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Wednesday, July 31, 2019

The next presidential debate moderator

by digby

He'd certainly be better than some of the professionals we've seen in the debates so far ...

Resistance to impeachment is shrinking

by digby

Mediaite caught an interesting little data point in the latest polling on impeachment:
A new Fox News poll shows that while support for impeachment has ticked down slightly, opposition to an impeachment inquiry has gone down to just 45 percent.

In June, that poll showed 50 percent of Americans favored beginning an impeachment inquiry, including 7 percent who said Trump should be impeached but not removed as president. In July, 47 percent said he should be impeached, including 5 percent who said Trump should be impeached and not removed.

But the theory of political risk in impeaching Trump relies on the notion that the public would strongly oppose such an action, and according to this same poll, that opposition is squarely in the minority.

In June, 48 percent said Trump should not be impeached at all, a number which fell to 45 percent in the new survey. And among independent voters, opposition to impeachment is at just 41 percent.

What this means is that if Democrats decide to do the right thing, they will probably not face the backlash they seem to believe they will. The public at large isn't pressing for impeachment. But a vast majority of Democrats are for it and it appears that Independents will go along.

I suspect that there are plenty of people who are sitting on the sidelines waiting to see what the Democrats do --- and if they decide to go for it, they will support it. Of course, the Republicans will have a fit. Why would anyone assume otherwise? That's the way things are in our politics no matter what the issue. 

This one is about the integrity of our democracy.  Republicans are working to protect a lawless president by any means necessary including enabling future interference by an adversarial power on the president's behalf. They welcome the help. (And the foreign adversary (or adversaries) almost certainly expects to benefit as well...)

They must do the right thing.  If they don't, Trump could "win" with another dubious election result and there would be no going back. Relentless opposition, using all the tools at their disposal, is the only way to keep them off-balance and on the defensive to stymie their plans. Without free and fair elections, "beating him at the ballot box" will not be possible.

Rats deserting a sinking ship?

by digby

Republicans are quitting in impressive numbers:

In the past 10 days or so, we’ve had some very intriguing tea leaves about the 2020 elections: Notably, five House Republicans have announced that they’re retiring.

Only one of the five, Texas’ Pete Olson, is in a sharply contested seat. Representatives Rob Bishop of Utah, Mike Conaway of Texas, Paul Mitchell of Michigan and Martha Roby of Alabama will all likely be replaced by candidates of the same party. Even so, they join a string of Republicans who have so far announced that they plan to retire or seek other offices this cycle, with months still to go until various state filing deadlines.

What does a trend like this tell us? One interpretation is that Republicans don’t expect to return to a House majority in 2020. The current breakdown is 235 Democrats, 197 Republicans, one independent (the former Republican Justin Amash), and two vacancies last held by Republicans. So the party, if it holds the two open seats and wins back Amash’s, would only need to gain 18 others to restore its majority. A spate of retirements signals that they don’t really think that’s likely.

The thing about House elections is that expectations matter. A lot. The more a party thinks it’s going to be a good year, the more it will attract the resources needed to win, including strong candidates. It’s true that in the current era of partisan polarization candidate strength may not matter as much as it once did. But overall it’s still better to have strong candidates, plenty of money and tons of volunteer hours, all of which are far likelier when party actors think the partisan tides are favorable.

As for the timing? It’s possible that all the new retirements were long planned. It’s interesting, though, that they come after Robert Mueller’s testimony revived interest in President Donald Trump’s scandals – and, perhaps more relevant, after Trump’s “send her back” rally and his continuing series of bigoted tweets. It’s not crazy to speculate that one or more of these Republicans just didn’t want to campaign for reelection in that kind of atmosphere.

Conaway is particularly interesting. He's a powerful member of the House Intelligence Committee who presumably knows all the redacted material. One would think he'd be a patriot and speak out if there's something in all that which makes him want out but these Republican officials don't seem to be made that way.

This is something worth keeping an eye on. It's unexpected --- most of these people could win re-election. There's another reason they are jumping ship. Maybe a belated attempt to hold on to a tiny bit of human decency?

Williamson is not the only one speaking in emotional terms in this campaign

by digby

I know that many people were moved by Marianne Williamson in the debate last night and that many more are followers of her spiritual instruction through her books and teaching of "A Course in Miracles." I'm not going to debate that point. I'm not an expert and I am more interested in the political dimension of what she's talking about in these debates.

I think it's important to point out that she is not alone in trying to speak to this "emotional turbulence" we are going through but that others are also trying to find material ways to combat it, through policy and politics. Religion, spirituality and self-help are vital aspects of human experience but they aren't specifically the business of politics. Politics requires both "wonkery" and emotion.

In any case, I invite you to read a few commentsabout some of the other people who are running for president.

Corey Booker:

He would have done pretty much the same routine no matter what, because that’s what he does: method performances of emotions lived out fresh onstage each time, moments from his life stamped into parables of the new agey Gospel of Cory, each one introduced with “I want to tell you a story …” In the Senate and in the presidential field taking shape, he’s more a bundle of feelings than an agenda.

No one walked out with any clue where Booker stands on almost any issue, aside from a riff that talked about the Democratic commitment to Medicaid, Medicare, voting rights, civil rights, LGBTQ rights, “the party of people who believe that someone who is nice to you but is not nice to the waiter is not a nice person.” (Booker greeted janitors backstage before the speech, and walked around the room again afterward, shaking hands that were dumping the leftover food into the trash.)

But they did walk out saying things like “I so needed that today.” The skepticism wasn’t about his controversial vote on a resolution about importing prescription drugs to lower prices or the work he’s doing pushing sweeping reforms to the criminal-justice system. It was about whether there’d be a big enough market, outside Democrats willing to buy tickets to a dinner to hear him speak, for a message of inclusivity for a black senator from the East Coast. “He was coming in as the savior, but this was the choir,” one said.

A quote:
My heroes have been not afraid to talk about love. Martin Luther King Jr. talked about the “beloved community.” He talked about the Greeks, who separated love into three categories: eros, philia, and agape love. I think patriotism, by its very definition, is love of country. But we seem to have become a country where the highest thing we’re reaching for is tolerance. When you say “bipartisan,” you’re really saying, “Hey we’re going to tolerate each other.” Go home and tell somebody that you live with, or your neighbor, “I tolerate you.” That’s not a high aspiration.

He's been pilloried for his "love" approach by the savvy presidential press corps. If he'd have said the things Williamson said in the debate last night they would have been savage.

How about this guy?

Charlottesville, Va., is home to the author of one of the great documents in human history. We know it by heart: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.”

We’ve heard it so often, it’s almost a cliché. But it’s who we are. We haven’t always lived up to these ideals; Jefferson himself didn’t. But we have never before walked away from them.

