Friday, June 15, 2018

Last Call For Pell-Mell Paul, Mauled

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort has been upgraded from Double Secret Probation to the full carcerial experience.

A federal judge ordered Paul Manafort to jail Friday over charges he tampered with witnesses while out on bail — a major blow for President Trump’s former campaign chairman as he awaits trial on federal conspiracy and money-laundering charges next month
“You have abused the trust placed in you six months ago,” U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson told Manafort. “The government motion will be granted, and the defendant will be detained.” 
The judge said sending Manafort to a cell was “an extraordinarily difficult decision” but said his conduct — allegedly contacting witnesses in the case in an effort to get them to lie to investigators — left her little choice. 
“This is not middle school. I can’t take away his cellphone,” she said. “If I tell him not to call 56 witnesses, will he call the 57th?” She said she should not have to draft a court order spelling out the entire criminal code for him to avoid violations. 
“This hearing is not about politics. It is not about the conduct of the office of special counsel. It is about the defendant’s conduct,” Jackson said. “I’m concerned you seem to treat these proceedings as another marketing exercise.”

Manafort was led out of the courtroom by security officers. He turned and gave a last look and wave to his wife, seated in the well of the court. She nodded back to him.

And I've got news for you: Paul Manafort probably will never leave jail either.  His trial is going to go very, very badly for him, and even if Trump pardons his federal case tomorrow, the state trial will proceed, and he's most likely going to spend the rest of his life in a cell.

He's the first to go to jail.

He will not be the last.

The Blue Wave Rises, Con't

We've talked about the Democrats retaking the House and the struggle to hold the line in the Senate, but there are 36 Governor's seats up for election in 2018, and Democrats are also looking to make big gains at the state level ahead of 2020 redistricting.  The latest Cook Political forecast shows that Dems could pick up seven or more seats out of 50, which would make a huge political difference.

Governors’ races are not immune to mid-term election trends. Just as the party in power loses seats in the U.S. House and Senate, it also loses gubernatorial seats. In the 29 mid-term elections that have taken place since 1902, the party in power has lost seats in 26 of them, or 90 percent of the time. The average loss is 4.5 seats. The biggest losses in the last 50 years came in 1970 when Republicans under President Richard Nixon lost 11 seats. In 1994 as Democrats were losing their majorities in the U.S. House and Senate, they also lost 11 gubernatorial seats. The most recent exceptions to mid-term losses are 1986 when Republicans gained eight governorships under President Reagan (this is the same year that the GOP suffered a net loss of eight U.S. Senate seats), and 1998 when Democrats under President Clinton didn’t lose any seats. 
Given the near historic number of seats Republicans hold and mid-term trends, it would seem that they have nowhere to go but down. They are playing defense this cycle, while Democrats are working to put as many GOP-held seats on the board as possible. 
Both parties are looking at contested primaries in most of the competitive races. The primary calendar is somewhat backloaded in gubernatorial contests, meaning that many of the most important primaries are going to take place in August and early September. These primaries carry a risk for both parties: will the strongest nominees emerge, will a weak nominee take a potentially competitive contest off the table, or conversely, put what should be a safe seat at risk? The number of competitive primaries on the calendar also makes it difficult to assign a range of potential gains or losses.

The big issue is that not all states have decided their primaries yet, which means for now, not all candidates are set.  There are also a lot of open seats this time around, and a lot of toss-ups.

Of the nine seats Democrats must defend, none are in red states, although a couple — Minnesota and Pennsylvania — are in swing states. 
The seats Democrats need to be most concerned about are the open seats in Connecticut and Minnesota. It seems counterintuitive that a seat in a solidly blue state like Connecticut would be in play, but the state faces significant financial problems, the city of Hartford was on the brink of bankruptcy last fall until the state bailed it out, and major employers like General Electric are leaving the state. These are all ingredients for a competitive race. The presumptive Democratic nominee is Ned Lamont, a businessman who defeated then-U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman in the Democratic primary in 2006 (Lieberman won the general election as an independent). Lamont made an unsuccessful bid for the gubernatorial nomination in 2010. Republicans have a crowded primary, but they are likely to nominate a political outsider. 
In Minnesota, Democrats face a very competitive primary. While U.S. Rep. Tim Walz was thought to be the favorite, he faces challenges from state Rep. Erin Murphy, who won the party endorsement, and state Attorney General Lori Swanson. On the Republican side, former Gov. Tim Pawlenty is facing off against Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson in the primary. If Pawlenty doesn’t win the nomination, this contest becomes less competitive for Republicans. 
The open seat in Colorado may also be up for grabs. On the Republican side, state Treasurer Walter Stapleton is the frontrunner for the nomination in a four-way primary. On the Democratic side, U.S. Rep. Jared Polis and former Denver CFO Cary Kennedy are locked in a battle for the nomination, while state Sen. Mike Johnston is considered a dark horse. Polis is putting considerable personal money into the race, which would make this contest more difficult for Republicans if he wins the nomination.

Things are a lot tougher for Republicans for the same reason they are tough for the Democrats in the Senate: a bunch of seats to defend in states the other party won in 2016.

