Why Mitch McConnell Wants States to Go Bankrupt

The Senate majority leader is prioritizing the Republican Party rather than the American people during this crisis.

American states are abruptly facing their worst fiscal crisis since the Great Depression. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that more than 25 percent of state revenues have evaporated because of the pandemic. Demands on state health-care budgets, state unemployment systems, and state social-welfare benefits are surging. By the summer of 2022, the state budget gap could total half a trillion dollars.

States need help. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell does not want to provide it. On The Hugh Hewitt Show on April 23, McConnell proposed another idea. Instead of more federal aid, states should cut their spending by declaring bankruptcy:

I would certainly be in favor of allowing states to use the bankruptcy route. It saves some cities. And there’s no good reason for it not to be available. My guess is their first choice would be for the federal government to borrow money from future generations to send it down to them now so they don’t have to do that. That’s not something I’m going to be in favor of.”

McConnell expanded on the state-bankruptcy concept later that same day in a phone interview with Fox News’s Bill Hemmer:

We’re not interested in solving their pension problems for them. We’re not interested in rescuing them from bad decisions they’ve made in the past, we’re not going to let them take advantage of this pandemic to solve a lot of problems that they created themselves [with] bad decisions in the past.

McConnell’s words instantly attracted attention, criticism, even some derision. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo blasted the idea as “dumb,” “irresponsible,” and “petty”:

How do you think this is going to work? And then to suggest we’re concerned about the economy, states should declare bankruptcy. That’s how you’re going to bring this national economy back? By states declaring bankruptcy? You want to see that market fall through the cellar? … I mean, if there’s ever a time for humanity and decency, now is the time.

Cuomo’s fervent rebuttal grabbed the cameras. It did not settle the issue. State bankruptcy is not some passing fancy. Republicans have been advancing the idea for more than a decade. Back in 2011, Jeb Bush and Newt Gingrich published a jointly bylined op-ed advocating state bankruptcy as a solution for the state of California. The Tea Party Congress elected in 2010 explored the idea of state bankruptcy in House hearings and Senate debates. Newt Gingrich promoted it in his run for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination.

To understand why Republicans want state bankruptcy, it’s necessary to understand what bankruptcy is—and what it is not.

A bankruptcy is not a default. States have defaulted on their debts before; that is not new. Arkansas defaulted in the depression year of 1933. Eight states defaulted on canal and railway debt within a single year, 1841. The Fourteenth Amendment required former Confederate states to repudiate their Civil War debts

A default is a sovereign act. A defaulting sovereign can decide for itself which—if any—debts to pay in full, which to repay in part, which debts to not pay at all.

Bankruptcy, by contrast, is a legal process in which a judge decides which debts will be paid, in what order, and in what amount. Under the Constitution, bankruptcy is a power entirely reserved to the federal government. An American bankruptcy is overseen in federal court, by a federal judge, according to federal law. That’s why federal law can allow U.S. cities to go bankrupt, as many have done over the years. That’s why the financial restructuring of Puerto Rico can be overseen by a federal control board. Cities and territories are not sovereigns. Under the U.S. Constitution, U.S. states are.

Understand that, and you begin to understand the appeal of state bankruptcy to Republican legislators in the post-2010 era.

Since 2010, American fiscal federalism has been defined by three overwhelming facts.

First, the country’s wealthiest and most productive states are overwhelmingly blue. Of the 15 states least reliant on federal transfers, 11 are led by Democratic governors. Of the 15 states most reliant on federal transfers, 11 have Republican governors.

Second, Congress is dominated by Republicans. Republicans controlled the House for eight of the last 10 years; the Senate for six. Because of the Republican hold on the Senate, the federal judiciary has likewise shifted in conservative and Republican directions.

A state bankruptcy process would thus enable a Republican Party based in the poorer states to use its federal ascendancy to impose its priorities upon the budgets of the richer states.

When Cuomo protested McConnell’s bankruptcy idea, the New York governor raised the risk of chaos in financial markets. But McConnell does not advocate state bankruptcy in order to subject state bondholders to hardship. Obviously not! When McConnell spoke to Hewitt about fiscally troubled states, he did not address their bond debt. He addressed their pension debt. State bankruptcy is a project to shift hardship onto pensioners while protecting bondholders—and, even more than bondholders, taxpayers.

Republican plans for state bankruptcy sedulously protect state taxpayers. The Bush-Gingrich op-ed of 2011 was explicit on this point. A federal law of state bankruptcy “must explicitly forbid any federal judge from mandating a tax hike,” they wrote. You might wonder: Why? If a Republican Senate majority leader from Kentucky is willing to squeeze Illinois state pensioners, why would he care about shielding Illinois state taxpayers? The answer is found in the third of the three facts of American fiscal federalism.

United States senators from smaller, poorer red states do not only represent their states. Often, they do not even primarily represent their states. They represent, more often, the richest people in bigger, richer blue States who find it more economical to invest in less expensive small-state races. The biggest contributor to Mitch McConnell’s 2020 campaign and leadership committee is a

  1. PAC headquartered in Englewood, New Jersey. The second is a
  2. conduit for funds from real-estate investors. The third is the
  3. tobacco company Altria. The fourth is the
  4. parcel delivery service UPS. The fifth is the
  5. Eli Lilly pharmaceutical corporation. The sixth is
  6. the home health-care company, LHC Group. The seventh is the
  7. Blackstone hedge fund. And so on and on.

A federal bankruptcy process for state finances could thus enable wealthy individuals and interest groups in rich states to leverage their clout in the anti-majoritarian federal system to reverse political defeats in the more majoritarian political systems of big, rich states like California, New York, and Illinois.

No question, many states face serious problems with their unfunded liabilities to state retirees. Illinois’s liability nears $140 billion, and its municipalities are liable for additional billions. California’s state and local unfunded liabilities amount to $1.5 trillion.

