Schumer: “Keep the Focus on Trump,” NOT Congressional Border Legislation

“In a news story published Tuesday by The Hill headlined ‘Schumer rejects GOP proposal to address border crisis,’ the writer included this paragraph: ‘Asked if that meant Democrats would not support a bill backed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to keep immigrant families together while seeking asylum on the U.S. border, Schumer said they want to keep the focus on Trump,'” Joseph Curl over at the Daily Wire highlights.

“That’s right, Schumer doesn’t want to solve the problem — God forbid! — he’d rather just ‘keep the focus on Trump.'”

And he’s right to highlight it.

In the media melee over the past few days surrounding family separation and the detention of undocumented minors at the U.S. border, those on the left have been quick to point fingers at the Trump administration, all the while knowing Congress has the power (if not the wherewithal, heavens no) to enact new legislation that would prevent the separation of families who are seeking asylum on the American border.

And Republicans have done just that. A group of them, led by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), put forth a bill on Tuesday of this week.

But Democrats, it seems, would rather continue to use the controversy to campaign against Trump, with their allies in the mainstream media happy to play along.

 

 

Food Stamp Use Declining Due to Fraud Crackdown, Healthier Economy

“Overall enrollment in the country’s food stamp program has dropped to its lowest level in more than eight years as the economy continues to improve and the Trump administration attempts to tackle fraud in the program,” per a Fox News report this week.

An unnamed official who works for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (commonly referred to as SNAP), told the outlet that enrollment in the program is declining and almost 9 million will leave the program in the next decade. Currently, almost 40 million Americans receive SNAP benefits, so this would be a sizable—and welcome—shift downwards:

“SNAP was established as a temporary supplemental nutrition benefit guiding people to self-sufficiency and self-reliance, not a permanent way of life,” said the USDA official.

“‘While overall food stamp enrollment has been on a steady decline since 2013, some observers credit President Trump’s emphasis on getting more Americans back to work and his administration’s crackdown on fraud in the SNAP program as the reason why the decline has sped up.

“‘It’s a long time coming,’ Robert Doar, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, told Fox News. ‘These numbers are dropping because people are going back to work.'”

Once Again, The GOP Is Trump’s Party

The Briefing, Vol. VI, Issue 25- This week:

  • Trump-Kim meeting gets good marks, but also carries risks
  • It’s Trump’s party, part 72
  • ‘Air Claire’ strikes again

Singapore Summit: President Trump’s Singapore meeting with Kim Jong Un raised many concerns because of the vague promises the North Korean dictator made.

In many quarters, the media have been hostile to the visit. And those concerned about potentially legitimizing Kim are not limited to leftists nor to die-hard never-Trumpers.

Still, it turns out that Americans took away from the meeting a surprisingly, even overwhelmingly positive impression. According to a poll released over the weekend by Politico and Morning Consult, 54 percent of Americans view the summit as a success. That includes 48 percent of independents and 38 percent of Democrats. Only 24 percent overall believe it was unsuccessful.

So for now, from a purely political perspective, the meeting with North Korea’s dictator was a smart move for Trump.

But it doesn’t come without one very, very large risk.

Typically, the public has held sitting presidents harmless for the unpredictable and bellicose behavior of the Kim family. Even if there have been robust criticisms of one president or another’s dealings with North Korea, no one would blame American leaders for North Korea’s constant missile launches and other provocations.

But in meeting with Kim and asserting such a rapport between himself and the dictator, Trump may have just owned whatever comes next out of North Korea. Assuming Kim plans to avoid confrontation — or even that his promises of denuclearization are genuine — that’s fine. But if something bad does happen, Trump has put himself in a position where he’s sure to take blame.

For the moment, Trump’s job approval is as strong as it ever has been. The last three polls have him with a net negative rating in the single digits, and his approval rating as high as 47 percent, nine points higher than it was when he was elected.

He’s just fine, unless there’s another North Korean provocation, in which case Trump really has set himself up to take the blame.

