Donald Trump’s Lying Streak Since Taking Office

The 2016 election was a contest between two of the most dishonest politicians in America, with Donald Trump probably taking the lead in this category. Donald Trump has continued to behave the same since taking office with The Washington Post’s Fact Checker keeping score. He counted 132 false or misleading claims in his first 33 days in office, with at least one per day. Many of these were fairly significant:

Donald Trump earned 59 Four-Pinocchio ratings as a presidential candidate. Now that he’s president, he has continued his proclivity for making dubious, misleading or false statements. He also often repeats the same debunked claims even though they have been fact-checked. It’s hard to keep up with all of Trump’s rhetoric, so the Fact Checker is assembling in one place all of his suspect statements from his first 100 days as president. You can sort them by various categories and see how many times he has repeated the same false statement.

The most frequent topic of these claims is immigration, which came up 24 times. Other frequent topics are biographical record (17 claims) and jobs (17 claims).

The most common source of false claims was Twitter, but there were also plenty in other remarks, prepared speeches, and interviews.

Will this matter? Chris Cillizza questions whether people care:

Will that affect Trump’s political future? Perhaps less than you might think. In a Fox News poll conducted earlier this month, 45 percent of people said they trust his administration more than the media to tell the truth to the public while 42 percent said they trust the media more. That distrust of the media coupled with Trump’s aggressive efforts to discredit the press make stats like those above irrelevant to many of his supporters.

It is understandable why Donald Trump has been attacking the press, including calling the news media an enemy of the people. While this is having some success, polls have also been showing a drop in support for Trump.

Trump Continues To Receive Criticism For His Attacks On The News Media

Donald Trump’s attack on the media as an enemy of the American people has received widespread criticism. Carl Bernstein has called Trump’s attacks on the media worse than those which came from Richard Nixon:

“Trump’s attacks on the American press as ‘enemies of the American people’ are more treacherous than Richard Nixon’s attacks on the press,” former Washington Post reporter Carl Bernstein said Sunday on CNN.

Trump’s comments — made publicly, whereas Nixon attacked his enemies in private — brought to mind “dictators and authoritarians, including Stalin, including Hitler,” Bernstein said.

He immediately walked back a comparison to the Nazi leader, while doubling down on the comparison to Nixon.

Bernstein — whose reporting of the Watergate break-in and coverup helped bring about Nixon’s resignation — said Trump’s rhetoric is potentially more dangerous than Nixon’s attacks on the news media.

“There is no civic consensus in this country like there was at the time of Watergate about acceptable presidential conduct,” Bernstein said on “Reliable Sources.”

“Trump is out there on his own, leading a demagogic attack on the institutions of free democracy,” he said. “We are into terrible authoritarian tendencies.”

“We’re not enemies of the American people,” Bernstein said on CNN. “In fact, we’re the last resort of the American people to a dictatorial and authoritarian-inclined president.”

Even Fox was critical of Trump, with Chris Wallace saying he crossed the line:

Fox News anchor Chris Wallace cautioned his colleagues and the network’s viewers Sunday that President Trump’s latest attack on the media had gone too far.

“Look, we’re big boys. We criticize presidents. They want to criticize us back, that’s fine,” Wallace said Sunday morning on “Fox & Friends.” “But when he said that the fake news media is not my enemy, it’s the enemy of the American people, I believe that crosses an important line.”

The “Fox & Friends” anchors had shown a clip of Trump recounting that past presidents, including Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln, had fought with the press. They then asked Wallace whether Trump’s fraught relationship with the media was a big deal.

In response, Wallace told his colleagues that Jefferson had also once written the following: “And were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”

Context was important, Wallace said. All presidents fight with the media, but Trump had taken it a step further in making them out to be “the enemy,” he added.

“Yes, presidents have always had — and politicians have always had — problems with the press. They want good press. The press doesn’t always give it to them,” Wallace said. “But what Jefferson [was saying] is, despite all of our disputes, that to the functioning of a free and fair democracy, you must have an independent press.”

My previous post on this subject quoted John McCain in criticizing Trump, along with other comparisons to Richard Nixon.

John McCain isn’t the only Republican who has been critical of Donald Trump recently. The Wall Street Journal has a story on how Justin Amash, a libertarian-leaning Congressman from Michigan, has emerged as “Leading Critic of Fellow Republican Donald Trump.”

President Donald Trump’s “constant fear-mongering’’ about terrorism is “irresponsible and dangerous.’’ He needs to “stop attacking the legitimacy of the judiciary.’’ He picked an attorney general with “anti-liberty” positions on surveillance and police seizure of property…

Mr. Amash says his opposition is based on principle, as a libertarian concerned about government overreach and adherence to the Constitution. While many Republican lawmakers hold similar beliefs, Mr. Amash has been an especially outspoken proponent of smaller government, even on issues—such as reducing surveillance—where his views put him out of step with the more mainstream elements of the GOP.

SciFi Weekend: Timeless; Legion And Other Wednesday Genre Shows; Doctor Who; Renewal And Returning Show News; A Sci-Fi Explanation For Donald Trump; Oscar First Thoughts

Timeless started out the season as an entertaining time travel series, even if not the most significant genre show on at present. As it approaches its season (and possibly series) finale, the show has gotten even better as the Rittenhouse backstory progressed, and the series moved on from its initial formula. Screenrant looked at Why Everyone Needs To Be Watching This Time Travel Show.

