A Complete Analysis Of Trump’s 94th Unpresidented Week As POTUS

As Democrats win a diverse check on President Trump, he and his party are embracing their worst authoritarian impulses.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of Calif., right, claps between her two grandsons on stage with House Democrats after speaking about Democratic wins in the House of Representatives to a crowd of Democratic supporters during an election night returns event at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of Calif., right, claps between her two grandsons on stage with House Democrats after speaking about Democratic wins in the House of Representatives to a crowd of Democratic supporters during an election night returns event at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Trump’s first major typo after winning the election was spelling Unprecedented incorrectly. He infamously tweeted “Unpresidented.” This typo is a personification of his administration: An impulsive, frantically thrown together group of characters with virtually no oversight. After Trump was sworn in, I started writing the weekly “Unpresidented” column, analyzing his every move. This is week 94.

Since the last edition of Unpresidented, our nation’s leadership has become a few shades darker and significantly more female.

Over 115 million Americans turned out to vote, with record turnout among young voters in the midterm election. Over 100 women were elected to Congress, Governorships, and other statewide offices. Many of which were of diverse backgrounds, ethnicities, genders, sexual orientations, and age groups – bringing on historic firsts.

Ballots are still being counted. With each passing day, it seems another Democrat picks up a seat in the House as they close in 40 seats. Races we thought we knew the projected outcome of in Florida, Georgia, and Arizona were far from over. Florida has since moved to a recount for both the Senate and Gubernatorial races. Democratic Senate Candidate Kyrsten Sinema is continuing to widen her lead. And in the Georgia Gubernatorial race, Democrat Stacey Abrams is refusing to concede until every ballot has been counted.

Democrats have now locked in the biggest Democratic wave in the House since 1974. They also made massive gains in state legislatures. And there were under-discussed statewide blue surges in key states Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. In a familiar story, Democrats won the popular vote in the Senate by 9 million, but they still lost seats. Why? Because the Constitution gives low populated states the same level of representation as states with 10x the population. That is a story for another day.

The story for today is that in spite of the narratives coming out of Tuesday night, there was indeed a blue wave. It was built on a foundation of women and people of color and taken over the edge by the suburbs. The Kavanaugh effect was real as the gender gap was women skewed in Democrats’ favor. And with that, Democrats finally have a check on a President who has overt authoritarian tendencies.

The other story is the fact that rural white voters, especially men, vote for Republicans in a monolith. As the people who reject Trump leave the party, mostly loyalists remain. Gaslit by Fox News (which has essentially become a state-run propaganda organization) as their primary news source and fear mongering from the party and its leader, its no wonder the GOP base votes in unison. The Republican Party’s decades-long Southern Strategy of racial scapegoating proved effective for them in the Senate this time, but the map is not as favorable to them come 2020. This is on top of the fact the GOP is shrinking as they churn suburban whites, all while the Democrats are widening their electorate.

Nonetheless, challenges are ahead. As we’ve seen this week, President Trump is willing to go to any lengths to achieve self-preservation. Even if it means appointing a Mueller-hating sycophant to be Attorney General or falsely claiming Democrats are stealing elections. These claims, on top of the brazen voter suppression and gerrymandering we’ve seen, makes it clear the Russians didn’t need to interfere in the midterms to undermine Americans’ faith in their democracy because Republicans are doing a good job of that themselves. Given these undemocratic challenges, Democrats will need to work extra hard to overcome them.

Meanwhile, President Trump’s legal troubles are mounting as it becomes even more clear he is an unindicted co-conspirator with his former fixer Michael Cohen in campaign finance crimes.

Even with President Trump’s appointment of Matthew Whitaker as acting Attorney General, it may be too late to stop Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

And while California faced a historic, deadly fire, Trump failed yet another test of his leadership.

Let’s dive into another wildly consequential week.

Day 655: Monday, November 5

The Day Before Tomorrow

Over 30 million people had voted early. Anticipation was high ahead of election day. President Trump’s fear mongering rhetoric had hit its peak and Republicans were pulling out all the stops to suppress the vote. Specifically, there was Brian Kemp in Georgia who came up with a last-minute bogus claim that Democrats were trying to hack voter registration systems.

In other news…

Day 656: Tuesday, November 6

History
(AP)

(AP)

At first, given the underperformance in Florida, Indiana, and Kentucky’s 6th district, there was high anxiety. But as the night progressed, things started to turn as the first (although expected) flip of the night came in.


You’ve likely heard several takes on the election so far but I’d like to highlight what I think was a microcosm of the broader national winds. The flipping of Virginia’s 7th district was one of the most fascinating to me. Old fashioned Republican, and 2nd most powerful in the House, Eric Cantor lost to Tea Party Republican David Brat in 2014 because they charged Cantor was not tough enough on trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act. As we saw this year, Democrat Abigail Spanberger won this district riding a Democratic wave that was largely opposed the GOP’s handling of healthcare.