Charlottesville is also home to a defining moment for this nation in the last few years. It was there on August of 2017 we saw Klansmen and white supremacists and neo-Nazis come out in the open, their crazed faces illuminated by torches, veins bulging, and bearing the fangs of racism. Chanting the same anti-Semitic bile heard across Europe in the ‘30s. And they were met by a courageous group of Americans, and a violent clash ensued and a brave young woman lost her life.

And that’s when we heard the words from the president of the United States that stunned the world and shocked the conscience of this nation. He said there were “some very fine people on both sides.” Very fine people on both sides?

With those words, the president of the United States assigned a moral equivalence between those spreading hate and those with the courage to stand against it. And in that moment, I knew the threat to this nation was unlike any I had ever seen in my lifetime.

I wrote at the time that we’re in the battle for the soul of this nation. Well, that’s even more true today. We are in the battle for the soul of this nation.

I believe history will look back on four years of this president and all he embraces as an aberrant moment in time. But if we give Donald Trump eight years in the White House, he will forever and fundamentally alter the character of this nation — who we are — and I cannot stand by and watch that happen.

The core values of this nation, our standing in the world, our very democracy, everything that has made America, America, is at stake.

That’s why today I’m announcing my candidacy for President of the United States.

Folks, America’s an idea, an idea that’s stronger than any army, bigger than any ocean, more powerful than any dictator or tyrant. It gives hope to the most desperate people on earth, it guarantees that everyone is treated with dignity and gives hate no safe harbor. It instills in every person in this country the belief that no matter where you start in life, there’s nothing you can’t achieve if you work at. We can’t forget what happened in Charlottesville. Even more important, we have to remember who we are.

This is America.

That was Joe Biden's announcement speech.

Here's Elizabeth Warren:

In the tale that is captivating crowds on the campaign trail, Warren is not a professor or a political star but a hardscrabble Oklahoma “late-in-life baby” or, as her mother called her, “the surprise.” Her elder brothers had joined the military; she was the last one at home, just a middle-schooler when her father had the massive heart attack that would cost him his job. “I remember the day we lost the station wagon,” she tells crowds, lowering her voice. “I learned the words ‘mortgage’ and ‘foreclosure’ ” listening to her parents talk when they thought she was asleep, she recalls. One day she walked in on her mother in her bedroom, crying and saying over and over, “ ’We are not going to lose this house.’ She was 50 years old,” Warren adds, “had never worked outside the home, and she was terrified.”

This part of the story has been a Warren staple for years: Her mother put on her best dress and her high heels and walked down to a Sears, where she got a minimum-wage job. Warren got a private lesson from her mother’s sacrifice—“You do what you have to to take care of those you love”—and a political one, too. “That minimum-wage job saved our house, and it saved our family.” In the 1960s, she says, “a minimum-wage job could support a family of three. Now the minimum wage can’t keep a momma and a baby out of poverty.”

Or this fella:

They all do it differently, but to say they aren't trying to speak to the "heartlessness" of American society, as Williamson contends they fail to do, is just wrong.

I'm sure there are other examples from Democrats who appeal, to one degree or another, to the heart and soul of the voters. It's as big a part of politics as the policy wonkery that dominates these generally painfully frustrating debates.

Williamson is being held up today as if she's doing something truly unique and I think the only unique thing about it is the fact that she is not required to talk about policy in-depth and can simply offer her observations that America is in a dark place and we should replace it with love without specifics. That's fine as far as it goes, and I take her seriously as someone with a huge following and a message that resonates with a lot of people. But it's unfair to say that other candidates are failing to try to connect on this emotional level. They just also have to back it up with policy.


Promises made, promises kept

by digby

He's sending them back:

Monzer Shakally was 16 years old when he joined the protests in the streets of Damascus, was arrested and tortured by the Syrian government, and, once released, escaped to find safe haven in the U.S. 
Interested in Syria?Add Syria as an interest to stay up to date on the latest Syria news, video, and analysis from ABC News. 
Now 23, and entering his second year of dental school in Iowa City, Shakally must wait on edge as the Trump administration possibly terminates his legal status
The administration is considering ending legal status for Shakally and approximately 7,000 other Syrians living in the U.S. -- a move that would force them to find a new legal status, leave the U.S. or even face deportation to Syria.

I'll just re-up this one from last week:

This isn't the first time we've heard "send them back"

by digby

Trump made it clear during his 2016 campaign that he planned to deport millions back to Mexico and other countries south of the border. But he didn't stop there:

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said Wednesday that he would send Syrian refugees "back" if he were elected to the White House.

In New Hampshire for the first time since he failed to correct a man's rant about President Barack Obama being a Muslim, Trump was greeted by a few thousand cheering fans — and he was fired up.

Trump outlined the specifics of his new tax plan. But in typical Trump fashion, he didn’t stop there.

On the topic of Syrian refugees, Trump was forceful: "I'm putting people on notice that are coming here from Syria as part of this mass migration, that if I win, they're going back!”

He explained: “They could be ISIS …This could be one of the great tactical ploys of all time. A 200,000-man army maybe, or if you said 50,000 or 80,000 or 100,000, we got problems and that could be possible. I don't know that it is, but it could be possible so they’re going back — they’re going back.”

This was big part of his pitch in the early days:
After two days of confusion over whether or not Donald Trump wants to set up a database of Muslims living in the United States, the candidate explained his stance during a political rally on Saturday morning.

"I will absolutely take database on the people coming in from Syria," Trump said, adding that such a database would not be needed in a Trump administration, as he would kick all Syrian refugees out of the country, regardless of their religion, and allow no more to enter. "If I win, they're going back. They're going back. We can't have them."

Trump called for heavy surveillance of Syrians, Muslims and anyone with possible ties to the Islamic State. He urged the audience members to be vigilant and report anything suspicious they see to the police.

"I want surveillance of certain mosques, okay? If that's okay?" Trump said, as thousands of people in the audience cheered. "I want surveillance. And you know what? We've had it before, and we'll have it again."

His followers cheered that then and they cheer him now. The fact that he didn't actually do it is meaningless. They just want to make sure that all immigrants of color know that they are not "real Americans" and that this president will make sure they never, ever think they are. It makes them feel good. It makes them feel powerful. It makes them feel relieved that their ugly bigotry is actually ok. 
Trump's nomination of a partisan toady to DNI signals a full commitment to crude authoritarianism

by digby

My Salon column this morning:

By this time no one should be surprised when Donald Trump hires a partisan hack to do a previously independent job in a vital government agency. After all, that's been his habit from the beginning. To the extent there were ever any nonpartisan Cabinet members or top advisers, it has been because he simply didn't know what the job entailed.

