WASHINGTON — When John Barrasso, a Republican from oil and uranium-rich Wyoming who has spent years blocking climate change legislation, introduced a bill this year to promote nuclear energy, he added a twist: a desire to tackle global warming.
Mr. Barrasso’s remarks — “If we are serious about climate change, we must be serious about expanding our use of nuclear energy” — were hardly a clarion call to action. Still they were highly unusual for the lawmaker who, despite decades of support for nuclear power and other policies that would reduce planet-warming emissions, has until recently avoided talking about them in the context of climate change.
“Denying the basic existence of climate change is no longer a credible position,” said Whit Ayers, a Republican political consultant, pointing out the growing climate concern among millennials as well as centrist voters — two groups the G.O.P. will need in the future.
In recent weeks Senator John Cornyn of Texas — an oil state where climate denial runs deep — said he is helping write legislation to reduce emissions through “energy innovation.” Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee said he wants to create a “Manhattan Project” for clean energy funding. Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska is exploring bipartisan plans to curb emissions from her position as chair of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. And Representative Matthew Gaetz of Florida, who once called to abolish the Environmental Protection Agency, introduced legislation to tackle climate change by encouraging nuclear energy and hydropower, as well as “carbon capture” technology, which aims to pull planet-warming carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.
There are subtler signs of this G.O.P. shift as well. When House Speaker Nancy Pelosi created the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis this year, Republican leaders tapped Representative Garret Graves of Louisiana as the panel’s ranking member. Though he hails from a region dependent on oil and gas, Mr. Graves has struck a bipartisan tone and made a point of noting the deleterious effect sea level rise will have on his state’s economy.
But Republicans also are walking a tightrope. In the Trump administration, G.O.P. orthodoxy has shifted strongly toward denying or dismissing the threat of climate change. Veering away from it could cause a lawmaker to lose campaign contributions and key political support.
Read the complete article in the New York Times here.
INITIALLY the mood at Doug Jones’s election-night party was genial but uneasy. Guests knew Mr Jones was closer to winning one of Alabama’s Senate seats than any Democrat in a quarter-century; they also knew that Mr Trump won the state by 28 points, and the last two Republican Senate candidates won 63.9% and 97.3% of the vote. So they smiled, and made all the right hopeful noises, but around the corners of their eyes you could see them bracing for disappointment.
Mr Jones’s victory was narrow—he took 49.9% of the vote to Mr Moore’s 48.4%, with the remaining 1.7% going to write-in votes—but decisive. He flipped every one of the counties that Mr Trump won by 10 points or less last year, banking large numbers of votes in the counties housing Alabama’s five biggest cities, and running up sizable margins in Alabama’s majority African-American “black belt”. Mr Moore, meanwhile, underperformed Mr Trump’s results from November 2016 in every one of Alabama’s 67 counties, faring especially poorly in those with large numbers of educated voters.
At a rally in south-eastern Alabama the night before the election, Steve Bannon, Mr Trump’s former chief strategist and the architect of his presidential campaign, headlined a motley crew of far-right Republicans who offered a cavalcade of bilious, resentment-filled speeches promoting Mr Moore while pandering to Alabamians’ prickliness. “Nobody comes down here and tells Alabamians what to do,” said Mr Bannon, a Virginian, speaking after a Texan and several Midwesterners. Other speakers attacked George Soros, Islam and “the lynch-mob media”. No name got longer and more sustained boos than Mr Shelby’s. Two days before the election he went on a prominent talk show just to say, “I wouldn’t vote for Roy Moore…The state of Alabama deserves better.” Mr Moore’s wife defended her husband against charges of bigotry by revealing that “one of our attorneys is a Jew.”
White evangelicals—Mr Moore’s core supporters—comprised a smaller share of the electorate this year than in past elections. Some of them stayed home, or even voted for Mr Jones, despite vehemently disagreeing with his pro-choice position on abortion. Rushton Mellen Waltchack, a Christian and lifelong Republican from Birmingham, compared Mr Moore to “a televangelist who falls from grace,” and said she could not bring herself to vote for him. “He makes statements that to me don’t represent Jesus in the Bible…What does it say about us as a party if we continue to choose policy over character?”
A Montana Republican party official “would have shot” Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs if he had approached her as he did Greg Gianforte, who assaulted Jacobs one day before he was elected to Congress.
Jacobs approached Gianforte in May, in a room where he was about to give a television interview. The Republican slammed Jacobs to the floor, breaking his glasses, and then punched him several times.
“If that kid had done to me what he did to Greg, I would have shot him,” Karen Marshall, vice-president of programs for Gallatin County Republican Women told the Voice of Montana radio program on Thursday.
Marshall also described herself as a “friend” of Gianforte. According to federal records, a Karen Marshall from Bozeman, Montana, donated the federal maximum of $2,700 to Gianforte’s campaign for Congress.
The altercation occurred in a private room at a campaign event, after Jacobs asked Gianforte a question about healthcare. Several reporters were invited to the event, a picnic.
“That kid came on private property, came into a private building, and went into a very private room that I would not even have gone into,” Marshall said. “It was a setup. A complete setup. He just pushed a little too hard.”
Travis Hall, a spokesperson for Gianforte, told the Helena Independent Record: “Greg disagrees with those remarks, repudiates them and remains focused on being a strong voice for Montana in Washington.”
After 70 days in office Mr Trump is stuck in the sand.
DONALD TRUMP won the White House on the promise that government is easy. Unlike his Democratic opponent, whose career had been devoted to politics, Mr Trump stood as a businessman who could Get Things Done. Enough voters decided that boasting, mocking, lying and grabbing women were secondary. Some Trump fans even saw them as the credentials of an authentic, swamp-draining saviour.
After 70 days in office, however, Mr Trump is stuck in the sand. A health-care bill promised as one of his “first acts” suffered a humiliating collapse in the—Republican-controlled—Congress. His repeated attempts to draft curbs on travel to America from some Muslim countries are being blocked by the courts. And suspicions that his campaign collaborated with Russia have cost him his national security adviser and look likely to dog his administration (see article). Voters are not impressed. No other president so early in his first term has suffered such low approval ratings.
