It’s raining cats and dogs outside my windows this morning, so I decided to illustrate this post with cats in and out of the rain.
In just four days, Trump will be out of the White House and headed to Florida; and, according to the Wall Street Journal (via Raw Story), even the people working in the White House can’t wait until he’s gone.
According to a report from the Wall Street Journal, the last days of Donald Trump’s tenure as president have found him still looking for any chance of remaining in office as demoralized staffers look forward to Inauguration Day bringing the era to a close.
The Journal notes that the president has asked for information on the Republicans in the House who voted for his impeachment last week and whether they are susceptible to being primaried in 2022 while still fuming about his election loss.
As regarding the ongoing articles of impeachment passed by the House, Trump is still searching for attorneys to defend him if it comes to a trial after White House Counsel Pat Cipollone and attorneys who represented him during his last impeachment have let it be known they won’t take part….
According to one aide close to the president, they just want it to be over.
“It’s complete shellshock,” they explained. “People are praying for the inauguration to come and to get Trump the hell out of there.”
So much winning.
Trump’s future business prospects aren’t looking so good either. Bloomberg: Trump’s Shambolic Empire Faces Long Odds for One More Comeback.
On the day Donald Trump was getting impeached in Washington, the lobby of his New York tower at 40 Wall St. was almost silent. Few footsteps smudged the shiny marble.
But up the dark and golden elevators, trouble was stirring in one of the billionaire’s most valuable properties. Inside one law office, two partners had clashed over whether to keep paying rent to a landlord who encouraged the Capitol’s deadly riot. On the 24th floor, a nonprofit that fights tuberculosis was exploring options for leaving. On the seventh, the Girl Scouts were figuring out how to break their lease.
And in the basement, vintage bank-vault doors that weigh more than 10 tons stood wide open. There, in a club room that Trump renovated, the news was playing on a jumbo television to an audience of empty armchairs just as Congress voted against him….
The Trump Organization, run by sons Eric and Don Jr., was struggling with the devastating consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic even before their father incited a raid on Congress. Efforts to sell his Washington hotel were shelved, his office buildings were losing value amid a glut of space in Manhattan, and his golf courses were facing the reality that younger generations aren’t so interested.
Trump entered office worth $3 billion. Despite soaring stock prices and his own tax cuts, he will leave about $500 million poorer, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
His buildings are saddled with more than $1 billion in debt, most of it coming due in the next three years and more than a third of it personally guaranteed. Refinancing would mean finding lenders and corporations willing to work with history’s only twice-impeached ex-president.
Prosecutors in New York are salivating over the chances to prosecute the disgraced “president.” AP: NY prosecutors interview Michael Cohen about Trump finances.
New York prosecutors conducted an hourslong interview Thursday of Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former personal attorney, asking a range of questions about Trump’s business dealings, according to three people familiar with the meeting.
The interview focused in part on Trump’s relationship with Deutsche Bank, his biggest and longest standing creditor, according to the three people, who weren’t authorized to discuss the investigation and spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity.
The interview, at least the second of Cohen by the Manhattan district attorney’s office, comes amid a long-running grand jury investigation into Trump’s business dealings. District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. has been waging a protracted legal battle to get access to the president’s tax records.
The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule on Trump’s request for a stay and a further appeal after he leaves office Jan. 20.
The New York investigation is one of several legal entanglements that are likely to intensify as Trump loses power — and any immunity from prosecution he might have as a sitting president — as he departs the White House….
The Republican president also faces a civil investigation, led by New York Attorney General Letitia James, into whether Trump’s company lied about the value of its assets to get loans or tax benefits. Cohen also is cooperating with that inquiry.
He previously told Congress that Trump often inflated the value of his assets when dealing with lenders or potential business partners, but deflated them when it benefited him for tax purposes.
Even in Scotland, people are looking for ways to investigate Trump. Read about it at The Scotsman: Leading QC says Scottish ministers can seek ‘McMafia’ order into Donald Trump’s finances.
Meanwhile, every day we learn more about the violent insurrection that Trump incited last week. One of the most disturbing facts is how many law enforcement and active and former military people were involved. These are brief excerpts; I recommend following the links to read the full articles.
The Washington Post: Conspiracy theories and a call for patriots entice veterans at the Capitol.
A Washington Post analysis of individuals who breached the Capitol or were in the vicinity of the riots identified 21 people with some prior military service background. Of the 72 arrested or charged by state and federal authorities through Thursday morning, 11 have military backgrounds.
The military personnel and veterans involved in the demonstrations and riot at the Capitol range in age from 33 to 62. A handful of the veterans served in combat or with front-line infantry units in the Army and Marine Corps and spoke regularly of a coming revolution or the need for violent action to purge their country of unspecified enemies. Other veterans at the Capitol on Jan. 6 served for only short stints in the military or were focused more on clerical tasks than preparing for combat. Like many at the riots, they were swept up in conspiracy theories that have taken hold among some of Trump’s most fervent supporters and felt called to action by the president’s repeated insistence without evidence that the election had been stolen.
The Pentagon hasn’t said how many active-duty troops or reservists are under investigation for any role in the protest or the riots, but homegrown militants and white supremacist groups have long targeted veterans for recruitment.
And some analysts who track extremist groups warn that the military has been slow to recognize the problem.
“They are behind in having the capacity to investigate these issues,” said Michael Edison Hayden, a spokesman for the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups. “They don’t have the proper tools to identify symbols and tattoos and that kind of thing, so it has allowed it to fester for a really long time.”
The Los Angeles Times: Why veterans of the military and law enforcement joined the Capitol insurrection.