Trump fired both former FBI Director James Comey and Attorney General Jeff Sessions for being insufficiently loyal. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis were effectively forced out for failing to properly toe his line. Since Trump really doesn't have an agenda beyond harassing immigrants and economic intimidation, the only real criteria at this point in his presidency is whether or not officials will do whatever it takes to protect him personally from myriad legal scandals and possible electoral defeat. Basically, the only job of the Trump administration for the next 15 months is to perpetrate a full-time cover-up.

Robert Mueller's report followed by his live testimony to Congress last week, made one thing very clear: The Russian government interfered in the 2016 election to benefit Donald Trump in a number of ways, from propaganda to stealing personal emails and dumping them on the internet to probing the election systems in all 50 states. All of this was based upon information gathered by U.S. intelligence agencies and allies across the globe.

Despite Trump's repeated caterwauling about "no collusion!" Mueller made clear what we saw with our own eyes: Trump "welcomed" the election interference from Russia and has said that he would do it again if the same opportunity presented itself. In order to preserve the illusion that all this doesn't add up to a president who has betrayed his country and benefited from foreign sabotage, Trump and his accomplices in the media and in Congress have been forced to create a ludicrous alternate narrative that the investigation was a partisan witch hunt based on false information from the beginning.

That's why Trump has finally pulled the trigger and dismissed Dan Coats, the independent-minded director of national intelligence. Trump has announced he will replace Coats with one of his chief congressional henchmen, Rep. John Ratcliffe, R-Texas. It was reported last week that Trump consulted with his most slavish loyalist in the House, collaborator, Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., about whom to appoint to the position. Ratcliffe is their thoroughly unsurprising choice (although there was initial speculation it might be Nunes himself). He's been an architect of the hard right's "investigation origins" conspiracy theory from the start.

As Will Sommer at the Daily Beast reminds us:

One of Ratcliffe’s biggest contributions to the Republican pushback on the investigation came in January 2018, when he claimed he had seen text messages between [Lisa] Page and [Peter] Strzok that suggested the existence of a “secret society” working against Trump. But Ratcliffe’s claims, which were subsequently amplified by pro-Trump media outlets, fell apart when the fuller text exchanges became public.

That was possibly the most embarrassing moment of the House Intelligence Committee's work under Nunes' chairmanship. But the willingness to make a fool of oneself in service of the president is considered a resumé builder in Trump's Washington. Ratcliffe is now being nominated to what is arguably the most powerful intelligence job in the world.

There are many objections to Ratcliffe's appointment, starting with the fact that he is almost comically unqualified for the job and appears to have seriously embellished his resumé. It's not clear Ratcliffe has any actual experience in investigating or prosecuting terrorism cases, and he only held the post of U.S. attorney in Texas in an interim capacity for bout a year. There are serious reasons to doubt that he will provide the president with independent, unvarnished intelligence, and strong reasons to believe he will instead politicize the information to fit Trump's needs.

These are serious concerns to be sure, reminiscent of the ill-fated appointment of Matt Whitaker as acting attorney general. Indeed, one way to interpret this appointment is as a temporary placeholder, more or less in the Whitaker vein. Even the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., has reportedly warned Trump that naming a bomb-thrower like Ratcliffe is a mistake.

But there is actually a much bigger problem with Ratcliffe — and likely with anyone else Trump would nominate to that job if he goes down in flames.

Attorney General William Barr has already taken it upon himself to investigate the U.S. intelligence community for alleged partisan motives in initiating the original investigation into Russian interference (something that Burr's Senate committee ruled out in the first volume of its report.) Trump has also given Barr permission to allow Nunes access to classified information related to the investigation, telling Fox News' Sean Hannity that "this was a coup attempt ... we have some very great people, but we also have some very bad people. And I think we caught them." (This is part of the GOP's Bizarro World theory that Hillary Clinton somehow colluded with the intelligence agencies and the Russians — to help the Trump campaign. I know it doesn't make sense.)

Following that daft line of reasoning, Trump has spelled out clearly what he expects Ratcliffe to do — purge the intelligence services of anyone who participated in collecting information about Russia and Donald Trump.

This is no longer a case of Trump ranting incoherently on Hannity and Twitter. He has his hatchet man Barr in place at the Justice Department, and is about to put a partisan toady in charge of the 17 sprawling intelligence agencies some of them so secret we barely know who works there or what they do.

Greg Sargent of the Washington Post asked the question this way: "[C]an President Trump and his loyalists continue to organize large swaths of the government around the single, overarching goal of shielding his corruption, misconduct and wrongdoing from any and all accountability?"

It would certainly appear that's the goal.

There are some indications that Ratcliffe may be too wild a choice even for the Republican Senate and Trump will end up naming someone more in the vein of Barr — a seasoned partisan warrior who the press will see as an "institutionalist," but who will nonetheless do the president's bidding. Considering how many veteran Republicans have eagerly fallen in line to serve Trump, it won't be hard to find someone to fit that bill.

But whether it's Ratcliffe or someone else, it's obvious that Trump is placing loyalists in the top law enforcement and intelligence agencies of the federal government, in advance of an election we have repeatedly been assured is likely to be penetrated by foreign actors. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is refusing to pass election security legislation, and having a mini-tantrum over the fact that critics are calling him out for it. When the law enforcement, criminal justice and national security apparatus is led by officials who are loyal to a single leader, and not to the people, that's the fundamental basis of authoritarian government. And that is exactly the goal of Donald Trump's administration.


Beige is the new blue — Democratic moderates

by Tom Sullivan

"It took over 100 people eight days to build the set for CNN’s Democratic debates. Nine 53-foot semi-trucks were needed to haul in all the equipment," tweeted CNN's Oliver Darcy.

"Next time use an old high school gym and spend the money on hiring investigative journalists," replied Philadelphia Inquirer's Will Bunch.

Watching Part One of the second Democratic debate was an endurance contest. CNN's 30-second response format was a disaster, barely giving candidates time to formulate a sentence before being cut off. Questions from CNN moderators seemed designed not to probe policy issues, but to get candidates to snipe at each other.

"Question after question was framed up from the ideological perspective of a Heritage Foundation intern," writes Ashley Feinberg at Slate, "or otherwise crafted as a gotcha to generate a 15-second clip for Republican attack ads down the line."

Despite that awful format and the gotcha questions, there were a few moments worth the headache.

With Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren at center stage, moderates no longer at the center of Democratic politics tried to find purchase by attacking them from the wings as dreamers with unworkable plans. Their health care plans, they argued, would take away private insurance policies people like and for which unions negotiated.

Warren turned those criticisms back on the moderates.