The business of government
Mr Trump is hardly the first tycoon to discover that business and politics work by different rules. If you fall out over a property deal, you can always find another sucker. In politics you cannot walk away so easily. Even if Mr Trump now despises the Republican factions that dared defy him over health care, Congress is the only place he can go to pass legislation.
The nature of political power is different, too. As owner and CEO of his business, Mr Trump had absolute control. The constitution sets out to block would-be autocrats. Where Mr Trump has acted appropriately—as with his nomination of a principled, conservative jurist to fill a Supreme Court vacancy—he deserves to prevail. But when the courts question the legality of his travel order they are only doing their job. Likewise, the Republican failure to muster a majority over health-care reflects not just divisions between the party’s moderates and hardliners, but also the defects of a bill that, by the end, would have led to worse protection, or none, for tens of millions of Americans without saving taxpayers much money.
Far from taking Washington by storm, America’s CEO is out of his depth. The art of political compromise is new to him. He blurs his own interests and the interests of the nation. The scrutiny of office grates. He chafes under the limitations of being the most powerful man in the world. You have only to follow his incontinent stream of tweets to grasp Mr Trump’s paranoia and vanity: the press lies about him; the election result fraudulently omitted millions of votes for him; the intelligence services are disloyal; his predecessor tapped his phones. It’s neither pretty nor presidential.
That the main victim of these slurs has so far been the tweeter-in-chief himself is testament to the strength of American democracy. But institutions can erode, and the country is wretchedly divided (see article). Unless Mr Trump changes course, the harm risks spreading. The next test will be the budget. If the Republican Party cannot pass a stop-gap measure, the government will start to shut down on April 29th. Recent jitters in the markets are a sign that investors are counting on Mr Trump and his party to pass legislation.
More than anything, they are looking for tax reform and an infrastructure plan. There is vast scope to make fiscal policy more efficient and fairer (see article). American firms face high tax rates and have a disincentive to repatriate profits. Personal taxes are a labyrinth of privileges and loopholes, most of which benefit the well-off. Likewise, the country’s cramped airports and potholed highways are a drain on productivity. Sure enough, Mr Trump has let it be known that he now wants to tackle tax. And, in a bid to win support from Democrats, he may deal with infrastructure at the same time.
Yet the politics of tax reform are as treacherous as the politics of health care, and not only because they will generate ferocious lobbying. Most Republican plans are shockingly regressive, despite Mr Trump’s blue-collar base. To win even a modest reform, Mr Trump and his team will have to show a mastery of detail and coalition-building that has so far eluded them. If Mr Trump’s popularity falls further, the job of winning over fractious Republicans will only become harder.
The character question
The Americans who voted for Mr Trump either overlooked his bombast, or they saw in him a tycoon with the self-belief to transform Washington. Although this presidency is still young, that already seems an error of judgment. His policies, from health-care reform to immigration, have been poor—they do not even pass the narrow test that they benefit Trump voters. Most worrying for America and the world is how fast the businessman in the Oval Office is proving unfit for the job.
‘Working together, this unified Republican government will deliver relief and peace of mind to the millions of Americans suffering under Obamacare,’ Paul Ryan said despite health advocates’ criticism of bill. Photograph: J Scott Applewhite/AP
Trumpcare failed to pass but the real problem is that the Republican Party is plagued by partisan infighting. Mr. Trump was able to use the ideological differences between factions in the party to his advantage during the election campaign. Not only did he overthrow the party’s traditional leadership, he united many of the other competing interests in the party.
But the campaign is over now. The factions in Congress are starting to make the President’s life much more difficult. What’s the basis of Republican disunity? Aren’t Republicans, whether elites or voters, all staunch conservatives who oppose the Democrats?
Jon MacKay is an affiliate researcher of the Waterloo Institute for Complexity and Innovation. William Bendix is assistant professor of political science at Keene State College, in New Hampshire. Together they examined how several hundred interest groups have rated congressional Republicans since 2001. They found three distinct factions that were stable over time. Each represented different sets of ideological interests. The party leaders reside in what we call the corporate-establishment faction – a group that advances pro-business policies. The difficulty is that two other Republican factions also compete for power: a lunch-pail faction, whose members focus on working-class issues, and an ethno-radical faction, whose members support a mix of nativist and fiscally regressive policies. You can read their research here…. 2016 08 18 Bendix & MacKay Partisan Republican Infighting
What’s become clear is that any policy decision Donald Trump makes is now likely to produce as many losers as winners within their party’s coalition.
After the health-care defeat, Mr. Trump has said he’ll next turn to tax cuts, dramatically lowering taxes across the board. His plan, estimated to reduce federal revenues by $6-trillion (U.S.) over ten years, will provide much greater tax relief to the affluent than it will to middle- and working-class voters. This makes it, in many respects, a mainstream Republican proposal.
But that’s the problem. Massive revenue cuts need to be offset by large spending cuts, otherwise the national debt will balloon. Mr. Trump wants to boost military spending, cut taxes and slash industry oversight and entitlement programs. That likely suits the corporate establishment and the ethno-radicals of the party, but it will outrage most everyone else – including lunch-pail voters. True, Trump could cut taxes and increase spending without totally blowing up the budget by issuing 100-year bonds. But it’s hard to imagine the ethno-radicals supporting this big-government, big-debt strategy.
Trade protectionism, another pillar of Mr. Trump’s election campaign, is the most important issue for Canada. Although famously inconsistent on many issues, Trump has been unwavering on trade. He has already abandoned the Trans-Pacific Partnership and has said that he wants to reopen NAFTA, impose tariffs on individual firms, and possibly withdraw the U.S. from the World Trade Organization.
These promises are aimed at lunch-pail Republicans, who have seen manufacturing jobs disappear over the last three decades. But this anti-trade agenda is at odds with the corporate establishment of the party – which has, since at least Ronald Reagan, advocated trade liberalization.
