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Topics - iceman4221

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1
Politics / Trump Is Expected to Sign Border-Security Deal
« on: February 13, 2019, 09:17:22 AM »
Trump Is Expected to Sign Border-Security Deal
The bill, which would keep government open past Friday, allocates $1.38 billion for 55 miles of physical barriers, falling short of Trump’s demands

By Rebecca Ballhaus and Peter Nicholas
Updated Feb. 13, 2019 8:45 a.m. ET

WASHINGTON—President Trump is likely to sign the border-security deal lawmakers reached this week that would keep the government open past Friday, according to people familiar with his plans, marking a potential concession by the president on his demands for border-wall funding.

Mr. Trump is expected to sign the deal unless there are any late additions, the people familiar with his plans said. A day earlier, in a cabinet meeting, Mr. Trump said the bill was “not doing the trick” and that he planned to try to amend it. “It’s always nice to negotiate a little bit, right?” he said.

Senior Republican lawmakers said it wasn’t realistic to reopen negotiations at this point, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) urged the president to sign the bill, calling it a “pretty good deal.”

Administration officials cautioned that no final decisions had been made, saying the White House was still reviewing the plan but that Mr. Trump was likely to sign the deal.

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I'm just gonna leave this right here:




If You Disagree With the Facts Presented By This Young, Intelligent Member of the Clergy in this Video...

1. Provide empirical data refuting this clergy men's statements.

2. Provide empirical data supporting Trump being the most Pro-Black President based on his administrations policies and his community efforts/life's work prior to being elected.

If you are comfortable with providing irrefutable response (links please) and would like to debate this "clergy men's" findings - please do the following...

A. Provide rational logic and examples of his excellence in "leadership style".

B. Provide examples of sound economic policies and the positive results to Non-White Americans.

C. Provide examples of philanthropy that benefited Non-whites, Women, the Military, the Handicap or Disabled, or Immigrants - like his own family - legal or illegal, etc...

D. Provide lifetime examples of community activism, civil rights advocacy,  health-education-housing and medical advocacy for "the have nots" in general and Non-Whites specifically.

Go Ahead I'll Wait...   

4
House Democrats roll out massive plan to protect elections, protect voters, and strengthen ethics


Laura Clawson 
Daily Kos Staff
Friday January 04, 2019 · 11:35 AM EST


WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 3: Speaker of the House Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) holds the gavel during the first session of the 116th Congress at the U.S. Capitol January 3, 2019 in Washington, DC. Under the cloud of a partial federal government shutdown, Pelosi will reclaim her former title as Speaker of the House and her fellow Democrats will take control of the House of Representatives for the second time in eight years.

House Democrats unveiled a bill Friday that would completely remake American politics if it became law. The For the People Act is a reform package that you’ll see described as “sweeping,” but even that doesn’t do it justice. This thing is huge—here’s just part of what it includes across elections reform, campaign finance reform, and ethics and lobbying reform:

- Automatic voter registration and same-day voter registration and online voter registration
- 15 days of early voting
- End gerrymandering by requiring nonpartisan redistricting commissions to draw congressional maps
- Voting rights for post-release felons
- Prevent voter purges by the states
- Public financing for House candidates who don’t take big donations
- Tighten rules on dark money
- Force disclosure on digital campaign ads
- Expand the definition of lobbyist to close a loophole recent members of Congress frequently exploit
- New powers and disclosures for the Office of Government Ethics
- A code of ethics for the Supreme Court

Some features of the package are things we didn’t really know we needed until Donald Trump violated basically every political and ethical norm he could locate:

- Require presidential candidates to disclose 10 years of tax returns
- Apply conflict-of-interest rules to the president and vice president
- Prevent the president and vice president from contracting with the government

This will never get a vote in the Senate while Mitch McConnell is in charge. Trump would veto it and probably spit on it for good measure. But Democrats have made a strong statement about what they would do to clean up government and make our elections more truly democratic.

5
House Democrats Get Down To Business: But Mitch McConnell is a Puppet 4 Trump


House Democrats hand the Senate a way out of this mess, but Mitch McConnell won't let them take it

Mark Sumner 
Daily Kos Staff
Friday January 04, 2019 · 8:43 AM EST

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 02: (L-R) House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD), Senate Minority Whip Richard Durbin (D-IL), House Speaker designate Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) talk to journalists following a meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and fellow members of Congress about border security at the White House January 02, 2019 in Washington, DC. Trump and House Democrats are no closer to a deal on funding for Trump’s border wall and reopening parts of the federal government that have been shuttered for the past 12 days.
 
House Democrats didn’t waste any time getting down to work. After taking their seats, they hung around on Thursday night to pass legislation that would reopen the government—legislation that snagged a few Republican votes in the process. And it should. Because the funding that Democrats passed in the House is identical to the funding levels that passed the Senate two weeks ago on a 100-0 vote. The only difference is that Democrats divided the funding into two bills, specifically holding out the funding for Homeland Security so that negotiations can continue over the proper level of funding for border security.

The votes were a testimony to the skill of Nancy Pelosi and Democratic leadership in setting a narrative and sticking to it, as the newly seated, most-diverse Congress in history were solidly united. Every single Democrat voted for the bills. The news was a little less cherry for the new leadership on the Republican side, where minority leader Kevin McCarthy watched seven Republicans sign on to the Democratic bills.

