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GOP House Caucus Gearing Up For Post-Blowout Civil War

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

The very real possibility that House Republicans lose rather than gain seats in November already has the minority caucus drawing the battle lines for an epic leadership fight.

"If Trump loses, there's gonna be a mad scramble if we're in the minority," one Republican lawmaker told Politico. "There's people seeing this as an opportunity. … I think it's gonna be a real fight."

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Enfeebled And Losing, Trump Tries To Discredit Election In Advance

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

An enfeebled Donald Trump made a desperate bid this week to snatch victory from the jaws of electoral defeat. Baselessly impugning mail-in voting as a drag on election integrity, Trump offered, "Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???"

Not only does Trump lack the constitutional authority to do anything of the sort, no one was going for it. Not the pro-Trump co-founder of the ultra conservative Federalist Society, Steven Calabresi, who called it grounds for "immediate impeachment." Not the Wall Street Journal editorial board, which suggested that perhaps Trump should scrap his reelection bid and "let someone run who isn't looking for an excuse to blame for defeat." And even some vulnerable Senate Republicans up for reelection this cycle managed to part ways with Trump on something for basically the first time ever.

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To Reboot Failed Messaging, Trump Campaign Suspends Advertising

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

In yet another sign Donald Trump's internal polls aren't all they're cracked up to be, the Trump campaign has halted ad spending over the next few days due to their "messaging strategy," because that's clearly the problem.

Following the campaign shakeup in mid-July, a senior campaign official sought to frame the cessation as completely par for the course. "There's understandably a review and fine-tuning of the campaign's strategy," the official told CNN, adding that they would be back on the air "shortly."

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‘Like Guinea Pigs’: Parents Reject Trump’s Rush To Reopen Schools

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

In the battle of Donald Trump vs. the coronavirus, the virus has ultimately prevailed at every turn. Trump bowed to that reality this week, suddenly re-upping White House coronavirus task force briefings and abruptly canceling his precious in-person GOP convention scheduled for next month in Jacksonville, Florida.

Trump's repeated failures to outwit science followed by his patent admissions of those failures have now cast his aggressive push for reopening the nation's schools in the purest of Machiavellian terms. In short: Trump's track record on placing the health of the American people above his own political fortunes stinks, and that has not been lost on the country's parents, teachers, and school communities.

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Trump Sinking Fast In Michigan Polls

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

The reviews from Michigan are in and they are not looking good for Donald Trump. Not only have the last several polls of the state shown Joe Biden ahead by double digits, but one of those polls captured data showing that Trump likely has no one but himself to blame for surrendering the state.

The New York Times/Siena poll released last week put Biden up by 11 points in the Great Lakes State, but it also tested the question in a half dozen battleground states, revealing that Michigan voters were far more likely than voters from other states to believe Trump had treated the state unfairly during the coronavirus response.

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Top Democrats Urge Justice Dept Inspector General To Probe Barr

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Two top Democrats are urging the Justice Department's internal watchdogs to investigate slanderous remarks made by Attorney General William Barr about the intelligence community official who elevated the whistleblower complaint regarding Donald Trump.

Appearing on Fox News on April 9, Barr said Trump had done "the right thing" when he fired former intelligence investigator general Michael Atkinson, suggesting that Atkinson had exceeded his mandate as IG by exploring "anything" and then reporting it back to Congress. But in a letter to two Justice Department officials, the Democratic chairs of the House Intelligence and Judiciary Committees said Barr had "blatantly mischaracterized" Atkinson's conduct.

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World Leaders And Democratic Governors Eclipse Trump In Polls

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Donald Trump managed to squander the brief grace period he had to capitalize on getting a significant bump in approval ratings if Americans would have rallied around his coronavirus response. The several-point bump he got in the second half of March for striking a serious tone has almost dissipated, leaving him anywhere between about 42 percent and 45 percent in most polls and continuing to trend downward.

It's pretty pathetic compared to the crisis-era approval bumps of previous presidents, such as the 40-point bump George W. Bush got following 9/11. But Trump's performance is also getting bottom-of-the-barrel marks relative to those of other world leaders confronting the crisis.

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Warren Openly Challenges Roberts Over Legitimacy Of ’Sham Trial’

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren clearly wanted Chief Justice John Roberts to ponder his place in history Thursday when she sent this doozy to him to read aloud at the Senate impeachment trial: “At a time when large majorities of Americans have lost faith in government, does the fact that the Chief Justice is presiding over an impeachment trial in which Republican senators have thus far refused to allow witnesses or evidence contribute to the loss of legitimacy of the Chief Justice, the Supreme Court, and the Constitution?”

In other words: Hey, we all know this is a sham trial, the American people know this is a sham trial. Any chance you’ll do the right thing and protect the integrity of the court and your legacy by casting your vote for witnesses in the event of a 50-50 tie? Kapowie!