The top Democrat on one of the congressional committees investigating ties between Donald Trump and Russia has raised “grave doubt” over the viability of the inquiry after its Republican chairman shared information with the White House and not their committee colleagues.
In the latest wild development surrounding the Russia inquiry that has created an air of scandal around Trump, Democrat Adam Schiff effectively called his GOP counterpart, Devin Nunes, a proxy for the White House, questioning his conduct.
“These actions raise enormous doubt about whether the committee can do its work,” Schiff said late Wednesday afternoon after speaking with Nunes, his fellow Californian, before telling MSNBC that evidence tying Trump to Russia now appeared “more than circumstantial”.
Two days after testimony from the directors of the FBI and NSA that dismissed any factual basis to Trump’s 4 March claim that Barack Obama had him placed under surveillance, Nunes publicly stated he was “alarmed” to learn that the intelligence agencies may have “incidentally” collected communications from Trump and his associates.
Nunes, who served on Trump’s national security transition team, said the surveillance “appears to be all legally collected” and masked the identities of Americans, but did so in such a way that Nunes could hazard a guess as to whom the intercepted communications discussed. Nunes added that the alleged intercepts did not actually concern Russia.
“Details about persons associated with the incoming administration, details with little apparent foreign intelligence value were widely disseminated in intelligence community reporting,” said Nunes, who has shifted the focus of the inquiry onto leaks that Trump blames on the intelligence agencies.
Nunes went to the White House to brief the president, who seized on the chairman’s comments as vindication, even though there is little evidence even in Nunes’s vague and often conditional remarks that they revive Trump’s claim that Obama had Trump Tower wiretapped.
“I somewhat do. I must tell you I somewhat do. I very much appreciated the fact that they found what they found, I somewhat do,” Trump said Wednesday afternoon.
Nunes took whatever material he had acquired to Trump before sharing it with the committee – a decision that represented nearly a final straw for Schiff, who called for an independent commission to investigate ties between Trump and Russia.
In language that stripped away any pretense of cordiality remaining on the committee, Schiff said Nunes would have to decide whether to helm a credible inquiry or whether to operate as a White House adjunct, complicit in what Schiff intimated was a “campaign by the White House to deflect from the [FBI] director’s testimony”.
Asked if Schiff was considering pulling out of the inquiry, Schiff said he would have to “analyze what this development means”, suggesting a potential Democratic departure from one of the most internationally watched congressional investigations in recent history.
“If you have a chairman who is interacting with the White House, sharing information with the White House, when the people around the White House are the subject of the investigation and doing it before sharing it with the committee, it puts a profound doubt over whether that can be done credibly,” Schiff said.
Schiff reiterated that from what he had gleaned from his conversation with Nunes, “there is still no evidence that the president was wiretapped by his predecessor”.
Donald Trump: pointing the way toward … more of the same for the wealthy, actually. Photograph: Timothy A Clary/AFP/Getty Images
Effects on Health Insurance Coverage
To estimate the budgetary effects, Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) projected how the legislation would change the number of people who obtain federally subsidized health insurance through Medicaid, the nongroup market, and the employment-based market, as well as many other factors.
CBO and JCT estimate that, in 2018, 14 million more people would be uninsured under the legislation than under current law. The increase in the number of uninsured people relative to the number under current law would rise to 21 million in 2020 and then to 24 million in 2026.
The reductions in insurance coverage between 2018 and 2026 would stem in large part from changes in Medicaid enrollment—because some states would discontinue their expansion of eligibility, some states that would have expanded eligibility in the future would choose not to do so, and per-enrollee spending in the program would be capped.
In 2026, an estimated 52 million people would be uninsured, compared with 28 million who would lack insurance that year under current law.
Most of that increase would stem from repealing the penalties associated with the individual mandate. Some of those people would choose not to have insurance because they chose to be covered by insurance under current law only to avoid paying the penalties, and some people would forgo insurance in response to higher premiums.
Effects on Premiums
The legislation would tend to increase average premiums in the nongroup market prior to 2020 and lower average premiums thereafter, relative to projections under current law. In 2018 and 2019, according to CBO and JCT’s estimates, average premiums for single policyholders in the nongroup market would be 15 percent to 20 percent higher than under current law, mainly because the individual mandate penalties would be eliminated, inducing fewer comparatively healthy people to sign up.
Starting in 2020, the increase in average premiums from repealing the individual mandate penalties would be more than offset by the combination of several factors that would decrease those premiums: grants to states from the Patient and State Stability Fund (which CBO and JCT expect to largely be used by states to limit the costs to insurers of enrollees with very high claims); the elimination of the requirement for insurers to offer plans covering certain percentages of the cost of covered benefits; and a younger mix of enrollees.
By 2026, average premiums for single policyholders in the nongroup market under the legislation would be roughly 10 percent lower than under current law, CBO and JCT estimate.
Although average premiums would increase prior to 2020 and decrease starting in 2020, CBO and JCT estimate that changes in premiums relative to those under current law would differ significantly for people of different ages because of a change in age-rating rules.
Under the legislation, insurers would be allowed to generally charge five times more for older enrollees than younger ones rather than three times more as under current law, substantially reducing premiums for young adults and substantially raising premiums for older people.
Helping the richest
For many lower-income people, the new tax credits under the legislation would tend to be smaller than the premium tax credits under current law. Conversely, the tax credits under the legislation would tend to be larger than current-law premium tax credits for many people with higher income.
‘Working together, this unified Republican government will deliver relief and peace of mind to the millions of Americans suffering under Obamacare,’ Paul Ryan said despite health advocates’ criticism of bill. Photograph: J Scott Applewhite/AP
American Health Care Act would shrink government role in healthcare and could leave more people without insurance despite Trump administration promises.
Called the American Health Care Act, the bill would eliminate the individual mandate, which required Americans to have health insurance or pay a fine; cut the number of people insured under Medicaid; and allow insurance companies to charge the elderly up to five times more than the young.
