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Trump’s army of darkness

Still image from Army of Darkness (1992).

Days ago when Junior (possibly stoned) posted an inexplicably gonzo Trump campaign ad (below), it was already clear that Trump was ready to use mob tactics to disrupt the election.

Kevin Drum observes at Mother Jones:

It’s 1981 all over again. Trump Jr. is recruiting “an army” to provide “election security,” and I think everyone with more than a room temperature IQ knows what that means. It means descending in force on polling places in Black neighborhoods and trying to scare people into staying away. This is what Republicans routinely did until a judge stopped them, and it’s what they’re going to do again now that a judge has removed the leash. Apparently 40 years wasn’t enough.

For those not familiar with what happened in 1981, here is a little primer.

With the 1982 consent decree finally lifted, Republicans are throwing their ballot security machine back into high gear just as their presidential candidate prepares to throw sand into the gears of democracy.

Tuesday in Philadelphia was just a taste:

For those needing reminding, here is who Mike Roman is (from ProPublica):

Mike Roman, who led the surveillance and intelligence-gathering unit for billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch before it was disbanded in April 2016, is best known for promoting a video showing members of the New Black Panthers allegedly intimidating voters outside a Philadelphia polling place in 2008. That controversial video of two men yelling racial slurs led to infighting and political recriminations inside the Justice Department and became a flash point for conservative media.

The incident in question involves one of Junior’s Army for Trump’s paid volunteers the Inquirer’s Ellie Rushing tried to interview:

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To be clear, there are no polling places open in Philadelphia yet, just satellite elections offices. The Philadelphia Inquirer explains:

The Trump campaign has no poll watchers approved to work in Philadelphia at the moment. There are no actual polling places open in the city right now. And elections officials are following coronavirus safety regulations such as those limiting the number of people indoors.

It’s true that voters were casting ballots Tuesday, but the locations where they were doing so are satellite elections offices where mail ballots can be requested, completed, and submitted. Poll watchers don’t have the same rights at such locations as they do at traditional polling places on Election Day, officials said.

“We don’t give someone a poll watcher certificate to… watch somebody fill out their ballot at their kitchen table,” said Al Schmidt, a Republican and one of the city commissioners who run elections.

Catch that? Poll watcher certificate required. That ID is issued by the Board of Elections to people designated as poll observers by the local party. A small number are allowed inside at one time.

What this incident suggests is Trump’s army of unschooled goons will believe they can simply march into any polling place like it’s Comet Ping Pong, uncredentialled, on his campaign’s say-so or because they volunteered online, to save the election for their cult leader. Trump is essentially sending them in to get ejected or arrested so he can use it to “prove” mischief is going on and his people are persecuted. If widespread, this could be, you know, bad.

But wait! There’s more!

Here in North Carolina, election officials began counting absentee ballots Tuesday night. And guess what?

“The Trump campaign sent a letter to all Republicans on county election boards, urging them to disregard new state guidelines for absentee-by-mail ballots,” reports WRAL.

Election boards are under instructions to ignore any “instructions” offered by political parties. The point may not be to get Republicans to openly defy state law. But their leader is letting them know what will and will not please him. And they want to please him.

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GötterDonnyrung

So, this all seems … horrible. — Bruce Banner in The Avengers (2012)

Is international humiliation too strong for describing Tuesday’s unpresidential, er, debate?

Donald J. Trump, ostensibly President of the United States, was one grain alcohol and branch water short of a rant about fluoridation and precious bodily fluids.

Those who sat through last night’s performance in disgust saw the United States of America disgraced not for past war crimes, no, but for lacking maturity. Even as the world’s oldest democracy, the world sometimes sees the U.S. as an adolescent nation. Tuesday night proved it. A mature nation would never tolerate an unbalanced, 70-something toddler in its highest office.

The world watched, mouth agape.