And now that bill goes to Mitch McConnell. Not to the Senate. Just McConnell. Because the Republican Senate leader refuses to even allow a vote on bills that exactly mirror the deal he thought he had with Trump, before Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh goaded Trump into a standoff that is crippling the government, destabilizing the economy, and taking paychecks away from hundreds of thousands of ordinary Americans. In fact, through November, the total reduction in the number of Americans on unemployment through all of 2018 was 641,000. As NBC News reports, Trump’s government-sized pout has already put more than 800,000 people in a financial squeeze.

McConnell is refusing the vote even though, as the Washington Post reports, cracks are developing on the Senate side, as well. Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Susan Collins (R-ME), both of whom are facing uphill runs in 2020 in states that Trump lost in 2016, are begging McConnell to do something to break the impasse, even if it means passing the same bill they already agreed to before Trump decided it was more important to score compliments on Fox than to have a functional nation.

Nancy Pelosi was adamant in her statements on Thursday. In an interview with the New York Times, she was asked if she considered herself Trump’s equal. Pelosi’s reply: “The Constitution does.” But Mitch McConnell isn’t looking at the Constitution. He’s not even looking at Fox News. He’s only looking at Donald Trump, and doing exactly nothing.

While the House was voting to reopen the government, McConnell repeated on Thursday that he will only allow the Senate to vote for things that Trump supports. He’s not only acting as Trump’s puppet, he’s acting as a roadblock for every single senator. Forget challenging Trump on a bill that passed the Senate with a margin that would overcome any veto. Forget even forcing Trump to own the shutdown that he said he was happy to own. McConnell will not allow a vote until Trump has pre-approved the bill they’re voting on.

It’s an unprecedented inversion of the way the government is supposed to work. McConnell is single-handedly attempting to erase an entire branch of government. Maybe he thinks that by doing so, Trump won’t be saddled with blame for the shutdown. And he’s right to some extent—because McConnell definitely shares that blame.

On the other hand, Pelosi’s strategy has carefully crafted a pair of bills that would allow reasonable Republicansif any such existto claim they had acted to prevent damage to the nation while holding open debate on the future of the border. The Senate could easily pass, and Trump could sign, the bill that funded other parts of the government while continuing debate on funding for DHS.

By refusing to vote on either bill, McConnell makes it absolutely clear that Republicans aren’t just kowtowing to Trump over funding his wall, they are holding the entire government hostage to that debate. That’s not just an ugly position to be in, it’s ultimately untenable. In this face-off, Democrats aren’t just in the right, they have crafted a much, much better narrative. The longer this goes on, the worse it will be for the GOP.

The cracks that are already showing in the Republican’s front, in both the House and the Senate, are there for a reason: They own this shutdown, and all its effects, 100 percent. Pelosi and the Democratic House have held out an option that would allow Republicans to reopen the government while continuing to argue on “the wall.” If they refuse, they lose. If they accept, they also lose … but that second loss at least comes with a temporary halt to the damage. Obeying only Trump does not.

6
Politics / Hello Everyone...
« on: January 01, 2019, 07:42:01 PM »
To All Here on Onnidan that participate in the Political Forum...  Happy New Year to You and Yours!!!



7

Stocks closed out a bruising 2018 with gains on New Year's Eve but the rally wasn't enough to help the market avoid its biggest annual loss in 10 years.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average, which rallied 265 points in the year's final trading day, finished 2018 with a loss of 5.6 percent, its worst decline since a 33.8 percent plunge in 2008. The broad Standard & Poor's 500 stock index fell 6.2 percent in 2018, its worst performance in a decade.

Despite Monday's rally, which was sparked by signs of progress in trade talks between the U.S. and China, the S&P 500 still posted its biggest December decline since 1931 and narrowly dodged its first bear market since 2009 on its way to its worst annual performance since the financial crisis.

In a tweet over the weekend, President Donald Trump said he spoke with Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping about the trade dispute between the world's two biggest economies and that "Big progress was being made!" That news was greeted positively by investors, as slowing economic growth, due in part to tariffs and trade-related uncertainty, has weighed heavily on stocks in 2018.

Wall Street experienced highs and lows in 2018, with the S&P 500 notching its longest bull run in history on its way to a record high in late September. But it morphed into a treacherous year for investors, as the stock market suffered two corrections – or drops of 10 percent or more from prior highs. The benchmark stock gauge on Christmas Eve also came within two tenths of a percentage point of tumbling 20 percent from its peak on a closing basis and into bear market territory.

"That sure felt like a bear," said John Lynch, chief investment strategist at LPL Financial.

That narrow miss kept the bull market, which began in March 2009, intact.

After a 0.9 percent rally in the year’s final trading day, the S&P 500 finished 2018 14.5 percent below its Sept. 20 peak of 2930.75.

The blue chip Dow ended the year 13 percent shy of its recent peak. The Nasdaq composite, home to popular technology stocks that led the market surge early in the year but which suffered massive declines in the year’s final quarter, finished 2018 down 3.9 percent and 18.2 percent below its August all-time high. The small-company Russell 2000 stock index suffered the biggest declines, tumbling 12.2 percent and enters the new year 22.5 percent from its peak and deep in bear market territory.

Investors are bracing for more volatility but hoping for a return to gains in the new year.

Quote
"Barring an appearance of a 'black swan' event, or the shock of a bolt from the blue, the worst of the declines experienced by stocks in 2018 are behind us," John Stoltzfus, chief investment strategist at Oppenheimer Asset Management, told clients early Monday in his 2019 outlook report. He predicts the broad U.S. stock market will rebound 20 percent next year from current levels.

Quote
Volatility returned to Wall Street with a vengeance in the final three months of the year, with stocks cratering under the weight of fears ranging from a looming recession to the Federal Reserve hiking interest rates too much, and from trade war uncertainties to signs of a global economic slowdown.

