Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Last Call For Three People Outside Jefferson City, Missouri Con't

Two developments today in the ongoing train wreck that is Missouri GOP Gov. Eric Greitens and his impending impeachment on sexual assault charges.  First up, Missouri's Attorney General has announced evidence of potentially brand-new campaign fraud charges unrelated to the previous sexual assault case that Grietens is already facing.

Attorney General Josh Hawley announced Tuesday morning that his office has uncovered potential criminal wrongdoing by Republican Gov. Eric Greitens
Hawley said that during the course of an investigation into the charity Greitens founded, his office found evidence that Greitens allegedly obtained and transmitted the charity’s donor list for political fundraising. 
“And he did all of this without permission of the Mission Continues,” Hawley said Tuesday. 
This is known as computer tampering. And given the value of the list in question it is a felony.” 
Hawley, a Republican, said that his office lacks the jurisdiction to prosecute the governor on this matter because the alleged crime was committed in St. Louis. 
He said he obtained court permission to share all of the evidence with St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner, which will enable her to make a decision on whether to charge the governor before the statute of limitations runs out. 
Gardner’s office is already prosecuting Greitens for allegedly invading a woman’s privacy by taking her photo without her permission in 2015. 
In February, Hawley launched an investigation into Greitens’ use of the charity donor list belonging to The Mission Continues, a charity Greitens founded in 2007. The inquiry is part of the attorney general's role to enforce Missouri's consumer protection and charitable registration and reporting laws.

So it looks like Greitens took his entire donor list for his charity dedicated to helping vets, and used it for his political campaign, which is a colossal no-no. This would have fried him like an egg even without the sexual assault charges he's facing, but after this I don't see how he can possibly stay in...oh wait a minute, I'm getting some new information here.

State lawmakers in Missouri claim they’ve been threatened with a sharp decrease in donations unless they actively support embattled Gov. Eric Greitens (R), who has been charged with photographing a woman while she was naked and using the image to threaten her with blackmail
Greitens has also been accused of assaulting the woman and coercing her into a sexual relationship. He was indicted on felony invasion of privacy charges related to the nude photo back in February. 
“Lots of people, including me, have been threatened that, if we go against the governor, we will never get financial support from any of the major donors in [Missouri],” one unnamed legislator reportedly told local Missouri Scout, a private news service covering state politics. 
When Missouri Scout asked other lawmakers to weigh in on the claim, many told the news outlet the threats were allegedly “widespread.” 
The legislator’s comment was tweeted out by public relations expert and former American Conservative Union (ACU) executive Gregg Keller on Monday morning.
Calls by ThinkProgress to several Missouri state lawmakers went unanswered on Monday. It’s unclear whether the lawmakers being targeted were predominantly Republican or who had allegedly threatened to pull their financial backing.

Well then.  Support the governor or we pull your money and you'll lose.  This is what happens when party over state happens, kids.  Eventually anyone who plays this game loses the purity test and is burned.

That's how the GOP rolls.  Luckily, we have ways of shutting them down.

It's Mueller Time, Con't

Trump lawyer Michael Cohen is getting a lot of attention, and he's definitely under federal investigation and has been for months.  But if the goal is to find and flip the guy who knows where all the legal bodies are buried underneath all those Trump Organization properties, Bloomberg's Tim O'Brien notes that Cohen actually isn't the tastiest fish to fry, and that the real person Mueller and/or US Attorneys in New York want to flip is the Trump Organization's former executive VP: Jason Greenblatt.

