Number of Google News search results today for “Michael Sussmann trial” (regarding misinformation and the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign): 16,300
Number of Google News search results today for “Johnny Depp trial”: 1.92 million
Number of Google News search results today for “Michael Sussmann trial” (regarding misinformation and the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign): 16,300
Number of Google News search results today for “Johnny Depp trial”: 1.92 million
Axios-Ipsos Poll, Biden, Democrats, Donald Trump, election 2016, election 2020, election 2022, election 2024, exit polls, Glenn Youngkin, Hispanics, Im-Politic, Immigration, Latinos, NPR-Marist Poll, Pew Research Center, polls, public opinion, Republicans, The Wall Street Journal, Virginia governor's race
Remember all those those charges that former President Donald Trump made clear from the very beginning of his 2016 presidential campaign that he was an anti-Latino bigot, and the predictions that any political success he enjoyed would doom Republican chances of winning support from this increasingly important group of voters?
Apparently, many Latino voters themselves don’t. Or they’ve concluded that Trump and now dominant Republican views on sensible controls on immigration matter less to them than views on other issues. Or that they actually like Trump and the Republicans on some combination of these subjects – including immigration. Or that maybe the Republican positions aren’t terrific, but that what the Democrats have stood for lately is a non-starter.
That’s the message being sent lately by several recent polls on Latino political views that could decisively shape American politics for the foreseeable future.
First, though, some context. There’s little doubt now that four years of Trump-ism wound up boosting the former President’s support among Latinos, now further shrinking it. In 2016, Trump won 28 percent of their presidential vote. In 2020, this figure had grown to 32 percent according to the eixt polls. (This subsequent study pegs his 2020 total at 38 percent.) And of course, in some key states, the exit polls showed, his 2020 performance was far better – notably Florida (46 percent) and Texas (41 percent). So the racism and xenophobia charges were showing signs of flopping while throughout Trump’s term in office.
Even so, the results of a Wall Street Journal survey conducted in the second half of November came as a major shock. They showed that if Trump was running for the White House against President Biden today, he’d lose by only 44 percent to 43 percent among Latino voters. And they said they’d be even split at 37 percent in their votes for Democratic and Republican Congressional candidates.
As noted in this analysis, the poll’s sample size was very small, so serious doubts in its accuracy are justified. But similar results have been reported elsewhere. Yesterday, notably, National Public Radio and Marist College released a survey showing that just 33 percent of Latino adults approved of President Biden’s performance in office, versus 65 percent who disapproved. These Biden Latino numbers were worse than his ratings from American adults as a whole (41 percent approving and 55 percent disapproving).
Moreover, only 11 percent of Latino adults “strongly approved” of Mr. Biden’s presidency so far, versus 17 percent of U.S. adults overall, and when it came to strong disapproval, 52 percent of Latinos marked that column compared with 44 percent of the total national adult population.
Nor does the evidence stop there that the longer Mr. Biden has been in office, the less Latinos like his perfomance. As this Washington Post column reminds, “In late May, Biden’s job approval among Hispanics averaged 60 percent, with a net approval margin of 32, a bit larger than his vote margin the prior year.”
Biden backers and Democrats can point to a new Axios-Ipsos survey reporting that “The Democratic Party enjoyed huge advantages over the Republican Party when Latino respondents were asked which party represents or cares about …..” But after that ellipsis comes the finding that “those advantages evaporated when it came to the economy and crime.”
Democrats own a clear edge among Latinos on one major issue, though: the CCP Virus pandemic. According to the Axios-Ipsos results “respondents were much more likely to say Democrats were doing a good job of handling COVID-19 as a health challenge — 37% to 11% for Republicans, with another 17% saying both are doing a good job.”
But Axios-Ipsos has been a major outlier lately, as made clear in this analysis that looks not only at this year’s polls but the Virginia gubernatorial election, which saw victorious Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin actually win the state’s Latino vote. The conventional wisdom seems to hold that Youngkin prevailed in large measure because he held Trump at arm’s length. But in light of all the other survey results, maybe that’s wishful Mainstream Media thinking?
It’s still a long way even to the 2022 Congressional elections, much less the 2024 presidential race. But unless the President and his party can turn their sagging fortunes around, it looks like they’re rapidly running out of time with Latinos – who are increasingly flocking to a Republican Party still strongly influenced by Donald Trump.
Biden, China, Cold War, Democrats, election 2016, election interference, globalism, Henry Kissinger, impeachment, Nordstream 2, Our So-Called Foreign Policy, Russia, Trump-Russia, Ukraine, Vladimir Putin
Even though he’s just turned 98, I’m still surprised that none of the voluminous coverage and commentary on the just-concluded summit between President Biden and Russian leader Vladimir Putin featured any analysis from Henry Kissinger. Not that I agree with every policy decision or even strategy that the former Secretary of State and White House national security adviser favored – far from it.
But as I’ve written before, he’s one of the few first-rate analysts of U.S. foreign policy that I’ve encountered over my own decades in the field (and would have been even if in fact this bar was not so low). He’s still speaking out on these issues. And most important of all, Mr. Biden seems to have paid little attention either in the run-up to the Putin meeting and at the actual session (though of course, the details will long remain highly classified) to an historic insight that Kissinger helped contributed to American diplomacy whose core is as relevant as ever: the imperative of not needlessly antagonizing Russia and China at the same time.
At this point, three big caveats need to be mentioned. First, it’s an imperative if U.S. foreign policy is to take a globalist course. That’s not my favored course, and under my kind of America First framework, the approach toward each of this powers would be substantially different. But the President is a died-in-the-wool globalist, so what counts most isn’t how his decisions compare with my preferences, but how well and coherently he’s pursuing his own strategy.
Second, there’s no question that Kissinger – and the rest of the bipartisan globalist U.S. foreign policy establishment – took the engage-with-China strategy way too, and indeed disastrously, too far. But at the time, and given the prevailing Cold War priorities both he and then President Nixon held, opening ties with China largely (but not exclusively) to complicate global matters for a Soviet Union feeling its oats, not only made good sense, but was long overdue.
And third, as suggested by my Cold War reference and my claim that U.S. China policy went way overboard, both national and international circumstances have changed dramatically.
Nonetheless, although China today is the rising behemoth facing the United States and post-Soviet Russia’s power is greatly diminished, the latter is still more than strong enough militarily and technologically to cause major problems for America. These range from aggressive designs on vulnerable new U.S. allies like the Baltic countries and Moscow’s former Warsaw Pact satellites, to damaging and disruptive hacks to America’s infrastructure. (I put election interference in a different box, since only extreme partisans believe that Russian operations made the difference in 2016.)
Since the China threat is far greater – and much more multidimensional – than the Russia threat, Mr. Biden has to date sensibly continued his predecessor’s policies of pushing back both militarily (in areas like the South China Sea) and economically (by keeping the Trump China tariffs and tech sanctions in place).
But he’s also spent his first months in office until this week seemingly determined to do his utmost to villify Russia and Putin verbally, apparently heedless of how his posture threatened to push Moscow and Beijing even closer together.