Quote
Investors who had been bidding up stock prices early in 2018 based on the strongest profit growth for U.S. companies since 2010, tailwinds from sizable tax cuts and a U.S. economy growing at a 3 percent-plus clip, sold stocks off sharply late in the year as they began to price in a less positive backdrop for stocks in coming quarters.

A sense that the best days for corporate profits and the global economy had already occurred resulted in investors repricing stocks at lower valuation levels.

Next year's market returns will hinge on (1) whether the Federal Reserve avoids a policy mistake with its interest rate policy, (2) whether the economy can continue to grow and avoid recession, (3) and whether the U.S. trade fight with China can be resolved.

8
Politics / Did a Queens Podiatrist Help Donald Trump Avoid Vietnam?
« on: December 26, 2018, 02:02:51 PM »
Did a Queens Podiatrist Help Donald Trump Avoid Vietnam?

By Steve Eder
•   Dec. 26, 2018


In the fall of 1968, Donald J. Trump received a timely diagnosis of bone spurs in his heels that led to his medical exemption from the military during Vietnam.

For 50 years, the details of how the exemption came about, and who made the diagnosis, have remained a mystery, with Mr. Trump himself saying during the presidential campaign that he could not recall who had signed off on the medical documentation.

Now a possible explanation has emerged about the documentation. It involves a foot doctor in Queens who rented his office from Mr. Trump’s father, Fred C. Trump, and a suggestion that the diagnosis was granted as a courtesy to the elder Mr. Trump.

The podiatrist, Dr. Larry Braunstein, died in 2007. But his daughters say their father often told the story of coming to the aid of a young Mr. Trump during the Vietnam War as a favor to his father.

“I know it was a favor,” said one daughter, Dr. Elysa Braunstein, 56, who along with her sister, Sharon Kessel, 53, shared the family’s account for the first time publicly when contacted by The New York Times.

Elysa Braunstein said the implication from her father was that Mr. Trump did not have a disqualifying foot ailment. “But did he examine him? I don’t know,” she said.

For decades, Dr. Braunstein saw patients in a congested ground-floor office below Edgerton Apartments in Jamaica, Queens, one of dozens of buildings owned by the Trumps in the 1960s. The family sold the building in 2004, records show.

“What he got was access to Fred Trump,” Elysa Braunstein said. “If there was anything wrong in the building, my dad would call and Trump would take care of it immediately. That was the small favor that he got.”

No paper evidence has been found to help corroborate the version of events described by the Braunstein family, who also suggested there was some involvement by a second podiatrist, Dr. Manny Weinstein. Dr. Weinstein, who died in 1995, lived in two apartments in Brooklyn owned by Fred Trump; city directories show he moved into the first during the year Donald Trump received his exemption.

Dr. Braunstein’s daughters said their father left no medical records with the family, and a doctor who purchased his practice said he was unaware of any documents related to Mr. Trump. Most detailed government medical records related to the draft no longer exist, according to the National Archives.

In an interview with The Times in 2016, Mr. Trump said that a doctor provided “a very strong letter” about the bone spurs in his heels, which he then presented to draft officials. He said he could not remember the doctor’s name. “You are talking a lot of years,” Mr. Trump said.

But he suggested he still had some paperwork related to the exemption, which he did not provide.

Mr. Trump did not mention in that interview any connection between his father and the doctor. The White House did not make Mr. Trump available for a follow-up interview and did not respond to written questions about his service record.

An investigation by The Times in October showed the extent to which Fred Trump had assisted his son over the years, despite Donald Trump’s insistence to the contrary. The investigation revealed that Mr. Trump received the equivalent today of at least $413 million from his father’s real estate empire, including the equivalent of $200,000 a year by age 3.

In the 1960s, there were numerous ways to avoid military service, especially for the sons of wealthy and connected families, but Mr. Trump has said that no one pulled strings for him.

“I didn’t have power in those days,” Mr. Trump told the biographer Michael D’Antonio in a 2014 interview, according to transcripts shared with The Times. “I had no power. My father was a Brooklyn developer, so it wasn’t like today.”
Sign Up for On Politics With Lisa Lerer

Dr. Alec Hochstein, who worked with Dr. Braunstein in the late 1990s, said the podiatrist had recalled over dinner with their wives how the Trumps had treated him well, including backing off from rent increases. Dr. Hochstein did not remember any discussions related to Mr. Trump’s medical exemption.

“He spoke very highly of the Trumps, and they were very open to negotiating with him and letting him stay in the space at a rent he was comfortable with,” Dr. Hochstein said.

Dr. Nicholas Campion, who bought Dr. Braunstein’s practice around the time that the Trumps sold the building, which was less than a mile from the Trump family home in Jamaica Estates, said Donald Trump had had a large presence in the community.

“Everybody recalls the Trump family around Jamaica Estates,” Dr. Campion said.

In recent years, the diagnosis of bone spurs has subjected Mr. Trump to ridicule from critics, who have found it implausible that a healthy and athletic 22-year-old, on the cusp of being declared fit for service, could suddenly be felled by growths in his heels.

Mr. Trump’s own shifting narrative over the years about his Vietnam-era experience has added to the suspicions.

At the time of the diagnosis, Mr. Trump was navigating a tumultuous period for the country after he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania. The United States inducted about 300,000 men into the military in 1968. At that time, a year before the draft lottery was instituted, local boards had to meet quotas and called men for service, leaving those without deferments or exemptions vulnerable.