Der Spiegel:

Sydney Morning Herald:

Trump will be pleased, from the Financial Times:

And Agence France-Presse’s Sino Daily:

Moderator Chris Wallace quickly lost control as Donald J. Trump repeatedly interrupted and spoke over Joe Biden. Biden interrupted Trump some. Both spoke over each other. Chris Wallace tried to call down Trump:

Chris Wallace: I’m going to ask a question about race, but if you want to answer about something else, go ahead. But I think that the country would be better served, if we allowed both people to speak with fewer interruptions. I’m appealing to you, sir, to do that.

President Donald J. Trump: Well, and him too.

Chris Wallace: Well, frankly, you’ve been doing more interrupting than he has.

“What happened on that debate stage was unlike anything that’s ever happened on a presidential debate stage,” MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow said after the “show” ended. “This sort of debate shouldn’t happen in a democracy.”

The debate took place the day the after a federal court convicted, Christopher Cantwell of extortion and making threats. Cantwell is the famous “Crying Nazi” of Charlottesville’s Unite the Right rally in which several people were injured and one died when a white supremacist named James Alex Fields Jr. rammed his car into counter-protesters. For crimes unrelated to his participation at Charlottesville, Cantwell faces up to 22 years in prison.

Whatever little substance there was disappeared in a wash of misbehavior by Trump as Wallace noted. But there was one exchange that defined the night.

CHRIS WALLACE: You have repeatedly criticized the vice president for not specifically calling out Antifa and other left wing extremist groups. But are you willing tonight to condemn white supremacists and militia group and to say that they need to stand down and not add to the violence in a number of these cities as we saw in Kenosha and as we’ve seen in Portland.

DONALD TRUMP: Sure, I’m willing to do that.

CHRIS WALLACE: Are you prepared specifically to do it.

DONALD TRUMP: I would say almost everything I see is from the left wing not from the right wing.

CHRIS WALLACE: But what are you saying?

DONALD TRUMP: I’m willing to do anything. I want to see peace.

CHRIS WALLACE: Well, do it, sir.

JOE BIDEN: Say it, do it say it.

DONALD TRUMP: What do you want to call them? Give me a name, give me a name, go ahead who do you want me to condemn.

CHRIS WALLACE: White supremacist and white militia.

JOE BIDEN: Proud Boys.

DONALD TRUMP: Proud Boys, stand back and stand by. But I’ll tell you what somebody’s got to do something about Antifa and the left because this is not a right wing problem this is a left wing.

JOE BIDEN: He’s own FBI Director said unlike white supremacist, Antifa is an idea not an organization-

DONALD TRUMP: Oh you got to be kidding me.

JOE BIDEN: … not a militia. That’s what his FBI Director said.

DONALD TRUMP: Well, then you know what, he’s wrong.

CHRIS WALLACE: We’re done, sir. Moving onto the next… [crosstalk]

Right-wing extremists immediately celebrated online. One prominent Proud Boys supporter on the conservative social media site Parler said (per the Washington Post) that Trump “appeared to give permission for attacks on protesters, adding that ‘this makes me so happy.’ ”

SITE Intelligence Group, which tracks far-right groups found:

… that Telegram channels devoted to neo-Nazis and white supremacists portrayed Trump’s comments as signals of support for them. The Proud Boys dispute characterizations of them as white supremacists, but their actions often are touted by white supremacists and others on far-right political fringes.

“He legitimized them in a way that nobody in the community expected. It’s unbelievable. The celebration is incredible,” said Rita Katz, executive director of SITE. “In my 20 years of tracking terrorism and extremism, I never thought I’d see anything like this from a U.S. president.”

Grown men who throw violent tantrums if they don’t get what they want have their avatar.

Trump went from that to further undermining the legitimacy of the election he believes he cannot win. He would not even pledge not to steal the election.

“I am urging my supporters to go into the polls and watch very carefully, because that’s what has to happen,” Trump said. He would not refuse to send his supporters into the streets if he loses, alleging there may already be massive fraud.

“This is not going to end well,” Trump said.

It already hasn’t.

