Monday, February 25, 2019

Last Call For The Money Men

After the 2018 midterms, major GOP donors no longer believe Donald Trump can win in 2020, and they want his campaign people to start answering questions before they'll fork over another dime. It's all kabuki though.

Late last month, more than 100 major Republican donors gathered at the Trump International Hotel for a presentation from the president’s campaign manager Brad Parscale and other top political hands on their plans to keep the White House in 2020 after a brutal midterm election.

But several of the GOP contributors left the two-day retreat in Washington dissatisfied, dogged by essentially the same concern: The president doesn’t really have a strategy to win reelection.

They are chiefly worried about how he intends to prevail again in the Rust Belt states that voted for Trump in 2016, but where Democrats performed strongly in last year's midterms. But there are also concerns about whether the president's fundraising apparatus is up to the task, and whether Trump will trample on any strategy or message the campaign does develop, as he frequently does.

This account is based on interviews with nearly a dozen people connected to Trump’s reelection, including two donors who attended the retreat and other Republican contributors who’ve given to Trump in the past. Several campaign aides, who say they have spoken with anxious donors, also spoke to POLITICO. Most of the sources spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid upsetting Trump.

Some level of nervousness is not uncommon at the outset of a presidential reelection effort. Trump's campaign manager said the team is confident in its game plan and that any fears are misplaced.

But based on the interviews, the campaign plainly has work to do to assuage at least some of the Republican donor class, which he will need to finance a massive campaign infrastructure that he lacked in 2016. Several donors who regularly contribute to Republican presidential candidates and the political groups supporting Trump said his campaign didn’t learn from its mistakes during the 2018 midterm elections, when Republicans lost control of the House and suffered other defeats nationwide.

“We took a shellacking in the midterms,” said Dan Eberhart, a major Republican donor and energy company executive who did not attend the conference but speaks frequently with other Trump givers. “Donors are concerned that the Trump reelect might draw the wrong conclusions from the Republicans' defeat in the 2018 midterms and are stressing to administration sources and the nascent campaign that a more inclusive ... strategy is needed" that reaches beyond the president's core supporters.

Trump’s strategy in the midterms was mostly confined to rallying his base at raucous rallies in states that backed him for president, while largely ignoring moderates and independents.

“There’s a lot of anxiety,” said a longtime Republican donor and friend of Trump. “There isn’t a lot of confidence ... among the donor group, the broader Republican group important to the reelection.”

Trump will say he doesn't need them, but he does.  And the GOP donors will pretend they haven't already bought a one-way ticket to hell on the Trump Train, but they don't have a choice. Unless anyone honestly thinks the slavering horde of MAGA-heads are going to stand for Trump being primaried, all this is kayfabe, a dog and pony show, and it's ultimately useless.

Trump will make promises the donors want to hear and they will back him.

Trump Cards, Con't

Another day, another lawsuit against Donald Trump alleging sexual assault, this time we add former Trump 2016 campaign staffer Alva Johnson to the long, long list of women Trump has been accused of assaulting.

A staffer on Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign says he kissed her without her consent at a small gathering of supporters before a Florida rally, an interaction that she alleges in a new lawsuit still causes her anguish.

In interviews with The Washington Post, and in the lawsuit, Alva Johnson said Trump grabbed her hand and leaned in to kiss her on the lips as he exited an RV outside the rally in Tampa on Aug. 24, 2016. Johnson said she turned her head and the unwanted kiss landed on the side of her mouth, which she called “super-creepy and inappropriate.”

“I immediately felt violated because I wasn’t expecting it or wanting it,” she said. “I can still see his lips coming straight for my face.”

Johnson said she told her boyfriend, mother and stepfather about the incident later that day, an account all three confirmed to The Post. Two months later, Johnson consulted a Florida attorney about the unwanted kiss; he gave The Post text messages showing that he considered her “credible” but did not take her case for business reasons. The attorney gave Johnson the name of a therapist, whose notes, which The Post reviewed, reference an unspecified event during the campaign that had left her distraught.

In a statement, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders dismissed Johnson’s allegation as “absurd on its face.”

“This never happened and is directly contradicted by multiple highly credible eye witness accounts,” she wrote.

Two Trump supporters that Johnson identified as witnesses — a campaign official and Pam Bondi, then the Florida attorney general — denied seeing the alleged kiss in interviews with The Post.

While more than a dozen other women have publicly accused Trump of touching them in some inappropriate way, Johnson is the only accuser to come forward since he took office and the only one to allege unwanted contact during the campaign. Trump faces a defamation lawsuit in New York brought by Summer Zervos, a former “Apprentice” reality TV contestant, who claims he forcibly kissed and groped her in 2007.

The wheels of justice turn slowly but grind exceedingly fine, as they say.  Of course, Trump being in the Oval Office and all, well he can slow those wheels to an imperceptible crawl.  Republicans impeached Clinton for less, after all.  Meanwhile, New Yorker investigative reporter Ronan Farrow reminds us that the real outcome of Johnson's lawsuit is proving Trump's nondisclosure agreements are unenforceable, and that they are finally being challenged in court.