That’s not to say that a rapprochement between China and Russia didn’t take place during the Trump years. It did. (See, e.g., here.) And undoubtedly one big reason was that the Trump actions were much tougher than the Trump words. That’s true whether we’re talking about energy policy (where the former President’s encouragement of American independence gravely weakened the economies of Russia and other big foreign oil and gas producers), or Europe policy (where despite Trump’s scorn for America’s militarily free-riding allies, he beefed up the U.S. air and ground force and naval presence in and around Eastern Europe, right at Russia’s doorstep).
But unlike Mr. Biden to date, Trump also just as undoubtedly sought to contain disputes and even keep open the door to lowering tensions. And one key reason for this hostile posture can only be the flagrantly false claims from so many Democratic party politicians that Trump was excusing and even enabling Putin’s hostile actions out of gratitude for that election year assistance. President Biden eagerly joined the chorus, which tragically turned any outreach toward Russia toxic politically, and now he’s paying the piper – coming under fire from vengeful Republicans and other conservatives for even so modest and reasonable a decision as meeting Putin in person.
As a result, despite this recent report that “Biden fears what ‘best friends’ [Chinese leader] Xi and Putin could do together” and that “U.S. wariness over the Russia-China relationship has grown to the point where high-level American strategists are weighing how to factor it in as they try to reorient U.S. foreign policy to focus more on a rising China,” there’s not only no evidence that the subject came up in any serious way. It’s difficult at best to imagine that Mr. Biden could actually take any noteworthy steps in this direction without sparking (understandable) charges that he’s a Trump-like Putin lapdog, too. Just think of the reactions even in his own party to his recent decision to waive U.S. sanctions on finishing the Nordstream 2 natural gas pipeline, which as I’ve written, can only enrich Russia at the expense of Ukraine (whose security against Russian expansionism was declared vital to the United States itself by so many Democrats during the first Trump impeachment procedings).
An anti-American genuine Russia-China alliance is still no foregone conclusion. After all, countries bordering each other often have long histories of intense and often violent rivalries (like Russia and China). Dictators and would-be dictators like Putin and Xi Jinping rarely trust each other. As a result, countries headed by such authoritarians that are also next-door neighbors are especially unlikely partners.
But there’s also historically a great deal to the adage that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” And for the time being – and at an especially crucial juncture – Mr. Biden will struggle mightily to heed it.
conservatives, David Shor, Democrats, Donald Trump, election 2016, election 2020, Equis Research, Hispanics, Im-Politic, Immigration, Latino men, Latinos, New York magazine, Populism, progressives, racism, Republicans, Ruy Teixeira, sexism, The New York Times, Washington Post Magazine, xenophobia
You know that “Wow!” emoji, with the wide open mouth and eyes? Here’s some political news genuinely deserving that reaction. Remember how all the presidential election exit polls last November showed significant gains by Donald Trump among Latino voters? And how so many analysts attributed this progress to the former President’s “macho” appeal to Latino men – an appeal that was so strong that it overrode Trump’s supposedly obvious anti-Latino racism and xenophobia?
Well, at the beginning of this month, a major survey of Latino voters found that, actually, the Trump Latino vote was driven by women.
“Big deal,” you scoff? Absolutely. Because the results indicate that these voters’ backing for Trump didn’t stem mainly from his personality traits, which are not only pretty peculiar to him, but which repel at least as many voters of all kinds as they attract. Instead, the findings suggest that Latinos’ growing Trump-ism owes more to support for his economic message and record (including on immigration) – which signals big opportunities for other Republican/conservative populists not saddled with Trump’s often -putting character, but who focus on issues that will remain crucial to much of the Latino and overall electorate long into the future.
Examples of the “macho” theory include this piece from the New York Times and a later article in the Washington Post Magazine. And they nicely illustrate how it also reenforced the impression of Trump voters generally as “deplorables” that’s been spread relentlessly by the former President’s opponents of all stripes, and that conveniently strengthens the case for seeking to ignore and marginalize them.
It’s true that both these analyses recognized that Trump’s own business experience and the state of the economy for most of his presidency also attracted many Latino males. But their greater emphasis was on how these voters liked the fact that, as the Times piece put it, Trump is “forceful, wealthy and, most important, unapologetic. In a world where at any moment someone might be attacked for saying the wrong thing, he says the wrong thing all the time and does not bother with self-flagellation.”
The Post Magazine article was much more nuanced and even-handed, but the author nonetheless described a not-trivial number of Latino men (using his own father as an example) as “archconservatives” and “conservative talk radio” fans. He also presented plenty of analyses from supposed experts likening them to low-status males desperately clinging to any patriarchical life-saver to preserve their remaining self-esteem, and consequently as prime suckers for any “self-made man” and any other bootstraps-type myths contributing to the brand Trump cultivated.
The Post Magazine piece also contrasted these Latino male views with
“the experiences of Latinas, many of whom are running their households, managing child care or employed as front-line and domestic workers — nurses or caretakers for the elderly. ‘They are making sure their kids are prepared for Zoom school,’ [one expert] explains. ‘I think there’s a fundamentally different experience that Hispanic men and women have in both what they experience day to day and what information they consume.’”
In other words, Latino men: kind of neanderthal and delusional. Latino women: nose-to-the-grindstone essential workers and heroines who are not only staffing the front lines at work, but keeping ther households together. Therefore, even if you were willing to hold your nose and wanted any opponents of conservative populists to reach out more effectively to Latino men, you’d have to admit that many are too unhinged to be reachable.
Significantly, the new findings – by a data firm called Equis Research – don’t dispute that Trump did better among Latino men than among Latino women. Equis did, however, generate data showing that, between the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections, the Trump Latino male vote grew by three net percentage points, but his Latina vote grew by eight percentage points. That’s what’s called “statistically significant.” And poll skeptics should note that Equis interviewed 41,000 Latino voters in battleground states, and studied voter file data, precinct returns, and focus groups.
Equis didn’t endorse any explanations for this Latina shift, although a Democratic analyst named David Shor believes that “the concentration of Trump’s gains among Latinas is consistent with his hypothesis that ‘defund the police’ influenced Hispanic voting behavior since, in his polling, women rank crime as a more important issue than men do.”
But to me, the new findings matter most for a more fundamental reason: They further debunk claims from Never Trumpers in both parties that Trump’s Latino gains resulted from appeals to some Americans’ worst (i.e., most sexist) instincts (as mentioned above), or from simple misinformation, or from the Democrats’ alleged failure to court Latino voters ardently enough – that is, from problems that either shouldn’t be fixed, or that can easily be solved without compromising the party’s strong shift to the hard Left on issues across the board.
Instead, Equis’ report adds to the case that a huge part of the problem is the shift itself – and with Americans of all races, colors, and creeds.