An Air Force veteran from Southern California and ardent conspiracy theorist bent on war against the government. An Army psychological operations officer at Ft. Bragg, N.C. A decorated, retired Air Force officer of 18 years from Texas who served in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The deadly riot in the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 attracted a variety of far-right extremists who shared a devotion to President Trump and his insistence on a false belief that the November election had been stolen from him through fraud.
Many rioters also had something else in common as they sought to upend the government in an insurrection that bristled with Confederate flags, racist symbols and conspiracy theories: They were ex-members of the military and police or actively employed by the armed services and law enforcement.
“It’s an incredibly disturbing trend,” retired U.S. Army Col. Jeffrey D. McCausland, a professor of national security at Dickinson College and former dean at the U.S. Army War College, said in an interview. “These are people who are supposed to uphold the Constitution and the law, yet they were doing the exact opposite.”
Location data gleaned from thousands of videos posted on the social network Parler and extracted in the days before Amazon restricted access to app this week, reveal its users included police officers around the U.S. and service members stationed on bases at home and abroad.
The presence on Parler of active military and police raises concerns, experts said, about their potential exposure to far-right conspiracy theories and extremist ideologies enabled by the platform’s practically nonexistent moderation and its stated openness to hate speech. Military officials have long considered infiltration and recruitment by white supremacist groups a threat. Groups that endorsed a wide range of racist beliefs appear to have been operating openly on Parler, the experts said, with the de facto permission of its owners. The FBI has likewise raised concerns over law enforcement agents adopting radical views and being recruited—viewing their access to secured buildings, elected officials, and other VIPs as a singular threat.
On Jan. 6, Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb made a promise. Delivering a speech in Phoenix during the ongoing mob attack on the nation’s Capitol, Lamb accused former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton of unnamed crimes and repeated President Donald Trump’s false claims about election fraud. “Now I’m limited to what I can do as the sheriff, but if you live in Pinal County, I assure you I can fight for your freedom,” he said before exhorting his followers to “be vigilant” and to “fight for the Constitution, freedom, and the American way of life.” (The video has since been deleted from social media.)
In the past week, it’s become clear that many members of law enforcement from across the country participated in the siege on the Capitol. That includes former and current sheriffs and their deputies. Ex–Gwinnett County Sheriff Butch Conway was at the Trump rally but says he didn’t march to the Capitol. He described the crowd as “a cross between tailgating at a football game and a NASCAR race—families, dogs, children. Everyone being nice. I mean, it was like a family reunion without some of the hatefulness you can find at family reunions. It was a very good crowd.”
At least one current sheriff admits he was at the riot: Sheriff Chris West of Canadian County, Oklahoma, says he marched toward the Capitol building but did not enter. But long before Jan. 6, sheriffs have been helping to lay the groundwork for violence by the far-right movement. As political leaders in their communities, they have been sowing dissent at home, encouraging their own armed militias to prepare themselves to take back the government just as Lamb suggested.
Ninety percent of American sheriffs are white men, and in recent years they’ve become strongly affiliated with white supremacist groups. Across the country, sheriffs have declared that they will not enforce laws they deem “unconstitutional,” like COVID-19 public health orders or gun laws limiting weapons possession and permits. Their influence has only grown since the pandemic began, as mask wearing became affiliated with progressive liberals and a bare face was a sign of Trump support.
A few more reads about the Capitol attack:
David Graham at The Atlantic: We’re Just Finding Out How Bad the Riot Really Was.
The New York Times: Capitol Attack Could Fuel Extremist Recruitment For Years, Experts Warn.
That’s all I have for you today. Have a nice long weekend, and please stop by and leave a comment if you have the time and inclination.
Trump is getting crazier and crazier, and we still have 29 days to get through before Biden’s inauguration. Here’s the latest:
Jonathan Swan at Axios: Trump turns on everyone.
President Trump, in his final days, is turning bitterly on virtually every person around him, griping about anyone who refuses to indulge conspiracy theories or hopeless bids to overturn the election, several top officials tell Axios.
The latest: Targets of his outrage include Vice President Pence, chief of staff Mark Meadows, White House counsel Pat Cipollone, Secretary of State Pompeo and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Why it matters: Trump thinks everyone around him is weak, stupid or disloyal — and increasingly seeks comfort only in people who egg him on to overturn the election results. We cannot stress enough how unnerved Trump officials are by the conversations unfolding inside the White House.
Top officials are trying to stay away from the West Wing right now.
- Trump is lashing out, and everyone is in the blast zone: At this point, if you’re not in the “use the Department of Homeland Security or the military to impound voting machines” camp, the president considers you weak and beneath contempt.
- Trump is fed up with Cipollone, his counsel. Some supporters of Cipollone are worried that Trump is on the brink of removing him and replacing him with a fringe loyalist.
A source who spoke to Trump said the president was complaining about Pence and brought up a Lincoln Project ad that claims that Pence is “backing away” from Trump. This ad has clearly got inside Trump’s head, the source said.
- Trump views Pence as not fighting hard enough for him — the same complaint he uses against virtually everybody who works for him and has been loyal to him.
Pence’s role on Jan. 6 has begun to loom large in Trump’s mind, according to people who’ve discussed the matter with him.
Trump would view Pence performing his constitutional duty — and validating the election result — as the ultimate betrayal.
More from Jonathan Swan: Trump trashes McConnell to fellow Republicans.
President Trump lashed out at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Monday night for acknowledging Joe Biden won the election, sending a slide to Republican lawmakers taking credit for saving McConnell’s career with a tweet and robocall.
Why it matters: It’s an extraordinary broadside against McConnell by the sitting president and most popular Republican in the party, ahead of a crucial runoff election in Georgia on Jan. 5 that will determine control of the Senate.
- “Sadly, Mitch forgot,” reads the top of the slide sent to Republican senators by Trump’s personal assistant, written in red for emphasis. “He was the first one off the ship.”