Mr. Trump had been declared available for service two years earlier and undergone a physical exam, Selective Service records show. That exam did not result in a medical exemption, but he did receive an education deferment.

When officials again declared him available for service in July 1968, he had exhausted four education deferments and finished school, so it was the medical exemption that kept him from being eligible.

He has often said it was “ultimately” a high draft lottery number that spared him, but Mr. Trump had been medically exempted for more than a year before the lottery began in December 1969.

Beginning in October 1968, records show, Mr. Trump had a 1-Y classification, a temporary medical exemption, meaning that he could be considered for service only in the event of a national emergency or an official declaration of war, neither of which occurred during the conflict in Vietnam. In 1972, after the 1-Y classification was abolished, his status changed to 4-F, a permanent disqualification.

The Times began looking into Mr. Trump’s draft record anew when an anonymous tipster suggested that a podiatrist who was a commercial tenant of Fred Trump’s had provided the medical documentation.

The tipster offered no names, but The Times used old city directories, held by the New York Public Library, and interviews with Queens podiatrists to identify Dr. Braunstein.

The doctor’s daughters said his role in Mr. Trump’s military exemption had long been the subject of discussions among relatives and friends.

“It was family lore,” said Elysa Braunstein. “It was something we would always discuss.”
She said her father was initially proud that he had helped a “famous guy” in New York real estate.

But later, her father, a lifelong Democrat who had served in the Navy during World War II, grew tired of Donald Trump as he became a fixture in the tabloid gossip pages and a reality television star, she said. The daughters, both Democrats, say they are not fans of Mr. Trump.

Mr. Trump has had a complicated relationship with the military, having quarreled with the likes of Senator John McCain, a prisoner of war during Vietnam; the parents of a slain soldier; and the architect of the Osama bin Laden raid, even while speaking during campaign rallies about his enthusiastic support for veterans and the armed forces.

He has also been critical of people who have been less than forthright about their Vietnam records. Earlier this month, he chided Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut, over misleading statements he made years ago about his own Vietnam record, calling him “Da Nang Dick” on Twitter.

Dr. Braunstein’s daughters said that when he discussed Mr. Trump’s medical exemption, he often mentioned Dr. Weinstein, though it was unclear to them what role Dr. Weinstein may have played. He was close to the family, they said, and known as Uncle Manny.

The two men forged a close friendship after meeting in podiatry school in New York, from which they graduated in 1953. Dr. Weinstein was among the oldest students in the class, classmates said, and Dr. Braunstein was remembered for being among the smartest.

One possible explanation that has been raised over the years, the Braunstein sisters said, is that Dr. Weinstein had a connection to the draft, as some private practitioners did. In fact, multiple doctors would have been involved in the final determination.

Before people were inducted into the service, they underwent a physical exam overseen by military doctors, court records from that era show. Men could bring along documentation of medical concerns from private physicians.

That information was presented at their exams and considered by a medical officer. Often, a civilian specialist working with the exam station would be asked to review the case and make a recommendation. A local draft board would finalize the man’s classification.

Dr. Weinstein practiced podiatry in Brooklyn’s Bath Beach neighborhood, maintaining an office near another Trump building, Shore Haven Apartments. In 1968, phone books show, Dr. Weinstein moved into an apartment in Westminster Hall, a Trump-owned building. He lived in that building for many years, and later lived in another owned by the Trumps.

Dr. Weinstein had no children and never married, but some people who knew him were surprised by a possible Trump connection.

When Dr. Weinstein closed his practice in the late 1980s, he referred patients to a nearby podiatrist, Dr. Mark L. Schwartz. When contacted by The Times, Dr. Schwartz said he had never heard about a possible connection between Dr. Weinstein and the Trumps.



9
Dow's worst week since 2008 financial crisis; Nasdaq closes in bear market

By David Goldman, CNN Business

Updated 4:20 PM ET, Fri December 21, 2018

New York (CNN Business)The Dow just suffered its deepest weekly plunge since 2008 and the Nasdaq is officially in a bear market.

...

Quote
For the week, the Dow lost 1,655 points, or 6.9%. That's the steepest weekly percentage loss since October 2008. The Nasdaq plunged 8.4% on the week, its worst since November 2008. And the S&P 500's 7.1% weekly loss was the worst since August 2011.
All three major indexes are down more than 12% in December. Stocks are on pace for the worst December since the Great Depression,

Oil, the Russell 2000, the Dow transports index, and stock markets in China, Italy, Germany, Japan and South Korea are all in bear markets, too.



Investors are worried about the prospect of a global economic slowdown. Political chaos from Brexit, a looming US government shutdown and the resignation of US Defense Secretary James Mattis are stoking fear, too. And the Federal Reserve added to those concerns this week by signaling that its rate-increase plan will continue into 2019 despite downgrading its economic growth forecast.



Williams acknowledged that the Fed now predicts somewhat slower economic growth than it had in the past, but he said the believes the market's selling is overdone.
CNN Business' Matt Egan contributed to this report

FOX NEWS VERSION OF THE SAME STORY FOR YOU GOP SYCOPHANTS

10
Trump Foundation to Dissolve, N.Y. Attorney General’s Office Says
Agreement to dissolve stems from lawsuit alleging Mr. Trump misused the foundation’s assets

By Corinne Ramey
Updated Dec. 18, 2018 12:20 p.m. ET
President Trump’s family foundation will dissolve under the supervision of a judge, according to the New York attorney general’s office, which had accused the charity of misusing assets.

The agreement stems from a lawsuit, brought by the attorney general’s office in June, alleging that Mr. Trump used the Donald J. Trump Foundation to pay legal settlements, further his 2016 campaign, and promote his businesses.

