Friday, September 20, 2019

Handling of Whistleblower Complaint Reveals the Depth of Trump Corruption

That did not take long.  Details of the whistleblower complaint have leaked out.  It would appear that during a telephone conversation, President Trump promised Ukrainian President Volodymry Zelensky something, it's been suggested continued military aid, if Zelensky would pursue corruption charges against his Trump's chief political rival, Joe Biden, and his son Hunter, for business dealings in that country.  Previously, Ukraine had looked into the matter and found evidence of corruption to be lacking.  Trump though wants them to pursue the allegations anyway.

Hmmm, so Trump is wanting the help of a foreign power to try to win an American election?  Where
have I seen this film before?  In 2016, the Trump campaign openly welcomed the help of the Russian government to defeat Hillary Clinton.   The Mueller Report found that this arrangement though fell short of a criminal conspiracy because there was no evidence that promises were made by the Trump people in exchange for the assistance.

This time, however, Trump appears to be offering the element Mueller did not find, i.e. the offering something of value (taxpayer money) in return for campaign assistance from a foreign country, in this case criminally prosecuting his chief political rival and his son.  Bribery and corruption charges have been built on far less.  

On cue former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani spoke out for President Trump and managed to make a bad situation worse.  During an interview with CNN's Chris Cuomo, Giuliani admitted he went to Ukraine to encourage government officials to investigate the Bidens.  Giuliani did clarify that although he solicited this help as Trump's attorney and to help the President's re-election campaign, it did not come at Trump's direction.  Of course, that is true.  We attorneys, on our own, do quasi-illegal stuff to help out our clients all the time.  Needless to say, that is sarcasm.

As a side note, I really think there is something physically wrong with Giuliani.  I had a brother who had a type of early onset dementia, an affliction that attacks the front of one's brain and causes bad judgment.   I wonder if Giuliani has something like that.  I am deadly serious.  Like him or not (and I was definitely not a fan), when Giuliani was Mayor and, before that when he was U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Giuliani was a serious person who gave careful thought to everything he said.  The 2019 version of Giuliani is a far cry from the person he used to be.

That Trump would possibly commit a crime in a phone conversation monitored by several people is not that surprising.  Donald Trump clearly is not a bright man.  Trump has gotten away with so many things in the past, it probably never crossed his feeble mind that he should not be saying what he is alleged to have said on that phone call.

What I continue to find surprising though is the actions of Attorney General Bill Barr.  He, without any authority whatsoever, stepped in to override the legal process for handling the whistleblower complaint and blocked it from going to Congress.  Once again, Barr has demonstrated that he is willing to break the law (and lie to the American public and under oath if needed) on behalf of President Trump.   While Trump's illicit conduct can be somewhat blamed on his profound ignorance and recklessness, Barr seems to be just plain corrupt.  There appears to be no limit to what Barr is willing to do to help Trump.  Barr certainly could not care less about his obligation to the American people or the oath he took to uphold the Constitution and the laws of the United States.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Unhappy With the Traffic Congestion Caused by New Rapid Bus System? Indianapolis Mayoral Candidates Do Not Care

The last couple months, I have had the opportunity to talk to scores of Indianapolis residents about issues important to them.  While potholes and the condition of roads are often topics discussed, the most frequent complaint has to do with the implementation of Indianapolis' new rapid bus system.  In particular, complaints focus on the massive traffic congestion chokes commuting in
key portions of the city, including downtown Indianapolis and Broad Ripple.

One would think that the candidates for Indianapolis mayor would see it as an opportunity to address the concerns of the public about the implementation of the rapid bus line.  In particular, it should be an excellent issue for Republican challenger Jim Merritt, who should be targeting high profile issues that could move voters.  But Merritt's public comments indicate he loves the hugely expensive project and could not care less that Indy residents are inconvenienced as they sit in their cars idling in massive traffic jams.  His only criticism is that Mayor Joe Hogsett didn't initially support the project enthusiastically enough.

State Senator Jim Merritt
Make no mistake about it, the rapid bus system is primarily about economic development, not making life easier for Indianapolis residents.  In short, it is an opportunity for the city's leaders to pretend to do something good, while, again, using public dollars to subsidize private development.  In Indianapolis, there is a mutual non-aggression pact between the Democratic and Republican parties when it comes to supporting these corporate welfare projects.

Between Hogsett and Merritt, it is tough to argue that Merritt is the more fiscally conservative candidate .  In fact, Merritt appears to have completely abandoned his conservatives principles in other areas as well  Recently he attacked the Hogsett administration for not setting aside enough 15% of city contracts for minority and women-owned businesses.  State law apparently doesn't allow the strict quotas that Merritt supports.  Merritt's position supporting strict quotas means he is advocating discriminating against businesses which are not minority and women-owned in the awarding of government contracts.  That sure as heck is not a conservative idea.