Special thanks to old friend Ruy Teixeira, a distinguished opinion analyst in his own right, for calling this news to my attention. And for a very good summary and analysis of the findings, see this piece from New York magazine (in which you’ll find David Shor’s arguments).
cancel culture, Capitol Hill, Capitol riots, China, climate change, Congress, Conservative Populism, Constitution, Democrats, election 2016, election 2020, election challenge, Electoral College, establishment Republicans, Hillary Clinton, identity politics, Im-Politic, Immigration, impeachment, incitement, insurrection, Joe Biden, Josh Hawley, left-wing authoritarianism, mail-in ballots, nationalism, Populism, Republicans, sedition, separation of powers, tariffs, Ted Cruz, Trade, trade war, Trump, violence
(Please note: This is the linked and lightly edited version of the post put up this morning.)
The fallout from the Capitol Riot will no doubt continue for the foreseeble future – and probably longer – so no one who’s not clairvoyant should be overly confident in assessing the consequences. Even the Trump role in the turbulent transition to a Biden administration may wind up looking considerably different to future generations than at present. Still, some major questions raised by these events are already apparent, and some can even be answered emphatically, starting off with the related topic of how I’m viewing my support for many, and even most, of President Trump’s policies and my vote for him in both of his White House runs.
Specifically, I have no regrets on either ground. As I’ll make clear, I consider Mr. Trump’s words and deeds of the last few weeks to represent major, and completely unnecessary, failures that will rightly at least tarnish his place in history.
All the same, legitimate analyses of many developments and resulting situations need to think about the counterfactual. Here, the counterfactual is a Trump loss to Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton in 2016. And I’m confident that her presidency would have been both disastrous in policy terms (ranging from coddling China to moving steadily toward Open Borders immigration policies to intervening militarily more often and more deeply in numerous foreign conflicts of no importance to the United States) and heatedly divisive in political terms (because of her grifting behavior in fundraising for the various supposedly philanthropic initiatives she started along with her husband, former President Bill Clinton; because of her campaign’s payment for the phony Steele dossier that helped spur the unwarranted and possibly criminal Obama administration investigation of the Trump campaign; and because of intolerant and extremist instincts that would have brought Identity Politics and Cancel Culture to critical mass years earlier than their actual arrivals).
As for the worrisome events of the last several weeks:
>As I’ve written, I don’t regard Mr. Trump’s rhetoric at his rally, or at any point during his election challenges, as incitement to violence in a legal sense. But is it impeachable? That’s a separate question, because Constitutionally speaking, there’s a pretty strong consensus that impeachment doesn’t require a statutory offense. And since, consequently, it’s also a political issue, there’s no objective or definitive answer. It’s literally up to a majority of the House of Representatives. But as I also wrote, I oppose this measure.
>So do I agree that the President should get off scot free? Nope. As I wrote in the aforementioned post, I do regard the Trump record since the election as reckless. I was especially angered by the President’s delay even in calling on the breachers to leave the Capitol Hill building, and indeed the entire Capitol Hill crowd, to “go home.” In fact, until that prompting – which was entirely too feeble for my tastes – came, I was getting ready to call for his resignation.
>Wouldn’t impeachment still achieve the important objective of preventing a dangerously unstable figure from seeking public office again? Leaving aside the “dangerously unstable” allegation, unless the President is guilty (as made clear in an impeachment proceding) of a major statutory crime (including obstruction of justice, or incitement to violence or insurrection), I’d insist on leaving that decision up to the American people. As New York City talk radio host Frank Morano argued earlier this week, the idea that the Congress should have the power to save the nation from itself is as dangerously anti-democratic as it is laughable.
>Of course, this conclusion still leaves the sedition and insurrection charges on the table – mainly because, it’s contended, the President and many of his political supporters (like all the Republican Senators and House members who supported challenging Electoral College votes during the January 6 certification procedure) urged Congress to make an un-Constitutional, illegal decision: overturning an election. Others add that the aforementioned and separate charge not includes endorsing violence but urging the January 6 crowd to disrupt the certification session.
>First, there’s even less evidence that the lawmakers who challenged the Electoral College vote were urging or suggesting the Trump supporters in the streets and on the lawn to break in to the Capitol Building and forcibly end the certification session than there’s evidence that Mr. Trump himself gave or suggested this directive.
>Second, I agree with the argument – made by conservatives such as Kentucky Republican Senator Rand Paul (often a Trump supporter) – that authorizing a branch of the federal government unilaterally to nullify the results of elections that the Constitution stipulates should be run by the states is a troubling threat to the Constitutional principle of separation of powers. I’m also impressed with a related argument: that sauce for the goose could wind up as sauce for the gander.
In other words, do Trump supporters want to set a precedent that could enable Congress unilaterally to overturn the election of another conservative populist with something like a second wave of Russia collusion charges? Include me out.
>Further, if the Trump supporters who favored the Electoral College challenge are guilty of insurrection or fomenting it, and should be prosecuted or censured or punished in some way, shouldn’t the same go for the Democrats who acted in the exact same ways in other recent elections? (See here and here.) P.S. Some are still Members of Congress.
>Rather than engage in this kind of What About-ism, and help push the country further down the perilous road of criminalizing political behavior and political differences, I’d much rather consider these challenges as (peaceful) efforts – and in some cases sincere efforts – to insert into the public record the case that these elections were marred by serious irregularities.
>How serious were these irregularities? Really serious – and all but inevitable given the decisions (many pre-pandemic) to permit mass mail-in voting. Talk about a system veritably begging to be abused. But serious enough to change the outcome? I don’t know, and possibly we’ll never know. Two things I do know, however:
First, given the thin Election 2020 margins in many states, it’s clear that practices like fraudulent vote-counting, ballot-harvesting, and illegal election law changes by state governments and courts (e.g., Pennsylvania) don’t have to be widespread. Limiting them to a handful of states easily identified as battlegrounds, and a handful of swing or other key districts within those states, would do the job nicely.
Second, even though I believe that at least some judges should have let some of the Trump challenges proceed (if only because the bar for conviction in such civil cases is much lower than for criminal cases), I can understand their hesitancy because despite this low-ish bar, overturning the election results for an entire state, possibly leading to national consequences, is a bridge awfully far. Yes, we’re a nation of laws, and ideally such political considerations should be completely ignored. But when we’re talking about a process so central to the health of American democracy, politics can never be completely ignored, and arguably shouldn’t.
So clearly, I’m pretty conflicted. What I’m most certain about, however, is that mass mail-in ballots should never, ever be permitted again unless the states come up with ways to prevent noteworthy abuse. Florida, scene of an epic election procedures failure in 2000 (and other screwups), seems to have come up with the fixes needed. It’s high time for other states to follow suit.
As for the politics and policy going forward:
>President Trump will remain influential nationally, and especially in conservative ranks – partly because no potentially competitive rivals are in sight yet, and possibly because Americans have such short memories. But how influential? Clearly much of his base remains loyal – and given his riot-related role, disturbingly so. How influential? Tough to tell. Surely the base has shrunk some. And surely many Independents have split off for good, too. (See, e.g., this poll.) Perhaps most important, barring some unexpected major developments (which obviously no one can rule out), this withering of Trump support will probably continue – though the pace is tough to foresee also.
