. At the San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, Elephant studies are underway on nutrition, daily walking distance, growth and development, and bioacoustic communication. Since 2004, San Diego Zoo Global has contributed $30,000 yearly to Swaziland’s Big Game Parks to fund programs like anti-poaching patrols, improve infrastructure and purchase additional acreage for the Big Game Parks. African Elephants are listed as Vulnerable to Extinction by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

The greatest negotiator the world has ever seen?

by digby

The Toronto Star reports that Trump, as usual, screwed the pooch:

In remarks Trump wanted to be “off the record,” Trump told Bloomberg News reporters on Thursday, according to a source, that he is not making any compromises at all in the talks with Canada — but that he cannot say this publicly because “it’s going to be so insulting they’re not going to be able to make a deal.”

“Here’s the problem. If I say no — the answer’s no. If I say no, then you’re going to put that, and it’s going to be so insulting they’re not going to be able to make a deal ... I can’t kill these people,” he said of the Canadian government.

In another remark he did not want published, Trump said, according to the source, that the possible deal with Canada would be “totally on our terms.” He suggested he was scaring the Canadians into submission by repeatedly threatening to impose tariffs.

“Off the record, Canada’s working their ass off. And every time we have a problem with a point, I just put up a picture of a Chevrolet Impala,” Trump said, according to the source. The Impala is produced at the General Motors plant in Oshawa, Ontario.

Trump made the remarks in an Oval Office interview with Bloomberg. He deemed them off the record, and Bloomberg accepted his request not to reveal them.

But the Star is not bound by any promises Bloomberg made to Trump. And the remarks immediately became a factor in the negotiations: Trudeau’s officials, who saw them as evidence for their previous suspicions that Trump’s team had not been bargaining in good faith, raised them at the beginning of a meeting with their U.S. counterparts on Friday morning, a U.S. source confirmed.

He is such a fool. He can't help but pose and preen because it's really all he knows how to do.

Whatever "deals" he did in his business career were almost certainly actually hammered out by lawyers when he wasn't in the room. And I'll bet they rolled their eyes and said, "don't pay any attention to him ..." He's the worst negotiator in the world.

By the way, he doesn't deny saying it:

A demagogue getting his people all worked up. What could go wrong?

by digby

Greg Sargent sounds an alarm. It's loud:

At his rally on Thursday night in Indiana, President Trump unleashed his usual attacks on the news media, but he also added a refrain that should set off loud, clanging alarm bells. Trump didn’t simply castigate “fake news.” He also suggested the media is allied with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s probe — an alliance, he claimed, that is conspiring not just against Trump but also against his supporters.

“Today’s Democrat Party is held hostage by left-wing haters, angry mobs, deep-state radicals, establishment cronies and their fake-news allies,” Trump railed. “Our biggest obstacle and their greatest ally actually is the media.”

In case there is any doubt about what Trump meant by the “deep state” that is supposedly allied with the news media, Trump also lashed out at the FBI and the Justice Department, claiming that “people are angry” and threatening to personally “get involved.”

Robert D. Chain, who was arrested this week for allegedly threatening to murder journalists at the Boston Globe while mimicking Trump’s language, also connected Mueller’s investigation to the media. “You’re the enemy of the people, and we’re going to kill every f–––ing one of you,” Chain snarled into one employee’s voicemail, according to FBI documents. “Why don’t you call Mueller, maybe he can help you out.”

Trump surely knew about this arrest when he repeated his attacks on the news media Thursday night — and when he connected the media to the Mueller investigation as part of a grand conspiracy against him and his voters.

Periodically in this country, whenever there is violence with a political cast, or whenever political rhetoric strays into something more menacing than usual, we hold debates about the tone of our politics and their capacity for incitement. Whether rhetorical excess can be blamed for violence or the threat of it is a complicated topic with no easy answers. But even so, in most or all of these cases, whichever side is culpable, most of our elected leaders on both sides have used their prominence to calm passions in hopes of averting future horrors.

This time, something different is happening. At this point, there is no longer any denying that Trump continues to direct incendiary attacks against working members of the free press even though his own language is being cited by clearly unhinged people making horrifying death threats against them.

Trump’s assaults on the media are different in another way, too. Previous presidents have tangled with the press, most notably Richard Nixon, who sicced his vice president on the TV networks. But as I discuss in my forthcoming book, even these presidents maintained a grudging acceptance of the news media as an adversarial mechanism of accountability that legitimately informs the public debate and thus retains a vital institutional role in our democracy.

Trump simply does not accept this at all. He is trying to destroy this foundational set of ideas in the minds of his supporters. And it seems to be working.

There's more at the link.



They just can't quit her

by digby

If the Republicans keep the Senate look for the new judiciary chairman Lindsay Graham to deliver investigations and hearings into Hillary Clinton. If he replaces Jeff Sessions, he'll re-open the investigation. He is one of the few Senators talking incessantly about her "crimes" these days, reflecting the president's obsession with demanding he DOJ go after "the other side."

Don't think they won't do it.

Their little white "slips" are showing

by digby

My Salon column this morning:

This week's memorial to the late Sen. John McCain has not brought out the best in President Trump. Indeed, he seems to be increasingly upset as he obsessively watches cable news and sees the drama of the funeral and all the accolades pouring in from around the world in tribute to the nation's most famous elder statesman.

Trump's behavior on the announcement of McCain's passing was typically boorish and crass, and as the mourning period goes on he seems to be doing everything short of turning cartwheels in the Rose Garden to get attention. He has pushed White House counsel Don McGahn out the door on Twitter and made clear that he'll let Jeff Sessions stay on as attorney general until the midterms, pretty much putting Robert Mueller on notice. Grace of any kind is not this president's strong suit.

Congressional Republicans have by and large behaved with more dignity, although that's a very low bar. Most members gave stirring encomiums to their late comrade on the Senate floor this week, undoubtedly annoying Trump to no end. There were a few noteworthy exceptions. Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma defended Trump's petulant behavior, saying, "Well, you know, frankly, I think that John McCain is partially to blame for that because he is very outspoken." Apparently, disagreeing with Trump means you deserve to be treated disrespectfully upon your death regardless of your years of government service. Good to know.

McCain's stalwart BFF, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., also hedged about Trump's sour attitude, first saying, "Clearly, they had a contentious relationship, but he’s not the only one to have a tense relationship with John McCain. How the president feels about Sen. McCain is his right to feel any way he’d like."

Graham also claimed that the president generously told White House Chief of Staff John Kelly that the McCain family should get "whatever they need." Then, on Thursday, Graham shifted gears, telling CBS News, "It bothers me greatly when the president says things about John McCain. It pisses me off to no end. And the way he handled the passing of John is just — it was disturbing." This isn't the only time in recent days that Graham has behaved erratically, but it's perhaps the most surprising.