The bill would require insurers to cover so-called pre-existing conditions, but would allow them to add a 30% surcharge to premiums if people go without insurance for too long.
“The American Health Care Act is a plan to drive down costs, encourage competition, and give every American access to quality, affordable health insurance,” said House speaker Paul Ryan. “It protects young adults, patients with pre-existing conditions, and provides a stable transition so that no one has the rug pulled out from under them.
“Working together, this unified Republican government will deliver relief and peace of mind to the millions of Americans suffering under Obamacare. This will proceed through a transparent process of regular order in full view of the public.”
But several Republican senators remained skeptical. Republicans have a 52-48 majority in the Senate. Assuming all Democrats hold firm in opposition to the Republican bill, three defections would be enough to deny Obamacare repeal a majority.
The legislation has not been fully scored by the congressional budget office and debate in the House will proceed without members having a clear accounting of the mechanics of implementing it. Senator Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, who has proposed his own Obamacare alternative, expressed skepticism about the lack of this information.
“What I would say is I would want to know the score, what is the coverage, what is the cost absolutely,” said the Louisiana Republican. He added that proceeding without this policy detail “seems problematic”. Cassidy added: “I am trying to be diplomatic.”
Other issues in the Senate for the House bill include the proposal to roll back the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Four Republicans senators, Rob Portman of Ohio, Cory Gardner of Colorado, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska wrote publicly that they could not support the draft bill’s current provisions to eliminate the expansion of a program that provides healthcare to the working poor.
President Trump on his way to Charleston, S.C., on Friday. Although he has expressed hope that the United States and Russia can work together, it is unclear if the White House will take a privately submitted peace proposal for Ukraine seriously. Credit Al Drago/The New York Times
A week before Michael T. Flynn resigned as national security adviser, a sealed proposal was hand-delivered to his office, outlining a way for President Trump to lift sanctions against Russia.
Mr. Flynn is gone, having been caught lying about his own discussion of sanctions with the Russian ambassador. But the proposal, a peace plan for Ukraine and Russia, remains, along with those pushing it: Michael D. Cohen, the president’s personal lawyer, who delivered the document; Felix H. Sater, a business associate who helped Mr. Trump scout deals in Russia; and a Ukrainian lawmaker trying to rise in a political opposition movement shaped in part by Mr. Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort.
At a time when Mr. Trump’s ties to Russia, and the people connected to him, are under heightened scrutiny — with investigations by American intelligence agencies, the F.B.I. and Congress — some of his associates remain willing and eager to wade into Russia-related efforts behind the scenes.
Donald Trump’s Connections in Ukraine
Andrii V. Artemenko
Ukrainian politician with a peace plan for Ukraine and a file alleging that its president is corrupt.
Felix H. Sater
Russian-American businessman with longstanding ties to the Trump Organization.
Michael D. Cohen
Trump’s personal attorney, under scrutiny from F.B.I. over links with Russia.
Former Trump campaign manager with pro-Russian political ties in Ukraine now under investigation by the F.B.I.
The amateur diplomats say their goal is simply to help settle a grueling, three-year conflict that has cost 10,000 lives. “Who doesn’t want to help bring about peace?” Mr. Cohen asked.
But the proposal contains more than just a peace plan. Andrii V. Artemenko, the Ukrainian lawmaker, who sees himself as a Trump-style leader of a future Ukraine, claims to have evidence — “names of companies, wire transfers” — showing corruption by the Ukrainian president, Petro O. Poroshenko, that could help oust him. And Mr. Artemenko said he had received encouragement for his plans from top aides to Mr. Putin.
“A lot of people will call me a Russian agent, a U.S. agent, a C.I.A. agent,” Mr. Artemenko said. “But how can you find a good solution between our countries if we do not talk?”
Mr. Cohen and Mr. Sater said they had not spoken to Mr. Trump about the proposal, and have no experience in foreign policy. Mr. Cohen is one of several Trump associates under scrutiny in an F.B.I. counterintelligence examination of links with Russia, according to law enforcement officials; he has denied any illicit connections.
The two others involved in the effort have somewhat questionable pasts: Mr. Sater, 50, a Russian-American, pleaded guilty to a role in a stock manipulation scheme decades ago that involved the Mafia. Mr. Artemenko spent two and a half years in jail in Kiev in the early 2000s on embezzlement charges, later dropped, which he said had been politically motivated.
Before entering politics, Mr. Artemenko had business ventures in the Middle East and real estate deals in the Miami area, and had worked as an agent representing top Ukrainian athletes. Some colleagues in Parliament describe him as corrupt, untrustworthy or simply insignificant, but he appears to have amassed considerable wealth.
He has fashioned himself in the image of Mr. Trump, presenting himself as Ukraine’s answer to a rising class of nationalist leaders in the West. He even traveled to Cleveland last summer for the Republican National Convention, seizing on the chance to meet with members of Mr. Trump’s campaign.
“It’s time for new leaders, new approaches to the governance of the country, new principles and new negotiators in international politics,” he wrote on Facebook on Jan. 27. “Our time has come!”
Americans are vastly more likely to find employment with a Muslim refugee than to be killed by one. They are in fact much likelier to be killed by cows, fireworks and malfunctioning elevators than an immigrant terrorist.
Cows kill 20 Americans every year on average. (Source) Yes, cows are twenty times more lethal than sharks, bears, or alligators. In 2015 toddlers in the U.S. killed more Americans than foreign terrorists.(Source) There were 301,797 firearm-related deaths in the past decade, compared to 71 deaths from domestic acts of terrorism. (Source) As a means of keeping Americans safe, Mr Trump’s order is almost worthless.
The reputational damage done to America by Mr Trump’s action will be dangerous, as well as large. The attributes that make America attractive to migrants—its openness, fairness and opportunity—are also among its most effective security mechanisms. They help explain why America is at once the most desirable destination for migrants and less prone to jihadist violence than almost any other country with a large Muslim population. By singling out Muslims for discrimination—including a group currently detained at John F. Kennedy airport in New York who had risked their lives working with Americans in Iraq—Mr Trump’s order is a repudiation of these American strengths.