Those liabilities are often described as “pension” liabilities, but they are driven above all by faster-than-expected increases in retiree health-care costs. They need to be addressed, and addressing them will be a tough policy challenge. It will be a tough legal challenge, too, since those liabilities are often—as in Illinois—inscribed into the state’s constitution.

Difficult and important as these problems are, they are not urgent problems. They existed 24 months ago; they will remain 24 months from now. From a strictly economic point of view, McConnell’s schemes for state bankruptcy are utterly irrelevant to the present crisis. Reducing future pension liabilities will not replenish lost revenues or reduce suddenly crushing social-welfare burdens.

But McConnell seems to be following the rule “Never let a good crisis go to waste.” He’s realistic enough to recognize that the pandemic probably means the end not only of the Trump presidency, but of his own majority leadership. He’s got until January to refashion the federal government in ways that will constrain his successors. That’s what the state-bankruptcy plan is all about.

McConnell gets it. Now you do, too.

Tim Alberta, “American Carnage”

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45:51
Giller ISM in America and so I think
45:53
that obviously did lend an added sense
45:57
of urgency to the 2016 election and let
46:00
me answer your first question by
46:02
mentioning somebody else who’s vital to
46:04
this entire narrative arc and that’s
46:06
Mitch McConnell because let let me say
46:10
this and and you certainly you’re
46:13
certainly free to disagree but but we
46:16
would not have president Donald Trump
46:18
today he would not have won the election
46:19
in 2016
46:20
had that Supreme Court seat not been
46:23
dangled out in front of voters in
46:26
November of 2016 by blocking hearings on
46:29
on Merrick garland President Obama’s
46:32
nominee to fill that Supreme Court seat
46:34
when Antonin Scalia very unexpectedly
46:35
died in 2015 by by blocking hearings and
46:40
not allowing Merrick garland to be
46:42
confirmed Mitch McConnell helped Donald
46:46
Trump to mobilize untold numbers of
46:48
voters who may not have been willing to
46:50
turn out and vote for Donald Trump
46:52
otherwise and Mitch McConnell’s the
46:53
first person to realize that he and I
46:55
had a discussion about this in detail
46:56
when you think about the fact that
46:58
Donald Trump won the presidency by three
47:01
states Michigan Wisconsin and
47:03
Pennsylvania by a combined margin of
47:06
seventy seven thousand seven hundred and
47:07
forty four votes and when you look at
47:10
the exit polling in those states and the
47:12
issues that were most important to
47:13
people and when you see that somewhere
47:15
between 18 and 22 percent of the
47:17
Republican voters in those states said
47:19
that their number one issue was judges
47:21
do the math Mitch McConnell whether you
47:25
love him or hate him whether you are a
47:26
die-hard liberal or a bleeding-heart
47:27
conservative Mitch McConnell
47:31
absolutely delivered the white house to
47:33
Donald Trump by holding open that
47:35
judicial vacancy and traditionally I
47:36
think we all can recognize those of us
47:39
who pay a lot of attention to politics
47:40
those nerds among us that conservatives
47:43
traditionally are much more invested in
47:45
the judiciary than our Democrats and
47:48
that is a big source of concern right
47:51
now on the left you have some ascendant
47:53
groups now trying to match on the left
47:54
sort of the apparatus that has been
47:56
built out on the right with the
47:57
Federalist Society and others but to
47:59
answer your question absolutely the
48:01
judiciary was critical to the outcome in
48:03
twenty
48:04
Dean yes sir I’m curious if during your
48:08
reporting you you spoke to any Democrats
48:11
who had some some regret or even just
48:14
self-reflection about the attacks they
48:16
leveled on John McCain and Mitt Romney
48:18
in o8 in 2012 in the sense that when
48:22
they leveled largely the same attacks
48:23
against Donald Trump they sort of came
48:25
off as the boy who cried wolf that is an
48:28
excellent excellent excellent question
48:31
and the answer is yes look folks
48:35
MIT Romney in 2012 Jake Tapper at CNN
48:39
said said this to me once and I thought
48:41
it was perfectly put at least through
48:45
the prism of the mainstream media and
48:47
the media perception of MIT Romney in
48:49
2012 he was the dog torturing robber
48:52
baron and by 2016 he was the white
48:55
knight of the Republican Party and what
48:57
changed right what changed during that
48:59
period
48:59
look Mitt Romney like any candidate for
49:01
high office should be held to a high
49:03
standard but the obsessive coverage of
49:06
Mitt Romney’s sort of weirdness his
49:09
other nests
49:10
you know he irons his jeans he said that
49:13
his wife owns a couple of Cadillacs you
49:16
know look we all get it that you know he
49:19
as he said self-deprecating Lee when he
49:21
was wearing a tuxedo at one of these
49:22
white tie dinners he said finally I get
49:25
to wear something out in public that we
49:26
wear around the house right and he got
49:29
it right but it was almost to the point
49:32
it was almost to the point of absolute
49:33
absurdity by the end of the 2012
49:35
campaign and as you may recall there was
49:37
this presidential debate with Barack
49:39
Obama in which Mitt Romney was asked
49:41
about needing to diversify the federal
49:44
workforce and specifically why there
49:46
aren’t more women in high-ranking
49:47
government positions and Romney offered
49:50
this very very interesting well thought
49:52
answer about how when he was governor of
49:55
Massachusetts he had made that a top
49:56
priority and that it heard him how
49:58
whenever he was attempting to fill a top
50:00
staff position that all these resumes on
50:02
his desk were men and so he went to his
50:04
chief of staff who was a woman and he
50:06
said look I want to get more qualified
50:08
women into these positions and as he’s
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answering this question
50:12
Romney then says and she did and she
50:14
wanted bringing me these whole binders
50:16
full
50:16
women now to any reasonable person who
50:20
was listening to that you think man
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that’s good for him it was a really
50:24
thoughtful substantive answer and for
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the next 96 hours all you heard was Mitt
50:30
Romney as a misogynist and Mitt Romney
50:32
doesn’t know how to talk to women and
50:34
Mitt Romney is weird and awkward and
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look folks I am just sitting here
50:37
telling you I travel to 38 states in
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2016 covering the campaign I’ve talked
50:41
to a lot of voters I will tell you
beyond a shadow of a doubt that the
desensitisation people have begun to
feel especially conservatives who feel
