Tuesday Reads: Six Primaries Today, But Coronavirus Still Tops the News

The 2020 presidential contenders

Good Morning!!

Today there will be primaries in 6 states with 352 delegates up for grabs: Michigan, Washington, Missouri, Mississippi, Idaho, and North Dakota. What to watch for in each state, according to Buzzfeed News:

The 2020 Democratic primary radically changed last Tuesday, when Joe Biden surpassed even the highest expectations to build a delegate lead over Bernie Sanders. This Tuesday, the race could effectively lock into place.

Six states with a total of 352 delegates vote in the Democratic presidential primary today, which isn’t really a second Super Tuesday, even though many are calling it that (California, which voted last week, had 415 delegates on its own). But with Biden already up just about 80 delegates over Sanders going into Tuesday, a strong performance in these states could give him a lead that will be tough for Sanders to overcome. And alternatively, a surprising result for Sanders could make the primary more competitive than some assume it is right now, leading into states later this month that on paper look strong for Biden.

The biggest haul of delegates will come from Michigan, followed by Washington.

Michigan…is the big state tonight, with 125 delegates. Sanders won the primary here in 2016 over Hillary Clinton in a surprise, helping to revive his campaign even as the two basically split delegates evenly (67 for Sanders and 63 for Clinton).

Sanders and Biden have both spent much of the last week focused on winning the state. A win for Biden, especially one by a decisive margin, could be brutal for Sanders. A win for Sanders could prove that his promised coalition of young people — including young people of color — and the white working class still has life. Recent polls have shown a double-digit lead for Biden, but they showed one for Clinton ahead of the 2016 primary, too….

Washington…is tonight’s second-biggest state, with 89 delegates. Sanders won the state in a blowout in 2016 and is hoping to win by a decent margin again this year.

But Sanders has a disadvantage this year relative to 2016: The state will no longer hold caucuses, where he performed well with hyper-engaged, organized supporters. Washington this year is conducting its primary entirely by mail. About 22% of ballots were returned before Super Tuesday, which could limit a Biden bounce. Voting by mail has also reduced fears about the state’s coronavirus outbreak limiting turnout. But the result here isn’t necessarily certain: There’s been limited recent polling, and neither candidate has campaigned here in the last week.

NBC News: Democrats vote: What the polls show for Biden and Sanders in Michigan, other states.

A Detroit Free Press poll released Monday found that Biden has a 24-point lead over Sanders, with the former vice president drawing 51 percent of Democratic voters’ support to Sanders’ 27 percent. A Monmouth University poll, also released Monday, saw Biden with 51 percent of likely Democratic primary voters, while 36 percent supported Sanders. The RealClearPolitics polling average puts Biden up by 22.6 points.

Still, the Free Press noted, Sanders overcame a similar polling margin to win the state four years ago: The paper’s 2016 survey by the same pollsters gave Hillary Clinton a 25-point lead, but Sanders eventually won by 1.4 percentage points thanks to an unexpected surge of younger voters….

Biden has a narrow lead in Washington after eroding Sanders’ early lead with his Super Tuesday momentum. According to the RealClearPolitics polling average, Biden’s up by 2 points over Sanders.

The progressive-leaning state has 89 delegates — it’s the second-biggest trove of the day after Michigan — and Sanders won it handily in 2016….

Biden is also leading the polls in Missouri and Mississippi. Results in the tiny states of Idaho and North Dakota are anyone’s guess.

Obviously, the coronavirus is is leading the news today, despite the importance of the primaries. Here’s the latest.

Is what’s happening in Italy a preview for the U.S.? CBS News: Coronavirus brings Italy’s “darkest hour,” and takes a mounting toll in the U.S.

As Italians woke up to the most severe restrictions on their every-day lives since World War II, China said it was easing virus-control measures in the province where the COVID-19 disease emerged late last year. The contrasting conditions on two of the biggest battlefronts against the virus showed its severity, and the feasibility of corralling and controlling it.

AlJazeera: Italy in nationwide lockdown to prevent spread of coronavirus.

Italy has imposed unprecedented travel restrictions on its 60 million people to control the deadly coronavirus outbreak in the country.

“I am going to sign a decree that can be summarised as follows: I stay at home,” Conte said on television, announcing that the entire country would effectively be placed on lockdown from Tuesday.

“Travel must be avoided across the entire peninsula unless it is justified by professional reasons, by cases of need or for health reasons,” Conte said.

These measures extend a quarantine zone that Italy had imposed on its northern heartland around Milan and the greater Lombardy region, Venice, and Pesaro Urbino on Sunday.

The restrictions will run until April 3.

All schools and universities will immediately close. Serie A football matches and all other sporting events are also being suspended for the coming month.

All ski resorts are out of action and cinemas, museums, nightclubs and similar venues must remain shut after being ordered to close their doors over the weekend, the decree said.

While religious institutions will stay open, as long as people can stay a metre from one another, ceremonies such as marriages, baptisms and funerals are banned.

Read more at the link.

The Trump administration’s coronavirus strategy is still gaslighting and covering up.

Time Magazine: The Trump Administration Is Stalling an Intel Report That Warns the U.S. Isn’t Ready for a Global Pandemic.

The office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) was scheduled to deliver the Worldwide Threat Assessment to the House Intelligence Committee on Feb. 12 and the hearing has not been rescheduled, according to staffers and members of the House and Senate intelligence committees. The DNI’s office declined requests for a comment on the status of the report. Democratic staffers say they do not expect the report to be released any time soon.

The final draft of the report remains classified but the two officials who have read it say it contains warnings similar to those in the last installment, which was published on January 29, 2019. The 2019 report warns on page 29 that, “The United States will remain vulnerable to the next flu pandemic or large-scale outbreak of a contagious disease that could lead to massive rates of death and disability, severely affect the world economy, strain international resources, and increase calls on the United States for support.”

