Trump severs ties with three pollsters after bleak numbers are leaked

June 18, 2019

President Donald Trump appears to be stumbling before he is even out of the gate. Although he hasn’t stopped campaigning since his 2016 election—holding rallies nationwide for his political base even while he has been in office—it is now an open secret that the incumbent president is trailing several Democratic contenders … and not just by a trivial amount.

In fact, The Washington Post reported on June 17, President Trump’s campaign severed ties with three members of his polling team late last week following a leak of grim numbers to the media. The polling results showed him trailing former Vice President Joe Biden in several battleground states, as well as failing to match the momentum of other Democratic hopefuls.

Days ahead of Trump’s official launch of his reelection bid today, the campaign is ending its relationships with Brett Loyd, Mike Baselice, and Adam Geller while keeping pollsters Tony Fabrizio and John McLaughlin, the Post said.

The officials, like others interviewed, spoke on the condition of anonymity to freely discuss internal moves. The Trump campaign declined to comment. NBC News first reported on the campaign’s actions.

The news follows reports—first by Politico and later by The New York Timeson a 17-state internal poll conducted by Fabrizio. The data show Trump trailing Biden by double digits in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Florida, and Michigan, where Trump narrowly edged out Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in 2016. The poll also found Trump behind Biden in several other states that were key to the president’s win — Iowa, North Carolina, Ohio and Georgia — while holding a narrow edge in strongly Republican Texas.

And other polling bears the results out. According to Real Clear Politics, a poll by Fox News posted on June 16 found that Biden would beat Trump by ten points (49-39) in the general election. Sanders would take a nine-point lead (49-40; Warren, a two-point lead (43-41); Harris, a one-point lead (42-41), and Buttigieg a one-point lead (41-40).

As for general job approval, the Fox poll found that 45% of the U.S. population approves of President Trump’s performance, while 53% disapproves.

President Trump spoke to reporters in the Oval Office on June 12, claiming his reelection campaign is leading “in every single state that we polled.”

But, privately, the president was livid that the numbers leaked out, according to White House and campaign officials.

“He is madder that the numbers are out than that the numbers exist,” said one administration source.

On Monday morning, Trump tweeted, “A poll should be done on which is the more dishonest and deceitful newspaper, the Failing New York Times or the Amazon (lobbyist) Washington Post! They are both a disgrace to our Country, the Enemy of the People, but I just can’t seem to figure out which is worse? The good….news is that at the end of 6 years, after America has been made GREAT again and I leave the beautiful White House (do you think the people would demand that I stay longer? KEEP AMERICA GREAT), both of these horrible papers will quickly go out of business & be forever gone!”

Research contact: @washingtonpost

Trump to Stephanopoulos: ‘I never suggested firing Mueller’

June 17, 2019

In addition to his assurances that “oppo” research on a political rival would be acceptable to “anyone” inside the Beltway—even if it were offered by a hostile nation such as Russia—President Donald Trump, told ABC News’ Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos last week in an exclusive interview that he had “never suggested firing [Special Counsel Robert] Mueller.”

In doing so, ABC News noted, the president directly disputed the account of a key witness in Mueller’s investigation—former White House Counsel Don McGahn—saying that it “doesn’t matter” what McGahn testified to the special counsel’s team.

Taking it one step further, Trump told Stephanopoulos that McGahn “may have been confused” when he told Mueller that Trump instructed him multiple times to have the acting attorney general remove the special counsel because of perceived conflicts of interest.

“The story on that very simply: No. I was never going to fire Mueller. I never suggested firing Mueller,” Trump told Stephanopoulos, according to the ABC report.

But when Stephanopoulos pushed back and referenced McGahn’s testimony, Trump became defiant. “I don’t care what [McGahn] says, it doesn’t matter,” Trump said.

The rest of the ABC News transcript went as follows

“Why would [McGahn] lie under oath?” Stephanopoulos asked.

“Because he wanted to make himself look like a good lawyer,” Trump said. “Or he believed it because I would constantly tell anybody that would listen— including you, including the media—that Robert Mueller was conflicted. Robert Mueller had a total conflict of interest.”