like the media is always beating up on
their guys
they have been numbed to it and when
2016 came around these criticisms of
Donald Trump oh he’s immoral
oh he’s unethical oh he’s a hypocrite
he’s a womanizer he does and says these
disgusting vulgar things they fell on
deaf ears for a lot of voters they tuned
us out and that is something I also
touch on in the book I think it’s really
important to understand the role that
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the media and public perception plays in
51:17
all of this and this book is not meant
51:20
to hold up a mirror just to Donald Trump
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and just to the Republican Party it’s
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meant to hold up a mirror to all of us
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because I think every single person
51:26
sitting in this room can probably do a
51:28
little bit of soul-searching and a
51:29
little bit of reflecting on how we got
51:31
to this point the role that we all may
51:33
have played in it either individually or
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collectively I I have two related
51:37
questions one is to what degree did in
51:41
terms of victory and moving forward will
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vote suppression and gerrymandering be a
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factor in keeping the Republican
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majority moving forward or not not
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majority but being able to hold the
51:54
White House and the Senate second is
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what accounts for the Republican Party
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which has been chronicled in books like
52:03
chain reaction and Nixon land you know
52:06
maximizing racial resentment in
52:08
dog-whistle racism to the now bullhorn
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races and we have with Trump what
52:13
accounts for that transition boy two two
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good and complicated questions the
52:19
simple answer I can give to the first
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one is that obviously Republicans were
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able to move right pretty systematically
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as a party after 2010 not just because
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of the takeover in Congress but
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because of the takeover in state
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legislatures across the country and
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rebuy regaining the ability to draw the
52:35
maps in many of these states they were
52:37
able to structurally get a foothold and
52:39
solidify their power now the 2020 census
52:43
is coming and there will be an
52:45
opportunity for Republicans and
52:46
Democrats alike to fight for the ability
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to draw those maps and that is a huge
52:50
focus right now obviously for Democrats
52:53
who feel as though they have been
52:54
targeted systematically and very
52:56
effectively by these Republican
52:58
gerrymanders I should remind everyone
53:00
that political power but political
53:03
parties exist to promote and protect
53:05
their own power and the Democrats have
53:07
been known to do a little bit of
53:08
gerrymandering themselves and as
53:11
high-minded as I would like to be about
53:13
this process in these calls for reform I
53:16
will believe that Democrats after
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winning back some of these state houses
53:19
will not abuse the gerrymandering power
53:21
when I see it because if you look at
53:23
some states like Maryland it’s a bit of
53:25
a Picasso painting I if I were king for
53:29
a day I’d wave a magic wand and we would
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have a nonpartisan redistricting
53:32
commission every state in America we
53:34
would redraw as many of these lines as
53:36
close to 50/50 as possible not because
53:38
it would give us a bunch of mushy
53:40
moderates
53:41
but because we could actually have a
53:43
debate of ideas let me say this really
53:46
quickly because it shocks people when I
53:47
say it I give talks all the time about
53:49
Congress and when I say this it blows
53:51
people away
53:52
Democrats flipped 40 seats last November
53:55
right that’s a wave election by
53:57
anybody’s metric 40 seats is a big deal
54:00
it is a sweeping rebuke to the
54:01
president’s party and yet how many
54:04
voting members are there in the House of
54:06
Representatives anybody for 35 what is
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40 out of 435 but eight and a half
54:12
percent okay you go back to 2010 biggest
54:17
wave election we’ve seen in our
54:18
lifetimes anybody remember how many
54:19
Republican pickups there were in 2010 63
54:25
oh man 63 Republican pickups in 2010
54:28
biggest wave election we’ve ever seen in
54:30
our lifetimes
54:30
what’s 63 out of 435 s about 14% I
54:34
cheated I’m not that good at math I
54:36
promise I’ve memorized these things the
54:37
point I’m trying to make to you is that
54:38
in the biggest wave election we’d ever
54:40
seen in our lifetimes in 2010
54:43
86% of the seats in the US House of
54:46
Representatives remained loyally
54:48
partisan locked down by one of these two
54:50
parties and in 2018 went another big
54:53
wave election 92% of them roughly
54:55
remained locked down by one or the other
54:58
party what does that tell you it tells
55:00
you that the overwhelming majority of
55:02
the elected officials we send to
55:03
Washington are not chosen in November
55:05
they are chosen in their primaries and
55:07
what do we know about primary turnout
55:09
well in your average off your
55:12
congressional primary election turnout
55:14
is gonna be somewhere between seven and
55:16
fourteen percent and who are the seven
55:18
to fourteen percent who are turning out
55:19
to vote in those primaries are they the
55:21
very reasonable persuadable moderates in
55:23
the middle of the electorate who just
55:25
want you know competent governance and
55:27
who are willing to listen to arguments
55:28
on both sides generally not into your
55:30
uncle who sends the weird emails and
55:32
your colleague who posts the crazy stuff
55:33
on Facebook right and God bless them
55:35
because at least they’re engaged with
55:36
the process but why aren’t the rest of
55:38
us we keep sending these people back to
55:40
Congress and expecting a different
55:42
result Congress has a huge personnel
55:44
problem and a big reason why is because
55:46
so many of the people we send there the
55:48
overwhelming majority of the people we
55:49
send there are elected in primaries and
55:52
when you never face a general election
55:54