Worsening the damage, he also signalled, in an interview with a Christian television channel, that the ban would not apply to Christians. Syrian Christians, claimed Mr Trump, were “horribly treated” by his predecessor. “If you were a Muslim you could come in, but if you were a Christian, it was almost impossible,” he said. “I thought it was very, very unfair. So we are going to help them.” This was not merely incendiary but untrue: last year America accepted 37,521 Christian refugees and 38,901 Muslims.
Senator Ben Sasse, a Republican from Nebraska, suggested the ban went too far: “If we send a signal to the Middle East that the US sees all Muslims as jihadis, the terrorist recruiters win.” But this was a rare exception. Most Republicans have either stayed silent or welcomed the ban. Paul Ryan, the Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives, was among its fans: “We are a compassionate nation, and I support the refugee resettlement programme, but it’s time to reevaluate and strengthen the visa vetting process,” he said. This is a bad moment for America.
Trump is proof evident of the old joke about politicians. “When do you know a politician is lying? When he’s lips are moving!”
A mural in Vilnius depicting Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Photograph: Petras Malukas/AFP/Getty Images
Before the election a joint public statement by the director of national intelligence and secretary of homeland security said that intelligence agencies are “confident” that the Russian government directed the hacking. That statement did little to sway supporters of Donald Trump, who heard their candidate cast doubt on that intelligence finding, and instead revel in the contents of the stolen e-mails as they hit the press. This, Mr Trump, was just more evidence that his opponent deserved the soubriquet “Crooked Hillary”.
All that has changed materially in recent days is that—thanks to reporting by the Washington Post and New York Times—we now know that the CIA briefed senior members of Congress before and after the election that, in the consensus view of intelligence analysts, the Russians’ motive was not just to undermine confidence in American democracy generally, but actively to seek Mrs Clinton’s defeat. These latest revelations have probably not changed any minds at all. Republicans who hate Mrs Clinton are still delighted that she was defeated. Democrats who loathe and fear Mr Trump have one more reason to dislike him. Outside Washington, red-blooded Americans who mostly rather dislike President Vladimir Putin (pictured), according to polls, seem to be shrugging off the latest allegations.
The problem is not that all Republicans in Congress dismiss the claim that Russia tried to meddle in the election. Committee chairmen have promised urgent hearings. “We cannot allow foreign governments to interfere in our democracy,” said Representative Michael McCaul, a Texas Republican and chairman of the Homeland Security Committee. Senator John McCain of Arizona, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee and no friend of Russia, told reporters: “Everybody that I know, unclassified, has said that the Russians interfered in this election. They hacked into my campaign in 2008; is it a surprise to anyone?” The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Representative Devin Nunes of California, has said that he believes Russia is guilty, but then turned his fire on the Obama administration, saying that President Barack Obama’s desire for a “reset” of relations with Moscow had led him and his spy chiefs to fail “to anticipate Putin’s hostile actions.”
Congressional Republicans are stuck. They have long dreamed of unified government, in which they control both chambers of Congress and the White House, so that they can advance the sort of conservative programme that they believe will set the country on the right course. Smart and candid Republicans always conceded in private that securing the White House was hard because core elements of their programme—eg, cutting taxes for big corporations and slashing regulations—are not very popular. Now they have found a populist standard-bearer who has an astonishing ability to speak to working-class voters, notably whites living in bleak Rust Belt states, and to carry them into power on his coat-tails. Many elements of Mr Trump’s policies make thoughtful Republicans queasy to the point of misery, from his fondness for Mr Putin to his willingness to pick up the telephone and bully company bosses into keeping specific factory jobs in America, as if he were a Gaullist French president rather than leader of a free-market democracy. But many millions of those Mr Trump brought into the party are Trump voters more than they are Republicans, and they frighten and cow members of the party that he has captured.
Some may wonder if this latest squabble matters. There is no evidence of actual collusion between Mr Trump and Russia. Mr Putin’s fierce dislike of Mrs Clinton, who as secretary of state questioned the validity of the 2011 elections in Russia, is more than enough motive to want her defeated. It is unknowable whether the last-minute leaks of Democratic e-mails affected the result. Most straightforwardly, a close election is over and Democratic leaders are not questioning the result.
This squabble does matter. When the next president of America takes his oath of office in January, officers of Russian intelligence can savour a historic win. And that astonishing, appalling fact has divided, not united, the two parties that run the world’s great democracy. That should be enough to unsettle anyone.
To understand why Mr. Putin is rooting for the American billionaire, you have to follow the money – and not just Mr. Trump’s alleged links to Russian businesses.
The Kremlin, analysts here say, is running out of money fast, and needs to find a way to end the Western sanctions that were levelled against it in 2014 over its actions in Ukraine. Mr. Trump, they believe, may be the man to bring about the financial relief Moscow needs.
Not because the Kremlin is expecting he would immediately lift sanctions – though there have been reports that top Russian officials met with Mr. Trump’s adviser Carter Page to discuss just that – but because a Trump victory is expected to shatter the unity of the West and send European governments looking elsewhere for leadership in the world.
“They like to think that if Trump wins, then there is no hope for unity in the West, and if something is bad for the West, then it is good for Russia,” said Nikolai Petrov, an independent political analyst.
Two years ago, Russian troops were entering Crimea ahead of its annexation from Ukraine and the Kremlin was activating its separatist allies in the regions of Donetsk and Lugansk. At the time, Russia’s Reserve Fund – largely accumulated during Mr. Putin’s first decade in power when oil prices were frequently more than $100 (U.S.) a barrel and the domestic economy was growing – stood at nearly $90-billion.
Today, as oil prices linger below $50 a barrel and the economy contracts for a third consecutive year – all while Russia is pouring funds into Crimea, and waging war in faraway Syria – the Reserve Fund is worth just over $30-billion, having been depleted by $6-billion to cover overspending in August alone.