The deal, which still has to be signed by a judge, requires the attorney general’s office to approve the charities that will receive the foundation’s remaining assets, the state attorney’s office said. The lawsuit remains ongoing, the attorney general’s office said.

“Today’s stipulation accomplishes a key piece of the relief sought in our lawsuit earlier this year,” New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood said in a statement. “Under the terms, the Trump Foundation can only dissolve under judicial supervision – and it can only distribute its remaining charitable assets to reputable organizations approved by my office.”

A lawyer representing the foundation didn’t immediately comment on the agreement.

That suit—filed against Mr. Trump, his three older children and the charity itself—had sought to dissolve the foundation and to ban Mr. Trump from serving on charity boards for 10 years, as well as seeking restitution. It accused the foundation of violating state laws that govern charities.

When it was filed, Mr. Trump called the lawsuit “ridiculous” and his lawyers have said the suit was politically motivated. During a court hearing in October, a lawyer for Mr. Trump said that because all money raised went to charities, there was no tangible benefit to the campaign.

Last month, a New York state court judge allowed the lawsuit against the foundation to move forward. In her ruling, state court Justice Saliann Scarpulla responded to Mr. Trump’s lawyers claims that a sitting president can’t be sued in state court. “I find that I have jurisdiction over Mr. Trump,” Justice Scarpulla wrote.

Write to Corinne Ramey at Corinne.Ramey@wsj.com

11
The Wisconsin power grab is part of a bigger Republican attack on democracy

The GOP’s turn against democracy may be a greater threat to the American experiment than President Trump.

By Zack Beauchamp@zackbeauchampzack@vox.com  Dec 6, 2018, 10:10am EST

The Wisconsin Republican Party is nullifying the results of the 2018 election.

On Wednesday morning, the Republican-controlled state legislature passed a bill that would seize key powers from incoming Democratic Gov. Tony Evers, who defeated incumbent Gov. Scott Walker in November. Walker is expected to sign it in the coming days.

The bill blocks Evers’s ability to change state welfare policy and withdraw from a lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act — two things he campaigned on. It limits the state’s early voting period, a move that would make it harder for Democrats to win future elections. And this is all happening during the lame-duck session before Evers takes power, rushed through quickly in an explicit effort to weaken Democrats and prevent the new governor from doing what he was elected to do. In essence, Wisconsin Republicans are telling the state’s voters that their preferences will be ignored.

This would be troubling enough if it were a one-off. But it’s not.

Michigan Republicans are currently weighing similar plans, and both are following in the footsteps of North Carolina Republicans, who passed a power-stripping bill after a Democratic victory in the 2016 governor’s race. State Republicans in three of the country’s most vital swing states are displaying open contempt for the most basic principle of democracy: that when you lose an election, you have to hand over power to your opponents. The national party hasn’t condemned these power grabs, giving the state legislatures tacit permission to rewrite the rules.

These power grabs highlight one of the most disturbing facts about American politics today: The Republican Party has become institutionally indifferent to the health of democracy. It prioritizes power over principle to such an extreme degree that it undermines the most basic functioning of democracy.

In the long run, the GOP’s turn against democracy could well be a greater threat to the American experiment than anything President Donald Trump has done.

Why the state power grabs are so scary
The specifics of the power-stripping efforts vary from state to state — my colleague Tara Golshan has a great explanation of the details in each case — but share a fundamentally similar structure. Each one curtails the governor’s ability to make changes to Republican-backed policies like welfare work requirements, and political rules like campaign finance regulation. Republican-controlled legislatures are given enhanced powers to block governors’ moves through measures such as handing them control over state bureaucracies. And these bills all happen during lame-duck sessions, specifically subverting the results of elections that just happened.

Republican legislators sometimes bill the laws as high-minded protections of the separation of powers, but no one is fooled. The goal is to prevent Democrats from overturning Republican policy initiatives and electoral rules that help Republicans win statewide elections.

Wisconsin Speaker of the House Robin Vos was quite clear on this point during the debate over the bills. At one point, he warned Republicans that if they don’t pass the power grab, they “are going to have a very liberal governor who is going to enact policies that are in direct contrast to what many of us believe in.” That “very liberal governor” had of course just been voted in by the people of Wisconsin, presumably to enact the policies he had campaigned on.

To understand why this is especially troubling, we need to take a step back and think about the purpose of a democratic political system.

Quote
Democracy is premised on the idea that political power is only legitimate when exercised with the consent of the governed. But in reality, people disagree about fundamental political and moral issues; no elected government will ever have 100 percent support of the population, or anything close to it. The purpose of a democratic political system is to bridge that gap: to create a system for resolving these disagreements that everyone thinks is fair. That way, everyone will accept the outcome of the election as basically legitimate even when their side loses.

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The post-election power grabs amount to Republicans declaring that they no longer accept that fundamental bargain. They do not believe it’s legitimate when they lose, or that they are obligated to hand over power to Democrats because that’s what’s required in a fair system. Political power, to the state legislators in question, matters more than the core bargain of democracy.

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Now, a certain level of working the refs is inevitable in a democratic system. American politicians, as Georgetown’s Matt Glassman notes, have always tinkered with the system’s rules to give themselves and their favored policies a leg up. For instance, Democrats in Massachusetts back in 2004 tried to amend the rules for Senate vacancies to make sure that then-Gov. Mitt Romney couldn’t appoint a Republican to the Senate if then-Sen. John Kerry won his bid for the presidency.