thread in your district
55:55
what is the only incentive you have it
55:57
is to protect yourself in a primary and
55:59
when you are oriented as a lawmaker
56:01
toward protecting your flank and a
56:03
primary every day you wake up it’s gonna
56:06
have some really bad results for the
56:07
country and as more’d as we are you got
56:10
me on a tangent here but as worried as
56:12
we all may be about the executive branch
56:15
and some of its unsteadiness right now
56:18
the legislative branch in my opinion is
56:20
a much bigger concern because the
56:22
presidency is a transient office Trump
56:24
will come and go but the legislative
56:26
branch of the federal government is is
56:28
structurally in deep deep trouble and it
56:31
there’s no end in sight for it to the
56:33
second question really quickly about the
56:35
racial dog whistling look I just
56:37
mentioned what happened last night as
56:38
you said it’s not a dog whistle at this
56:40
point it’s just not and Donald Trump is
56:44
obsessed with the base Jonathan you know
56:46
this better than anybody if you talk to
56:47
people around the president he talks
56:49
incessantly about the base and when he
56:51
talks about the base he is talking
56:53
generally very narrowly
56:55
about the core people in his who come to
57:01
his rallies who wear the maggot hats
57:03
these typically tend to be your
57:05
blue-collar your more rural and exurban
57:08
middle and working class Americans white
57:11
evangelical in many cases and they are
57:13
the true believers right they are the
57:15
people who are with Trump no matter what
57:17
as he said if he shot somebody on Fifth
57:18
Avenue they’d still be behind him but
57:20
what Trump is missing is that with
57:22
incidents last night with every one base
57:25
voter who he may be mobilizing he’s
57:28
probably also alienating a suburban
57:31
college-educated
57:32
socially moderate Republican who wants
57:35
tax cuts and they may even want
57:37
conservative judges but they’re scared
57:38
out of their mind by what they saw last
57:40
night you know there’s an old saying in
57:42
Republican campaigns why would a
57:45
Republican ever go address the
57:46
n-double-a-cp a Republican presidential
57:48
candidate dress the n-double-a-cp
57:51
because you’re not gonna pick up any
57:53
more black votes and the answer is
57:55
always it’s not to pick up black votes
57:57
it’s to pick up the votes of white
57:58
suburban nights who want to see you
58:00
engage with the n-double-a-cp
58:02
politics is a coalition business and
58:05
Donald Trump won the presidency in 2016
58:07
not just because of his base that we all
58:09
love to read about and all of these
58:11
stories from middle America about the
58:13
you know auto mechanic in the diner in
58:15
Ohio somewhere those people matter
58:17
obviously and they are you know big
58:19
supporters of the president but the
58:20
president won his campaign because he
58:23
had overwhelming support of these
58:26
traditionally Republicans suburban
58:28
moderates and what do we know we know
58:30
that in 2016 they voted for him and we
58:32
also know that in 2018 by virtue of this
58:34
Democratic takeover at least a
58:36
significant chunk of those traditionally
58:39
Republican suburban moderates they
58:40
flipped they voted for Democrats in the
58:42
suburbs from Salt Lake City to Orange
58:44
County to Detroit to Atlanta all across
58:46
the country so Donald Trump is playing
58:48
with fire here and it’s not just because
58:50
he’s mobilizing the Democratic base it’s
58:52
because he is potentially alienating
58:53
that other half of his coalition that he
58:56
needs to win in 2020 thank you so much
58:58
sure we are running out of time but I
59:01
want to take these last three questions
59:03
here if that last two questions here if
59:06
that’s I’m sorry I’m giving very long
59:07
answers
59:09
hi this may be beside the point at this
59:12
point but during the campaign I always
59:16
thought that Donald Trump’s hope for
59:20
outcome would be to win the popular vote
59:22
and lose the electoral vote and he could
59:25
go back to his business and say he was
59:27
cheated and you know not be worried with
59:31
the running of the government because he
59:32
didn’t obviously prepare anything for a
59:35
transition and election night he looked
59:38
pretty shocked and like he didn’t want
59:41
this well I would draw a distinction and
59:44
I want you to weigh in this also I would
59:46
draw a distinction between not wanting
59:48
to win and not expecting to win because
59:51
I did an awful lot of reporting on this
59:54
and I was never able to find anybody who
59:57
could credibly tell me that he did not
59:59
want to win Donald Trump is a very
60:01
competitive guy and we had to listen for
60:03
18 months to all of these talking heads
60:05
on cable tell us that this was just to
60:07
promote his hotel that this was just to
60:09
get his name back in the news that he
60:11
just loves the reality TV glare that
60:13
Donald Trump was gonna drop out before
60:15
the Iowa caucuses he didn’t actually
60:16
want to be President what all of that
60:19
missed is that Trump is a fiercely
60:20
competitive individual and that he loves
60:22
the grind of competition I don’t think
60:26
that Donald Trump expected to win and
60:28
matter of fact all of my reporting tells
60:30
me that he did not expect to win as I
60:31
say in describing election night in the
60:33
book Trump had to pretty quickly rewrite
60:36
his election night speech because he did
60:38
not have a victory speech prepared
60:40
and when Reince Priebus whispered in his
60:42
ear in one of their little war rooms I
60:44
think you’re gonna win everybody in the
60:46
room sort of stopped and time Stood
60:48
Still and Trump said okay we got to go
60:50
upstairs we got to go to the residence I
60:52
don’t have a speech so Donald Trump from
60:58
everything I know was certainly not
61:00
expecting to win the presidency because
61:02
he could see the same polling that we
61:04
all saw and not just the public polling
61:06
anybody inside of his campaign who tells
61:09
you that they thought that Donald Trump
61:10
was going to win is lying to you I’m
61:12
telling you that straight up and that
61:13
includes Steve man and who loves to go
61:14
around telling everybody the Trump was
61:16
gonna win he knew it from day one it’s
61:18
nonsense okay the war
61:20
Republican I did not interview for this
61:22
book with Steve Bannon and Swann gave me
61:24
a high five for that the other day
61:25
because for crying out loud
61:27
talk about an unreliable source so that
61:29
is that is the distinction I would draw
61:32
but you tell me what you think about
61:34
that shout it out I don’t know what’s
61:47
going on there he 100% wanted to win and
61:52
you know I remember being in a barn in
61:55
Virginia on Falls Church Virginia on
61:58
like 1:00 a.m. or I think Sun Monday
62:02
morning I guess last few days of the
62:04
campaign and Donald Trump was doing his
62:06
eighth rally of the day or something and
62:08
he wanted to win he really wanted to win