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Keep it all inside…

I think this analysis of what we can expect from the debate by former Obama staffer Dan Pfeiffer is pretty good:

There are two ways to think about tonight’s massive audience. One one hand, 80 million people is a shitload of people. On the the other hand, 80 million people is less than half of the expected voter turnout this year. The handful of voters still deciding between Trump and Biden and the larger handful deciding between voting and not voting will disproportionately be in the half that doesn’t watch tonight. To the extent they know what happens, it will be through press coverage, online chatter, and viral clips. After Barack Obama lost the first debate to Mitt Romney in 2012, impressions of his performance got worse over time. In focus groups conducted the night of the debate, voters thought Obama underwhelmed. Within a few days, our polling showed voters thought the debate was an epic, potentially campaign ending disaster. This shift was not because people went back and watched the debate to reevaluate Obama’s showing. A narrative formed that Obama got his ass kicked (a narrative that was driven by some preemptive panic from liberal commentators).

That narrative was then consumed by the majority of the electorate that didn’t watch the debate via cable news, Twitter and Facebook. How the debate performances are framed, which moments the press focuses on, and what clips go viral will be more impactful on the campaign than what happens on the stage tonight. We all have the opportunity and responsibility to shape that narrative by pushing out Joe Biden’s best moments and pushing back on the misinformation that will go unchecked by the moderator.

This is important:

A decent amount of the voters and 100 percent of the reporters watching the debate will be doing so through a two screen experience. One eye on the TV and one eye on Twitter. Opinions about the performances of the candidates will be algorithmically affected. The moments that take off online early in the debate will be the most consequential because they will be shared the most and be seen repeatedly by people throughout the debate. Early reactions positive or negative will shape opinions of every subsequent moment. In an online world, failure and success tend to compound over time.

RT-thirsty reporters and pundits will be racing to make declarative statements about who won and lost. The earlier the declaration is made, the more attention said declaration will get. In 2012, Ben Smith of Buzzfeed declared Romney the winner of the first debate long before the debate was over. Knowing the Biden debate prep team as I do (they are best in the business), I am confident they are trying to front load some of his better moments for the first third of the debate.

[…]

The debate is here. There is nothing we can do about it so we might as well sit back, try to relax and watch for the moments that matter. One piece of advice: If you are a Biden supporter and you feel like channelling your panic into a tweet — don’t.

Develop an inner-monologue.

That last is good advice. If you’re panicking, please keep it all inside.

A shamelessly hypocritical movement in every way

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But this shamelessness goes all the way to the top. This piece by McCay Coppins should enrage the conservative evangelical Christians who love Trump but it won’t:

One day in 2015, Donald Trump beckoned Michael Cohen, his longtime confidant and personal attorney, into his office. Trump was brandishing a printout of an article about an Atlanta-based megachurch pastor trying to raise $60 million from his flock to buy a private jet. Trump knew the preacher personally—Creflo Dollar had been among a group of evangelical figures who visited him in 2011 while he was first exploring a presidential bid. During the meeting, Trump had reverently bowed his head in prayer while the pastors laid hands on him. Now he was gleefully reciting the impious details of Dollar’s quest for a Gulfstream G650.

Trump seemed delighted by the “scam,” Cohen recalled to me, and eager to highlight that the pastor was “full of shit.”

“They’re all hustlers,” Trump said.

The president’s alliance with religious conservatives has long been premised on the contention that he takes them seriously, while Democrats hold them in disdain. In speeches and interviews, Trump routinely lavishes praise on conservative Christians, casting himself as their champion. “My administration will never stop fighting for Americans of faith,” he declared at a rally for evangelicals earlier this year. It’s a message his campaign will seek to amplify in the coming weeks as Republicans work to confirm Amy Coney Barrett—a devout, conservative Catholic—to the Supreme Court.

But in private, many of Trump’s comments about religion are marked by cynicism and contempt, according to people who have worked for him. Former aides told me they’ve heard Trump ridicule conservative religious leaders, dismiss various faith groups with cartoonish stereotypes, and deride certain rites and doctrines held sacred by many of the Americans who constitute his base.

Reached for comment, a White House spokesman said that “people of faith know that President Trump is a champion for religious liberty and the sanctity of life, and he has taken strong actions to support them and protect their freedom to worship. The president is also well known for joking and his terrific sense of humor, which he shares with people of all faiths.”