On the news of McCain's passing, Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., the minority leader, had immediately proposed that the Russell Senate Office Building be renamed for the late Arizona senator. It seemed like a rare winning bipartisan issue, with no obvious downside for either team. Democrats would like to rename the building anyway since Sen. Richard Russell, a powerful Georgia Democrat who served from 1933 to 1971, was a notorious segregationist who led Southern opposition to the civil rights movement, using every parliamentary trick in the book to stymie bills to ban the poll tax or outlaw lynching. Russell co-authored the “Southern Manifesto” in 1956, opposing school desegregation, and even proposed bills to remove all African-Americans from the South.

Despite all that, it's proving nearly impossible to replace Russell's name on that building in this polarized political environment. McCain, at this moment, is probably the only deceased senator a majority could possibly agree upon. Which is not to say McCain's legacy on civil rights was unblemished. He expressed regret in his later years for his early vote against the Martin Luther King Jr. national holiday and apologized for various other insensitive remarks and votes. He certainly was not the worst Republican on racial issues or civil rights, but that's not saying much.

One would expect that Republicans would be anxious to name the Senate's principal office building after one of their own. They could even commission a statue. (Russell has one.) But no. What seemed like a slam dunk has run into serious resistance -- and not from Democrats, who might have been expected to express reservations about conferring such an honor on a conservative Republican. It's the Republicans who are resisting, and their reasons why are revealing.

First, the McCain proposal is clearly a problem for Republican senators because it will upset the president. None of them has said that openly, but they calculate all their decisions through the prism of Trump's childish needs and wants these days. And let's face it: Chuck Schumer is trolling Trump just a little with this suggestion. Trump would see GOP acquiescence, even on this entirely symbolic issue, as disloyalty. We all know how he feels about that.

But in fact, what's really holding up this name change is something else entirely. The first Republican senators to come out against the idea were from Georgia, Russell's home state. It's doubtful that more than a few of their constituents even remember Russell, who's been dead for 47 years. But the state's two current senators seem to believe there are enough of them to justify clinging to the old segregationist. Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., complained that it wasn't fair to remove Russell's name over just "one issue" when he had supported many other things, including the Great Society and the War on Poverty. (Notably, Perdue and other Republicans think those were terrible failures -- but whatever.)

One might chalk that up to home-state pride if it weren't for the fact that other Southern Republicans are also stepping up to defend Russell. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said he'd prefer to name a commission to study how best to honor McCain, while Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana said the Senate needed to "find another way." Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama was good enough to come right out and say it, as Huffington Post reported:
“Richard Russell was from the south and, I’m sure, not perfect like George Washington and everyone else in his day. But he was a well-respected senator. You want to get into that, [then] you have to get into George Washington and Thomas Jefferson and most of our Founding Fathers, maybe with the exception of Hamilton. It’s easy to prejudge what they should have done. We didn’t live in that era."
Huffington Post mentioned to Shelby that Washington and Jefferson lived more than a hundred years before Russell. The senator responded by saying, “They did, but so did others." We can be glad he has such a clear grasp of history.

This whole charade puts the lie one more time to the fatuous argument made by right-wingers like Dinesh D'Souza that there was no such thing as a Republican "Southern Strategy," and that somehow the racist Southern Democrats of days gone by remain in the party while Southern Republicans are colorblind. That's an absurd assertion on its face. At this point, Southern Democrats are largely African-American, and the occasional white Democrat who actually wins an election, like Sen. Doug Jones of Alabama, is heavily dependent on black votes.

Only one party is defending the name and legacy of one of the most prominent Democratic segregationists of the 20th century, and it's not the Democrats.

More Russians?

by digby

I'm just going to leave this out there. I suspect it's just the tip of the iceberg of what the Special Counsel's office knows:

A senior Justice Department lawyer says a former British spy told him at a breakfast meeting two years ago that Russian intelligence believed it had Donald Trump “over a barrel,” according to multiple people familiar with the encounter.

The lawyer, Bruce Ohr, also says he learned that a Trump campaign aide had met with higher-level Russian officials than the aide had acknowledged, the people said.

The previously unreported details of the July 30, 2016, breakfast with Christopher Steele, which Ohr described to lawmakers this week in a private interview, reveal an exchange of potentially explosive information about Trump between two men the president has relentlessly sought to discredit.

They add to the public understanding of those pivotal summer months as the FBI and intelligence community scrambled to untangle possible connections between the Trump campaign and Russia. And they reflect the concern of Steele, a longtime FBI informant whose Democratic-funded research into Trump ties to Russia was compiled into a dossier, that the Republican presidential candidate was possibly compromised and his urgent efforts to convey that anxiety to contacts at the FBI and Justice Department.

The people who discussed Ohr’s interview were not authorized to publicly discuss details of the closed session and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

Among the things Ohr said he learned from Steele during the breakfast was that an unnamed former Russian intelligence official had said that Russian intelligence believed “they had Trump over a barrel,” according to people familiar with the meeting. It was not clear from Ohr’s interview whether Steele had been directly told that or had picked that up through his contacts, but the broader sentiment is echoed in Steele’s research dossier.

Steele and Ohr, at the time of the election a senior official in the deputy attorney general’s office, had first met a decade earlier and bonded over a shared interest in international organized crime. They met several times during the presidential campaign, a relationship that exposed both men and federal law enforcement more generally to partisan criticism, including from Trump.

Republicans contend the FBI relied excessively on the dossier during its investigation and to obtain a secret wiretap application on Trump campaign aide Carter Page. They also say Ohr went outside his job description and chain of command by meeting with Steele, including after his termination as a FBI source, and then relaying information to the FBI.

Trump this month proposed stripping Ohr, who until this year had been largely anonymous during his decades-long Justice Department career, of his security clearance and has asked “how the hell” he remains employed.

Trump has called the Russia investigation a “witch hunt” and has denied any collusion between his campaign and Moscow.

Trump and some of his supporters in Congress have also accused the FBI of launching the entire Russia counterintelligence investigation based on the dossier. But memos authored by Republicans and Democrats and declassified this year show the probe was triggered by information the U.S. government received earlier about the Russian contacts of then-Trump campaign foreign policy adviser, George Papadopoulos.

The FBI’s investigation was already under way by the time it received Steele’s dossier, and Ohr was not the original source of information from it.

One of the meetings described to House lawmakers Tuesday was a Washington breakfast attended by Steele, an associate of his and Ohr. Ohr’s wife, Nellie, who worked for the political research firm, Fusion GPS, that hired Steele, attended at least part of the breakfast.

Ohr also told Congress that Steele told him that Page, a Trump campaign aide who traveled to Moscow that same month and whose ties to Russia attracted FBI scrutiny, had met with more senior Russian officials than he had acknowledged meeting with.

That breakfast took place amid ongoing FBI concerns about Russian election interference and possible communication with Trump associates. By that point, Russian hackers had penetrated Democratic email accounts, including that of the Clinton campaign chairman, and Papadopoulos, the Trump campaign associate, was said to have revealed that Russians had “dirt” on Democrat Hillary Clinton in the form of emails, according to court papers. That revelation prompted the FBI to open the counterintelligence investigation on July 31, 2016, one day after the breakfast but based on entirely different information.