But literally stripping powers from officials of the opposing party after they win elections goes well beyond this kind of tinkering. It’s nothing less than a rejection of the idea that the people should get to decide who rules them, a point that many political scientists were quick to highlight after the Wisconsin bill passed.

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“By undermining the results of the midterms, the GOP makes a mockery of the notion that elections matter,” Jaime Dominguez, a political scientist at Northwestern University, told me via email. The Wisconsin law is “a breathtaking assault on the most basic democratic norm: the willingness of the loser of an election to let the winner rule,” Yascha Mounk, a fellow at Harvard scholar who studies democratic breakdown, tweeted.

There’s also a broader context. Republicans have, for years now, engaged in a systematic and nationally coordinated effort to rewrite the rules of the political game in their favor. What’s happening in Wisconsin and Michigan is only the latest manifestation of a broader anti-democratic trend, which in the past decade or so has become part of the party’s identity.

The spread of extreme partisan gerrymandering and voter ID laws, tools used by Republicans to marginalize minorities and other Democratic-leaning constituencies, are the most obvious examples.

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) wrote draft legislation that Republican state legislatures around the country quickly and easily adapted into their own voter ID laws. Another effort, Project REDMAP, an initiative of the Republican State Leadership Committee, was a national coordinating committee helping Republicans at the state level put together extreme partisan gerrymanders in the wake of their sweeping 2010 victories.

In both cases, Republican or GOP-aligned organizations at the national level spearheaded a campaign to systematically undermine the fairness of the electoral system. It’s the flip side of the Wisconsin-Michigan-North Carolina laws: Instead of trying to nullify Democratic victories after they happen, they’re trying to change the system so Democrats can’t win in the first place. At times, they’re even honest about it.

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“I think electing Republicans is better than electing Democrats. So I drew this map in a way to help foster what I think is better for the country,” North Carolina state Rep. David Lewis, chair of the legislature’s redistricting effort, once said in defense of his gerrymander.

And there is simply no parallel on the other side. While state Democrats have certainly gerrymandered — Maryland being a particularly egregious case — it’s not nearly as nationally systematic as it has been on the Republican side. And Democrats certainly have not engaged in large-scale efforts to suppress Republican voters or strip powers from Republican officials after they win office. Republican officials don’t seem to feel constrained by the basic, principled norms of democracy the way that Democrats are.

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“There’s really an assault on electoral fairness, I would say, in Republican-governed states,” Daniel Ziblatt, a Harvard professor and author of How Democracies Die, tells me. “It’s really only in Republican-governed states where this has taken place.”

Republican indifference to democracy is a threat to the system
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For most of American history, elections have not been free or fair. Vast swaths of the country were not permitted to vote based solely on their race or gender. Even after voting rights were inscribed in the Constitution, Jim Crow laws and campaigns of racist terrorism prevented African Americans from exercising the right to vote. It’s only recently, really since the 1965 Voting Rights Act, that the United States even approximated a fully egalitarian democracy.

And that’s what makes these Republican moves so alarming. It’s not that Republicans are anti-democratic, in the sense of wanting to tear down American democracy and replace it with an authoritarian alternative. It’s that they’re democracy-indifferent, unconcerned with the fact that their pursuit of power echoes some of the undemocratic practices we’ve seen in both American history and failing democracies abroad.

In Hungary, a once-vibrant democracy I visited recently, the ruling Fidesz party has spent the past eight years building an electoral system that quietly eliminated democratic competition without having to nakedly rig the vote counts.

Parliamentary districts were redrawn and gerrymandered to give Fidesz a leg up. The new constitution packed the country’s courts, creating new seats that Fidesz Prime Minister Viktor Orbán filled with loyalists. Civil servants were fired en masse, and Fidesz allies were installed in vital roles, like election supervision. Hungary’s state broadcaster was brought under the control of a new media board, and its editorial outlook began to mirror Fidesz’s positions.

No single one of these moves destroyed democracy in Hungary. Cumulatively, though, they created a system in which it was very difficult for the opposition to compete on a fair playing field. Minor changes to the political and electoral system, each one potentially defensible on its own terms, amounted to an attempt to undermine the functioning of the democratic system.

The parallels with what Republicans are doing in the states are obvious. And while the 2018 election has proven that America is not even close to this far gone — Democrats won about 40 seats in the House — there’s a risk that this Republican anti-democratic behavior will escalate if it proves successful. (In fact, one could argue, it already has: The Wisconsin and Michigan bills are building on North Carolina’s example.)

There has not been a hint of hand-wringing from President Trump or Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell or outgoing House Speaker Paul Ryan (who happens to be from Wisconsin). They do not object because they do not object: The past few years have shown that the national Republican leadership is perfectly fine with power grabs, and at times willing to back them.

“Once partisan goals trump democratic commitments, everything is on the table,” writes Brendan Nyhan, a political scientist at the University of Michigan. “Scholars of democratic erosion know how dangerous this situation can be,”

It’s not clear what the bottom is — when more responsible Republicans will start to see that they’re walking down the same road as authoritarian political parties like Fidesz. Is the Republican Party too far gone, too willing to countenance anti-democratic behavior, to be able to reform itself?

If that’s the case, then American democracy is in serious trouble.

12
President Donald Trump abruptly cancels Vladimir Putin meeting at G-20 summit, hours after Michael Cohen guilty plea
John Fritze and Deirdre Shesgreen, USA TODAY Published 10:52 a.m. ET Nov. 29, 2018 | Updated 12:39 p.m. ET Nov. 29, 2018



BUENOS AIRES – President Donald Trump on Thursday canceled a high-stakes meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, a stunning decision that he described as a response to Russia’s seizing of three Ukrainian ships over the weekend.

