An overnight article from the Times is the first to press past questions about Jeffrey Epstein’s wealth to suggesting that – like Donald Trump – it may all simply be an illusion. No one disputes that he’s a very wealthy man by any normal standard. He appears to own almost a quarter of a billion in real estate alone. But the claims of being a billionaire or running a fund which manages tens of billions of dollars appears to be based on very little.
Here’s Alex Acosta’s answer on that Daily Beast claim that he told Trump transition officials that he was told to lay off Epstein and that he was some sort of intelligence asset. That struck me as a pretty wild claim. But bizarrely Acosta non-denial denialed it with a claim about departmental policies which I don’t think adds up.
This was a pretty weird answer: "I can't address it directly because of our guidelines." pic.twitter.com/9SVi8HNKo2
— Josh Marshall (@joshtpm) July 10, 2019
In my earlier post I mentioned the reporting of Vicky Ward who did a lengthy piece on Epstein for Vanity Fair in 2003 and is now revisiting the story in The Daily Beast. (Ward had a detailed version of the underaged girls part of the story but Vanity Fair cut that from the 2003 story.) I wanted to flag your attention to a passage in her latest piece at The Daily Beast which reports that Acosta told Trump transition officials that he’d been told to back off the Epstein case at the time and that that was why he gave Epstein such a generous deal.
Here’s the passage …
We know the outlines of charges that Jeffrey Epstein for years had procurers recruiting underaged girls for sex. We know the suspicions that various wealthy and powerful men in his vast social circle may have been part of this organized system of statutory rape. But there’s another part of this emerging story I want to focus your attention on – one which is distinct but may not at all be separate.
No one seems to have a clear idea of where Jeffrey Epstein’s money comes from.
Here’s an issue you likely know intuitively but is worth knowing and considering in more depth. Partisan gerrymandering is a scourge on our democracy and Republicans played it to maximum advantage in 2010. But it’s only part of the reason that Democrats play at a deep structural disadvantage in the House of Representatives. An equally big culprit is Democrats’ concentration in major urban enclaves. Indeed, the two are deeply intertwined. What we think of as partisan gerrymandering in its recent Republican guise is largely a matter of taking the existing concentration of Democrats in urban areas and playing it to maximum advantage. Put another way, if Democrats controlled states and tried to partisan gerrymander to their maximum advantage rather than produce ‘fair’ districts through commissions it simply wouldn’t be possible to do it as successfully as Republicans did in 2010-12.
The key to a successful partisan gerrymander is creating a large number of districts where your party has a strong but not overwhelming advantage and creating a small number of safe seats for your opponents where they have an overwhelming advantage and thus ‘waste’ lots of votes. Geography and demography simply make that much more possible for Republicans than Democrats.
In comments a earlier this hour, President Trump shifted his stance on Jeffrey Epstein, now claiming he “was not a fan” and “had a falling out with him” many years ago. Video after the jump.
I got a flood of responses to yesterday’s post on Joe Biden’s poll numbers. As always, I learn from all of them. I should say that I know these posts provoke people. But it’s not mischievous provocation. It’s with a purpose. To that end, most of the replies were some form of making two points. First, we’re 18 months from the election. Polls can and do change and they don’t mean that much now. (TPM Reader AG sent me the link and text to this CNN write-up of an April 2004 Gallup poll showing John Kerry beating George W. Bush.) Second, Joe Biden sucks! By which they mean, as they explain, Biden has any number of already apparent weaknesses and liabilities – he’s old; he’s got a history running failed presidential campaigns; he’s on the line for various policies of the past which Democrats now repudiate; he’s old school and establishment; he’s out of touch with the aspirations and beliefs of younger and more diverse Democrats, etc etc. The point being that both within the Democratic primaries and in a hypothetical general election these liabilities will inevitably weigh him down and sink him regardless of what polls today may say.
I actually agree with a lot of these criticisms and said as much a few months ago. More than that, I worry they will weigh him down over time.
