Monday, March 6, 2017

Last For Motel, Hotel, Trump-A-Day Inn

The new center of the nation's political map is Trump's hotel in DC, where if you want in on milking the rubes and lobbying for billions, you need to pay-to-play and be seen doing business with The Donald.

At a circular booth in the middle of the Trump International Hotel's balcony restaurant, President Donald Trump dined on his steak — well-done, with ketchup — while chatting with British Brexit politician Nigel Farage. 
A few days later, major Republican donors Doug Deason and Doug Manchester, in town for the president's address to Congress, sipped coffee at the hotel with Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif. 
After Trump's speech, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin returned to his Washington residence — the hotel — and strode past the gigantic American flag in the soaring lobby. With his tiny terrier tucked under an arm, Mnuchin stepped into an elevator with reality TV star and hotel guest Dog the Bounty Hunter, who particularly enjoyed the Trump-stamped chocolates in his room. 
It's just another week at the new political capital of the nation's capital. 
The $200 million hotel inside the federally owned Old Post Office building has become the place to see, be seen, drink, network — even live — for the still-emerging Trump set. It's a rich environment for lobbyists and anyone hoping to rub elbows with Trump-related politicos — despite a veil of ethics questions that hangs overhead. 
"I've never come through this lobby and not seen someone I know," says Deason, a Dallas-based fundraiser for Trump's election campaign. 
For Republican Party players, it's the only place to stay. 
"I can tell you this hotel will be the most successful hotel in Washington, D.C.," says Manchester, adding that he would know because he has developed the second-largest Marriott and second-largest Hyatt in the world. Manchester says Trump's hotel will attract people based on its location near the White House and Congress, the quality renovation and the management team. 
Then there's also the access. 
Although Trump says he is not involved in the day-to-day operations of his businesses, he retains a financial interest in them. A stay at the hotel gives someone trying to win over Trump on a policy issue or political decision a potential chit. 
That's what concerns ethics lawyers who had wanted Trump to sell off his companies as previous presidents have done. 
"President Trump is in effect inviting people and companies and countries to channel money to him through the hotel," said Kathleen Clark, a former ethics lawyer for the District of Columbia and a law professor at Washington University in St. Louis. 

If you want Trump's ear, you stay in Trump's hotels, eat as his restaurants, buy a membership to his clubs, and rub elbows with his people.  And they all want their cut.

This is how America does business now.

Dick And The Moscow Special

As I said earlier today, Republicans will continue to do nothing about Trump and Russia until the cost of doing nothing exceeds the cost of pissing off Trump's base.  Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut is trying to raise that cost of doing nothing.

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal says he will use “every possible tool” to block the nomination of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein until he commits to appointing a special prosecutor to investigate ties between the Trump administration and Russia. 
Following Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ recusal from involvement in the Russian investigation, it is now the responsibility of the Deputy Attorney General to appoint a special prosecutor.

On Monday morning, Blumenthal’s will detail how he would block Rosenstein’s nomination until he commits to appointing a special prosecutor to investigate ties between the Trump administration and Russia. 
The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing Tuesday on Rosenstein’s nomination to serve as Deputy Attorney General. 
“Unless Rosenstein commits to appointing a special prosecutor, Blumenthal will use every tool available to block his nomination, including denying unanimous consent and obstructing action on the Senate floor,” the Democratic senator’s office announced in a release.

I have no idea how effective this will be, and I appreciate Sen. Blumenthal's efforts, the reality is that this will delay Rosenstein's confirmation by at most a week, and most likely not at all.  Again, it's important to note that the Deupty AG would be the person making the decision on a special prosecutor for Russia since AG Jeff Sessions's recusal last week, but again, that's simply not going to happen.

Blumenthal is doing the right thing here, applying pressure where it needs to be applied, but again there's simply not much Dems can do right now except annoy Republicans.  The real decision to take this investigation seriously has to come from Republicans determined to actually stop Trump and again that will never happen as long as Republicans fear Trump's base more than they fear the wrath of the general public.

There are some small signs that this may be starting to happen.

So far in 2017, special elections have largely gone Democrats’ way, but in each instance, these were state legislative races. The real test will come next month in a congressional special election in a Republican district in Georgia. 
In theory, keeping the seat, which was held by Tom Price before he became HHS secretary, should be easy for Republicans, but as the Atlanta Journal Constitution reported yesterday, GOP officials appear to be quite concerned.