Ohr told lawmakers he could not vouch for the accuracy of Steele’s information but has said he considered him a reliable FBI informant who delivered credible and actionable intelligence, including his investigation into corruption at FIFA, soccer’s global governing body.

In the interview, Ohr acknowledged that he had not told superiors in his office, including Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, about his meetings with Steele because he considered the information inflammatory raw source material.

He also provided new details about the department’s move to reassign him once his Steele ties were brought to light.

Ohr said he met in late December 2017 with two senior Justice Department officials, Scott Schools and James Crowell, who told him they were unhappy he had not proactively disclosed his meetings with Steele. They said he was being stripped of his associate deputy attorney post as part of a planned internal reorganization, people familiar with Ohr’s account say.

He met again soon after with one of the officials, who told him Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein did not believe he could continue in his current position as director of a drug grant-distribution program — known as the Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force.

Sessions and Rosenstein, Ohr was told, did not want him in the post because it entailed White House meetings and interactions, the people said.

Now read this article about how all the people Trump has targeted just happen to be, like Ohr, experts in Russian organized crime:

Bruce Ohr. Lisa Page. Andrew Weissmann. Andrew McCabe. President Donald Trump has relentlessly attacked these FBI and Justice Department officials as dishonest “Democrats” engaged in a partisan “witch hunt” led by the special counsel determined to tie his campaign to Russia. But Trump’s attacks have also served to highlight another thread among these officials and others who have investigated his campaign: their extensive experience in probing money laundering and organized crime, particularly as they pertain to Russia.

I'm sure it's just a coincidence.

Radio Rwhite House

by Tom Sullivan

"It's working. Don't let anyone tell you different," Charlie Pierce laments.

Pierce responded to news yesterday that a man in Encino, California phoned a series of death threats to the Boston Globe. Pierce worked there for nine years and has lots of friends and one relative there still. The Boston Globe itself reports the suspect Robert Darrell Chain, 68, was arrested by the FBI Thursday and charged with making a threatening communication in interstate commerce:

Federal prosecutors said that Chain made 14 calls to the Globe’s main newsroom number between Aug. 10 and 22 after the newspaper’s editorial page called on media outlets to unite in opposition to Trump’s angry rhetoric against the press, including repeated references to reporters as “the enemy of the people.”

Authorities said the calls were “profane, lewd, and peppered with antigay slurs.”

“Anyone — regardless of political affiliation — who puts others in fear for their lives will be prosecuted by this office,” said Andrew Lelling, the US attorney in Massachusetts. “In a time of increasing political polarization, and amid the increasing incidence of mass shootings, members of the public must police their own political rhetoric. Or we will.”
US attorneys might want to forward that public service message to the gentleman sitting behind the Resolute desk. When he's not watching Fox News, he's stoking public anger on Twitter or among supporters at rallies. He's a one-man RTLM.

NBC News' David Douglas reports that after his court appearance in Los Angeles, Chain told reporters, "“America was saved when Donald J. Trump was elected President."

The FBI reportedly found 20 guns at Chain's home. An FBI affidavit that includes some transcripts of the calls is here.

Conservative columnist Michael Gerson calls out the sitting president for stoking fear among evangelical Christians meeting at the White House this week. The November election is "a referendum on your religion," Trump warned. If Democrats prevail, it will be "the beginning of ending" of everything they have, "and they will do it quickly and violently. And violently. There is violence."

Gerson writes, "Fighting for Trump, the president argued, is the only way to defend the Christian faith. None of these men and women of God, apparently, gagged on their hors d’oeuvres."

Meanwhile, someone from Team Trump is playing fast and loose with sensitive security information. And using it to target political enemies, no less:
WASHINGTON — A former C.I.A. officer running for Congress accused a super PAC aligned with Speaker Paul D. Ryan on Tuesday of improperly obtaining her entire federal security clearance application — a highly sensitive document containing extensive personal information — and then using it for political purposes.

Abigail Spanberger, the Democratic candidate challenging Representative Dave Brat of Virginia, sent a cease-and-desist letter to Corry Bliss, the executive director of the Congressional Leadership Fund, which has raised more than $100 million to help Republicans in the midterm elections. She demanded that the super PAC destroy all copies of the form and agree to not use the information in any fashion.
The United States Postal Service blamed human error for the release to a Republican-aligned (oppo) research firm. Since Spanberger is a Democrat, Alex Jones did not launch into a spittle-flecked rant about another deep state conspiracy.

But the most disturbing news of the week (as we discussed yesterday) is the State Department is denying passports to (in some cases passport renewals to) Latinos from the southern border region. Their citizenship is now under blanket suspicion. The burden of proving themselves true Americans is on them.

"At this point, the Trump administration has the burden of proving this is anything other than vile, unadulterated racism," writes Eugene Robinson.

Charlie Pierce is less polite:
This is unprecedented. This is unAmerican in the extreme. This is the kind of thing out of which blood-and-soil laws are drawn. (Dr. Wilhelm Stuckert, please call your office in hell.) Your papers are never in order, if you happen to fit a broadly drawn racial profile. This is fascism, pure and simple.
First they came for the non-citizen troops and veterans promised citizenship. Then they came for military enlistees promised naturalization. Then they came for citizens suspected of falsifying their citizenship applications. Then they came for hundreds of U.S. citizens that look to ICE agents like noncitizens. Now, they’re coming for Americans who were infants delivered by midwives the government suspects (but cannot prove) may have falsified their birth documents many decades ago.

There's a loud, strong signal broadcast from Radio Rwhite House that it won't stop there.

* * * * * * * * *

For The Win 2018 is ready for download. Request a copy of my county-level election mechanics primer at tom.bluecentury at gmail.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

The Giuliani Report. Lol.  

by digby

We don't know yet if Mueller is going to write a report. There's a good chance that he's just going to rely on "speaking indictments" to lay out his evidence. But if he does, the Trumpies are preparing an alternate reality for Fox News and other right wing media:
President Donald Trump’s legal team is crafting a “counter-report” that will seek to delegitimize Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian election meddling and present countervailing arguments.

Trump’s personal attorney, former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, told The Daily Beast in an interview on Thursday that part of his report would examine whether the “initiation of the investigation was…legitimate or not.”

According to Giuliani, the bulk of the report will be divided into two sections. One section will seek to question the legitimacy of the Mueller probe generally by alleging “possible conflicts” of interest by federal law enforcement authorities. The other section will respond to more substantive allegations of Trump campaign collusion with Russian government agents to sway the 2016 election, and obstruction of justice allegations stemming from, among other things, the president’s firing of former FBI director James Comey.