"Let's be clear about this. We are the Democrats," Warren began. "We are not trying to take away health care from anyone," Warren responded, "and we should stop using Republican talking points" to speak about providing health care.

South Bend, Indiana's Mayor Pete Buttigieg had improved his debate prep, producing a couple of stand-out moments. First, taking on the predictable Republican line of attack.
Responding to a question meant to get him to comment on Sanders' age, Buttigieg (at 40 sec.) pivoted to addressing Republicans in Congress directly for enabling a racist demagogue in the Oval Office.

“If you are watching this at home,” Buttigieg said looking straight into the camera, “and you are a Republican member of Congress, consider the fact that when the sun sets on your career and they are writing your story of all the good and bad things you did in your life, the thing you will be remembered for is whether in this moment with this president you found the courage to stand up to him, or you continued to put party over country.”
If Aaron Sorkin had scripted that speech, the camera would slowly have panned in close and stirring music would have swelled.

When Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio, another moderate, tried to attack Sanders, claiming he didn't really understand what his health care plan would do, Sanders snapped to applause, "I do know. I wrote the damned bill!"

"To win this election and to defeat Donald Trump — which by the way, in my view is not going to be easy — we need to have a campaign of energy and excitement and of vision," Sanders said. Voters would not be getting that from moderates, Sanders implied.

Ryan, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, former congressman John Delaney of Maryland, and former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper each tried to argue their positions would have more appeal for the mushy center of the electorate. Hickenlooper seemed to be pitching a government that is ISO 9001 certified, a message sure to mobilize tens of millions of nonvoters under 40 to knock doors for him.

Each moderate in his way made the same bland pitch: "Vote for me, I'm BEIGE." Many will not survive to make the next round of dabates.

After multiple assaults on her plans from moderates, Warren won the night by responding to another poor-mouthed critique, this time from Delaney.

"I don't understand why anyone goes to all the trouble of running for president of the United States," she answered, "just to talk about what we really can't do and shouldn't fight for."
R.I.P., Delaney campaign.

Tonight, round two. Former Vice President Joe Biden and California Sen. Kamala Harris will occupy center stage.
  • Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet
  • New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand
  • Former HUD Secretary Julián Castro
  • New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker
  • Former Vice President Joe Biden
  • California Sen. Kamala Harris
  • Andrew Yang
  • Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard
  • Washington Gov. Jay Inslee
  • New York Mayor Bill de Blasio
Update: Somehow cut off some last names in above list while formatting. Fixed. (Thx: BH)

Tuesday, July 30, 2019


by digby

I had noticed the hair had a particularly prominent shelf today. It's way out there as you can see.

Well, here's something you can't unsee:

Perhaps it's spider webs and hairspray that make it as stiff as it is?


In case you are wondering about Boris...

by digby

This bit from John Oliver about Boris Johnson is a great primer and well worth watching all the way through:

For more on Boris, read this by Fintan O'Toole.

Let's face it. The world has gone batshit crazy.

A Big Story that should not be overlooked

by digby

This reporting by Pro-Publica is mind-blowing. The corruption is so thorough that I suspect when (if) the full truth is known we will not be able to fully grasp it:

President Donald Trump’s inauguration chairman, Tom Barrack, lobbied the new administration to share nuclear power technology with Saudi Arabia while, at the same time, making plans to team up with the Saudis to buy a company that would benefit from the policy change, according to documents obtained by a House committee.

During the campaign, Barrack advised Trump on the Middle East, where he has long-standing business relationships. As Trump clinched the Republican nomination in 2016, Barrack shared a draft of a policy speech with a businessman from the United Arab Emirates, according to text messages quoted in the committee’s report. The businessman then consulted with unspecified others and suggested adding a paragraph praising the powerful princes of Saudi Arabia and the UAE, the text messages show.

Barrack incorporated the suggested language and sent a new draft to campaign chairman Paul Manafort, according to the report. In an email, Barrack seemed to suggest he knew he was entering an ethical or legal gray area: “This is probably as close as I can get without crossing a lot of lines,” he said.

On the day of the speech, Manafort sent Barrack a final draft, saying, “It has the language you want.”

The Democratic staff of the House Oversight Committee said the documents it received — 60,000 pages from various private companies — do not show whether candidate Trump was aware that his speech had been circulated to at least one foreign official. The report also does not indicate why Barrack wanted foreign input on the speech.

But Barrack, a billionaire investor, went on to pursue a lucrative deal based on the Trump administration’s Middle East policy, a policy that he was helping to shape.

Barrack’s plan, according to the documents, was for his firm and other U.S. investors to join with Saudi Arabia and the UAE to buy Westinghouse, the struggling U.S. manufacturer of nuclear reactors. At the same time, Barrack used his access to the White House to urge top officials to give Westinghouse permission to sell as many as 30 nuclear reactors to Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

When Westinghouse went to a different buyer, Barrack sought a $50 million stake, according to the documents. The Trump administration is still considering whether to allow Westinghouse to sell reactors to Saudi Arabia — an idea opposed by nonproliferation experts and lawmakers from both parties who fear the kingdom could repurpose the technology to build a nuclear bomb.

Barrack’s role in the proposed Saudi nuclear deal is now part of a federal investigation into illegal foreign lobbying, The New York Times reported on Sunday. Prosecutors have questioned Barrack in the probe, which arose from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation and was referred to the U.S. attorney’s office in Brooklyn, according to the Times.

Barrack’s spokesman said he cooperated with and provided documents to the House committee. “Barrack’s engagement in investment and business development throughout the Middle East for the purpose of better aligned Middle East and U.S. objectives are well known,” the spokesman said in a statement. “Barrack’s consistent attempts to bridge the divide of tolerance and understanding between these two great cultures is etched in the annals of time.”

A spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office declined to comment.

Federal law requires anyone working to influence U.S. policy on behalf of foreign governments to report their activities to the Justice Department. Manafort, deputy campaign manager Rick Gates and ex-national security adviser Michael Flynn all admitted to violating this law. Barrack did not file any disclosures about his contacts with the Saudis and Emiratis while he was helping to shape Trump’s policies toward the region.

When ProPublica interviewed Barrack in 2017, he acknowledged an interest in investing in Westinghouse, saying, “Westinghouse in bankruptcy today is a business opportunity for lots of people like me.” But the newly released documents reveal that Barrack’s efforts were more serious and advanced than previously known.

“The American people deserve to know the facts about whether the White House is willing to place the potential profits of the president’s personal friends above the national security of the American people and the universal objective of preventing the spread of nuclear weapons,” the committee’s chairman, Rep. Elijah Cummings, Democrat of Maryland, said in a statement on Monday.

