What He Plays on TeeVee

Charles Pierce:

It always was about the money. The president* always defined himself by it. It was the comforting myth of his public existence, the fairytale he told himself so he could sleep at night through all the failure and bankruptcy and the whoring after cash, dirty or laundered, all over the world. Take away the money—or, more accurately, the perception of the money—and there simply is nothing left of the man. Take away the money, and he can’t see himself in the mirror. So he would do anything, including imperil his presidency and, therefore, the country, to save himself from the horrible realization that the money was all there was to him and there wasn’t any money anymore.

It’s obvious from the public record, never mind what might be in his tax returns, that Trump was never a successful businessman. He’s been propped up all his life, first by his father, and then by banks who decided they’d lose more if they him crash than if they kept him propped up. It appears his properties have been used for money laundering by Russians. And then there’s the fact that in 2006 he was suddenly flush with cash, and there’s no accounting for where he got it. His “success” was entirely in his ability to market himself as a success. And when he got the stint on reality television, he literally became an actor playing a successful businessman on the teevee. His supporters still buy the image and don’t see the man.

Greg Sargent spells it out: Trumpism is rotten to its core. And the stench of corruption and failure is everywhere.

A new Post piece offers an arresting summary of Trump’s current travails. Former Trump fixer Michael Cohen has now revealed that Trump’s company pursued a Trump Tower in Moscow through June 2016 — while GOP primary voters were choosing their nominee for president — which Trump concealed.

Meanwhile, the special counsel is scrutinizing phone calls between Trump and longtime adviser Roger Stone to determine whether Stone communicated advance knowledge he allegedly possessed of a WikiLeaks operation carrying out Russia’s sabotage of our election on Trump’s behalf.

The Post weaves these strands together this way: “Investigators have evidence that Trump was in close contact with his lieutenants as they made outreach to both Russia and WikiLeaks — and that they tried to conceal the extent of their activities.”

The precise nature of all these contacts probably won’t, by itself, bring down Trump. But they provide a new glimpse into just how corrupted his ascension to the presidency really was. He repeatedly praised Russian President Vladimir Putin and called for better relations with Russia — positions presented as good-faith proposals in the national interest — while pursuing a lucrative deal that required Kremlin approval.

Trump doesn’t even seem to fully grasp what he did wrong. His rage tweets continue to slam the Mueller probe as “illegal” and a “witch hunt” that has hurt “innocent people.” Like Paul Manafort? And he continues to openly dangle the possibility of a pardon for Manafort. That’s obstruction on its face.

And instead of denying that he was pursuing a business deal with Vladimir Putin while running for president, he tweeted,

The Trump organization planned to sweeten the deal by offering Vladimir Putin a $50 million penthouse in the Moscow Trump Tower.  See also Trump Jr.’s 2017 Testimony Conflicts With Cohen’s Account Of Russian Talks.

Paul Waldman:

The president lies about just about everything, but in particular he has lied on matters related to Russia. The latest exposure of his dishonestly comes out of the plea agreement from his former personal lawyer Michael Cohen, who supplied evidence that the Trump Organization was actively pursuing a deal to build a Trump Tower in Moscow while Trump was running for president. Trump asserted yesterday in response to Cohen’s plea, “I mean, we were very open with it. We were thinking about building a building [in Russia].” In fact, throughout the campaign he claimed again and again that he had no business interests in Russia, saying things like “I don’t know Putin, have no business whatsoever with Russia, have nothing to do with Russia.”

To take just one other example, when it was revealed that Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort, and Jared Kushner held a meeting in 2016 with a group of Russians they believed would supply them with damaging information on Hillary Clinton, President Trump personally dictated a misleading statement intended to deceive the public about what the meeting was actually about. Trump’s representatives, including lawyer Jay Sekulow and spokesperson Sarah Sanders, then issued denials that Trump wrote the statement. They later admitted that these denials were false and Trump had in fact dictated it.

And of course Trump knew about the 2016 meeting before it happened.

At 6:14 p.m. on June 7, 2016, Donald Trump Jr. clicked the send button on an email to confirm a meeting with a woman described as a “Russian government attorney” who would give him “information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia.”