Though this latter section will focus on the meat of Mueller’s investigation, Giuliani acknowledged that he doesn’t actually know what Mueller’s findings will look like, making the act of putting a counter-report together a bit more challenging.

“Since we have to guess what it is, [our report so far] is quite voluminous,” Giuliani said, claiming that he would spend much of this weekend “paring it down” and that he was editing the document created by the “whole team.”

“The first half of it is 58 pages, and second half isn't done yet…It needs an executive summary if it goes over a hundred,” he added. Giuliani also indicated that most of what’s being put together by him and his Trump-defending colleagues currently can already be found on Google.

Giuliani said that Trump’s legal team had not conducted any original interviews or investigation for their current draft.

Yeah, I'm going to guess there will only be one "witness."

I guess he plans on throwing the report together pretty quickly since he doesn't know what Robert Mueller has but whatevs. He's just that good.


I guess the Republicans don't ever expect to win Virginia again

by digby

No end to the chutzpah of these people:

In a letter sent to House Speaker Paul Ryan on Thursday, President Trump announced that a majority of civilian federal employees will not receive pay increases next year, undoing the original 2.1% pay increase that was set to take effect in 2019.

The details: The president explained the change is an effort "to put our Nation on a fiscally sustainable course, and Federal agency budgets cannot sustain such increases." No change has been announced for pay increases of military troops, which are still on track to receive a 2.6% bump according to the Military Times, marking their biggest pay raise since 2009.

He is such a total asshole:

It's the conservative evangelicals, stupid

by digby

Amy Walter at the Cook Report has an interesting analysis of the 2016 electorate that blows up some of the myths we've all been operating under due to the exit polls being less than accurate:

There are LOTS of opinions and narratives out there about white voters.

Hillary Clinton lost because white women abandoned her.

White, non-college educated voters are Trump’s base. They are never coming back/will come back to Democrats.

Donald Trump’s testosterone-laden presidency alienated lots of white, college-educated women who held their noses and voted for him in 2016.

Most of these narratives are built on data supplied by the 2016 exit polls and the "education level" cross-tabs in current polling. However, new data and analysis of the 2016 vote suggest that many of these assumptions are worth reassessing.

First, let’s look at this political aphorism that Hillary Clinton lost because white women abandoned her. That assumption comes directly from the 2016 exit poll that showed Trump winning white women by 9-points (52 percent to 43 percent).

However, a Pew Research assessment of the 2016 electorate, which was highlighted in an early August report, showed Trump did much worse with white women and white college-educated voters than what the exit polls found.

The exits show Trump winning white voters by nine-points. But, Pew’s validated voter survey (they matched voter file with the survey respondents) showed white women narrowly preferring Trump to Clinton by 2 points - 47 percent to 45 percent. Instead of winning decisively among this group (as the narratives and exits have shown), the Pew data suggests white women have always been, at best, ambivalent about Trump.

The exit polls and the Pew surveys both show a sizable gap in voter preference among white college-educated and white, non-college educated voters. In the exit poll, Trump narrowly carried white college-educated voters by three points (48 to 45 percent). But, the Pew survey found Clinton won these voters by 17 points! The exit polls also showed the electorate to be more heavily populated by white, college-educated graduates than the census and other data experts believe to be true.

Now, compare how white voters voted in 2016 to Trump’s current job approval rating and the congressional ballot question from the NBC/Wall Street Journal January-July merged poll (3,995 voters). Looking at the Pew data, you can see that opinions about Trump and vote preference among white women isn’t all that much different from where it was in 2016. The exit poll data, however, shows a significant drop-off in support for Trump among those same voters.

For example, according to exit polls, Trump carried white, college-educated voters with 48 percent of the vote. Today, his approval rating among these voters is just 37 percent. More ominously, after voting narrowly for Trump in 2016, these voters overwhelmingly prefer a Democrat for Congress over a Republican (54 percent to 39 percent).

But, what if you compared Trump’s current standing with the Pew data. Trump took 38 percent of college-educated voters in 2016, and his current standing with these voters is….37 percent. Their vote preference in 2016 (38 percent Trump to 55 percent Clinton), pretty much mirrors their vote preference for 2018 - 39 percent Republican to 54 percent Democrat.

She goes on to show that the polarization we have today is pretty much what we had in 2016. College educated whites never liked Trump and he never had the support of over 50% of white women. As she puts it, "it's hardened not widened."

But her big insight is this:

What you do see in both in both Pew and exits, is a drop-off among white, non-college voters. The exit polls found Trump getting 66 percent among this group, while Pew put it at 64 percent. Trump’s approval rating among these voters now stands at 57 percent. So, perhaps this is the group that has soured more on Trump that we appreciate.

But, Mike Podhorzer, AFL-CIO’s political director, suggests that if we want to have a better understanding of white, non-college educated voters, we need to stop lumping them into one, catch-all category. What really distinguishes a Trump-supporting white voter from one who doesn’t isn’t education or even gender, it's whether or not that voter is evangelical.

Using a data set from Public Religion Research Institute, Podhorzer broke out white voters by gender, education and whether they identified as evangelical. The gap between white voters who approve and disapprove of Trump by gender was 25 points. By education (college versus non-college) it was about the same at 26 percent. But the gap in perceptions of the president between white voters who are evangelical and those who aren’t was a whopping 60 percent!

This evangelical support gap transcends education and gender. For example, among white evangelicals, college-educated men and non-college educated men give Trump equally impressive job approval ratings (78 percent and 80 percent respectively). But, among white men who aren’t evangelical, the education gap is significant. Those without a college degree give Trump a 52 percent job approval rating, while just 40 percent of those with a college degree approve of the job he’s doing.

Meanwhile, among women, if you remove evangelicals, white women with and without a college degree have the same (very low) opinion of the president.

White evangelical women without a college degree give Trump a 68 percent job approval rating, while those with a degree give him a much lower, though still positive 51 percent approval rating. Meanwhile, Trump’s approval among white, non-evangelical women without a college degree is 35 percent, just five points higher than the 30 percent approval rating he gets from white, non-evangelical college-educated women.

Podhorzer’s analysis leads to two conclusions. First, stop assuming that all white, non-college voters are core Trump supporters. Trump’s base is evangelical white voters, regardless of education level. Second, white non-evangelical, non-college women are the ultimate swing voters.

I think looking back we can all see the seeds of Trumpism in GOP politics. But I will admit that I didn't see the total hypocrisy of the conservative evangelicals coming. I knew they were willing to put up with hyUpdatepocritical leaders if they admitted their sins and asked for forgiveness. That's a Jesus thing. But a crude, nasty, unrepentant libertine? That one surprises me although when I think about it Sarah Palin foreshadowed all this. Her small town conservative evangelical hypocrisy was evident. But I honestly had no idea they were this immoral. I mean, they are way worse than the average person.