62:10
as much as anything he hates to be
62:12
humiliated people close to him believe
62:14
that he entered the campaign really is a
62:17
promotional vehicle one person close to
62:19
him told me he described it as the
62:21
world’s greatest infomercial but I think
62:24
one of his more revealing interviews
62:26
early on he says I think it’s worth
62:28
maybe mark Harper and he says he thinks
62:30
maybe it’s not on the record maybe
62:33
they’ve said that subsequently in public
62:35
that he thought he gave himself a 20%
62:37
chance of winning as time went on a
62:41
couple of things happened he got
62:42
addicted to the crowds and I don’t know
62:44
if people in this audience have been to
62:45
Trump rallies but I’ve been to a lot of
62:48
them and the only thing I can explain
62:50
I’ve covered politics in two countries I
62:52
have never seen a politician have such a
62:55
visceral connection with a crowd and the
62:59
only thing I can compare to is like
63:00
being in a Rolling Stones concert they
63:02
know the lyrics they know the lyrics
63:05
it’s call and response
63:06
you know he’ll say Hillary and the crowd
63:08
will just immediately start chanting
63:10
lock her up he’ll say the media the
63:12
crowd will immediately start chanting
63:14
CNN sucks it’s a drug for him and he was
63:17
intoxicated and he loved it and then as
63:20
time went on he thought well maybe I can
63:22
win I guess I’m down to the last two
63:23
Tim’s right none of them thought they
63:25
can win Steve Bannon does like to remind
63:28
me he did send an email which I still
63:30
have two weeks before the election where
63:31
he did predict all the states
63:33
I tend to think it was bluster more than
63:35
anything but he really was saying behind
63:37
the scenes that he was gonna win if that
63:39
makes any different but other staff were
63:42
like pre briefing us as reporters and
63:44
saying here are all the reasons why he
63:46
lost this is before the election and
63:48
here’s the way you can spin it etc so
63:51
you know that that would that’s the
63:54
reality yeah to add a final really quick
63:57
thought to that I spent the final week
64:00
of October I spent that week on the
64:03
campaign plane with Vice now vice
64:05
president pence then governor pence and
64:07
I can tell you as surely as I know that
64:10
I am sitting here with you that nobody
64:13
on that plane save for maybe Mike Pence
64:16
believed that they were going to win and
64:18
it was really interesting because they
64:20
were all beginning to spin me
64:21
essentially on Mike Pence 2020 right
64:24
they were all attempting to sort of you
64:27
know polish pence as the guy who was the
64:30
stable figure in the campaign and who
64:31
rejected the ugliness and the guy who
64:33
was going to come out of this looking
64:34
good and something really interesting
64:36
happened and it happened the day after
64:40
as you may recall
64:42
Pence’s plane went off the runway at
64:45
LaGuardia and I was on that plane
64:47
and it was kind of a remarkable scene as
64:49
the Secret Service jumped up with their
64:51
pistols and hovered near pence and
64:52
nobody quite knew what the hell to make
64:54
of any of it everyone on that plane that
64:58
I was with for almost a week
64:59
all of Pence’s top staffers said the
65:02
same thing no way that we’ve seen all
65:04
the numbers he cannot win Trump cannot
65:06
win on the last day I was with them we
65:10
had to get on a different plane that
65:12
didn’t have Wi-Fi because of the earlier
65:14
night’s incident and just as our plane
65:17
was coming down into Pennsylvania
65:19
dipping into cellphone range every
65:22
single person’s plane on the phone blew
65:24
up with an alert that James Comey had
65:28
sent a letter to Congress reopening the
65:32
investigation into Hillary Clinton’s
65:33
emails and I will tell you it’s
65:35
indelible in my mind I can see it today
65:38
there weren’t many of us on the plane
65:40
there were five reporters I believe in
65:41
four or five Secret Service and the Vice
65:43
President and five or six of his staff
65:45
were all
65:46
they’re clustered and I’m telling you
65:48
kid on Christmas morning does not begin
65:50
to describe the looks on the faces of
65:52
the pants people because for the first
65:54
time in the entire campaign there was a
65:56
flicker of hope however fleeting but a
65:59
flicker of hope that oh my goodness can
66:01
you believe our luck we might actually
66:03
win and I will remember that until the
66:05
day I die yes sir it’s my recollection
66:08
on the day the Access Hollywood tapes
66:10
were released the emails for John
66:14
Podesta were released like half a day
66:17
later I think so that that was another
66:18
factor in place but my question is why
66:21
is my conservative brother forgotten
66:23
that he’s an anti-communist you’re
66:24
suspicious of Russia
66:26
you know the Russia thing is actually
66:28
really fascinating because you will hear
66:31
a lot of Republican defenders of the
66:33
president say you know focus on what
66:35
this administration does not on what he
66:38
says and I think that by and large
66:42
that’s nonsense
66:43
I think that as I explained a minute ago
66:45
what the president says is of enormous
66:47
importance it moves markets it moves
66:49
military personnel at the president is
66:52
the most powerful person in the world
66:54
Russia is actually a pretty interesting
66:57
example of what they are talking about
66:59
however because if you were to examine
67:01
on a policy basis the administration’s
67:04
approach to Russia not his personally
67:06
but the administration’s and most
67:08
Republicans in Congress you would think
67:11
that it is a pretty typical Republican
67:13
you know cookie cutter Republican
67:15
approach to Russian relations in in
67:18
terms of sanctions in terms of some help
67:21
for allies in the region
67:23
the president’s relationship with
67:26
Vladimir Putin is so bizarre that I’m
67:29
not sure we will ever get to the bottom
67:30
of it and I’m not trying to be funny and
67:32
saying that it’s just the truth I don’t
67:33
know that we will ever understand look
67:35
and it’s not just Putin right the Donald
67:38
Trump has this affinity for strongmen
67:40
across the globe we have seen it time
67:42
and again and it is vexing not just to
67:44
us but to people in the administration I
67:46
don’t think that it will ever be
67:48
thoroughly explained but with Russia in
67:52
particular there is a huge chasm between
67:55
the president sort of playing footsies
67:57
with Vladimir Putin
67:59
and joking with him about election
68:00
interference and how he locks up
68:02
journalists ha ha isn’t that hilarious
68:03
all that stuff contrasted against the
68:06
administration itself and and the State
68:09
Department and the Republican Congress
68:10
and how they have approached Russia it
68:12
has been much more traditional so it’s a
68:15
little bit odd in that respect thank you
68:19
for coming out tonight everybody and
68:20
thank you so much for thank you guys
68:24
[Applause]