Do yourself a favor and watch Roberts read it below.

Disturbing Texts Show Parnas And Lobbyist Stalked Ukraine Envoy Yovanovitch

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

In late April last year, then-U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch fielded a phone call in Kyiv from a State Department colleague back in the states. Carol Perez, Director General of the Foreign Service, urged her to catch the “next plane home” to Washington because “there was a lot of concern” for her, Yovanovitch recalled in closed-door testimony before the House Intelligence Committee on October 11, 2019.

Yovanovitch argued with Perez about the timing. She had loose ends she wanted to tie up—state meetings that day and other events—but Perez was insistent. “She said it was for my security, that this was for my well-being, people were concerned,” Yovanovitch recalled. “Physical security?” she asked Perez at the time. But Perez responded that, no, she hadn’t gotten that “impression.” Yovanovitch testified that she never understood exactly what Perez meant because she never specified. “I didn’t know because she didn’t say,” Yovanovitch explained at the deposition.

But new information from the cache of documents handed over to the Intelligence committee by indicted Giuliani associate Lev Parnas may shed some light on what has remained a mystery ever since Yovanovitch offered that steely recollection about her final months in Kyiv.

The evidence reveals that Parnas, who is being charged with financial fraud in an unrelated case, exchanged a series of eerie texts with GOP lobbyist and Trump donor Robert Hyde about a month before that dead-of-night call between Yovanovitch and Perez. Yovanovitch appeared to be a roadblock to certain ends the two men were trying to accomplish, and Hyde repeatedly referred to as a “bitch.” Together, Parnas and Hyde took part in the scheme of Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, to smear Yovanovitch and have her removed from her post—a goal they ultimately accomplished.

“F*ck that bitch,” Hyde wrote to Parnas on March 22, 2019, responding to information Parnas had sent to him. The next day, Hyde wrote: “Wow. Can’t believe Trumo (sic) hasn’t fired this bitch. I’ll get right in that.”

On March 25, Hyde appeared to be having the ambassador surveilled by people in Ukraine who were tracking her movements. And in the most threatening of the texts, he mused about “a price,” which appears to be a reference to paying someone off to inflict harm on Yovanovitch or worse.

“They are willing to help if we/you would like a price,” Hyde also texted on March 25, adding, “Guess you can do anything in the Ukraine with money.”

Given the new context, one has to wonder what exactly Ambassador Perez knew about the “security” of Yovanovitch, who called for an investigation into the episode hours after House Democrats released the new evidence late Tuesday. What exactly was Hyde doing and who was he communicating with in Ukraine? And does any of this relate back to one of Donald Trump’s most disturbing comments during his July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky? “She’s going to go through some things,” Trump told Zelensky of Yovanovitch, after he had called her “bad news” on the call.

On Wednesday morning, House Foreign Affairs Committee chair Eliot Engel promised an inquiry. “The Foreign Affairs Committee will now seek to learn what, if anything, the State Department knew about this situation at the time these messages were sent,” Engel said in a statement. “This unprecedented threat to our diplomats must be thoroughly investigated and, if warranted, prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

GOP Senators Reject Graham’s ‘Dumb’ Acquittal Letter For Trump

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham is in overdrive to protect his own 2020 reelection chances even as he criticizes Donald Trump’s disastrous withdrawal of troops from Syria. So Graham floated the idea of sending a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi pledging that the Republican caucus would never vote to remove Trump from office. In other words, Senate Republicans would take a pledge prejudging their vote before seeing really any of the evidence Democrats have turned up in a cascade of interviews from career public servants.

Frankly, the idea kind of flopped. Sure, Lindsey needs to bear hug Trump on the way to reelection, but it’s a pretty terrible idea for any vulnerable Republican senators facing reelection in tougher states like Maine, Colorado, or Arizona. One GOP senator anonymously told The Hill it was “one of the dumbest ideas I’ve ever heard from Lindsey,” adding that it could “backfire” if there weren’t enough signatures supporting Trump. It would also put some of Graham’s fellow 2020 senators in the position of facing Trump’s wrath if they don’t sign on (because Trump’s just that dumb). That surely wouldn’t help the caucus.

Even some unlikely characters stepped forward to question the wisdom of such a letter, including Sens. Jim Risch of Idaho, Tom Cotton of Arkansas, and Roy Blunt of Missouri.

Graham pitched the letter during a caucus lunch and is following through with trying to get signatures. If that letter never sees the light of day, you can bet it’s because the lack of GOP support would be embarrassing for Trump. But if it does surface, it’s just one more thing to tar the GOP caucus with for putting party over country.

Graham acknowledged that his latest brainchild didn’t get the greatest reception.