By the way, working class white men are pretty bad too but that isn't a big shock that they dig Trump. But those non-evangelical white working class women? Maybe the Democrats ought to think about talking about their specific economic challenges a little bit more. There are a lot of single moms and single women among them and all this talk about re-opening steel mills and coal mines doesn't exactly speak to their needs. They mostly work in service jobs, retail, and small businesses.

Update: How many norms can Trump and evangelical leaders break in one meeting?

The tabloid president had a lot to hide

by digby

I guess it's not unprecedented for a publication to hide damaging information about a politician it supports. But I'm pretty sure it isn't common for the politician to pay them to keep it hidden. Maybe I'm wrong, but I've never heard of that before:

Federal investigators have provided ample evidence that President Trump was involved in deals to pay two women to keep them from speaking publicly before the 2016 election about affairs that they said they had with him. 
But it turns out that Mr. Trump wanted to go even further. 
He and his lawyer at the time, Michael D. Cohen, devised a plan to buy up all the dirt on Mr. Trump that the National Enquirer and its parent company had collected on him, dating back to the 1980s, according to several of Mr. Trump’s associates.
The existence of the plan, which was never finalized, has not been reported before. But it was strongly hinted at in a recording that Mr. Cohen’s lawyer released last month of a conversation about payoffs that Mr. Cohen had with Mr. Trump.

“It’s all the stuff — all the stuff, because you never know,” Mr. Cohen said on the recording. 
The move by Mr. Trump and Mr. Cohen indicated just how concerned they were about all the information amassed by the company, American Media, and its chairman, David Pecker, a loyal Trump ally of two decades who has cooperated with investigators.

It is not clear yet whether the proposed plan to purchase all the information from American Media has attracted the interest of federal prosecutors in New York, who last week obtained a guilty plea from Mr. Cohen over a $130,000 payment to the adult film actress Stephanie Clifford, also known as Stormy Daniels, and a $150,000 payment to a Playboy model, Karen McDougal. 
But the prosecutors have provided at least partial immunity to Mr. Pecker, who is a key witness in their inquiry into payments made on behalf of Mr. Trump during the 2016 campaign. 
The people who knew about the discussions would speak about them only on condition of anonymity, given that they are now the potential subject of a federal investigation that did not end with Mr. Cohen’s plea. 
Lawyers for Mr. Trump and Mr. Cohen declined to comment for this article as did American Media. 
It is not known how much of the material on Mr. Trump is still in American Media’s possession or whether American Media destroyed any of it after the campaign. Prosecutors have not said whether they have obtained any of the material beyond that which pertains to Ms. McDougal and Ms. Clifford and the discussions about their arrangements. 
For the better part of two decades, Mr. Pecker had ordered his staff at American Media to protect Mr. Trump from troublesome stories, in some cases by buying up stories about him and filing them away. 
In 2016, he kept his staff from going back through the old Trump tip and story files that dated to before Mr. Pecker became company chairman in 1999, several former staff members said in interviews with The New York Times. 
That meant that American Media, the nation’s largest gossip publisher, did not play a role during the election year in vetting a presidential candidacy — Mr. Trump’s — made for the tabloids.
I think the most significant aspect of this story is the fact that the tape we've all heard may be referring to a much bigger transaction than the Stormy Daniels payment.

I have no idea if the feds are following up on this. It wouldn't surprise me if they aren't doing much. There's good reason to think the SDNY may not be quite the crusaders we think they are. But it certainly seems like a fertile field for investigation.


Got patriotism?

by digby

Congressman Duncan Hunter is an ass, always has been. It doesn't surprise me in the least that he's also an embezzler. But he has been trading on "honor" and "sacrifice" his entire career, just as his father did. An they do it because they are representing San Diego which is heavily military and they respond to patriotism

Let's see just how sincere that ever was:

This isn't the Trump evangelical base. It's the military. I'll be curious to see just how their patriotism manifest itself in this instance.


At what point do they start to seriously question his mental health?

by digby

Does he really believe that NBC "fudged" his interview with Holt? Or is it a purely cynical comment meant to get his devoted base to prove their loyalty one more time by finally abandoning all attachment to reality?

I don't know. But we do know that he's also said to people privately that the Access Hollywood tape wasn't really him so this looney assertion is not a one-off. The question is just what kind of mental problem it represents.


More poisonous vipers

by digby

It looks like The Trumps are attempting to all family business.  I posted yesterday about Javanka stabbing McGahn in the back. Apparently they're pushing the latest attacks on Sessions too:

The willingness of Republican senators to turn on Attorney General Jeff Sessions is the result of a furious lobbying campaign from President Donald Trump, who for the past 10 days has been venting his anger at Sessions to “any senator who will listen,” according to one GOP Senate aide.

The president, who has spent a year and a half fulminating against his attorney general in public, finally got traction on Capitol Hill thanks to the growing frustration of a handful of GOP senators with their former colleague — most importantly, Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley and South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham, who have been irritated by Sessions’ opposition to a criminal justice reform bill they support.

Trump raised the prospect of firing Sessions last week in a phone conversation with Graham, according to two Capitol Hill aides, who said that Graham pressed the president to hold off until after the midterm elections. The president has also complained loudly about Sessions to several Republican senators, according to a GOP chief staff.

Grassley has not gotten a call from the White House, according to a Republican familiar with events.

Trump hasn’t been pushing his case just with Republican senators: He’s worn down his lawyers, too, according to two Republicans close to the White House. Though they once cautioned him that dismissing Sessions would feed special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Trump’s potential obstruction of justice, these people say, Trump’s legal team has become increasingly convinced Mueller will make that case regardless of whether the president fires Sessions or leaves him in place.
Seized by paroxysms of anger, Trump has intermittently pushed to fire his attorney general since March 2017, when Sessions announced his recusal from the Russia investigation. If Sessions’ recusal was his original sin, Trump has come to resent him for other reasons, griping to aides and lawmakers that the attorney general doesn’t have the Ivy League pedigree the president prefers, that he can’t stand his Southern accent and that Sessions isn’t a capable defender of the president on television — in part because he “talks like he has marbles in his mouth,” the president has told aides.

Gosh, I remember when something like that would be considered a high crime for any politician. I guess it's cool to make fun of southern accents now. Who'll tell Lindsey Graham?

The impetus for Trump’s latest push, according to two White House aides, was the dual convictions last week of his longtime lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen and his former campaign manager Paul Manafort — outgrowths of the Russia probe, for which the president pointed the finger at Sessions. Trump fumed on Fox News that Sessions “never took control of the Justice Department” and that “the only reason I gave him the job is because I felt loyalty.”

Top Senate Republicans see their job, in part, as blocking Trump’s worst moves, several senators said this week. Firing Sessions at this time, or moving against Mueller, fall into those categories.

Sessions maintains the critical support of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who told reporters Tuesday, “I have total confidence in the attorney general; I think he ought to stay exactly where he is.” McConnell’s No. 2, Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas), has joined Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) in making public statements of support for Sessions in recent days.