Houston’s Police Chief RIPS Mitch McConnell After Shooting

Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo is tired of the NRA and its corrupt politicians. Cenk Uygur and Ana Kasparian, hosts of The Young Turks, break it down. Tell us what you think in the comments below.

 

“A Texas police officer who was killed while responding to a domestic violence call may have been struck by a bullet that penetrated his ballistic vest, authorities said Monday. Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo made the disclosure about Sgt. Christopher Brewster’s killing Saturday in a note to officers, just hours after he denounced Republican Senators who he said have not reauthorized the Violence Against Women Act. Acevedo also berated pro-gun advocates who oppose new provisions in the law.”

 

Trump’s Pile of Rubble

WASHINGTON — One of the most totemic pictures of the Obama era was a White House photo showing the president bowing to let a 5-year-old black boy touch his hair.

As Jackie Calmes reported in The Times, the boy, the son of a departing National Security Council staffer, had shyly told Barack Obama, “I want to know if my hair is just like yours.”

“Touch it, dude!” the president instructed the child.

It was a moment that summed up all the giddy dreams about race and modernity and a gleaming American future that propelled a freshman senator with an exotic name into office.

Now, one of the most totemic pictures of the Trump era has been tweeted by Melania from the El Paso hospital visited by the first couple amid the blood-dimmed tide of back-to-back gun massacres in Texas and Dayton.

The first lady is holding 2-month-old Paul Anchondo, whose parents, Jordan and Andre, died shielding him from a shooter who confessed to the police that he drove from his home in Allen, Tex., to El Paso to kill Mexicans with an AK-47-style rifle. A manifesto he posted on 8chan, an online forum that’s a haven for white nationalists, stated that he wanted to stop the “Hispanic invasion of Texas.”

President Trump, standing next to Melania and the baby in the picture, is grinning and giving a thumbs-up.

The infant’s uncle, Tito Anchondo, told reporters that he brought Paul to the hospital to meet Trump, while other victims refused to do so, because he wanted to tell the president about the pain of the family. His slain brother, he said, was a Trump supporter. He told The Washington Post that he felt consoled by Trump.

President Barack Obama in 2009 bent over so the son of a departing staff member could feel his hair.
CreditPete Souza/The White House

But still, there is something sickening about the photo. The picture of Obama with a child was luminous with hope and idealism. The one of Trump with a child was dark with pain and shattered ideals.

Devoid of empathy and humanity, Trump is mugging with an infant who will never know his parents. They were shot by a psychopath whose views echoed Trump’s dangerous and vile rants painting people with darker skin — like the baby’s father — as the enemy, an infestation and invasion aiming to take something away from real Americans. It is the same slimy chum thrown out by other Republicans, only more brutally direct and not limited to campaign season.

Even as we absorbed the grotesque image from the hospital, we had to watch the heart-rending footage of Hispanic children sobbing and stranded in Mississippi because their parents, many working at a chicken processing plant, had been rounded up by ICE.

The Post featured a disturbing headline on Monday about a new study: “Risk of Premature Birth Increased for Latinas After Trump’s Election.” The story said, “Researchers have begun to identify correlations between Trump’s election and worsening cardiovascular health, sleep problems, anxiety and stress, especially among Latinos in the United States.”

The shining city on a hill is an ugly pile of rubble.

Even on this most tragic of weeks for so many families, Trump was obsessing on himself, on his crowd size compared with Beto, and on whether he was getting enough obeisance from Ohio pols.

It defies one’s faith in the good sense and decency of America that we cannot stop the deluge of shooting rampages — even at a time of unprecedented weakness for the N.R.A. and the loathsome Wayne LaPierre, with the gun lobby awash in coup attempts and corruption.

Gun control has the aspect of an intractable problem when it is anything but. Inexplicably and abhorrently, we have decided to live with periodic human sacrifices. That became clear in 2012 in Newtown after the slaughter of the “beautiful babies,” as Joe Biden called the dead first graders. If that didn’t shock the soul enough to act, what could?

