I often find it a clarifying exercise to do the following. In six months we will know the outcome of the 2020 election. We will likely look back to September 2020 and see the eventual outcome as far more known, predictable than it actually appears to us today. This is in the nature of thinking historically. We have lived experience but the people of the future know more than us. My exercise is this: tell the version of me six months in the future how clear or unclear things look right now.
Taking this approach the weight of evidence points to Joe Biden winning a clear if not overwhelming victory over Donald Trump and a good likelihood that Democrats will control both houses of Congress. Looking not emotionally, not with the uncertainty that is so deep-rooted in the Trump Era and not with the weight of all that is at stake, the biggest fact of this election cycle has been the persistence and consistency of Biden’s lead. For all the drama, look at those trend lines. They barely budge.
Looking at all the available evidence, that is the most likely outcome. And I suspect in retrospect it will look even more clear, more likely. After the fact we’ll have only the evidence, the bundle of factual data and not the doubt, uncertainty and the specter of the unknown.
But of course there are other possibilities. The most likely bad outcome is simply that Donald Trump loses the popular vote by three or four percentage points but squeaks out an electoral college win with narrow victories in Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, Arizona and lucky breaks in maybe Pennsylvania or other states.
But I want to note another storyline being anticipated and demanded by many of Trump’s most ardent supporters. As usual with people in the Trump world, it surfaces either as ‘jokes’ or things his opponents purportedly want to do or start. In his on-going public meltdown, acting HHS comms chief Michael Caputo predicted that Joe Biden and his followers will try to overthrow the government with violence after not accepting Trump’s victory. Trump will have to put them down by force. He warns Trump’s supporters to stock up on fire arms and ammunition for the coming clash, which the Democrats will force on Trump.
I’m not sure it counts as South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg’s third story about running over a pedestrian two nights ago. Because it’s the first version of the story we’ve heard at length directly from him. But there are significant changes and additions from the revised story from yesterday. (Story one appeared to be that he was involved in a car accident in which someone died; story two was he ran someone over but thought the person was a deer.) You can read the full statement here.
The gist is as follows.
Today we learn that the Roger Stone deputy who now runs the press office at the Department of Health and Human Services says he’s doing battle with a CDC “resistance unit” which is trying to spin the Covid numbers against Donald Trump and murder Caputo. He predicts post-election civil war and encourages supporters to stock up on ammunition. Meanwhile the pardoned Roger Stone is calling for mass arrests against Democrats.
We also learn of a whistleblower complaint against a privately run ICE detention facility for allegedly tricking numerous detainees into getting hysterectomies.
In more pedestrian news the Attorney General of South Dakota ran over and killed a 55 year old man while driving home from a GOP fundraiser. He initially claimed he had hit a deer but the dead man’s body was found the next morning.
It’s only 3:30.
I just started reading this Buzzfeed article about Facebook board member and Trump backer Peter Thiel’s relationship with racist fringe groups. Thiel seems like an outlier in Silicon Valley because of his high profile support for Trump. But he is actually part of a rising tide of neo-authoritarian thought in the tech world which argues that democracy has failed and must be replaced. This reminded me of something I’ve been coming back to again and again with greater clarity and understanding its greater significance as the years have gone by.
At some point in 2015 I was sitting at my desk in TPM’s New York office’s talking with a good friend who worked at Gawker. The Hulk Hogan lawsuit had been on the horizon for a long time before it actually came to trial. In preparation Gawker founder and owner Nick Denton had recently cut some deal with a Russian oligarch to give Gawker deep enough pockets to withstand an adverse judgment which they anticipated and hoped could be reversed on appeal. My friend was walking me through all of these developments. He was very much preaching the Hulk Hogan lawsuit gospel. The future of freedom of the press, he told me, was on the line with Gawker’s fate.
I nodded in agreement with each point. As a publisher and strong supporter of press freedom, I supported Gawker’s position publicly and privately. And yet tucked away in my head part of me was saying, “C’mon. You published a sex tape.” Publishers see every libel suit and think there but for the grace of God. In this case, I knew to a certainty that this particular libel situation was not one TPM ever would have found itself in.
Michael Caputo is a career Republican political operative with no medical expertise beyond an annual physical. He is best known as being an associate of convicted felon Roger Stone, with his own lengthy history working in Russia and as a suspect in the Russia probe. Trump installed Caputo as the acting director of communications for the Department of Health and Human Services in April. We learned yesterday that he demanded and received the right to review and amend the CDC’s weekly mortality and morbidity reports, which are among the canonical public health and scientific reports of the US government, in order to make sure they don’t depart from President Trump’s COVID messaging.
It’s the 20th most important thing about the book or the interviews. But everything that comes out about these Trump-Woodward interviews, details and news notwithstanding, communicates an almost limitless personal insecurity and need for validation and acceptance. See here. It’s hardly surprising. It’s the flip side of his grievance politics. I certainly don’t feel sorry for Donald Trump – he deserves every bad thing that comes to him. But I don’t think it would be any fun being Donald Trump.
Two big non-policy/legislative questions and decisions will determine the politics of the coming years. One is whether there is an audit of the executive branch after Trump leaves office, if he loses the election on November 3rd. But just as important in its own way is whether the Senate filibuster is abolished. You can basically guarantee that no progressive legislation will ever get passed as long as the filibuster exists. The filibuster is undemocratic to start with. But the Republican party’s extreme use of it along with their locked in small state advantage mean that the GOP has what amounts to a permanent veto on all legislation and a guaranteed veto of any progressive legislation.
So I’m curious to find out what Democratic Senators – or Republican Senators for that matter – support abolishing the legislative filibuster on day one of the next Congress. This is only a practical question if the Democrats win back the Senate. But the question is the same in principle regardless.
And there it is yet again. The President’s personal lawyer and apparent bag man Rudy Giuliani has been exposed as an active participant in yet another Russian intelligence operation aimed at supporting President Trump’s reelection campaign. The details of the story — and Giuliani’s work with Andrii Derkach — have been something of an open secret, especially if you’ve been reading Josh’s on-going reporting. But Derkach has now been sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department as an “active Russian agent for over a decade, maintaining close connections with the Russian Intelligence Services.”
I failed. I was fooled. He pulled one over on me. I admit it and hang my head in shame. Last week I noted the demonstrable reality that Michael Cohen squeezed the Falwells for Jerry Falwell’s critical January 2016 endorsement of Donald Trump because he and Trump had photographs and documents that revealed that the ultimate power couple of rightwing evangelical Christianity were committed swingers and part of the so-called ‘cuckold lifestyle’. But Cohen continued to deny it, even with a soon to launch “tell all” memoir. I said he was likely still holding out because of continuing criminal liability for blackmail and extortion.
But I had it totally wrong.
Cohen was lying. But not to stay ahead of the law. He was lying in the interests of book promotion. He wasn’t going to wrongfoot his book roll out. I’m not sure whether this is more virtuous or proper. But it’s definitely more on brand. So I salute him.
Bloomberg News this morning floats the doubly absurd idea that President Trump is weighing the possibility of putting $100 million of his own money into his campaign. On its face this seems absurd. Trump had to be dragged kicking and screaming to put half that amount into his campaign in 2016 when the campaign’s need for money was far, far greater. (We don’t even know if Trump has that scale of liquid assets available.) But the bigger question is, why does his campaign even need him to pump in his own money?