COVID-19 Impacts Dow

Ken AshfordEbola/Zika/COVID-19 Viruses, Economy & Jobs & DeficitLeave a Comment

Stocks fell sharply on Monday as the number of coronavirus cases outside China surged, stoking fears of a prolonged global economic slowdown from the virus spreading.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed 1,031.61 points lower, or 3.56%, at 27,960.80. The S&P 500 slid 3.35% to 3,225.89 while the Nasdaq Composite closed 3.71% lower at 9,221.28. It was the Dow’s biggest point and percentage-point drop since February 2018. The Dow also gave up its gain for 2020 and is now down 2% for the year. The S&P 500 also had its worst day in two years and wiped out its year-to-date gain as well.

“The second-largest economy in the world is completely shut down. People aren’t totally pricing that in,” said Larry Benedict, CEO of The Opportunistic Trader, adding a 10% to 15% correction in stocks may be starting. He also said some parts of the market, particularly large-cap tech stocks, appear to be over-owned. “It seems like there’s much more to come.”

Coronavirus-impacted names led the way lower. Airline stocks Delta and American were both down more than 6% while United closed 5.4% lower. Shares of casino operators Las Vegas Sands and Wynn Resorts dropped at least 5.2% each. MGM Resorts slid 5.4%.

As of today… at 1:20 pm, the Dow is down a further 520 points, based on COV-19 fears.

At 3:30 pm, the Dow is 856 points down on the day

Closes at 878 down.

Trump, in India, makes it clear that our government is not on top of this:

Last Updated at (M/D/YYYY) 2/25/2020, 9:23:02 AM
Total Confirmed Cases: 80,147
Total Deaths: 2,699
Total Recovered: 27,621

Trump’s Purge Of The Intelligence Community

Ken AshfordTrump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

This morning, NBC News was one of several outlets reporting a “near meltdown” in the intelligence community after the news was released that acting direct of national intelligence Joseph Maguire was to be replaced by xenophobic hate-bomb specialist Richard Grenell. Much of what’s happening inside the ODNI hasn’t become public, but there has apparently been enough pushback that Trump has already announced that Grenell will be a short-term appointment until he picks someone else.

Then, last night, Trump offered the role to Doug Collins—an offer that still seems to be open. But Collins has already declared that he doesn’t want the job, because he’s still intent on running for a Senate slot in Georgia, a task that’s been complicated by Trump’s praise for the recently appointed Georgia Sen. Kelly Loeffler. 

As of this morning, Trump has announced that he will be appointing someone other than Grenell, but who that someone will be is still up in the air. In the meantime, the intelligence community has joined the Judiciary Community at full boil. It’s become absolutely clear that Trump is purging intelligence officials whose only crime is that they provided accurate intelligence to a committee that is not just cleared, but required to receive that information.

When word came that Maguire was being swapped out for Grenell, the initial reaction was a mixture of two parts disgust and one part puzzlement. Grenell has absolutely no experience in intelligence, and he’s never run so much as a shoe store. What he has done in his short time as U.S. ambassador to Germany is offend American allies and widen the fractures in the NATO alliance as he praised neo-fascist leaders, attacked his host country for admitting refugees, and defended Russian leader Vladimir Putin. But of course, Republican leaders in Congress rushed to applaud this appointment, even as everyone else scratched their heads.

It didn’t take long before the reasons behind the intelligence makeover became clear. At a closed-door briefing for the House Intelligence Committee last Thursday, intelligence official Shelby Pierson provided a required update on what the intelligence community knew about the security of the 2020 election. Pierson revealed that Russia was already actively engaged in interfering in the upcoming election, and that it was interfering for the purpose of supporting Donald Trump.

Republicans present at that meeting—who included Devin Nunes, Mike Conaway, and John Ratcliffe—rushed to the White House in concern. But they were not concerned about the Russian interference. They were concerned that Democrats knew about the interference. Trump shared that concern and seemed to be convinced that Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff had been given some special information, though there seems to be no indication that this is true.

Trump then called in acting DNI Joseph Maguire and reamed him out for allowing Pierson to give a long-scheduled and congressionally mandated briefing. Even though Maguire had been instrumental in trying to block the intelligence community whistleblower report that started off the impeachment investigation of Trump from ever seeing the light of day, that little favor did not seem to cool Trump’s fire. At the end of the day, he canned Maguire and went looking for someone who would be loyal to Trump rather than to the nation.