“Some people didn’t like the approach and I’m taking their concerns under advisement. And I’ll do what I need to do,” he said. In other words, he’ll do what he needs to do to get reelected—everyone else is on their own.

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore

In New Polls, Trump’s Negative Rating Spikes

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Donald Trump’s polling is and always has been abysmal. Yet what journalists have routinely focused on is the fact that some 35 percent-40 percent of the country continues to stick by him no matter what he does. The fact that Trump can ridicule a war hero (even in death), demonstrate unmistakable signs of mental decay, continually spout blatantly racist and anti-Semitic tropes, disparage women, hail dictators, spurn allies, threaten the world order, single-handedly send the global financial markets into a death spiral, and yet maintain that bedrock base of support is the ultimate “man bites dog” story that journalists just can’t resist.

But the overhyped narrative of “Trump does X, supporters still swoon” has obscured a trend that’s getting more pronounced by the week: Trump’s negatives are soaring on multiple issues and in a succession of polls and voting blocs.

Democratic strategist Bruce Gyory recently pointed out Trump’s declining stock several weeks ago in smart piece declaring that “Trump should be afraid. Very very afraid.”

First, there’s been a noticeable uptick in Trump’s disapproval ratings in multiple polls. A recent Fox News poll, for instance, showed his disapprovals rising from 50 percent to 56 percent, and an even more recent AP-NORC poll registered his disapproval rating at 62 percent (among his highest disapprovals to date in that poll). But as Gyory noted, Trump’s Fox numbers revealed he was underwater in nearly every demographic except for white men:

64 percent among independents, 53 percent among men, 46 percent among white men, 53 percent of those older than 45, 61 percent among suburban women (59 percent of women overall), and 55 percent among whites with a college degree.

And here are Pew’s demographic disapproval numbers:
48 percent among whites, 55 percent among men, 79 percent among Hispanics, 58 percent among Catholics, 55 percent of those with some college but not a four year degree as well as 55 percent of those with a high school degree or less, 55 percent among seniors

But Trump has also been taking a beating on nearly every issue area other than the economy, where his numbers are still fairly underwhelming. Here are just a couple of notable top lines from recent polls:

  • 56 percent of Americans believe race relations have worsened since 2016.
  • 56 percent of voters say that Trump deserved either a great deal or some blame for the mass shootings sweeping America over the last few years (including 34 percent who gave Trump “a great deal of blame”).

Even Trump’s approval on the economy is sliding, with a recent WSJ/NBC News poll finding that just 49 percent of voters approve, while 46 percent disapprove—a marked decline from the 51 percent – 41 percent edge he enjoyed in May.

All of these numbers are of a piece with several polls earlier this year showing 55 percent-plus of voters pledging to vote against Trump in 2020. “In the final analysis, Trump is on the verge of losing the country,” Gyory wrote, which seems like a reasonably sound assessment of what the polls are telling us.

Former GOP Defense Chief Gates Warns Of Ongoing Russian Attack

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

As Republican lawmakers try to pull the wool over America’s eyes on Russia’s continuing attack on our nation, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates has a message for them: Shut. Up.

“The piece of the Mueller report about Russian interference is not ‘case closed,’” Gates, a Republican who served as defense chief for both George W. Bush and Barack Obama, said Sunday on Face the Nation. “And, frankly, I think elected officials who depend on honest elections to get elected ought to place as a very high priority measures to protect the American electoral system against interference by foreigners.” Gates also called Donald Trump’s failure to confront Russian President Vladimir Putin about the incursion in a recent call a “mistake.”

“I think he should’ve said, ‘We’ve had this discussion, the evidence is in and don’t ever do this again or there will be consequences for Russia,’ ” Gates said. “I think he very much should have raised it with him.”

Trump announced Monday that he would once again meet with Putin at the upcoming G-20 conference in Japan in late June. The Russian media had reported the meeting a day earlier, claiming Trump had requested it—which is frankly completely plausible and yet another example of Russia owning the media war with the Trump administration. Surely, the meeting will give Trump another chance to suck up to Putin and chat about his re-election bid while completely ignoring Russia’s 2016, 2018, and upcoming attacks on America’s elections.

Gates declined to speculate on Trump’s motivations for having such a “peculiar relationship with Putin” but noted that most of Trump’s advisers had a slightly more clear-eyed view of Putin. “The interesting thing is everybody around the president actually has a much more realistic view of the Russians, and that includes up on the Hill,” Gates said.

He also recommended returning the favor by creating some problems for Putin at home by informing the Russian people about “the magnitude of corruption of Putin.”

IMAGE: President Barack Obama (2nd L) and Vice President Joe Biden (L), along with members of the national security team, receive an update on the mission against Osama bin Laden in the Situation Room of the White House, May 1, 2011. Also pictured are Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert Gates at right.  REUTERS/White House/Pete Souza/Handout