Wednesday, October 16, 2019

What did Donald Trump do today?

He lost it, according to everyone but him.

Today was an eventful, terrible day for Trump in the Syria debacle. He was rebuked by the House in a 354-60 vote condemning his decision to let Turkey invade northern Syria and attack the United States' former Kurdish allies. Two-thirds of House Republicans joined every Democratic member in the majority on a resolution which directly criticizes Trump.

Meanwhile, military leaders were forced to launch an airstrike against a recently evacuated American base, in order to prevent ammunition and weapons from falling into the hands of the Turkish, Russian, and pro-Assad forces expected to overtake it. The American retreat has been hasty and chaotic, because troops had essentially no warning that it would be necessary. Turkey's invasion, and the subsequent destabilization of the region, happened almost immediately after Trump gave Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan permission to move in. Because Trump didn't consult the Defense Department at all before making that sudden decision for reasons that remain unclear, the actual troops on the ground were caught off guard.

Forced to address the ever-worsening headlines, Trump appeared belligerent in front of reporters at a press conference with the visiting president of Italy. He said that America's former Kurdish allies in the area were "no angels." (In reality, the SDF did the actual on-the-ground fighting against the Islamic State in Syria. Trump himself, personally, took credit for the destruction of the Islamic State's territory later in the day.) He insisted that somehow only the most harmless ISIS insurgents escaped from prisons that the Kurds had been guarding before being forced to flee by the Turkish invasion. He claimed that he had imposed "massive sanctions" on Turkey. (That's a lie, but it's not clear that Trump knew what he was talking about.) 

Trump also said that he didn't care about Syria because it was "7,000 miles away," apparently trying to say that nothing that happened in the Middle East could really affect the United States. (Israel, two-thirds of the world's oil reserves, and the countries where most of the 9/11 attackers came from are also roughly that far away from the U.S. mainland.)

Trump was even angrier and more defensive in a meeting with lawmakers later this afternoon, insulting Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi personally—as well as his own appointees—and suggesting that Democrats should be rooting for ISIS because, as he understood it, they were both "communists." People in the room at the time called it a "meltdown."

After a few hours of unflattering TV coverage, Trump re-emerged on Twitter to insist that it was Pelosi, not him, who was showing signs of mental illness.

Why does this matter?

  • Even by Trump's standards, this is a nightmare situation.
  • Presidents who can't bear to hear criticism of their decisions, no matter how many people on both sides of the aisle are making it, are unfit for office.
  • The Middle East actually is pretty important to American national security.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

What did Donald Trump do today?

He explained the situation in Syria as only he can.

Normally, presidential meeting with sports teams (when they happen at all) are not political. Today, however, Trump interrupted himself during a visit by the Stanley Cup-winning St. Louis Blues to try to explain his lack of response to the actions Turkey has taken in Syria since he gave them permission to invade last Sunday.

TRUMP: We want to bring our soldiers back home. And we're being very tough on Turkey and a lot of others. They have to maintain their own properties now. They have to maintain peace and safety. And we'll see what happens -- the delegation. We're asking for a ceasefire. We put the strongest sanctions that you can imagine, but they get a lot. We have a lot in store if they don’t -- if they don’t have an impact, including massive tariffs on steel. They ship a lot of steel to the United States. They make a lot of money shipping steel. They won't be making so much money.

American purchases of Turkish steel account for about three one-thousandths of the overall Turkish export market. What Trump has done so far—or rather, what he has threatened to do but not yet done—is to make that 0.3% more expensive for American consumers, which may force Turkish steelmakers to sell some of it elsewhere at slightly reduced profits.

This is no threat whatsoever to the Turkish economy, and the markets responded accordingly: the Turkish lira actually gained value against the dollar today.

In other Syrian news from today, Russian mercenary forces took over a base that American troops were forced to hastily abandon in order to try to find a safe retreat from the now-chaotic northern region. It may be the first time in history, including the Soviet era, that Russian forces have ever directly captured a military base from the United States military. Russian media arrived first and broadcast their arrival.

Trump is deeply financially entangled with both Turkey and Russia.