What’s happening at both the Department of Justice and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence at this moment is a last stand by those who have some concern other than protecting Trump’s political interests. What’s most frightening is just how small that group of fighters appears to be.

It is part of a larger effort to purge the government of Never-Trumpers.

Take the news of Johnny McEntee, a 29-year-old former body man to Trump who was fired in 2018 by then-Chief of Staff John Kelly but recently rehired — and promoted to head the presidential personnel office.

Johnny McEntee called in White House liaisons from cabinet agencies for an introductory Yesterday, in which he asked them to identify political appointees across the U.S. government who are believed to be anti-Trump, according to three sources.

But McEntee suggested the most dramatic changes may have to wait until after the November election.

Trump has empowered McEntee — whom he considers an absolute loyalist — to purge the “bad people” and “Deep State.”

U.S. ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, who also testified in the impeachment investigations, was fired the same afternoon.

Trump has also promoted or brought back several people he considers core loyalists — including McEntee, former White House communications director Hope Hicks, and U.S. Ambassador to Germany Ric Grenell.

Washington Post:

President Trump on Friday dismissed the assessment of a senior U.S. intelligence official that Russia wants to see him reelected as a “misinformation campaign” being driven by Democrats, as fallout continued from a classified congressional briefing last week.

“Another misinformation campaign is being launched by Democrats in Congress saying that Russia prefers me to any of the Do Nothing Democrat candidates who still have been unable to, after two weeks, count their votes in Iowa,” Trump tweeted, referencing the delays this month in tabulating the results of the nation’s first presidential nominating contest.

“Hoax number 7!” Trump added, suggesting that reports about the congressional briefing were akin to investigations of his campaign’s possible coordination with Russia in the 2016 election and his conduct toward Ukraine that led to his impeachment by the House and ultimate acquittal by the Senate.

Former GOP Congressman:

Stone Sentencing: Live

Ken AshfordCourts/Law, L'Affaire Russe, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

For those playing along at home:
– Trump’s campaign manager, deputy campaign manager and longtime personal lawyer are in jail.

– The first two congressmen to endorse Trump in 2016 are convicted felons.

– And Trump’s longtime adviser and friend was just sentenced to 3+ years

The Nevada Debate

Ken AshfordDemocrats, Election 2020Leave a Comment

The remaining Democrats took to the Las Vegas stage last night to act out their murder-suicide pact. Everyone knew was at stake, and it showed. Here are some takeaways:

1. Elizabeth Warren won, and won big. It wasn’t even close. THIS was the Warren that so many of us love and support, and it’s the Warren that has been systematically erased by the political media. She opened the debate by eviscerating Mike Bloomberg:

Then she refused to let up, leading to one of the all-time great debate moments—her utter destruction of Bloomberg on myriad nondisclosure agreements quieting women who have sued him or his company for sexual misconduct. 

Absolutely brutal. But it wasn’t just Bloomberg on the receiving end of her sharp, piercing wit—it was pretty much everyone. Check out how she took out everyone’s healthcare plan in one fell swoop, leaving the rest of the field in one disjointed, noisy, muddled mess. 

It was a master class in debating. Just the way she manhandled Bloomberg was a sneak peek into what she’d do to Trump in an October debate—understanding full well that debates don’t decide shit (Hillary Clinton handily won hers). 

Of major consequence, Warren eagerly embraced the “capitalist” label with gusto. She’s ceded the left-left to Bernie Sanders. By creating distance from him, she presented herself as a viable option not just for former Warren supporters who have defected to Sanders, but also for supporters of the other candidates potentially looking for a new home. Bloomberg is so clearly out of his depth that it’s hard to see him retaining what support he has, much less growing it. Joe Biden is a sad figure on the stage. Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar had their moments, but they shrank in stature—their hatred for each other was palpable, and did nothing to make either look like presidential material. 

So it’s a smart play. It’s the only play for a campaign that has lost the Battle of the Left; this was the only other option. That said, if liberal Warren were to somehow pull off the feat of becoming the center of our party, that would be an incredible accomplishment. Don’t worry: I’m not expecting it, but a person can dream, right?

