THE MORNING PLUM:
The news that the Republican National Committee is now fully embracing the candidacy of Roy Moore in the Senate race in Alabama elicited shock and horror among some political observers. GOP pollster Matthew Dowd insisted that Republicans will now have “zero moral authority” to attack Democrats accused of sexual harassment. CNN’s Chris Cillizza agreed, suggesting Republicans had put “winning at the core of what your party believes.”
But what if Republican operatives are betting that President Trump has so degraded our politics that there simply won’t be any party-wide political price for embracing Moore? What if they turn out to be right about this?
Democrats, I’m told, are certainly going to try to hold the whole GOP — and Senate candidates in other races — accountable for the decision. In coming days, a Democrat tells me, it’s likely we’ll see state Democratic parties in places where there are contested Senate races doing the following:
- Calling on GOP Senate candidates to say whether they agree with the RNC’s decision.
- Pressing GOP Senate candidates to say whether they will accept financial help or assistance with field operations from the RNC, now that it is fully embracing a man accused of multiple sexual advances on teenagers.
- Pressing GOP Senate candidates to say whether they are okay serving alongside Moore in the Senate, should he win on Dec. 12, and to say whether GOP leaders should try to get Moore removed. All of this could result in local media coverage and scrutiny of these candidates’ stances.
The RNC has rejoined a fundraising agreement with Moore after pulling out of it several weeks ago. This was precipitated by Trump’s full-throated endorsement of Moore yesterday.
At the same time, The Post reports, Republican senators remain wary of Moore, with some insisting he’ll face an ethics probe if he wins. There is an understandable political rationale for this: Moore has already become an issue in other Senate races, with multiple Republican candidates coming under pressure to take a stand on his alleged sexual advances. Now that the RNC has officially embraced Moore, such pressure from Democrats will escalate.
It’s true that multiple Democrats now stand accused of sexual harassment, and it’s good that all of this is getting flushed into the open. But while the response of Democratic leaders has not been as quick and forceful as it should have been, they have called for resignations in several high-profile cases.
It’s also true that Senate Republicans may still take action against Moore if he wins. But GOP leaders have taken to carefully modulating their language, suggesting that the outcome is now up to the voters of Alabama to decide.
And let’s not forget that in addition to the multiple sexual allegations against Moore, he also has a history of racist and bigoted comments against gays, Muslims and even “reds and yellows.” He is an unrepentant birther. He is lawless, having been removed from the bench for placing God’s law above U.S. law. Republican candidates will be asked to comment on the fact that the RNC has now embraced him in spite of all these things.
In these areas, Moore mirrors Trump. Both have a long history of allegations of unwanted sexual advances, bigotry, birtherism and contempt for the rule of law. Moore, like Trump, has dismissed multiple sexual-misconduct charges — coming from women who are eminently believable — as part of a vast conspiracy against him. In this sense, Moore’s efforts carry overtones of Trump’s ongoing campaign to render empirically verifiable facts wholly impotent and irrelevant, and reduce even reasoned inquiry into what’s merely credible to an object of tribal suspicion.
If certain Republicans are betting that in the Era of Trump, it’s no biggie to embrace all of this in order to hold a Senate seat, then at bottom this is really a bet on the degree to which Trump has degraded our politics on all of these fronts.
* TRUMP ADVISERS THINK HE’S GETTING BAD LEGAL ADVICE: The Post reports that some of Trump’s political advisers have grown “concerned” about the quality of the legal advice that Trump’s lawyers have been giving him:
One Republican strategist in frequent contact with senior White House officials said there had been “consternation” among Trump’s political advisers in recent days. “The concern is that every time the president feels a little bit of pain from what Mueller’s doing, [his lawyers] give him OxyContin and tell him he’ll be fine by the morning,” this strategist said metaphorically.
They want Trump’s lawyers to be more combative, which may explain why Trump lawyer John Dowd is now claiming, combatively, that the president can’t obstruct justice by definition.