Greenblatt specialized in real-estate law at a major New York firm before signing on with the Trump Organization in 1997. He soon became Trump's true in-house counsel and the company's executive vice president. Everything that mattered in the Trump Organization, every sizable deal or sensitive transaction, required Greenblatt's signature, not Cohen's. Allen Weisselberg, the Trump Organization's chief financial officer, has played a similar role when it comes to the company's finances. 
At the end of 2016, Greenblatt left the Trump Organization after the president made him a special representative for international negotiations. Weisselberg still helps Trump's sons manage the business while Trump is in the Oval Office. Now that special counsel Robert Mueller has subpoenaed the Trump Organization for business records, his investigators may get around to interviewing Greenblatt and Weisselberg, who almost certainly have more expansive information on the president's business activities than Cohen does. 
If that happens -- or if the U.S. attorney's office in New York takes a similar interest -- then the media might have to reassess its take on Cohen and the role he's playing in the broader drama surrounding the White House
Adam Davidson, the New Yorker writer who wrote the recent article about Cohen, is a careful reporter who has spent a lot of time navigating some of Trump's business deals (he's also an acquaintance of mine). In his piece, however, he refers to Trump's company as "a small, sad operation, mostly run by his two oldest children and Michael Cohen." 
That's not true. Cohen has never run the company in a significant way. "I wish I was clearer about Michael Cohen's role," Davidson told me when we talked about his article. "He was a central player in the problematic overseas deals that will become central to these investigations. But he definitely wasn't running the company."

In other words, Cohen is definitely in trouble for all the foreign money and influence peddling, not to mention the whole Stormy Daniels payoff affair.  But if the true goal is cracking open the vault on Trump's money laundering through the Trump Organization, then Greenblatt is the man to go after.

He shouldn't be hard to find, either.  He's currently Trump's special envoy to the Middle East, apparently specializing in yelling at the Palestinians.

We'll see.  I would expect the Cohen trove will lead to some very uncomfortable interviews with Greenblatt. Allen Weisselberg, who is still with the Trump organization as CFO, has already gained the attention of NY AG Eric Schniederrman.

Stay tuned.  Trump's money guys have been the key to this mess for some time now.  Mueller may be closer than we know on them.

The Blue Wave Rises, Con't

National Democrats now believe more than 100 GOP seats are in play in the House, including six in Ohio, and they're putting their money in winning back the Buckeye State.

Democrats hope to pick up as many as six congressional seats in Ohio this November as they try to win back control of the U.S. House of Representatives by riding a grassroots backlash against President Donald Trump. 
In a briefing with reporters on Friday, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Ben Ray Lujan of New Mexico identified 104 Republican seats around the country as winnable for Democrats, including those held by Holmes County's Bob Gibbs, Bainbridge Township's Dave Joyce, Cincinnati's Steve Chabot, Dayton's Mike Turner and Columbus' Steve Stivers. 
The Democratic campaign organization also believes the Columbus-area seat vacated by Republican Pat Tiberi's resignation to lead the Ohio Business Roundtable might be winnable, Lujan said. 
"The quickest way to restore checks and balances in America is winning back the House of Representatives," said Lujan, who said Republicans hold many seats because of gerrymandered districts that Democrats can win if there's strong turnout. 
Republicans were skeptical of the Democrats' clams. 
"The DCCC can't wish a seat into play," said Jesse Hunt of the National Republican Congressional Committee. "They are remarkably consistent when it comes to over-promising and under-delivering, and they'll fail to flip every one of these seats."

Two observations:  First, DCCC Chairman Ben Ray Lujan is still a Blue Dog jackass, but he's better than Steve Israel or Debbie Wasserman Schultz at this game by a country mile.  I know that's not a real high bar considering how many House seats Israel and Schultz lost this decade, but at least we're putting candidates in races.  (Well, mostly, there's a dozen or so Republicans running unopposed, like there's still nobody running against Liz Cheney for her dad's old at-large House seat in Wyoming, and here in Kentucky nobody even bothered to try to run against Hal Rogers in KY-5. Oh well.)

Second, you notice the NRCC's Jesse Hunt said "they'll fail to flip every one of those seats" instead of "any one of those seats" like you would expect?  I don't know if that's a misprint, a misheard quote, or what, but if not that's a huge, huge admission on his part.  Just how many seats does Hunt expect to be flipped in Ohio?  How about the rest of the country?  Does Hunt believe that Republicans will keep the House?  Remember, Ohio went for Trump by 8 points in 2016.  For Hunt to admit that Republicans are going to lose seats in the state is an ominous sign for the GOP indeed.