From the outset of his brief political career, Trump has viewed right-wing evangelical leaders as a kind of special-interest group to be schmoozed, conned, or bought off, former aides told me. Though he faced Republican primary opponents in 2016 with deeper religious roots—Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee—Trump was confident that his wealth and celebrity would attract high-profile Christian surrogates to vouch for him.

“His view was ‘I’ve been talking to these people for years; I’ve let them stay at my hotels—they’re gonna endorse me. I played the game,’” said a former campaign adviser to Trump, who, like others quoted in this story, spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe private conversations.

It helped that Trump seemed to feel a kinship with prosperity preachers—often evincing a game-recognizes-game appreciation for their hustle. The former campaign adviser recalled showing his boss a YouTube video of the Israeli televangelist Benny Hinn performing “faith healings,” while Trump laughed at the spectacle and muttered, “Man, that’s some racket.” On another occasion, the adviser told me, Trump expressed awe at Joel Osteen’s media empire—particularly the viewership of his televised sermons.

Of course he did. He is one of them — a con artist.

That $750.00 is a killer

Donald Trump 'won't take one penny' of £320,000 President's salary | World  | News | Express.co.uk

The NY Times had this today:

[T]here was quiet concern within the campaign, where aides took note of daily tracking numbers from Rasmussen Reports, a typically rosy assessment of how the president is faring, that showed support falling after the tax report. Among Mr. Trump’s circle, there was finger-pointing about how the issue was handled and a hesitancy to discuss with him an issue they know he is sensitive about.

Even Rasmussen…

Needless to say, nobody could ever talk to him about this. But let’s not forget that they did more than that. They enabled him to hide those returns on several levels. They fought the congressional demand for the taxes, despite the clear language of the statute that allowed them to get them. They have fought state and local prosecutors subpoenas for his financial records, using spurious arguments that aren’t worthy of anyone with a law degree. And they have ignored his massive graft and corruption as president and decided his monumental conflicts of interest and vulnerability to blackmail and bribes from foreign actors isn’t as important as getting one more judge on the federal bench.

Oh, and the Mueller team didn’t look at Trump’s finances because they were so afraid of being fired if they did and that’s just sad.

It’s fairly obvious that nobody wanted to confront him about any of it. In fact, they were fine with it. So here he is, on the verge of re-election and now he’s been exposed as the tax cheat he is. I don’t expect any Republican officials to say a word about it. And his voters will stick with him. But it could persuade a handful of undecided voters that he’s even worse than they thought. Maybe.

Wishy-washy brass

Trump salute to N. Korean general sparks controversy

CHUCK TODD: What did you — what went through your head on June 1st when you saw what happened at Lafayette Square?

LT. GEN. H.R. McMASTER: Well, it was just wrong. It was, you know, more than unfortunate because what we can’t do — and this is really across the political spectrum, Chuck, which really bothers me these days — we can’t try to pull the military into politics. Some of the things the president said I think have been irresponsible. But often times, the reaction to what he says is equally irresponsible. So I think all politicians have a responsibility of keeping that bold line in place.

This latest round of interviews by HR McMaster illustrates perfectly what I think we’re going to see from a whole lot of Republicans if Trump loses. Oh, I was very critical but I also criticized the other side for its reactions to him. They are just as much as fault for everything that happened as he was. And I, in my infinite “adult in the room” superiority, am the real conservative who is now going to save the country from irresponsible left now that Trump is gone. You need to put us back in power as soon as possible. ..

It is going to be infuriating, because they were just cowards who enabled Trump as much as possible even though they knew he was destroying the country. They just wanted the Democrats to do their dirty work and get rid of him so they could step in afterwards and tut-tut what it took to do that.

Here he is on Andrea Mitchell’s show managing to say that Trump’s foreign policy is really just like Obama’s — not good, exactly, but you really can’t hold it against the president since Obama was just as bad as he is.

