New York Times: “The Republican tax bill does not pass the postcard test. It leaves nearly every large tax break in place. It creates as many new preferences for special interests as it gets rid of. It will keep corporate accountants busy for years to come. And no taxpayer will ever see the postcard-size tax return that President Trump laid a kiss on in November as Republican leaders launched their tax overhaul effort. This was not the grand simplification of the code that Republicans promised when they set out to eliminate tax breaks and cut the number of tax brackets as they lowered rates.”
“As their bill tore through Congress, their ambitions fell to the powerful forces of lobbying and the status quo. Killed tax breaks returned to life. New ones sprung up beside them. A plan for three individual tax brackets became five, and finally eight. … What emerged on Friday, in the final product agreed to by Republican members of a House-Senate conference committee, was a bill that layers new tax complexities upon businesses large and small, and which delivers a larger share of benefits to corporations and the rich than to the middle class.”
Meanwhile, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) is returning to Arizona after spending several days in a Maryland hospital recovering from side effects from chemotherapy treatment for brain cancer, CBS News reports. ”McCain left Washington Sunday and is heading back to his home state to spend the holidays with his family. He will not be on hand for the final vote on the GOP tax passage expected for early this week. It is unclear when McCain might return to Washington.”
On Sunday’s edition of Am Joy on MSNBC, host Joy Reid noted that she was recently criticized by right-wing media for pointing out how the Trump administration was following the playbook of authoritarian governments.
“Step one, claim the investigation of you is fraud being conducted by enemies of the state,” Reid told MSNBC host Chris Matthews last week. “Step two, get your state-run media, your affinity media to echo that into your base and whip them up into a frenzy against those investigating you. Step three, get the state party — the Republican Party — to echo that from the seat of government.”
“And then, of course, you’ve got to add that last step,” Reid explained. “Call for the prosecution of your political enemies. In this case, dredging up Hillary Clinton to again call to locker her up.”
On Sunday, Reid asked Kendzior, an expert on authoritarian governments, if she “was being hysterical here in equating what Donald Trump is doing with what the kleptocratic leaders of authoritarian states do.”
“No, you’re not being hysterical,” Kendzior insisted. “Hysterical is just a word people use to describe women who speak a plain truth.”
Special counsel Robert Mueller has obtained “many tens of thousands” of Trump transition emails, including emails of Jared Kushner, transition team sources tell Axios.
“Trump officials discovered Mueller had the emails when his prosecutors used them as the basis for questions to witnesses, the sources said. The emails include 12 accounts, one of which contains about 7,000 emails, the sources said.”
”The accounts include the team’s political leadership and the foreign-policy team, the sources said.”
Gosh, I hope no one in the White House lied to the FBI about an email they assumed Mueller didn't know about. That would be awkward.
— Susan Simpson (@TheViewFromLL2) December 16, 2017
“Officials of President Trump’s transition team plan to ask Special Counsel Robert Mueller to return ‘many tens of thousands‘ of transition emails they contend were unlawfully provided to him,” Axios reports. “But the prosecutor’s office says emails being used in the investigation were properly obtained.”
“The transition emails are said to include sensitive exchanges on matters such as potential appointments, gossip about the views of particular senators involved in the confirmation process, speculation about vulnerabilities of Trump nominees, strategizing about press statements, and policy planning on everything from war to taxes.”
— Jonathan Chait (@jonathanchait) December 18, 2017
Washington Post: “Trump’s political aides have met with 116 candidates for office in recent months, according to senior White House officials, seeking to become involved in Senate, House and gubernatorial races — and possibly contested Republican primaries as well.”
“The president has told advisers that he wants to travel extensively and hold rallies and that he is looking forward to spending much of 2018 campaigning. He has also told aides that the elections would largely determine what he can get done — and that he expects he would be blamed for losses, such as last week’s humiliating defeat that handed a Senate seat in Alabama to a Democrat for the first time in 25 years.”
Dan Balz: “The tax bill now ready for final passage represents a big bet on the part of congressional Republicans. Facing an energized Democratic base and saddled with an unpopular president, GOP lawmakers hope that completion of the tax bill will help shield them from sizable losses in next year’s elections. Are they fooling themselves?”
“Assuming no last-minute hitches, the tax bill as enacted and signed by President Trump would represent a significant legislative achievement for a party that has struggled all year to convert power to productivity. As a morale boost to beleaguered politicians, its value should not be underestimated. Whether it will translate politically, as they hope, is a far different question.”
Brian Stelter: “An anti-Robert Mueller, anti-FBI fervor is intensifying among Trump supporters — partly thanks to a campaign by Fox News and other conservative media sources.”
“The right-wing commentary and President Trump’s criticism of the FBI are part of a vicious circle. The TV hosts encourage Trump, then Trump supplies sound bites for their shows, and then the hosts are even more emboldened.”
Josh Marshall: “One might speculate that Trump’s lawyers know they have no legal case here [in saying the transition email were illegally obtained by Mueller] but are playing this up as part of a “Mueller’s out of control/breaking the law” narrative. It’s certainly being played that way on Fox. Certainly there’s some of that. But my guess is that they’re genuinely surprised. And since they’re surprised they assume Mueller cheated. (Is it possible Mueller did something wrong? Sure. Who knows? If so, I’m sure we’ll find out soon enough. But I doubt it. And none of the legal commentary I’ve seen suggests he did.) Beyond that, however, I suspect they now fear (no doubt rightly) that Trump officials lied during their interviews with the Special Counsel’s office and the investigators already had the emails that proved they were lying. That’s a real sinking feeling for everyone involved.”
Trump continues to be coming out behind on all of his various feuds with the media.