But the move also came just hours after his longtime personal attorney, Michael Cohen, pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about a proposed Trump Tower development in Moscow. Trump has repeatedly denied having business interests in Russia.

"Based on the fact that the ships and sailors have not been returned to Ukraine from Russia, I have decided it would be best for all parties concerned to cancel my previously scheduled meeting in Argentina with President Vladimir Putin," Trump tweeted from Air Force One as he flew from Washington to the two-day G-20 summit in Argentina.

 "I look forward to a meaningful Summit again as soon as this situation is resolved!"

Though Trump hinted earlier in the week he might cancel the face-to-face with Putin, he was widely expected to go through with it. Minutes before the tweet, Trump told reporters that he would "probably" meet Putin and said he believed it was "a good time to have the meeting." The president also said he intended to review more information about the incident on the flight.

The Kremlin, which had insisted for days that the meeting was still on, indicated Russian officials did not receive confirmation of the cancellation through official channels. A Kremlin spokesperson told a Russian state media outlet that if the meeting was off, Putin would have several hours freed up for other important meetings.


Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump
 Based on the fact that the ships and sailors have not been returned to Ukraine from Russia, I have decided it would be best for all parties concerned to cancel my previously scheduled meeting....

A long-awaited meeting between Trump and Putin was already the subject of intense scrutiny on Capitol Hill, including from fellow Republicans still reeling from Trump's much-criticized performance with the Russian leader in Helsinki this summer. That tension increased amid the diplomatic crisis unfolding after Russia fired on and then seized three Ukrainian ships over the weekend in the Sea of Azov.

"It's just about standing up for what we believe in because I think when you don’t stand up to Russia, or other countries that would take that kind of aggressive activity, they take from it that it’s somehow acceptable,” Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, a Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told USA TODAY.

Russia is holding two dozen Ukrainian sailors involved in the skirmish. Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko has said his country is under threat of "full-scale war" with Russia.


Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump
 · 1h
 Based on the fact that the ships and sailors have not been returned to Ukraine from Russia, I have decided it would be best for all parties concerned to cancel my previously scheduled meeting....


Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump
....in Argentina with President Vladimir Putin. I look forward to a meaningful Summit again as soon as this situation is resolved!

Even before the uncertainty over the meeting, Republican lawmakers were pressing Trump to take a tougher posture with Putin, framing a meeting as an opportunity for a do-over of the heavily criticized appearance at NATO back in July.

At the time Trump said he believed both sides were to blame for tense U.S.-Russian relations and he described Putin’s denial that Moscow tried to influence the election as “extremely strong and powerful.” He later walked back part of those remarks, saying he didn’t see any reason why it "wouldn't" be Russia that interfered in the election.

Cohen's plea with special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election, added another twist to what would have been a tricky meeting, in part because it gives an impression that Trump sought help from Moscow. 

Trump is set to arrive at the G-20 late Thursday.

13
Politics / How Democrats’ Rust Belt Success Alters 2020 Picture
« on: November 19, 2018, 04:00:02 PM »
How Democrats’ Rust Belt Success Alters 2020 Picture

By Gerald F. Seib
Nov. 19, 2018 11:48 a.m. ET

How Democrats’ Rust Belt Success Alters 2020 Picture
Counties that voted for Trump in 2016 flipped back in midterms, raising questions about power of president’s trade policies


When Michigan’s Macomb County, just north of Detroit, flipped to vote Republican in the 1980s, it became the very symbol of the “Reagan Democrats”—previously loyal middle-class Democratic voters who abandoned the party in that decade. In 2016, Macomb County did it again: It voted for Republican Donald Trump by 12 percentage points over Democrat Hillary Clinton.

This year? Macomb County flipped back. A majority of its voters went for Democrats in statewide races for governor and a U.S. Senate seat.


As that suggests, the most intriguing and important results of this year’s  midterm elections came in the upper Midwest—the traditional industrial heartland that provided President Trump the biggest dose of rocket fuel he needed for his shocking presidential election victory two years ago.

This year, the very states that propelled Mr. Trump across the finish line—Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania—all went the other way. All elected Democrats to both the U.S. Senate and to their governor’s offices. In all three, Democrats won a majority of the House votes.

That outcome has broad political significance on two fronts. First, it raises questions about the power of Trump trade policies, which seem almost designed to appeal specifically to workers in those three industrial states. And second, the outcome in the upper Midwest tells us a lot about the intriguing early contours of the 2020 presidential campaign map.

It’s always possible to read too much into one set of election results, of course. Democrats this year had the natural advantage that always accrues to the party out of power in a president’s first midterm election. In both Pennsylvania and Michigan, their chances statewide were enhanced by the fact that Republicans ran what were widely considered to be weak candidates for governor.

Moreover, as Mr. Trump took great pains to remind viewers on a Fox News Sunday interview this week, he wasn’t running personally: “My name wasn’t on the ballot.” So it’s risky to assume how he would have done, as opposed to how other Republicans did.

Still, Mr. Trump tried hard to make the 2018 elections about him, telling voters repeatedly to act as if he were on the ballot. More striking, though, is the extent to which Trump trade policies—decrying existing free-trade agreements, renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement, imposing steel tariffs on trading partners and launching a virtual trade war with China—didn’t translate into electoral success in the states that seemed most likely to be grateful for steps designed to protect traditional industrial areas of the country.

That doesn’t necessarily mean voters there don’t appreciate Trump trade efforts. It may simply mean other issues were more on the minds of voters. Democrats everywhere found that health care was at least as high a priority as economic issues.