Between the lines: While both the message and its delivery targeted McConnell, they also carried a subtle warning to other Republicans who may follow suit as the president grasps at the last straws of his election-fraud claim.
- Trump’s remaining power over the GOP is not his waning authority as president, but the perception of his lingering ability to make or break politicians in their re-election campaigns.
- Many Republicans have been loath to criticize the president despite a string of court losses, including at the Supreme Court, because of their private fears that an enraged Trump will attack them and turn his band of loyal followers against them in a primary campaign.
President Trump is reportedly questioning the loyalty of Vice President Mike Pence as the commander-in-chief pushes ever more extreme measures to overturn his election loss.
“Trump (views) Pence performing his constitutional duty — and validating the election result — as the ultimate betrayal,” Axios reported.
The increasingly paranoid president mentioned a Dec. 8 television ad from the #NeverTrump Lincoln Project that predicted Pence would eventually dump Trump and seal President-elect Joe Biden’s win.
The ad, which Axios reported has rattled Trump, said the conservative veep is “running away from you Donald. And on January 6, @VP will preside over the vote proving @joebiden beat you.”
On Tuesday, I asked if we will ever be free of Trump and his demands for narcissistic supply–even after we pry him out of the White House. At The Atlantic, two writers argue that Trump is already losing his battle to remain the center of attention.
David A. Graham: Trump Is Rapidly Becoming Irrelevant.
To a remarkable degree, people have already stopped paying attention to the 45th president.
The past few weeks have offered a preview of what Donald Trump’s post-presidency might look like: The president fulminates at length, playing pundit, but is a practical nonfactor in policy discussions. He can still command the affection of millions—and raise millions of dollars from them—but the balance of the country has already moved on and tuned out. Trump’s ability to command the news cycle has been eclipsed by the virus he couldn’t be bothered to stop and the rival candidate he couldn’t beat.
Graham notes that we still must be alert to Trump’s efforts to damage our democratic institutions and policies.
His election-related efforts are sputtering: Trump has watched while state after state certifies election wins for Biden. He has watched as dozens of judges have punted long-shot lawsuits out of court. He watched as dye ran down Rudy Giuliani’s face in a news conference that was somehow both jaw-droppingly insane and jaw-clenchingly dull. Having exhausted nearly every option, the Trump legal effort has now resorted to recycling old, failed gambits. With the Electoral College meeting on December 14, the end is in sight.
The relevant description of Trump’s role is “watching.” The president has long been an obsessive TV viewer, but without a campaign to run and with no events on his schedule, there is less to distract him from the tube—and his gripes about Fox News and praise for the network’s smaller rivals, Newsmax and One America News….
He is now back to feeding his followers a steady diet of false and misleading claims about the election results, though it is difficult to tell whether he really believes his claims, is just processing his grief, is simply taking advantage of a lucrative fundraising opportunity, or some combination thereof.
This punditry will likely be the central element of Trump’s post-presidency. Armed with his Twitter following and perhaps a cable-news show or even channel, Trump will be able to spout off to his heart’s content….
Trump’s diminishing relevance over the past 10 days is a good preview of what to expect come late January. Trump won’t go away entirely, and he certainly won’t get quiet, but fewer Americans will listen to or care about what he has to say. They’ve voted with their ballots, and now they’ll vote with their attention.
Yascha Mounk: Why Trump Might Just Fade Away. Americans will soon grow tired of the president, despite his efforts to stay in the limelight.
Trump’s veneer of invincibility is fading. He lost his bid for reelection, and staged the most incompetent coup attempt since Woody Allen’s Bananas. He can rant and rave about what happened in November, but he can’t keep his followers from seeing Joe Biden inaugurated in January. Fear of what he might attempt next is giving way to laughter. He looks weaker and more scared by the day.
When Oprah Winfrey left her show to start her own network, she was the biggest star on television. Many analysts predicted that her new venture would be a huge success. At the time, some press reports even suggested that bosses at the main broadcast networks were seriously worried about the competition.
Contrary to these expectations, the Oprah Winfrey Network struggled to find an audience. In the first years of its existence, it bled tens of millions of dollars. Today, OWN has established a stable niche for itself, and even makes a little profit. But with an average viewership of fewer than 500,000 people in 2018, it plays in a completely different league from the four major networks and the most commercially successful cable channels.
This should serve as a warning to anybody who is now fielding pitches to invest in the Trump News Network. If Trump follows the lead of other authoritarian populists like Hugo Chávez and hosts a regular television program, he can undoubtedly induce his most devoted fans to tune in. But to be commercially viable, his channel would have to expand that core audience, recruit other hosts who are capable of sustaining the public’s attention, hire journalists who can actually cover what is going on in the world, and attract advertising from run-of-the-mill corporations.
Mounk argues that Republicans are unlikely to supports Trump’s plans for another presidential run in 2024, even if he is capable of carrying if off four years from now and it’s likely that most Americans will be sick of his antics by then, if they aren’t already.
Another Atlantic writer, Timothy Noah suggests that we may learn much more about Trump’s time as “president” after he leaves office: The Trump You’ve Yet to Meet. Just because we know bad things about the 45th president, don’t assume that there’s nothing bad left to find out.
How well do we know Donald Trump? Pretty well, it would seem. Nobody has ever accused the outgoing president of possessing a complex personality. His behavior in office confirmed the common view, barely disputed even by his allies, that he is a shallow narcissist, blind or indifferent to common decencies, with poor impulse control and a vindictive streak. His futile attempt to litigate away electoral defeat may appall you, but it probably doesn’t surprise you.