The 2019 warning was the third time in as many years that the nation’s intelligence experts said that a new strain of influenza could lead to a pandemic, and that the U.S. and the world were unprepared. “Although the international community has made tenuous improvements to global health security, these gains may be inadequate to address the challenge of what we anticipate will be more frequent outbreaks of infectious diseases because of rapid unplanned urbanization, prolonged humanitarian crises, human incursion into previously unsettled land, expansion of international travel and trade, and regional climate change,” the 2019 threat assessment warned.

Rather than acting on these recurrent warnings and bolstering America’s ability to respond to an outbreak, the Trump administration has instead cut back money and personnel from pandemic preparedness.

Click the link to read the rest.

Apparently, Trump doesn’t want immigrants to know how to protect themselves from the virusThe Miami Herald : Trump administration orders immigration courts to immediately remove coronavirus posters.

Immigration court staff nationwide have been ordered by the Trump administration to take down all coronavirus posters from courtrooms and waiting areas.

The Executive Office for Immigration Review, which falls under the Department of Justice, told all judges and staff members in an email Monday that all coronavirus posters, which explain in English and Spanish how to prevent catching and spreading the virus, had to be removed immediately.

“This is just a reminder that immigration judges do not have the authority to post, or ask you to post, signage for their individual courtrooms or the waiting areas,” wrote Christopher A. Santoro, the country’s acting chief immigration judge in a mass email to immigration court administrators nationwide.

“Per our leadership, the CDC flyer is not authorized for posting in the immigration courts. If you see one (attached), please remove it. Thank you.”

The information in the flyers came from the CDC. Why doesn’t the Trump administration want people in these courts to have the information?

Will the Republicans change their attitudes now that some GOP lawmakers–and maybe even Trump and Pence–have been exposed to the virus?

The Daily Beast: CPAC Attendees Want to Know Who the Mystery Coronavirus Patient Is.

Revelations that a man infected with the novel coronavirus hobnobbed with top Republicans at the annual Conservative Public Action Conference last month has prompted a wave of fright among Republican operatives who attended the conference and fear they may have been exposed, too. And as the fear has mounted so too have complaints that the conference’s planners have been too secretive about the man’s identity.

“If you’re not rich and important, you don’t get to know if you were exposed to someone with Coronavirus at CPAC,” Breitbart reporter Brandon Darby tweeted Monday….

The American Conservative Union, which organizes the annual event in National Harbor, Maryland, announced Saturday afternoon that a man who was infected with the coronavirus attended CPAC. Since then, four prominent Republicans—Sen. Ted Cruz (TX), Rep. Paul Gosar (AZ), Rep. Doug Collins (GA), and Rep. Matt Gaetz (FL)—have announced that they’re self-quarantining after interacting with the man.

Gaetz has undergone a test for the virus. In contrast, Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX), who also had contact with the infected man, said he won’t self-quarantine.

Gaetz flew on Air Force One with Trump yesterday and rode with him in the presidential limosine. Doug Collins was seen shaking hands and talking with Trump after the conference. For unknown reasons, Trump has not been tested for the virus.

Politico: ‘My phone’s been blowing up’: CPAC attendees rip the group’s virus messaging.

A CPAC attendee infected with coronavirus attended multiple days of the conference on a gold-level VIP ticket as well as a Friday night Shabbat dinner associated with the event, according to people familiar with the situation.

The infected attendee was a CPAC regular who made a hobby of meeting high-profile conference speakers and taking photographs with them. His gold-level ticket gave him access to a private lounge directly outside the green room for speakers on the conference’s main stage.

As of early Monday evening, event organizers have contacted “just over a dozen” people who they have identified as having direct contact with the infected attendee, according to Ian Walters, spokesman for the American Conservative Union, which organizes the annual Conservative Political Action Conference.

The ACU’s handling of the case has led to grumbling from some conferencegoers, who have complained of a two-tiered system: VIPs have been notified directly even to be told they did not interact with the infected man, while ordinary rank-and-file attendees have by and large been left to wonder, receiving only vaguer information in mass emails. Meanwhile, critics have noted the irony of prominent officials downplaying the outbreak even as the disease may silently have been spreading among the Trump administration’s own members and supporters.

More stories to check out today:

The Atlantic: COVID-19 Has Dangerously Inverted the Long-Standing White House Theme.

Jennifer Senior at The New York Times: President Trump Is Unfit for This Crisis. Period.

Brian Klass at The Washington Post: The coronavirus is Trump’s Chernobyl.

The Atlantic: The Dangerous Delays in U.S. Coronavirus Testing Continue.

Tom Bossert at The Washington Post: It’s now or never for the U.S. if it hopes to keep coronavirus from burning out of control.

AP: Trump talks down virus as his properties face possible hit.

The Daily Beast: Trump Chatted With Taliban Leaders on Secret U.S. Kill-or-Capture List.


Tuesday Reads: The Corona Virus and Finally Vetting Bernie

Good Morning!!

I had a flu shot in January, and since then I’ve had a week-long bout a stomach flu and now I have a full-blown case of the flu. I came down with it on Saturday morning and since then I’ve had a low grade fever that comes and goes along with a hacking cough, headaches, ear pain, and muscle aches. I felt better yesterday, and my temperature was normal until late last night. Now it’s already over 100 again.

I’m really not looking forward to catching the corona virus, but according to James Hamblin at The Atlantic, we are all likely to get it eventually: You’re Likely to Get the Coronavirus. Most cases are not life-threatening, which is also what makes the virus a historic challenge to contain.

Coronaviruses are similar to influenza viruses in that they are both single strands of RNA. Four coronaviruses commonly infect humans, causing colds. These are believed to have evolved in humans to maximize their own spread—which means sickening, but not killing, people. By contrast, the two prior novel coronavirus outbreaks—SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome, named for where the first outbreak occurred)—were picked up from animals, as was H5N1. These diseases were highly fatal to humans. If there were mild or asymptomatic cases, they were extremely few. Had there been more of them, the disease would have spread widely. Ultimately, SARS and MERS each killed fewer than 1,000 people.

COVID-19 is already reported to have killed more than twice that number. With its potent mix of characteristics, this virus is unlike most that capture popular attention: It is deadly, but not too deadly. It makes people sick, but not in predictable, uniquely identifiable ways. Last week, 14 Americans tested positive on a cruise ship in Japan despite feeling fine—the new virus may be most dangerous because, it seems, it may sometimes cause no symptoms at all.