Three hours later, his father, Donald J. Trump, claimed victory in the final primary races propelling him to the Republican presidential nomination and a general election contest against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. In his victory speech, Mr. Trump promised to deliver a major address detailing Mrs. Clinton’s “corrupt dealings” to give “favorable treatment” to foreign governments, including “the Russians.”

We see, over and over again, that Trump is a very limited man with little capacity for much of anything except being an ass. And it’s all closing in on him now.

BTW, wonder why the Moscow deal fell through? Philip Bump writes,

The plea deal indicates that the last known discussion about the deal was “on or about June 14,” 2016, when Cohen told Sater that he was canceling plans to travel to Russia.

Why is that date significant? It happens to be the day The Washington Post broke a big story that Russia had hacked the Democratic National Committee.



Mueller Time?

Manafort lied to the prosecutors. What’s up with that?

Paul Waldman puts recent events together:

First, it’s unlikely that Mueller would be withdrawing Manafort’s plea agreement unless he had specific evidence demonstrating that Manafort lied. He’s going to lay that evidence out for the court as the judge considers what sentence to give Manafort, in what amounts to another indictment.

Second, Trump’s lawyers and Manafort’s lawyers have a joint defense agreement that allows them to share information. And third, Trump recently completed a set of written answers to Mueller’s questions.

Hmmm … so Trump’s answers probably were predicated on what he knew Manfort had told the Mueller team. And only after Trump submitted his answers did Mueller reveal that he knew Manafort had lied. Hmmmm

Marcy Wheeler:

Mueller’s team appears to have no doubt that Manafort was lying to them. That means they didn’t really need his testimony, at all. It also means they had no need to keep secrets — they could keep giving Manafort the impression that he was pulling a fast one over the prosecutors, all while reporting misleading information to Trump that he could use to fill out his open book test. Which increases the likelihood that Trump just submitted sworn answers to those questions full of lies.

And that “detailed sentencing submission … sett[ing] forth the nature of the defendant’s crimes and lies” that Mueller mentions in the report?

There’s your Mueller report, which will be provided in a form that Matt Whitaker won’t be able to suppress.

Heh. Trump may be the single most thoroughly screwed man on the planet right now. This  may be why he’s throwing nuclear tantrums on the Internets.

Trump definitely is not having a good week. Yesterday GM announced factory closings and layoffs, which of course made Trump look really, really bad. So today he is issuing threats against General Motors, although exactly what he thinks he can do without congressional approval isn’t clear.

There are also reports that Manafort met with Julian Assange several times in the Ecuadorian Embassy. The last meeting was in March 2016, which was about the same time Manafort became Trump’s campaign manager.

Note that Jerome Corsi has bravely rejected a plea deal and says he’d rather rot in jail than take a plea. Works for me.

Putin Jerks His Puppet, Babies Get Tear-Gassed

Because I’m lazy, I’m just going to embed this —

If the link isn’t working, here’s the whole quote:

If I was a thug like Vladimir Putin, and I knew my toady Donald Trump had his hands full with a developing crisis of his own making near San Diego, do you know what I’d do?
I’d give the green light to a plan that’s been on the back burner for years: Don’t look now, but Russia just rammed a Ukrainian ship, fired on another, seized some Ukrainian vessels, and the Ukrainian president has summoned his war cabinet.
What’s Trump going to do, call out Putin? To whom he owes his presidency? The man who when he walks into a room, Trump lights up like a Christmas tree? After he’s spent two solid years weakening NATO and isolating us from our historic allies, including Canada and the UK? He’s going to drop everything and come to Kiev’s defense?
Paraphrasing Tom Hagen to Michael Corleone: Putin played this one beautifully.

See also Ukraine to impose martial law as standoff with Russia in Black Sea intensifies. Trump couldn’t be providing a better distraction for Putin if he tried. Or maybe he is trying? Remember the Armistice observance?

So U.S. Border Patrol Agents fired tear gas across the Mexican border at little children in diapers whom Trump calls “stone cold criminals.” You can see some of the stone-cold criminals in this tweet:

There have been waves of migrants at the border before, and somehow previous administrations managed to handle them without creating a scandal. Do read Greg Sargent’s very good commentary on this, Trump is failing miserably on his biggest issue. And he’s covering it up with lies. Nothing Trump has done regarding border security has been either justified or effective. As in all things, he’s failing miserably.