Rahm Emanuel, the Democratic mayor of Chicago, says Democrats won in the upper Midwest because they stressed not “sizzle but substance”—school funding, infrastructure—while Mr. Trump stressed cultural issues, particularly immigration. “Trump ran on culture and walked away from the economics,” Mr. Emanuel says.

Moreover, a study of Trump voters and political independents in Macomb County last year by Democracy Corps, a research organization run by Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg, found that support for the president was offset by deep misgivings about his style.

Whatever the cause of Republican setbacks in the Rust Belt, the results there and around the country suggest an intriguing electoral map is taking shape for the 2020 presidential race, presenting challenges for both parties.


For Democrats, a key will be to find a candidate capable of holding onto those voters in the upper Midwest—moderates who again will assume their role as the ultimate swing voters. In that region, they need to hold on to Minnesota, the rare state where Republicans turned a couple of House seats their way. Meanwhile, some states seem to have moved more clearly toward the Democratic column—Nevada and Virginia—while the key state of Ohio seems to have moved away.

For Mr. Trump, the midterm results suggest he will have to fight what Doug Sosnik, who was political director for President Clinton, calls a “two-front war.”

He will need to regain his grip on those upper Midwest states, obviously. But this year’s results suggest he now also has to worry about GOP slippage in states in the South and Southwest that Republicans once took for granted.

Democrats came close to winning a governor’s race in Georgia and a Senate race in Texas. Moreover, Democrats prevailed, barely, in a key Senate race in Arizona.

And then there is Florida, home of two photo finishes in big Senate and governor’s races this year, both carried by Republicans with the narrowest of margins. Nobody should be surprised if 2020 is decided, once again, in the Sunshine State.

Write to Gerald F. Seib at jerry.seib@wsj.com

14
Over 1,600 lawyers sign letter saying Mueller probe must be protected

The American Constitution Society Wednesday released a letter signed by over 1,600 attorneys nationwide calling for lawmakers and Justice Department officials to protect the special counsel's Russia probe in light of Matthew Whitaker’s appointment as acting attorney general.

“President Trump’s removal of former Attorney General Jeff Sessions is clearly a maneuver to obstruct or to end Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of possible illegal activities by the President’s campaign. The Mueller investigation has already uncovered serious crimes committed by the President’s closest associates,” the signatories said in the letter.

“The Special Counsel’s investigations into Russian interference in our nation’s democratic processes must be allowed to continue. They must continue, even if they implicate persons or institutions connected to the President, to his campaign, or to his businesses."

The lawyers also warned about the consequences of eroding of the independence of prosecutors.

"To allow the independence of the prosecutorial function in this nation to be sacrificed, to protect the President, endangers the very rule of law, on which our nation and our Constitution are based,” the letter also said.

The attorneys then demanded that Whitaker either recuse himself or be removed from overseeing the special counsel’s investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, while calling on Congress to pass legislation protecting Mueller and his probe.

Whitaker was appointed after Trump effectively fired former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, ending an acrimonious relationship between the president and the nation’s top cop. Whitaker had been Sessions’ chief of staff.

Whitaker will replace Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in overseeing the probe after making several comments in the past that were critical of the inquiry.

He touted in a 2017 interview that there was “no collusion” between the Trump campaign and Russia, adopting a favorite line from the president. He also said in 2014 that the courts were intended to be the "inferior" branch of government.

Whitaker also wrote an op-ed for The Hill in May 2017 criticizing the idea of appointing a special counsel for the DOJ’s investigation.

“Serious, bipartisan congressional investigations into the Russian allegations have been under way for weeks and they have made progress. Hollow calls for independent prosecutors are just craven attempts to score cheap political points and serve the public in no measurable way,” he wrote.

His past comments led several high-profile Democrats, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (N.Y.) and current House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) to call for his recusal.

Meanwhile, the attorney generals for Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, Delaware, D.C., Hawaii, Illinois, Minnesota, New Jersey, California, North Carolina, Oregon, Vermont and Rhode Island signed on to a letter echoing the calls made by the lawyers.

“As prosecutors and law enforcement officials committed to the rule of law, we believe that the independent Special Counsel must have the full authority to investigate and, if warranted, prosecute any violations of federal law,” the attorneys general wrote.

15
Politics / Mueller-themed ice cream truck rolls into DC
« on: November 14, 2018, 01:46:53 PM »

Mueller-themed ice cream truck rolls into DC
BY JUDY KURTZ - 11/14/18 01:31 PM EST   
   

A progressive group is serving up the latest scoop on the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, with a Robert Mueller-themed ice cream truck hitting the streets of Washington
.

The “Guilty Pleasures” truck, which hit the road for the first time on Wednesday, is the brainchild of the liberal advocacy group MoveOn. The aim, the organization says, is to "draw attention to the impact and importance" of the Mueller investigation.

The dessert-centric vehicle will hand out free treats to Washingtonians and will feature “information about the latest guilty please, guilty verdicts, and indictments produced by the [special counsel's] probe,” according to the group. The truck news was first reported by Washingtonian.


The truck will dole out four rotating, pun-filled flavors (such as "IndictMint Chip") each day. Rather than a cone, ice cream-eaters can get their frozen goodies in either a "cup or Cohen," referring to President Trump's former lawyer, Michael Cohen.

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Guilty Pleasures

 Today's flavors:

🍦 Cartel Almond Brittle
🍦Fudge the Truth Chocolate
🍦Mueller-Berry
🍦Putin’s Vanilla Delight

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