Jonathan Chait had a smart piece last week about this situation:

The Republican Establishment perspective is perfectly reflected by the Wall Street Journal editorial page. The Journal editorial strategy is to cluck its tongue every few months at one of the president’s more counterproductively deranged outbursts, while ignoring his substantive abuses, resolutely opposing any measures to subject him to accountability or oversight, and occasionally mocking anybody who deems his authoritarian maneuvers dangerous.

Today’s Journal editorial is especially comic. Its main thrust is that delusional Democrats (not to mention formerly loyal Republicans now rallying to defend the rule of law from his predations) are going to make a big deal over the no-peaceful-transition thing:

The sad reality is that Democratic opinion leaders have been waiting for a Reichstag fire moment from the minute Mr. Trump took office. Their thirst to be vindicated has grown more intense as his term draws to a close. Perhaps they want to save face after misunderstanding their country and its citizens so fundamentally for four years.

The Reichstag fire is a dodge favored by anti-anti-Trumpists. Despite the popular misconception, it is historically rare for a democracy to perish in a sudden dramatic gesture. Every democracy expert who has been sounding the alarms has been patiently explaining that the threat is not a fascist coup, but a slow breakdown of democratic norms, enabled by mainstream allies who would rather cooperate with authoritarian allies on their own side than allow the opposition to win.

It is true that Trump has limited tools at his disposal with which to operationalize his authoritarian impulses. He has, however, already weakened or disabled a number of constraints. Trump has, among other activities, been busy:

Stoking baseless claims that mail balloting is inherently fraudulent

Calling armed supporters into the streets

Advocating violence against reporters

Strong-arming companies to support him politically

Promising pardons to government employees and co-conspirators who break the law on his behalf

Firing officials who refuse to violate the law on his behalf

Refusing outright to cooperate with any congressional oversight

Just today, his son is on social media, in an official campaign message, raising an “army” of supporters to come to the polls.

The election will probably proceed in a peaceful fashion, largely because Trump will probably lose by a margin too wide for him to cheat. But given the high-magnitude impact of the other scenarios, working to safeguard the republic seems like a worthwhile precaution.

The Journal explains there’s nothing to worry about, since the military has been raising alarms about his authoritarian inclinations. “As for the notion that Mr. Trump could execute a coup—he’s been warring with his own security agencies as long as he’s been in office,” the editorial coos. “He’s been denounced by dozens of retired generals, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff apologized for appearing with him publicly during the unrest in Washington, D.C.”

I’m not sure this point means what the Journal thinks it does. Yes, after Trump ordered the military to violently attack a completely peaceful protest in June, several military officials expressed their regrets afterward. And yes, as the New York Times reports today, Trump’s expressed desire to quell additional peaceful protests “has incited deep anxiety among senior military and Defense Department leaders.” If Trump tries to order troops to crack down on protests that may follow his expected attempt to discredit the election or cut short vote counting, there will likely be pushback. It seems odd to understand this state of affairs as reason to laugh at the silly liberals who worry about the president’s authoritarianism.

The actual scenario that most concerns the opposition is that Trump’s Republican allies in state legislatures will cite disputes over mail ballots as a pretext to appoint Trump electors, regardless of the intent of the voters in their state. Notably, neither the Journal nor any leading Republicans have renounced such a step.

What’s unfortunate about Trump’s threat, complains the editorial, is that it “hands Democrats a ready-made line of attack in Supreme Court confirmation hearings” and his reckless comments give credence to Democratic hysteria, and he should clarify his views if he doesn’t want to lose more voters who think he lacks the temperament or self-control for the office.” (Genghis Khan’s ill-advised threat to burn Samarkand to cinders just feeds into the narrative that he’s some kind of “bloodthirsty conqueror.”)

Trump of course has clarified his views. He has clarified them for decades, since he began praising authoritarian rulers who forcefully suppress popular demonstrations in Russia or China, or refusing to accept the result of the 2016 election, or calling for the mass imprisonment of his political opponents and independent media.

The Journal doesn’t want him to “clarify his views.” It wishes he would obscure them, for the convenience of his allies who are trying to deny their existence.