Hamblin explains that this COVID-19 is likely to spread and then keep coming back every year, because it is contagious even when people have no symptoms and it doesn’t kill off most of the people who get it.

The Harvard epidemiology professor Marc Lipsitch is exacting in his diction, even for an epidemiologist. Twice in our conversation he started to say something, then paused and said, “Actually, let me start again.” So it’s striking when one of the points he wanted to get exactly right was this: “I think the likely outcome is that it will ultimately not be containable.”

Containment is the first step in responding to any outbreak. In the case of COVID-19, the possibility (however implausible) of preventing a pandemic seemed to play out in a matter of days. Starting in January, China began cordoning off progressively larger areas, radiating outward from Wuhan City and eventually encapsulating some 100 million people. People were barred from leaving home, and lectured by drones if they were caught outside. Nonetheless, the virus has now been found in 24 countries….

Lipsitch predicts that, within the coming year, some 40 to 70 percent of people around the world will be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19. But, he clarifies emphatically, this does not mean that all will have severe illnesses. “It’s likely that many will have mild disease, or may be asymptomatic,” he said. As with influenza, which is often life-threatening to people with chronic health conditions and of older age, most cases pass without medical care. (Overall, around 14 percent of people with influenza have no symptoms.)

Lipsitch is far from alone in his belief that this virus will continue to spread widely. The emerging consensus among epidemiologists is that the most likely outcome of this outbreak is a new seasonal disease—a fifth “endemic” coronavirus. With the other four, people are not known to develop long-lasting immunity. If this one follows suit, and if the disease continues to be as severe as it is now, “cold and flu season” could become “cold and flu and COVID-19 season.”

The New York Times: ‘Recipe for a Massive Viral Outbreak’: Iran Emerges as a Worldwide Threat.

Religious pilgrims, migrant workers, businessmen, soldiers and clerics all flow constantly across Iran’s frontiers, often crossing into countries with few border controls, weak and ineffective governments and fragile health systems.

Now, as it struggles to contain the spread of the coronavirus, Iran is also emerging as the second focal point after China for the spread of the disease. Cases in Iraq, Afghanistan, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates — even one in Canada — have all been traced to Iran, sending tremors of fear rippling out from Kabul to Beirut.

The Middle East is in many ways the perfect place to spawn a pandemic, experts say, with the constant circulation of both Muslim pilgrims and itinerant workers who might carry the virus. Iran’s economy has been strangled by sanctions, its people have lost trust in their government and its leaders are isolated from much of the world, providing little clarity about the extent of the epidemic.

Civil wars or years of unrest have shattered the health systems of several neighboring countries, like Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Yemen. And most of the region is governed largely by authoritarians with poor track records at providing public transparency, accountability and health services.

“It is a recipe for a massive viral outbreak,” said Peter Piot, director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the former founding executive director of the Joint United Nations Program on H.I.V./AIDS.

An even more immediate threat is the rise of Bernie Sanders. Over the weekend Sanders used his 60 Minutes interview to defend his past support of Fidel Castro’s Cuba.

The reaction in Florida-home was swift and angry.

Marc Caputo at Politico: Florida Dems in uproar after Sanders’ Cuba comments.

Florida Democrats insist he‘s the worst-equipped [to defeat Donald Trump] after Sanders’ refusal Sunday night to thoroughly condemn the Cuban revolution. His comments on 60 Minutes sent shock waves through the nation’s biggest battleground state, where Democratic members of Congress, state legislators and party leaders warned that his nomination — and Sanders’ self-described “Democratic socialism” — will cost them the biggest battleground state of them all.

“Donald Trump wins Florida if Bernie is our nominee,” said state Rep. Javier Fernandez, a Democratic candidate in a majority-Hispanic state Senate district….

As a state with an influential cross-section of Latinos whose families fled leftist Latin American regimes and violence, Sanders embrace of far-left leaders and his past refusals to wholeheartedly condemn Latin American strongmen and the Soviet Union have long been seen as fatal flaws.

Sanders on Sunday did nothing to allay those concerns in a 60 Minutes interview in which he was asked about his 1985 comments stating that the Cuban people didn’t “rise up in rebellion against Fidel Castro” because “he educated their kids, gave their kids health care, totally transformed society.”

There was no mention of the firing squads, political purges and mass arrests that accompanied the 1959 revolution.

There’s much more at the link.

At least Sanders is finally getting vetted by the media. For example, Griffe Witte at The Washington Post: In Cold War travels, Bernie Sanders found much to admire behind enemy lines. Now that’s a problem for his campaign.

The mayor of tiny Burlington, Vt., was back from Nicaragua and eager to share the good news.

The country’s Soviet-backed government — forged via armed rebellion — was cutting infant mortality, reducing illiteracy and redistributing land to peasant farmers. Its Sandinista leaders, branded terrorists by the U.S. government, impressed him with “their intelligence and their sincerity.”

Three years later, Bernie Sanders was fresh off the plane from Moscow, reveling in the beauty of the land and the contentedness of the people.

And a year after that, he returned from Cuba having tapped into a revolutionary spirit “far deeper and more profound than I understood it to be.”

With Sanders now surging to the top of the Democratic presidential field, those three-decade-old impressions introduced a volatile new element in the race Monday as rivals reacted to Sanders’s decision to defend his remarks, not disclaim them….

The fact that Sanders’s long-ago travels in the communist world have become an issue in the 2020 campaign reflects how unorthodox a choice he would be to lead the Democratic Party….

Returning home from visits to some of the United States’ most avowed enemies, Sanders offered some criticism but also plenty of praise in Vermont community television recordings. Many of the videos were kept in storage for decades — including during his 2016 campaign — and, even after being posted online, have remained relatively unknown.

Now, Sanders’s comments are coming back to life as opponents say his warm feelings toward his hosts decades ago make him vulnerable to attack and reveal a soft spot for left-wing despots.

Read the rest at the WaPo. More Bernie critiques:

Jonathan Chait: If Democrats Aren’t Terrified of Bernie, They’re Not Paying Attention.

