Stuff to Read

Trump is making a public announcement this afternoon and is expected to make some kind of offer to the Dems to end the shutdown. Why he couldn’t just do that in a meeting … well, it’s Trump. He just wants attention.

You may have been following the Buzzfeed story about Cohen being ordered to lie to Trump, followed by a statement from the Mueller investigation that the Buzzfeed story contained inaccuracies. Josh Marshall had some interesting observations on this (may be behind paywall):

There have been tons of stories, a number of which seem to have been erroneous or significantly incorrect. Mueller’s office has felt no need to correct them. The answer here has to be that this claim was so damning, so specific to the legitimacy of the presidency that Mueller or his overseers felt it was necessary to correct the record.

This is a case where it’s important to remember Rod Rosenstein’s role in overseeing the investigation. Rosenstein should know all relevant major details of the investigation. As far as we know he has steadfastly resisted any attempts to meddle with or interfere with the probe. But if a story like this is out there, this damning to the President and is in some material and significant way wrong, it quite plausible to me that he would have insisted the Mueller’s office release a statement. It’s equally plausible that the decision was Mueller’s.

Marshall goes on to present an argument that the story possibly came from leaks in the Southern District New York office, not from Mueller’s team.

We don’t know what’s really being disputed here. Maybe the idea that Trump explicitly told Cohen to lie is just totally bogus. But my sense is that it’s not quite that clear cut. The dispute about facts and I suspect the breakdown in the sourcing of information likely stems from the relationship between these two offices – New York US Attorney’s Office (SDNY) and Mueller’s office – different propensities to leak, different levels of knowledge of the case, different strategies about what they’re investigating.

Buzzfeed, meanwhile, is standing by its story. The story may turn out to be substantially true, although if Mueller’s team says there are inaccuracies there must be something wrong.

Other Stuff:

Politico ran a story last week documenting that at least half of Americans still don’t know that Trump was never a self-made successful businessman.

Large swaths of the public believe the Trump myth. Across three surveys of eligible votersfrom 2016 to 2018, we found that as many as half of all Americans do not know that he was born into a very wealthy family. And while Americans are divided along party lines in their assessment of Trump’s performance as president, misperceptions regarding his financial background are found among Democrats and Republicans.

The narrative of Trump as self-made is simply false. Throughout his life, the president has downplayed the role his father, real estate developer Fred Trump, played in his success, claiming it was “limited to a small loan of $1 million.” That isn’t true, of course: A comprehensive New York Times investigation last year estimated that over the course of his lifetime, the younger Trump received more than $413 million in today’s dollars from his father. While this exact figure was not known before the Times’ report, it was a matter of record that by the mid-1980s, Trump had been loaned at least $14 million by his father, was loaned at least $3.5 million more in 1990, had borrowed several more million against his inheritance in the 1990s after many of his ventures failed, and had benefited enormously from his father’s political connections and co-signing on loans early in his career as a builder.

This is the interesting part:

What happens when Americans learn of the president’s privileged background? In a 2018 survey, we provided half the respondents the following question, which was intended to impart Trump’s biographical information: To what extent were you aware that Donald Trump grew up the son of wealthy real estate businessman Fred Trump, started his business with loans from his father, and received loans worth millions of dollars from his father in order to keep his businesses afloat?

What happens is that there is a substantial drop in approval for Trump, especially among Republicans. There is less of a drop among Democrats because they didn’t like him, anyway.

The larger point is that Trump’s many business failures and dependence on his wealthy father were well known before Trump announced for president in 2015. We didn’t know how much Trump was dependent on his father before the Times expose, but there are reports of Fred bailing out his boy Donald when he was about to crash going way back. But little of that got into news stories about Trump, especially not television news.  People heard about Trump’s many divorces but not about the fact that he was a massive screwup at business who got money showered on him by his father.  How many election cycles do we have to go through complaining that political news coverage simply doesn’t do the job of providing voters with the information about candidates they need to know?

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