Still, just because we know bad things about the 45th president, don’t assume that there’s nothing bad left to find out. Journalists like to pretend that we know everything about a president in real time, but our information is never close to complete. There’s always more to learn, and it’s seldom reassuring.
Americans had no idea until after he left office how completely Woodrow Wilson depended on his wife, Edith, after he suffered a stroke in September 1919; she waited two decades to admit in her memoirs that, on instructions from Wilson’s doctors, she’d winnowed his written communications with Cabinet members and senators, digesting and reframing “in tabloid form those things that … had to go to the president.”
Nor did Americans learn until a decade after his death that John F. Kennedy, a much less devoted family man than Life magazine let on, shared a mistress (sequentially if not concurrently) with the Chicago Mob boss Sam Giancana, whom the CIA recruited in one of several harebrained plots to assassinate Fidel Castro.
Then there’s Richard Nixon. Americans knew many shameful things about Nixon thanks to the Watergate investigation that prompted his resignation. But only after he left office did we learn, for instance, that Nixon ordered an aide to compile a list of Jews who worked at the Bureau of Labor Statistics so he could demote some of them.
Noah lists many possibilities for how we will learn more about Trump and his time in the White House. I hope you’ll read the whole thing. Some possible sources of information and questions to be answered:
Trump, for all his talk about loyalty, has never commanded much from the people who work for him. No visible bonds of affection or respect bind Trump to his employees, leaving fear the sole motivation for keeping the troops in line. (See Cohen, Michael.) Most of that fear will evaporate by January 20, by which time trade publishers may be turning away proposals for tell-all books lest they create a market glut. Unlike the previous two administrations, which were somewhat difficult for reporters to penetrate, the Trump White House leaked like a sieve. Après lui, le déluge….
How close did we come to war with North Korea when Trump threatened to rain “fire and fury” on Kim Jong Un? After Trump decided instead to become the first president to meet with Kim, how close did Trump come to agreeing to remove U.S. troops from the Korean peninsula?
Exactly how much revenue did Trump properties collect from the federal government during his presidency? How much from people seeking to influence Trump’s presidency?
Who has received promises from Trump that they’ll be pardoned? Did Trump promise in advance to commute Roger Stone’s sentence?
What were the domestic arrangements in the Trump White House? Can Melania and Barron really be said to have lived there, or did they spend more time in their New York apartment, or at her parents’ house in Maryland, where Barron went to school?
Did White House aides observe signs of mental decline in Trump related to aging?
Some stories from today’s news that suggest Trump’s power to control the narrative and intimidate fellow Republicans is fading:
The Daily Beast: Mike Pence Backs Away From the Trump Election ‘Fraud’ Train Wreck.
Vice President Mike Pence has been a go-to fundraising draw for the president’s campaign, and since October, no more than a day passed without his name emblazoning a fundraising email for the Trump reelect.
But that changed late last month. Since Nov. 25, not a single fundraising email from the Trump campaign or its Republican National Committee fundraising account has featured Pence’s name in the “from” field. And this week, that Republican National Committee joint fundraising committee, the Trump Make America Great Again Committee, made another subtle change: a handful of its emails swapped out the official Trump-Pence campaign logo for one featuring just the president’s name….
Several high-level sources say that the graphics change, along with Pence’s disappearance from the headers of President Donald Trump’s increasingly frantic and conspiratorial pleas, are not actually coincidental. According to four people with knowledge of the matter, they reflect an effort by the vice president and his team to distance Pence from some of the president’s more outlandish claims about a conspiracy to undermine the election and illegally deny him a second term in office.
“It is an open secret [in Trumpworld] that Vice President Pence absolutely does not feel the same way about the legal effort as President Trump does,” said a senior administration official. “The vice president doesn’t want to go down with this ship…and believes much of the legal work has been unhelpful.”
Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) told President Trump on Wednesday he’ll likely fail to get two big wishes in pending defense spending legislation, bellowing into his cellphone: “This is the only chance to get our bill passed,” a source who overheard part of their conversation tells Axios.
Why it matters: Republicans are ready to test whether Trump’s threats of vetoing the bill, which has passed every year for more than half a century, are empty.
The backstory: Inhofe leveled with Trump — over speakerphone while walking through the Senate’s Russell Building — that the bill won’t meet his demand to repeal liability protections for tech companies, or block efforts to re-title military bases named for Confederate figures.
The Washington Post reports on the public disgrace of a Trump sycophant: Joseph diGenova resigns from Gridiron Club after saying fired cybersecurity official should be shot.
Ivanka in legal trouble? CNN: Ivanka Trump was deposed Tuesday in DC attorney general’s inauguration lawsuit.
Ivanka Trump, the President’s daughter and adviser, sat for a deposition Tuesday with investigators from the Washington, DC, attorney general’s office as part of its lawsuit alleging the misuse of inaugural funds, according to a court filing.
In January, the DC attorney general’s office sued the Trump Organization and Presidential Inaugural Committee alleging they abused more than $1 million raised by the nonprofit by “grossly overpaying” for use of event space at the Trump hotel in Washington for the 2017 inauguration….
The attorney general’s office has also subpoenaed records from Barrack, Ivanka Trump, first lady Melania Trump, and Rick Gates, the former inaugural committee deputy chairman, the filing said.
Republican election officials are standing up to Trump. The Washington Post: Election officials warn Trump’s escalating attacks on voting are putting their staffs at risk.
More details at the link.
Finally, Bill Barr is publicly pushing back on Trump’s election fraud claims. ABC News: Barr had ‘intense’ meeting with Trump after AG’s interview undercutting voter fraud claims: Sources.
Barr spent roughly two and a half hours on White House grounds on Tuesday for what White House and Department of Justice officials previously said was a pre-planned meeting with White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows.