William Saletan at Slate: The Great Socialism Gap. Socialism doesn’t freak out Democratic voters the way it freaks out other Americans. That’s a problem.

Never Trumper Michael Gerson at The Washington Post: A Trump-Sanders election would destroy our politics.

The South Carolina primary is coming up on Saturday, followed three days later by Super Tuesday. There’s another debate tonight, and I hope Elizabeth Warren will finally get up the nerve to address Sanders’ many weaknesses instead continuing to focus on Mike Bloomberg. I’m pretty sure the other candidates won’t hesitate to attack Bernie.

Natasha Korecki at Politico: Sanders under fire in South Carolina from all directions.

Joe Biden’s campaign is airing a new digital ad in South Carolina accusing Bernie Sanders of trying to undermine Barack Obama’s 2012 reelection by threatening to primary him. Pete Buttigieg was on TV in South Carolina hitting Sanders over health care and Mike Bloomberg targeted Sanders’ past gun votes.

“When it comes to building on Barack Obama’s legacy, Bernie Sanders just can’t be trusted,” the Biden ad, first obtained by POLITICO, warns.

The fusillade targeting Sanders on the eve of a Democratic debate in the fourth early state of South Carolina marked the latest turn in a Democratic primary that now has a decisive frontrunner. Each of the candidates, competing for a fraction of the moderate vote, are attempting to blunt the Vermont senator’s momentum coming off a landslide win in Nevada.

“When we rallied together to defend our president and all the progress he made they had his back,” the narrator says. Panning to then-Vice President Biden, the voice-over continues, “He had his back,” and moving to images of African American supporters at an Obama rally, says: “And you had his back.”

“But back in Washington, there was one guy with another plan,” the narrator says before an audio clip is heard of Sanders saying, “I think it would be a good idea if President Obama faced some primary opposition.”

More at the WaPo.

Are you going to watch the debate? I might give it a try. The last one was pretty entertaining, and it would be fun to see Bernie get his ass kicked. As always, this is an open thread.


Lazy Caturday Reads

Good Morning!!

The Nevada Caucuses will wrap up this afternoon, but thousands of people have already voted. Political pundits have already crowned Bernie Sanders the winner, but that may not be a sure thing.

David Byler at The Washington Post: We lack the data to predict Nevada’s outcome. Be wary of pundits’ gut instincts.

Nobody really knows what’s going on in the upcoming Nevada Democratic caucuses. Sure, we have a little bit of polling to go on — the RealClearPolitics average includes three recent polls, and it shows Bernie Sanders leading the pack at 30 percent, with Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg, Tom Steyer and Amy Klobuchar all clustered between 16 percent and 10 percent of the vote. But it’s hard to nail down the electorate in a caucus state, and Nevada is flush with the sort of young, Hispanic voters that pollsters often have trouble contacting. So all we really know is that Sanders has a lead, but that he’s not invincible.

In a normal election, this lack of concrete information wouldn’t be a problem: Nobody ever died because they didn’t see enough Nevada polling. But primaries aren’t normal elections. The trajectory of the race is often influenced by media-created “expectations” and narratives about “momentum.” And in Nevada, many political pros will be setting those crucially important expectations using gut feelings and groupthink rather than real information. That’s a riskier undertaking for them than they might acknowledge — and for the voters who listen to them.

Much more at the link.

Harry Enten at CNN: Why Nevada could surprise us.

There have been just eight polls released publicly over the last three months. Two of those were internal polls. Only five of those have been taken since the primary season began a few weeks ago, and of those, a grand total of zero meet CNN standards for publication….

Put all together, Sanders is something around a seven in 10 favorite to win in Nevada. That’s based off of the prediction markets and how good the polling in Nevada has been since 2008 (the first year in which Nevada was one of the first four states to vote). Biden and former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg are next with somewhere around a one in 10 chance to win. Everybody has less than a one in 10 shot in Nevada.

Sanders clearly has a better shot than anyone else to win, but a seven in 10 shot is not an overwhelming favorite. It means that there’s a decent chance Sanders won’t win.
The lack of confidence we should have in the Nevada outcome is partially because of the lack of polling data, but also because the polling data has not been particularly predictive in the past.

Since 2008, Nevada has b een a polling wasteland. Looking at all candidates who polled at 10% or better after undecideds were allocated, Nevada polls taken after the Iowa caucuses have had an average error per candidate of 8 points. The 95% confidence interval for each candidate above 10% is something closer to +/- 20 points. That is, to put it mildly, a huge range.

Read the rest at CNN.

Cat Nap – A Pink Chair by the Window, Lara Meintjes

And we can’t forget that early voting has already been going on in many Super Tuesday states. I’ll be voting early here in Massachusetts next week.

Kelly Mena at CNN: Forget Nevada. Almost 2 million votes have already been cast in Super Tuesday states.

Super Tuesday is still more than a week away, but almost 2 million ballots have already been cast — including in delegate-rich California and Texas.

More than 1.3 million vote-by-mail ballots have been returned in California since February 3, according to county data provided by Sam Mahood, a spokesman for Secretary of State Alex Padilla. That’s out of more than 16 million ballots sent out — a flood that allows the vast majority of the state’s more than 20 million registered voters to cast their ballots before March 3.

“The California presidential primary may be on Super Tuesday, but for millions of Californians, it is really Super February,” Padilla said in a news release earlier this month.
California, with 494 delegates at stake — the most of any single state — has taken on new prominence this year after moving its primary date up in the calendar. Democratic candidates need 1,991 to clinch the nomination.

The other big delegate haul up for grabs on Super Tuesday is Texas, with 261 delegates. Almost half a million ballots have already been cast since early and by-mail voting opened on February 18, according to the secretary of state’s office. Texas has more than 16 million registered voters.

Unfortunately, Bernie is also leading in California polls; and he’s so confident of winning Nevada that he has already left to campaign in CA.