The White House didn’t immediately respond to questions. The White House and multiple federal agencies did not cooperate with the committee’s investigation. Trump has spent the past several days tweeting insults at Cummings.

This is only the tip of the iceberg. Trump's cronies knew from the beginning that this was the business opportunity of a lifetime.  Trump himself is an unimaginative, penny-ante conman who inherited a fortune so his corrupt ambitions are more limited. Nonetheless, he's monetized everything from t-shirts to selling access through his hotels and golf clubs. But there's little doubt that he's already got plans to be cut in after he's out of office.

Update: There are a number of angles on this Barrack story:

UAE enlisted businessman to spy on Trump White House

Straightforward and to the point: Trump must be impeached

by digby

I hope this will be played on a loop and that it is the first of many like it.

"Deport Hate"

by digby

Via Crooks and Liars:

As Trump leaned on an elbow and droned on, attempting to read about names and places he'd never even heard of before off the teleprompter, a hero stood up.

Virginia state delegate Ibraheem Samirah rose from his seat towards the front and shouted at Trump,

"Mr. President, you can’t send us back! Virginia is our home! Mr. President, you can’t send us back! Virginia is our home!”

He held a cascade of three signs taped together that read "Go Back To Your Corrupted Home," "DEPORT HATE," "Reunite My Family, And "ALL Families Shattered By Systemic Discrimination."


Capitol Police approached him, and the crowd tried to drown him out by chanting the Racist-In-Chief's name, but the damage was done. He was escorted out without incident, and continued to hold his sign high as he left.

Here's an example of "racism and bigotry being excused for the sake of being polite":

Right. Let's just ignore the divisive demagoguery of Donald Trump and pretend he really cares, ok?

Nikki Haley, a woman of color, daughter of immigrants, unable to criticize the president who is telling people like her to go back where they came from if they refuse to lick his boots. It's just sad to see women like her debase themselves.

Oh, and it's not just the white working-class women

by digby

Along with virtually every last woman of color in this country whether working class, college-educated, rural or urban, the suburban white women are appalled, too:

Carol Evans approves of Donald Trump’s immigration policy. She gives him credit for the strong economy. But the Republican from the affluent Milwaukee suburbs of Waukesha County, a GOP bedrock in the state, just can’t commit to voting for the president next year like she did in 2016.

“I just don’t like the way he talks about other people,” Evans, a 79-year-old retired data entry supervisor, said recently as she walked through a shopping mall in Brookfield, Wisconsin, days after Trump fired off a racist tweet at Democratic congresswomen.

The president’s recent return to racial politics may be aimed at rallying his base of white working-class voters across rural America. But the risks of the strategy are glaring in conversations with women like Evans.

Many professional, suburban women — a critical voting bloc in the 2020 election — recoil at the abrasive, divisive rhetoric, exposing the president to a potential wave of opposition in key battlegrounds across the country.
Full Coverage: Election 2020

In more than three dozen interviews by The Associated Press with women in critical suburbs, nearly all expressed dismay — or worse — at Trump’s racially polarizing insults and what was often described as unpresidential treatment of people. Even some who gave Trump credit for the economy or backed his crackdown on immigration acknowledged they were troubled or uncomfortable lining up behind the president.

The interviews in suburbs outside Philadelphia, Milwaukee, Detroit and Denver are a warning light for the Republican president’s reelection campaign. Trump did not win a majority of female voters in 2016, but he won enough — notably winning white women by a roughly 10 percentage-point margin, according to the American National Election Studies survey — to help him eke out victories across the Rust Belt and take the White House.

Since then, there are few signs Trump has expanded his support among women. The 2018 midterms amounted to a strong showing of opposition among women in the suburbs, registering in unprecedented turnout overall, a Democratic House and a record number of women elected in statehouses across the country.

A continuing trend of women voting against Republicans could prove exceedingly difficult for Trump to overcome in his 2020 reelection bid.

“It’s one of the more serious problems that the Republicans face,” said G. Terry Madonna, a pollster and director of the Center for Politics and Public Affairs at Franklin and Marshall College in Pennsylvania.

The affluent, largely white and politically divided suburbs across the Rust Belt are widely viewed as a top battleground, the places where Trump needs to hold his voters and Democrats are hoping to improve their showing over 2016.

In the Detroit suburb of Novi, where Democrat Hillary Clinton narrowly beat Trump in 2016, pet store worker Emily West says she probably would have cast her ballot for Trump if she had voted in 2016. Now, she’s primed to vote against him.

“It was mainly when he got into office when my opinion started changing,” said West, 26. “Just the way he treats people.”

West spoke days after Trump fired off a tweet calling on four Democratic congresswomen of color to “go back” to their home countries, even though three of the four were born in the United States. Trump’s supporters later turned “send her back” into a rally cry aimed at the one foreign-born member of the group, Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, who arrived in the U.S. as a child refugee from Somalia.

Over the weekend, Trump picked up another racial trope, using his Twitter feed to attack Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings and his majority-black Baltimore district by calling it a “disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess” where “no human being would want to live.”

Pollsters say it is difficult to measure whether female voters will count Trump’s behavior against him more than their male counterparts will in 2020. But interviews with women reveal a clear discomfort with Trump’s character: It emerged again and again in the AP’s interviews and was a consistent objection cited by women across the political spectrum.

“I did not think it was going to be as bad as it is — definitely narcissism and sexism, but I did not think it was going to be as bad as it is,” said Kathy Barnes while shopping in the Denver suburb of conservative-leaning Lone Tree. “I am just ashamed to be an American right now.”

You are not alone, lady.

Is he a racist? Need we ask?

by digby

You and I know the answer to that.  But Quinnipiac broke it down and, as usual, a majority of one particular group of Americans stand out for their support of everything he does:

You've undoubtedly noticed that its the white, non-college educated, conservative-religious men who really stand out.

Of course, there are plenty of others in almost all categories who also think he isn't a racist and plenty of white, non-college educated religious men who do. But this particular group really stands out for its loyalty to Dear Leader.

Notice that way more white women than white men think he's a racist. This is a problem for Trump. He needs every last white working class woman to vote for his if he expects to win.  And they are not liking what they see.

I wrote about this yesterday for Salon, based upon Ron Brownstein's analysis.

Greg Sargent at the Washington Post has more today:

The data provided to me by Quinnipiac does appear to suggest the possibility that this demographic [white blue collar women] is getting driven away from Trump.

The poll finds that among overall registered voters, 54 percent say they will “definitely not” vote for Trump in 2020, vs. 32 percent who definitely will, and 12 percent who will consider voting for him. Among non-college-educated whites, 45 percent said they will definitely vote for him, vs. 41 percent who say they will definitely not vote for him.

