Friday, July 20, 2018

Last Call For The Friday News Dump

I gotta tell ya, the Friday News Dump in the Trump era is really something beautiful, in the way moonlight glittering off the blades of an invading army is beautiful.

President Trump’s longtime lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, secretly recorded a conversation with Mr. Trump two months before the presidential election in which they discussed payments to a former Playboy model who said she had an affair with Mr. Trump, according to lawyers and others familiar with the recording. 
The F.B.I. seized the recording this year during a raid on Mr. Cohen’s office. The Justice Department is investigating Mr. Cohen’s involvement in paying women to tamp down embarrassing news stories about Mr. Trump ahead of the 2016 election. Prosecutors want to know whether that violated federal campaign finance laws, and any conversation with Mr. Trump about those payments would be of keen interest to them. 
The recording’s existence appears to undercut the Trump campaign’s denial of any knowledge of payments to the model. And it further draws Mr. Trump into questions about tactics he and his associates used to keep aspects of his personal and business life a secret. And it highlights the potential legal and political danger that Mr. Cohen represents to Mr. Trump. Once the keeper of many of Mr. Trump’s secrets, Mr. Cohen is now seen as increasingly willing to consider cooperating with prosecutors. 
The former model, Karen McDougal, says she began a nearly yearlong affair with Mr. Trump in 2006, shortly after Mr. Trump’s wife, Melania, gave birth to their son Barron. Ms. McDougal sold her story for $150,000 to The National Enquirer, which was supportive of Mr. Trump, during the final months of the presidential campaign, but the tabloid sat on the story, which kept it from becoming public. The practice, known as “catch and kill,” effectively silenced Ms. McDougal for the remainder of the campaign.

Rudolph W. Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, confirmed in a telephone conversation on Friday that Mr. Trump had discussed payments to Ms. McDougal with Mr. Cohen on the tape. He said the recording was less than two minutes long, said Mr. Trump did not know he was being recorded and claimed that the president had done nothing wrong. 
Mr. Giuliani said there was no indication on the tape that Mr. Trump knew before the conversation about the payment from the Enquirer’s parent company, American Media Inc., to Ms. McDougal.

Two things:

1) Lordy, there are tapes.

2) Rudy Giuliani is still the worst criminal defense lawyer who ever lived, right behind Michael Cohen.

The Blue Wave Rises, Con't

Democrats are getting young voters registered ahead of the 2018 midterms, particularly 18 to 29-year-old voters who are very eager to vote for the first time in the era of Trump and the Parkland High shooting in Florida.

Young voters are flocking to register to vote in key battleground states in the wake of the February school shooting at a Parkland, Fla. high school, according to a new analysis from Democratic data firm TargetSmart.

The report, released exclusively to NBC News, shows that young voters between the ages of 18 and 29 years old make up an increasing share of those registering to vote in a handful of key states
Pennsylvania has seen the sharpest increase—61 percent of new voter registrations come from young voters, compared to 45 percent before the shooting. 
Virginia, Indiana and New York have all seen an increase of about 10 percentage points in the youth share of new voter registrants, while Arizona and Florida have seen gains of about 8 percent. All of these states are home to some key Senate or House races that will play a crucial role in deciding control of Congress. 
Other key battleground states—like California, North Carolina and Ohio—have seen more modest increases. And in West Virginia, home to one of the top Senate races on the map, the youth share of new registrants fell 11.5 percentage points. 
Democrats are boosted by the general upward trend—TargetSmart found a 2 percent uptick in the share of youth registrants across the country—considering young voters skew more liberal and are more supportive of enacting new gun control measures. The February shooting in Parkland, where 17 people were killed, has served as a motivator for activists looking to make the case to pass new measures like expanding background checks and restricting access to certain weapons.

Of course, the question then becomes will Millennials even bother to vote at all even after registering, and the evidence still points to at least 75% of them staying home.  In 2014, Millennial turnout was just 21.4% and they made up just 13% of people who voted, and Democrats were stomped in races across the country as a result.

The thing is if even 30% of voters born after 1980 actually showed up to the polls, Dems would take back the House and most likely the Senate as well.  But if the turnout model is 2014 again, where white men make up a third of Millennials who do actually vote, then we're in trouble.

It's not just how many people show up, it's who shows up too, and our voting system has long been biased against younger voters.

