It’s Hard To Keep Up With All That’s Going Down

Ken AshfordL'Affaire Russe, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

Just yesterday — on ONE day…

Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway broke ethics rules promoting Ivanka Trump clothes, which wouldn’t have happened if Trump hadn’t tweeted about how unfairly Nordstrom’s was treating Ivanka Trump by dropping her line of clothing.

Then we learned that Trump, when talking to Putin last week, had to put Putin on hold in order to ask his advisors what the New START treaty was. Then he got back on the phone and told Putin the New START treaty was a “bad deal”.

Later, Trump lost an appeal of his temporary travel ban. He tweeted “SEE YOU IN COURT” apparently unaware that he just lost in court.

Then the “failing” New York Times reported that China hasn’t been taking our phone calls because of Trump’s faux pax with Taiwan back in November.

Then, the Washington Post informed us, in a heavily-sourced story, that General Flynn, Trump’s closest military advisor, discussed sanctions with Russia while Obama was President, which is illegal. And then he lied about it. Many times.

So, that was yesterday.

The Flynn matter is dominating the news this morning. It’s really looks bad for Flynn:

National security adviser Michael Flynn privately discussed U.S. sanctions against Russia with that country’s ambassador to the United States during the month before President Trump took office, contrary to public assertions by Trump officials, current and former U.S. officials said.

Flynn’s communications with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak were interpreted by some senior U.S. officials as an inappropriate and potentially illegal signal to the Kremlin that it could expect a reprieve from sanctions that were being imposed by the Obama administration in late December to punish Russia for its alleged interference in the 2016 election.

Flynn on Wednesday denied that he had discussed sanctions with Kislyak. Asked in an interview whether he had ever done so, he twice said, “No.”

On Thursday, Flynn, through his spokesman, backed away from the denial. The spokesman said Flynn “indicated that while he had no recollection of discussing sanctions, he couldn’t be certain that the topic never came up.”

(Emphasis mine).

Clearly, Flynn got caught with his hand in the cookie jar.  That’s the only reason why he would back away from a denial.  Also, Mike Pence had gone to bat for him…

“They did not discuss anything having to do with the United States’ decision to expel diplomats or impose censure against Russia,” Pence said in an interview with CBS News last month, noting that he had spoken with Flynn about the matter. Pence also made a more sweeping assertion, saying there had been no contact between members of Trump’s team and Russia during the campaign. To suggest otherwise, he said, “is to give credence to some of these bizarre rumors that have swirled around the candidacy.”

…. and he is not about to take the fall.

This isn’t a he said, she said.

Neither of those assertions is consistent with the fuller account of Flynn’s contacts with Kislyak provided by officials who had access to reports from U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies that routinely monitor the communications of Russian diplomats. Nine current and former officials, who were in senior positions at multiple agencies at the time of the calls, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters.

All of those officials said ­Flynn’s references to the election-related sanctions were explicit. Two of those officials went further, saying that Flynn urged Russia not to overreact to the penalties being imposed by President Barack Obama, making clear that the two sides would be in position to review the matter after Trump was sworn in as president.

An administration official stressed that Pence made his comments based on his conversation with Flynn. The sanctions in question have so far remained in place.

You have to wonder how stupid Flynn must be.  As a former intelligence officer, he should have know his communications with the Russians would be monitored.  There was no way he could get away with that lie.  As Mother Jones says:


The question now is…. will Trump stand by him, or throw him under a bus (where he belongs)?

His hand my be forced by public opinion (that is, assuming Trump believes in public opinion, which I doubt).  Here’s the latest from PPP.  I reprint it in its entirety because it shows just how Trump is losing popular opinion on almost every front — foreign policy, the “ban”, the “wall”, transparency, etc.:

PPP’s new national poll finds that Donald Trump’s popularity as President has declined precipitously just over the last two weeks. On our first poll of his Presidency voters were evenly divided on Trump, with 44% approving of him and 44% also disapproving. Now his approval rating is 43%, while his disapproval has gone all the way up to 53%. If voters could choose they’d rather have both Barack Obama (52/44) or Hillary Clinton (49/45) instead of Trump.

Just three weeks into his administration, voters are already evenly divided on the issue of impeaching Trump with 46% in favor and 46% opposed. Support for impeaching Trump has crept up from 35% 2 weeks ago, to 40% last week, to its 46% standing this week. While Clinton voters initially only supported Trump’s impeachment 65/14, after seeing him in office over the last few weeks that’s gone up already to 83/6.

Here are the reasons things are going bad for Trump:

-Voters think he’s over reaching to make a country safe…that they already consider to be safe. 66% of Americans consider the United States to be a safe country, to only 23% who consider it unsafe. Perhaps as an outgrowth of that sentiment only 45% of voters support Trump’s Executive Order on immigration, to 49% who are opposed to it. Among those who do support it you have to wonder how well thought out their position is- by a 51/23 margin Trump voters say that the Bowling Green Massacre shows why Trump’s immigration policy is needed.