Cat on a chair, Diane Hoepner

Two polls released this week in California show Bernie Sanders holding a comfortable lead. The latest poll from The Public Policy Institute of California, released on Tuesday, shows Sanders ahead at 32%, with Joe Biden (14%), Elizabeth Warren (13%), Pete Buttigieg (12%) and Michael Bloomberg (12%) closely knotted in a race for second. Amy Klobuchar stood at 5% in that poll, with Tom Steyer at 3% and Tulsi Gabbard at 1%.

Monmouth University also released a California poll this week. Their poll finds Sanders leading with 24%, Biden at 17%, Bloomberg at 13%, Warren at 10% and Buttigieg at 9%. Behind them, Steyer (5%) and Klobuchar (4%) were about even, with Gabbard at 2%.

Yesterday we learned that Russia is trying to help Bernie win the Democratic nomination. The Washington Post reports:

U.S. officials have told Sen. Bernie Sanders that Russia is attempting to help his presidential campaign as part of an effort to interfere with the Democratic contest, according to people familiar with the matter.

President Trump and lawmakers on Capitol Hill also have been informed about the Russian assistance to the Vermont senator, those people said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence.

It is not clear what form that Russian assistance has taken. U.S. prosecutors found a Russian effort in 2016 to use social media to boost Sanders’s campaign against Hillary Clinton, part of a broader effort to hurt Clinton, sow dissension in the American electorate and ultimately help elect Donald Trump.

So Bernie has known this for a month and did and said nothing about it. And he’s not happy with the media for reporting the news. He attacked the Post for reporting the story.

He is also furious with MSNBC for some reason. As far as I can tell, he is getting full support from Chris Hayes, Rachel Maddow and Ali Velshi, but I guess he’s angry with some of the guests on the network. Page Six: Bernie Sanders calls out MSNBC over campaign coverage.

Bernie Sanders went ballistic at NBC and MSNBC execs ahead of the Democratic debate this week — jabbing one top TV exec repeatedly in the face with his finger and accusing the networks of offensive negative coverage.

Surging Sanders stormed through the walk-through for the Las Vegas debate, singling out one top producer at the end and aggressively sticking his finger in his face. One shocked witness said, “Bernie marched right up to NBC and MSNBC’s head of creative production and began jabbing his finger right in his face, yelling, ‘Your coverage of my campaign is not fair . . . Your questions tonight are not going to be fair to me.’ ”

Sanders did not hold back as he continued to rant about MSNBC coverage. According to the witness, “The NBC exec told Sanders he would be treated fairly.”

A separate insider confirmed the confrontation, saying Sanders was so steamed he also sparred with MSNBC boss Phil Griffin outside the green room moments before the debate began. “Sen. Sanders stated, ‘Phil, your network has not been playing a fair role in this campaign. I am upset. Is anything going to change? . . . I hope you will do better.’ ”

The Democratic front-runner has been left seeing red over repeated slights against him by liberal MSNBC pundits and hosts, including Chris Matthews, who suggested the senator might cheer socialist executions in Central Park. And Chuck Todd — a moderator of Wednesday’s debate — even quoted a story that described Sanders supporters as a “digital brownshirt brigade.” Todd was also tackled by seething Sanders onstage after the debate: “I do not appreciate your comment about my supporters,” adding the Holocaust reference was “offensive.”

Sanders’ campaign manager Faiz Shakir has said that even Fox News has been “more fair than MSNBC . . . which . . . is constantly undermining the Bernie Sanders campaign.”

There’s no doubt in my mind that Bernie is just a “socialist” mirror image of Trump. But Trump is actually president right now, and he’s undermining democracy in every way he and his thugs can think of. His latest efforts include a Stalinist-style purge of anyone who crosses him and a hostile takeover of the Intelligence community.

The Washington Post: Trump embarks on expansive search for disloyalty as administration-wide purge escalates.

President Trump has instructed his White House to identify and force out officials across his administration who are not seen as sufficiently loyal, a post-impeachment escalation that administration officials say reflects a new phase of a campaign of retribution and restructuring ahead of the November election.

Maine Coon Cat Sitting On Chair, by Rosanne Olson.

Johnny McEntee, Trump’s former personal aide who now leads the effort as director of presidential personnel, has begun combing through various agencies with a mandate from the president to oust or sideline political appointees who have not proved their loyalty, according to several administration officials and others familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

The push comes in the aftermath of an impeachment process in which several members of Trump’s administration provided damning testimony about his behavior with regard to Ukraine. The stream of officials publicly criticizing Trump’s actions frustrated the president and caused him to fixate on cleaning house after his acquittal this month.

“We want bad people out of our government!” Trump tweeted Feb. 13, kicking off a tumultuous stretch of firings, resignations, controversial appointments and private skirmishes that have since spilled into public view.

The New York Times: Richard Grenell Begins Overhauling Intelligence Office, Prompting Fears of Partisanship.

Richard Grenell’s tenure as the nation’s top intelligence official may be short-lived, but he wasted no time this week starting to shape his team of advisers, ousting his office’s No. 2 official — a longtime intelligence officer — and bringing in an expert on Trump conspiracy theories to help lead the agency, according to officials.

Mr. Grenell has also requested the intelligence behind the classified briefing last week before the House Intelligence Committee where officials told lawmakers that Russia was interfering in November’s presidential election and that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia favored President Trump’s re-election. The briefing later prompted Mr. Trump’s anger as he complained that Democrats would use it against him.

Joseph Maguire, the former acting director of national intelligence, and his deputy, Andrew P. Hallman, resigned on Friday. Mr. Grenell told Mr. Hallman, popular in the office’s Liberty Crossing headquarters, that his service was no longer needed, according to two officials. Mr. Hallman, who has worked in the office or at the C.I.A. for three decades, expressed confidence in his colleagues in a statement but also referred to the “uncertainties that come with change.”

The ouster of Mr. Hallman and exit of Mr. Maguire, who also oversaw the National Counterterrorism Center, allowed Mr. Grenell to install his own leadership team.

Much more at the WaPo link.

Finally, here’s a deep dive into Trump’s attack on our National Security by Garrett Graff at Wired: How Trump Hollowed Out US National Security.