I wish I could say that libertarians and progressives were different. But there’s quite a bit of tut-tutting going on from those quarters as well. There is going to be a full-blown festival of Superior Dancing, from a whole lot of people if Trump loses. If he wins, well, we have much bigger problems.

This person was once considered a frontrunner for the 2012 eection

Ed Kilgore:

[Now] that Murkowski is back in the news again for vacillating on a Trump Supreme Court nominee, Palin is back as well, this time with a rather peculiar homemade video that she put up on Instagram. It’s very much worth the two-and-a-half-minute viewing time:

I don’t know if this means Palin has been taking some sort of community-college filmmaking course or has developed a previously obscured artsy touch. I do think it’s likely Murkowski may welcome a Palin 2022 challenge as one that would dry up more credible opposition by attracting national wing-nut money to Mama Bear’s cause. It is clear Palin will do just about anything to stay in the public eye, as illustrated by her performance of “Baby Got Back” on The Masked Singer earlier this year:

I’ve been known to hoist a few from time to time. But I know better than to go out and film something and put it on the internet when I’m in that condition.

By the way, this is from a couple of months ago, which may explain this a little bit:

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and her husband of more than 30 years, Todd Palin, quietly finalized their divorce this spring, according to court records.

Though the case has long been sealed from view, the docket shows their divorce was granted on March 23 after a non-contested hearing, which an Alaska court official confirmed.

Todd first filed for divorce on Sept. 6 — his 55th birthday. In his initial complaint, he cited “incompatibility of temperament between the parties such that they find it impossible to live together as husband and wife.” (Such language is not dissimilar from “irreconcilable differences” in other divorces.)

Todd was seeking joint custody of their youngest son, Trig, and fair division of their assets, according to his complaint. Other documents in the case were kept confidential after it was sealed, though the docket shows no child support order was issued.

Sarah, Todd and their attorneys in the split did not return messages seeking comment this week.

In her only public interview about the end of her marriage, Sarah, 56, told Dr. James Dobson in a podcast last fall that “a week after our 31st anniversary is when he [Todd] filed.”

“It’s not easy to talk about,” she said then. “It was devastating,” she said. “I thought I got shot.”

Still, she said at the time, “We’re going through counseling now” and “it’s not over over.”

“My kids are cool because they don’t like it and that that helps me, you know. It helps me. They’re not ones to say, ‘Oh, it takes two to tango,’ ” she said on Dobson’s podcast in November. “No, they’re mad, because they have been brought up with that teaching that you have made a covenant with God.”

Pelosi’s belt-and-suspenders strategy

Since Barton Gellman’s “The Election That Could Break America” last week, months of whispers went public about Democrats needing a 12th Amendment backup plan for securing the presidency for Joe Biden. Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says her team has been gaming this out for some time behind the scenes. Now she is publicly recommending a belt-and-suspenders approach.

USA Today:

WASHINGTON – House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has urged Democrats to win more House seats if a scenario unfolds in which the House of Representatives would vote to determine the outcome of the presidential election in November.

In a letter to Democrats on Sunday, Pelosi outlined an option in which neither President Donald Trump nor former Vice President Joe Biden win a majority of votes in the Electoral College, meaning the House of Representatives would have to decide the election by a vote. Pelosi referenced remarks from Trump, who said in mid-September that “at a certain point, it (the election) goes to Congress.” 

Politico:

Under that scenario, which hasn’t happened since 1876, every state’s delegation gets a single vote. Who receives that vote is determined by an internal tally of each lawmaker in the delegation. This means the presidency may not be decided by the party that controls the House itself but by the one that controls more state delegations in the chamber. And right now, Republicans control 26 delegations to Democrats’ 22, with Pennsylvania tied and Michigan a 7-6 plurality for Democrats, with a 14th seat held by independent Justin Amash.

Democrats need to flip control of House delegations to ensure they control that process. Two of the lightest lifts are in Montana and Alaska, states with only one representative. Both are now in GOP hands but with polls turning against Republicans, they could be one-seat delegation pickups for Democrats. Cook’s rates both seats “lean Republican,” but the races themselves may be closer.