“And has to go?” Stephanopoulos followed up.

“I didn’t say that,” Trump insisted.

And if Trump has anything to do with it, McGahn will not be asked to set the record straight: At the president’s instruction, McGahn currently is fighting a subpoena from the House Judiciary Committee to testify publicly about those conversations with Trump, among other things, the Times reports.

Research contact: @ABC

Mick Mulvaney: American public may never see Trump’s ‘secret deal’ with Mexico

June 13, 2019

On June 12, President Donald Trump showed a group of reporters gathered outside the White House a mysterious sheet of paper—claiming it was his new border deal with Mexico. However, he did not disclose its contents, saying he would defer to America’s southern ally to state the terms of the accord.

Now it seems that the big reveal may never happen, according to the White House Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, who declined to discuss details of the arrangement in an interview with CNBC’s Eamon Javers on the same date.

“If I told you, it wouldn’t be the secret part of the deal, right?” Mulvaney told CNBC at the Peter G. Peterson Foundation’s 2019 Fiscal Summit.

Asked when the public would see the secret deal, Mulvaney responded: “Maybe never,” noting, “Because if it works, it doesn’t make any difference.”

Mulvaney added: “The purpose here is not to satisfy your journalistic sort of, you know, inquiries as to what the deal is. The goal is to reduce the number of people crossing the border.”

Javers pressed Mulvaney on whether the United States had agreed to “whatever the terms are in this secret deal? We’ve signed up for something as a country?”

“Yeah,” Mulvaney said. “Again, it’s something that will kick in if the other things don’t work.”

In that case, Mulvaney said, the public would find out about the deal.

On June 7, the United States  and Mexico issued a joint declaration that resolved Trump’s threats to impose tariffs on Mexican imports if the country did not take action to reduce the flow of migrants across its northern border. As part of the deal, Mexico agreed to deploy its national guard to its southern border with Guatemala.

That declaration made no mention of other agreements. Mexico has flatly denied any secret deal.

But Trump has said that a secret element of the deal will soon be public.

“We have fully signed and documented another very important part of the immigration and security deal with Mexico, one that the U.S. has been asking about getting for many years,” the president wrote in a post on Twitter on June 11 . “It will be revealed in the not too distant future and will need a vote by Mexico’s Legislative body!”

Parts of the text on the piece of paper were readable in a photograph taken by the New York Post, and raised the possibility that Mexico had agreed to a “safe third country” arrangement, which would require Central American migrants to request asylum in Mexico, rather than the U.S. The issue has been a sticking point in U.S.-Mexico negotiations.

According to CNBC, Mexico’s Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard. said Tuesday that the country may consider such an arrangement if it cannot reduce unlawful immigration into the United States within 45 days.

Research contact: @CNBC

Brinksmanship: Unable to cut deal, Nadler soon may subpoena Mueller to testify before U.S. public

June 12, 2019

When and if former Special Counsel Robert Mueller testifies before Congress, his face will be familiar—but the story he tells won’t be, according to findings of a CNN poll fielded in May, which found that fully 75% of Americans have not read the Mueller report on Russian interference into the last presidential election and obstruction of justice by the Trump administration.

Most legislators have failed to read the 448-page document, either.

But that doesn’t include House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-New York)—who  told Democratic leaders at a closed-door meeting this past week that he could issue a subpoena to within two weeks to Mueller, if he is unable to reach an agreement to secure the former special counsel’s public testimony, according to two sources familiar with the meeting, Politico reported.

Nadler’s comments clarified whether the chairman had considered compelling Mueller’s attendance at a public hearing. The committee is still negotiating with Mueller, who, according to Nadler, is thus far only willing to answer lawmakers’ questions in private—a nonstarter for most House Democrats.

The sources cautioned the news outlet that the committee has not settled yet on a timetable for a potential subpoena to Mueller. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) hosted the meeting, and four other committee chairs were in attendance.

However, according to Politico’s sources, Nadler told reporters that he was “confident” Mueller will appear before his panel, and that he would issue a subpoena “if we have to.”