While vacancies and acting officials have become commonplace in this administration, the moves by President Donald Trump this week represent a troubling and potentially profound new danger to the country. There will soon be no Senate-confirmed director of the National Counterterrorism Center, director of national intelligence, principal deputy director of national intelligence, homeland security secretary, deputy homeland security secretary, nor leaders of any of the three main border security and immigration agencies. Across the government, nearly 100,000 federal law enforcement agents, officers, and personnel are working today without permanent agency leaders, from Customs and Border Protection and Immigrations and Customs Enforcement to the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.

All the posts, and many more top security jobs, are unfilled or staffed with leaders who have not been confirmed by the Senate. Trump has done an end-around, installing loyalists without subjecting them to legally mandated vetting and approval by Congress.

Trump’s surprise ouster of Maguire, who took over as acting director of national intelligence last summer, came apparently in a tantrum over a congressional briefing that outlined how Russia is already trying to interfere with the 2020 election and help reelect Trump.

But understanding the true cost of Maguire’s firing requires understanding how the role first came to be. The director of national intelligence position was created after 9/11 specifically to coordinate the work of the nation’s 17 intelligence agencies and help “connect the dots” on disparate data and threats, work that wasn’t done before September 11, 2001. DNI is an immensely challenging job that includes serving legally as the president’s top intelligence adviser, and traditionally involves giving the president’s daily briefing on potential threats.

Graff also address Trump’s destruction of the Department of Homeland Security–including FEMA. I hope you’ll read the whole article.

Have a great weekend, Sky Dancers! As always, this is an open thread.


Tuesday Reads

Good Morning!!

Just shoot me now. Could we really end up with a general election choice of Sanders vs. Trump? Please tell me this isn’t really happening. The latest NPR/PBS national poll came out this morning.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has opened up a double-digit lead in the Democratic nominating contest, according to a new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll.

Sanders has 31% support nationally, up 9 points since December, the last time the poll asked about Democratic voters’ preferences.

His next closest contender has 19%. But that second-place rival is former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Many Americans have become familiar with Bloomberg lately in this race because of his ubiquitous TV ads. But now get ready to see him on the debate stage for the first time Wednesday. With this poll, Bloomberg has qualified for the Nevada debate, despite not being on the ballot there for Saturday’s caucuses.

You read that right. Joe Biden is now in third place, but he’s still running the strongest against Trump.

Third among Democratic voters and Democratic-leaning independents is former Vice President Joe Biden with 15%, down 9 points since December.

The debate Wednesday, as well as Biden’s performance in Nevada Saturday and South Carolina a week later, are critical to whether the former vice president has a real chance at the nomination after disappointing fourth- and fifth-place showings in Iowa and New Hampshire, respectively….

Following Biden is Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren at 12%, also down from December — by 5 percentage points — after poor showings in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Next is Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar at 9%. She’s up from 4% in December after surprisingly good finishes in the first two contests, and she has leaped ahead of Pete Buttigieg in this national survey.

The former South Bend, Ind., mayor is at just 8%, down from 13% in December, not a good sign for the candidate after very solid finishes in the first two contests [in Iowa and New Hampshire].

Politico reports: Major Latino group backs Sanders on eve of Nevada caucus.

A prominent national Latino group is endorsing Bernie Sanders four days ahead of the caucuses in Nevada, a state with a significant Hispanic electorate.

Mijente, a grass-roots organization that mobilizes Latinx and Chicanx voters, decided to make its first-ever presidential endorsement in response to President Donald Trump’s rhetoric and policies targeting Latinos. The endorsement adds to the growing collection of progressive groups coalescing around the Vermont senator, after earlier expectations they would be divided between him and Elizabeth Warren.

The organization will use its reach on social media, its roughly 1,000 dues-paying members and more than 300,000-person email list to mobilize Latinos to vote and hit the pavement for Sanders in Nevada and other states.

Marisa Franco, director and cofounder of Mijente, said the group’s members picked Sanders after a lengthy process that included sit-downs with multiple candidates. In January, its members voted on four options: endorsing Sanders, Warren, both of them, or no endorsement at all. In the end, 70 percent of its members voted to endorse Sanders.

Of course the powerful Culinary Workers Union in Nevada strongly opposes Sanders’ “Medicare for all” policy. And there’s this Telemundo poll:

Early voting is going on this week in Nevada and will continue until the caucus on Saturday.

Folks, we are in deep deep trouble. We can only hope that someone other than Bernie wins in South Carolina. Unfortunately, that someone could be Bloomberg if Black voters give up on Biden. This entire primary has been a disaster. Tom Perez should resign and slink off into the sunset.

The debate is tomorrow night, so Sanders and Bloomberg will have an opportunity to attack each other in person. I think I’ll skip watching it and just read about it on Thursday.

To give you a sense of how Trump would run against Bernie Sanders, read this piece by Never Trumper Tom Nichols in USA Today: Sanders was ridiculously naive about the Soviet Union. The Trump ads write themselves.

As a Soviet expert and a politically homeless Never Trump voter, I am certain of three things when it comes to Bernie and the Soviets. First, his comments about the USSR show that his judgment is terrible. Second, he will be unable to wave away his comments merely by appending “democratic” to his preferred version of Soviet ideology.

And third, the Republicans will weaponize his remarks, and this will likely cost him the election. Indeed, it would be professional malpractice if Trump’s campaign people passed up this chance. Were I still a Republican and hoping for a GOP win, I could write those ads myself.

…Sanders visited Yaroslavl and other cities — another coincidence, since that is a city I’ve visited as well — in 1988, when the Cold War was nearly over. By that point, Mikhail Gorbachev had been in power for three years and had welcomed Ronald Reagan to Moscow after they both had signed a landmark nuclear arms treaty.

Still, Sanders came back sounding like he had been bamboozled, like so many other credulous Westerners who visited the USSR and took what they were shown by their hosts at face value. Some of the juicier quotes, like the wince-inducing praise of Soviet youth organizations, are already floating around on social media.

Sanders was impressed with the Soviet Union’s government health care program. Nichols was actually part of a group that investigated it.