A couple of days ago the White House announced it had a “deal” with Mexico that would in effect pay Mexico to keep the migraints on its side of the border until their asylum cases could be heard. Since then I’ve read several other news stories that say there is no deal; the White House jumped the gun on the announcement. I am inclined to believe the latter.


America Lost

Kori Schake at The Atlantic:

The Halifax Forum, occurring just after President Donald Trump unleashed yet another petulant tirade against Germany and France that culminated in the unseemly taunt that Parisians were speaking German until the U.S. intervened in World Wars I and II, had a funereal feel this year. Allies are grieving the loss of an America they believed in, as it sinks in that they cannot rely on us any longer. …

…It’s not just that allies don’t believe the reassuring voices in the administration; they are tired of tuning in to the malicious circus of American politics and policies. They’re exhausted with our solipsism and drama, and disappointed with our indifference to anyone else’s problems and politics. They are resigning themselves to a world without American inspiration or partnership, to a post-American international order.

The Americans present at the conference pointed to policy successes, like the establishment of nato’s 30-30-30 rapid-deployment forces, U.S. troops deploying to Poland, reconstituting the Second Fleet to patrol the Atlantic, and integral U.S. participation in nato’s biggest military exercise since the end of the Cold War. But allies are getting tired of hearing it. Not only were those successes overshadowed by Trump’s offensive behavior, the incandescence of his public rage called into question whether the United States would come to the defense of its allies in a crisis.

The decibel level of mean-spiritedness coming from the highest levels of American government is deafening our friends to our better selves. Allies believe they are witnessing something they never expected to behold, and which endangers both their security and our own: the United States putting an end to the American order. Word came through during the Forum that nato will not be holding a 70th-anniversary celebration, because the president of the United States cannot be trusted not to bring the temple down upon all our heads. That was the dirge played in Halifax.

The world might be relieved if a “normal” person is elected in 2020, but after this debacle the U.S. will no longer occupy a unique leadership position. Our political system elected Donald Trump and has allowed him to remain in office for two years. Even if he is removed from office next year, the damage is done.

At least, now that The Creature has turned in his “answers” to Bob Mueller, and Democrats are about to take over the House, maybe finally the abomination that is the Trump Administration will finally break apart. Harry Litman, a former deputy assistant attorney general, teaches constitutional law at UC San Diego and UCLA and writes for the Los Angeles Times:

The actual charges are likely to be one of three criminal conspiracies: violating federal election laws, violating computer laws, or soliciting or receiving something of value from a foreign government. Charges, in other words, that not even the most ardent Trump die-hard could trivialize. They bring with them the possibility that Mueller might opt to name President Trump himself as an unindicted co-conspirator.

In case you missed this:

Look first for an indictment against radio commentator Jerome Corsi, who told the world last week that after several months of his cooperating with the probe, Mueller has informed him that he will be charged with “some form of lying” to the Mueller team.

Corsi, often identified in news reports as an associate of Roger Stone, is supposed to be in plea negotiations now.

Back to Harry Litman — I believe Rachel Maddow and others have pointed this out.

Another augury of blockbuster developments: Mueller last week filed a statement in the District of Columbia court that is overseeing the case of Manafort, who awaits sentencing on his tax and fraud conviction. Mueller requested a 10-day delay in submitting a status report on the ground that the later report would “be of greater assistance” to the court’s work determining what sentence Manafort deserves. Mueller’s request strongly suggests that we’ll soon see important additional information bearing on the value of Manafort’s cooperation, up to and including a potential role as a key witness in a soon-to-be-unveiled criminal case.

The whole point of the enormous pressure Mueller brought to bear against Manafort was to shake loose information about persons above him in the food chain. Those are very few, arguably only Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner or Trump himself (who we know believes that Manafort could incriminate him).


Finally, Mueller’s team is scheduled to file a long-delayed court memorandum Dec. 4, laying out its view of the value of the cooperation of former national security advisor Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty more than a year ago to lying about his contacts with a Russian official.

Litman believes that Mueller and his team have months of investigating yet ahead of them. However, “it is increasingly likely that the full contours of his inquiry will be sketched out and known to the public by year’s end.”

So, there’s a chance it won’t be much longer before the pressure of Mueller’s “inquiry” and House investigations will finally dismantle what’s left of Trump. But the old world order isn’t going to be restored.