However, sources told ABC News that once Barr was in the building for meetings, Trump wanted to see him.
One source briefed on the meeting described Barr’s interaction with the president as “intense,” but would not elaborate on any additional details about the content of their discussion.
White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany in a press briefing Wednesday afternoon declined to answer whether the two had spoken since Barr’s interview, and also declined to say directly whether Trump still had confidence in Barr.
So, that’s my summary of the notion that Trump may fade away after he leaves the White House. I don’t know if I buy it or not, but there is some evidence that Republicans are breaking free of the cult. I’d love to get your input on this.
Prospects are not looking good for Trump’s efforts to overturn the election results, but that doesn’t mean he won’t do serious damage to the government in his remaining lame duck weeks. The biggest problem for the transition to a real president is that Trump’s staff and most GOP elected officials are living in fear of Trump’s tantrums.
President Donald Trump continues to refuse to cede the election. His national security adviser, Robert O’Brien, is enabling the mayhem, four senior officials told The Daily Beast.
O’Brien—once viewed as a potential check on Trump’s erratic national security demands—endorsed the installation of a pair of Trumpists at the Pentagon’s highest levels, while a defense secretary O’Brien has long opposed was fired by tweet.
One official claimed that O’Brien has been supportive of a peaceful transfer of power, joking in a Monday event about Trump’s loss and directing his staff to begin drafting transition materials. But three other officials told The Daily Beast that O’Brien has emerged as one of Trump’s biggest enablers at a decisive moment, supporting the president’s bid to retain power even though it is being waged through a nationwide disinformation campaign….
This week, officials say, O’Brien supported the removal of several top officials at the Pentagon and favored Christopher Miller, a former NSC official who moved to the National Counterterrorism Center, to replace Esper as secretary of defense. He also approved of the installation of Kash Patel as Miller’s chief of staff, officials said. Patel worked previously under O’Brien at the National Security Council. One senior official described Miller and Patel as “O’Brien’s boys.” Patel is also said to be close with another former NSC colleague, Ezra Cohen-Watnick, who is now the Pentagon’s senior intelligence official.
A bit more:
Other officials familiar with the matter noted that O’Brien has also pushed national security officials to publicly embrace the absurd Trump message that the election has not been certified and that there are still legal battles playing out across the country that could turn in the president’s favor.
“If you even mention Biden’s name… that’s a no-go, you’d be fired,” one national security official said. “Everyone is scared of even talking about the chance of working with the [Biden] transition.”
Asked if officials in the White House feel comfortable saying Biden’s name in the West Wing, one senior White House official said, half-jokingly, “Sure, you can say his name. If you’re talking about who lost the election to the president.”
Behind closed doors, one official claimed, O’Brien has been much more forthcoming about Trump’s loss and the need to prepare for a transition. The problem, the other officials said, is that O’Brien hasn’t made that known to the commander in chief.
There’s much more interesting gossip at the Daily Beast link.
The law firms representing Trump are also getting antsy. The New York Times: Growing Discomfort at Law Firms Representing Trump in Election Lawsuits.
Jones Day is the most prominent firm representing President Trump and the Republican Party as they prepare to wage a legal war challenging the results of the election. The work is intensifying concerns inside the firm about the propriety and wisdom of working for Mr. Trump, according to lawyers at the firm.
Doing business with Mr. Trump — with his history of inflammatory rhetoric, meritless lawsuits and refusal to pay what he owes — has long induced heartburn among lawyers, contractors, suppliers and lenders. But the concerns are taking on new urgency as the president seeks to raise doubts about the election results.
Some senior lawyers at Jones Day, one of the country’s largest law firms, are worried that it is advancing arguments that lack evidence and may be helping Mr. Trump and his allies undermine the integrity of American elections, according to interviews with nine partners and associates, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to protect their jobs.
At another large firm, Porter Wright Morris & Arthur, based in Columbus, Ohio, lawyers have held internal meetings to voice similar concerns about their firm’s election-related work for Mr. Trump and the Republican Party, according to people at the firm. At least one lawyer quit in protest.
Read more at the NYT.
Yesterday another large law firm withdrew from a case in Arizona. Westlaw Today: Snell & Wilmer withdraws from election lawsuit as Trump contests Arizona results.
(Reuters) – The largest law firm representing the Trump campaign or its allies in post-election litigation challenging votes in key states has withdrawn from an election lawsuit in Maricopa County, Arizona.
Associate Presiding Civil Judge Daniel Kiley on Tuesday granted Snell & Wilmer’s request to withdraw as counsel of record for the Republican National Committee. The RNC had teamed-up with the Trump campaign and the Arizona Republican Party in the case, which alleges that Maricopa County incorrectly rejected some votes cast on Election Day.
Snell & Wilmer partners Brett Johnson and Eric Spencer first moved to withdraw on Sunday, a day after the case was filed. Johnson and Spencer did not respond to requests for comment. Snell & Wilmer chairman Matthew Feeney said the firm doesn’t comment on its client work.
Two other large law firms that have represented the Trump campaign in election litigation, Jones Day and Porter Wright Morris & Arthur, have faced an onslaught of online criticism this week from critics who say the cases erode confidence in the democratic process, sparked by a Monday New York Times story focused on the firms’ roles.
This story at The Washington Post by Philip Rucker, Josh Dawsey, and Ashley Parker suggests that Trump may be beginning to accept reality: Trump insists he’ll win, but aides say he has no real plan to overturn results and talks of 2024 run.
In 2024, Trump will be 79 years old and his dementia will have gotten much worse. But he’ll likely try to continue making our lives a living hell after he leaves the White House.
According to Mike Allen at Axios, Trump plans to form his own media company: Scoop: Trump eyes digital media empire to take on Fox News.