The most legally significant aspect of Johnson’s suit may ultimately be something the complaint does not explicitly address: the pervasive use of nondisclosure agreements by Trump during his campaign and in his Administration. Johnson’s suit is at least the sixth legal case in which Trump campaign or Administration employees have defied their nondisclosure agreements. Three of those actions, including Johnson’s, were filed this month. Johnson, who was the campaign’s administrative field-operations director in Florida, signed a nondisclosure agreement that bars her from revealing any information “in any way detrimental to the Company, Mr. Trump, any Family Member, any Trump Company or any Family Member company.” Johnson’s attorney, Hassan Zavareei, said, “We expect that Trump will try to use the unconscionable N.D.A. and forced arbitration agreement to silence Ms. Johnson. We will fight this strong-arm tactic.”

The White House referred questions about the nondisclosure agreements to Michael Glassner, the chief operating officer of Trump’s reĆ«lection campaign. He said in a statement, “The campaign takes our NDA agreements very seriously, and will enforce them aggressively if they are breached.” Johnson said that she considers the issues raised by her suit important enough to merit breaching the contract. “I am suing because my work holds the same value as the work of my white male counterparts,” Johnson said, in an interview. “I am suing because this predatory behavior should not be minimized, especially when committed by the most powerful man in the world.”

Nondisclosure agreements are routinely employed in the business world, but experts say that there is little comprehensive data on how they are used by Presidential campaigns. Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign reportedly required paid staff to sign such agreements, but Trump’s campaign seemed to use the agreements more widely, and even required unpaid volunteers to sign them. The practice has carried over to the Trump White House. The Washington Post reported last year that dozens of White House aides had signed N.D.A.s, a break in tradition from previous Administrations, which used the contracts more sparingly. White House interns have also reportedly been asked to sign the agreements as part of their mandatory “ethics training.”

We'll see where this goes, but remember that Trump's greatest weakness is the people around him talking, and he knows it.

One For The Ladies

It's 2019, and with the Pentagon allowing women in combat roles up to an including Special Operations, a federal judge has declared the draft being male-only to be unconstitutional, ordering the Selective Service to start registering men and women at age 18.

A military draft that applies only to men is unconstitutional, a federal judge in Houston has ruled, saying that excluding women is no longer justified because they can now serve in combat roles just as men do.

Judge Gray H. Miller of Federal District Court in the Southern District of Texas took note of the Supreme Court’s 1981 ruling that the exclusion of women from the draft was “fully justified” because women then were not allowed to serve in combat. But the Pentagon abolished those restrictions in 2015, opening the way for women to serve in any military role for which they could qualify.

“While historical restrictions on women in the military may have justified past discrimination, men and women are now ‘similarly situated for purposes of a draft or registration for a draft,’” Judge Miller wrote in his ruling. “If there ever was a time to discuss ‘the place of women in the Armed Services,’ that time has passed.”

Though no one has been conscripted into the United States military in more than 40 years, the Military Selective Service Act requires all American men to register when they turn 18, in case a draft is reinstated; they remain eligible through age 25. Men who do not register can be fined, imprisoned and denied services like federal student loans.

The ruling came in a case brought by the National Coalition for Men, a men’s rights group, which argued that drafting men exclusively violates the 14th Amendment’s equal-protection clause.

Kate Germano, a retired Marine who served for 20 years, said on Sunday that the ruling was a natural progression from the lifting of the ban on women in combat roles.

“It would be an advantage to the country, and also for men, who have bore the preponderance of the burden since the draft was established,” Ms. Germano said of registering women. Noting that women make up slightly more than half the adult population, she said, “Why not leverage all of the talent pool?”

David R. Segal, the founding director of the Center for Research on Military Organization at the University of Maryland, said he supports retaining draft registration, and that as a matter of equality, both men and women should be part of it.

“Since registration for selective service is one of the indicators of citizenship, I think we should at least say publicly that women and men have the same rights and responsibilities of citizenship,” said Mr. Segal, who has been studying military organization for more than 50 years.

The men’s rights group that brought the suit welcomed the ruling. “We think it’s about time since women are allowed in combat,” Marc E. Angelucci, a lawyer for the National Coalition for Men, said. “If we have draft registration, both sexes should have to register. There’s really no more excuse to require only men to register.”

The Pentagon declined to comment on Sunday.

Of course, the men's rights geniuses figure if women start getting registered for the draft, and killed in combat missions, the country will immediately recoil in horror and put an end to it, proving once and for all that men are superior to women.  At least that's how it goes if you have a soiled jockstrap for a brain.

This will be proof, conservatives say, that women should want and need separation from men, the price of that being admission that they are the weaker sex, and need protection from burly alphas As God Above Intended.  They expect a massive outcry that women shouldn't have to register, and it's checkmate for the men, proving women are weak after all.

Considering none of these idiots would want their sons to go to war either, my guess is that all this will do is prevent the draft from happening again, ever. Not a bad outcome, but a stupid way to get it.  Meanwhile, the Pentagon will continue to have women in combat roles like several of our allies do, without drafts or conscription.

(Not talking to you, Israel.)


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