>The Republican Party has taken a major hit, too, and the damage could be lasting. In this vein, it’s important to remember that the GOP was relegated to minority status literally for decades by President Herbert Hoover’s failure to prevent and then contain the Great Depression. Those aforementioned short American memories could limit the damage. But for many years, it’s clear that Democratic political, campaigns, and conservative Never Trumper groups like the Lincoln Project, will fill print, broadcast, and social media outlets with political ads with video of the riot and Mr. Trump’s rally and similar statements, and the effects won’t be trivial.
>What worries me most, though, is that many of the urgently needed policies supported and implemented by the Trump administration will be discredited. Immigration realism could be the first casualty, especially since so many of the establishment Republicans in Congress were such willing flunkies of the corporate Cheap Labor Lobby for so much of the pre-Trump period, and Open Borders- and amnesty-friendly stances are now defining characteristics of the entire Democratic Party.
The Trump China policies may survive longer, because the bipartisan consensus recognizing – at least rhetorically – the futility and dangers of their predecessors seems much stronger. But given Biden’s long record as a China coddler and enabler, the similar pre-Trump views of those establishment Republicans, and their dependence on campaign contributions from Wall Street and offshoring-happy multinational companies, important though quiet backtracking, particularly on trade, could begin much sooner than commonly assumed. One distinct possibility that wouldn’t attract excessive attention: meaningfully increasing the number of exemptions to the Trump China and remaining metals tariffs to companies saying they can’t find affordable, or any, alternatives.
>Much of the political future, however, will depend on the record compiled by the Biden administration. Not only could the new President fail on the economic and virus-fighting fronts, but on the national unity front. Here, despite his reputation as a moderate and a healer, Biden’s charge that Republican Senators Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley have used Nazi-like tactics, and race-mongering comments accusing law enforcement of handling the overwhelmingly white Capitol Rioters more gingerly than the racial justice protesters earlier this year represent a lousy start. And as his harsh recent rhetoric suggests, Biden could also overreach greatly on issues like climate change, immigration, and Cancel Culture and Identity Politics. Such Biden failures could even shore up some support for Mr. Trump himself.
>How big is the violence-prone fringe on the American Right? We’ll know much more on Inauguration Day, when law enforcement says it fears “armed protests” both in Washington, D.C. and many state capitals. What does seem alarmingly clear, though – including from this PBS/Marist College poll – is that this faction is much bigger than the relatively small number of Capitol breachers.
>Speaking of the breachers, the nature of the crimes they committed obviously varied among individuals. But even those just milling about were guilty of serious offenses and should be prosecuted harshly. The circumstances surrounding those who crossed barriers on the Capitol grounds is somewhat murkier. Those who knocked down this (flimsy) fencing were just as guilty as the building breachers. But lesser charges – and possibly no charges – might be justifiable for those who simply walked past those barriers because they were no longer visible, especially if they didn’t enter the Capitol itself.
>I’m not security expert, but one question I hope will be asked (among so many that need asking) in the forthcoming investigations of the Capitol Police in particular – why weren’t the Capitol Building doors locked as soon as the approach of the crowd became visible? The number of doors is limited, and they’re anything but flimsy. The likely effectiveness of this move can be seen from an incident in October, 2018 – when barred Supreme Court doors left anti-Brett Kavanaugh protesters futilely pounding from the outside when they attempted to disrupt the new Supreme Court Justice’s swearing in ceremony. Window entry into the Capitol would have remained an option, but the number of breachers who used this tactic seems to have been negligible.
What an extraordinary irony if one of the worst days in American history mightn’t have even happened had one of the simplest and most commonsensical type of precaution not been taken.
Since I haven’t yet come across any reason to suppose that the Election 2020 exit polls are any more accurate than most of the surveys throughout the campaign, and especially during the general election, worthwhile post-mortems are going to be really difficult to produce.
One exception: It’s clear what happened with the hundreds of counties across the country that voted twice for Barack Obama for President, and then flipped for Donald Trump in 2016. I’ve written repeatedly (most recently here) that these mainly lower-income counties are especially important because they clearly contain lots of Trump voters who couldn’t possibly be the racists who are so often viewed as the majority of the President’s base.
Moreover, they not only look like a representative sample of voters who bought Mr. Trump’s promise that he would champion their economic interests. They also look like voters who made a smart bet in this regard, as the majority of these counties saw their annual pay grow faster under Trump pre-CCP Virus than during the most comparable Obama administration time frame.
And how did they vote earlier this month? Recounts and challenges could change some of the numbers we have already, but as of this writing, an overwhelming majority of these so-called “forgotten Americans” stuck with the President a second time around. So did nearly all of those whose economic fortunes – at least by that wage measure – improved faster under Mr. Trump than under his predecessor.
First the overall numbers. In 2016, 194 counties for which the aforementioned wage data are available from the Labor Department supported the Trump candidacy after voting Obama in 2008 and 2012. Three other counties for which no such data have been kept followed this pattern.
Of the 194, 173 (89.17 percent) stuck with the President this time around, along with two of the data-less counties. Just as important, of the 194, 116 (59.79 percent) saw faster pay growth under Mr. Trump than under Obama, and 102 of them (87.93 percent) pulled the lever for the President in 2020. To me, that adds up to a pretty powerful case that a great deal of the President’s appeal stemmed from his economic populist pitch.
These outcomes can’t possibly be either-or. That is, just because a flip county prospered more under Mr. Trump than under Obama doesn’t necessarily mean that this performance was foremost in every voter’s mind. And it can’t be assumed that counties that have supported the President despite worse relative economic performance were filled with racists and xenophobes and other deplorables.
Nonetheless, a strong relationship between greater prosperity for these flip counties and their support for the President held up well through Election 2020.
Of course, the presidential vote this time around was awfully close, especially in the six key battleground states where the talleys seem certain to decide the final outcome: Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Yet it doesn’t seem that the Trump flippers relatively few flops back to his Democratic opponent made much of a difference in any of these states.
Of the total 49 Trump flip counties in these states, only five flopped back last week. Moreover, the 49 were highly concentrated – 23 in Wisconsin alone, and 12 in Michigan. Arizona had none and Pennsylvania only three. Interestingly, two of the Wisconsin flippers supported Biden in 2020, as did two of their Pennsylvania counterparts. But even given the closeness of the statewide totals, their populations appear too small to have made a difference.
A stronger argument can be made for the floppers’ importance in three states that were not as close as expected. Iowa, for example, was long thought to be up for grabs despite the handy margin it gave candidate Trump four years ago. It’s arguable that his repeat performance in 2020 stemmed in part from the decision of all 27 Trump flip counties to remain in the Republican column.
Minnesota was considered a Trump possibility this year, since Mr. Trump came within five percentage points of victory in this traditional Democratic stronghold. But President Trump actually lost some ground this month, and the decision of four of the state’s 19 Trump flippers to support Joe Biden clearly didn’t help.