TV Line spoke with producers Eric Kripke and Shawn Ryan about Timeless:

TVLINE | How would you preview the finale?
SHAWN RYAN | I’m proud of the finale. It answers a ton of the questions that we’ve raised. We’ve had a pretty good plan from the beginning of the season. There are things that happen in the finale that we had plotted out in our first couple weeks in the writers’ room back in June. We’ve known for a while that we were going to make 16 episodes this season, so we were able to plan for that and build to this…

TVLINE | The last episode left off on quite a cliffhanger, with Rufus in very dire straits. How that will play out in the finale?
ERIC KRIPKE | It’s not so much about whether Rufus will live or die, because — spoiler alert! — he lives. He’s one of our main characters and a popular one, and we’re not going to kill him. So as long as there’s a Timeless, Malcolm [Barrett] has a reasonable amount of job security. It’s more about the storyline that it leads to. Rufus is unable to pilot the lifeboat alone because he’s wounded, and so he needs some help, which comes from some unexpected places, and it kind of turns the story into a new direction, and then turns again.

I think the show’s gotten better and better the more we’ve focused in on and doubled down on the characters. The thing I’m most proud about in the finale is that it’s really a character piece. So many finales, especially the genre shows, are just about people running around and fighting, and ours really digs down to the thematics and the character issues that our people have been facing all year. It’s a uniquely thoughtful and emotional finale, and I’m really proud of it because of that.

TVLINE | How much did not knowing whether the show was renewed or not impact the finale and how you chose to end it?
RYAN | It did not have a great impact. We had a story that we wanted to tell from the beginning. We’re moving forward optimistically. We think there will be a Season 2. I’ve been in a situation before on Last Resort, where it was clear as we were making Episodes 10 and 11 that the show wasn’t going to continue, and we chose at that point to write what was essentially a series finale for Episode 13 to give closure. I think there are a lot of reasons for optimism for a Season 2. We’ll find out in two or three months. We’ve always set out to tell this one-season story that then would provide a launching point for a Season 2, but that would answer a lot of things, and I think we did it. We didn’t have any conversations where we were pulling out ratings and trying to do the math. We’re just writers, and we told the best story we could. So we’ll let the chips fall where they may.
KRIPKE | When you write these things, you plan for success. You just sort of have to, and whatever happens happens. But you write it as if the show’s coming back, because I think doing it any other way, you’re compromising the story you set out to tell.

Legion remains one of the more intriguing shows of the last  couple of years, and is already being compared to recent greats like Mr. Robot and West World. It deals with mental illness and an unreliable narrator as in Mr. Robot. While it might not be a major feature of the show after the premise is established, it handled time jumps far better than West World. While the themes are quite different, it also raises comparisons to Noah Hawley’s recent work on Fargo, in which Hawley adapted another universe in his own way. Uproxx interviewed Noah Hawley:

When you first got the material, what was going in your head in terms of how you wanted this to look?

When I sat down to write it, there was nothing specifically contemporary about it, but I don’t think I assumed it wasn’t a contemporary story. Then, I guess we talked about, since the movies jump from decade to decade, should we be in there somewhere? Then it just seemed to me like the subjectivity of the show gave us this opportunity to create a reality and I don’t know why, I just found myself drawn to these ’60s movies, British ’60s movies; Terence Stamp movies and Quadrophenia. There was a sense of the young punks and these are a band of outsiders and there is that sense of teenage rebellion that exists in this thing. In a modern day sense I think we’re over that and yet there’s something about that period in us that makes something familiar unfamiliar.

It started with just thinking like, “Well, let’s embrace the brutalist architecture and let’s not have any cars, because cars date something, so then if you’re in a reality without cars, where are you when you’re outdoors?” We shot on this University of British Columbia campus where there were no cars allowed. Then the hair and the costumes, this idea of the track suits that they’re in and all of that was a process of figuring out what it was and then the music plays into that as well. This idea, as I said to our composer Jeff Russo, that the show should sound like Dark Side of the Moon, so he went out and he bought the patch cord synthesizer they use in the show.

It is this mixture of visuals and the sound and music of it that’s trying to create something that’s not about information but that’s about experience.

Yeah. It’s almost a ‘60s vision of what the future would look like.

Right. Some of the elements seem futuristic and some of them seem dated, but I wanted there to be a certain whimsy to it as well, and a playfulness. I always loved about that genre and genre in general was the pure inventiveness of it and the way like a science fiction story. The example I give is Battlestar Galactica, the remake. It’s the Cylons who have God. It takes God and it takes robots and it creates something completely new. It’s not something that you would do in a drama. It’s something you would only do in a genre and so what are the genre elements that will allow us to take a show that would work as a dramatic story, two people in love, trying to define themselves rather than being defined by society and it turns it into something that I hope every week there’s something that blows your mind a little…

David alone has, in theory, an infinite number of powers. You get a bunch of these other characters with their own abilities that seem to, for the most part, be your own creations, so you can give them the powers to do whatever you want. What was that process like of figuring out, for instance, what Syd can do?