Democrat Kathleen Williams is running for the open Montana seat vacated by U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte, now running in a toss-up race for governor against incumbent Steve Bullock. An August poll from the House Majority PAC showed state Rep. Williams leading state Auditor Matt Rosendale (R) 49%-47%. An earlier poll from July showed the two tied, with Williams more popular than Rosendale. Her ActBlue page is here.

Alyse Galvin is running as a Democratic-nominated registered independent against 24-term Republican Don Young for Alaska’s at-large House seat. The Emily’s-list endorsed candidate recently sued the election commission for stripping candidates’ political registrations from the ballot because Galvin “has heavily advertised herself as an independent candidate.” The new ballots identify her as the Democratic party’s nominee. The state Supreme Court declined to order reprinting of the ballots. “The fact that neither campaign has released or leaked polling data suggests, however, this is a real horse race,” the Washington Post’s Henry Olsen believes. Galvin’s ActBlue page is here.

The Senate would decide the selection of Vice President by a majority vote under the 12th Amendment. Alaska’s U.S. Senate seat is also in play (Dr. Alan Gross). So is Mississippi’s (Mike Espy). Plan your donations accordingly.

A couple of polls now show Biden up 9 points over Trump in Pennsylvania. Winning a landslide electoral victory on Nov. 3 could make all this electoral college intrigue moot. But do not trust to that.

Remember, Trump is no longer trying to win the election outright at the polls. He is hoping to stop the vote count on Election Day. And, if that doesn’t work, to challenge the count in enough states to tie up in court certification of a majority of electors until Dec. 8. That throws the election into the House of Representatives. It is his last line of reelection defense. After that, there is resignation and hope for a Pence pardon that won’t cover all his legal exposure.

Better to kick his ass with Democratic turnout. But cover yours just in case.

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Make Barrett confirmation the Trump Show

Official White House photo by Joyce N. Boghosian, July 31, 2020. (Public domain.)

The acting president craves attention. A history professor suggests Senate Democrats make him the center of it at the Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Amy Coney Barrett. (Bill Svelmoe confirmed to me that the Facebook post in circulation is his.)

Others have recommended Democrats avoid questioning Barrett’s character and focus on the process that got her there since confirmation is all but a done deal. Svelmoe suggests instead that Judiciary Committee Democrats formulate questions that put the past four years of the Trump administration on trial just ahead of Nov. 3:

Judge Barrett, would you please explain the emoluments clause in the Constitution. [She does.] Judge Barrett, if a president were to refuse to divest himself of his properties and, in fact, continue to steer millions of dollars of tax payer money to his properties, would this violate the emoluments clause?

Then simply go down the list of specific cases in which Trump and his family of grifters have used the presidency to enrich themselves. Ask her repeatedly if this violates the emoluments clause. Include of course using the American ambassador to Britain to try to get the British Open golf tournament at a Trump property. Judge Barrett, does this violate the emoluments clause?

Then turn to the Hatch Act.

Judge Barrett, would you please explain the Hatch Act to the American people. [She does.] Judge Barrett, did Kellyanne Conway violate the Hatch Act on these 60 occasions? [List them. Then after Barrett’s response, and just fyi, the Office of the Special Council already convicted her, ask Barrett this.] When Kellyanne Conway, one of the president’s top advisors openly mocked the Hatch Act after violating it over 60 times, should she have been removed from office?

Then turn to all the other violations of the Hatch Act during the Republican Convention. Get Barrett’s opinion on those.

Then turn to Congressional Oversight.

Judge Barrett, would you please explain to the American people the duties of Congress, according to the Constitution, to oversee the executive branch. [She does so.] Judge Barrett, when the Trump administration refuses time and again [list them] to respond to a subpoena from Congress, is this an obstruction of the constitutional duty of Congress for oversight? Is this an obstruction of justice?

Then turn to Trump’s impeachment.

Read the transcript of Trump’s phone call. Judge Barrett, would you describe this as a “perfect phone call”? Is there anything about this call that troubles you, as a judge, or as an American?