Finally, New Hampshire looked like another possible Trump pickup. But two of its three flip counties (including Coos, for which there’s no economic data), opted for Biden.
All told, the numbers represented by these shifts were pretty small, too. But they could have reflected changes in sentiment elsewhere in these states that accounted for the somewhat surprising outcomes. A similar argument can be made for the six high-profile battlegrounds, but in my view the number of floppers returning to the Democratic camp was so small that it’s much weaker.
Again, some or even many of these results could change in the near future. But if they don’t, then no doubt many of the Americans who agree with President Trump that they’d been forgotten before are hoping that they’re remembered better over the next four years.
battleground states, CCP Virus, coronavirus, COVID 19, election 2016, election 2020, Hillary Clinton, Hunter Biden, Im-Politic, Joe Biden, masks, Nancy Pelosi, political ads, polls, shy Trump vote, suburban women, suburbs, Trump, Wuhan virus
One big reason I’m not a betting person is that I hate a major difference between what I want to happen and what I think will happen. And that’s exactly the case with this year’s presidential election. In other words, although as I explained in a recent post and then amplified in a recent magazine article, I voted for President Trump (and by no means reluctantly), I’m convinced that his time in the White House is just about up.
Not that I’m certain of this outcome. To repeat a conclusion I’ve made to friends, family, and others in various circumstances, I completely accept the idea that the race has tightened substantially in Mr. Trump’s favor in recent months, and especially in toto in the six most discussed swing or battleground states (Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin). But today, as throughout the fall campaign, I’d rather be in Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s shoes.
In fact, I’m sticking with this position even though I’ve become somewhat more impressed with claims of a “shy Trump vote” – i.e., the notion that many Trump voters reached by pollsters don’t reveal their true preferences for various reasons or, similarly, that the same pollsters simply aren’t reaching a significant number of Trump supporters. My main reason? In an era of spreading Cancel Culture at the workplace and elsewhere, it’s entirely plausible that many Trump supporters fear expressing their actual preferences to strangers.
But to me, the most telling poll results stem precisely from those six battlegrounds, however increasingly close the race may be. And that’s because, even though the President carried them all in 2016 (generally by slim margins), and even though he’s the incumbent, they’re now thought to be up for grabs at all. In other words, even though Mr. Trump is now a known quantity (or because he’s a known quantity), and has had nearly a full term of presidential abilities to extend favors to these states, they’re still a heavy lift for him.
I sense, moreover, as just suggested, that his troubles in these “flyover America” regions stem from a political malady that he’s never been able to overcome – and perhaps has never wanted to overcome or dispel: Trump Fatigue Syndrome. I fully accept his insistence (and that of many supporters) that his tweets and other verbal brickbats have built and maintained a large and intensely loyal base (indeed, big enough to elect him President once). I also agree that his combative instincts have enabled him to survive ruthless opponents who, astoundingly, have even filled his own administration and other levels of the federal bureaucracy since his inauguration.
At the same time, it’s hardly a stretch to suppose that even a significant slice of Trump-world is anxious for a return of some semblance of normality to American politics, and that four more years of the President are sure to mean four more years of (partly needless) tumult. Most revealingly, even the President seems to accept this analysis. Why else would he be pleading (only half-jokingly) for the suburban women supposedly most offended by his style to “like him,” and defensively making that argument that his roughness has been the key to his survival? (I can’t find a link, but heard it when listening to one of his rally speeches yesterday.)
And what’s especially frustrating for a Trump supporter like myself: He could have been just as forceful and cutting a champion of his “forgotten Americans” constituencies, and just as much of a scornful scourge of the elites, with a just a little more subtlety and a little more selectivity in his targets.
Some appreciation of nuance, in fact, would have been particularly helpful in dealing with the CCP Virus. In between the kind of fear-mongering and consequent shutdown enthusiasm dominating press coverage and the rhetoric of Never Trumpers across the political spectrum, and the pollyannish optimism and mockery of modest mitigation measures like even limited mask wearing that was too often expressed by the President, could always be found a vast store of effective and actually constructive messaging strategies.
Collectively, they have represented a test of the kind of leadership deserving of political support, and have amounted to acknowledging squarely the difficulties of formulating effective pandemic policies and vigorously supporting targeted counter-measures while staving off the panic that Mr. Trump has (rightly) stated he wanted to prevent. Just as important: The President could have conveyed to the public the admittedly inconvenient but bedrock truth that forces of nature like highly contagious viruses can long resist the powers even of today’s technologically advanced societies. But this was a test that Mr. Trump flunked.
Speaking of forces of nature, the weather across the country today isn’t likely to help reelect the President, either. It looks to be bright and sunny nearly everywhere, with moderate temperatures. Those conditions figure to translate, all else equal, into high turnout, which tends to favor Democrats (even given the astronomical levels of early in-person and mail-in and ballot box voting).
Mr. Trump also faces an opponent who hasn’t been nearly as easy a mark for him as was Hillary Clinton in 2016. Biden’s lack of hard edges unmistakably helps here. But so, too, has his performance in the two presidential debates. As I’ve argued, they’ve belied Trumpist charges of mental and physical frailty. Even better for the former Vice President – he’s also held up more than well enough on the campaign trail. Sure, he’s given himself plenty of rest. But Biden’s increased pace of activity in the last two weeks or so should be enough to fend off a critical mass of doubts among undecided voters about his capacity to serve.
In addition, the Democratic nominee has clearly benefited from the Mainstream Media’s decision to suppress news about the possibly whopping corruption of the entire Biden family. However outrageous I or anyone else considers this cover-up, it’s had the undeniable effect of keeping from huge swathes of the electorate weeks worth of just about the worst news any political candidate could fear.
The Trump campaign might have partly filled this gap, and offset other vulnerabilities, with better advertising. But throughout this election year, most of the Trump ads I’ve seen have been as professional and reassuring as those cable spots for Chia Pets or Sham-Wow – complete with hucksterish voice-overs. Moreover, where on earth are high impact graphics like clips of Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi childishly ripping up copies of the President’s last State of the Union address? The videos recently aired at Trump rallies highlighting Biden’s dangerously clueless statements and policy record on China have been very effective. But boy, are they coming late in the day.
Also possibly revealing on the ad front – I see a lot of anti-Trump and pro-Biden ads on conservative-friendly and even transparently pro-Trump shows on Fox News. That’s clearly a sign of playing offense. According to this report, however, the Trump campaign hasn’t taken the fight to hostile territory like CNN and MSNBC to nearly this extent.
I’m not by any means arguing that “It’s over” for President Trump – much less than it has been for weeks. I’m convinced that he’ll be helped by an enthusiasm gap. I take seriously the reports of strong new voter registrations by Republicans, particularly in the key states, along with the evidence that minorities aren’t turning out for Democrats in places like south Florida. Nor, as mentioned earlier, is my faith in the polls remotely complete. But toting up the President’s relative strengths and weaknesses still places him in my underdog category. And unless Election 2016 repeats itself almost exactly, that ‘s no place for a winning political candidate to be.