For me it was about creating characters and saying, what makes a tragic love story? A tragic love story is about people who want to be together but can’t be together for one reason. If they physically can’t touch then that creates this seemingly unleapable obstacle. Then it became about her having a power where she couldn’t be touched, and obviously I think there are characters in comic book lore who have different versions of, “If you touch me, something happens.” I took the creative license to say, “Well this is my version of that.” The danger with a character with a hundred issues of mythology is you’re always turning around and realizing you can’t do something because someone’s going to get mad or it’s going to conflict with what they know and it’s going to be confusing.

It just seemed more and more that I could take David and take this multiple personality disorder that he has in the comic and I could create a sort of metaphorical version of that, which is not to say we won’t ultimately realize that’s what he has, but it’s to say that that’s not what he’s diagnosed with in the show. Then to surround him with characters of my own invention so that I’m not hamstrung about what stories I can tell.

There has been a recent TV trend of unreliable narrators. How do you keep the audience from looking at the show as a puzzle to solve?

You have to solve the mystery. The narrator has to become reliable. It’s a lot to ask an audience to take a perpetually unsatisfying journey where it’s like you’re never going to know for sure. It’s another thing to say, “We’re going to take a character out of confusion into clarity and an audience out of mystery into clarity.” That’s the goal of it which is to say, there’s a contract and you watch that first hour and you like, “I don’t know. There’s a devil with yellow eyes and there are these other elements that I’m not sure what they mean, but I trust the filmmaker and I know that I’m going to understand it eventually.” You do. It becomes clear by the end of the first year what’s going on.

Before this era of peak TV, The 100 might have been the top genre show on of the night. Now it shares the night with Legion, The Magicians, The Expanse, and Arrow. The 100 really deserves more attention than I’ve been paying to it, but TV Line does have some comments on the revelations in Wednesday’s episode.

Spoiler TV reviewed last week’s episode of The Magicians in the aftermath of Alice’s death.

Plus information from the producers on Arrow here and here.

Vox has more on The Expanse.

Although they have no inside information, and the decision probably won’t be made for several months, the odds makers seem to like Tilda Swinton as the favorite to replace Peter Capaldi on Doctor Who. Chris Chibnall will be making the actual decision, and says it will be made in the traditional way:

We’ll cast the role in the traditional way: write the script, then go and find the best person for that part in that script. You couldn’t go out and cast an abstract idea.”

He adds: “The creative possibilities are endless, but I have a very clear sense of what we’re going to do, without even knowing who’s going to play the part.”

Steven Moffat says that Chibnall did try to convince Peter Capaldi to stay. He also says he does not plan to write further episodes of Doctor Who for a while after he leaves as show runner. He seems to have thrown all his ideas into Doctor Who the last several years, but perhaps he will come up with something new down the road.

Odds are looking good that The Big Bang Theory will be renewed for two additional seasons.

Fox has renewed Lucifer for a third season.

I gave up on Once Upon A Time a while back, and  from the ratings it looks like many others have too. The producers are talking about wrapping up the current narrative at the end of season six, and possibly rebooting the show in a different direction for a seventh season.

Fox is considering a reboot of Firefly, but only if Joss Whedon is on board. That makes perfect sense. I question if there is any point in rebooting the show, as opposed to leaving it as a brief , but excellent, old series. I really see no point in having someone else do a reboot.

Netflix has announced that Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt returns on May 19.

Outlander returns in September. The production is moving to South Africa, which might be a stand-in for Jamaica.

Goliath has been renewed for a second season.

The Flash deals in multiple parallel universes, including the one in which Supergirl takes place. Screen Rant explains the most important Earths in the CW multiverse. This got me thinking after hearing Donald Trump’s comments on what appears to be an alternative Sweden…

It increasingly looks like the best explanation is that Donald Trump and his top aides have been replaced by their counterparts from an alternate universe in which there have been terrorist attacks in Bowling Green, Atlanta and Sweden. Also, in their universe, Barack Obama really was a Muslim born in Kenya, and scientists never did figure out the connection between human action and climate change. Presumably orange skin and that hair are also commonplace there too.

I’m still racing to catch as many of the top Academy Award nominees as possible by next Sunday. Looking at the favorites, at this point I enjoyed La La Land and am okay with Emma Stone as Best Actress, but I would not pick it as Best Picture. Based upon what I’ve seen so far I’d go with Arrival, but not expecting a science fiction movie to win, I’d also pick Lion above La La Land. It would be a toss up with Manchester by the Sea, depending upon whether I want a more upbeat or downbeat movie. Casey Afflect is justifiably a strong contender for Best Actor.

This could change by next week. My immediate goal is to at try to get in Hidden Figures, Fences, and Moonlight before the awards.

Donald Trump Versus Freedom Of The Press

Donald Trump got off to what might be the worst first month of a presidency since William Henry Harrison (who died after his first month in office). While  the apparently impotent White House chief of staff Reince Priebus denies it is a reset, The Washington Post reports that Trump attempts a reset with a rally, new staff and a renewed fight with the media. Regardless of whether it is part of a reset, Donald Trump appears to be further escalating his war on the media. This includes some of his latest Tweets, such as this one proclaiming the media to be “the enemy of the American People.”