In 2018, Democrats won on the issue that lost them their majorities in 2010 and 2014. This was led by soon to be Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, who led Democrats to run an issue focused campaign and let the anti-Trump sentiment be the foundation of the wave rather than the focus.

Aside from what I outlined in the intro, Tuesday was filled with historic firsts.

And what is truly giving the Trump administration nerves is the simple fact that they will no longer be able to conduct themselves unchecked by the Legislative Branch.

You can track the races that are too close to call here.

Also, fine, if you insist, here’s a photo of me after I voted.

In other news…

Day 657: Wednesday, November 7

Authoritarianism
President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions stand for the national anthem during the 37th annual National Peace Officers Memorial Service on Capitol Hill, Tuesday, May 15, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions stand for the national anthem during the 37th annual National Peace Officers Memorial Service on Capitol Hill, Tuesday, May 15, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

The Lede: President Trump has just taken the most aggressive action yet in his effort to obstruct Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.

After months of verbal attacks and frustration over his recusal from the Russia investigation, President Trump has fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions and appointed Sessions’ Chief of staff Matthew Whitaker to take his place until a permanent replacement is announced.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who President Trump has long considered firing, has reportedly been removed from overseeing the probe and also may resign within the next 48 hoursFox News legal analyst Andrew Napolitano has said Whitaker’s appointment may have violated the law. Whitaker, who has been very critical of Mueller’s probe in the past, will now be overseeing the most important federal investigation of our time.

Whitaker has said that Trump stopping the Mueller probe would be constitutional, called Mueller an unaccountable prosecutor, said the probe has gone too far in a CNN op-ed about how Trump’s finances should be off limits, and shared this tweet:

Whitaker also made this claim which is oddly specific to his newfound role:

Whitaker also has ties to Sam Clovis, fueling Democrats’ calls for his recusal:

And one more thing: Whitaker wrote an op-ed in USA TODAY titled “I would indict Hillary Clinton.”

As Natasha Bertrand of The Atlantic points out, the timing is suspect given how Mueller is likely to move again soon:

The Context: The firing of Attorney General Jeff Sessions has wide-ranging ramifications for Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation because his replacement will have the power to shut down the probe, a power Sessions no longer has. President Trump has repeatedly expressed his disdain for Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ decision to recuse himself from the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. President Trump has reportedly asked Sessions to un-recuse on multiple occasions, and he’s publicly said that if he knew Sessions would recuse himself, he wouldn’t have nominated him. And on Twitter, President Donald Trump has given what appeared to be the closest thing to a public order to end Mueller’s investigation by saying Sessions  “should stop” the investigation. And now, President Trump has finally acted on those words.

As this is occurring, it’s important to put this in perspective with the other federal investigations and lawsuits plaguing Trump:

  • Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference, potential conspiracy with the Trump campaign, and obstruction of justice
  • The Southern District of New York’s investigation into Trump’s former lawyer/fixer Michael Cohen  (which Rosenstein and Mueller sparked by passing their findings over to them, leading to Trump becoming an unindicted co-conspirator in illegal hush money payments)
  • The Manhattan District Attorney’s investigation into the Trump Organization
  • The New York Attorney General’s investigation into the Trump Foundation
  • Emoluments clause lawsuits
  • Summer Zervos’ lawsuit

The Analysis: Trump’s obsession with Sessions’ recusal is of interest to Mueller in his obstruction of justice probe. Mueller is also examining Trump’s tweets about Jeff Sessions. Let’s break down why Trump’s obsession, and his latest move to fire Sessions, could be incriminating:

Jeff Sessions was nominated for Attorney General in November 2016…that was before the public was aware the Russia investigation even existed and before FBI Director James Comey revealed the Trump campaign was under investigation. So, what President Trump is essentially saying is that he wouldn’t have nominated Sessions for Attorney General if he knew he wouldn’t protect him from an investigation the public didn’t know existed yet. If President Trump’s claim is true, it appears that Trump was aware there was underlying wrongdoing in his campaign that he expected Sessions to cover up. Otherwise, his claim wouldn’t make sense.

And now, with the firing of Sessions and apparent interference in the Justice Department’s handling of the Russia investigation, legal experts are claiming this is more evidence of obstruction of justice.

Overall, this adds to the case Mueller is building. Trump’s intention has long been clear, by his own admission, that he wants the Russia investigation to come to an end. Trump has long known that it would be politically toxic to fire Rosenstein or attempt to fire Mueller, so he appears to see replacing Sessions as a backdoor way to obstruct the probe. The replacement AG could limit Mueller’s scope, decide how to handle Mueller’s reports, or shut down the probe outright. The fact that Senate Republicans are surrendering to Trump’s ousting of Sessions means they’re capitulating to Trump’s interference in the Justice Department and are complicit in his coverup. Democrats, on the other hand, have some plans of their own.

In other news…

  • After President Trump attacked Republicans who lost their seats in the election in an unhinged press conference, he escalated his war on the press.