What we saw was grisly. Patients draining their wounds into open jars of pus. Post-operative infections worse than the problem that required surgery. Reusable metal hypodermics, dirty bedclothes, untended patients wandering about dimly lit hallways.

I saw an operating theater with windows — to the outside. As I looked at the trees and grass while standing next to the surgical table, I asked: “Do you open these? Ever?” When it gets hot, the Soviet doctors replied, nodding.

The American doctor was polite and professional, but at one point he leaned over to me and whispered that this was where American medicine was … in 1890.

The point here isn’t that Sanders should have known more about medicine. Rather, he should have known more about the Soviet Union. Maybe the Soviet health care system was behind by a decade in the best Kremlin hospitals. In the rest of the country, it was behind by a full century.

Of course the details are irrelevant. The Trump gang can just show all the videos of Sanders visiting and praising the Soviet Union.

No matter who wins the Democratic nomination, Trump will cheat again. Former Obama speechwriter Sarada Peri writes in the Atlantic: Trump Is Going to Cheat. How should Democrats fight against a president who has no moral or legal compass?

Democratic primary voters care deeply about electability. What most want is simple: a candidate who can beat President Donald Trump in November. So they worry about whether former Vice President Joe Biden will inspire young people, and about whether Senator Bernie Sanders will scare away old people. They debate whether a political revolution is necessary to energize the base, or whether the revolution will dissuade independents. Will the historic candidacy of a woman or a gay man take off or implode?

But these concerns about policy and broad cultural appeal are secondary to the true “electability” crisis facing whichever Democrat wins the nomination: He or she will need to run against a president seemingly prepared, and empowered, to lie and cheat his way to reelection….

If past is prologue, Trump will say absolutely anything necessary to attract and maintain support, including patent untruths. His pathological lying has been well documented and yet never ceases to stun….

How can Democrats run against a candidate who will simply deny his unpopular positions and make up nonexistent accomplishments? No amount of fact-checking can counter his constant stream of mendacity, which has become white noise in our political culture.

Peri enumerates all the ways Trump will cheat, and he will probably find others. I kept reading to learn her recommendations for how to deal with this, and I didn’t find any. Here’s her concluding paragraph:

Electability, ultimately, cannot rest on the shoulders of whomever the party nominates, talented though that person may be. Electability does not depend, simply, on the nominee’s ability to earn the votes of a wide array of Americans in a few battleground states. It depends on all Americans’ willingness to demand an election that is, indeed, free and fair.

Good luck with that.

I’m sorry to sound so discouraged but all we need is another narcissistic screamer who has no clue how to accomplish anything through legislation. Would Bloomberg be better? I don’t know. I can’t stand to think about it anymore today.

Stories to check out, links only:

USA Today: Federal judges’ association calls emergency meeting after DOJ intervenes in case of Trump ally Roger Stone.

The Washington Post: Jeff Bezos commits $10 billion to fight climate change.

Quinta Jurecic and Benjamin Wittes at The Atlantic: Imagine If a Democrat Behaved Like Bill Barr.  What would the attorney general say were a future administration to follow his lead?

Rebecca Traister at New York Magazine: The Immoderate Susan Collins: After a long career voting across the aisle, why did the Maine senator gamble her legacy on Trump?

AP: Homeland Security waives contracting laws for border wall.

Raw Story: Trump’s grab for border wall funds could backfire spectacularly in a key swing state.

Financial Times letter to the editor: George Soros: Remove Zuckerberg and Sandberg from their posts.

That’s all I have for you today. What stories are you following?


Terrible Tuesday Reads: Iowa’s Chaotic Meltdown, Clusterf#ck, Sh#tshow

Rainy Day, Columbus Avenue, Boston, by Frederick Child Hassam

Good Morning!!

Can we please stop letting Iowa go first now?

 

Eric Levitz at New York Magazine: R.I.P. the ‘First-In-the-Nation’ Iowa Caucuses (1972-2020).

The “first-in-the-nation” Iowa caucuses died Monday night after a protracted battle with advanced-stage omnishambles.

DeMoines Skyline by Buffalo Bonker

Or so we can hope. Iowa’s eccentric, endearing — and wildly anti-democratic — nominating contest has always been an indefensible institution. There is no reason why the most politically-engaged and/or time-rich citizens of America’s 31st most populous state should have the power to veto presidential candidates before anyone else in the country has a say. And yet, few of Iowa’s bitterest critics ever dreamed it would subject the country to something like this.

As of this writing, we are one hour into Tuesday morning and only a small fraction of Iowa precincts have reported their results. Officials currently say that they hope to have the numbers by “some time Tuesday.” The ostensible reasons for this are twofold. 1) This year, for the first time ever, the Iowa Democratic Party was required to report three distinct sets of results — the vote tally on “first alignment,” the vote tally on “final alignment” (when backers of candidates who lack 15% support redistribute their votes to higher-polling candidates), and the final delegate tally. In the past, the party was only on the hook for that last metric, which is much easier to tabulate. 2) To ease the burden of logging all this information from more than 1,600 precincts, the party developed an app for reporting results — which many precinct chairs could not figure out how to use. Thus, they began calling in the results on a telephone hotline. Much waiting on hold ensued.

Guess who pushed for the changes in the vote counting and reporting?

Politico: ‘It’s a total meltdown’: Confusion seizes Iowa as officials struggle to report results.

No results had been reported by midnight Eastern, and two campaigns told POLITICO that after a conference call with the Iowa Democratic Party, they didn’t expect any returns until Tuesday morning at the earliest.

Candidates stepped into the void. Pete Buttigieg went first by claiming victory — misleadingly, in the view of Bernie Sanders, whose campaign responded by releasing unofficial figures showing his strength. Amy Klobuchar also joined in by citing unverified results she said demonstrated a robust performance.

Edward Hopper cityscape

The biggest “winner” might have been Joe Biden. According to the Iowa entrance poll, he was hovering close to the viability threshold of 15 percent statewide. But the questions surrounding the vote-counting served to obscure a potentially poor performance. The former vice president, facing potentially ugly headlines going into New Hampshire and beyond, couldn’t get out of Iowa fast enough.