Balloon Juice responded to the Tweet in asking if Trump is “a paranoid, unhinged demagogue who doesn’t understand the role of the press in a free society.”

The news media, broadcast more than press, does have serious problems, but we must not confuse legitimate criticism of the media with opposition to the free press, or ignore the importance of the role of the press in a free society. Just look at Donald Trump’s Twitter account, or watch his last press conference. Imagine if there was no free press, and this was our main source of information. Look at the media in totalitarian societies. With all failings of the news media, their reporting is far more representative of reality than what we would get from Trump. As John McCain warned, “That’s how dictators get started.”

CHUCK TODD: I’m curious of your reaction to a tweet that the president sent Friday night. “The fake news media, failing New York Times, NBC News, ABC, CBS, CNN is not my enemy. It is the enemy of the American people.” You believe the press is the enemy? You believe any group of Americans are the enemy of another group of Americans?

JOHN MCCAIN: I was talking about the period as, you know, of the new world order. A fundamental part of that new world order was a free press. I hate the press. I hate you especially. But the fact is we need you. We need a free press. We must have it. It’s vital. If you want to preserve – I’m very serious now – if you want to preserve democracy as we know it, you have to have a free and many times adversarial press. And without it, I am afraid that we would lose so much of our individual liberties over time. That’s how dictators get started.

CHUCK TODD: That’s how dictators get started, with tweets like that?

JOHN MCCAIN: No. They get started by suppressing free press. In other words, a consolidation of power when you look at history, the first thing that dictators do is shut down the press. And I’m not saying that President Trump is trying to be a dictator. I’m just saying we need to learn the lessons of history.

Daniel Politi put this in further historical perspective at Slate:

Trump blasting the news media is nothing new, of course. Even a day earlier, Trump uttered the phrase “fake news” seven times during a White House news conference. Yet labeling the media the “enemy of the American people” seemed to take things to a new level and many quickly drew parallels to tyrants throughout history that were fond of the phrase. Although it harkens back to ancient Rome, many remember that the phrase was used during the purges ordered by Soviet dictator Josef Stalin. “It is one of the most controversial phrases in Soviet history,” explained Mitchell Orenstein, professor of Russian and East European studies at the University of Pennsylvania. “What it basically meant was a death sentence.”

The expression was also a favorite of China’s Mao Zedong, who used the “enemies of the people” label against anyone who opposed his policies. Identifying and later punishing those enemies was central to Mao’s rule. A Chinese journalist, Li Yuan, pointed out the parallel on Twitter, noting that “every dissenting voice was ‘the enemy of the people’ under Mao.”

Beijing seems to be welcoming this fresh attack on the news media with glee. China’s state-run newspaper Global Times noted in an editorial that Trump’s “war with mainstream media” would make it difficult for the president to challenge Beijing on “ideological” issues such as human rights. “His war with mainstream media makes it difficult for Trump to ally with the media on [the] ideological front against China,” the newspaper said. “Many have predicted that Trump’s presidency would exacerbate the recession of liberalism.”

Presumably we will also hear some Democrats speaking out against Trump, but far too often they give the impression of opposing Trump more based upon opposition politics and not principles. The Democratic Party has put itself in a poor position to defend civil liberties after nominating someone with as conservative a record on First Amendment issues as Hillary Clinton in 2016. (The nomination of Clinton similarly weakens the position of Democrats on foreign policy and matters of government corruption.)

While written before his latest attack on the media, Jonathan Rauch looked at comparable problems under Richard Nixon and George Bush when writing Containing Trump for the The Atlantic:

The 45th president, Donald Trump, might pose the gravest threat to the constitutional order since the 37th. Of course, he might not. Perhaps we’ll get Grown-up Trump, an unorthodox and controversial president who, whatever one may think of his policies and personality, proves to be responsible and effective as a chief executive. But we might get Infantile Trump, an undisciplined narcissist who throws tantrums and governs haphazardly. Or perhaps, worse yet, we’ll get Strongman Trump, who turns out to have been telegraphing his real intentions when, during the campaign, he spread innuendo and misinformation, winked at political violence, and proposed multiple violations of the Constitution and basic decency. Quite probably we’ll get some combination of all three (and possibly others).

If we get Strongman Trump or Infantile Trump, how would we protect our democratic institutions and norms? “Don’t be complacent,” warns Timothy Naftali, a New York University historian who was the founding director of the Nixon presidential library. “Don’t assume the system is so strong that a bad president will be sent packing. We have someone now saying things that imply unconstitutional impulses. If he acts on those impulses, we’re going to be in the political struggle of our lifetimes.” Meeting that challenge, I think, hinges on whether civil society can mobilize to contain and channel Trump. Fortunately, that’s happening already.

It’s tempting to think of Trump as a fluke, and to believe that at the end of his administration everything will return to normal. Many people hold a darker view, though—among them Yascha Mounk, the co-founder of a new watchdog group called After Trump. A lecturer on government at Harvard and a fellow at the New America Foundation, Mounk thinks the stakes are high. “Most people,” he told me, “are thinking about Trump as a policy problem: how he will lead to the deportation of undocumented immigrants or lead the U.S. to pull out of the Paris climate agreement. But I think Trump is also potentially an authoritarian threat to the survival of liberal democracy.”