President Trump has told friends he wants to start a digital media company to clobber Fox News and undermine the conservative-friendly network, sources tell Axios.
The state of play: Some Trump advisers think Fox News made a mistake with an early call (seconded by AP) of President-elect Biden’s win in Arizona. That enraged Trump, and gave him something tangible to use in his attacks on the network.
- “He plans to wreck Fox. No doubt about it,” said a source with detailed knowledge of Trump’s intentions…..
Here’s Trump’s plan, according to the source:
There’s been lots of speculation about Trump starting a cable channel. But getting carried on cable systems would be expensive and time-consuming.
Instead, Trump is considering a digital media channel that would stream online, which would be cheaper and quicker to start.
Trump’s digital offering would likely charge a monthly fee to MAGA fans. Many are Fox News viewers, and he’d aim to replace the network — and the $5.99-a-month Fox Nation streaming service, which has an 85% conversion rate from free trials to paid subscribers — as their top destination.
I’ll believe that when I see it. Everyone needs to remember that Trump is a terrible businessman. Besides, he will have to deal with his massive debts and likely criminal charges in New York.
In the meantime, Trump has decapitated the top leadership of the Department of Defense and he may soon finish his takeover of the U.S. intelligence infrastructure.
The New York Times: Trump Stacks the Pentagon and Intel Agencies With Loyalists. To What End?
President Trump’s abrupt installation of a group of hard-line loyalists into senior jobs at the Pentagon has elevated officials who have pushed for more aggressive actions against Iran and for an imminent withdrawal of all American forces from Afghanistan over the objections of the military.
Mr. Trump made the appointments of four top Pentagon officials, including a new acting defense secretary, this week, leaving civilian and military officials to interpret whether this indicated a change in approach in the final two months of his presidency.
At the same time, Mr. Trump named Michael Ellis as a general counsel at the National Security Agency over the objections of the director, Gen. Paul M. Nakasone.
There is no evidence so far that these new appointees harbor a secret agenda on Iran or have taken up their posts with an action plan in hand. But their sudden appearance has been a purge of the Pentagon’s top civilian hierarchy without recent precedent.
Administration officials said the appointments were partly about Afghanistan, where the president has been frustrated by what he sees as a military moving too slowly to fulfill his promise that all American troops will be home by Christmas. The Pentagon announced on Wednesday that Douglas Macgregor, a retired Army colonel and fierce proponent of ending American involvement in Afghanistan, would serve as a senior adviser.
Read the rest at the NYT.
I’ll end there, and add a few more links in the comment thread. I hope everyone is doing OK. Please check in with us today if you have the time and inclination–we love to hear from you!
Good Morning Sky Dancers!
I continue to believe that a huge number of Christians in this country actually make this the least Christian country on the planet. After all, white evangelicals were the biggest chunk of voters that made way for Russia’s attack on our form of government and brought an insane man into the White House. What type of people fall for cons? What type of people actually will damage themselves and their neighbors to feel smug and safe in their whiteness? Better yet, what will the recently installed Pope say to President Swiss Cheese for Brains and the Gingrichs who play the pious game of “maybe for thee but not for me” with all the Jesus teachings.
You can have as many bible studies and prayer breakfasts as you want in this administration and the actions will never overtake the words passed into law. What we continue to see is the rich and powerful destroying the lives of the weakest among us to provide lavish tax cuts that basically accrue value to no one but the person who receives them.
With that lecture, I give you the Republican and Trump Agenda. We are seeing the proposals that will send many to their graves. Paul Ryan is not nicknamed the Granny Starver for nothing. Please don’t watch the Trumpical Clusterfuck Tour. Read what’s going on with the Budget and with the Department of Re-Education.
President Trump’s first major budget proposal on Tuesday will include massive cuts to Medicaid and call for changes to anti-poverty programs that would give states new power to limit a range of benefits, people familiar with the planning said, despite growing unease in Congress about cutting the safety net.
For Medicaid, the state-federal program that provides health care to low-income Americans, Trump’s budget plan would follow through on a bill passed by House Republicans to cut more than $800 billion over 10 years. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that this could cut off Medicaid benefits for about 10 million people over the next decade.
The White House also will call for giving states more flexibility to impose work requirements for people in different kinds of anti-poverty programs, people familiar with the budget plan said, potentially leading to a flood of changes in states led by conservative governors. Many anti-poverty programs have elements that are run by both the states and federal government, and a federal order allowing states to stiffen work requirements “for able-bodied Americans” could have a broad impact in terms of limiting who can access anti-poverty payments — and for how long.
Numerous social-welfare programs grew after the financial crisis, leading to complaints from many Republicans that more should be done to shift people out of these programs and back into the workforce. Shortly after he was sworn in, Trump said, “We want to get our people off welfare and back to work. . . . It’s out of control.”
Trump’s decision to include the Medicaid cuts is significant because it shows he is rejecting calls from a number of Senate Republicans not to reverse the expansion of Medicaid that President Barack Obama achieved as part of the Affordable Care Act. The House has voted to cut the Medicaid funding, but Senate Republicans have signaled they are likely to start from scratch.
As usual, children and the sick get the worst treatment. I suppose it’s only time that we see an end to child labor laws and poor farms established. Either that, or we funnel every one to private jails.
But Tuesday’s budget will be more significant, because it will seek changes to entitlements — programs that are essentially on autopilot and don’t need annual authorization from Congress. The people describing the proposals spoke on the condition of anonymity because the budget had not been released publicly and the White House is closely guarding details.
The proposed changes include the big cuts to Medicaid. The White House also is expected to propose changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, though precise details couldn’t be learned. SNAP is the modern version of food stamps, and it swelled following the financial crisis as the Obama administration eased policies to make it easier for people to qualify for benefits. As the economy has improved, enrollment in the program hasn’t changed as much as many had forecast.