A draft budget submitted last week to Russia’s parliament, the Duma, called for steep cuts to health services, education and even previously sacrosanct defence spending, which has risen in past years as Mr. Putin has modernized his country’s army and deployed it abroad. Even still, Russia’s Finance Ministry expects the Reserve Fund to be completely depleted some time next year, just ahead of presidential elections in 2018, when Mr. Putin is widely expected to run for another six-year term.
There’s loud worry about the tightening finances, and talk that Mr. Putin may be forced to call an early vote to avoid having to campaign for re-election just as his government is going broke.
“Putin is demonstrating now that his time horizon is much longer than the 2018 election. That means he either needs to borrow money to finance until the  election, or hold an early election,” Mr. Petrov said. Borrowing abroad is currently very difficult under the sanctions targeting Russia’s banking sector; hence the hope that a victory by Mr. Trump on Tuesday would shake up the international status quo in Russia’s favour.
Pointed criticism: Donald Trump should ‘focus on Hillary. No one else,’ according to former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer. Photograph: Jan Diehm
What do Rosie O’Donnell, Serge Kovaleski, Megyn Kelly, John McCain, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Gonzalo Curiel, Khizr Khan and Alicia Machado have in common?
All have been on the receiving end of Donald Trump’s insults as the businessman spent more than a year pursuing futile feuds that may go a long way toward costing him the White House.
A chorus of hands slapping against Republican foreheads was almost audible each time the nominee threw off any pretence of self-discipline and lashed out, distracting onlookers from his efforts to present himself as moderate or exploit Hillary Clinton’s weaknesses. This week they are doubtless praying that he doesn’t squander the golden opportunity presented by the FBI’s investigation into a new batch of emails that may be related to Clinton’s private server.
“Trump is on the verge of blowing it,” Ari Fleischer, former White House press secretary, tweeted on 30 September. “Free advice: Focus on Hillary. No one else. Hillary is your opponent. No one else is.”
According to a running total compiled by the New York Times, Trump has insulted 279 people, places and things on Twitter alone. Republicans were ultimately forced to conclude that Trump would be Trump, a 70-year-old man who cannot change and has no intention of doing so. They will never know if staying “on message” might have left him running far closer in the polls.
‘The straw that broke the camel’s back’
Rich Galen, once press secretary to vice-president Dan Quayle, said his patience ran out in July when the nominee claimed that Gonzalo Curiel, a judge who was born in Indiana, was biased against him in a civil case over Trump University because his parents were from Mexico.
“That was antithetical to everything I’ve worked for in public life,” Galen said.
“It looks like the actual turning point was the Miss Universe woman, which not only offended women but they told their husbands they should be offended too. It’s one thing to diss John McCain but he’s a big boy and can look after himself. When he went after a woman over an image problem, that would unite 90% of women and men and was the straw that broke the camel’s back.”
Machado won the Miss Universe pageant in 1996. Clinton brought up the largely forgotten case at the end of the first presidential debate, saying Trump had called her “Miss Piggy” and, because she is Latina, “Miss Housekeeping”. To the dismay of his party, Trump took the bait and talked about Machado for days, telling Fox News: “She gained a massive amount of weight, and it was a real problem.”
“He sees the entire universe in terms of how it affects him,” Galen said. “He simply doesn’t have the temperament to be president of the United States. He figured out what the country had been mad about; he was the wrong messenger for the right message.”
Donald Trump speaks at a campaign event earlier this year as in daughter, Ivanka, and his wife, Melania, continue to support the foul-mouthed Republican nominee. Photograph: Carlo Allegri/Reuters
Quotes from Donald Trump that objectify women as sexual objects, and that sexual objectification is simply a fact of life is part of his rape culture.
Donald Trump is a one-man textbook of such norms. Trump has helpfully provided examples of various assumptions, stock phrases, and social expectations that, together, constitute rape culture.
Here is Donald Trump being Donald Trump:
Women are sexual objects, to be judged as such
“Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president? I mean, she’s a woman, and I’m not s’posed ta say bad things, but really, folks, come on. Are we serious?” – Trump describing his then Republican primary rival Carly Fiorina in Rolling Stone, 2015
“A person who is flat-chested is very hard to be a 10.” – The Howard Stern Show, 2005
“If Hillary Clinton can’t satisfy her husband what makes her think she can satisfy America?” – Donald Trump retweeted this in 2015, later deleted
“I’d pay a lot of money [for Rosie O’ Donnell not to give me oral sex]. That’s one of the most unattractive people. She took great offense at the fact I said she better be careful or I, or one of one friends would go and pick up her wife.” – The Howard Stern Show, 2007
Young girls are sex objects in training
“I am going to be dating her [a young girl] in 10 years.” – In a 1992 video in which a 46-year-old Trump ogles a group of young girls and jokes about how he’d be “dating” one of them in 10 years.
“I’ve known Paris Hilton from the time she’s 12. Her parents are friends of mine, and, you know, the first time I saw her, she walked into the room and I said, ‘Who the hell is that?’ … Well, at 12, I wasn’t interested… They’re sort of always stuck around that 25 category.” He then went on to admit he’d watched her sex tape.” – The Howard Stern Show, 2003
Even Trump’s daughter isn’t exempted from objectification
“[Ivanka]’s got the best body.” – The Howard Stern Show, 2003
“If Ivanka weren’t my daughter, perhaps I’d be dating her” – The View, 2006
Objectification is actually an honour. No woman wants to be ‘unfuckable’
“Look at her…I don’t think so.” – Trump’s response to People magazine journalist Natasha Stoynoff’s claims that he sexually assaulted her during an interview.