We’ve heard Trump talk about talking sense into N.R.A. officials three times now, during the 2016 campaign and after the Parkland shooting and again Friday after his sympathy calls in Dayton and El Paso. The first two times, he caved to the N.R.A. quickly.

Yet temperamentally, Nixon-to-China, Trump is suited to that job. Even though he’s a belligerent, he’s not so enamored of war and guns. “My sons love hunting,” he once tweeted. “I don’t.” He’s no gun nut; he’s a former Democrat from New York who likes to golf.

If he wanted to lead a crusade to get real background checks — or even a ban on assault weapons, which he said in a 2000 book that he favored — he would be formidable.

There is some movement now because the Republicans are scared — not of the shooters but of suburban voters.

For the most part, Republicans are gun owners and Democrats aren’t. But Republican voters are more supportive of common-sense gun control than elected members, who are wallowing with the swamp creatures at the N.R.A.

Mitch McConnell, Dr. No, won’t want to do anything; his spokesman was backing away on Friday. That same day, the No. 3 Republican in the Senate, John Barrasso, pumped the brakes on possible inroads, background checks and red-flag laws.

If the president and Republicans come up with anything at all, it will be a remedy just marginal enough to give themselves cover, denying Democrats a powerful campaign issue.

Moscow Mitch and Dreadful Donald will keep talking compromise and hope that things settle down by September, when Congress gets back.

But point-blank: Our Republican leaders are cowards.

We shouldn’t let things die down. Because people keep dying.

‘Moscow Mitch’ Tag Enrages McConnell and Squeezes G.O.P. on Election Security

Senator Mitch McConnell is usually impervious to criticism, even celebrating the nasty nicknames critics bestow on him. But Mr. McConnell, the Senate majority leader, is incensed by the name “Moscow Mitch,” and even more miffed that he has been called a “Russian asset” by critics who accuse him of single-handedly blocking stronger election security measures after Russia’s interference in 2016.

Democrats had been making the case for months, but it was supercharged last week by the testimony of Robert S. Mueller III, the former special counsel, who told the House Intelligence Committee that the Russians were back at it “as we sit here.”

Mr. McConnell cites several reasons for his opposition — a longstanding resistance to federal control over state elections, newly enacted security improvements that were shown to have worked in the 2018 voting and his suspicion that Democrats are trying to gain partisan advantage with a host of proposals.

Republican colleagues say that Mr. McConnell, a longtime foe of tougher campaign finance restrictions and disclosure requirements, is leery of even entering into legislative negotiation that could touch on fund-raising and campaign spending.

“Democrats want more aggressive legislation to protect America’s elections after Robert Mueller’s stark warning about Russian interference,” began one report aired on a Louisville television station last week. “Mitch McConnell blocked it.”

Even President Trump felt compelled to come to his defense — as only he could.

“Mitch McConnell is a man that knows less about Russia and Russian influence than even Donald Trump,” the president told reporters Tuesday as he was leaving for a speech in Jamestown, Va. “And I know nothing.”

That did not relieve the heat on the majority leader, who on Monday had appeared to open the door ever so slightly to doing more on election preparedness.

“I’m sure all of us will be open to discussing further steps Congress, the executive branch, the states and the private sector might take to defend our elections against foreign interference,” he said as he seethed on the Senate floor over what he described as McCarthy-style attacks on his integrity and distortions of both his position on election security and his hawkish history of challenging Russia.

Throughout his political career, Mr. McConnell has made opposition to the Kremlin a hallmark of his foreign policy stands.

For once, Democrats seemed to be getting to a man who has embraced his portrayal as Darth Vader and the Grim Reaper overseeing a Senate graveyard for legislation that he opposes. When an unsubstantiated West Virginia Senate campaign ad in 2018 called him “Cocaine Mitch,” he began answering his Senate telephone with that identifier.

“Moscow Mitch”? Not so much: “I was called unpatriotic, un-American and essentially treasonous,” he fumed on the Senate floor.

Democrats pressed their advantage. And why not? The hashtag #MoscowMitchMcTraitor was trending on Twitter, and Senate Republicans of all stripes were being asked about the blockade.

“So long as the Senate Republicans prevent legislation from reaching the floor, so long as they oppose additional appropriations to the states, so long as they malign election security provisions as, quote, partisan wish lists, the critics are right to say Leader McConnell and Republican senators are blocking election security,” Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, said on the floor Tuesday.

Mr. Schumer has in the past suggested that another potential reason behind Mr. McConnell’s position is the thought that interference emanating from Russia could aid Republicans. “I hope it’s not because he thinks it will benefit him, because Putin could turn around in a minute, and then do things that he doesn’t like,” Mr. Schumer said in June.

Lawmakers in both parties have election security proposals waiting on the sidelines, and the furor has caused some to step up demands for Congress to take up their bills.

Senators Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, and Chris Van Hollen, Democrat of Maryland, wrote on Monday to colleagues reconciling the annual House and Senate military policy bill to request that they include stalled sanctions legislation meant to deter Russia or other foreign actors from interfering in American elections. House lawmakers included a similar provision in their military policy bill, but the senators want to see it strengthened to slap Russia’s economy with intense sanctions if it is found to interfere in a future election.

“This conference committee represents this Congress’ best — potentially last — opportunity to enact meaningful legislation aimed at deterring Russia from a repeat performance of its 2016 presidential election interference,” the senators wrote. “We ask that you seize this opportunity and include the provisions outlined above in the final conference report.”

On Tuesday, Senator Susan Collins of Maine, a Republican member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, signed on to a measure by Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, the committee’s top Democrat, that would require campaign officials to report to federal authorities any offers of campaign assistance from foreign entities.

“Russia’s efforts to interfere in our elections remain relentless,” said Ms. Collins, who is also up for re-election next year, in a statement.