And they’re still after a the Affordable Health Care Act. This amounts to a death by a million paper cuts. You’ll notice most of this isn’t being rolled out with the same gusto as the Saudis welcomed Kremlin Caligula.
The Trump administration Monday plans to ask a federal court for another 90-day delay in a lawsuit over Obamacare insurance subsidies, according to two administration sources, leaving the future of the health care marketplaces in limbo through late August.
The suit, House v. Price, centers on Obamacare’s cost-sharing program, which reimburses health insurers to help low-income people make co-payments at the doctor or hospital. The legal motion in a case that was brought by House Republicans during the Obama administration is expected to be filed later Monday.
President Donald Trump has argued that the markets are fatally flawed and will collapse no matter what his administration does. He also suggested that the ensuing chaos could entice Democrats to come to the bargaining table and help craft a health care overhaul. But administration officials have said the payments would continue while the lawsuit is pending.
While another delay would stop short of imploding the markets, it still undermines the exchanges, by continuing uncertainty as insurers decide where to offer coverage and how to price it.
House Republicans charged the cost-sharing program was never legally funded in Obamacare. A federal district court judge ruled in 2016 that the Obama administration was illegally funding the program. The Obama administration appealed that decision but the issue was unresolved before Trump took office.
Meanwhile, Betsy DeVos is already steamrolling along. The plan that has completely failed in Louisiana is about to go National with this nut job in charge of the Department of Re-Education. School choice is another term for segregated schools and public funding of religious atrocities foisted on innocent children.
Before she was picked by President Trump to head up the U.S. Department of Education, Betsy DeVos was the chairwoman of the American Federal for Children, a pro-school choice lobbying group.
When she visits Indianapolis Monday night, Secretary DeVos will address a sea of friendly and familiar faces at the AFC’s National Policy Summit at the Weston Hotel.
It’s expected DeVos will roll out a Trump administration plan to provide tax credits to corporations and individuals who donate money to groups and schools that provide school choice scholarships to students and parents.
“We see that this is a really significant opportunity for her to lay out a vision for what she sees as educational choice going into the future for all fifty states,” said AFC Spokesman Tommy Schultz. “I think Indianapolis and Indiana are great places to do it where Indiana has one of the fastest growing choice programs in the entire country.”
More than 33,000 Hoosier students attend classes in a private or charter school under Indiana’s expanded choice program.
“So a federal tax credit scholarship program would be a really great way to facilitate getting more families educational options for their child. We expect something like that to be potentially rolled out later this year,” said Schultz. “It’s purely folks giving charitable contributions to education scholarship organizations and then therefore they’ll get a credit for that.”
Indiana’s public school teachers fear the DeVos speech will be one more attack on the system that educates a majority of America’s children, many of them in struggling urban school districts.
“We are concerned that her speech is going to be about changes to the proposed federal budget and how that’s going to impact our students,” said Theresa Merideth, president of the Indiana State Teachers Association. “What we have is a voucher system now that funds kids who are already going, by and large, to private schools anyway, and there is no data that is showing they are doing any better that public school counterparts.”
Meredith said before- and after-school programs, and services aimed at special education youngsters, will be at risk from proposed Trump administration cuts to the federal education budget.
Make American White, Fascist, and Nutty Religious folks! I really think their slogan should be Greed and Grifting is Good! In that vein, the White House is trying to block ethics investigations of ex lobbyists now working in Federal Agencies and the West Wing.
The Trump administration, in a significant escalation of its clash with the government’s top ethics watchdog, has moved to block an effort to disclose any ethics waivers granted to former lobbyists who now work in the White House or federal agencies.
The latest conflict came in recent days when the White House, in a highly unusual move, sent a letter to Walter M. Shaub Jr., the head of the Office of Government Ethics, asking him to withdraw a request he had sent to every federal agency for copies of the waivers. In the letter, the administration challenged his legal authority to demand the information.
Dozens of former lobbyists and industry lawyers are working in the Trump administration, which has hired them at a much higher rate than the previous administration. Keeping the waivers confidential would make it impossible to know whether any such officials are violating federal ethics rules or have been given a pass to ignore them.
Mr. Shaub, who is in the final year of a five-year term after being appointed by President Barack Obama, said he had no intention of backing down. “It is an extraordinary thing,” Mr. Shaub said of the White House request. “I have never seen anything like it.”
There is some good news. The Court System appears to be working as a system of checks and balances on all the crazies that have invaded the executive branches and legislative branches throughout the Country and in the District. SCOTUS just told North Carolina its gerrymandering smacked of racism and rejected its proposed Congressional Districts. Thomas sided with the majority and Gorsuch sat out so I’m no sure we can divine any future trends from this.
A divided U.S. Supreme Court ruled that North Carolina Republicans relied too heavily on race when they drew two bizarrely shaped congressional voting districts that were used until the 2014 election.
The ruling upholds a lower court decision that rejected the two majority-black districts and ordered a new map for the 2016 election. Even with the new lines, Republicans maintained their hold on 10 of the state’s 13 districts.
Writing for the court, Justice Elena Kagan said a three-judge panel had sufficient grounds for concluding that race, and not politics, was the driving factor in setting out the lines. She also backed the lower court’s conclusion that the district lines weren’t needed to comply with a federal voting-rights law.
“A state may not use race as the predominant factor in drawing district lines unless it has a compelling reason,” Kagan wrote.
The case produced an unusual split. Justice Clarence Thomas, perhaps the most conservative justice, joined the court’s four liberals in the majority. Thomas is a staunch opponent of the use of race in drawing district lines, no matter which side benefits.
Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito and Anthony Kennedy issued a partial dissent saying they would have upheld one of the districts. Justice Neil Gorsuch didn’t take part in the case, which was argued before he joined the court.
The contested districts were both held by black Democrats. Critics said the goal was to dilute minority voting strength outside of those two districts and preserve the power of neighboring white Republicans.
North Carolina officials said they were trying to preserve black majorities and comply with the Voting Rights Act, the landmark 1965 law designed to protect racial minorities. North Carolina also contended that, with regard to one of its disputed districts, map-drawers were legitimately motivated by politics.
One of the disputed districts — the 12th District, held by Representative Alma Adams — was 120 miles long, snaking from Charlotte to Greensboro and roughly tracking Interstate 85. The other — the 1st District, held by Representative G.K. Butterfield — was in the northeastern part of the state, with tendrils that captured black areas further south and west.
The 12th District has been the subject of repeated court challenges over the years. The latest case represented the fifth time the Supreme Court had examined the district.
Flynn will be evoking the Fifth Amendment. They probably have enough on him that it won’t mean much.
Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn will invoke his Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination on Monday as he notifies the Senate Intelligence committee that he will not comply with a subpoena seeking documents.
That’s according to a person with direct knowledge of the matter. The person spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the private interactions between Flynn and the committee.
Flynn’s decision comes less than two weeks after the committee issued a subpoena for Flynn’s documents as part of the panel’s investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election.
Legal experts have said Flynn was unlikely to turn over the personal documents without immunity because he would be waiving some of his constitutional protections by doing so. Flynn has previously sought immunity from “unfair prosecution” to cooperate with the committee.
Simon Maloy argues that the Trump White House is collapsing in an op ed for The Week.
Just as Air Force One was lifting off to ferry Trump to Riyadh, The New York Times and The Washington Post each published seismically significant pieces on the White House’s ever-expanding Russia scandal. The Timesreported that Trump, during an Oval Office meeting the day after he fired FBI Director James Comey, told high-level Russian officials that Comey was a “nut job” and firing him had relieved the “great pressure” Trump felt “because of Russia.” The Post, meanwhile, reported that the Justice Department’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s links to Russia has identified a senior White House official as “a significant person of interest.”
Shortly after the Times and Post stories hit, CNN came through with another big scoop, reporting that Russian officials had boasted during the 2016 campaign that they could use former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn to influence Trump and his associates.
The Times piece in particular is brutal for Trump. At the time the president divulged to the Russians his motivation for firing his FBI director, the administration was still sticking to its ridiculous story that Comey lost his job because he botched the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails. That means officials from an adversarial government knew the White House wasn’t being honest about a politically explosive subject.
On top of that, Trump’s comments to the Russians could become the focus of an obstruction of justice inquiry by special counsel Robert Mueller, who was tapped to assume control of the Russia investigation following Comey’s dismissal. Trump had already told NBC’s Lester Holt that the Russia investigation factored into his decision to fire Comey, and the Times report adds significant weight to the idea that Trump’s primary motivation in sacking Comey was to neutralize an issue that was damaging him politically.
The Post report, meanwhile, feels like the first strong indication that the Russia investigation has the potential to cut deeply. The fact that a senior White House official is coming under scrutiny is obviously a problem for Trump, but the Post also reported that the FBI inquiry now “also includes determining whether any financial crimes were committed by people close to the president.”
Financial Crimes is an interesting take given the Russian hacking of the US election and White House. But, it’s a serious way to take down the Trump Criminal Syndicate. This is from Josh Marshall writing for TPM.
We know – and this article confirms – that Paul Manafort is a significant focus of the probe. Even apart from his political work in Ukraine, Manafort appears to have a series of real estate deals, loans, etc. that investigators are looking at. So perhaps it’s something as mundane as stumbling across some kind of crooked, small-bore real estate ventures Manafort participated in while examining his business ties to people in Ukraine.
But my hunch is that it’s a bit more than that.
As you’ve seen, what I’ve been focused on in recent months are a series of business ventures over the last couple decades – either involving President Trump or his close associates – which seemed to rely on capital from people from the former Soviet Union or recent emigres from those countries. Trump himself, Felix Sater, Michael Cohen and many others figure into this as well as Manafort, Trump’s children, the Kushners and still others. My interest of course is to understand the roots of Trump’s affinity with the post-Soviet oligarch world and whatever financial ties or dependence he has on it. But even if you take the Russia/former Soviet Union connection with its geopolitical dynamics out of the equation, you simply can’t read over these deals and not see that Trump and his crew just play way out on the outer fringe of legality at best. At best. People who have done or subsequently did time in the US or other countries repeatedly appear in the picture. So do people from organized crime. A lot.
One thing you find looking through Trump’s history is that after his fall from financial grace a quarter century ago this pattern seemed to become part of the business model. Cut off from capital from the big banks and most people interested in not losing their money, he had to do business with people with decidedly sketchier reputations. Those people, often looking for places to park wealth in real estate, had to accept much higher levels of risk than people with clean reputations. That seemed to lead them to Trump.
Then there’s another level of it. Even apart from big bad acts and corrupt deals, look at the stuff David Fahrenthold dug up on the Trump Foundation and his Potemkin charitable giving. Beyond issues of possible illegality, the big takeaway there was that Trump operates with a seemingly almost total disregard for rule-following or even a lot of elementary record keeping. So on top of substantively shady deals things are executed in really slapdash and hazard ways. In other words, the Trump Organization sounds a lot like the Trump White House. Only it’s a private company, surrounded by a moat of NDAs, all examined by little more than the thin scrutiny of the New York tabloids.
Follow those links.
So, I’ve just filled the page with over 3100 words and counting. I think I’ll leave the rest to you this morning.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?