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?
This article in the Post talks to a number of epidemiologists who say we’re on the cusp of what may be the worst of the COVID-19 epidemic.
The article is based in significant measure on a new model from the IHME modelers at the University of Washington. They don’t have a perfect record. So I don’t think we should see this as consensus opinion or what “the science” says. But it’s worth taking note of as at least one quite dire outlook.
I hope you’re settling into a relaxing long weekend, or as relaxing as anything can be in these unsettled times. We are on the cusp of a vast civic storm unfolding over the next 60 to 90 days. So make the most of the respite.
While you’re here don’t miss our team’s “Is Your State Ready?” series. Josh Kovensky, Kate Riga, Matt Shuham and Tierney Sneed are looking at every state to look at their preparedness for this pandemic election. You can see the first three installments here.
You can also watch my conversation about Benito Mussolini, Italian Fascism and the rising global authoritarian movement with Professor Ruth Ben-Ghiat of New York Univeristy.
I wanted to update you on some new news on the Falwell/Trump 2016 endorsement scandal. Since we last checked in on this story another Liberty University student has come forward to say that Becki Falwell pursued him sexually. But it’s the Michael Cohen part of this story that remains the really newsworthy part.
It’s hardly the President’s biggest outrage. And there has been reporting that President Trump has been pressing the Pentagon to cut the subsidy provided to Star and Stripes, the paper for military service members that traces its history back to the Civil War. But Kathy Kiely, writing in USA Today, reports that Trump has ordered the publication shuttered this month. “The memo orders the publisher of the news organization (which now publishes online as well as in print) to present a plan that “dissolves the Stars and Stripes” by Sept. 15 including ‘specific timeline for vacating government owned/leased space worldwide.'”