As difficult as it might be to believe that the verbal knife fight of a presidential debate held Tuesday night changed absolutely nothing about the election campaign, it’s increasingly clear to me that it changed absolutely nothing about the election campaign.
Politically speaking, that’s bad news for President Trump. After all, however flawed the national and, more important, the state polls might be, they’re virtually all saying that Democratic challenger Joe Biden is in the lead. Yes, there may be a significant hidden Trump vote out there, comprised of folks who either are too embarrassed to tell canvassers their real preferences, or too mistrustful of strangers, period. Yes, an enthusiasm gap does seem to favor the President. Yes, both nationally and in some key swing states, the results are tightening. But the hidden vote hypothesis remains a mere hypothesis. Anti-Trump sentiment could well overcome the lukewarm feelings about Biden. And the narrowing hasn’t been major or uniform as best as I can tell.
Therefore, for the debate to have helped the President, he needed to throw the former Vice President considerably off his game, or Biden needed to stumble into major trouble on his own. Neither happened. And since Mr. Trump and many of his backers set the expectations bar for Biden so low with their constant “Sleepy Joe” refrain and insistence that the 77-year old Democrat was losing his marbles along with too much of his physical energy and stamina, Biden’s at-least-perfectly fine coherence and energy level earned him a solid passing grade, and for now surely reeassured many voters worried about his capacities.
Interestingly, in this vein, the Trump performance displayed almost no interest in overtures of the President’s own aimed at enhancing his appeal beyond his base. One possible exception: For the first 20 minutes or so, the President was actually even-toned and on-message. But for whatever reason (some successful early baiting by Biden, frustration with moderator Chris Wallace, surprise at Biden’s performance, an inability to maintain self-control, or some combination of these), Mr. Trump eventually reverted to quasi-rally mode.
So it’s evident that, unless he decides to become more “presidential” (for lack of a better word) – a tactic that may well be way too late to convince any late deciders in any case – the President will continue to bank mainly on achieving two goals: first, amping up the (considerable) base to ensure astronomical turnout; and second, convincing some in key Democratic voting blocs that Biden can’t be trusted – as with his Tuesday night dig that Biden’s rejection of the Green New Deal proper means that hes “lost the Left,” and his Kamala Harris-like attacks on the former Vice President’s record on racial issues. Not that the first claim in particular can possibly be reconciled with other Trump allegations that his opponent will let “Socialism” run wild. But in American politics, consistency doesn’t necessarily equal effectiveness. At the same time, if the aforementioned polls are generally accurate, this Trump tack hasn’t paid off sufficiently yet.
But pure politics and the debate’s impact on the election aside, it’s also important to deal with fears that the event’s rancor once more revealed an American political system that can no longer produce leaders with both the competence and the personal qualities needed by any society to remain reasonably united – and therefore adequately successful by any measure. Of course, Mr. Trump and his supporters seem to have generated the greatest concerns along these lines, but there’s no shortage of worries that Biden is simply (as per the Trump statements above) a pawn of equally angry and reckless groups on the Left.
What, however, is new to say on these scores? The country was deeply and angrily divided before Mr. Trump was elected. It’s been deeply and angrily divided now and obviously will remain so after November 3. America’s most successful Presidents – the ones to whom the nation is most indebted – have been unifiers and motivators across the political spectrum. Mr. Trump has failed abjectly here – and revealingly, he’s failed despite a solid pre-CCP Virus record on that supposedly supremely important political issue, the economy.
Whether you believe he’s fanned these flames or not (and his regular use of violent words and phrases to describe what he’d like to do, or see happen, to some opponents clearly qualifies in my view), his interest in mollifying any critic’s legitimate concerns is nowhere to be found. He appears to have no clue how many women and for how long (a) have been victims of sexual assault and harmful, derogatory physical and verbal treatment of all kinds and (b) how they and others are genuinely pained and outraged by the (unpunished) behavior revealed on the “Access Hollywood” tape and alleged in several other cases, and by appearance-based insults of women (whose vulnerability to such verbal abuse has mattered so much more than that aimed at men simply because society and culture have been so thoroughly sexist for so long).
Moreover, although it may technically be true that the United States has cured itself of most truly systemic racism, he’s equally insensitive to the impact of cursory denials of these claims, and of how African Americans could validly point out that, contrary to the Trump MAGA campaign slogan, the nation wasn’t remotely “Great” for them for most of its pre-Trump (or pre-Obama) history. (I’m aware that former President Bill Clinton invoked the same idea, but Trump hard-liners need to do better here than such “What About-ism.”)
Nevertheless, lots of What About-ism is justified when it comes to the reactions – and previous records – of so many Trump critics. Unless they should be absolved of all blame for the nation’s current hot mess? As I’ve urged so many Never Trumpers since the President began his first run for the White House in 2015, it’s not enough to decry his various offenses. The best way to defeat him and insure against any Trumpist revivals (whether led by Mr. Trump or not) is to address seriously the genuine grievances that created so much of his base in the first place. To this day, however, the Never Trumpers have not only failed miserably or shown no signs of learning curves whatever. They’ve bent over backwards and turned cartwheels – often in some of the most deluded and/or dangerously unethical ways imaginable – to justify remaining in deep denial.
How do I count the examples? They include:
>the glaringly obvious effort to politicize intelligence and law enforcement agencies to sabotage his presidency with Russia collusion charges that turned out to be not only phony but look to have been planted or spread by the camps of both his 2016 Democratic rival Hillary Clinton and of the late globalist neoconservative Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona — among others;
>the literally hysterical drive to impeach Trump based on an almost completely routine instance of diplomacy and foreign policymaking;
>the utterly shameless leaking and fabrications – by career bureaucrats and establishment Republicans with whom Trump needed to staff much of his administration for lack of a large enough cadre of talented and experienced populists and America Firsters – that helped foster and sustain these anti-Trump campaigns;
>the eagerness of the Mainstream Media to swallow the leakers’ claims on these and other subjects, and propagate them without any meaningful, on-the-record corroboration;
>the adamant refusal of McCain and other card-carrying members of the globalist bipartisan foreign policy Blob to admit to the disasters their strategies produced (the Iraq nation-building effort, their gushing and often bought-and-paid-for support of the rise of China), and to acknowledge the possibility of viable alternatives;
>the mind-bogglingly hypocritical attacks on the Trump China and other tariffs by Congressional Democrats and labor leaders who spent literally decades calling for the exact same policies in order to improve working- and middle-class economic fortunes;
>the transformation of support for more lenient but still sane immigration policies into thinly-disguised support for an Open Borders approach (epitomized by the backing of every Democratic candidate at this primary debate for providing free government healthcare to illegal aliens);
>the full-throated endorsement by growing numbers of progressives and other Democrats of dangerously divisive identity politics, education as outright propaganda, and authoritarian curbs on free expression;
>and perhaps most tragically ironic of all, the now common calls for anti-Trump and other forms of violence by Democrats – including Biden.