“We want him to testify openly. I think the American people need that,” Nadler added. “I think, frankly, it’s his duty to the American people. And we’ll make that happen.”

This week, the committee began to hear testimony related to the report, in an effort to educate the American public.

In addition, Nadler said that, with the threat of a civil contempt citation from the committee hanging over his head, Attorney General William Barr had agreed to release the underlying documents to the report, which had been requested by the House Judiciary Committee back in April.

However, on June 11, word came out that the White House would work with the Department of Justice to decide exactly how much (and what type of) material would be released—leaving the actual evidence that the committee would be permitted to see in question yet again.

Research contact: @politico

Poll: Biden still leads in Iowa, but Warren and Buttigieg are coming on strong

June 11, 2019

Biden is sliding—but just slightly—in the Iowa polls. Results of a new Des Moines Register/CNN poll suggest that age and political seasoning count for a lot, but that voters are fickle and can easily be enticed by fresh faces and policies.

The poll—conducted by Des Moines-based pollster Ann Selzer—found that Biden support is at 24%; Senator Bernie Sanders, at 16 %, Senator Elizabeth Warren, at 15%, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, at 14%; and Senator. Kamala Harris, at 7%. No other candidate has more than 2% of support.

While Biden still tops the field, his campaign may have reason to be concerned, Vox reported on June 9Back in December, the same poll found his support to be at 32%; but, by March, it had slipped to 27%; and now, he is at 24%— still in first place, but no longer in a clearly dominant position.

And age is a double-edged sword. Some see 76-year-old Biden and 77-year-old Sanders as the Democratic party’s elder statesmen (1%); others (46%) say their age would be a disadvantage; and still others (50%) say it would make no difference, according to the poll results.

It is important to keep in mind that in caucus states, voters’ second (or even third) choices can factor into the final result, Vox points out. If a candidate does not meet the minimum threshold of 15% support in a local precinct, each individual supporter has the opportunity to switch his or her support over to another candidate.

With a field as large as the current one, it is very possible that some caucus participants may well find themselves having to select another candidate to support. Because of this, the Iowa poll gave respondents the option to give three levels of possible support to each candidate: First choice, second choice, or “actively considering.”

When all three tiers of support (by those planning to vote in person) were added together by the pollster, Biden again topped the list of candidates, with 61%, Vox said. However, Warren matched him exactly, with 6% possible support. Three other candidates manage to reach potential support of over 50%: Sanders (at 56%), and Buttigieg and Harris (each of whom had 52%).

Elizabeth Warren, whose proficiency at policy-making has earned her a spotlight, has been gaining gradually among voters: She was at just 8% in December;  and at9%percent in March. But she has now shot up to 15% support overall, in a dead heat with Sanders for the second-place position behind Biden.

“That’s a strong showing for Elizabeth Warren,” Selzer told the Des Moines Register. “It says to me there are people who are paying attention. Again, in a field this big, that’s step one. First, you have to get people to pay attention.”

Pete Buttigieg may be the “phenom” of the race. In March, he was at only 1%; but he is now at 14%, very nearly matching Warren. However, fully 28% of those polled say that his sexual preference would be a disadvantage; while 62% say it makes no difference.

Another factor that may surface during the campaign is the fact that all of the top-runners at the moment are white. Only 25%of those polled see that as an advantage, while 12% say it’s a disadvantage and 56% say it makes no difference.

Research contact: @DMRegister 

Dems cast McConnell as ‘Grim Reaper’ in campaign strategy for 2020

June 10, 2019

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell confirmed on June 5 that he’s unlikely to bring up the bill passed by the House on June 4 to provide a path to citizenship for immigrants brought to the United States as children, known as “Dreamers.”

That should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with House Speaker Nancy’s Pelosi’s domestic agenda—from gun control to net neutrality, to LGBTQ protections, to voting reforms—which the GOP leader has totally tuned out and tossed out.