If a blood-red House district in Georgia is competitive enough for Republicans to spend serious ad money on it, maybe there's still some slender reed of hope left.

It's Still All About Trump's Base

The only political bloc that matters in America in 2017 is Trump's base, despite it being less than a quarter of American eligible voters, because until Trump's base turns on Trump, they will be able to primary any Republican who dares to go after him.  Since nobody wants to be the next Eric Cantor, they run the country now, so the fact that the rest of the country overwhelmingly wants a special prosecutor on Russia is 100% meaningless.

About two-thirds of Americans say a special prosecutor should investigate contacts between Russians and Trump campaign associates, according to a new CNN/ORC poll, and 55% say they are at least somewhat concerned by reports that some connected to the Trump campaign had contact with suspected Russian operatives. 
However, the steady stream of news about investigations into those contacts doesn't appear to have affected President Donald Trump's approval rating, which ticked up only one percentage point -- 44% to 45% -- from January. 
Concerns about the reported contacts are closely tied to partisanship, with 71% of Democrats saying they are "very concerned" about it while 54% of Republicans say they have no concerns "at all" about the reports
Among Republicans, a majority feel Congress can handle the investigation, but a sizable 43% support the call for a special prosecutor, as do majorities of Democrats (82%) and independents (67%). Overall, the poll finds that 65% would rather see a special prosecutor handle the investigation, while 32% think Congress is capable of handling it. 
Views of whether Russia attempted to influence the US election at all are becoming increasingly polarized when compared with a January CNN/ORC poll. In the new survey, more Democrats say it's extremely likely that the intelligence community's assessment that Russia did attempt to influence the US election is correct than said so before the inauguration (47% in January, 52% now) while more Republicans now say that it's not at all likely to be correct (from 12% in January to 27% now).

That CNN poll has Trump's approval rating at 90% among Republicans and 58% among independents.  Less than half of Republicans believe the intelligence community's assessment of Russian interference (46%), less than half are even concerned at all about the accusations (46%), and again only 43% want to see a special prosecutor appointed as opposed to a GOP congressional investigation.

So even with this scandal being real for a chunk of the GOP, nearly all Republicans who want a special prosecutor are still willing to look the other way on Trump to give him a thumbs up on job approval so far.

Until that changes, Republicans can sit on their hands and continue to do nothing, and get away with it. No special prosecutor will happen, and the notion that this is all a "massive Obama conspiracy against Trump" will magically become fact for tens of millions of Trump voters heading into midterm elections.

As Steve M. said yesterday:

That's why I think the craziness, of this weekend has done more to shore up the Trump base than a speech was seen as successful. You and I see Trump as a half-mad king making wild accusations with no evidence. The base thinks he's going on offense against the most hated enemy of all. To the base, he's not vulnerable to a new cycle of bad news; instead, he's seizing bad news and jiujitsuing it to his advantage. The base was ready to love "presidential" Trump not because base voters want him to be presidential, but because they want him to vanquish those of us who think he can never really pull presidential off. So that seemed like a win to them. But they think this is better: He's going on the attack and he's taking the bad news head on.

Going after Obama will be even more wildly successful among the Trumpies than "Lock her up!" was. No matter what comes out of this investigation into Russia over the next few weeks and months, they can just yell "It's an Obama conspiracy!" and win.

Until that spell somehow gets broken (and the only reasonable chance of that happening is another Bush-style financial collapse) Trump will remain in power as long as Republicans in Congress fear his base more than the rest of the country.  And in the meantime, Trump can continue to lie all he wants to without penalty.

So when you see Democrats like Nancy Pelosi completely misread the situation like this?

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi is telling her rank-and-file members that she is confident a good portion of President Donald Trump's voters will eventually turn on him -- and Democrats just have to wait it out. 
She's using a colorful analogy to make her point -- comparing Trump to a friend's boyfriend who is a "jerk." 
"The way I told my members: It's like telling your friend the guy she's dating is a jerk. You can't tell her that. She has to find out for herself. You can give her clues and then eventually one thing will lead to another, she'll come to her conclusion. But if you tell her right up front, you'll lose a friend. So we're not interested in losing any friends. Let them find out," Pelosi recounted during a small briefing for reporters in her Capitol suite Tuesday. 
"They made a judgment and they're not willing to walk away from their own judgment," she said.

Understand that this is dangerously naive.  Trump's base isn't going anywhere, and will continue to be his most powerful weapon against the country.


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