Trump Should Be Thankful

He’s screwed up enough this week already he should be grateful for the four-day weekend. Otherwise who knows how much damage he’d have done by Friday, like lose Nebraska in a poker game.

Let’s review.

Monday a federal judge blocked Trump’s new “asylum” policy and added a rebuke:

“Whatever the scope of the President’s authority, he may not rewrite the immigration laws to impose a condition that Congress has expressly forbidden,” wrote the judge, whom President Barack Obama nominated to the federal bench in 2012. Tigar reasoned that the “failure to comply with entry requirements such as arriving at a designated port of entry should bear little, if any, weight in the asylum process.”

The Trump administration said Tuesday it will continue to press the matter in court.

In Trump’s typical style, he called the 9th Circuit a “disgrace” and the judge an “Obama judge.” Then Chief Justice John Roberts spoke up.

Chief Justice John Roberts is pushing back against President Donald Trump for his description of a judge who ruled against Trump’s migrant asylum policy as an “Obama judge.”

It’s the first time the Republican-appointed leader of the federal judiciary has offered even a hint of criticism of Trump, who has previously blasted federal judges who ruled against him.

Roberts said Wednesday the U.S. doesn’t have “Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges.” He commented in a statement released by the Supreme Court after a query by The Associated Press.

It also strikes me that if Trump wants to further pursue the matter in court,  pissing off the entire federal judiciary isn’t a smooth move.

But there’s more. There’s so much more.

After his cowardly butt kissing of Saudi Arabia yesterday, he did it again today. This is one of his morning tweets:

Greg Sargent wrote today,

In this case and many others, Trump is not being “frank” about his real priorities, and he is not putting America first. He’s putting his own naked self-interest over what’s good for America, and prioritizing the real-world policy realization of his own prejudices and hatreds over any good-faith, fact-based effort to determine, by any discernible standard, what might actually be in the country’s interests.

At the very least, he probably assumes lower oil prices make him look good. But there must be more. How much money does he owe the Saudis? Where are these transactions hidden? For that matter, what about the Russians? We need some good money-launderings sleuths looking into this.

Wait a minute – House Intelligence Panel Hiring Money-Laundering Sleuths!

The House intelligence committee’s incoming Democratic majority is taking its first steps to follow Donald Trump’s money, The Daily Beast has learned.

The committee is looking to hire money-laundering and forensic accounting experts, three sources familiar with the plans confirm to The Daily Beast. One Democratic committee office said the purpose of the potential new hires is to examine unanswered financial questions about Trump and Russia, but their work could apply broadly across the panel’s intelligence oversight.

Also this week:

President Trump told the White House counsel in the spring that he wanted to order the Justice Department to prosecute two of his political adversaries: his 2016 challenger, Hillary Clinton, and the former F.B.I. director James B. Comey, according to two people familiar with the conversation.

The lawyer, Donald F. McGahn II, rebuffed the president, saying that he had no authority to order a prosecution. Mr. McGahn said that while he could request an investigation, that too could prompt accusations of abuse of power. To underscore his point, Mr. McGahn had White House lawyers write a memo for Mr. Trump warning that if he asked law enforcement to investigate his rivals, he could face a range of consequences, including possible impeachment.

Charles Pierce:

Here’s the thing. If we’re still following the Constitution, as soon as the president* finished asking the question, he was guilty of a high crime and liable to impeachment and removal from office. It doesn’t matter that it never happened, or that McGahn talked him out of it. Given his position, the very suggestion by the president* that the Justice Department behave as his personal Praetorian Guard is an obstruction of justice and an abuse of power. McGahn should’ve walked that conversation over to Robert Mueller’s place as soon as he left the Oval Office. However, he didn’t, and the Times leaves us with this little land mine deep in the story.

It is unclear whether Mr. Trump read Mr. McGahn’s memo or whether he pursued the prosecutions further.

It is? We’re “unclear” whether the president* actually acted on this notion, compounding his felonies, and we’re “unclear” whether investigations of Clinton and Comey might be underway right now. That’s one fcklord of a cliffhanger right there, NYT.

Meanwhile, there are a growing number of court challenges to Matthew Whitaker’s appointment as acting Aggorney General. Oh, and what about her emails?

So, yeah, the Creature should be thankful tomorrow is a national holiday and people will be watching football and stuffing themselves on turkey and not paying attention to him.