Women are manipulative and use their bodies to control men
Women can’t control their desires so men have to do it for them
“All of the women on ‘The Apprentice’ flirted with me – consciously or unconsciously. That’s to be expected.” – How To Get Rich, 2004
If you’ve got enough money or fame, women will let you do anything to them
“When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything …Grab them by the pussy … You can do anything.” – off-camera remarks on Access Hollywood, 2005
“Women find his power almost as much of a turn-on as his money.” – Donald Trump describing himself, as quoted in The Narcissist Next Door by Jeffrey Kluger
It’s just biology; men can’t help themselves from assaulting women.
“26,000 unreported sexual assults [sic] in the military-only 238 convictions. What did these geniuses expect when they put men & women together?” – Twitter, May 2013
Rape culture begets rape culture
The most pernicious thing about rape culture is that it’s self-perpetuating. Women are afraid to come forward about sexual assault because they’re worried they won’t be believed. When they do have the courage to come forward they often aren’t believed. Their characters are ripped apart; their motives are questioned; they’re told they were probably ‘asking for it.’ And so other women decide they may as well just keep quiet. If we are to learn anything from Trump’s masterclass in rape culture it’s that none of us should keep quiet.
Donald J Trump did not prepare his 1995 returns, portions of which showed a $916m loss that could have let the businessman avoid 18 years of taxes. Jack Mitnick was Trump’s accountant at the time. This week, Mitnick was asked by CNN if Trump “was brilliant in the way he used the tax code? Smart and a genius?”
“No, those returns were entirely created by us,” Mitnick replied.
He was then asked: “So what kind of involvement did he have?”
Mitnick: “Virtually zero.”
Finally, the CNN hosts asked whether Mitnick, who worked for Trump for years, had “any reason to believe that he does know how to work the tax code as much as he says he does?”
Mitnick: “Not when I dealt with him.”
“Some of the biggest and strongest of companies went absolutely bankrupt. Which I never did, by the way. Are you proud of me? Would have loved to use that card, but I just didn’t want to do it.” – 3 October, Pueblo
Trump’s father and family repeatedlybailed him out with millions in loans, one of them illegal. Trump has never personally filed for bankruptcy. Yet, his businesses have filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy – which allows businesses to find ways to restructure debt and operations without being liquidated – six times in the last 25 years.
Donald Trump’s charitable foundation has been ordered to suspend its fundraising immediately for violating state law, the New York attorney general’s office said on Monday.
The Trump Foundation was served with a cease-and-desist letter on Friday, in which James Sheehan, the head of the attorney general’s charities bureau, wrote that the New York-based organization “must immediately cease soliciting contributions or engaging in any other fundraising activities in New York”.
“Further, the Trump Foundation must notify any third parties engaged in solicitation or fundraising activities in New York on its behalf to immediately case any such activities,” Sheehan added.
The notice stated that the Republican presidential nominee’s eponymous foundation was soliciting donations of more than $25,000 a year without having registered for the proper certification pursuant to article 7-A under New York law. As a result, the Trump Foundation has not undergone the external audits or been subject to the kind of oversight required by the state of charities seeking donations from members of the public.
New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman, a Democrat, launched an investigation into the Trump Foundation last month amid several reports that raised questions over its practices. The Washington Post published a series of stories including revelations that Trump had not donated to his foundation since 2008, relying since then entirely on other people’s money in an arrangement deemed as highly unusual for a family charity.
In some instances, Trump reportedly used the money to purchase gifts for himself. One such purchase, mocked by Barack Obama at a campaign rally for Hillary Clinton last month, was a $20,000 portrait of Trump himself that the real estate mogul earmarked as charity, the paper reported.
Trump also used more than $250,000 from the foundation to settle lawsuits against his businesses and in 2013 gave $25,000 to a campaign group associated with Florida’s Republican attorney general, Pamela Bondi, both in apparent violation of the law, the Post wrote.
Trump’s campaign has largely avoided questions concerning the foundation, dismissing the stories instead as “peppered with inaccuracies and omissions” while failing to identify any specific errors in the news reports.
Read the complete article on the Guardian Newspaper site here.
Wisconsin governor Scott Walker holds up a dollar bill while speaking at the American Legislative Exchange Council in 2015. Photograph: Denis Poroy/AP
Sealed Wisconsin court documents from Scott Walker investigation expose extent of corporate influence on democratic process rarely seen by the public.
The pervasive influence of corporate cash in the democratic process, and the extraordinary lengths to which politicians, lobbyists and even judges go to solicit money, are laid bare in sealed court documents leaked to the Guardian.
The John Doe files amount to 1,500 pages of largely unseen material gathered in evidence by prosecutors investigating alleged irregularities in political fundraising. Last year the Wisconsin supreme court ordered that all the documents should be destroyed, though a set survived that has now been obtained by the news organisation.
The files open a window on a world that is very rarely glimpsed by the public, in which millions of dollars are secretly donated by major corporations and super-wealthy individuals to third-party groups in an attempt to sway elections. They speak to a visceral theme of the 2016 presidential cycle: the distortion of American democracy by big business that has been slammed by both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders.
Among the documents are several court filings from the case, as well as hundreds of pages of email exchanges obtained by the prosecutors under subpoena. The emails involve conversations concerning Walker, his top aides, conservative lobbyists, and leading Republican figures such as Karl Rove and the chair of the Republican National Committee, Reince Priebus.
Trump also appears in the files, making a donation of $15,000 following a personal visit from Walker to the Republican nominee’s Fifth Avenue headquarters.
In addition to Trump, many of the most powerful and wealthy rightwing figures in the nation crop up in the files: from Home Depot co-founder Ken Langone, hedge-fund manager Paul Singer and Las Vegas casino giant Sheldon Adelson, to magnate Carl Icahn. “I got $1m from John Menard today,” Walker says in one email, referring to the billionaire owner of the home improvement chain Menards.
Among the new material contained in the documents are donations amounting to $750,000 to a third-party group closely aligned to Walker from the owner of NL Industries, a company that historically produced lead paint. Within the same timeframe as the donations, the Republican-controlled legislature passed new laws making it much more difficult for victims of lead paint poisoning to sue NL Industries and other former lead paint manufacturers (the laws were later overturned in the federal courts).