* THE ‘HAPPY TALK’ WORKS ON TRUMP: Axios reports that Trump’s team has reasons for telling him that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s probe will wrap up quickly, but even some of Trump’s own aides don’t buy it:
Trump often buys this, and it’s partly what keeps aides sane: They know charges may come, but the happy talk gives them hope. Aides know Mueller would not hire a team of prosecutorial “killers,” and give Mike Flynn a break, unless bigger game was in clear range. But the aides point out that Trump has spent most of his adult life in litigation. He erupts in 30-second bursts but usually settles down.
Of course, in his past life, Trump could often just throw money at his legal difficulties and make them go away.
* MUELLER SCRUTINIZES TRUMP’S FINANCIAL DEALINGS: Bloomberg reports that Mueller has subpoenaed Deutsche Bank, Germany’s largest lender, for documents related to transactions involving Trump and his family:
Democrats have asked whether the bank’s loans to Trump, made years before he ran for president, were in any way connected to Russia. … the Deutsche Bank subpoena may indicate that the special prosecutor is still looking at a wide range of data, including the president’s financial dealings.
Recent events have indicated Mueller is building an obstruction-of-justice case, but this suggests his investigation may still be proceeding on multiple fronts — including one that Trump has warned should be off limits.
* TRUMP ADVISER MAY HAVE MISLED ON RUSSIA: K.T. McFarland, Trump’s former deputy national security adviser, suggested to a Democratic senator that she was unaware of Michael Flynn’s contacts with the Russian ambassador. But the New York Times reports:
An email exchange obtained by The New York Times indicates that Ms. McFarland was aware at the time of a crucial Dec. 29 phone call between Mr. Flynn and [Sergey] Kislyak that was intercepted by American intelligence. … Mr. Flynn pleaded guilty on Friday to lying to F.B.I. agents about that conversation and other interactions with Mr. Kislyak.
Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) notes that this fits a “pattern of deception on the part of Trump’s closest associates regarding their connections and communications” with Russia. But why all the deception?
* UNDER TRUMP, DEPORTATION ARRESTS SOAR: The Associated Press reports that newly released data show a sharp drop in border arrests (perhaps meaning fewer people trying to cross) and a big jump in arrests for deportations:
The numbers released by the government Tuesday show that deportation officers are taking Trump’s call for an immigration crackdown to heart … [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] said “interior removals” — people deported after being arrested away from the border — jumped 25 percent to 81,603 from 65,332 the previous year.
This will no doubt shower prosperity all over Trump voters in Appalachia and the Rust Belt.
* REPUBLICANS ARE GOING AFTER BENEFITS NEXT: Paul Krugman notes that the Senate GOP tax bill will raise taxes in the long run on a majority of middle-class families, and adds:
That observation captures only a small part of what is about to happen to ordinary, hard-working Americans. For budget deficits are going to soar … And offsetting those deficits will require going after the true big-ticket programs, namely Medicare and Social Security. Oh, they’ll find euphemisms to describe what they’re doing, talking solemnly about the need for “entitlement reform” as an act of fiscal responsibility … But whatever words they use … Republicans have given their donors what they wanted — and now they’re coming for your benefits.
This whole “fiscal responsibility” ruse has been very useful for the GOP, in so many ways.
* AND BILLY BUSH SPEAKS: On Stephen Colbert’s show last night, Billy Bush ripped into Trump over reports that he has taken to saying that the voice on the “Access Hollywood” video might not be his:
“You don’t get to say that. Because I was there, and the last 14 months of my life, I have been dealing with it. And you dealt with it for 14 minutes, and went on to be the president. … Twenty women don’t get together and say, ‘Hey, you know what would be really fun? Let’s take down a powerful guy together.’ … You’re reopening wounds on them, too.”
Compared to Trump, even Bush looks sensitive and “woke.”