In any event, she sealed the deal for me, at least as far as the primaries go,

2. Mike Bloomberg was so bad, it’s hard to understate how bad he was. What the hell was that out there? Billionaires aren’t used to being told they’re wrong, as everyone is always angling for their cash. So … is that why no one bothered to do any debate prep with him? It’s not as if he’s busy raising money or meeting voters or engaging in the trappings of a normal presidential campaign. Doing voice-overs for TV ads can’t take that much time. So why was he so obviously unprepared for questions? Even his clumsy attempts to label Sanders a “communist” were buffoonish and cartoonish. He stumbled and stuttered through his answers. Heck, in that NDA sequence above, he kept responding to Warren’s relentless attacks, robotically repeating the line about “consensual” NDAs, instead of brushing off and pivoting. 

Aside from debate performance, however, Bloomberg simply underscored how wrong he was for a Democratic Party primary. Asked if he was worth his $63 BILLION, he said yes, because “he worked hard.” Coal miners work hard. Single mothers juggling multiple jobs work hard. But MIKE FUCKING BLOOMBERG worked $63 BILLION TIMES BETTER. He was taking a page out of the Donald Trump playbook, bragging about how successful he was and how much money he had, and oh, no, he couldn’t release his tax returns because they were so complicated and all his army of lawyers and accountants couldn’t possibly gather the relevant information in the 10 weeks he’d been in the race, so they’d have to be released at some undetermined “later” time. What a freakin’ joke. 

In addition, New Yorkers have long known what an a-hole Bloomberg is. But he did a great job of showing his inability to handle criticism (from a woman!) in this one simple moment: 

He really is an asshole.  

The conventional wisdom (which I shared) was that the DNC had helped Bloomberg by changing the rules to let him into the debate. The conventional wisdom was so wrong, wrong, wrong. 

3. Bernie Sanders wins the Battle of the Left. Bloomberg’s inclusion didn’t just take pressure off Sanders as the front-runner in the race—it also offered him an easy foil to beat up on. And they took shots at each other the entire night. That doesn’t mean he was unscathed—other candidates took their shots here and there—but there was no concerted attack in the way that Bloomberg faced withering fire.  

But the bigger takeaway is that Warren ceded the left-left to him, no longer trying to out-liberal the self-professed socialist. She’s a capitalist who is fighting to save capitalism from itself. Bernie is the undisputed King of the Left, as everyone onstage reminded the audience. His support should remain undiminished heading into the next round of contests, and, given current polling, absent an unexpected consolidation to Bernie’s right, that’s enough for him to pile on the delegates. 

Meanwhile, this Bernie moment was FIRE. 

4. Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar hate each other with the white-hot intensity of a thousand suns. Why did these two go at each other the entire evening? Granted, they’re going after the same supporters, but that’s not a lot of supporters. If their play was to consolidate the anti-Bernie center, spending time on personal squabbles wasn’t going to get it done. 

5. Was Joe Biden at the debate? I forget. Oh, wait, he was there! And offered up this gem of an exchange, asking Warren if she’d ever done anything. Her answer to a stupefied Biden? “The Consumer Finance Protection Bureau.” 

So after writing all that, I wondered if I was being unfair to Biden. So I looked it up: 

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Okay, I didn’t imagine it. Also, kudos to Warren and Klobuchar for coming first and second in speaking time! Two women leading that stat might be a historic first. 

6. I didn’t realize Steyer hadn’t made the debate. That was refreshing. 

7. If Warren benefits, it may be too late for an upside in Nevada. Even if Warren receives a debate bump from her barnstorming performance, it may not matter as much in Nevada. “More than 36,000 Nevadans opted to vote early in the first three days of Nevada’s Democratic caucus—the first time that the unique early voting option has been available in a contest of presidential preferences,” reported The Nevada Independent. ”Turnout levels in four days of early voting alone were not available at press time, but could amount to well over half of the total turnout in the party’s one-day, 2016 caucus, when 84,000 people participated.” That means that potentially half of potential candidate-switchers have already locked in their votes. 

That said, the political punditry has already priced in a strong Sanders victory in Nevada. All Warren needs is a strong second-place showing to declare herself the Comeback Kid, a la Bill Clinton in 1992, and any separation from the non-Bernie candidate field may prove immeasurably helpful. After that, it’s South Carolina (where Joe Biden will make his final stand), and then off to the Super Tuesday delegate-a-palooza. 