“We’re going to walk out of here with our share of delegates,” Biden declared to a packed room on the Drake University campus. “It’s on to New Hampshire!”

Conversely, it might have delivered a blow to Sanders and Buttigieg, who appeared on track to do well in the state. Whether the victor turns out to be Sanders or Buttigieg or someone else, that candidate was denied the chance to give an election night victory speech to a nationwide audience — a springboard heading into New Hampshire.

Read more at Politico.

The New York Times:

The app that the Iowa Democratic Party commissioned to tabulate and report results from the caucuses on Monday was not properly tested at a statewide scale, said people who were briefed on the app by the state party.

It was quickly put together in just the past two months, said the people, some of whom asked to remain anonymous because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

Life in the Suburbs, by Leonard Koscianski

And the party decided to use the app only after another proposal for reporting votes — which entailed having caucus participants call in their votes over the phone — was abandoned, on the advice of Democratic National Committee officials, according to David Jefferson, a board member of Verified Voting, a nonpartisan election integrity organization.

And let’s not forget what happened with the final Iowa poll. Ben Smith at Buzzfeed News: This Iowa Poll Was Never Published. It’s Still Influencing What You Read.

The Des Moines Register spiked its poll Saturday night, but by the next day it seemed most reporters here had seen the numbers — or something purporting to be the numbers.

Here’s what happened: As the Des Moines Register readied a cover story and CNN prepped for an hourlong special about the time-honored poll, Pete Buttigieg’s campaign complained that his name hadn’t been offered to some poll recipients. The pollster, Ann Selzer, quickly discovered the glitch in a Florida call center that triggered the error. It seemed likely to be just a minor error — but everyone involved cares about their reputation for trustworthiness, and they quickly decided to pull the poll rather than publish with doubts.

But the news organizations had already been preparing to publish the numbers, and a version of them began to circulate almost instantly. I won’t print those numbers: I haven’t been able to confirm that the numbers I’ve seen are the already-questionable official ones.

And yet, most veterans of coverage here trust Selzer’s surveys. So many acknowledged to me last night that they’d quietly taken the unreleased and possibly wrong numbers into account.

“Nobody was talking about Elizabeth Warren and now everybody thinks she has a shot because of those numbers,” said Rebecca Katz, a progressive political consultant who supports Warren. (It’s not the only reason, I should note: Other polls this week also showed Warren in a strong position, as did the last published Selzer poll in January.)

Read more at the link.

Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight: Iowa Might Have Screwed Up The Whole Nomination Process.

In trying to build a forecast model of the Democratic primaries, we literally had to think about the entire process from start (Iowa) to finish (the Virgin Islands on June 6). Actually, we had to do more than that. Since the nomination process is sequential — states vote one at a time rather than all at once — we had to determine, empirically, how much the results of one state can affect the rest.

By Ron Francis

The answer in the case of Iowa is that it matters a lot. Despite its demographic non-representativeness, and the quirks of the caucuses process, the amount of media coverage the state gets makes it far more valuable a prize than you’d assume from the fact that it only accounts for 41 of the Democrats’ 3,979 pledged delegates.

More specifically, we estimate — based on testing how much the results in various states have historically changed the candidates’ position in national polls — that Iowa was the second most-important date on the calendar this year, trailing only Super Tuesday. It was worth the equivalent of almost 800 delegates, about 20 times its actual number.

Everything was a little weird in Iowa this year, however. And there were already some signs that the Iowa bounce — which essentially results from all the favorable media coverage that winning candidates get — might be smaller than normal….

But we weren’t prepared for what actually happened, which is that — as I’m writing this at 3:15 a.m. on Tuesday — the Iowa Democratic Party literally hasn’t released any results from its caucuses. I’m not going to predict what those numbers will eventually be, although early indications are that Bernie Sanders, Pete Buttigieg and perhaps Elizabeth Warren had good results. The point is that the lead story around the 2020 Iowa Democratic caucuses is now — and will forever be — the colossal shitshow around the failure to release results in a timely fashion.

In other news, The New York Times Magazine has published an article adapted from David Enrich’s forthcoming book about Trump and Deutche Bank: The Money Behind Trump’s Money. The inside story of the president and Deutsche Bank, his lender of last resort. It’s very long and involved, but here’s a brief excerpt:

George Grosz, Street Scene

Last April, congressional Democrats subpoenaed ­Deutsche Bank for its records on Trump, his family members and his businesses. The Trump family sued to block the bank from complying; after two federal courts ruled against the Trumps, the Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case, with oral arguments expected in the spring. State prosecutors, meanwhile, are investigating the bank’s ties with Trump, too. The F.B.I. has been conducting its own wide-­ranging investigation of ­Deutsche Bank, and people connected to the bank told me they have been interviewed by special agents about aspects of the Trump relationship.

If they ever become public, the bank’s Trump records could serve as a Rosetta Stone to decode the president’s finances. Executives told me that the bank has, or at one point had, portions of Trump’s personal federal income tax returns going back to around 2011. (­Deutsche Bank lawyers told a federal court last year that the bank does not have those returns; it is unclear what happened to them. The Trump Organization did not respond to multiple requests for comment.) The bank has documents detailing the finances and operations of his businesses. And it has records about internal deliberations over whether and how to do business with Trump — a paper trail that most likely reflects some bank employees’ concerns about potentially suspicious transactions that they detected in the family’s accounts.

One reason all these files could be so illuminating is that the bank’s relationship with Trump extended well beyond making simple loans. ­Deutsche Bank managed tens of millions of dollars of Trump’s personal assets. The bank also furnished him with other services that have not previously been reported: providing sophisticated financial instruments that shielded him from risks and outside scrutiny, and making introductions to wealthy Russians who were interested in investing in Western real estate. If Trump cheated on his taxes, ­Deutsche Bank would probably know. If his net worth is measured in millions, not billions, ­Deutsche Bank would probably know. If he secretly got money from the Kremlin, ­Deutsche Bank would probably know.

Also, Trump will give his fake state of the union address tonight, and I won’t be watching. What are you thinking and reading today?