Senate 2018

Florida: Republican Gov. Rick Scott continues to plow under incumbent Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson with additional TV spending. Scott is making himself so ubiquitous that his campaign even cut a Spanish-language TV ad just to mark the beginning of the soccer World Cup — it doesn’t even mention the campaign, Nelson, or the Senate.

That may seem wasteful, but Scott would really love to exploit Nelson’s relative weakness, as Florida Democrats go, with the state’s Hispanic voters. Nelson’s lack of engagement with that key voter demographic in the Sunshine State has been noticed, and in a poll out earlier this month, he’s already trailing Scott, 48 to 45 percent. Scott has never performed especially well with Florida’s Hispanics even in victory, but this contest against Nelson offers his best opportunity yet to win their votes.

This is looking increasingly like one of the more flippable seats of the 2018 cycle.

Missouri: Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., has often been accused of being an out-of-touch millionaire who doesn’t understand the views or beliefs of her constituents. And so to counteract this, in late May, she made a big point of taking a three-day RV tour of her state, during which she met with people in various Missouri cities.

But in what is sure to be one of the most hilarious unforced errors of the 2018 cycle, it turns out that she wasn’t riding in the RV most of the time — she was flying from stop to stop in the private plane that had caused her campaign so much trouble during her 2012 re-election race.

The Washington Free Beacon used crowd-sourced flight data to discover this. It also uncovered that McCaskill’s campaign had requested that the FAA not broadcast her plane’s activity on the internet, perhaps out of fear that a story like this one would be told.

McCaskill finally admitted to flying in the plane. Her complaints that a “broken door” on the RV was driving her crazy also play right into the hands of her detractors. (Don’t we all jump into our planes when we experience a peevish broken door?)

President Trump made a point of slamming her personally, as did her opponent, Attorney General Josh Hawley.

Montana: Senate Democrats are just worried enough about Sen. Jon Tester, D, that Harry Reid’s Senate Majority PAC has come to his defense with an early $600,000 ad buy. The ad plays up Republican nominee Matt Rosendale’s Maryland roots. It accuses him of buying a “trophy ranch” in Montana and trying to shift public lands to developers.

Tester’s fear is that Trump will take a prominent role in the race, to his detriment. Montana, a state with much deeper labor roots than its conservative neighbors, went very heavily for Trump in 2016. And so this kind of attack on Rosendale is the perfect kind. It slams him as not just rich but also as precisely the sort of wealthy outsider who doesn’t respect Montana ways.

There’s no saying whether it actually sticks, but it’s a smart attack, as likely as any other to work.

Virginia: The National Republican Senatorial Committee is cutting its losses, promising to put no resources put behind Prince William County Supervisor Cory Stewart in his challenge of Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine. Stewart’s passionate defense of Confederate monuments extended during his gubernatorial run to the point of promising to dictate to localities that they must keep their statues, even if the local community didn’t want them.

It’s a fairly simple equation: The national GOP senses an opportunity to gain Senate seats, and perhaps even to hold on to the House. Even if Trump is happy to offer a supportive tweet, the rest  of Republicans in D.C. still differentiate themselves at some level. They do not want to get bogged down in a campaign about slavery and the Civil War.

For the party leaders, it’s as simple as that. But this doesn’t mean everyone is going to be happy with the decision.

House 2018

It’s still Trump’s party: With the defeat of Republican Rep. Mark Sanford of South Carolina in last week’s primary, President Trump has once again sealed his leadership of the Republican Party.

The less impressive fact is that Trump probably managed to defeat Sanford with a single last-minute tweet. Given that Sanford lost by only about 2,600 votes, it may well have made the difference.

But the more important fact is that Sanford, given his personal history, by all rights should have been kept out of office from the start. Yet despite all the Christian conservatives and South Carolina establishment Republicans and others who would have loved to see Sanford toppled before this, it took the Trump phenomenon to topple him. It took an unabashed Trumpian campaign like that of Katie Arrington.