The bad news is that we are not seeing any signs of this fictional Grown-up Trump. The good news is that resistance is already mounting to Strongman Trump and Infantile Trump:

“Civil society had a huge and unprecedented impact during the Bush administration,” Goldsmith told me. The networks that constrained Bush are still there, and Trump has put them on red alert. “Every single thing he does will be scrutinized with an uncharitable eye,” Goldsmith said. “That’s true of most presidents, but it’s true to an even greater degree with Trump.”

The forces are already mobilizing. In the first five days after the election, the American Civil Liberties Union saw what it called the greatest outpouring of support in its history: more than $7 million from 120,000 contributors, a 25 percent increase in Facebook followers (to nearly 1 million), and 150,000 additions to its email list. By early January, the ACLU had raised an impressive $35 million online, from almost 400,000 contributors. Meanwhile, according to Politico, progressive donors were discussing “forming a liberal equivalent to the right’s Judicial Watch, which spent much of the past eight years as a thorn in the Obama administration’s side, filing legal petitions under the Freedom of Information Act.”

I have seen evidence of mobilization firsthand. Just days after the election, a friend told me that he and others were organizing a network of law firms willing to provide pro bono legal services to people fending off harassment or bullying by the new administration or its allies. Before November was out, the Niskanen Center, a center-right think tank in Washington, announced a project to bring together intellectuals and activists and politicians (especially Republicans) to make the case for liberal democracy, hold the line against incursions, and try to prevent Trump’s excesses from being normalized. “It’s important for people coming from the center and center-right to resist the forces and ideas coming out of the Donald Trump campaign,” Jerry Taylor, the center’s director, told me. “We’ll be keeping a very close eye on administration undertakings and events on Capitol Hill, and when things cross the line we will be energetically pushing back.”

Update: Trump Continues To Receive Criticism For His Attacks On The News Media

Late Night Comics On The Trump Press Conference

After yesterday’s bizarre press conference from Donald Trump, which has me now wondering if Trump has gotten to the talking to pictures on the White House walls stage yet, it was inevitable that the late night comics would concentrate on it. It would have been comedic malpractice if they had not. Here are the highlights:

Stephen Colbert changed his monologue to cover the press conference for obvious reasons.

Jimmy Kimmel played the highlights.

Seth Meyers took A Closer Look.

Jimmy Fallon gave his impression of the press conference for his cold open.

James Corden gave his break down of what occurred.

Or perhaps the funniest commentary of all comes from the right wing which took Trump seriously. For example, Michael Goodwin wrote, Sorry, media — this press conference played very differently with Trump’s supporters. 

The president proved once again that he is the greatest show on Earth. Lions and tigers and elephants are kid stuff next to his high wire act.

Next time, the White House ought to sell popcorn.

Amid feverish reports of chaos on his team and with Democrats fantasizing that Russia-gate is another Watergate, Trump took center stage to declare that reports of his demise are just more fake news…

He did it his way. Certainly no other president, and few politicians at any level in any time, would dare put on a show like that.

In front of cameras, and using the assembled press corps as props, he conducted a televised revival meeting to remind his supporters that he is still the man they elected. Ticking off a lengthy list of executive orders and other actions he has taken, he displayed serious fealty to his campaign promises.

Or there is the laughable claim from Rush LimbaughTrump Triumphs Over Press.

To be fair to conservatives, many do see through Trump. For example, David Brooks wrote, What a Failed Trump Administration Looks Like. He began:

I still have trouble seeing how the Trump administration survives a full term. Judging by his Thursday press conference, President Trump’s mental state is like a train that long ago left freewheeling and iconoclastic, has raced through indulgent, chaotic and unnerving, and is now careening past unhinged, unmoored and unglued…

Quote of the Day: Donald Trump Ranting And Raving At Today’s Press Conference

“I’m not ranting and raving.”  –Donald Trump at today’s news conference in which he was ranting and raving

As I only half jokingly Tweeted: If we were living in the real world, and not a crazy reality TV show, the 25th Amendment would have been triggered by now.

Here is a longer excerpt for full context on the above quote:

Remember, I used to give you a news conference every time I made a speech, which was like every day.

No, that’s how I won. I won with news conferences and probably speeches. I certainly didn’t win by people listening to you people. That’s for sure. But I’m having a good time.

Tomorrow, they will say, “Donald Trump rants and raves at the press.” I’m not ranting and raving. I’m just telling you. You know, you’re dishonest people. But — but I’m not ranting and raving. I love this. I’m having a good time doing it.

But tomorrow, the headlines are going to be, “Donald Trump rants and raves.” I’m not ranting and raving.

The Fix has an annotated copy of the transcript of today’s press conference. Transcript without comment and video at The New York Times.

At  Talking Points Memo, Allegra Kirkland has The 8 Craziest Moments Of Trump’s Impromptu Press Conference. This includes his claim that,  “This administration is running like a fine-tuned machine” and  “I am the least anti-Semitic person that you have seen in your entire life.”