By a 48/43 spread, voters do think that the intent of the Executive Order is to be a Muslim ban. And just 22% support a Muslim ban, to 65% who are opposed. The order has also increasingly raised issues about Trump’s competence in voters’ eyes- only 27% think the Executive Order was well executed, to 66% who think it was poorly executed. The spread on that question was 39/55 when we asked last week.

Another aspect of voters already feeling safe is that they don’t want to pay for the wall with Mexico. Just 32% support a 20% tax on items imported to the United States from Mexico, to 55% who are opposed to that concept. And in general only 37% of voters want the wall if US taxpayers have to front the cost for it, to 56% who are against that.

-Voters are concerned by the implications of Trump’s fight with the Judiciary. 53% of voters say they trust Judges more to make the right decisions for the United States, to only 38% who trust Trump more. And only 25% of voters think Trump should be able to overturn decisions by Judges that he disagrees with, to 64% who don’t think he should be able to do that. Trump voters have evidently had enough of the Constitution and those pesky checks and balances though- 51% of them think he should personally be able to overturn decisions he doesn’t agree with, to only 33% who dissent.

-Voters don’t like the people Trump has surrounded himself with. Betsy DeVos may have been confirmed this week, but she made a horrible impression on the public. Only 27% of voters see her positively to 49% with a negative opinion of her. Clinton voters are almost unanimous in their distaste for her (5/83 favorability), while she doesn’t generate nearly an equivalent amount of enthusiasm from Trump voters (53/12 favorability.) Other people close to Trump have come off poorly as well- Steve Bannon has a 22/45 favorability rating, Kellyanne Conway’s is 34/47, and Sean Spicer’s is 32/41.

-Voters continue to have a lot of basic transparency concerns when it comes to Trump. 62% think he needs to fully divest himself from his business interests, to only 27% who don’t think it’s necessary for him to do that. And 58% want him to release his tax returns, to just 31% who don’t think he needs to. In fact by a 53/32 spread, voters would support a law requiring that candidates for President release 5 years of their tax returns in order to appear on the ballot.

-Voters are concerned that in the realm of foreign policy, Trump likes who they don’t like and doesn’t like who they do like. Trump has antagonized Australia, which Americans give a 76/5 favorability rating. Meanwhile he has been warm to Russia, which Americans give a 13/63 favorability rating. He’s threatened to invade Mexico- a course that only 7% of voters support while 83% oppose it- while making nice comments about Vladimir Putin, who Americans give a 10/72 favorability to.-Voters are concerned about Trump taking away Obamacare. 47% of voters now say they support the Affordable Care Act to only 39% who are opposed. It just keeps getting more popular. And only 32% think the best course of action to take on health care is repealing the ACA, while 65% would like Congress to keep it and just fix parts that need fixing.

-Voters are increasingly taking the media’s side in his fights with them. The New York Times has repeatedly been a target of Trump’s attacks, but voters say they think the Times had more credibility than them 52/37. Trump seems to be losing ground in that conflict- he was only down 51/42 a week ago. The Presidency has been so diminished over the last 3 weeks that voters even say Saturday Night Live has more credibility than Trump, 48/43.

On another note it was unclear last week whether Donald Trump really knew who Frederick Douglass was, and it turns out that puts him in pretty good alignment with his party base. Only 47% of Trump voters know that Frederick Douglass is dead, compared to 78% of Clinton voters who know that. Even though they evidently need it, Trump voters aren’t very excited about Black History Month. Only 45% of them have a favorable opinion of it, to 35% with a negative one. By contrast it’s 81/9 for Clinton voters. And in yet another measure of the terrible economic anxiety gripping Trump voters though, 46% of them think there should be a White History Month to 36% opposed to that concept. They may not get far with that though, since only 28% of voters overall are in favor of such a thing to 58% opposed.

Finally we continue to find that unhappiness with Trump- and with Congressional Republicans- could help Democrats to make big gains in 2018. Democrats lead 49/41 on the generic Congressional ballot. That’s partially a product of Trump’s unpopularity but also an outgrowth of Paul Ryan (35/47 approval), Mitch McConnell (23/52 approval), and Congress as a whole (16/68 approval) being unpopular in their own rights.

Emphasis in original.

While this confirms that Trump is generally doing down down down, here’s what jumped out at me:

Among those who do support it you have to wonder how well thought out their position is- by a 51/23 margin Trump voters say that the Bowling Green Massacre shows why Trump’s immigration policy is needed.

And of course, there never WAS a Bowling Green Massacre.

In other words, most of Trump’s support – what little he has — comes from stupid and/or uninformed people.

For now, the Republican establishment (with a few exceptions) is not distancing itself from Trump, as this Tweet suggests.

But how long will that last?  GOP Congressman are returning back to their states, only to find angry voters at town hall meetings (they are cancelling them).  The GOP owns Trump now, and the longer they do, the better things looks for Dems.

(And I haven’t even brought up the Obamacare repeal yet!)