Sanford couldn’t be toppled by anyone until a Trump-friendly primary opponent came along. And she beat him despite spending only one-eighth of what he spent.

That says all you really need to know about the power behind the movement Trump started on the Right.

Choices

To sleep-in, or die-in, that is the question…

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Kim’s Toilet

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Breaking: Mueller Attorney Removed From Investigation Over Anti Trump Texts

Mueller (AP Photo)

Breaking this afternoon, according to the Daily Caller:

“An FBI attorney who worked on the special counsel’s Russia investigation until earlier this year sent anti-Trump text messages to a colleague, including one exclaiming: “Viva le Resistance.”

The attorney’s comments are revealed in a Justice Department inspector general’s report released on Thursday.

The lawyer is not identified, but he worked on the Hillary Clinton email investigation and was the FBI’s lead attorney on the investigation into Russian election interference. He was assigned to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation soon after it began in May 2017 and left in late February of this year after some of his private messages were shared with the special counsel.

The inspector general’s report focuses on instant messages that the attorney exchanged with a colleague about the Clinton and Russia probes.

“I am so stressed about what I could have done differently,” the lawyer continued, apparently referring to the FBI’s handling of the Clinton email probe.

The attorney’s messages show that he was distressed at the FBI’s decision in October 2016 to re-open the investigation into Clinton’s emails. Democrats have claimed that decision hurt Clinton at the polls.

The FBI lawyer also suggested that he would work to resist the Trump administration.

“Is it making you rethink your commitment to the Trump administration?” one FBI lawyer wrote on Nov. 22, 2016.

“Hell no. Viva le resistance,” the future Mueller attorney responded.”

A Bureau in Shambles: Comey Hypocrisy, Strzok-Page Texts, and Inappropriate Media Contacts

“The Justice Department inspector general on Thursday castigated former FBI Director James B. Comey for his actions during the Hillary Clinton email investigation and found that other senior bureau officials showed a ‘willingness to take official action’ to prevent Donald Trump from becoming president,” per the Washington Post.

“The 500-page report, documenting major missteps in one of the most politically charged cases in the FBI’s history, provides the most exhaustive account to date of bureau and Justice Department decision-making throughout the investigation of Clinton’s use of a private email server, particularly in the months just before she would lose the presidency to Trump.”

The entire DOJ report can be found here: https://www.justice.gov/file/1071991/

The report refers to Comey’s actions as “extraordinary and insubordinate,” particularly his July 5, 2016 press conference wherein he publicly recommended no charges for Secretary Clinton for her use of a private email server.

Also highlighted in the report are new and damning text messages from the FBI’s Peter Strzok and Lisa Page:

“Perhaps the most damaging new revelation in the report is a previously-unreported text message in which Peter Strzok, a key investigator on both the Clinton email case and the investigation of Russia and the Trump campaign, assured an FBI lawyer in August 2016 that “we’ll stop” Trump from making it to the White House.

“‘[Trump’s] not ever going to become president, right? Right?!’ the lawyer, Lisa Page, wrote to Strzok.

“‘No. No he won’t. We’ll stop it,’ Strzok responded.”

Further pictures of an FBI in shambles emerge when the report discusses some FBI agents’ relationships with members of the media—”improperly receiving benefits from reporters, including tickets to sporting events, golfing outings, drinks and meals, and admittance to nonpublic social events.” The report expressed concerns about the possibility of inappropriate leaks from the FBI to the media in such cases.

 

Trump Critic Gets Primaried (And Loses) in South Carolina, Other Races Following Suit

Rep. Mark Sanford (R-SC) should have plenty of time for hiking now. He lost yesterday’s primary for South Carolina’s first congressional district to state representative Katie Arrington, multiple outlets report.

Many are pointing out Sanford’s frequent criticisms of President Trump as the reason why he lost, though his own past personal controversies probably didn’t help, either.

