Monday, November 30, 2020

Last Call For The Galleria Of Crime, Con't

Jared Kushner is headed to Saudi Arabia for any number of nefarious purposes in the wake of an Iranian nuclear scientist being assassinated last week.

White House senior adviser Jared Kushner is headed to Saudi Arabia and Qatar this week for talks in a region simmering with tension after the killing of an Iranian nuclear scientist.

A senior administration official said on Sunday that Kushner is to meet the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, in the Saudi city of Neom, and the emir of Qatar in that country in the coming days. Kushner will be joined by Middle East envoys Avi Berkowitz and Brian Hook and Adam Boehler, chief executive of the US International Development Finance Corporation.

The visits would focus on resolving a dispute between Qatar and a Saudi-led alliance, the Wall Street Journal reported, but a number of issues could be on the agenda.

Kushner and his team helped negotiate normalization deals between Israel and Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Sudan since August. The official said they would like to advance more such agreements before Donald Trump hands power to president-elect Joe Biden on 20 January.

US officials believe enticing Saudi Arabia into a deal with Israel would prompt other Arab nations to follow suit. But the Saudis do not appear to be on the brink of reaching such a landmark deal and officials in recent weeks have been focusing on other countries, with concern about Iran’s regional influence a uniting factor.

Kushner’s trip comes after the killing on Friday of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh in Tehran by unidentified assailants. Western and Israeli governments believe Fakhrizadeh was the architect of a secret Iranian nuclear weapons program.

Days before the killing, the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, travelled to Saudi Arabia and met with Prince Mohammed, an Israeli official said, in what was the first publicly confirmed visit by an Israeli leader. Israeli media said they were joined by the US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo.
When I said earlier this month that there's any number of ways that the Trump regime could badly sabotage the incoming Biden administration during the lame duck period, this is exactly what I mean.  Jared's been Trump's bag man in the Middle East for years, and Netanyahu, still facing his own bribery and corruption trial scandal which keeps getting mysteriously delayed, is certainly not going to be a fan of Biden after the way he treated Obama for years.

Some sort of last-minute deal between MBS and Netanyahu that ties Biden's hands is exactly what I expect following this meeting, especially something that involves Iran.

Don't be surprised if Trump hands Biden a new Middle East war to deal with in his first 30 days.


Lowering The Barr, Con't

Donald Trump's reality has collapsed so completely in the wake of his election loss to Joe Biden that he's now openly blaming Attorney General Bill Barr for his "Deep State!" conspirator-laden loss.
Despite having finally assented to allowing his administration to cooperate with the transition of power to President-elect Joe Biden, President Trump on Sunday continued to spout baseless voter fraud claims in his first interview since Election Day, including suggesting that the FBI and Department of Justice were involved in rigging the election against him.

“This is total fraud,” Trump told host Maria Bartiromo during the interview on Fox Business’ “Sunday Morning Futures,” adding: “And how the FBI and Department of Justice—I don’t know—maybe they’re involved, but how people are getting away with this stuff—it’s unbelievable.”

The president offered no evidence to back up this claim, and then went on to complain at length about how the two agencies had been “missing in action” in investigating his voter fraud claims.

The DOJ and FBI did not immediately respond to requests for comment from Forbes.

The heads of both the FBI and DOJ were picked by President Trump. FBI Director Christopher Wray was appointed by the president in 2017, while Attorney General William Barr was nominated in late 2018. Barr has been criticized for actions that have been perceived as overly partisan toward the president, including recently clearing the DOJ to investigate voting irregularities before the results are certified, a reversal of longstanding guidance to avoid the appearance of federal intervention in elections that prompted the head of the department’s Election Crimes Branch Richard Pilger to step down from his position in protest.

Almost all of the dozens of lawsuits filed by the Trump campaign in battleground states have been dismissed by judges—including GOP appointees. However, on Sunday morning, Trump claimed: “We’re trying to put the evidence in and the judges won’t allow us to do it.”
Trump also seems to think he can order Barr to appoint a special prosecutor to go after...everyone.  Including, apparently, Barr himself.
“Where is the DOJ and the FBI in all of this, Mr. President?” Bartiromo asked of Trump’s claims of voter fraud. “You have laid out some serious charges here. Shouldn’t this be something that the FBI is investigating? Are they? Is the DOJ investigating?”