Donald Trump Is a Pathetic, Craven Coward Who Shames America

The following is not a joke. This is the beginning of an actual statement from Donald J. Trump released by the White House.

America First!

The world is a very dangerous place!

The country of Iran, as an example, is responsible for a bloody proxy war against Saudi Arabia in Yemen, trying to destabilize Iraq’s fragile attempt at democracy, supporting the terror group Hezbollah in Lebanon, propping up dictator Bashar Assad in Syria (who has killed millions of his own citizens), and much more. Likewise, the Iranians have killed many Americans and other innocent people throughout the Middle East. Iran states openly, and with great force, “Death to America!” and “Death to Israel!” Iran is considered “the world’s leading sponsor of terror.”

And then it goes on for several more paragraphs, basically saying that it was just awful what was done to that poor Mr. Khashoggi. Mr. Khashoggi was probably a dangerous anti-American terrorist, because that’s what the Saudis say, but it was an awful thing nonetheless. But we need Saudi Arbia because because because and, anyway, nobody really knows what happened no matter what U.S. intelligence agencies say. The last paragraph:

I understand there are members of Congress who, for political or other reasons, would like to go in a different direction – and they are free to do so. I will consider whatever ideas are presented to me, but only if they are consistent with the absolute security and safety of America. After the United States, Saudi Arabia is the largest oil producing nation in the world. They have worked closely with us and have been very responsive to my requests to keeping oil prices at reasonable levels – so important for the world. As President of the United States I intend to ensure that, in a very dangerous world, America is pursuing its national interests and vigorously contesting countries that wish to do us harm. Very simply it is called America First!

Very simply it is called Trump is a sniveling, un-American coward! If you ask me. Oil is more important than rights or values or anything else, it says. We must prostitute ourselves as a nation for oil and because the Saudis gave The Creature a net gold medal.

Do see the Washington Post‘s annotated version of this atrocious statement.

Karen Attiah at WaPo:

In a juvenile, clumsy White House statement on Tuesday full of falsehoods, Trump repeated the Saudi lie that Jamal was an “enemy of a state” and that the “United States would stand steadfastly by Saudi Arabia,” even though its regime lured, killed and dismembered a peaceful Post op-ed writer who lived in Virginia.

In effect, Trump is doing his best to help the Saudi regime get away with the murder of a U.S. resident and one of the Arab world’s most prominent writers. If the administration continues down this path, it will further destroy whatever is left of America’s moral credibility on global human rights and freedom of expression. It puts truth-seekers and journalists who dare challenge the Saudi regime and other intolerant governments in grave danger, no matter where they live. Trump’s refusal to act gives a symbolic green light to the young, power-drunk Mohammed bin Salman so he can continue his reckless exploits in Saudi Arabia and the Arab world, for possibly the next 40 to 50 years, and face zero consequences.

“If we allow a murderer to get away because we think we can make some deals with him, we are just reinforcing the idea that money can silence everybody”, says Abdullah Alaoudh, a senior scholar at the Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University.  “And this is the dangerous message that created Saddam Hussein and Moammar Gaddafi. We can better protect the good relationship with Saudi Arabia in the long run through building a relationship with the Saudi people, institutions and even the majority of the royal family. Or we can risk losing all that by protecting one powerful individual who has been implicated in a horrible crime.”

President Donald Trump’s public comments regularly reveal him to be unsuited to hold the most powerful office in the world, both temperamentally and intellectually. But nothing of late has made that quite as clear as the new White House statement on Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s assassination.

The statement, a defense of maintaining close ties with Saudi Arabia’s government published on Tuesday afternoon, reads like it was written by the president personally. It begins with a strange declarative statement — “The world is a very dangerous place!” — that seems tonally out of place on official White House letterhead. It then goes on to make a series of egregious factual, analytic, and moral errors, excusing Saudi Arabia’s murder of a US resident in a way that gives a green light to dictators around the world to kill their own citizens.

In a responsible White House, this statement would never have been drafted, let alone sent out to the entire world to read. But this is not a responsible White House, and will not be until we have a responsible commander-in-chief.