Josh Marshall summed it up:

That press conference speaks for itself. There’s very little I can think to add. It all amounts to a confirmation of what most of us already know. This man is not emotionally or characterologically equipped to serve as President. He lacks the focus, the ability to commit to even a passable amount of work without immediate emotional gratification.

Jeff Stein listed 9 things it’s hard to believe the president of the United States actually just said  at Vox.

The Stranger wants to talk about About All the Lies Trump Told at His Press Conference Today.

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Two Down In Trump Administration

Two days ago I wrote about how James Flynn was on thin ice, and that Andrew Puzder’s confirmation as Labor secretary were in jeopardy. Later that day Flynn was forced to resign, and today Puzder has withdrawn his nomination.

Both the choices of Flynn and Puzder were examples of poor management from Donald Trump and a failure to perform traditional vetting. The Puzder withdrawal is a fairly straightforward story, but Flynn’s resignation has only led to many additional questions which do require further investigation.

Objective people recognize that there was something improper with Flynn lying to both Vice President Pence and the American people, and with the attempted cover-up by the Trump administration. We have no way to know the degree to which Flynn was acting on his own or under the direction of Donald Trump. We do know that Trump waited three weeks after being informed of Flynn’s calls (regardless of what he might have known previously) to take action. We do not know the full story regarding contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian intelligence.

We are seeing considerable partisan hypocrisy here, such as in Rand Paul saying it would not make sense to investigate other Republicans. The Republicans who refuse to acknowledge the importance of the Flynn scandal, or question how much leads directly to Trump, sound just like the Democrats who refused to acknowledge the importance of Clinton’s scandals. Partisan politics creates such blindness. This deserves to be investigated regardless of your overall opinion of Trump, and regardless of where you stood in the race between Clinton and Trump.

Of course, while we have strong reasons for further investigations, this does not mean we should buy into every claim made about Trump without evidence. There is no evidence that Trump knew anything until three weeks ago. There is no evidence tying Trump to any attempts to influence the election the results. Claims about Trump’s business dealings with Russians appear to be exaggerated but we should have more information including, but not limited to, his tax returns for further evaluation.  We need to get the facts before coming to conclusions.

There has been a lot of anti-Russia hysteria being spread by Clinton and her neocon allies. The Clinton camp has strong reasons of their own to distort the facts, stemming from both their history of hostility towards Russia and their use of Russia as an excuse for their loss. Clinton lost because she was a terrible candidate and ran a terrible campaign, regardless of what Russia did. We need to find out exactly what Russia did without jumping to conclusions based upon hysteria being created for political reasons.

Dan Rather, who has considerable experience in White House cover-ups, compared this to Watergate:

Watergate is the biggest political scandal of my lifetime, until maybe now. It was the closest we came to a debilitating Constitutional crisis, until maybe now. On a 10 scale of armageddon for our form of government, I would put Watergate at a 9. This Russia scandal is currently somewhere around a 5 or 6, in my opinion, but it is cascading in intensity seemingly by the hour. And we may look back and see, in the end, that it is at least as big as Watergate. It may become the measure by which all future scandals are judged. It has all the necessary ingredients, and that is chilling.

When we look back at Watergate, we remember the end of the Nixon Presidency. It came with an avalanche, but for most of the time my fellow reporters and I were chasing down the story as it rumbled along with a low-grade intensity. We never were quite sure how much we would find out about what really happened. In the end, the truth emerged into the light, and President Nixon descended into infamy.

This Russia story started out with an avalanche and where we go from here no one really knows. Each piece of news demands new questions. We are still less than a month into the Trump Presidency, and many are asking that question made famous by Tennessee Senator Howard Baker those many years ago: “What did the President know, and when did he know it?” New reporting suggests that Mr. Trump knew for weeks. We can all remember the General Michael Flynn’s speech from the Republican National Convention – “Lock her up!” in regards to Hillary Clinton. If Hillary Clinton had done one tenth of what Mr. Flynn had done, she likely would be in jail. And it isn’t just Mr. Flynn, how far does this go?

The White House has no credibility on this issue. Their spigot of lies – can’t we finally all agree to call them lies – long ago lost them any semblance of credibility. I would also extend that to the Republican Congress, who has excused away the Trump Administration’s assertions for far too long.

We need an independent investigation. Damn the lies, full throttle forward on the truth. If a scriptwriter had approached Hollywood with what we are witnessing, he or she would probably have been told it was way too far-fetched for even a summer blockbuster. But this is not fiction. It is real and it is serious. Deadly serious. We deserve answers and those who are complicit in this scandal need to feel the full force of justice.

He is right. This all needs to be settled by finding the facts–not by ideology or partisanship.

Chaos In The Trump White House

The chaos continues in the Trump White House.

Michael Flynn is reportedly “on thin ice” after it came out that he spoke with the Russian ambassador about sanctions before Trump took office, and then liked to Mike Pence about having done so. Getting rid of Flynn would be a huge plus.

Reince Priebus’ job also isn’t very secure, with Kellyanne Conway describing his job as her dream job. In this case, I’d prefer Priebus over Conway.

Andrew Puzder, Trump’s anti-labor pick for Labor Secretary, is in trouble now that four Republicans are talking about voting against his confirmation. Another plus if he is blocked.