“Missing in action. Missing in action. Can’t tell you where they are. I ask, ‘Are they looking at it?’ Everyone says, ‘Yes, they’re looking at it.’ Look, where are they with Comey, McCabe, and all these other people? You know, I said I’ll stay out of it. I wish I didn’t make that statement. There’s no reason, really, why I have to,” Trump said. “But where are they with Comey, with McCabe, with Brennan, with all these people. They lied to Congress. They lied, they leaked, they spied on our campaign. I see Carter Page is bringing a lawsuit, that’s good news. Where are they with all of this stuff? And, you know, what happened to Durham? Where’s Durham?”

Former Trump campaign associate Carter Page filed a lawsuit on Friday against Comey, McCabe, the FBI, the Justice Department, and others seeking $75 million in damages related to the “unjustified and illegal actions” and “unlawful spying” against him.

“Before we leave the subject of Durham, I feel like something happened in September. I don’t know what happened, but we were all expecting Durham to come out and A.G. Barr to be aggressive,” Bartiromo said, adding, “Will you appoint a special counsel to investigate and to continue the investigating into what took place in the 2016 election? You mentioned Jim Comey and Andrew McCabe not facing accountability — will you appoint a special counsel?”

“By the way, Comey, McCabe — that’s the least of it. You talk about the Logan Act, they used the Logan Act on General Flynn, who I was very proud to pardon. But they wanted to use and they did use the Logan Act on General Flynn, and you know where that started. Look, this whole thing is a terrible situation. This should’ve never been allowed to happen,” Trump claimed.

He added, “And yeah, I would consider a special prosecutor. Because you know this is not a ‘counsel’ — it sounds so nice. I went through three years of a special counsel prosecutor — I call it ‘prosecutor’ because it’s a much more accurate term. They spent $48 million, Weissmann and all Trump haters, they spent $48 million. That was the Mueller investigation. They went through taxes, they went through everything — for $48 million you look at everything, and they found no collusion, no nothing.” 
Again, it's easy to dismiss Trump's schizoid break as something piteous or sad, but the reality is at some point very soon, probably after the Supreme Court delivers the final blow by (hopefully) refusing to take up any of Trump's ridiculous lawsuits, Trump will openly tell his supporters to take up arms and get him his presidency back by any means necessary, and a non-zero percentage of them will take him up on the offer.
Civil wars throughout history have started over less, the kind that end up with hundreds of thousands of casualties.  

You know, on top of the hundreds of thousands of COVID-19 deaths so far this year in America.

What Happened In The House?

Democrats have lost at least a dozen seats in the House, and multiple GOP senators survived what should have been fatal blows, and how Biden won despite this is something WaPo columnist Greg Sargent and Cook Political Report House guru Dave Wasserman discuss.

Greg Sargent: Why did these losses happen?

David Wasserman: Republicans did a complete 180 on recruitment. This year all 12 Republicans who picked up Democratic seats so far were women or minorities. Republicans nominated candidates who looked like their districts, and didn’t necessarily sound like [President] Trump.

Sargent: Wasn’t it in some respects inevitable that turnout would be higher on the Republican side, relative to 2018? In 2018 Democratic turnout was lopsidedly high. And in 2020 it wasn’t, because Republicans also turned out. Right?

Wasserman: That’s true. Trump helped Republicans down-ballot in two ways. He drove out millions of low-propensity conservatives who would never vote for their average Republican Joe in a midterm. But he also allowed Republican candidates to pick up voters who could not stomach Trump.

In 2018, when he wasn’t on the ballot, the only opportunity for independent voters, especially suburban women, to vent their anger at Trump was by voting against a Republican congressional candidate. This time around, those voters could do so directly, but vote for a more conventional Republican down-ballot.