8. Every Democrat who gave or sold their endorsement to Bloomberg should be asked if they are sticking to that endorsementHere’s the list. Whatever the reason people endorsed him—either because he’s funded their efforts over the years, or that they really thought he was the most “electable” of our field, here’s a chance to reconsider, given last night’s performance. Not even Bloomberg HQ can look at what happened and think, “Yeah, he’s got it.” The battle for the presidency isn’t a Coke vs. Pepsi air war. Substance and energy and competence and basic humanity all matter, and Bloomberg brings none of that to the table. No, we just get that he’s worth $63 BILLION or whatever because he “worked hard.” 

It’s obvious, obvious, obvious that his billions haven’t bought him the ability to be a viable candidate. The big-money people are realizing this now as well.

Literally every other candidate on that stage would be a better endorsement option. 

ANOTHER Corrupt Quid Pro Quo?

Ken AshfordL'Affaire Russe, Political Scandals, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

Of course it happened:

Donald Trump offered Julian Assange a pardon if he would say Russia was not involved in leaking Democratic party emails, a court in London has been told. The extraordinary claim was made at Westminster magistrates court before the opening next week of Assange’s legal battle to block attempts to extradite him to the US.

Rohrabacher told the Wall Street Journal that as part of the deal he was proposing, Assange would have to hand over a computer drive or other data storage device that would prove that Russia was not the source of the hacked emails. “He would get nothing, obviously, if what he gave us was not proof,” Rohrabacher said.

The report quoted an unnamed administration official as saying that Kelly had told Rohrabacher that the proposal “was best directed to the intelligence community”. The same official said Kelly did not convey Rohrabacher’s message to Trump, who was unaware of the details of the proposed deal.

Of course, Trump dispatched Rohrabacher to bribe Assange to clear him in the Russia probe. Isn’t it obvious? 

The Rise Of Bloomberg and The Nasty Democratic Primaries

Ken AshfordDemocrats, Election 2020, PollsLeave a Comment

Welp, as I said to a colleague, the Democratic primary is not shaping up as I wanted. A strong field has been reduced to a handful of flawed candidates. And leading that list are Sanders and Bloomberg. Ugh.

Sanders is killing in the national polls, but that’s due in large part to his popularity in states that are going to vote blue anyway. Like California.

But we have the electoral college, and Sanders needs to win swing states. Trump, in his tweets, clearly wants to run against Bernie, and it’s not hard to see why. People fear socialism. 58% of Americans fear it according to a recent poll. And all they have to do is tack that on to Bernie, and Dems have lost.

Vice News:

Sanders has emphasized that his version of socialism is avowedly small-d democratic and anti-authoritarian. “We must recognize that in the 21st century, in the wealthiest country in the history of the world, economic rights are human rights. That is what I mean by democratic socialism,” the senator said last year in a speech where he defined his views.

The results of a separate poll, also released Wednesday, indicate that maybe socialism isn’t quite enjoying the surge that Bernie is. Only 28% of Americans said they had a favorable view of the Sanders-embraced ideology — and 58% said they had an unfavorable impression, according to an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll.

But that’s not the case among Democrats. Among them, socialism is surging and progressives are especially likely to be down with it. Half of Democrats said they had a favorable view of socialism, and more than two-thirds of self-identified progressives said the same.

Whatever the case may be for “socialism” as a label, Dem-leaning voters don’t appear to have much of a problem with Bernie’s platform. Among the respondents to the Post-ABC poll, only 17 percent said Bernie was “too liberal,” and 62 percent of Democratic-leaning adults said his stance was “about right” ideologically.

Half of all Americans — Republican and Democrat — said Sanders’ embrace of socialism would make no difference in their vote. About 7 in 10 Democrats said his socialism wouldn’t make a difference in their vote.

And Bloomberg? Well, he’s only up there because of money. He has spent more in some states than all the other candidates combined. He’s a Republican light, He will appeal t swing voters, but he won’t bring out the youth.

And don’t get me started on the chances of a brokered convention.

THIS IS FRUSTRATING! But a debate is tonight. Maybe one of the better people will emerge.

Trump On Pardoning Spree Today; Is This Leading Up To A Stone Pardon?

Ken AshfordCrime, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

All the worst criminals.

Most of Trump’s pardons are aimed at one thing: nullifying laws when they are used against his friends and allies. No effort to hide it. And with full Republican support.

Oh, more….

Headline: Trump Grants Clemency to Another Round of People He Saw on Fox News