Over the past week, Trump has belittled Sessions in conversations with several Republican senators, including Graham, and the idea of dismissing him no longer provokes the political anxiety it once did. Graham told POLITICO last week that fears over the fate of the Mueller probe if Sessions goes are passé because of how far that investigation has already progressed.< Along with Graham and Grassley, Sessions has also alienated presidential son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner, the chief White House proponent of the Graham-Grassley approach on criminal justice reform, as well as his wife, Ivanka Trump.

Yeah, sure. It's all about Graham, Grassley and Javanka's commitment to criminal justice reform.

Apparently Sessions did misrepresent the White House position on the subject at some point, but let's get real. Graham is up to something else, no doubt about it.

Oh, and by the way, the Republicans have given up:

Even the Republican senators who have risen to Sessions’ defense have appeared to have put a time limit on their support. The Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday that five GOP lawmakers, including Cornyn and Sasse, had breakfast with Sessions last Thursday and urged him to stay in the job — at least through the midterm elections.

They are just so powerless to resist the Borgias.


Be vewy, vewy quiet, he's hunting witches

by Tom Sullivan

The man whose smallish fingers cannot get through 24 hours without shouting "Witch Hunt!" into his insecure phone is engaged in several. And now another one.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis last year issued a directive for additional background checks for non-citizen troops and extended the active duty time required before they were eligible to apply for naturalization. Applications dropped 65 percent.

Earlier this summer, news broke that the sitting president had tasked U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director L. Francis Cissna with tracking down and "denaturalizing" American citizens suspected of falsifying their citizenship applications.

In July, AP broke news that the Army had begun discharging foreign-born troops after promising them "expedited naturalization" for service. Those with expired visas now risk deportation.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has detained hundreds of U.S. citizens an average of 180 days, a Northwest University study found last August.

The Washington Post reports today the State Department is denying passports to Americans born along the Texas-Mexico border. Government officials question their citizenship based on suspicion that decades ago midwives may have falsified the birth documents of newborns:

The government alleges that from the 1950s through the 1990s, some midwives and physicians along the Texas-Mexico border provided U.S. birth certificates to babies who were actually born in Mexico. In a series of federal court cases in the 1990s, several birth attendants admitted to providing fraudulent documents.

Based on those suspicions, the State Department during the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations denied passports to people who were delivered by midwives in Texas’s Rio Grande Valley. The use of midwives is a long-standing tradition in the region, in part because of the cost of hospital care.

The same midwives who provided fraudulent birth certificates also delivered thousands of babies legally in the United States. It has proved nearly impossible to distinguish between legitimate and illegitimate documents, all of them officially issued by the state of Texas decades ago.
After an ACLU lawsuit settled in 2009, passport denials declined. Until now:
Attorneys say these cases, where the government’s doubts about an official birth certificate lead to immigration detention, are increasingly common. “I’ve had probably 20 people who have been sent to the detention center — U.S. citizens,” said Jaime Diez, an attorney in Brownsville.

Diez represents dozens of U.S. citizens who were denied their passports or had their passports suddenly revoked. Among them are soldiers and Border Patrol agents. In some cases, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents have arrived at his clients’ homes without notice and taken passports away.
Other have had theirs confiscated at the border on reentering the United States, leaving them in "legal limbo."

An immigration attorney cited in the Post story represents twin bothers in their 60s. They sought legal help after receiving a disturbing letter in the mail:
They had been scheduled for an appointment at the local U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office to provide proof that they were really born on American soil.

They had been U.S. citizens since their birth over six decades ago. They had no arrests or convictions. They had faithfully paid their taxes each year and owned homes. They were married with adult children.

They now faced possible deportation.

The problem?

They were born in a Texas border town with the assistance of a midwife.
After the death of gynecologist Jorge Treviño, celebrated for having delivered 15,000 babies in the border region, the government acquired "an affidavit from an unnamed Mexican doctor" alleging Treviño had provided at least one U.S. birth certificate for a child born in Mexico. Now those 15,000 and hundreds of others delivered by area midwives are under the Trump administration's microscope.

Diez tells the Post hundreds in the region have had passports denied or revoked, almost all of them Hispanic.

The president's lawyer asserts “truth isn't truth.” His administration now denies the validity of official government records establishing the citizenship of Americans it disfavors. It requests from people like the twins obscure documentation — evidence of mothers’ prenatal care, baptismal certificates, rental agreements from when they were infants. And then rejects that. They themselves and thousands like them have done no wrong except be born in the wrong skin to the wrong parents.

It has happened here.

* * * * * * * * *

For The Win 2018 is ready for download. Request a copy of my county-level election mechanics primer at tom.bluecentury at gmail.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

What a nest of vipers

by digby

Don McGahn had one job: stack the courts with extremist wingnuts. He's been brilliant at that. Now he's free to go cash in:

President Trump surprised Donald F. McGahn II, the White House counsel, on Wednesday with an abrupt announcement that Mr. McGahn will be departing his post this fall, effectively forcing the long-anticipated exit of a top adviser who has cooperated extensively in the investigation into Russian election interference.

The president made the declaration on Twitter without first informing Mr. McGahn, according to people close to both men. It came 11 days after The New York Times reported the degree to which Mr. McGahn — who was by Mr. Trump’s side at major moments as the president sought to keep control over the Russia inquiry — has emerged as a key witness in the investigation. Mr. McGahn has cooperated extensively with prosecutors, who are scrutinizing whether the president tried to obstruct the investigation.
The president’s tweet was precipitated by a report on the  Axios website that Mr. McGahn planned to leave after Mr. Kavanaugh’s confirmation process concluded. Mr. Trump had grown tired of seeing reports that Mr. McGahn might leave, according to people familiar with his thinking, and decided to take away any wiggle room he might have.

But Mr. McGahn, who had been a frequent target of Mr. Trump’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, believed the story was planted by his critics to force the president’s hand and hasten the timeline of announcing his departure.

Ms. Trump complained bitterly to her father about The Times report this month, which detailed how some in the White House were unaware of the extent of Mr. McGahn’s cooperation with Mr. Mueller, according to a person briefed on the discussion.

On Wednesday afternoon at the White House, Mr. Trump praised Mr. McGahn and said he had nothing to fear about what his counsel had told Mr. Mueller, even as he appeared to confirm he was not completely aware what that was.

“I don’t have to be aware,” Mr. Trump said. “We do everything straight. We do everything by the book. And Don is an excellent guy.”

Mr. Trump and his White House counsel had already grown distant, with the president bristling at being advised not to take actions that could draw legal scrutiny, and Mr. McGahn becoming increasingly weary of serving a client who often refused to listen to legal reasoning. Mr. McGahn had taken to telling people that a day without a single summons to the Oval Office was a good day, and he preferred to spend as much time as possible in his upstairs corner office in the West Wing next to the presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway — like him a New Jersey native — which they called the “New Jersey corner.”