So what?

  • Calling this "the strongest sanctions that you can imagine" is just an outright lie.
  • It shouldn't be this hard to make sense of a president's military decisions.
  • The most likely explanation for a president's military decisions shouldn't have anything to do with his private financial situation.

Monday, October 14, 2019

What did Donald Trump do today?

He tried to sound like he was doing things with trade.

Trump made two big-sounding claims about trade today. Neither was really true.

Since Friday, Trump has been playing up a trade deal he claims he made with China as "the greatest and biggest deal ever made." He sent out surrogates today to continue the hype: Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin gamely told reporters about his "expectation" that a deal would still be struck, although he was visibly less enthusiastic than Trump.

But in reality, the deal doesn't exist yet, as Chinese negotiators pointedly noted. And even if it did, it would only keep the trade war with China from getting worse than it already is by suspending some planned tariff increases. (Actually, even then, other tariffs will still increase in December, inevitably leading to retaliation by China.) 

The key talking point for Trump has been a promise—again, not yet agreed to by the Chinese government—that it will buy $40 billion in agricultural products. That's a big number, but as investors noted, it's essentially meaningless. It's also unenforceable: China has never needed to buy more than $30 billion in U.S. farm products in any given year, so the promised purchases would have to be spread over a number of years, and could always be reneged on. In the meantime, though, Trump would be immediately giving up something for nothing other than the ability to claim victory.

In other trade news, Trump announced he'd be punishing Turkey for its actions in northern Syria by raising tariffs on Turkish steel by 50%. (Tariffs are taxes on foreign goods paid for by American consumers in the form of higher prices.) During the initial backlash to his still-unexplained decision to abandon the United States' Kurdish allies and permit Turkey to attack them, Trump promised to "totally destroy and obliterate the Economy of Turkey" if that country crossed any lines.

Since then, in addition to ISIS prisoners being liberated, civilians being killed, and Kurdish politicians being murdered by Turkish-backed militias, the United States has lost its only on-the-ground ally in Syria. The "punishment" Trump is promising to impose is a return to the same steel tariff levels imposed on Turkish steel in May of this year. Turkey's steel exports have been booming in recent years and the United States is a relatively small market for it.

Why does this matter?

  • Good news that doesn't exist in reality isn't good news.
  • "Punishment" that doesn't in any way hurt the country being punished is the same thing as permission—especially if you've already given permission.
  • Presidents who have accomplishments don't need to make them up to look successful.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

What did Donald Trump do today?

He surrendered northern Syria to Turkey amidst ongoing war crimes, and gave the Assad regime a new ally.

Trump's original abandonment of the United States' former Kurdish allies in northern Syria only involved moving about 50 troops. By symbolically removing American protection from the Syrian Democratic Forces, the front line in the fight against Islamic State militants, Trump was giving Turkey the green light to attack them. But about 1,000 American forces would still be on the ground in Syria.

In the last day or two, there have been dramatic and horrifying developments, although they were all predicted the moment Trump allowed Turkey to invade.

  • Turkish-backed forces have captured Kurdish "terrorists" and executed them on camera. This  includes Hevrin Khalaf, a 35-year-old woman who was the secretary-general of the Future Syria Party, a Kurdish political organization. The videos were posted to social media. This is a war crime.
  • The remnants of the SDF and other Kurds in Syria have been forced into an alliance with the government of Bashar al-Assad. In other words, Trump's abandonment of them has changed the balance of power against the United States and put a vulnerable population under the direct control of America's main enemy in the region—and with it, the northeastern quarter of the country.
  • The Turkish military has pointedly ignored American requests to proceed carefully or allow civilians to stay out of harm's way. (They've also completely ignored Trump's Twitter threats to damage their economy.) This morning, Acting Defense Secretary Mark Esper admitted that Turkey would likely "extend their attack further south than originally planned."

Trump responded today by announcing that all American forces in the region would be withdrawn immediately.

How is this a problem?

  • It's wrong for the strongest military in the world to be ordered to ignore war crimes happening right in front of it.
  • It's bad if the President of the United States is perceived as being this weak.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

What did Donald Trump do today?