That last number seemed like a large percentage of non-college-educated whites who definitely won’t vote for Trump. So I asked Quinnipiac for a further breakdown, and here it is:

That’s also striking: A bare plurality of non-college-educated white women disapprove of Trump. (And again, the depth of alienation among college-educated white women is really something to behold.)

Now, to be fair, this is only one poll. But this dovetails with the extensive amount of data and focus grouping Brownstein reported on, so it’s plausible that this is a real thing.

And if this broader dynamic is right, it could be a big deal. This has been a Republican-leaning demographic for many election cycles now, which alone makes this seeming shift striking. More specifically, Trump’s racist attacks are all about three states — Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin — where Trump hopes to supercharge turnout and vote share among non-college-educated whites from non-metropolitan areas, allowing him to win the electoral college, even plausibly amid a larger popular-vote loss than last time.

But as Democratic pollster Greenberg told Brownstein, this becomes a taller order if the women in that demographic are getting alienated, even if the men are as gung-ho for Trump as ever. “White working-class men look like they are approaching the 2016 margins for Trump,” Greenberg allowed, but he added, “it only works if women are part of the story.”

That’s striking: A bare plurality of non-college-educated white women say they will definitely not vote for Trump. (It’s also worth noting the extreme depth of alienation from Trump among college-educated white women: More than 6 in 10 say they definitely won’t vote for him.)

This is also evident in Trump’s approval. The Quinnipiac poll shows that among registered voters overall, 40 percent approve of Trump and 54 percent disapprove. Among non-college-educated whites, 52 percent approve vs. 43 percent who disapprove — that latter, again, being a surprisingly high number, given this demographic.

He's brought out the true asshole in a whole lot of Americans. But he's really brought it out in this non-college educated, white, male demographic. There are a lot of these guys. But he can't win (legitimately) without the women in that demographic too. And a whole lot of them are getting sick and tired of this shit.


Socialize this

by Tom Sullivan

File under: "Can dish it out but cannot take it."

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has a case of the vapors over being dubbed #MoscowMitch and "a Russian asset" for blocking an election security bill. It's “modern-day McCarthyism,” the Kentuckian splutters:

“The outrage industrial complex doesn’t let a little thing like reality get in their way,” said McConnell (R-Ky.) in a nearly 30-minute speech on the Senate floor. “They saw the perfect opportunity to distort and tell lies and fuel the flames of partisan hatred, and so they did.”
Why (Miss Scarlett might say), that sort of thing is just not done. Eric Black of the MinnPost recently started a file on the National Republican Congressional Committee. The NRCC recently blasted as "deranged" 29 different House Democrats in a series of emails sent over 30 minutes. All identical, except for the name of the target.

An audience of idiots

"NRCC uses the word 'socialist' in pretty much every press release to describe the particular Dem under attack and generally assigns an unflattering nickname to every Democratic House member or candidate," Black finds. Just like their liege lord in the White House.

Black continues:
It’s juvenile. Or should one say despicable? Well, it’s at least a parody of an organization that attaches no meaningful meaning to the word “socialism” nor to the concept of credibility or civility in political rhetoric. It’s just sad. Pitiful. Execrable. Its staff can’t be as stupid as they come across, but it’s hard not to assume that they believe they are writing for an audience of idiots.
Let's just say Inigo Montoya would question if the NRCC even knows the meaning of the S-word it keeps using in its "strategy of red-baiting, bordering on McCarthyism." They are rather desperate to change the national conversation from racism to socialism. Black's series on the topic is his way of being helpful.

NRCC chair Tom Emmer of Minnesota defines socialism broadly and loosely by example, “It’s Venezuela. I mean, it is a complete government takeover. Literally, it’s theft. Socialism is theft. You name your issue. It’s restriction of free speech.”

“Keep your government hands off my Medicare!”

The Washington Post's Philip Bump believes the word socialism "should be read with the same intonation you’d use to say 'the boogeyman' to a 4-year-old you were trying to scare." He defines the S-word's colloquial usage thusly:
The government can’t be trusted to do things except the things it does that I like. It’s trivial to extend that outward to capture a debate that’s potent at the moment: Government-run programs are unacceptable socialism, except the good ones.
“Keep your government hands off my Medicare!” shouted an older man at a South Carolina town hall event in 2009. Reflecting on the man who launched "a thousand ironic riffs," Bump comments on a recent Economist-YouGov poll that asked, "Do you have a favorable or an unfavorable opinion of socialism?" Republicans hated the term far more than Democrats while approving of government programs they like. Bump turned the data into a handy chart.

Free health care for all: socialism. Medicare for seniors over 65? Government-administered health care for veterans? Not socialism. There is "a 50-point gap in the likelihood that a Republican will call Medicare socialism and the likelihood they’ll say that of free health care for everyone." For Democrats the gap is 11 points.

Black continues:

Sweden, Norway and Finland are often called “socialist” models. They use the term to refer to their own systems, which include plenty of free enterprise and prosperous companies. They are also solidly in the camp of democracy. Life there is very good, better, by many objective measures, than in the USA. Is that because they’re “socialist”? Or because Scandinavians are hard workers? Or some other reason?

If you wanted to have an honest discussion, you would deal with all of those cases, and others. If you just wanted to scare Americans, you would say that Venezuela is hell because “socialism” is hell, while Sweden is heaven because Swedes are just good people, even if they don’t love “freedom” like we do. (By the way, a lot of Swedes are good people.)
The U.S. has always had a mixed economy. It's no more pure capitalism than it is a pure democracy, as conservatives pedants are quick to remind. But we cannot have that discussion. There are elections to win and opponents to smear.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump doles out subsidies to make up for the beating farmers are taking over his tariff wars. Two rounds of agricultural bailouts totaling tens of billions of dollars? Totally not socialism. Propping up the failing coal industry? Totally not socialism. Nor is it socialism in Republican eyes, Catherine Rampell observes, to have the treasury secretary lecture "U.S. retailers and manufacturers about how and where they should reallocate their supply chains; nor when the president himself lectures firms about what products to stock; nor when the administration tries to get other countries to engage in more centralized economic planning."

Ultimately, the leading lights of the Republican Party don't really care about the size of government spending. The charge of socialism by Republicans comes down to who is doing the spending and into whose pockets the federal dollars are flowing. Will funds benefit salt-of-the-earth, Lee Greenwood-humming Real Americans™ hanging out in idyllic Wall Street cube farms (also, country diners), or into those of darker-hued sub-humans who reside in "rodent-infested" cities like Baltimore?

So, ask the Joni Ernsts and the Tom Emmers whose voters get socialized national defense, education & transportation systems, socialized fire and police protection and public utlities, socialized retirement, socialized health care for seniors and the poor, plus socialized farm supports which they plan eliminating from their fair states first?