Fox News’ take on Sanford’s loss theorizes that Trump’s voters are maintaining their loyalty to him and will continue to do so come this November, though only time will show if that holds:

“Arrington’s shock win was also a dramatic rebuke of Sanford’s heated “Never Trump”-style rhetoric and scandal-pocked career. It signaled that the president’s base in the state remains solidly behind him ahead of November’s midterm elections, despite withering criticism from both inside and outside the Republican party.”

And in Virginia’s Senate primary yesterday, voters also chose a Trump-aligned candidate in Corey Stewart to take on sitting Democrat and former vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine.

Even in California, Trump’s personal impact on midterm races is being felt. His endorsement for John Cox in the state’s governor race drove voters to put him up against a Democrat in California’s open system. Cox has even said that the president will campaign for him in California, echoing the same Trump-as-kingmaker pattern that’s been repeating itself in federal races.

2018 is shaping up to be perhaps even more interesting than 2016 for political watchers.

Disarming the “Fat Man”

This about sums up President Trump trying to disarm the “Fat Man” of North Korea.

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The Midterm May Determine Trump’s Next SCOTUS Pick

The Briefing, Vol. VI, Issue 24

This week:

  • Midterm election may shape the Supreme Court
  • Roby the latest Republican to suffer for dissing Trump
  • Grimm’s comeback has Republicans worrying in New York

Supreme Court: At the moment, there is a very tenuous 5-4 conservative majority on the Supreme Court. The recent and very narrow decision upholding religious freedom for business owners illustrated just how delicate that balance is.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, who as rumor has it could announce his retirement any day, has a propensity to wobble between the liberal and conservative wings of the court. This has made him the most powerful jurist in America for some time, and it’s anyone’s guess whether he’s willing to give that up and give President Trump a clean shot at replacing him with a Republican Senate majority that can confirm his successor.

That would require Kennedy to announce his retirement very soon, so that the Senate has time to consider Trump’s nominee.

That’s not the only possibility for a retirement, either. Although it would have less immediate effect, and it’s a more remote possibility, Justice Clarence Thomas could also decide to call it quits before it becomes more complicated for Trump to replace him. Again, it would have to be soon.

As the fourth-oldest justice at age 69, after 26 years on the court, Thomas might look to Trump to appoint a younger conservative in his place, perhaps guaranteeing that a conservative sits in his seat until perhaps 2048.

Thomas was appointed at age 43. The most recently appointed justice, Neil Gorsuch, was 49 at the time. Judge Amul Thapar, mentioned as a possible Trump Supreme Court pick, turned 49 in April. Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, another possible pick, just turned 47 last week. Justice Samuel Alito is only a year younger than Thomas, but he’s considered far  less likely to retire after only a decade on the court.

Then again, there’s no good way of predicting what justices will do. It’s widely assumed that neither of the older liberal justices — Ruth Bader Ginsberg (age 85) and Stephen Breyer (age 79) — will retire while Trump is in office. But it isn’t impossible. 

But again, the outcome of any retirement or death of any justice that doesn’t happen very soon is going to depend on the 2018 Senate election. Any Supreme Court appointment that takes place after this year faces the uncertainty of a potentially hostile Senate.

The recent changes to Senate rules, which Democrats initiated in 2013 and Republicans recently expanded, make it much easier for any president to get his nominees through with a bare majority. But the majority is a requirement, and it isn’t a guarantee for Republicans. A Democratic majority could do to Trump what the Republicans did to President Obama in the final year of his presidency, refusing to vote on his nominee. It was their right — and likewise, it would be Democrats’ right to block it.

Conservatives have not been this close to a true majority on the Supreme Court at any point in the modern era. This is the most important reason, by far, that the 2018 election will be so important to Trump’s presidency. For all the Republicans who voted for Trump just because of the issue of judges, it remains the most compelling reason for them  to vote this year.

House 2018

Alabama: The Yellowhammer State continues to surprise.