He defended Rudy Giuliani—to a point.

Trump's new "fixer," Rudy Giuliani, is reportedly under federal investigation related to his involvement in Trump's attempt to gin up a fake Ukrainian "investigation" of his political rival Joe Biden. The news broke yesterday, just two days after Giuliani's associates Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman were arrested on charges related to their attempts to illegally funnel Ukrainian money to American political campaigns. 

Parnas and Fruman had lunch with Giuliani the day before their arrest, and were traveling on one-way tickets to Europe, where Giuliani had been scheduled to meet them. The two have long-standing ties to Trump, as well.

Whether Giuliani is Trump's actual lawyer is a matter of some debate. Trump himself was very reluctant yesterday to call Giuliani his lawyer. When asked, he said, "I don't know. I haven't spoken to Rudy," before correcting himself: "I spoke to him yesterday, briefly." Trump then added, equivocally, "He's a very good lawyer and he has been my lawyer, sure." Today, after leaving Giuliani's status up in the air for more than 24 hours, Trump confirmed that Giuliani is his lawyer. 

Trump has good reason to hesitate. No attorney-client privilege applies to illegal acts that the "lawyer" is party to, which means that Giuliani could testify against Trump about his Ukrainian activities, either in a court or an impeachment proceeding. But insulting Giuliani, whose temper and emotional stability are much like Trump's, could be equally disastrous.

That is presumably why Trump tweeted out his support this morning, blaming the "Deep State" for Giuliani's problems. 

The investigation into Giuliani is reportedly being done through the Southern District of New York office, whose leadership is, like all United States Attorney's offices, made up of Trump appointees.

Why should I care about this?

  • The president doesn't just get to declare his friends and/or criminal co-conspirators innocent of any crimes.
  • The reason it's important to remove presidents who are mixed up in criminal activity is that they are easily blackmailed.

Friday, October 11, 2019

What did Donald Trump do today?

He increased the total number of American troops in the Middle East. 

When Trump suddenly capitulated to the Turkish president's demand that the United States abandon its Kurdish allies in Syria this past Sunday, he did so without consulting anyone else in his administration. The closest thing that he has offered to an explanation is that he wanted to get American troops out of "endless wars" in the region.

None of the approximately 1,000 American troops in Syria have actually left. In fact, Turkey shelled American forces in Syria today, ostensibly by accident. UPDATE, 10/12: American sources including an Army officer in the area now say that U.S. forces were deliberately "bracketed" by Turkish artillery, a hostile act.

But today, the Trump administration announced that almost 2,000 additional troops and two fighter squadrons would be deployed to Saudi Arabia. Those forces will help Saudi Arabia defend its oil infrastructure from attacks by Iran. (The destruction of the US-Kurdish alliance in Syria is very good for Iran.)

Until he became president, Trump was opposed to spending American money or lives on guarding the kingdom and said it should "fight their own wars."

As of two days ago, Trump still claimed to believe that the United States "GOING INTO THE MIDDLE EAST IS THE WORST DECISION EVER MADE."

Trump is deeply, personally financially entangled with both Turkey and Saudi Arabia

How is this a bad thing?

  • It shouldn't even be possible to wonder if the president's military decisions have anything to do with his private business interests.
  • Getting troops out of the Middle East means having fewer of them there, not more.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

What did Donald Trump do today?

He told the truth about Fox News polling.

A Fox News poll released yesterday showed an absolute majority of Americans, 51%, supporting Trump's impeachment and removal from office. Other recent polls have shown substantial majorities of Americans supporting the impeachment inquiry—58% in a Washington Post poll released on Tuesday, for example—but today's poll is the first showing that more than half of Americans think Trump's actions are serious enough to warrant him being removed from office.

In response, Trump lashed out on Twitter: "From the day I announced I was running for President, I have NEVER had a good @FoxNews Poll."

This is essentially true: Fox News polls really have never had good news for Trump. For example, he has never risen above 47% approval rating in that poll since taking office. 

And Fox News predicted Hillary Clinton would beat Trump by 4% in the 2016 election. (In reality, she beat him by 3% in the popular vote.)