The loss of Mr. McGahn will further whittle down the list of people in the West Wing who are willing to say no to Mr. Trump. Within the White House, Mr. McGahn was seen as the protector of presidential institutions and as a guardrail who was willing to tell the president when he should not take certain actions. Mr. McGahn was not afraid to fight the president and had several epic screaming matches with him over the months he worked in the White House.

Mr. Trump often griped that he wanted to get rid of Mr. McGahn, but the president never seemed willing to follow through and dismiss him. The president asked Rob Porter, then the staff secretary, several times last year if he would be willing to take over for Mr. McGahn, including after John F. Kelly became the chief of staff in July 2017. Mr. Porter told the president he did not believe that he was qualified for the role, those briefed on the discussions said, and he has since left the White House amid accusations of spousal abuse.

Mr. Trump often blamed Mr. McGahn for the cloud the special counsel’s investigation had cast over the White House. He said Mr. McGahn should have done more to stop Mr. Sessions from recusing himself from the investigation, the decision Mr. Trump believes allowed Mr. Mueller to be appointed in May 2017.

Still, despite his reputation for being brave enough to tell Mr. Trump no, there was one major event Mr. McGahn could not stop: the firing of the former F.B.I. director, James B. Comey. After failing to persuade Mr. Trump not to dismiss Mr. Comey, Mr. McGahn worked with Mr. Sessions and the deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein, to come up with a rationale for the dismissal. Eight days after Mr. Comey was fired, Mr. Mueller was appointed as the special counsel.

A lot of this is fed to the Times by McGahn himself who has been building his heroic image for a while. Nonetheless, it does seem that it was usual backstabbing that precipitated today's presidential tweet. Trump does not trust him and believes he's dangerous to him on the inside. Those 30 hours of interviews have to have him worried about just what he had to say. He was on the campaign, the transition and the White House. He's seen it all.


A little bit o' Beto in my life

by digby

The Texas GOP is sending this around. They think it's very clever:

From the comments, I see that most people assume this is a ploy by the GOP to get their old white voters out to vote. But there seems to be some confusion. Most old white voters are baby boomers these days.

Here's what was going on when we were young:

This guy is even invited to the Trump White House:

I'm sure there are many old Trump loving white dudes and dudettes who will pretend that they are shocked by that loud rock and roll those kids are listening to these days but they are all liars. The people who felt that way are almost all dead now. Even if these Trump voters hated rock as young people it's so much a part of their experience that any such display of horror at Beto being in a band is 100% prime bullshit.

By the way, I agree with this:

I don't know why they are working so hard to make sure everyone knows just how hot Beto O'Rourke is but it's probably because they are just that stupid.

Here's his rival during his youth, by the way:

The man watches TV all day long

by digby

How is it that the most powerful job in the world allows for this much TV watching? He watches more than I do and I'm a political blogger who does that for a living.

After watching Sean Hannity on Fox News, President Trump tweeted at Attorney General Jeff Sessions to investigate former rival Hillary Clinton. After listening to Tucker Carlson, he directed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to launch a study on bogus reports of murdered white farmers in South Africa.

And after Fox Business Network’s Lou Dobbs highlighted a questionable claim about Google search results, Trump took to Twitter early Tuesday to complain — prompting his top economic adviser to promise an investigation.

“We’re taking a look at it,” Larry Kudlow told reporters when asked whether the administration thinks Google searches should be regulated.

Cable television news hosts and commentators are among the first voices that Trump hears in the morning and the last he listens to at night. Now he is increasingly relying on those voices in making decisions — often running afoul of his actual advisers in the process.

Many of Trump’s Cabinet secretaries and senior advisers have a cable news shadow. Dobbs might be considered Trump’s television treasury secretary, Hannity his chief of staff and Carlson his secretary of state. Fox’s Jeanine Pirro serves as a de facto attorney general, railing against Sessions and the special counsel’s Russia probe, while regular Fox analyst Pete Hegseth was under consideration to be the actual secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Carlson said in an interview with The Washington Post that he doesn’t think about whether the president is watching his Fox show, “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” and that he was “really surprised” by Trump’s response to last week’s episode on white South African farmers.

President Trump speaks to members of the media before boarding Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House on Aug. 17, 2018. (Andrew Harnik/AP)
“The president tweeted it, and I had nothing to do with it,” Carlson said. “I’m glad he did, because I think the story deserves more attention than it has gotten in this country.”

That Trump reacts so frequently to what he sees on television, rather than what he is reading or being told by aides, underscores the outsize role that commentators and cable programming decisions play in Trump’s administration.

Among his other cable-fueled directives in recent weeks, Trump tweeted disapproval of Federal Reserve interest rate increases that echoed criticism leveled by Dobbs, a vocal Trump supporter. He has repeatedly attacked Sessions and special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, citing cable figures such as Fox News Channel’s Gregg Jarrett.

This month, Trump ordered the revocation of John Brennan’s security clearance after the former CIA director said on MSNBC that remarks Trump made at his friendly Helsinki summit with Vladi­mir Putin were “nothing short of treasonous.” The president threatened to do the same to former intelligence officials and CNN analyst Philip Mudd, a former CIA official whose television commentary Trump called “unglued.”

Other presidents have received plenty of advice and ideas from outside the Cabinet Room. Nearly 200 years ago, President Andrew Jackson vexed critics by relying on a “kitchen cabinet” of informal advisers assembled after his purge of officials from the parlor, or official, Cabinet.

President-elect Donald Trump is interviewed by Chris Wallace of “Fox News Sunday” at Trump Tower in New York on Dec. 10, 2016. (Richard Drew/AP)
[From 2016: Donald Trump is holding a government casting call]

Trump’s 21st-century approach, by contrast, uses Twitter and the bully pulpit to amplify cable commentary that would otherwise reach only a small fraction of Americans.

Aides, in turn, try to influence the cable hosts who influence the president.

When Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin led a delegation to China in May, he announced on “Fox News Sunday” that the United States was “putting the trade war on hold.” But soon after, others in the delegation, including China hawk Peter Navarro, found an alternative audience with Dobbs to criticize Mnuchin’s message.

Then Dobbs’s criticisms were picked up on “Fox & Friends” the following day by host Brian Kilmeade. Before long, and on the basis of those media messages, the president made an abrupt change in policy, said an adviser who was not authorized to speak to the news media.

Stuart P. Stevens, a Republican political consultant and writer who was Mitt Romney’s senior strategist in the 2012 presidential election campaign, decried Trump’s reliance on the “insane feedback loop of Fox.”

“Here’s a guy who has access to the most sophisticated intelligence ever available, that cost billions to produce, that people have died for,” Stevens said. “And he’s relying for his information on something you can buy for like $2.98 a month with your cable subscription.”

One major risk for Trump is bad information — as illustrated in the recent flaps over South Africa and Google.

Yeah, I'd say so. But he can't trust he Us Intelligence Community or the FBI. Only Fox and Friends, Sean, Tucker, Laura, Jeanine and Lou know what's really going on.