Update: Mercy, I originally left out the last 't' in Scarlett.

Monday, July 29, 2019

32% say they will definitely vote for Trump in 2020. 

by digby

The New Q Poll shows that Trump's approval rating remains static. He was at 42% approval in June, now 40%. It's been bouncing within this narrow range like this from the beginning.

Only 32 percent of all American voters say they "definitely" will vote for Trump if he is the Republican candidate in the 2020 presidential election, while 12 percent say they will consider voting for Trump.

But 54 percent of all American voters say they "definitely" will not vote for Trump, matching the "never Trump" total from a May 21 Quinnipiac University National Poll. This "never Trump" tally includes 57 percent of independent voters.

American voters disapprove 54 - 40 percent of the job Trump is doing as president, compared to a 53 - 42 percent disapproval in a June 11 poll.

Here's the poll of polls:

Nothing ever really changes. According to that poll, he currently has a maximum vote of 44%. You would think that would give the rest of the country confidence that he will not be able to win another term.

But they cheat. And we know that the electoral college gives cheaters an advantage even when the winner loses the popular vote by millions of votes. 

Why would you ask Limbaugh of all people?

by digby

Oh please.

Here is a partial list of Limbaugh's racist commentary through 2011. There are many more examples since then:

1 Limbaugh on Obama: “Halfrican American” [1/24/07]

2 Limbaugh on Obama: His “only chance of winning is that he’s black” [6/2/08]

3 Limbaugh on Jesse Jackson: Kerry camp got “a chocolate chip” [1/30/04]

4 Limbaugh: “If Obama weren’t black he’d be a tour guide in Honolulu” [7/6/10]

5 Limbaugh twice used word “spade” during discussion of Obama [1/15/08]

6 Limbaugh: Obama “wouldn’t have been voted president if he weren’t black” [7/6/10]

7 Limbaugh: “The media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well.” [2003]

8 Limbaugh: “NFL all too often looks like a game between the Bloods and the Crips without any weapons” [1/19/07]

9 Limbaugh: Left upset with Obama because “white people are not shining the shoes of black people” [4/22/11]

10 Limbaugh: Gallup is “upping the sample of black Americans” to keep Obama’s approval rating over 50 percent [11/19/09]

11 Limbaugh: Obama and Holder “continue to protect and represent” New Black Panther [7/12/10]

12 Limbaugh: Caller is “clever” for embracing Obama’s “black half” while bashing his “white socialist European Marxist half” [3/3/11]

13 Limbaugh on “stories” about how “the black frame of mind is terrible”: “Tiger Woods’ choice of females not helping ’em out” [12/8/09]

14 Limbaugh mocks Chinese president’s untranslated speech [1/19/11]

15 Limbaugh photoshops Rep. Clyburn “driving Miss Nancy” [11/12/10]

16 Rush proposes a new leadership position for Rep. Jim Clyburn: “Driving Miss Nancy” [11/11/10]

17 Limbaugh: All Dems “had to do was nominate an African-American and [they’ve] got Colin Powell” [5/18/09]

18 Limbaugh: Obama is “this little boy, this little man-child president” [10/27/09]

19 Limbaugh: “For the first time in his life, Paterson is gonna be a massa” if he chooses Massa’s replacement [3/9/10]

20 Limbaugh: Basketball is “the favorite sport of gangs” [10/07/09]

21 Limbaugh: Illegal immigrants are an “invasive species” [4/4/05]

22 Limbaugh claimed “[t]here can only be one reason” Survivor scrapped “segregated” competition after two episodes — “the white tribe had to be winning” [9/29/06]

23 Limbaugh: “[M]inorities never do anything for which they have to apologize” [4/13/07]

24 Limbaugh: “The government’s been taking care of [young blacks] their whole lives” [2/5/07]

25 Limbaugh on Obama: “We are being told that we have to hope he succeeds, that we have to bend over, grab the ankles … because his father was black” [1/22/09]

26 Limbaugh: “Obama’s entire economic program is reparations” [7/22/09]

27 Limbaugh on minorities: “The days of them not having any power are over, and they are angry” [6/4/09]

28 Limbaugh: Obama would not have acted if he’d known that the Somali pirates were “actually young, black Muslim teenagers” [4/14/09]

29 Limbaugh: Obama “wants us to have the same health care and plan that he had in Kenya” and “wants to be the black FDR” [8/24/09]

30 Limbaugh: “Obama has disowned his white half … he’s decided he’s got to go all in on the black side” [3/21/08]

31 Limbaugh: Obama is “more African in his roots than he is American” and is “behaving like an African colonial despot” [6/26/09]

32 “[I]n Obama’s America, the white kids now get beat up with the black kids cheering” [9/15/09]

33 Limbaugh: Why was Michelle Obama not at Byrd’s funeral? Because of her “authentic slave blood”? “We can only speculate” [7/2/10]

34 Limbaugh on Steinbrenner death: “That cracker made a lot of African-American millionaires” [7/13/10]

35 Rush Limbaugh claimed that Democrats “want to get us out of Iraq, but they can’t wait to get us into Darfur.” He continued: “There are two reasons. What color is the skin of the people in Darfur? It’s black. And who do the Democrats really need to keep voting for them? If they lose a significant percentage of this voting bloc, they’re in trouble.” A caller responded, “The black population,” to which Limbaugh said, “Right.”[8/23/07]

36 Limbaugh: Obama will use Haiti to boost credibility with “light-skinned and dark-skinned black community in this country” [1/13/10]

37 Limbaugh: “[W]e need segregated buses […] This is Obama’s America” [9/15/09]

38 Limbaugh: “If homosexuality being inborn is what makes it acceptable, why does racism being inborn not make racism acceptable?” [9/15/09]

39 Limbaugh on Obama’s census form: “What race does he put down?” [4/1/10]

40 Limbaugh: Dismissal of cases against black defendants “the natural course of events” with black AG and president [7/1/10]

41 Limbaugh: “Every minority has been given the shaft and so there’s this inherent sympathy for them on the part of liberal do-gooders. And I think part of this irrational interpretation of Obama and his political talents is founded and rooted in this view of him with sympathy” [3/17/11]

42 Limbaugh: “Obama is half-white; maybe his half-white side is to blame here” [9/15/09]

43 Limbaugh: “Can this nation really have an African-American president” [9/16/09]

44 Limbaugh also claimed that the allegedly insensitive actions of the Obama family were taking place because they “look at it as if they are owed” these luxuries because of past racial discrimination. He added that they are “flying all over the country while everyone else is tightening their belts, ’cause they deserve it. This is owed to them.” [8/6/10]

45 Rush Limbaugh invented a racial element to explain Iraq war veteran Paul Hackett’s departure from the Ohio Democratic Senate primary race against Rep. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), asserting, “And don’t forget, Sherrod Brown is black. There’s a racial component here, too.” In fact, Brown is Caucasian — a point on which Limbaugh was corrected later in the program. [2/15/06]

46 Limbaugh: Food safety advocates “going to go after Oreos” but might have to wait until Obama leaves office [7/27/09]

And this:

Rush Limbaugh resigned last night from ESPN's ''Sunday NFL Countdown'' three days after he made race-related comments about how the news media view the Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb.