Day 658: Thursday, November 8

Soviet-Style Disinformation

I want to spend some time talking about the truly Orwellian method in which the White House banned CNN’s Jim Acosta from covering the White House. Not to mention, they sourced the video from Infowars.

With advances in technology, the Trump administration’s continued distortion of reality for their voters brings on some starting prospects.

Deep fake technology allows for some disturbingly realistic video editing. It can make people appear to say things they aren’t saying. If the Trump administration is willing to use fake footage to justify yet another attack on the first amendment, what else would they be willing to justify?

In other news…

Day 659: Friday, November 9

Fear
Michael Cohen and Donald Trump (AP)

Michael Cohen and Donald Trump (AP)

The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) just published the most incriminating piece of journalism about Donald Trump in the entirety of his presidency. U.S. Attorneys in the Manhattan Office have discovered evidence that appears to confirm the President is implicated in the crimes Trump’s former fixer Michael Cohen has already pleaded guilty to.

In an article built on a foundation of 36 sources, court papers, and corporate records, the WSJ reveals in meticulous detail the story of how Donald Trump, Michael Cohen, and David Pecker of American Media, Inc. silenced the stories of multiple women who had damaging info on the 2016 presidential candidate.

Like many incriminating stories about this president, the saga starts in a Trump Tower meeting. In the 2015 meeting, Donald Trump asked David Pecker how he could help him with his presidential campaign. Pecker reportedly offered to buy women’s silence if they tried to go public with allegations of sexual encounters with Trump. In 2016, Trump acted on that offer.

The WSJ report outlines how, upon Trump’s request, the National Enquirer paid former Playboy Model Karen McDougal $150,000 to purchase and suppress the story about her 2006 affair with Donald Trump. The payment was made in August 2016. The WSJ broke the story of the original payment on November 4, 2016. When then-Trump campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks was reached out to for comment, she said they had no knowledge of this payment and denied the affair. That was clearly a lie.

There was a series of meetings and developments that led up to the payment, and Cohen reportedly kept Trump in the loop every step of the way. Trump’s fixer Michael Cohen recorded a tape in Septemeber 2016 where Donald Trump discussed purchasing the rights to McDougal’s story from the National Enquirer and “all the stuff,” which appeared to signal there were other stories to purchase. It was released by CNN.

And when it came to Stormy Daniels, David Pecker reportedly refused Cohen’s request because “he didn’t want his company to pay a porn star.” After Cohen’s failed attempt to get Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg to make it a payment from the company, Cohen made the $130,000 hush money payment to Stormy himself. The WSJ goes on to detail the reimbursement plan:

Had he just paid the ex-adult film star himself, Mr. Trump would have been out of pocket $130,000. Instead, Mr. Weisselberg authorized a reimbursement of twice that much, characterized in Mr. Trump’s records as legal fees, to cover the income tax hit Mr. Cohen would take. He also added a $60,000 bonus. Mr. Cohen received the money in monthly installments of $35,000.

This story was pieced together by federal prosecutors after Michael Cohen entered into a guilty plea as part of the criminal investigation being conducted by federal investigators in the Southern District of New York (SDNY). Cohen was being probed for over $20 million in bank fraud and violating election law by trying to suppress damaging information about then-candidate Donald Trump. The investigation into Cohen came after Special Counsel Robert Mueller referred evidence of wrongdoing he discovered to the SDNY.

The guilty plea admitted to 8 counts that include bank fraud, tax fraud, and campaign finance violations. Long story short, 2 of those counts on campaign violations involved Trump, according to Cohen’s plea. In a nutshell, Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to criminal conduct that took place in coordination with Donald Trump and in an effort to influence the results of the 2016 election.

After the plea agreement, reports revealed both Pecker and Weisselberg were granted immunity by prosecutors in the Southern District of New York. And as we see in the WSJ report, they appeared to have given up the goods and corroborated Cohen’s guilty plea.

That being said, his knowledge of the payments itself, and effort to influence the election with in-kind campaign contributions, doesn’t necessarily make the case airtight as the WSJ goes on to detail:

Mr. Trump’s involvement in the payments, by itself, wouldn’t mean he is guilty of federal crimes, according to Richard Hasen, a law professor at University of California, Irvine, who specializes in election law. A criminal conviction would require proof Mr. Trump willfully skirted legal prohibitions on contributions from companies or from individuals in excess of $2,700, he said.

But, as Former Obama Administration Ethics Czar points out, the piece goes on to details an additional criminal aspect.

It’s unclear exactly what the Manhattan Office will do next but given the newfound threats to his probe, the brilliance of Mueller’s move to pass the Cohen investigation to U.S. Attorneys in New York continues to bear fruit. Needless to say, the incoming Democratically controlled House of Representatives will take a keen interest in this.

In other news…

  • A reminder of the Southern Strategy.

Veteran’s Day Weekend

As California grappled with the tragic fire, President Trump felt it would be prudent to threaten the state.

Oh, and the President was in France.

Unpresidented // Donald Trump / Republican Party