Last night he was tweeting some nonsense about the Chinese hacking into Hillary Clinton's email server and demanding that the FBI and the DOJ go after her. It was based on a Daily Caller article  that "reports" something nobody else has reported based on some wild charges from from Louis Gohmert months ago:

It's pathetic and lame but we can't forget that the president of the United States is the most powerful man on earth.

All that's left is the dogwhistle

by digby

Eric Boehlert:
Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) couldn’t even wait 24 hours after winning the Republican nomination for the Florida governor’s race before unfurling an insulting attack on his black opponent — an attack that was too far even for Fox News.

“Let’s build off the success we’ve had on Gov. [Rick] Scott. The last thing we need to do is to monkey this up by trying to embrace a socialist agenda with huge tax increases bankrupting the state,” DeSantis said of his Democratic opponent, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum. Gillum is the firstAfrican-American to be nominated for governor in Florida.

DeSantis’ dog whistle was so loud, even Fox felt the need to distance itself from the Trump-backed nominee.

“We do not condone this language and wanted to make our viewers aware that he has since clarified his statement,” Fox News anchor Sandra Smith said later on air.

It’s quite a statement coming from the same outlet that helped fuel DeSantis’ primary campaign by giving him $9 million in free airtime.

Trump and the racist dogwhistle is all they have to run on. Unfortunately, it may be all they need.

DeSantis is going to be doing a lot of this, by the way. He's actually a master at dogwhistling and ginning up the victimization of the poor, downtrodden white Trump voters who just can't ever catch a break. He recently said this during the primary campaign:

“You look at this girl Ocasio-Cortez or whatever she is, I mean, she’s in a totally different universe,” DeSantis said, butchering her name. “It’s basically socialism wrapped in ignorance.”

Ain't he sweet?


Whether he's impeached or not, the high crimes and misdemeanors must be investigated

by digby

My Salon column this morning:

One of the more trivial reasons to wish for the midterms to finally come is that we can finally put an end to the tiresome conversation about whether Democrats should talk about impeachment on the campaign trail. It's been going on for months, even though it's obvious most Democratic candidates are not running on that issue while Republicans have clearly stated they intend to use it to get the Trump-loving base to come out and vote. It couldn't be more obvious how the two parties are approaching this, yet it continues to be a contentious point of discussion.

I'm on record going back nearly a year saying that despite my fervent desire to see it come to pass, I don't see a path to removing Trump from office. I haven't changed my mind. Even if the Democrats have a big sweep in November and take control of both houses of Congress, impeachment requires 67 senators to convict and I honestly wouldn't expect more than a small handful of Republicans (if any) to vote for it no matter what he has done. The dynamic of appeasement and abetting is so set at this point that I can't see that kind of shift happening.

Remember, we already know the president paid hush money to porn stars and Playboy models in violation of campaign finance laws, and Republicans don't care. He's refused to divest himself of his businesses and is clearly making money from the presidency, and they don't care. He's naively blowing up the nation's alliances and kissing up to adversaries without the vaguest clue about what he's doing, and they don't care. He's ruthlessly attacked the U.S. intelligence community and the Department of Justice, purely for self-serving reasons, and they don't care. Most importantly, he is suspected of conspiring with a foreign government and they really don't care. Indeed, most Republicans are going out of their way to help him cover it all up.

The Republicans have gone so far as to circulate a long (and growing) list of all the corruption and malfeasance they have failed to investigate as part of their oversight duties, claiming that the Democrats must be stopped before they actually do something about it. As Axios reported, the list "has churned Republican stomachs":

Here are some of the probes it predicts:
  • President Trump’s tax returns
  • Trump family businesses — and whether they comply with the Constitution's emoluments clause, including the Chinese trademark grant to the Trump Organization
  • Trump's dealings with Russia, including the president's preparation for his meeting with Vladimir Putin
  • The payment to Stephanie Clifford — a.k.a. Stormy Daniels
  • James Comey's firing
  • Trump's firing of U.S. attorneys
  • Trump's proposed transgender ban for the military
  • Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin's business dealings
  • White House staff's personal email use
  • Cabinet secretary travel, office expenses, and other misused perks
  • Discussion of classified information at Mar-a-Lago
  • Jared Kushner's ethics law compliance
  • Dismissal of members of the EPA board of scientific counselors
  • The travel ban
  • Family separation policy
  • Hurricane response in Puerto Rico
  • Election security and hacking attempts
  • White House security clearances

They'll be adding the latest news that Trump personally intervened in the discussions regarding the construction of a new FBI building, which just happens to be across the street from the Trump International Hotel and about which the president has shown a bizarre fixation.

One would think that such an enormous list would automatically trigger impeachment hearings once the Republicans lose their majority. But the truth is that with the exception of the highly secretive Mueller probe, none of this has been properly investigated and investigations take time. Unfortunately, the minute this new Congress is sworn in we will be at the beginning of a new presidential campaign cycle with all the competing cross-currents that brings with it. Nonetheless, it is vital that the Democrats prioritize the most important items on that list and hold public hearings.

They will have the time to do it. After all, Donald Trump would rather chew glass than work with Democrats at this point, and his followers would run shrieking into the streets if he even pretended to compromise on legislation. So the prospect of anything but the most immediately necessary legislation being signed into law is nil. In fact, we can count on government shutdowns and endless standoffs. (What else is new?) Trump will be campaigning most of the time. It's all he really likes about politics and he never stopped doing it anyway. So congressional oversight hearings and investigations will be job one for the Democrats.

Last October, a PPP poll found that 49 percent of voters already supported impeachment. A more recent poll published by Axios in the wake of Michael Cohen's plea bargain shows just 44 percent supporting. And the Republican base is still behind Trump all the way. But as I pointed out last year when we first started talking about this, even Richard Nixon held out for nearly two years as his base stuck with him all the way and Republican senators did the same. He resigned largely because he'd lost the Southern Democrats who'd been propping him up. As Axios pointed out, "Nixon's impeachment numbers, as measured by Gallup polls at the time, didn't reach a majority until right before he resigned, per the Pew Research Center." Bill Clinton's approval ratings soared when the Republicans impeached him, and every single Democrat in the Senate (along with several Republicans) voted against conviction.

It's hard to impeach a president; none has ever been removed from office through that mechanism. In these polarized times it would be harder than ever. But it's very possible to vote him out of office, especially if his high crimes and misdemeanors have been seriously aired for the public to see. Donald Trump's crimes may be revealed to have been so much worse than either of the previously impeached presidents that Republican senators would have no choice but to convict him in an impeachment trial. He's so corrupt and incompetent (and possibly disloyal) that it's hard to understand why they haven't impeached him themselves. But unless the proof is absolutely incontrovertible and his followers lose faith, they will probably stay with him. Most likely it's going to depend upon the American people to put things right again in 2020.