–Voters trust the Washington Post more than him 55/38
–Voters trust the New York Times more than him 55/39
–Voters trust ABC, CBS, and NBC more than him 54/39 https://t.co/YvqF4ikEWF
— Joe Scarborough (@JoeNBC) December 16, 2017
A new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll finds Democrats leading Republicans in the generic congressional ballot by 11-points, 50% to 39%.
NBC News: ” The last time Democrats both held a double-digit lead and hit 50 percent on this question in the NBC/WSJ poll was September 2008, right before the party won the White House and picked up a substantial number of House and Senate seats.”
Mark Murray reports at NBC News that “Democrats now enjoy their largest advantage in congressional preference in nine years, according to the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, signaling a dangerous political environment for Republicans entering next year’s midterm elections….Fifty percent of registered voters say they prefer a Democratic-controlled Congress, versus 39 percent who want Republicans in charge…This past October, Democrats had a 7-point advantage on congressional preference, 48 percent to 41 percent…In this most recent poll, Democrats hold a whopping 48-point lead in congressional preference among voters ages 18-34 (69 percent to 21 percent), a 20-point lead among female voters (54 percent to 34 percent) and a 12-point lead among independent voters (43 percent to 31 percent)…By contrast, Republicans have a 2-point edge among white voters (46 percent to 44 percent) and a 12-point advantage with whites without a college degree (50 percent to 38 percent)…Notably, Democrats lead among male voters by 2 points, 46 percent to 44 percent, and among seniors by 4 points, 46 percent to 42 percent…The NBC/WSJ poll also shows Democrats with the intensity advantage, with 59 percent of Democratic voters saying they have a high level of interest in next year’s elections (registering either a 9 or 10 on a 10-point scale), versus 49 percent of Republican voters saying the same thing.”
David Litt, in “How Doug Jones Destroyed Roy Moore’s Whole Shtick with One Well-Chosen Verb”, argues that Doug Jones delivered a master-stroke one-liner that revealed Moore’s essential phoniness: “When you see me with a gun, folks, I’ll be climbing in and out of a deer stand or a turkey blind, not prancing around on a stage in a cowboy suit.” Litt continues, “…Parse that phrase closely, and you realize it’s a body blow – not just to Moore, but to Donald Trump, Steve Bannon, and the politics they champion. Litt notes further, “instead of fighting on the culture warrior’s turf, Jones turned to ridicule. “Prancing around on a stage in cowboy suit.” Litt adds, “Look at the word choice in that sentence. Not “walking” or “marching,” but “prancing.” Not at a rally, but “on a stage.” Not dressed like a cowboy, but “in a cowboy suit.” These were precise, cutting words. They didn’t just make fun of his opponent. They went straight at the central conceit of his public persona – his toughness. Words like “prancing” and “cowboy suit” suggest the opposite of masculinity. Where Roy Moore presented himself as an alpha male, Doug Jones exposed him as a kind of right-wing cabaret act…in the age of Trump and Bannon, plenty of them will feature ersatz tough-guys eager to turn politics into a pissing contest. By making his opponent look ridiculous, Doug Jones reminded us that Democrats don’t have to play that game to win elections. With carefully-chosen words, and a healthy appreciation for the power of mockery, they can corral the pigs without getting mud on their hands.”
— The New Republic (@newrepublic) December 18, 2017
James Hohman explains why “Democrats risk overplaying their hand by pushing for Trump’s resignation”: “Many veteran operatives and elder statesmen in the Democratic firmament worry that engaging in this fight is not the way to win in 2018. They think Hillary Clinton blundered by trying to turn last year’s election into a referendum on Trump’s baggage and boorish behavior. They worry that Democrats won’t fully capitalize on Trump’s unpopularity if they’re perceived as overplaying their hand. They’re nervous that the conversation over whether Trump should step down has sucked up too much political oxygen, possibly at the expense of the tax debate — which a lot of these Democrats believe they can win since so many voters already see the GOP bill as a giveaway to the rich at the expense of the middle class…Ed Rendell, the former governor of Pennsylvania and chairman of the Democratic National Committee, said it’s very hard to ask Trump to resign when all the accusations of sexual assault against him were out in the open before the 2016 election. “The American people knew this, and they voted for him anyway,” Rendell said in an interview. “If there were any new allegations, that might be something different. But they knew it, and they voted for him.”
Ronald Brownstein makes a compelling case that Trump is a disaster for 2018 Republican candidates, and it would be political malpractice for Dems not to take full advantage of it: “One of the clearest messages from 2017’s big contests is that other Republicans are now closely bound to their volatile and vitriolic president. Exit polls showed that among voters who disapproved of Trump, the Democrats won 82 percent in New Jersey, 87 percent in Virginia, and 93 percent in Alabama. Few congressional Republicans have tried to establish much independence from Trump, yet in most places he is even less popular than he was on Tuesday in Alabama, where exit polls showed voters splitting evenly over his job performance. After Alabama, Republicans up and down the ballot face urgent choices about whether they will continue to lash themselves to the mast of Trump’s storm-tossed presidency…“Anti-Trump fever is now so strong among Democrats, young voters, and independents that the GOP is likely to face a surge in turnout on the Democratic side that will make the 2018 midterms lurch toward the demographics of a presidential year,” says longtime GOP strategist Mike Murphy, who advised Attorney General Jeff Sessions when he first won his Alabama Senate seat, in 1996. “That is a looming disaster that could well cost the GOP control of the House. We are in a Trump-driven worst-case situation now.””
“Going below 30% kept Truman from seeking another term and going below 30% eventually drove Nixon out of office. In the modern era, beginning with FDR, presidents get into trouble when they fall below 30.”
Two recent polls put Trump’s approval at 32%.https://t.co/qxK44D9jNe
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) December 16, 2017