THE MORNING PLUM:
On Thursday night, CNN will air an interview with Karen McDougal, a former Playboy model who claims she had a 10-month affair with Donald Trump. This Sunday, CBS will televise another interview, this one with former porn star Stormy Daniels, who also says she had an affair with Trump.
Which raises two key points about our politics right now: First, is it possible that the deep alienation from President Trump that has set in among female voters could continue to get even worse — particularly among the suburban and college-educated white women who are driving the Democratic resurgence. Second, that dynamic could matter in this fall’s elections — potentially increasing Democratic chances of taking back the House, which would effectively check Trump’s agenda and bring real accountability that is now basically nonexistent.
CNN’s Stephen Collinson has a good article this morning explaining how the new round of female accusers Trump faces are putting him in greater peril. While we all obsess over the threat posed to Trump by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s probe, it’s possible these new cases could also leave Trump very exposed.
In addition to legal efforts from McDougal and Daniels that might enable them to speak out about their relations with Trump, he is being sued for defamation by Summer Zervos, a former contestant on “The Apprentice” who claims Trump kissed and groped her without her consent, and a judge ruled this week that this suit can proceed. As CNN’s Collinson points out, this means Trump may be facing a period of pretrial discovery and possibly a deposition, which “could put Trump in a perilous position.”
That, plus the prospect of Daniels and McDougal speaking out about Trump, means more public attention to Trump’s treatment of women. Noted Collinson: “Judging by vigorous attempts his lawyers have made to squelch the cases against him, there is considerable concern in Trump’s camp that the thickening legal jungle ensnaring him could come with a high political or legal cost.”
The evidence is mounting on many fronts that the energy, organizing and engagement among female voters — manifested in everything from the initial Women’s March through the #MeToo movement through recent Democratic electoral wins — constitute the cardinal factor in our politics right now. And it seems clear that female alienation from Trump is at the center of it.
Just consider this week’s Quinnipiac University poll, which had relatively good news for Trump. It also found that a staggering 62 percent of women disapprove of his performance, 55 percent strongly. And 55 percent of white women (a majority of whom backed Trump) disapprove, 48 percent strongly. Women want a Democratic House by 56-36. Even white women — a GOP-leaning constituency — favor a Democratic House by 48-44. Separately, new Pew Research Center data shows that among women, identification with the Democratic Party is rising.
Anecdotal evidence and fieldwork have shown that the anti-Trump backlash is heavily driven by mothers and grandmothers who are channeling their anger at Trump into organizing designed to reinvigorate our politics from the grass roots up in communities across the country. And a great deal has been written about how the Democratic victories in places such as Virginia, Alabama and Pennsylvania are being fueled by suburban and college-educated white voters, mostly women.
But Trump’s struggles among female voters may also be chipping away at the foundations of his blue-collar white coalition. As Ron Brownstein recently showed, Trump may even be losing substantial ground among non-college-educated white women, who originally backed Trump in big numbers. This is even happening in the Rust Belt, which could help put some House seats in play outside of the more educated and suburban districts that constitute the low-hanging fruit for Democrats.
In short, Trump’s travails among women may be deepening the gender divide in our politics while eroding the ways in which the class divide — among white voters, at least — had been providing the bedrock of his support. With Trump suddenly mired in a host of seedy new tales involving female accusers, we may have yet to see the depths of estrangement from Trump that American women may yet experience — and what that might mean for the Democratic anti-Trump resurgence.
* TRUMP TALK OF PUTIN MEETING SURPRISED STAFF: The Post reports that when Trump told Vladimir Putin on their phone call that they would meet soon, it caught his advisers flat-footed:
Trump’s briefing materials for the Putin call, placed in a binder by the staff secretary’s office for Trump’s review, did not include any reference to a meeting … said a person with direct knowledge … Senior White House officials have previously opposed a bilateral meeting with the Russian president.
Even better, Russia announced what Trump had said, which forced the White House’s hand, requiring the official White House account of the call to acknowledge talk of the meeting.
* REPUBLICANS SHOVEL CASH INTO TRUMP BUSINESSES: Numerous news organizations have been tallying this up in different ways, and here’s a striking version from ABC News:
Republican-affiliated campaigns, committees and outside groups have spent more than $3 million at various Trump properties since just after the 2016 election through last month, with roughly $924,000 coming from the Republican National Committee, according to an ABC News analysis of Federal Election Commission reports. The Trump campaign accounts for about $1.46 million of the money paid to Trump properties.
At this point you really have to resist becoming numb to this kind of stuff, because we’re seeing it with such regularity.
* DEAL INCLUDES MONEY FOR ELECTION SECURITY: Congressional negotiators agreed on a big omnibus spending bill last night. It does not contain a provision protecting the Mueller investigation. But:
The bill does include hundreds of millions of dollars to combat potential interference from Russia or others in the November midterm elections. The federal Election Assistance Commission will receive $380 million to dole out to states to improve their election-related cybersecurity. And the FBI is set to receive $300 million in counterintelligence funding to combat Russian hacking.
Has anyone told Trump about this?
* TRUMP’S BID ON HIS WALL FAILS: The omnibus spending package also includes this:
The bill includes $1.6 billion in funding for construction of a border wall, but that number is far short of the $25 billion in long-term funding that the administration sought. Democrats also won tight restrictions on how that money can be spent.
Trump could have gotten his full wall if he’d agreed to permanent protections for “dreamers.” Now he won’t. What will he tell the Trumpists who shriek every time he shouts about his wall at rallies?
Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) are discussing language stating that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention can research gun violence. A law banning gun control advocacy by the CDC, known as the Dickey amendment, has long had a chilling effect on such research.
The details will matter, but this is modestly good news, since right now we spend appallingly little money on research into gun violence.
* A SMALL VICTORY ON TRANSPARENCY: James Hohmann of The Post ferrets out an interesting nugget in the spending bill:
The Secret Service will be required to release an annual report on travel costs for people under their protection, specifically adult children of the president. This is designed to expose how much taxpayers are spending to safeguard Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump on their overseas business trips.
Given how little we know about the Trump family’s business holdings, it’s not much, but at least we’ll know how much we’re shelling out to facilitate their global dealmaking.
* FACEBOOK GIRDS FOR 2018: With Facebook under fire for the big data breach, the New York Times asked Mark Zuckerberg if Facebook is taking steps to prepare for the 2018 elections. Zuckerberg acknowledged that “we need to make sure that we up our game,” because “Russia and other governments are going to get more sophisticated in what they do.”
Zuckerberg also revealed that Facebook had deployed new tools to identify fake news on Facebook that had been used in the Alabama special election and will be built on this year. The difference in this election is that Facebook’s response will be getting heavily scrutinized in real time.
* AND REPUBLICANS FINALLY CONCEDE PA-18: Conor Lamb confirms it:
It looks as if the GOP threat to contest the outcome in court is no longer operative. Just a reminder: Trump won this district by 20 points.