Russian To Judgment, Con't

It's hard to overestimate the contribution America's media pundits made to helping Russia damage Hillary Clinton in 2016, and it seems some of the worst offenders are now starting to have second thoughts after finding out this week that they squarely fell into the useful idiot category over the last two years or so.  Our first contestant: Politico's Blake Hounshell.

When I wrote, back in February, that I was skeptical that President Donald Trump would ever be proved to have secretly colluded with Russia to sway the 2016 election in his favor, I mistyped.

What I meant to write was that I wasn’t skeptical.

Last week’s events have nullified my previous skepticism. To recap: Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein revealed indictments against 12 Russians for the hacks of the Democratic National Committee, and we learned that Russian hackers went after Hillary Clinton’s private office for the first time on the very day Trump said, “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.” At the NATO summit in Brussels, Trump attacked a close European ally—Germany—and generally questioned the value of the alliance. Next, he visited the United Kingdom and trashed Prime Minister Theresa May. Then, in Helsinki, he met with Vladimir Putin privately for two hours, with no U.S. officials present other than a translator. After this suspicious meeting, he sang the Russian strongman’s praises at a news conference at which he said he viewed Putin’s denials on a par with the unanimous and unchallenged conclusions of America’s intelligence agencies.

With every other world leader, the physically imposing Trump attempts to dominate—witness his alpha-male handshakes with French President Emanuel Macron or his flamboyant man-spreading next to German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Yet with the diminutive Putin—who is maybe 5 feet, 6 inches tall—he’s oddly submissive. During the public portion of their encounter, Trump was slumping in his chair, as if defeated. Why? Why did he insist on a one-on-one meeting with Putin in the first place?

Because Trump respects and wants what Putin has: a President-for-Life gig where he can do whatever, and arguably Putin is the wealthiest person on the planet if you start counting up the assets he truly controls.  The guy is worth maybe $200 billion, easily doubling what Mark Zuckerberg or Elon Musk have.  Trump wants that so badly that he can taste it, and this is a man whose taste buds are drowning in burnt steaks with ketchup.  Putin's enormous wealth is one of the worst-kept secrets on Earth, and Trump wants that for himself.

What about my argument that Trump was constitutionally incapable of keeping a secret? That, too, is no longer operative. Since I first wrote, we’ve learned that Trump—a skinflint who once had his own charity pay a $7 fee to register his son for the Boy Scouts—was willing to shell out $130,000 of his own money to hush up a fling with a porn actress, Stormy Daniels. And he still hasn’t copped to sleeping with her, despite the discovery of their nondisclosure agreement and contemporaneous evidence that the affair really happened. None of this leaked out until well after the election, proving that Trump is indeed capable of keeping his yap shut when he wants. Not convinced? How about the fact that Brett Kavanaugh’s name didn’t leak out as Trump’s latest Supreme Court pick until minutes before the announcement?

Politically speaking, Trump’s devotion to his pro-Putin line doesn’t make sense. Yes, the GOP base is impressionable, and perhaps Republican voters would accept it if Trump came out and said, “You bet, Russia helped get me elected, and wasn’t that a good thing? We couldn’t let Crooked Hillary win!” But nobody would say his odd solicitousness toward the Kremlin leader is a political winner, and it certainly causes an unnecessary amount of friction with Republicans in Congress. He’s kept it up at great political cost to himself, and that suggest either that he is possessed by an anomalous level of conviction on this one issue, despite his extraordinary malleability on everything else—or that he’s beholden to Putin in some way.

Ahh, but Trump's friendship with Vladimir very much is a political winner, especially among the white supremacist set that admires Russian "purity".  They want Trump to have what Putin has too, because it would mean that Trump would be a fascist with the power to make their fever dreams of a "white ethno-state" very much a reality.   This is Trump's base, and they love him for it, and as for the rest of Trump's voters, well it's not a dealbreaker for them, now is it?

As I keep saying, Republicans overwhelmingly approve of Putin and Trump's relationship with him.  And yes, they will absolutely start saying "Well if the Russians helped us beat that Hillary bitch, then I'm all for it to continue."

This is exactly what's happening, guys.  There's some pushback now, but once it becomes clear that Republicans want to win in 2018 by any means necessary, then they'll take the help.  Also, the pushback has been symbolic and meaningless.

Besides, the zeitgeist has moved on from kids in cages and migrant families in detention camps, remember?  Putin is already helping the GOP in 2018.


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