Judge Barrett, would you please define for the American people the technical definition of collusion. [She does.] Then go through all of the contacts between the Trump administration and Russians during the election and get her opinion on whether these amount to collusion. Doesn’t matter how she answers. It gets Trump’s perfidy back in front of Americans right before the election.

Such questions could go on for days. Get her opinion on the evidence for election fraud. Go through all the Trump “laws” that have been thrown out by the courts. Ask her about the separation of children from their parents at the border. And on and on and on through the worst and most corrupt administration in our history. Don’t forget to ask her opinion on the evidence presented by the 26 Trump accusers. Judge Barrett, do you think this is enough evidence of sexual assault to bring the perpetrator before a court of law? Do you think a sitting president should be able to postpone such cases until after his term? Judge Barrett, let’s listen again, shall we, to Trump’s “Access Hollywood” tape. I don’t have a question. I just want to hear it again. Or maybe, as a woman, how do you feel listening to this recording? Let’s listen to it again, shall we. Take your time.

Taking this approach does a number of things.

(Emphasis added below.)

1. Even if Barrett bobs and weaves and dodges all of this, it reminds Americans right before the election of just how awful this administration has been.
2. None of these questions are hypothetical. They are all real documented incidents. The vast majority are pretty obvious examples of breaking one law or the other. If Barrett refuses to answer honestly, she demonstrates that she is willing to simply be another Trump toady. Any claims to high moral Christian character are shown to be as empty as the claims made by the 80% of white evangelicals who continue to support Trump.
3. If she answers honestly, as I rather suspect she would, then Americans get to watch Trump and his lawless administration convicted by Trump’s own chosen justice.

Any of these outcomes would go much further toward delegitimizing the entire Republican project than if Democrats go down the typical road of asking hypothetical questions or trying to undermine her character.

Use her supposed good character and keen legal mind against the administration that has nominated her. Let her either convict Trump or embarrass herself by trying to weasel out of convicting Trump. Either way, it’ll be great television …

The professor is not the first to suggest that Judiciary Committee Democrats cede all their questioning time to Sen. Kamala Harris. Not that that is going to happen.

But a couple of committee Democrats might take his approach during the Barrett hearings. It would allow the rest of us to go to the kitchen for a sandwich while their colleagues ask predictable questions that elicit predictable answers.

(h/t AL)

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“Historical tax credits”

Golly, it seems as if the oldest scion of the Trump family may not know what he’s talking about. Who could have guessed? Via Oliver Willis:

BRIAN KILMEADE, Fox News: It goes on and on for days, but you guys’ organization have $300 million in loans due in the next three years. What could you tell us about that story?

DONALD TRUMP JR.: Listen, it’s ridiculous. My father’s paid tens of millions of taxes. If he does things in certain years where you get depreciation, where you get write off, where you get historical tax credits, like we did when we took on the risk of building the Old Post Office in D.C., it’s the perfect example.

That was literally a government contract. We bid against every hotel company in the world. Historical tax credits that you use to offset tax payments for taking the risk to build that. That was done under the Obama administration. It literally took an act of Congress to get it done.

So with that comes historical tax credits. That’s the reality. People don’t understand what goes into a business. It doesn’t include property taxes, it doesn’t include payroll taxes, it doesn’t include real estate taxes, it doesn’t include so many of the things that he has been paying taxes on forever as he’s also putting thousands and thousands of people to work on an annual basis.

But of course the New York Times does this. They put out a selective, you know, picture of all of these things the day before a debate to try to give someone like Joe Biden, you know, an attack line. They come up with one or two catchy sound bites, and that’s the game.

He may not be able to explain why rich people don’t have to pay income taxes while the rest of us do but you have to be impressed by the fact that he’s become such a good little wingnut. That combination of Trumpian whining combined with right-wing grievance and verbal gobbledygook is such a perfect combination.

*And yes, there is such a thing as “historic tax credits” and it may have applied to the old Post Office. But that doesn’t explain the 11 years out of the last 18 in which Trump paid no taxes. It’s not like he’s been doing nothing but restoring old buildings.