All of which leaves much of the country with a dispiritingly Hobson’s Choice. I continue making it as I have since it became apparent that Mr. Trump was in the 2016 race to stay: If I could have chosen anyone in the U.S. population to stand for a critical mass of the public policies I’ve long supported, Mr. Trump wouldn’t have been in the first 95 percent of my choices – for all the inexperience and personality-related reasons that were on everyone’s mind.
But against virtually all expectations (including my own) he prevailed against a large, experienced Republican field. And for the reasons described above, his Democratic opponent struck me as being both unacceptable on most issues and dwnright scary on the intangibles.
Four years later, I see the same situation – though my fears about Trump’s opponents now go way beyond Biden himself. So I’ll make the same choice. I’m also left with these observations and (unanswered) questions, which first appeared in a 2018 article in connection with U.S. foreign policy, but which apply to all other major issues as well:
“….American elections have brought to power any number of mainstream politicians, and through them any number of policy operatives, skilled, experienced, and knowledgeable enough to maintain the status quo competently and even effect important reforms. And as shown by Trump’s election, the White House can be won by an outsider with avowedly disruptive ambitions who is largely unfamiliar with Washington’s formal and informal levers of power (and lacking an advisory corps large and savvy enough to at least partly tame the federal bureaucracy).
“But what is still unknown is whether a leader unconventional enough to develop or support truly innovative foreign policy ideas can rise to the top through the current political system and all of its stay-the-course influences and incentives. Equally uncertain—can the world outside mainstream political and policy circles produce a leader both willing to think and act outside establishment boxes, yet versed enough in its ways to achieve transformational goals? And perhaps most important of all: can the nation produce such a leader before war or depression make overhaul unavoidable.”
Barack Obama, collusion, election 2016, FBI, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Im-Politic, James Comey, Justice Department, Logan Act, Michael T. Flynn, Mueller investigation, Russia, Sally B. Yates, Sergey Kislyak, Susan E. Rice, Trump, William P. Barr
So let’s wade right into the (latest) Michael T. Flynn uproar.
Unless you’ve been living under the proverbial rock for the past few weeks, you know that Flynn is the former Army Lieutenant General and head of the Pentagon’s intelligence chief (during the Obama administration) who served briefly as President Trump’s national security adviser. He resigned in February, 2017 after stating that he misled Vice President Mike Pence about the content of conversations he held during the transition period with Russia’s ambassador to the United States. That December, he was indicted by the Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Trump Russia collusion investigators for lying to the FBI during interviews in January with Bureau agents in the course of their investigation into his activities, and also pled guilty to the charges.
More recently, after Flynn sought to withdraw this plea, Attorney General William P. Barr appointed a career federal prosecutor to review the case, and in light of newly released FBI documents indicating serious irregularities in the Bureau’s handling of the case, Barr agreed to the prosecutor’s recommendation that the case be dismissed altogether. A federal judge will make the final decision.
This summary, though, scarcely begins to do justice to all the ins and outs and other complexities of the Flynn case. Dealing with them would require a post even longer than this one will be! But one dimension of the case with unusual importance concerns former President Obama’s actions, specifically because of the recent declassification of an email written by his own former national security adviser, Susan E. Rice, about a meeting held among Obama, former Vice President and presumptive Democratic Party presidential nominee Joe Biden, and the former heads of the FBI and Justice Department.
The Obama angle has of course generated claims that his administration’s handling of Flynn and other aspects of its investigation of the Trump campaign’s interactions with Russia amount to a major scandal – which Mr. Trump himself calls “Obamagate” and which others portray as nothing less than an effort to overthrow his presidency. To me, these charges should be looked into, but remain to be proved. (In fact, the Justice Department is probing the entire investigation into Russian election interference and the Trump campaign that took place during the Obama years, and the long-awaited report seems likely to be released before Election Day.)
In the absence of this report, what interests me right now is the question of why Obama didn’t quash the FBI investigation of Flynn during that January 5 meeting – which took place just over two weeks before his presidency officially ended. And the Rice email makes clear just how fishy his decision was.
According to this communication, which Rice sent to herself on Inauguration Day, the January 5 White House meeting was “a brief follow-on conversation” that took place right after Obama, Biden, Acting Attorney General Sally B. Yates, FBI Director James Comey, and Rice were briefed by the leaders of the intelligence community “on Russian hacking during the 2016 Presidential election.” And Flynn was a major subject of the conversation.
Flynn was highlighted due to the former President’s professed determination to (in Rice’s words) “be sure that as we engage with the incoming [Trump] team [during the transition], we are mindful to ascertain if there is any reason that we cannot share information fully as it relates to Russia.”
Comey responded (in Rice’s words again), “that he does have some concerns that incoming NSA [national security adviser] Flynn is speaking frequently with Russian Ambassador [Sergey] Kislyak. Comey said that could be an issue as it relates to sharing sensitive information.”
Now comes something really important. Rice continued:
“President Obama asked if Comey was saying that the NSC [National Security Council] should not pass sensitive information related to Russia to Flynn. Comey replied ‘potentially.’ He added that he has no indication thus far that Flynn has passed classified information to Kislyak, but he noted that ‘the level of communication is unusual.’
“The President asked Comey to inform him if anything changes in the next few weeks that should affect how we share classified information with the incoming team. Comey said he would.”
This Obama response is what raises so many questions. First, back in late January, 2017, the Washington Post reported that the FBI “in late December reviewed intercepts of communications between the Russian ambassador to the United States and retired Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn — national security adviser to then-President-elect Trump….”
This report was confirmed in the exhibits accompanying the Justice Department’s May 7, 2020 motion to dismiss the charges against Flynn. So apparently, Comey was privy to the Flynn-Kislyak conversations more than two weeks before the January 5 meeting with Obama. During that time, the Rice email states, he reported finding no evidence, or even any “indication,” that Flynn had passed sensitive information to Russia. All he said he uncovered information that he interpreted “potentially” meant that Flynn was untrustworthy.
At least as important, there’s compelling evidence that Obama himself knew the content of the Flynn-Kislyak conversations. It comes in the form of testimony given by Yates to the Mueller investigators in September, 2017 and described in a September 7 FBI description contained in Exhibit 4 (page 2) of the Justice Department’s motion to dismiss. She stated that during the January 5 meeting, Obama revealed he had “learned of the information about Flynn,” including not only about the fact that the conversations took place, but about their key subject.
Yates added that Obama at that point specified that he didn’t want “any additional information on the matter” (the FBI’s phrasing) but wanted enough provided (presumably to his aides) to guide the outgoing administration as to whether Flynn could be trusted. In other words, not only does Yates’ testimony add a crucial detail. It also supports the essentials of Rice’s account.
Of course, if the former President was aware of what Flynn and Kislyak discussed, he also must have known that no classified information had been passed to the Russian. Nor according to Rice did he express any other concerns.