Republicans are defending 26 seats, including a number in blue and purple states. They go into the general election with one seat – the open seat in New Mexico – in the Lean Democrat column. Republican Gov. Susanna Martinez is unpopular, and Republican nominee U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce does not have a great track record in statewide races, having lost U.S. Senate contests in 2000 and 2008. He is the only Republican in the state’s congressional delegation, and as a member of the Freedom Caucus, he is likely too conservative and controversial to win a statewide contest this year. 
There are seven seats in the Toss Up column, including incumbent Govs. Bruce Rauner in Illinois and Kim Reynolds in Iowa. Rauner is easily the most vulnerable incumbent of either party, but his significant personal resources make it hard to put him in the Lean Democrat column, at least for now. Reynolds is running for a term in her own right after becoming Governor when Terry Branstad resigned to become Ambassador to China. She will face Fred Hubbell, former president of Equitable Iowa and former Acting Director of the Department of Economic Development under Democratic Gov. Chet Culver. Hubbell easily won a crowded primary, outperforming expectations. This contest has moved to the Toss Up column. 
The other five contests are in open seats in Florida, Maine, Michigan, Nevada and Ohio. In Florida, both parties are hosting competitive primaries. There isn’t a real frontrunner on the Democratic side. On the Republican side, state Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is the frontrunner, but he is getting a challenge to his right from U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis. Putnam would be a very competitive nominee, while the race gets harder for the GOP if DeSantis, a member of the Freedom Caucus, is the party’s standard-bearer.
Maine will host a three-way contest. Shawn Moody, who ran for Governor in 2010 as an independent and finished fourth, won the GOP primary. As a result of the state’s ranked-choice primary system, it’s not clear yet whether businessman Adam Cote or Attorney General Janet Mills will be the Democratic nominee. There are several independent candidates running, but state Treasurer Terry Hayes seems likely to get the most traction. 
In the open seat in Ohio, Republican Attorney General Mike DeWine will face off against Democrat Richard Cordray, former head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. There are three recent polls: one shows DeWine up by six points, another has Cordray up by two points and the third has Cordray up by seven points. It is extremely unlikely that Cordray is up by seven points and he may not even be ahead by two points, but the takeaway from these surveys is that this race is within the margin of error. As a result it has moved to the Toss Up column. 
Gov. Scott Walker in Wisconsin is in the Lean Republican column, but Democrats are convinced that this race will ultimately be a toss up. Walker is seeking a third term, which is always difficult, but before Democrats can go head to head with Walker, they need a nominee. They are hosting a 10-way primary, and seven or eight of the candidates can make credible cases that they have a path to the nomination. Until the August 14 primary, Walker is left to raise money and fine-tune his organization.

In other words, Dems could pick up seven, possibly eight governor's mansions in November.  That would go a long, long way towards blunting Trump's influence.

Having Florida, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin back on Team Blue could break Trump in 2020.  Let's make it happen, guys.

It's Mueller Time, Con't

It's been an abysmal week for the Trump regime, with the White House's North Korea summit narrative disintegrating under the deluge of bad news:

Things have now gotten so bad that  Rudy Giuliani was on FOX News last night demanding Robert Mueller's head.

President Donald Trump's attorney Rudy Giuliani said Thursday evening that special counsel Robert Mueller's probe should be suspended and Friday is the last chance for Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to "redeem themselves."

"I believe that Rod Rosenstein and Jeff Sessions have a chance to redeem themselves and that chance comes about tomorrow," Giuliani told Fox News host Sean Hannity.

Holding up a copy of the Justice Department's Office of the Inspector General report, Giuliani argued that Mueller's probe must cease so top FBI officials named in the report can be investigated.

The report, compiled by DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz and his staff, found that the FBI's handling of the investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server was not affected by political bias. However, multiple agency officials, including former FBI Director James Comey, made decisions that went against department norms and others, like agent Peter Strzok, made inappropriate comments critical of then-candidate Trump.

"Tomorrow, Mueller should be suspended and honest people should be brought in, impartial people to investigate these people like Strzok," Giuliani continued. "Strzok should be in jail by the end of next week."

Giuliani’s call for Mueller to be suspended represents a major turning point for the Trump lawyer. Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of a White House event at the end of May, Giuliani said he didn’t think the special counsel job was in jeopardy. “I don’t think he’s going to fire Mueller. Mueller is creating his own problems,” Giuliani said.

At this point we have to assume that Rudy's appearance on Hannity last night is what Donald Trump wanted the world to hear, both the demand that Mueller be stopped and a new investigator brought in by Trump, and that Sessions and Rosenstein have "one day" to "redeem" themselves. 

Odds of that Saturday Night Massacre™ happening this weekend just went up astronomically in my book.  If there were ever a weekend where Trump blows his stack and makes his move against the DoJ, it's this one.

We know he's tried to fire Mueller before.  He was always going to try again.  When he realizes that Jeff Sessions can't make all of this go away, especially the NY state case involving Ivanka, Eric, and Don Jr. and the Trump Foundation, he might just take a flamethrower to it all.

Maybe somebody talks him down again. Maybe this is the weekend where he can no longer be talked down.  Stay tuned.


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