Rep. Martha Roby, R, a relatively uncontroversial officeholder at the national level, was forced into a runoff last week. Nearly everyone agrees that this is a consequence of her having been critical of President Trump at key moments. After the release of the Access Hollywood tape in October 2016, Roby had stated she would not vote for Trump. People are now pointing to this decision as the reason she only got 39 percent of the  vote last Tuesday.

Bobby Bright, the Democrat whom Roby defeated in 2010, has been reincarnated this year as a Republican Trump supporter. He just forced Roby into a runoff that will take place in July. Although this Montgomery-area seat was once competitive given the right sort of Democrat, the winner of the GOP runoff will be the prohibitive favorite to go to Congress next January.

This episode shows once again just how dangerous it is for any Republican officeholder — at least in those states where Trump is popular — to step out of line and speak against him.

California: Democrats avoided a disaster last Tuesday, but their performance in California doesn’t support the idea that a massive Blue Wave is coming.

Democrats are eyeing seven seats in the Golden State that Hillary Clinton won but which are currently represented by Republicans. And they avoided being locked out of any of those seats last Tuesday, as might have happened if Republicans had finished in first and second place in the primary.

But Republicans, despite a larger-than-ever disadvantage in party registration (they now comprise only about a quarter of the state’s voting population), successfully got their gubernatorial candidate onto the ballot in November. They also recalled a Democratic state senator and replaced him with a Republican — a pretty big deal, considering that state Senate districts in California are bigger than congressional districts.

However they feel about the age of Trump, Republican voters turned out, and Republican candidates finished first in the top-two primaries in all seven of the targeted congressional districts. That doesn’t mean the Democrats can’t win or can’t retake the House, but it’s a reminder that they’re a long way from showing their victory is a sure thing.

New York-11: A new poll confirms what insiders in New York have been saying for nearly a month: Ex-con and ex-Rep. Michael Grimm is leading incumbent Rep. Dan Donovan in the Republican primary for the only Republican-held House seat in New York City.

Granted, many respondents in this poll were asked the question poll before President Trump endorsed Donovan. But Grimm’s comeback attempt as a mega-Trump-booster probably puts this Staten Island-Southwest Brooklyn seat into contention, at least against the right Democrat.

Democrats are highly likely to nominate Max Rose, who is not exactly an A-list candidate but isn’t the bottom of the barrel either. His staunch pro-abortion stance and early NARAL endorsement could be an obstacle for some voters in the district. His fundraising hasn’t exactly been impressive. But he is a post-9/11 combat veteran, and that carries some weight in a district where the military and law enforcement are given immense respect. Can that plus a very flawed opponent, who pleaded guilty on tax charges, send the Democrat to Congress? We may get an answer to that in November.

The primary is June 26.

Senate 2018

New Jersey: Sen. Bob Menendez, D, won his primary last Tuesday. But what’s noteworthy is that he underperformed rather dramatically against a completely unknown opponent who raised and spent less than $5,000 — so little that she wasn’t even required to file with the Federal Election Commission.

Menendez, accused of taking bribes from a doctor convicted of a massive Medicare fraud scheme, beat the rap in court. A hung jury declined to convict, and the Justice Department declined to retry him, in part because the Supreme Court has in recent decisions made corruption cases much harder to try successfully.

So yes, it’s Jersey, but you have to wonder. Republicans nominated the self-funding outsider Bob Hugin, who is going to have the resources to hammer away at Menendez as corrupt until election day. Menendez’s approval is absolutely in the toilet, and a number of Democratic leaners may just leave their ballots blank rather than vote for someone they believe to be a crook.

Yes, it’s a longshot hope for Republicans — and Democrats have shown they’ll break the rules if necessary to get Menendez off the ballot if it actually looks like he’s going to lose.

But New Jersey could easily become a sleeper race in the 2018 election. Yes, the Garden State hasn’t elected a Republican senator in more than four decades. But if someone like Ted Stevens can lose in Alaska because of a corruption trial, it isn’t unthinkable that someone far less established, like Menendez, could lose in New Jersey.