In other words, even though the network's programming is extremely Trump-friendly, Fox News polls are among the most accurate out there. Polling analysis website gives Fox an A rating. Trump has never had a good Fox News poll because he has never had much popular support. 

This most recent polls showing a majority of Americans want Trump removed from office was taken between October 6-8. It does not reflect today's arrest of two associates of his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, for campaign finance crimes apparently related to Trump's own attempts to gin up Ukrainian interference in American elections.

How is this a bad thing?

  • Just because the president doesn't like hearing something doesn't mean it's not true.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

What did Donald Trump do today?

He explained his abandonment of the United States' Kurdish allies as only he could.

By the time it was morning in Washington today, Turkey had already commenced airstrikes and a ground invasion of the region of Northern Syria previously controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces, a Kurdish military organization allied with the United States. Turkey regards the SDF—and the Kurdish ethnic group in general—as enemies. 

By this evening, there were reports of Kurdish fatalities as a result of the assault, including civilians.

This was the predictable (and predicted) consequence of Trump's decision to pull American troops out of Syria. The US-SDF relationship had been mutually beneficial: American troops safeguarded the SDF at virtually no risk to themselves, while the SDF acted as a front-line counter-terrorism force against the Assad regime and fighters allied with the Islamic State. 

Put another way, Trump's debatable claims that ISIS was defeated on his watch—at least in terms of controlling territory—are owed in large part to the work of the SDF.

Genuinely bipartisan outrage at the United States' betrayal of its Kurdish allies followed, forcing Trump to try to explain himself today. It's still not clear why Trump so abruptly gave in to Turkish president Erdoğan's demands—although Turkey does seem to be on the list of countries with suspiciously strong influence over Trump's actions. He began with a statement in which he called the Turkish invasion a "bad idea," but didn't even ask Turkey to pull back.

Later in the day, Trump told reporters that the SDF had been allied with the United States for, he implied, selfish reasons. 
The Kurds are fighting for their land, just so you understand. And somebody wrote a very, very powerful article today. They didn't help us in the Second World War, they didn't help us with Normandy, as an example.
Trump also complained about the cost of supporting the SDF's operations in Syria, which by any standard has been a bargain. When a reporter pointed out that ISIS prisoners that the SDF had been guarding were likely to escape, Trump replied, "Well, they'll be escaping to Europe."

Why does this matter?

  • A president who abruptly and without explanation does things that help only America's enemies is unfit to serve, regardless of the reason.
  • Presidents should be able to coherently explain why they did what they did.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

What did Donald Trump do today?

He got his bluff called by Turkey in a humiliating fashion.

On Sunday, Trump announced—without having consulted anyone in the State Department or the military—that he was withdrawing American troops from their protective role in Syria. The effect was to abandon the United States' allies in the Syrian conflict, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces. There was bipartisan outrage over the move.

On Monday, in an attempt to ease fears that the authoritarian government of Turkey (which is hostile to the Kurds) would attack the SDF, Trump tweeted a threat to "totally destroy and obliterate the Economy of Turkey" if they did "anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits." Turkey's vice-president responded that the country would "not react to threats."

This afternoon, in an attempt to undo the damage of the previous two days and demonstrate some control over the situation, Trump announced that he would welcome Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to the White House in November. 

Tonight, reports are coming in that Turkey is shelling SDF forces and that a ground invasion is imminent, in coordination with Russia. The SDF has announced that guarding prisons containing captured Islamic State prisoners is now a "second priority" because of the Turkish threat.

Trump profits from the licensing of his personal brand on property in Turkey* and admitted during the campaign that he has a "conflict of interest"—his words—where that country is concerned. Trump's election was accomplished with help from Russia, as a Republican-led Senate panel confirmed today.

Why does this matter?

  • Countries that abandon their allies end up without allies.
  • Anyone who puts their personal or political needs above those of the country is unfit to be president.
  • Being disregarded like this makes Trump, and the United States, look incredibly weak.