The remarks prompted demands for ESPN to fire Limbaugh yesterday by Gen. Wesley K. Clark, a Democratic presidential contender, and Rep. Harold Ford Jr., Democrat of Tennessee, who said that he had enlisted 20 other House Democrats and had interest from three Republicans to sign a letter to the ESPN protesting the radio commentator's comments.

On Sunday, Limbaugh elaborated on his belief that McNabb is overrated and that the Eagles' defense has carried the team over the past few seasons.

''What we have here is a little social concern in the N.F.L.,'' he said. ''The media has been very desirous that a black quarterback can do well -- black coaches and black quarterbacks doing well. There is a little hope invested in McNabb and he got a lot of credit for the performance of this team that he didn't deserve.''

He is a stone cold racist. And he know Trump is too. It's one of the things they like about each other.

And by the way, Republicans from George Bush on down have been licking Limbaugh's boots for decades now. There's only one degree of separation between them and Trump.

There is no low

by digby

He just can't help himself:

That was at a White House event where he took credit for passing the Fi8rst Responder's bill.

Here's Trump's record on this:


McConnell thinks protecting elections from foreign interference is "modern McCarthyism"

by digby

Nobody believes anything:
54% of Americans said that they are not confident in the capability of the U.S. to effectively defend itself from potential foreign government interference in the 2020 presidential election.

Only 17% said they were very confident and 27% were somewhat confident.

There were also large partisan differences on this question -- with 25% of Democrats saying they are very or somewhat confident, compared to 77% of Republicans. Independents fell in between, at 40%.

I'll make a bet that if Trump loses it will instantly become an article of faith that the Democrat won with the help of Vladimir Putin (and undocumented immigrants, of course.) Trump will make that explicit if the polling is close in the final days. He did it last time and he will do it again.

It is not beyond the realm of possibility that he will officially contest the results if he loses.


McConnell went to the Senate floor today to "defend" himself from the outcry over the blocking of bipartisan election protection legislation, accusing the Democrats of hysterically deploying "modern-day McCarthyism." No I don't get that either.

But whatever...

Here's a little reminder of what happened in 2016:

Despite the intelligence the CIA had produced, other agencies were slower to endorse a conclusion that Putin was personally directing the operation and wanted to help Trump. “It was definitely compelling, but it was not definitive,” said one senior administration official. “We needed more.”

Brennan first alerts the White House to the Putin intelligence and later briefs Obama in the Oval Office. Brennan moved swiftly to schedule private briefings with congressional leaders. But getting appointments with certain Republicans proved difficult, officials said, and it was not until after Labor Day that Brennan had reached all members of the “Gang of Eight” — the majority and minority leaders of both houses and the chairmen and ranking Democrats on the Senate and House intelligence committees.

Jeh Johnson, the homeland-security secretary, was responsible for finding out whether the government could quickly shore up the security of the nation’s archaic patchwork of voting systems. He floated the idea of designating state mechanisms “critical infrastructure,” a label that would have entitled states to receive priority in federal cybersecurity assistance, putting them on a par with U.S. defense contractors and financial networks.

On Aug. 15, Johnson arranged a conference call with dozens of state officials, hoping to enlist their support. He ran into a wall of resistance.

The reaction “ranged from neutral to negative,” Johnson said in congressional testimony Wednesday.

Brian Kemp, the Republican secretary of state of Georgia, used the call to denounce Johnson’s proposal as an assault on state rights. “I think it was a politically calculated move by the previous administration,” Kemp said in a recent interview, adding that he remains unconvinced that Russia waged a campaign to disrupt the 2016 race. “I don’t necessarily believe that,” he said.

Stung by the reaction, the White House turned to Congress for help, hoping that a bipartisan appeal to states would be more effective...

The meeting devolved into a partisan squabble.

“The Dems were, ‘Hey, we have to tell the public,’ ” recalled one participant. But Republicans resisted, arguing that to warn the public that the election was under attack would further Russia’s aim of sapping confidence in the system.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) went further, officials said, voicing skepticism that the underlying intelligence truly supported the White House’s claims. Through a spokeswoman, McConnell declined to comment, citing the secrecy of that meeting.

Key Democrats were stunned by the GOP response and exasperated that the White House seemed willing to let Republican opposition block any pre-election move.

On Sept. 22, two California Democrats — Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Rep. Adam B. Schiff — did what they couldn’t get the White House to do. They issued a statement making clear that they had learned from intelligence briefings that Russia was directing a campaign to undermine the election, but they stopped short of saying to what end.

A week later, McConnell and other congressional leaders issued a cautious statement that encouraged state election officials to ensure their networks were “secure from attack.” The release made no mention of Russia and emphasized that the lawmakers “would oppose any effort by the federal government” to encroach on the states’ authorities.

They knew the implications of course. Recall this:
A month before Donald Trump clinched the Republican nomination, one of his closest allies in Congress — House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy — made a politically explosive assertion in a private conversation on Capitol Hill with his fellow GOP leaders: that Trump could be the beneficiary of payments from Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“There’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump,” McCarthy (R-Calif.) said, according to a recording of the June 15, 2016, exchange, which was listened to and verified by The Washington Post. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher is a Californian Republican known in Congress as a fervent defender of Putin and Russia.

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) immediately interjected, stopping the conversation from further exploring McCarthy’s assertion, and swore the Republicans present to secrecy.

Before the conversation, McCarthy and Ryan had emerged from separate talks at the Capitol with Ukrainian Prime Minister Vladi­mir Groysman, who had described a Kremlin tactic of financing populist politicians to undercut Eastern European democratic institutions.

News had just broken the day before in The Washington Post that Russian government hackers had penetrated the computer network of the Democratic National Committee, prompting McCarthy to shift the conversation from Russian meddling in Europe to events closer to home.

Some of the lawmakers laughed at McCarthy’s comment. Then McCarthy quickly added: “Swear to God.”

Ryan instructed his Republican lieutenants to keep the conversation private, saying: “No leaks. . . . This is how we know we’re a real family here.”

They welcomed the help. And they are welcoming it again.