Merritt is a longtime conservative state senator running for Indianapolis Mayor as a liberal Republican.  He was either an opportunist pretending to be a conservative in the General Assembly or is an opportunist pretending to be a liberal on the mayoral campaign trail.   Neither is acceptable.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Numbers Behind Washington Post-ABC News Poll Reveal Depth of Trump's Re-Election Troubles

This morning the results a new Washington Post-ABC News poll on President Donald Trump's popularity was released.   The top line of that poll is Trump has a 40% approval rate among registered voters, 38% among the general population. As is typical with news coverage of polls, that finding is what gets almost all the coverage.

But it is the other the other data in the polls, the cross tabs, which are often more significant and telling than the totals that get widely reported.  The is true definitely with regard to the Post-ABC News poll, which highlights the mountain Trump would have to climb to be re-elected.

Let's take a look at those cross-tabs:

Of the 56% of the poll respondents who said they disapproved of Trump, 48% of those said they "strongly" disapproved of him.  Meanwhile just 27% "strongly" approved of Trump.  The 48% and 27% are hard numbers, i.e. it is highly unlikely that those "strong" respondents can be budged from their positions.  48% means it is virtually impossible for Trump to get a majority of the vote.  Of course, there is still the Electoral College.

It doesn't take long to find out why Trump is so deeply underwater. Women.  Most women loathe Donald Trump.   In the poll, Trump is 34 points under water with women.  Of the 64% of women disapprove of Trump, 54% do so strongly.  Again, that 54% is a hard number.  Trump's support among men is much better, 47% approve and 47% disapprove.  But Trump's numbers among men on Election Day needs to be much, much better than that to offset women.

I always thought Trump was popular with Catholics so the cross-tab that showed Trump under water, 46% to 48%, with Catholics caught me by surprise.  Probably the most interesting thing about that cross tab is that the large "strong" numbers that make up these totals - 41% and 38% respectively.  Catholics are certainly not on the fence when it comes to Trump.

Although Trump's overwhelming support among Republicans is often touted, the poll Post-ABC poll does not show that.  Trump polled at 82% approval among Republicans, which is a far cry from the 94% the President often cites.  Perhaps even more significantly, only 66% of the GOP respondents said they "strongly" approve of the President.

When it comes to self-identified conservatives, Trump's approval is 73% and only 57% of those conservatives say they strongly approve of Trump.  This is consistent with my position that, although the media constantly portrays Trump's actions and words as "conservative," many long-time conservatives, like myself, do not at all agree with that characterization.

While it is still early, I don't buy the assumption that these numbers are fluid.  The polling seems pretty set in stone.  What is not set in stone though is turnout.  Trump is obviously counting on that his GOP base will turn out and Democrats, and independents who have turned strongly against Trump after the 2016 election, will not go to the polls.  I wouldn't bet on it.  While Republicans did turn out exceptionally well in 2018, so did the Democrats.  That mid-term election, which Trump portrayed as a referendum on himself, resulted in the GOP getting thrashed at the polls.

Monday, September 9, 2019

Why are NRSC Campaign Resources Being Used to Sell a Senator's Books?

The last few days, I've received in my email inbox solicitations to buy Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton's new book "Sacred Duty: A Soldier's Tour at Arlington National Cemetery."   What I found perplexing is that the solicitation came from the National Republican Senatorial Committee, an entity which bills itself as "the only national organization solely devoted to strengthening the Republican Senate Majority and electing Republicans to the United States Senate." Why in the world is an officially established party political action committee involved in a non-political activity, i.e. selling books?

When I dug into the NRSC website, I found an entire page devoted to selling Cotton's books.  It would appear that by making a large enough "contribution" ($35 or more) to the NRSC, one can receive a Cotton book.  By the way, one can buy a hard cover copy of the book on Amazon for $14.49.  The fact that hard cover copies of the book are priced that low on the open market suggests they were not selling.  That might have been the reason, Cotton turned to the NRSC to sell his books. 

But how does the arrangement work?  Did Cotton donate his books to the NRSC to sell?  Or did the NRSC buy a bunch of Cotton books that it is now hawking on its website and in GOP emails?   Or is the NRSC selling the books for Cotton on consignment?   Is Cotton personally profiting off the sale of these "Sacred Duty" books?  Is the NRSC splitting profits with Cotton?

I would note that although political resources are being used to sell Cotton's book, Sacred Duty, the book is applauded for keeping politics out of the book.  Apparently politics though is not being kept out of the selling of those books.

It could well be legal.  But being an attorney and somewhat knowledgeable about the restrictions on campaign expenditures, the arrangement raises major red flags.