And this episode doesn’t mark the first time that Obama was surely made aware that an FBI investigation of Flynn had turned up nothing legitimately troubling. For on August 16, 2016, as documented in Exhibit 2 of the motion to disniss, the Bureau began probing whether Flynn, who it identified as a foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign,
“is being directed and controlled by and/or coordinating activities with the Russian Federation in a manner which may be a threat to the national security and/or possibly a violation of the Foreign Agents Registration Act [which requires any Americans working for foreign government, political parties, individuals, or other principals – though not U.S. affiliates of foreign-owned companies – to register with the Justice Department and report the nature of the relationship].”
Sounds pretty serious, right? Except in a January 4, 2017 memo – presented as Exhibit 1 of the motion to dismiss – the Bureau’s Washington field office reported its decision to close this investigation because the probe could identify “no derogatory information.” Is it remotely conceivable that no one told the former President?
The story of this particular investigation, however, doesn’t stop there. The memo not only wasn’t approved. As the motion to dismiss recounts (page 4), ostensibly because the FBI’s top leaders (including Comey) had learned of the Flynn-Kislyak conversations, they kept the Flynn probe alive – even though, presumably, they knew they contained no incriminating or otherwise disturbing material, or certainly never reported such to Obama, including up to and including the January 5 meeting.
The transcripts, though, suggested another possibility for nailing Flynn – a possible violation of the the Logan Act. But this course of action was pretty problematic, too. This law, dating from 1798 aimed at preventing private American citizens or other legal residents from interfering with the conduct of U.S. diplomacy.
That’s an entirely legitimate purpose. But throughout the entirety of American history, only two individals have even been indicted for violating the act (most recently, in 1853) and neither was convicted.
The FBI’s interest in such possible Flynn transgressions seems to have originated in purported Obama administration worries that before Inauguration Day, Flynn was engaged in such interference on two different fronts – an upcoming United Nations vote to condemn Israel, and a December 29 Obama decision to sanction Russia on the grounds of election interference.
Yet Flynn ultimately wasn’t indicted (and convicted) for anything having to do with the Logan Act, or anything having to do with his Russia conversations or with the UN business. His only alleged crime (to which he pled guilty) was making materially false statements and omissions” to the FBI about these subjects.
At this point, an obvious choice must have confronted Obama – who must have known that the transcripts absolved Flynn of the most serious offense he was suspected of committing – handing major official secrets to the Russians. He could have told Comey that further investigation of Flynn was pointless and to drop the matter – either because more than two recent weeks of surveillance had turned up nothing alarming; or because Flynn would begin serving in the new Trump administration only two weeks down the road, and would then have been entitled to view all the U.S government’s classified information; or because Obama realized that the Logan Act concerns were excuses for further surveillance of Flynn. Or he could have told Comey to continue (because he didn’t care why Flynn was pursued as long as the effort succeeded), along with directing Rice and all other U.S. officials to suspend sharing intelligence concerning Russia (or any other subject) with the Trump team (more out of some motive other than because of any genuine security concerns).
Instead, he told Comey to “inform him if anything changes in the next few weeks” – but also permitted Rice to continue intelligence sharing as normal. We know this because a May 19 statement by Rice’s lawyer on her behalf said that the former Obama aide “did not alter the way she briefed Michael Flynn on Russia as a result of Director Comey’s response.” This outcome, it must be noted, also supports the claim that Obama had no important security concerns about Flynn. All the same, Comey’s pursuit of Flynn remained ongoing.
Unless Rice defied the President’s instructions despite her lawyer’s claim? If not, and they were followed, then why didn’t Obama at any point between January 5 and the end of his administration halt the Comey investigation? Unless he did and Comey continued anyway? Possibly because the FBI chief wished to follow the former President’s instructions even after Obama had left office? Whatever Comey’s motives, his pursuit of Flynn didn’t stop, and led to the January 24 FBI interview with the new national security adviser.
Interestingly, that session also undercuts the idea that the Obama administration’s beef against Flynn had anything to do with national security. For a partly declassified version of the FBI’s report on the January 24 meeting shows that neither of the agents who spoke with Flynn even brought up the matter of illegally passing classified or any sensitive information to Kislyak. Their exclusive concerns were Logan Act-related issues.
A final (for now) weird item: In its indictment, the Justice Department contended that “FLYNN’s false statements and omissions impeded and otherwise had a material impact on the FBI’s ongoing investigation into the existence of any links or coordination between individuals associated with the Campaign and Russia’s efforts to interfere with the 2016 presidential election.”
But of course, Flynn’s conversations with Kislyak took place after the election, not during the campaign. The only way they could have been related to the Trump campaign collusion allegations would be if they were the result of some secret deals concerning Russia policy made by Flynn or anyone else in the campaign with Moscow. Yet the exhaustive Mueller investigation of these matters found insufficient evidence to charge anyone in the Trump campaign with the crime of conspiring “with representatives of the Russian government to interfere in the 20q6 election.” And Flynn’s activities were included.
As mentioned above, the above analysis by no means exhausts all the questions raised by the Flynn uproar – including about Flynn’s dealings with foreign clients; about whether the FBI agents who interviewed Flynn concluded he was lying, or simply believed that his memory was faulty at time (and whether Comey himself was certain of Flynn’s dishonesty, as per the motion to dismiss, Exhibit 13, pages 3 and 4, and Exhibit 5, page 10, respectively); and about why, if the Obama administration viewed Flynn as a major threat to national security, no one ever told President-elect Trump promptly of their concerns, and instead chose a prosecution route that permitted Flynn to occupy an extremely crucial position for three weeks – and that risked his continuing in that post had he performed more skillfully during his session with the FBI.
Former Obama Acting Attorney General Yates has testified to Congress that she did tell then Trump White House Counsel Donald McGahn that Flynn’s false statements were known by the Russians, and therefore made him vulnerable to blackmail. But this warning wasn’t given until January 26 – six days after Mr. Trump assumed office, and Flynn became national security adviser.
And then there’s perhaps the biggest Flynn-related mystery of all: whether the next few weeks will see more questions, or more answers.
“…acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney told reporters the U.S. aid was withheld at least in part because of a request to have Ukraine investigate unfounded allegations that foreign countries assisted Democrats in the 2016 election.”
–Politico, October 17, 2019
“Ukrainian government officials tried to help Hillary Clinton and undermine Trump by publicly questioning his fitness for office. They also disseminated documents implicating a top Trump aide in corruption and suggested they were investigating the matter, only to back away after the election. And they helped Clinton’s allies research damaging information on Trump and his advisers, a Politico investigation found.”
– Politico, January 11, 2017
(Sources: “Mulvaney acknowledges Ukraine aid was withheld to boost political probe,” by Quint Forgey, Politico, October 17, 2019, https://www.politico.com/news/2019/10/17/mulvaney-confirms-ukraine-aid-2016-probe-050156 and “Ukrainian efforts to sabotage Trump backfire,” by Kenneth P. Vogel and David Stern, Ibid., https://www.politico.com/story/2017/01/ukraine-sabotage-trump-backfire-233446)
Terence P. Stewart
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