Sargent: The big story that everybody missed was the amount of low-propensity Trump base turnout that Trump would inspire, and how that would impact House races?

Wasserman: Right — even in highly college-educated suburbs.

Sargent: The whole explanation then becomes a lot more structural. The big story is that incredibly juiced-up Trump-base turnout allowed down-ballot Republicans to get lifted by that tide, and pocket all those votes, and then just add Republican-leaning swing voters who voted against Trump but for their Republican congressional candidate.

Wasserman: I couldn’t have said it better.

Sargent: Another narrative is that Democratic down-ballot losses reflect the idea that the non-college White vote spread got even worse for Democrats, as David Shor said to Eric Levitz.

I have trouble squaring that with some data we’re seeing. The New York Times county-by-county analysis showed that Biden added 11 percent to 2016 totals in counties with a lot of non-college Whites, while Trump added 15 percent in those counties relative to 2016. The story I take from that is Biden added blue-collar Whites to the Democratic column, but Trump added some more.

It’s not simply Democrats losing more ground with them; it’s Democrats gaining ground but not as much Trump did. Your thoughts?

Wasserman: I’m in the camp that it’s amazing Biden held the line in those places and didn’t lose vote share relative to Hillary Clinton. Democrats’ trajectory has been downward in these places for quite a while now. The fact that Biden held on to what remains of support for Democrats is a testament to his biography, and the comfort level those voters have with him.

Sargent: It’s not just bio, right? Biden tried to articulate a somewhat more populist line than one would have expected from someone with his centrist past, talking about reshoring jobs and industrial policy, and even moving toward Bernie Sanders/Elizabeth Warren populism in some respects. That had to have played some role.

Wasserman: Definitely. Instead of running a campaign entirely about Trump and his temperament, Biden ran a campaign focused on populist themes. That is marginally more effective in blue-collar America.

Sargent: How does this translate back to the down-ballot losses? The voters we’re talking about that cost Democrats House seats — slightly Republican-leaning, couldn’t stomach Trump, wanted to vote for a conventional Republican down-ballot — those are likely not in the main blue-collar Whites, are they?

Wasserman: I think they’re predominantly suburban. Remember when Trump settled on the message that Biden is a Trojan Horse for the radical left? In retrospect, the message those voters might have taken away was that Biden doesn’t sound that bad, but congressional Democrats are about to drive the country off a socialist cliff.

It’s possible that voters priced that into their choice for Congress.

It could have been that they weren’t hearing enough from Democratic candidates on why they weren’t radical leftists.

A lot of voters have no idea where Democratic candidates stand on police funding. Because Democrats never mentioned it in their ads.

Both Biden and Democratic congressional candidates failed to highlight support from law enforcement.

Sargent: It sounds like the key distinction here is between blaming the losses on the existence of the left and “defund the police” on the one hand, and not rebutting Republican attacks on the other. The first is less of an explanation, and the second is more of one.

Wasserman: This is not a situation where “the Squad” bears responsibility. It’s that Democrats in swing districts didn’t do enough to communicate where they actually stood. And I would put Biden in that category. 
So the takeaway is this:

  1. Suburban Republicans, particularly college-educated white suburban women, felt much better about splitting their ticket by voting for Biden and then voting for Republican candidates that were not white men.
  2. Record turnout helped Joe Biden, but it helped congressional Republicans too.
  3. The college/non-college split is real, especially with white voters overall, and Democrats better figure out how to fix it in a way that doesn't give Republicans an immediate opening to attack on.
  4. Trump's racist messages attacking Black Lives Matter and "rioters" and running on "law and order" didn't save him, but the Congressional Republican message that "We're the only thing between you and Biden's Socialism!" absolutely worked.
  5. It worked because Dems didn't want to attack cops and especially police unions.
  6. We'll see if all this holds true in Georgia's Senate runoffs in six weeks.
And guys, Republican redistricting in 2022 may cost the Democrats the House no matter what the Democrats actually do, so House Dems need to go for broke.


 Back into the fray, my friends. Time and history wait for no Zandar.

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