* Trump licenses his name to Trump Towers Istanbul, but does not own them. A previous version of this post mistakenly identified him as a property owner in Turkey.

Monday, October 7, 2019

What did Donald Trump do today?

He whistled past the graveyard of impeachment.

Today, at a White House event, Trump was asked by a reporter to comment on a letter that White House lawyers were planning to send to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. In response, Trump launched into a rambling, minutes-long, stream-of-consciousness answer. Among the things he said was this interesting claim:

TRUMP: This [impeachment] is a scam.  And the people are wise to it.  And that’s why my polls went up, I think they said, 17 points in the last two or three days.  I’ve never had that one.  I’ve never had that one.

He still hasn't.

Trump's approval rating has not gone up 17 points, or any points, since the corruption scandal that is now likely to lead to his impeachment broke two weeks ago. Since his administration was caught trying to suppress a whistleblower with knowledge of his attempt to get Ukraine to intervene in the election, his numbers have dropped in all major polls.

Meanwhile, support for his impeachment and/or removal from office has sharply risen. A slight majority of Americans now favor impeachment. Before the Ukraine story broke, Americans opposed impeachment by an average of about 11 points.

UPDATE, 10/8: A new Washington Post/Schar School poll reports that 58% of Americans support the impeachment inquiry, and that 49% of Americans say they already believe there is enough evidence to warrant Trump being removed from office. With the impeachment inquiry barely underway, almost 1 in 5 Republicans (18%) already support Trump's removal.

It's likely Trump, who is no stranger to simply making up stories on the spot, just invented the number. But pretending he's popular (or even that a bare majority of Americans don't want him tossed out of office) is probably a survival strategy for Trump, who is deeply personally unpopular with the Republican senators who will serve as jurors in any impeachment trial. Former Republican senator Jeff Flake, among others, has said that if the vote to convict were done by secret ballot, 35 of the chamber's 53 Republicans would vote to remove Trump from office.

Trump further angered many of those Republican senators today with his plan to, in his "great and unmatched wisdom," completely abandon America's Kurdish allies in Syria and force them into an alliance with the Iran/Russia/Islamic State axis. Among the Republican senators furious with this sudden and radical change in America's military stance and speaking out today were Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO), Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE), Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA), and Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT).

Why should I care about this?

  • Politicians who are genuinely popular don't need to lie about their popularity.
  • In a democracy, "the people" tell presidents how they feel about them, not the other way around.
  • It's bad if the president makes a snap decision that will help the United States' enemies without consulting American officials because a foreign leader told him to.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

What did Donald Trump do today?

He made a difficult leadership decision—but not as President of the United States.

When Trump took office, he steadfastly refused to put his assets in a blind trust, or even formally resign from his leadership of the Trump Organization. In theory, he gave day-to-day control over his businesses to his adult sons. But in practice, he's shown a great deal of interest in the minutiae of his private business affairs—which explains why foreign countries seeking to influence him always make sure he knows that they're buying things from him.

Today, the Trump Organization announced it would not host a fringe anti-Muslim group at Mar-a-Lago, Trump's financially struggling Palm Beach luxury resort and the country's de facto winter White House. The leader of "ACT for America," Brigitte Gabriel, is a confidant of Trump's who brags about having a "standing meeting" with Trump. Trump's disgraced former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, was a board member of the group, and his embattled Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, has spoken to the group. The event scheduled for Mar-a-Lago was apparently a fundraiser aimed at Trump donors.

Few Americans will have a problem with Trump deciding not to host an Islamophobic group. But until a watchdog organization reported on the politically awkward event, Trump had no problem playing host and profiting from his dual role as caterer and political patron.

Why should I care about this?

  • If a president can't rid himself of conflicts of interest with his private businesses, he should quit the presidency.
  • Doing the right thing after you get caught doing the wrong thing isn't the same as being right.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

What did Donald Trump do today?

He insisted everything was fine with the North Korea talks that North Korea has walked out of.