After dismantling the statement line by line, Beauchamp concludes,

This conclusion captures the enormity of the statement. Everything from siding with a dictator over US intelligence to the moral repulsiveness of the geopolitical logic to even the juvenile writing style screams an obvious fact: A man who released this under his name is not fit to run the world’s oldest democracy and most powerful country.

Jonathan Chait:

The first two sentences — “America First! The world is a dangerous place!” — set the basic predicate for his argument. People get murdered, dismembered, dissolved in acid, all the time, and we need to look out for our interests.  …

… Nowhere in his statement does Trump reiterate the point he made in 2015 — he personally has business with the Kingdom, including $270,000 in spending in Trump’s Washington hotel alone, just last year.

Trump seems to think that the Saudis are doing us a big favor by selling us oil and buying our military ordnance, so we must be deferential and kiss their butts. I don’t think so. This is one of the most shameful official statements ever issued by a U.S. president. I can’t think of a worse one, actually.

Republicans Have a Woman Problem

I was feeling kind of meh about the midterms last week, but as more House races are called things are looking up. Stanley Greenberg wrote,

It was transformative, knocking down what we assumed were Electoral College certainties. We didn’t immediately see this transformation because we assumed that Mr. Trump and the polarization in his wake still governed as before.

First of all, Democrats did not win simply because white women with college degrees rebelled against Mr. Trump’s misogyny, sexism and disrespect for women. Nearly every category of women rebelled. …

… Yes, House Democrats increased their vote margin nationally among white women with at least a four-year degree by 13 points compared with the Clinton-Trump margin in 2016. But Democrats also won 71 percent of millennial women and 54 percent of unmarried white women (who split their votes two years earlier). In 2018, unmarried white women pushed up their vote margin for Democrats by 10 points. In fact, white women without a four-year degree (pollster shorthand for the white working class) raised their vote margin for Democrats by 13 points.

Greenberg documents that there was a move among white working-class men toward Democrats also, although it wasn’t as dramatic as the move among white working’class women.

Last week, Lindsey Graham lamented that Republicans lost votes among suburban women. “We’ve got to address the suburban woman problem,” he said. Miz Lindsey also was saying the day after the midterm that the Senate vote had been Brett Kavanaugh’s revenge, because red state Democrats who had voted against Kavanaugh lost.

Somebody send him Greenberg’s analysis. Whether the Kavanaugh vote actually made any difference to Claire McCaskill or Heidi Heitkamp is not that clear. McCaskill toward the end was running a very cautious race emphasizing how centrist and moderate she is, and I suspect she might have done better in the urban districts if she’d come out promising to fight Donald Trump. That centrist red state Democrats lost doesn’t necessarily mean they would have done better if they were even more centrist.

But now we’re hearing that women across the board were more likely to vote for Democrats. Hmm, I wonder why?

 Liberal political commentator Anushay Hossain told the Fix:

“When we say ‘suburban,’ we are really talking about white women, and while they make up the majority of Trump supporters, current and past, I think it is impossible for them to continue to ignore Trump’s basic disregard for women and our rights, both culturally and politically, with his policies and rhetoric.”

But suburban voters’ concerns with the GOP weren’t limited to the commander in chief. They found the positions and behavior of legislators like Graham troublesome as well.

The veteran lawmaker had what some deemed a “meltdown” as he defended Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, who was facing accusations of sexual assault. In his desire to protect Trump’s nominee, he made public his disbelief of Christine Blasey Ford, the clinical psychologist who accused Kavanaugh of inappropriately touching her without consent while the two were in high school.

I doubt Senate Republicans to this day realize what they did to themselves and their party in those hearings.

After Republicans voted in favor of Kavanaugh, Graham and others on the right believed that women voters would see their fathers, husbands, brothers and sons in Kavanaugh, and side with Republicans aiming to protect men facing accusations of sexual assault. … But women largely disagreed and decided to back lawmakers, many of them women, who voted against confirming Kavanaugh, who continued to face low approval ratings from women, according to a Washington Post/ABC poll.

And I don’t think that disagreement is going to go away.

That Republicans kept the Senate is largely a factor of the particular electoral map of 2018; most Senate races Dems needed to win were in conservative states. Given voter suppression tactics, Florida’s historic inability to count votes and that the Georgia race was stolen in plain sight, the Senate was just too big a hill to climb this time.

Philip Bump provides data showing that a Trump endorsement, or even a Trump rally, didn’t do much to help Republicans.