Read the complete article on The Guardian web site here.
Mr Trump held his own military-themed campaign events this week, blending vague promises to increase defence spending with fact-trampling claims about a dangerous world which fails to “respect” America. Quizzed on foreign policy at a forum in Virginia Beach, Mr Trump seemed to believe that North Korea will “soon” have an aircraft-carrier (which is news to Korea-watchers) but that he will “very simply” oblige China to rein in North Korea. Turning to the fight against IS, he suggested that finding common cause with Russia against Islamic extremism would be “nice” and work better than Mrs Clinton’s tough talk about President Vladimir Putin, adding: “Putin looks at her and he laughs.”
A televised forum in New York, hosted by NBC News and the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, a charity, pointed up the downsides of Mrs Clinton’s extensive record. A Republican member of the audience charged that she had “corrupted” national security by mishandling e-mails at the State Department, and a Democrat asked sceptically about her “hawkish” foreign policy. Mrs Clinton’s hawkish instincts are sincere: several times as Secretary of State from 2009-13, she was readier to use force as a tool of geopolitics than was her boss, Barack Obama. Mr Trump played a strongman who is above mere details, declaring that under Mr Obama “the generals have been reduced to rubble” and that America has “the dumbest foreign policy”. Asked about praise from Mr Putin, he said the Russian president: “has very strong control over his country,” while Mr Obama runs a “divided country”—as if democracy is rather a nuisance. He vowed to rebuild a “depleted” military while being “very, very cautious” about using it. At its core, Mr Trump’s pitch is simplistic, chin-jutting, isolationism with a strong dose of wishful thinking.
Read the complete article on The Economist magazine web site here.
Politicians must think the voting public is either stupid or gullible. Each election the opposition party promises to give the voters everything under the sun, and blame the current governing party for everything wrong.
Let’s look at budgets, whether here in Canada, the United States, or anywhere else.
Let’s look at voters as a lottery group, who each year elect a group to buy lottery tickets and manage the voters money.
Okay, so the people who manage a lottery group usually don’t get fat pensions, fat paychecks and fat perks, don’t often get arrested or thrown in jail, and don’t usually make promises they know they can’t keep. But other than that, let’s say for this instance only, the managers of a lottery group act somewhat like a group of elected politicians running a government in that they take your money and spend it then ask for more money because they lost it all.
If you are breathing then you probably have or soon will have a budget. A budget helps you plan, and explain, how and where your money comes from and how and where your money is spent.
If you spend more than you bring in, as many people do and almost all governments do, then you have a budget problem and you are in debt.
Governments are often comprised of people who have been elected through some voting process. This means that those who are elected want to be re-elected so they may continue to serve “the public good”, which in most governments means getting fat paychecks and pensions and doing things which all too often get them in the newspapers and sometimes in jail.
Let’s compare a country to a group of 100 lottery ticket holders which, like most lottery groups, seldom wins a lottery or wins enough to recover what they have spent over the months and years of buying lottery tickets.
Let’s call these lottery ticket holders “voters” and have them elect three people who’ll buy the lottery tickets for one year. This “elected” group will have the ultimate right to decide how the lottery ticket money is spent, but the “elected” group promises to do so wisely and with all the good intentions of any politician.
As is wont with lotteries, there are occasions where a particular lottery has a very large payout and the elected group decides to roll most of the bundle on that particular lottery. Let’s call one of these lotteries “war”, wherein you try to get seven oil wells in seven countries out of a total of 149 countries. Win the lottery and your group gets oil and gas for free for life.
Unfortunately, no one wins the lottery this time around, and so the lottery is run again. This time the group gets 3 oil wells in 3 countries and wins a chance to keep those oil wells if no one wins the same three oil wells in the same three countries during the next three lotteries. The group loses everything on the next “war” lottery.
But the elected official spent all the groups money on the “war” lottery and some other lotteries, and now has to go to the group and ask for more money just like a government does at times when it plans its budget.
So the lottery group gives the elected group more money to spend on lotteries, and what do you know, a new lottery comes up where you can win a car a year for life and all the gas you need and never ever have to pay a parking ticket or speeding ticket again. Let’s call this lottery the “transportation” lottery. They group loses on both the “transportation” lottery and the “war” lottery.
During the whole year the “elected” group buys lottery tickets every day and they never win once. The lottery group decides to throw the bums out and holds another election to choose a group to win the jackpot this time and to spend their money wisely.
The first thing the “elected” group does is ask the lottery members to cough up more money. The elected group argues it needs to buy additional lottery tickets in order to not only try and recover the original amount lost by the first “elected” group, but to spread the chance of winning across a wider field by buying more and different lottery tickets and putting some of the lottery money into something safer like bonds or in banks to earn interest or health insurance policies for the group.
But the lottery members object, claiming this is irresponsible budget management. The main objectors to this request for new funds are the same 3 people who were voted out because they spent too much and won nothing.
The three former “elected” lottery members stir up the other lottery members, using lies and denials and false accusations, and the lottery group decides not to use any funds for safe keeping or safe investments or health insurance.
The newly elected group, shackled by the lack of funds to provide a safety-net in the form of safer investments or health insurance for its members, is forced to do with less than their budget requires. The newly elected group is forced to cut back on the lotteries it can invest it and forced to forgo any alternative forms of investment.
The newly elected group of managers fails to do any better than the previous group, due to the former elected members bad management while in office and their behavior once pushed out of office, and the lottery group losses again.
The former management group, having proof now that the present group has failed to live up to its promises, gets the present group thrown out and themselves elected back in solely by reiterating over and over and over that the present group failed to deliver what it promised.
In the U.S. the Republicans and the “Tea Party” people seem to forget it was their group that created all the problems and failed to ever have a balanced budget in the last sixty years.
The hypocrisy with many politicians is that they create the problems then blame the opposition for the very same problems they themselves created.
It’s sort of like children answering a mother when asked who stole the cookie from the cookie jar. The guilty one often is first to point to the other child.