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When we think about politics all of us are prone to meld together things we support with things that are viable, possible, popular. With this in mind I want to flag to your attention one part of the WaPo/ABC news poll that came out over the weekend. One headline out of this poll is that Trump’s approval rating is the highest ever recorded for this particular poll. We shouldn’t draw too much from that data point since it’s only slightly higher than the average for this poll and to date other polls show no significant strengthening.
But I want to draw your attention to this finding.
Just wanted to be sure everyone saw the part of President Trump’s impromptu press conference where he said openly what his administration (both generally and specifically to the Supreme Court) has denied for months: that they want a citizenship question on the census to help with redistricting.
Trump on why he wants a citizenship question: "You need it for congress for districting, you need it for appropriations." Key point: The Solicitor General specifically this was not why they wanted a citizenship question. This is the real reason that they've been hiding. pic.twitter.com/K0FT5yYVAh
— Josh Marshall (@joshtpm) July 5, 2019
Today looks like a sleepy day after the holiday and day before the weekend day. But we’ve got some major news coming at 2 p.m. ET. That is the deadline for the DOJ has to explain to a federal judge just what it’s doing in the Census litigation. You’ll remember earlier this week the DOJ didn’t appear to cave but actually did cave and announced the Commerce Department was sending the 2020 Census forms off to the printer. President Trump apparently got wound up in a series of phone calls with conservative pals and possibly to a degree in reaction to the celebration of the plaintiff’s attorneys and announced on Twitter that it was full speed ahead asking the citizenship question. This led to that incredibly awkward spectacle on Wednesday in which a career DOJ lawyer had to admit to a federal judge that he truly didn’t know what was happening, that he was telling the truth as far as he understood it the day before and really didn’t know what was happening other than what the President tweeted.
Well, today they have to tell the judge what’s going on.
For all the build-up, the actual Trump Lincoln Memorial speech was pretty tame – smallish crowd, pretty unremarkable speech. At least on camera the military hardware was basically invisible. In the event, it was two tanks and two fighting vehicles parked nearby the speech. They made occasional cameos. The Blue Angels came at the end.
To the degree there was news, it was that Trump didn’t go off script. Reportedly, White House staffers were petrified that Trump would go off script and turn the event into a MAGA rally. That didn’t happen. The speech was similar to the State of the Union speeches Trump has given. Trump tone but pretty standard speechifying.
The whole thing was pretty standard.
In a major reversal, a top Justice Department official tells a federal judge that the administration is working to find a way to get the citizenship question back on the 2020 census and is considering taking the matter directly to the Supreme Court.
I laid out where we are the census citizenship question as of mid-afternoon today, but this report from CNN nicely captures the inanity of the President acting out on Twitter while lawyers are trying to represent the government in an actual federal court with rules and consequences and such:
Matt Shuham explains (membership required) that while the fireworks industry were donating more than a million dollars worth of fireworks for Trump’s personal fireworks display at the Lincoln Memorial they were also trying to convince him not to follow through on tariff threats that affect their industry.
Don’t miss Matt and Josh’s report on Trump’s big speech/fundraiser/military spectacle and personal fireworks display at the Lincoln Memorial tomorrow evening. It turns out Trump will have his own personal fireworks display put on just behind and over the Lincoln Memorial. (Remember this mini-event within an event is “hosted by the President of the United States.”) It finishes just before the regular America fireworks start. All of it, unsurprisingly, seems very last minute. There’s even trash talk between the fireworks vendors about whose will be the biggest. ““I’m not putting [the main fireworks display] show down — it’s one or two shells at a time. Ours are going to be dozens and dozens at a time,” Phantom Fireworks CEO Bruce Zoldan told TPM. Finally, the White House didn’t just hook up the RNC as a ticket distributor for big donors. According to the Maryland GOP, “our friends at the White House” hooked them up as a ticket distributor too.