But now the Democrats have decided to use what they are dubbing McConnell’s “legislative graveyard,” as a messaging tool to topple Republican candidates in 2020, The Hill reported on June 7.

“He’s an issue in this campaign,” said Representative Jim McGovern (D-Massachusetts), chairman of the powerful House Rules Committee. “I don’t know what the hell he’s for, I only know what he’s against. … Anything that helps working people, or helps those struggling to get into the middle class, he’s against.”

McGovern is hardly alone, The Hill noted. Pelosi frequently has denounced McConnell’s promise to act as a “Grim Reaper” on any House legislation as a barrier to any progress on Capitol Hill. This week, she marked the first 150 days of the Democrats’ House majority by rattling off a slew of proposals already passed by the lower chamber that now sit idle in the Senate.

“We’re very proud of the work that we have done to send over to the Senate, where Mitch McConnell has said he’s the ‘Grim Reaper’ — it’s a Senate graveyard,” she told reporters in the Capitol. “We have news for him: It’s alive and well in the public, and he will be hearing from the public, hopefully very soon.”

McConnell and the Republicans are returning fire—dismissing the Democrats’ proposals as frivolous acts—designed to energize the Democrats’ base but without a chance of becoming law.

“This isn’t a serious strategy to govern. They’re passing bills saying that this is what they want, but they know that they’re strictly basing their strategy on what polls well and not what can get into law,” said a Senate GOP aide. “They’re doing everything for political reasons, and we’re actually the adults in the room.”

Through the lens of political messaging, however, Democrats see a useful foil in McConnell, who has spent much of the year focused on confirming conservative Trump appointees, including almost two dozen judges, in lieu of passing policy bills. By casting McConnell as the face of Washington gridlock, The Hill noted, Democrats hope to portray the entire GOP as uninterested in governing — at the expense of the middle class.

Representative Hakeem Jeffries (D-New York), chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, blasted McConnell this past week as the Senate’s “Rip van Winkle,” urging upper-chamber Republicans “to wake up from their legislative slumber and do their job.”

None of this fazes McConnell. “I’ve kind of enjoyed playing off of my enemies over the years, and in fact the ‘Grim Reaper’ title I gave myself,” he told Fox News. “Happy to embrace it.”

Research contact: @TheHill

Biden gets bashed for his support of Hyde Amendment

June 7, 2019

Democratic voters who had backed Joe Biden’s presidential run to date—as well as three national groups that advocate for women’s rights—are criticizing the former vice president over his support for the Hyde Amendment, which blocks federal Medicaid funding for abortion services.

The fallout has occurred in response to a June 5 NBC News report that Biden continues to support the amendment, which allows for exceptions only after rape or incest—or to save the life of the mother.

Biden started the week on a strong roll—with 33% of national poll respondents saying they would support him; in contast to 16.7% for Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), 8.2% for Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts), 7.8% for Senator Kamala Harris (D-California), and 6.8% for Mayor Pete Buttigieg of (D-South Bend, Indiana), according to Real Clear Politics.

However, those numbers could change, in light of his less-than-overwhelming support of a woman’s right to choose.

Indeed, Biden only would back repealing the amendment “if abortion avenues currently protected under Roe were threatened,” his campaign told NBC News.

In a statement released on June 5, Ilyse Hogue, president of the abortion rights group NARAL, said there is “no political or ideological excuse” for Biden’s support for the amendment, which she said “translates into discrimination against poor women and women of color plain and simple.”

She added, “His position further endangers women and families already facing enormous hurdles and creates two classes of rights for people in this country, which is inherently undemocratic.”

Stephanie Schriock, the president of Emily’s List, a political action committee that works to elect Democratic women who support abortion rights, also issued a statement, saying, “At a time when reproductive rights are under consistent attack, it’s unacceptable that a major Democratic nominee supports the Hyde Amendment.”

Schriock further stated, “We hope that Vice President Biden will reconsider this position and what it means to millions of women.”

According to a report by The Washington Post, Biden’s stance on the issue puts him at odds with most of the 2020 Democratic presidential field, as well as with the Democratic Party’s platform. In 2016, the party amended its platform to include a plank calling for the repeal of the Hyde Amendment, describing it as among the “federal and state laws and policies that impede a woman’s access to abortion.”