One member of the Trump administration who isn’t in trouble but should be is Stephen Miller, who sounded Steve Bannon-level crazy in this exchange on Face the Nation:

DICKERSON: When I talked to Republicans on the Hill, they wonder, what in the White House — what have you all learned from this experience with the executive order?

MILLER: Well, I think that it’s been an important reminder to all Americans that we have a judiciary that has taken far too much power and become, in many cases, a supreme branch of government. One unelected judge in Seattle cannot remake laws for the entire country. I mean this is just crazy, John, the idea that you have a judge in Seattle say that a foreign national living in Libya has an effective right to enter the United States is — is — is beyond anything we’ve ever seen before.

The end result of this, though, is that our opponents, the media and the whole world will soon see as we begin to take further actions, that the powers of the president to protect our country are very substantial and will not be questioned.

Joe Scarborough tore him apart over this:

“No, they are questioned by young little Miller. They will be questioned by the court. It’s called judicial review,” Scarborough said, as his colleagues on set guffawed.

“Alexander Hamilton and James Madison wrote about it in the Federalist Papers,” Scarborough continued. “It was enshrined in Madison’s Constitution. Andrew Jackson — you go into your president’s office, you know that one, and you look on the walls, and there are all these pictures of Andrew Jackson — he talked of the importance of judicial independence.”

“And seriously, the White House has got to stop embarrassing themselves by putting this guy on,” Scarborough said.

The New York Times had an excellent background article on Miller yesterday.

Update: Michael Flynn has resigned as National Security Adviser.

A Way Too Early Look At The 2020 Election, Including A Pundit’s Prediction That Clinton Will Run Again

Yesterday I looked at very early discussions from pundits and pollsters regarding the 2018 Congressional elections. It is far too early to say what will happen, but at least there is old data correlating presidential approval ratings and changes in seat in the midterm elections. There are also pundits with way too early predictions as to the 2020 presidential elections, including one predicting that Hillary Clinton will not only run again, but win the Democratic nomination. Fortunately any predictions made today have a good chance of not coming true.

The New York Post looks at who the Trump White House sees as potential challengers, claiming that they are already working on finding negative information on them. A lot will change between now and 2020 and any predictions are risky. Who would have predicted that Barack Obama would be the nominee four years before he ran? However, it is interesting to see who the Trump White House is concerned about, assuming that the Post has reliable information as to their thoughts:

Trump’s chief strategist, Steve Bannon, asked consultants to scour the backgrounds of four outspoken Democrats — Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, two sources close to the administration said.

“The White House political department wants people to start looking into them,” said one source close to the White House. “Trump is obsessed with running for re-election.”

Both Murphy, a freshman senator who has lambasted Trump’s immigration orders, and Brown, a 10-year Senate vet who made Hillary Clinton’s VP short list, are seen as viable threats who can quickly raise money and build a network of supporters, the sources said.

Hickenlooper, who founded a brewery before becoming governor of the Western swing state, is seen as a less-combative rising star, the sources said.

But the White House’s “biggest fear” is that Cuban, a billionaire businessman, would run because he can appeal to Republicans and independents, the sources said.

“He’s not a typical candidate,” the second insider said. “He appeals to a lot of people the same way Trump did.”

This could be one reason that Trump is attacking Cuban, not that he needs any reason to attack anyone who has been critical of him.

Making predictions based upon age is risky, but reportedly they have eliminated not only Bernie Sanders but Elizabeth Warren as possibilities due to being too old. They eliminated Kirsten Gillibrand, believing she is too young. The Post also says, “Trump’s political team is also counting out Cuomo and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, because they’ve been tainted by corruption probes.” The nomination of Hillary Clinton in 2016 showed that being tainted by corruption might not be a disqualification.

I would hope that the Democrats have learned their lesson and would not consider nominating Clinton again, but Matt Latimer predicts in Politco Magazine that not only will Clinton run again, but that she will win the nomination. His evidence for why he thinks she plans to run could indicate such plans, but is hardly conclusive. It is also conceivable that she wants to remain in the public eye, and rehabilitate her reputation, without plans to run. While perhaps she should take this advice, I really doubt that this is what she will do:

Hillary Clinton has 100 percent name ID, a personal fortune and a bastion of loyalists. She could enter the race at the last possible moment—at the behest of the people, of course—and catch her Democratic Party rivals by surprise. To soften her reputation as a programmed, overly cautious and polarizing figure, Clinton should eschew the front-runner label and run as an underdog, praising the other candidates and their proposals, opening up her campaign bus to the press corps and offering to have a freewheeling debate with any major rival, at any time, and anywhere.

It is possible she could win again, especially if their is a divided field without a clear front runner as he predicts, but based upon Clinton’s past I doubt this is what she will do. If she wants to run, her first instincts will be to once again try to clear the field and start running early with claims of inevitability.

Opening up to the press corps is the last thing Hillary Clinton would feel comfortable doing. She will continue to oppose liberal views which are far outside of her comfort zone. She certainly does not want to agree to frequent or freewheeling debates. Clinton knew exactly what she was doing when she tried to get the DNC to set a limit of four debates (with the DNC agreeing to limit it to six). Postponing the first debate until fairly late in the cycle made it harder for other candidates to establish themselves. Initially, due to her long experience in politics, she did dominate the debates. However, as Sanders developed experience in debating her, and the fact checkers reviewed her falsehoods, the debates turned against her, such as before the Michigan primary (which foreshadowed her general election loss). If there had been multiple debates starting earlier in the process, I doubt Clinton would have won the nomination.