Our first look at Trump’s tweeted endorsements showed that his candidate won about half the time, meaning that an endorsement from Trump was about the same as an endorsement from George Washington (in coin form, once flipped). …

…In the House districts where he held rallies — usually not on behalf of the House candidates — the vote relative to the 2016 election was more heavily Democratic in 20 of 25 districts. If we consider a national shift of about three points to the Democrats (the 2016 national margin, compared with the national House vote as of Nov. 15, which favors the Democrats by about five points), 17 of 25 House districts where Trump rallied moved more to the Democrats than the country did overall. …  [In Senate races] Trump visited only two states he didn’t win in 2016: Nevada and Illinois. Democrats picked up a Senate seat and a governor’s mansion in those states, respectively. They also got that Arizona Senate seat won by Sinema.


Orange County, California, is now solid blue for the first time since 1940.

And do read ‘Nothing on this page is real’: How lies become truth in online America. It’s horrible and fascinating.

Stuff to Read, Fire and Smoke Edition

The Creature is on his way to California, supposedly to meet with firefighters and first responders. If past trips to disaster areas are any indication, he’ll be safely away from the effects of the fire and anyone suffering from them, so he might as well have stayed on the East Coast somewhere.

It’s not just the fire; it’s the toxic particulates in the smoke that can do a lot of harm.

More than a thousand people are missing.

Dana Milbank, While Trump feasts on Thanksgiving, troops on the border eat rations and await Pancho Villa:

Since the election, Trump has forgotten about the mortal peril posed by the caravan “invasion” — he has mentioned the “caravan” only once, and only when asked — but the troops he ordered to act in this political advertisement can’t forget. They will remain on the border through Thanksgiving, the New York Times reported, eating MRE rations, living in tents without electricity, receiving neither combat pay nor hostile-fire pay. …

…Mattis tried another way to give meaning to the troops’ aimless mission on the border. “I would put this in a little historic context,” he told reporters on Wednesday. “I think many of you are aware that President Wilson 100 years ago, a little over 100 years ago, deployed the U.S. Army to the southwest border. . . . The threat then was Pancho Villa’s troops, a revolutionary raiding across the border into the United States.”

So, troops, if you see this guy, do spring into action.

Now, that was a caravan. They don’t make ’em like that any more.

The CIA has concluded that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Like most of us hadn’t figured that out. The Creature promptly said that Saudi Arabia is a “spectacular ally.”

Times may be bad, but at least it’s not 536 any more.

Still Cracking

Do read “Five days of fury: Inside Trump’s Paris temper, election woes and staff upheaval” by Josh Dawsey and Philip Rucker at WaPo. I think the part that most got to me was that the Creature was angry with his staff for not telling him that skipping the Belleau Wood cemetary observance would make him look bad. As if any American wouldn’t care enough to want to go; as if any American wouldn’t realize how it would look to cancel. He has no sense whatsoever of American history and tradition; anything that happened before him is of no interest to him.

Paul Waldman writes that the White House is in meltdown.

New reporting paints a picture of the administration descending into a thunderdome of backstabbing and resentment as staffers jockey for position or wonder whether they should get the heck out, all presided over by an erratic, unhappy president….

…Nothing is more upsetting to Trump than being considered a loser, even temporarily. But I suspect that the prospect of having his tax returns made public has him even more frightened. We don’t know what they will reveal, but suffice to say that no sane person believes that all we’ll discover when they’re opened up is that Trump took advantage of some loopholes and did some creative accounting here and there. Everything we know about Trump’s career — not least the recent revelation that he and his family engaged in a years-long conspiracy to commit tax fraud on an absolutely massive scale — suggests that those returns will be a Pandora’s box of scandal.

And he was a moron to assume that every bad deed he ever did wouldn’t be sniffed out, eventually. Presidents can’t keep secrets any more, or at least they can’t keep them forever.

Then, do read This Is All Donald Trump Has Left by David Roth. Brilliant writing. Says it all.

Oh, and Mitch McConnell published an op ed on the Fox News website slamming Democrats for being too partisan. No, really, he did that. I am not making this up. Go ahead and take a few minutes to process. There were some, um, reactions on Twitter.

Is Trump Cracking Up? (Updated)

It’s hard to tell. “Cracked” Trump isn’t that different from “normal” Trump. But it’s a theory going around.