As far as my predictions, Chabot, Joyce and Turner are definitely in trouble, Stivers and especially  Gibbs less so, Pat Tiberi's old seat in OH-12 is in play though.  I think the Dems can pull off four of the six, but if the dam truly breaks and Stivers and Gibbs go down, the resulting wave could take Jim Renacci too. Keep an eye on Christina Hagan vs. Renacci either way.

Oh, and speaking of surprise wins, it looks like Arizona's 8th is absolutely in play in next week's special election to replace GOP Rep. Trent Franks, who quit in disgrace.

The special election for an Arizona House seat is in a statistical dead heat in the final week of the race, according to a poll released on Monday. 
A poll from Emerson College found physician Hiral Tipirneni (D) narrowly leading with 46 percent, compared to former state Sen. Debbie Lesko (R), who is at 45 percent — well within the poll’s margin of error. 
Monday’s poll is an outlier and a huge swing in the direction toward Democrats, with other recent polling showing Lesko winning by double-digit margins. The latest public poll on Friday from OH Predictive Insights and ABC 15 Arizona found Lesko leading by 10 points, 53 to 43 percent.

Arizona’s special election has captivated national attention, with Republican groups pouring more resources into a district that President Trump won by 21 points in 2016. The winner of the April 24 race will replace former Rep. Trent Franks (R), who resigned after reportedly discussing paying a staffer to act as a surrogate mother. 
Democrats have been overperforming in deep-red districts, most recently when they pulled off a significant upset victory in a Pennsylvania district that similarly went for Trump by 20 points. 
The survey found that Hiral, a first-time candidate, leads among independents, 42 to 28 percent. And she has a positive favorability rating, with 49 percent who view her favorably, compared to 29 percent who view her unfavorably. 
Forty-three percent of voters view Lesko favorably, compared to 45 percent who have an unfavorable opinion of her. An Emerson College pollster said that Franks could be a drag on Lesko’s campaign. The former congressman donated $2,700 to Lesko, according to The Arizona Republic.

Again, we're talking about a district that was +20 for Trump, now somewhere between +10 to -1.  That's at least a ten point swing and probably more, maybe even the 20 needed to win.  If we're regularly looking at double-digit swings towards Democrats, and in the last six months we have absolutely seen that, then those 104 districts that the DCCC happens to be chasing may not be the upper limit of what could happen.

I mean, look at New Jersey.

A new Monmouth poll in New Jersey finds Democrats have a 19 point advantage over Republicans in the generic House ballot, 54% to 35%. 
“If this result holds, it would mark a substantially better result for Congressional Democrats in New Jersey than in recent elections. Democrats won the statewide House vote by 8 points (53% to 45%) in 2016 and an even smaller 2 points (50% to 48%) in the 2014 midterm. Moreover, the poll finds that the overall swing is coming mainly from GOP-held seats.” 
“In the five House seats currently held by a Republican, voter preference is split nearly evenly at 46% for the GOP candidate and 44% for the Democrat. The aggregate vote from these five districts in the past two House elections averaged a sizable 22 point advantage for the Republicans (59% – 38% in 2016 and 61% – 38% in 2014). On the other hand, the poll’s vote share in the seven seats currently held by Democrats – 59% Dem to 28% GOP – is in line with the average 30 point advantage Democrats held in these districts in both 2016 (65% – 32%) and 2014 (62% – 36%).” 
Said pollster Patrick Murray: “This is pretty astounding. Not only are New Jersey Democrats doing better on the generic House ballot statewide, but the shift is coming almost entirely from districts currently held by the GOP. If these results hold, we could be down to just one or two – or maybe even zero – Republican members in the state congressional delegation after November.”

Don't take this good news as a reason to let up.  Take it as a reason to make sure you vote in November.

[UPDATE] Pennsylvania GOP Rep. Charlie Dent just announced he will resign in "the coming weeks".


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