Regardless of whether Clinton can win the nomination, I hope that Democrats have learned their lesson after loses in 2010, 2014, and 2016. Running as a Republican-lite party does not work. Democrats need to run their best possible candidate in 2020, not one so weak that she could not beat Donald Trump. It is especially important for Democrats to regain control of some of the state legislatures they have lost prior to redistricting in 2020, and a weak candidate on top of the ticket will make this more difficulty. Even if Clinton could win, after Trump we do not need a conservative DLC-type Democrat and neocon in the White House.

Opposition To Trump Could Cost Republicans Control Of Congress

I have said many times that the party winning the 2016 presidential election would very likely suffer for it, considering how flawed and unpopular both candidates were. If Hillary Clinton had won, most likely we would see Democrats lose further seats in Congress and the state legislatures in 2018 and 2020. Opposition to Donald Trump should help the Democrats, especially with Hillary Clinton not on the ballot. The elections will largely be a referendum on Donald Trump. Will Jordan recently showed that historically a president with an approval rating as low as Trump’s typically  loses thirty-nine House seats, with the Democrats needing twenty-four votes to retake the House. Larry Sabato had similar findings:

History is on the Democrats’ side: The president’s party has lost ground in the House in 36 of 39 midterms since the Civil War. The average loss is 33 seats, a shift in seats that would flip the House next year. Unpopular presidents can galvanize the opposition — and Democrats already seem highly engaged in battling Trump — and President Trump’s approval rating is already underwater in some polls, meaning he hasn’t had much of a honeymoon. Of course, there’s plenty of time for that to change, both positively and negatively for the president.

While it is far too early to be certain that Trump’s approval rating will remain at its currently low levels, there is considerable cause for concern among Republican House members. This is exacerbated by the complaints many are seeing from their constituents. CNN has reported on the anger at Republican town halls and  The Washington Post reports that Swarming crowds and hostile questions are the new normal at GOP town halls:

Republicans in deep-red congressional districts spent the week navigating massive crowds and hostile questions at their town hall meetings — an early indication of how progressive opposition movements are mobilizing against the agenda of the GOP and President Trump.

Angry constituents swarmed events held by Reps. Jason Chaffetz (Utah), Diane Black (Tenn.), Justin Amash (Mich.) and Tom McClintock (Calif.). They filled the rooms that had been reserved for them; in Utah and Tennessee, scores of activists were locked out. Voters pressed members of Congress on their plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act, on the still-controversial confirmation of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and even on a low-profile vote to disband an election commission created after 2000.

House Republicans had watched footage earlier this week of McClintock’s raucous town hall in northern California and his police-assisted exit — a warning of what might come. And with Congress scheduled for a week-long recess and a raft of additional town halls starting Feb. 18, the warning may have been warranted…

Remembering how voter anger and heated town halls helped end Democratic control of Congress in 2010, Republicans have begun taking security precautions. Some have avoided in-person town halls, holding forums on Facebook or by telephone instead. Many were briefed on security recommendations for public events and their district offices at a closed-door meeting led by Rep. Dave Reichert (R-Wash.), a former county sheriff.

If the Democrats are to retake Congress, it will depend on Trump’s popularity remaining low. Pollsters such as Mark Blumenthal are looking at both whether it is likely to remain low, and how low it can go:

One striking characteristic of Trump’s initial job rating is the relative intensity of disapproval. In our most recent full week of tracking, for example, far more Americans strongly disapprove of the way Trump is handling his job (41 percent) than strongly approve (29 percent). That gap means that Trump’s overall 46 percent approval rating includes 17 percent who only “somewhat approve” of his performance…

One of the themes of new administration, as the NBC News Politics team recently noted, is how “Trump picks fights with, well, almost anyone.” Those stories help reinforce the perception of his toughness and outspokenness.

The downside of these “sprays of attack,” as CNN’s Jake Tapper called them, are the “sprays of falsehoods coming from the White House” that accompany them. These controversies help further reinforce negative perceptions about Trump’s honesty forged during the campaign.

A second theme has been the flurry of initial executive actions that helped drive the sense, especially among Republicans, that Trump can get things done. But note that relative softness in perceptions of effectiveness among Trump’s least committed supporters. As the NBC Politics team points out, executive actions aside, the Trump team has made little progress so far on his “big ticket agenda items (Obamacare repeal and replace, tax relief, paying for that border wall).”

Again, it is very early in the Trump presidency and the long term trends in his approval rating will be influenced by the direction of economy and by war, peace and scandal, or the lack thereof. However, if the initial flurry of executive action gives way to gridlock and legislative stagnation, perceptions of Trump’s ability to “get things done” may atrophy, and with it, his overall approval rating.

We don’t know where Trump’s approval rating will be in 2018 and 2020. There are many factors beyond the actual actions of the president, and if the country is doing well despite Trump’s actions, the Republicans will benefit. However, the first three weeks of Trump’s presidency give Republicans a lot to worry about.