The North Korean envoy to nuclear talks with the United States has left a meeting in Sweden and declared himself "very displeased." Kim Myong-gil addressed reporters today:

The negotiation did not live up to our expectations and broke down. I am very displeased. It is entirely because the U.S. has not discarded its old stance and attitude that the negotiation this time failed to produce any results. 
...While having so far hinted at a flexible approach, new method and creative solution, the U.S. has heightened expectations. But it came out with nothing, greatly disappointed us and sapped our appetite for negotiations. We have already clearly explained to the U.S. what calculation method was needed and given it sufficient time, but the U.S. came to the negotiations empty-handed and this, after all, shows it is not willing to solve the issue.

Trump's State Department, on the other hand, insisted that everything was fine. In a statement, a spokesperson claimed that the North Korean comments "do not reflect the content or the spirit" of the talks, and said that the U.S. had "proposed to accept the invitation of our Swedish hosts to return to Stockholm to meet again in two weeks time, in order to continue discussions." North Korea has not agreed to come back to the table.

Under normal circumstances, North Korean claims should be treated very skeptically. But more or less by definition, if a country says talks with an enemy nation aren't going well, they aren't.

Trump long ago declared the North Korean nuclear threat over, which has given Kim Jong-un a great deal of leverage over him, since Trump can hardly afford another high-profile failure in an election season. But in reality, the Kim regime has taken no steps whatsoever towards denuclearization—or even agreed that "denuclearization" means giving up its nuclear arsenal. Instead, it has ramped up its missile program

To be clear, Trump himself made no comment on North Korea today, spending his Saturday as usual playing golf and rage-tweeting. In fact, Trump has almost completely avoided the topic of North Korea for months, except to shrug at missile tests and enthuse about the letters he gets from Kim Jong-un.

Why does this matter?

  • This is why you don't declare a problem solved until it's actually solved.
  • The safety of the United States from nuclear-armed dictators is more important than Donald Trump's political problems.

Friday, October 4, 2019

What did Donald Trump do today?

He tried to get on the right side of the fight against corruption.

Trump's strategy on the ever-widening scandal centered on Ukraine and the five other countries he's pressured to help him politically appears to be to "flood the zone" with as many different explanations, counter-charges, and distractions as possible. Today, he focused on portraying himself as an anti-corruption crusader, which he did in press appearances and tweets.

Inevitably, a White House reporter asked the obvious question:

Q:    Have you asked foreign leaders for any corruption investigations that don’t involve your political opponents?  That is, are there other cases where you’ve asked for corruption investigations?

Trump stumbled and was unable to offer an example of "corruption" he was interested in that wouldn't involve helping him win an election, saying only, "You know, we would have to look."

That said, Trump does have a unique perspective on foreign corruption—from the supply side of it. For example, during the negotiations over the Trump Tower Moscow high-rise project—which he lied about being underway during the 2016 campaign—he planned to get local officials' approval by offering Russian president Vladimir Putin a bribe in the form of a free $50 million penthouse apartment.

Why should I care about this?

  • If trading American influence, money, or military power for help winning an election isn't corrupt, nothing is.
  • Accusing other people of things you have done yourself is called projection, and it's not a sign of good mental health.
  • Presidents who actually care about fighting corruption usually do something about it in their first three years in office.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

What did Donald Trump do today?

He asked China if it was listening.

Trump has spent much of the last week alternately denying that he pressured Ukraine to "investigate" his political rival Joe Biden, and confirming it, and refusing to answer altogether. He is facing an impeachment inquiry as a result of this attempt to have a foreign country interfere in another election.

Today, speaking to reporters on the White House lawn, he confirmed it, and then immediately invited China to do the same.

TRUMP: I have a lot of options on China. But if they don’t do what we want, we have tremendous — tremendous power. 
Q: Mr. President, what exactly did you hope [Ukrainian president] Zelensky would do about the Bidens after your phone call? Exactly. 
TRUMP: Well, I would think that, if they were honest about it, they’d start a major investigation into the Bidens. It’s a very simple answer. 
They should investigate the Bidens, because how does a company that’s newly formed — and all these companies, if you look at — 
And, by the way, likewise, China should start an investigation into the Bidens, because what happened in China is just about as bad as what happened with — with Ukraine.