“The Democratic Party platform is crystal clear in supporting the right to safe, legal abortion and repealing the Hyde Amendment, a position held by the majority of voters,” said Kelley Robinson, executive director of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, on June 5.”

Research contact: @NBCNews

Editor’s note: According to a report by The Wall Street Journal, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden said on the night of June 6 that he now opposes a ban on the use of federal funds for most abortions, reversing his longstanding position amid pressure from fellow Democrats and abortion-rights groups.

Turning tail: Senate Republicans warn White House against Mexico tariffs

June 6, 2019

Et tu, GOP? Even the Senate Republican are starting to doubt the wisdom of Trump’s tariffs—especially those he means to impose against Mexico. After all, Americans like their avocados, tequila, and automobiles.

Indeed, according to a New York Times report, Republican senators sent the White House a clear and compelling message on June 4—warning that they were almost unanimously opposed to the president’s plans to establish tariffs on Mexican imports, just hours after the president said lawmakers would be “foolish” to try to stop him.

The administration’s latest move to intimidate the nation’s southern neighbor in the face of rising illegal immigration at the border will create a “tax” against Americans, the GOP claims (and Democrats agree). Trump has threatened to set 5% tariffs on all goods imported from Mexico, rising to as high as 25%, until the Mexican government stems the flow of migrants, the Times said.

Republican senators emerged from a closed-door lunch at the Capitol angered by the briefing they received from a deputy White House counsel and an assistant attorney general on the legal basis for the president to impose new tariffs by declaring a national emergency at the southern border.

“I want you to take a message back” to the White House, Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas), told the lawyers, according to Times sources. Cruz warned that “you didn’t hear a single yes” from the Republican conference. He called the proposed tariffs a $30 billion tax increase on Texans.

“I will yield to nobody in passion and seriousness and commitment for securing the border,” Mr. Cruz later told reporters. “But there’s no reason for Texas farmers and ranchers and manufacturers and small businesses to pay the price of massive new taxes.”

Texas would be hit the hardest by the proposed tariffs on Mexican products, followed by Michigan, California, Illinois and Ohio, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. A 25% tariff would threaten $26.75 billion of Texas imports.

In fact, the Chamber notes on its home page, “Imposing tariffs on Mexico is exactly the wrong move. These tariffs will be paid by American families and businesses without doing a thing to solve the very real problems at he border.

“We’re holding a gun to our own heads,” said Senator John Cornyn, (R-Texas).

If Mr. Trump were to declare an emergency to impose the tariffs, the House and the Senate could pass a resolution disapproving them. But such a resolution would almost certainly face a presidential veto, meaning that both the House and the Senate would have to muster two-thirds majorities to beat Mr. Trump.

Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin) said he warned the lawyers  during the closed-door meeting that the Senate could muster an overwhelming majority to beat back the tariffs, even if the president were to veto a resolution disapproving them. Republicans may be broadly supportive of Trump’s push to build a wall and secure the border, he said, but they oppose tying immigration policy to the imposition of tariffs on Mexico.

“The White House should be concerned about what that vote would result in, because Republicans really don’t like taxing American consumers and businesses,” Senator Johnson said.

However, the Times reported, when asked about Senate Republicans discussing ways to block the tariffs during his UK trip, President Trump responded, “I don’t think they will do that. I think if they do, it’s foolish.”

Research contact: @maggieNYT

House Dems to hold contempt vote against Barr and McGahn on June 11

June 5, 2019

The House will vote next week on a resolution to hold Attorney General William Barr and former White House counsel Don McGahn in contempt of Congress, Politico reports.

Barr—who misrepresented the findings of the Mueller report to Congress and the U.S. public, according to the investigators—also has failed to comply with a subpoena for a fully unredacted copy of the report and underlying evidence; McGahn balked at a subpoena to testify before the House Judiciary Committee.