Today’s tweet:

Granted, he never did understand what the NATO thing was all about. I’m sure a lot of people have tried to explain it to him. But Trump doesn’t do learning curves; his brain flatlined some time back.

I learned late last night that the Creature not only skipped World War I commemorations in Paris, as previously noted; he didn’t bother to go to Arlington on Veteran’s Day. Not that I want his odious corruption anywhere near where my brother is buried, but it does seem odd. And he’s changing the story about why he didn’t go to Aisne-Marne American Cemetery in France on Saturday. Now he’s saying the Secret Service told him not to go.  Did the Secret Service tell him to not go to Arlington also? Or (more likely, I suspect) did he just not want to bother?

One strongly suspects he was meeting with Putin all those times he wasn’t at a scheduled event in Paris. Trump and Putin both turned up late in separate cars at the Arc de Triomphe, like nobody would suspect a thing.

It’s worth going to Twitter to read the comments left to this tweet, btw. Some are brilliant.

For example:


Anyway — Jennifer Rubin wrote a couple of days ago that Trump is cracking up politically, if not mentally.

… the press and the country at large should keep in mind that Trump acts out when he is weak, humiliated and cornered. He’s all those things right now:

*His performance in Europe was panned.
*The election results get worse for Republicans with each passing day.
*His great North Korea diplomacy, contrary to the gullible pundits and political spinners, was a bust. (He was snookered.)
*We now have two major Middle East problems — Iran and out-of-control Sunni despots who think (not unreasonably) they can lead him around by the nose.
*He is not winning the trade war, and it may be one of many factors leading to an economic pullback before the 2020 election.
*Mueller plows ahead, with possibly more indictments (e.g., Roger Stone, Donald Trump Jr.). The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York (aided by Michael Cohen’s cooperation) has its own case(s) to pursue against Trump and/or his helpmates.
*Obamacare is here to stay. It’s more popular than ever, and red America has fallen in love with Medicaid expansion.
*Trump’s finances are no longer protected from scrutiny, nor are his daughter and son-in-law’s.

In sum, we should continue to tally Trump’s constitutional offenses just as we keep a running count of his lies. However, these offenses are part of a bigger picture of a failing president and a party incapable of breaking with him. Trump is cracking up, as is the GOP.

Nancy LeTourneau writes,

It is worth noticing this series of events over the last week:

1. Trump held a news conference after the midterm elections in which his affect was clearly depressed, until he engaged in a confrontation with CNN’s Jim Acosta.
2. The president traveled to Paris to take part in the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the signing of the treaty that ended WWI. He had previously cancelled his plans for a military parade, saying that he would honor the military in Paris instead.
3. On Saturday, Trump skipped the ceremony at Aisne-Marne American Cemetery in France. The White House suggested that it was because of the weather, but that didn’t stop other world leaders or Trump’s staff from attending the event.
4. The president arrived two hours late to a dinner that evening with world leaders.
5. The White House announced that the president will not attend the ASEAN or APEC summits in mid-November.
6. Monday morning brought this announcement:

It is hard to avoid the idea that there is a pattern to all of this.

LeTourneau goes on to speculate that Trump is coming unglued mentally and emotionally. Not that he was glued all that well to begin with.

Oh, and now that the midterms are over — there are reports Bob Mueller is about to issue some new indictments.

Updated: This is in the Los Angeles Times:

For weeks this fall, an ebullient President Trump traveled relentlessly to hold raise-the-rafters campaign rallies — sometimes three a day — in states where his presence was likely to help Republicans on the ballot.

But his mood apparently has changed as he has taken measure of the electoral backlash that voters delivered Nov. 6. With the certainty that the incoming Democratic House majority will go after his tax returns and investigate his actions, and the likelihood of additional indictments by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, Trump has retreated into a cocoon of bitterness and resentment, according to multiple administration sources. …

… Publicly, Trump has been increasingly absent in recent days — except on Twitter. He has canceled travel plans and dispatched Cabinet officials and aides to events in his place — including sending Vice President Mike Pence to Asia for the annual summits there in November that past presidents nearly always attended.

Jordan’s King Abdullah was in Washington on Tuesday and met with Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo, but not the president.

And so on. Sounds like he’s imploding.