Trump subsequently claimed he hasn't yet discussed the matter with China's president Xi Jinping, although that also appears to be a lie

Hunter Biden has invested in China, but it's hard to tell what Trump is talking about, or whether he actually believes it himself. Trump frequently accuses people he feels threatened by of doing what he himself has done—or in this case, what his daughter Ivanka and his son-in-law Jared Kushner have done. (For example, a few hours after calling on China to interfere in the election, Trump angrily tweeted "ELECTION INTERFERENCE!")

China makes at least the sixth foreign country that Trump is known to have sought help from in order to influence a presidential election. The others are Russia, the United Kingdom, Italy, Australia, and Ukraine.

Why does this matter?

  • American voters, not foreign governments, should decide American elections.
  • If this isn't abuse of office, nothing is.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

What did Donald Trump do today?

He tried to blame his economic record on his likely impeachment.

U.S. stock markets have plummeted over the last two trading days, after a key measure of domestic factory activity fell to ten-year lows. Job figures are also continuing to falter: projected September numbers released today were well below the threshold needed to keep up with population growth, and August's middling figures were revised sharply downward.

The S&P 500 and Dow Jones have been flat since January of 2018. In spite of his claims to the contrary, overall economic growth under Trump has been fairly lackluster. Economists think that Trump's trade war accounts for most of that missed potential. In a grim but ironic turn of events, his tariffs on foreign steel—meant to protect the domestic steel industry—cost 376 American steelworkers their jobs this week as a Louisiana mill shut down because it could not afford the recycled imported steel it used as a raw material.

Today, Trump blamed the impeachment inquiry for the market losses. (Yesterday, he blamed the Federal Reserve.)

Why should I care about this?

  • It's bad if the president can't or won't take responsibility for things that happen on his watch.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

What did Donald Trump do today?

He lied about whether Americans want to see him impeached.

Trump tried to chill increasing public support for the impeachment inquiry with a tweet today showing a mostly-red map and the caption "Try To Impeach This."

There are, to put it mildly, a few problems with this.

First of all, the map is wrong, coloring in counties in Trump red that actually voted for Clinton. 

It also obscures the fact that Trump lost the popular vote by a historic margin. Hillary Clinton received more than 2,800,000 more votes than Trump.

The map from 2016 ignores the fact that the more recent 2018 midterms were an absolute disaster for Republicans, as Democrats rode an anti-Trump wave to a gain of 41 seats in the House. Democratic candidates in the House, where every member faces re-election every two years, received 8,600,000 more votes than Republicans. The last time the margin was that lopsided was in 1974, right before President Nixon was forced from office.

More problematically for Trump, Americans' support for impeachment has increased dramatically in the last week, as more and more about his attempts to force foreign governments to take sides in the 2020 election has come out. 

  • A Quinnipiac University poll released Monday showed Americans evenly split, 47-47, for Trump's impeachment and removal from office. Last Wednesday—before most of the week's most damning revelations came out—it had been a 20-point gap, 37-57.
  • Monmouth University poll released today showed Americans supporting an impeachment inquiry by a margin of 6 points, 49-43. This was an increase of six points since August. 
  • A CBS/YouGov poll taken September 26-27 showed a 10-point majority support for the impeachment inquiry, 55-45. The same poll showed Americans favoring impeachment and removal by a 42-36 margin.
  • Tracking polls, which ask the same question on a daily basis, also showed dramatic increases in support for impeachment during the past week. Civiqs saw a six-point swing, to an overall 49-46 support for impeachment, over the course of three days between last Sunday and last Wednesday. Between September 24 and their September 26-30 window, Reuters saw Americans supporting Trump's impeachment go from a 37-45 minority to a 45-41 majority. 
  • Even polls showing a slight majority of Americans opposing impeachment at this point are showing dramatic shifts. A CNBC poll released today has a 44-47 split on the subject of impeachment, up sharply from 41-54 at the start of the Mueller investigation. But it also has Trump's approval rating at 37%, a record low for that poll.

So what?

  • Americans tell the president how they feel about him, not the other way around.
  • Lying about your popularity rarely works after about middle school.