According to Politico, the resolution, to be introduced on June 11, would clear the way for the House Judiciary Committee to take Barr and McGahn to court to enforce their subpoenas; and would enable Democrats to set in motion their obstruction of justice investigation against President Donald Trump.

“This Administration’s systematic refusal to provide Congress with answers and cooperate with Congressional subpoenas is the biggest cover-up in American history, and Congress has a responsibility to provide oversight on behalf of the American people,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said in a statement.

The vote also will offer broad authority for congressional committees to take legal action against the Trump administration in future subpoena fights, Democratic sources told the news outlet.

The vote—which is supported by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Hoyer, and other top members of House leadership—will authorize the House to hold the two men in civil contempt. Democrats will forgo an effort to hold them in criminal contempt—which Democratic sources described as an empty gesture because Barr, in particular, would never face charges from his own Justice Department.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler said on June 1 that he was pressing for a floor vote on contempt for Barr as quickly as possible so that the committee could take Barr to court and attempt to enforce its subpoena.

The move comes as a growing number of House Democrats are calling for Trump’s impeachment—and they may not be satisfied with a slap at his attorney general, Politico said.

Meanwhile, Democrats on the House Oversight Committee are threatening to hold Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in contempt of Congress for defying a subpoena seeking information about efforts to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census.

Research contact: @politico

Kushner is flummoxed on interview questions about Trump’s racism

June 4, 2019

When you work for the family business, loyalty isn’t just a nicety; it’s a rigorous job requirement. So, we weren’t expecting any big reveals from presidential son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner during his June 2 interview with National Political Reporter Jonathan Swan of Axios on HBO.

Indeed, when pressed by Swan about whether current POTUS, Donald Trump, could be characterized as a racist—judging by his no-holds-barred birther campaign against his predecessor Barack Obama—Kushner was briefly flummoxed, according to a report by The Washington Post.

Here’s a quick transcript, obtained from the news outlet:

SWAN: Have you ever seen him say or do anything that you would describe as racist or bigoted?

KUSHNER: So, the answer is un— uh, no. Absolutely not. You can’t not be a racist for 69 years, then run for president and be a racist. What I’ll say is that, when a lot of the Democrats call the president a racist, I think they’re doing a disservice to people who suffer because of real racism in this country.

SWAN: Was birtherism racist?

KUSHNER: Um, look I wasn’t really involved in that.

SWAN: I know you weren’t. Was it racist?

KUSHNER: Like I said, I wasn’t involved in that.

SWAN: I know you weren’t. Was it racist?

KUSHNER: I know who the president is, and I have not seen anything in him that is racist. So, again, I was not involved in that.

SWAN: Did you wish he didn’t do that?

KUSHNER: Like I said, I was not involved in that. That was a long time ago.

That’s 4-0, The Washington Post noted—Four instances in which Kushner emphasized that he hadn’t personally participated in Trump’s effort to question the legitimacy of the nation’s first black president, and zero instances in which he denied the entire effort was racist.

Kushner’s insistence that this “was a long time ago” is also pretty difficult to digest. For those who might have forgotten the 2016 campaign, Trump’s birtherism charge made a comeback and lingered for weeks before he eventually backed off — kind of, the news outlet said. But not before he had appealed repeatedly to his base.

Michelle Obama reserved some of the harshest words in her 2018 autobiography, Becoming, for this saga. “The whole [birther] thing was crazy and mean-spirited, of course, its underlying bigotry and xenophobia hardly concealed,” she said. “But it was also dangerous, deliberately meant to stir up the wingnuts and kooks.”

According to the Post, “He showed the GOP base, much of which embraced the bogus theory, that he was willing to stick by a birther campaign that riled them up and drove the establishment crazy. It was the first big conspiracy theory of his conspiracy theory-laden political career.”

And that first big success has led to Trump’s more recent disparagement of Muslims, Gold Star parents, Hispanics, Haiti and Africa as “shXthole countries,” “people who were captured in the war,” and even Meghan Markle.

With that in mind, Jonathan Swan’s questions are effectively answered.

Research contact: @jonathanvswan