Mr. McConnell’s opposition to any and all election legislation has bottled up the bills in the Senate Rules Committee. The panel’s chairman, Senator Roy Blunt, Republican of Missouri, has hesitated to advance any of the measures since they would go nowhere on the floor.

Mr. Blunt said he repeatedly had been assured by the F.B.I., the Department of Homeland Security and the federal intelligence agencies that they were not lacking resources to combat election interference.

“They always say, ‘No, we don’t need anything,’” Mr. Blunt said Tuesday. A former state elections official himself, Mr. Blunt said he agreed with Mr. McConnell that the federal government should not gain more authority over state elections.

“Mitch would not want to see us further federalize the process and that’s where I am, too,” Mr. Blunt said.

Proponents of the bills say they are devised to keep the states in the lead. A Democratic measure approved by the House would send more than $1 billion to state and local governments to tighten election security, but would also demand that states use the money for machines with backup paper ballots and require a national strategy to protect American democratic institutions against cyberattacks. States would be required to spend federal funds only on federally certified “election infrastructure vendors.”

A bipartisan measure in both chambers would require internet companies like Facebook to disclose the purchasers of political ads. Another bipartisan Senate proposal would codify cyberinformation-sharing initiatives between federal intelligence services and state election officials, speed up the granting of security clearances to state officials and provide federal incentives for states to adopt backup paper ballots.

Backup paper ballots got an endorsement Tuesday from an unlikely source: Mr. Trump. He took to Twitter to call for “Paper Ballots as backup (old fashioned but true!).”

With the focus on the issue intensifying, Mr. McConnell and Senate Republicans will face more pressure to act.

If they do, the most likely result would not be advancing stand-alone bills but instead using the annual spending bills that must pass this fall to funnel more money to states to secure their elections and to make certain they have a paper-ballot trail that can be audited if questions arise about the legitimacy of an outcome. Ten states now lack full capacity to do so, according to the Rules Committee.

Mr. Schumer encouraged that idea Tuesday. “If McConnell wants to address election security in the appropriations process, we would welcome his support on an amendment to send more funding to the states,” he said. “We want to get something done on election security because this is not about party, this is a matter of national security.

Mr. McConnell said Monday that he would not be intimidated into acting on election interference.

He also will probably not be answering his phone “Moscow Mitch.”

Senate Democrats have the power to stop Trump. All they have to do is use it.

As a Democratic Senate aide for the past seven years, I had a front-row seat to an impressive show of obstruction. Republicans, under then-Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, decided they would oppose President Barack Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid at every turn to limit their power. And it worked: They extorted concessions from Democrats with threats of

  • shutdowns,
  • fiscal cliffs and
  • financial chaos.

I know firsthand that Democrats’ passion for responsible governance can be exploited by Republicans who are willing to blow past all norms and standards.

Now we have a president who exemplifies that willingness in the extreme. Partly, this explains why he faces more questions about his legitimacy than any president in recent history and why he drew three times as many protesters as inauguration attendees last weekend. But in something of a mismatch, Republicans’ unified control of government means that the most effective tool for popular resistance lies in the Senate — the elite, byzantine institution envisioned by the founders as the saucer that cools the teacup of popular opinion.

Senate Democrats have a powerful tool at their disposal, if they choose to use it, for resisting a president who has no mandate and cannot claim to embody the popular will. That tool lies in the simple but fitting act of withholding consent. An organized effort to do so on the Senate floor can bring the body to its knees and block or severely slow down the agenda of a president who does not represent the majority of Americans.

The procedure for withholding consent is straightforward, but deploying it is tricky. For the Senate to move in a timely fashion on any order of business, it must obtain unanimous support from its members. But if a single senator objects to a consent agreement, McConnell, now majority leader, will be forced to resort to time-consuming procedural steps through the cloture process, which takes four days to confirm nominees and seven days to advance any piece of legislation — and that’s without amendment votes, each of which can be subjected to a several-day cloture process as well.

McConnell can ask for consent at any time, and if no objection is heard, the Senate assumes that consent is granted. So the 48 senators in the Democratic caucus must work together — along with any Republicans who aren’t afraid of being targeted by an angry tweet — to ensure that there is always a senator on the floor to withhold consent.

Because every Senate action requires the unanimous consent of members from all parties, everything it does is a leverage point for Democrats. For instance, each of the 1,000-plus nominees requiring Senate confirmation — including President Trump’s Cabinet choices — can be delayed for four days each.

While the tactic works well, as we’ve seen for the past eight years, there remains the question of strategy. Should Democrats be pragmatic and let Trump have his nominees on a reasonable timetable, so as not to appear obstructionist? So far, this has been their approach to some of Trump’s Cabinet picks.

But it’s also fair to say that, by nominating a poorly qualified and ethically challenged Cabinet, Trump forfeited his right to a speedy confirmation process, and Democrats should therefore slow it down to facilitate the adequate vetting that Trump and Senate Republicans are determined to avoid by rushing the process before all the questionnaires and filings are submitted. Four days of scrutiny on the Senate floor per nominee, even after the committee hearings, is a reasonable standard for fulfilling the Senate’s constitutional responsibility of advice and consent.

Democrats can also withhold their consent from every piece of objectionable legislation McConnell tries to advance. With 48 senators in their caucus, they have the votes to block most bills. But even when Democrats don’t have the votes, they can force McConnell to spend time jumping through procedural hoops. This is the insight McConnell deployed against Reid to manufacture the appearance of gridlock, forcing him to use the cloture process more than 600 times.

Finally, Democrats can withhold their consent from Trump until they feel confident that foreign governments are not interfering in our elections. Credible reports hold that U.S. intelligence agencies are investigating whether Trump’s campaign cooperated with the Russian government on Vladi­mir Putin’s personally directed meddling. Withholding consent from Trump’s agenda until an independent, bipartisan probe provides answers is not just reasonable; it’s responsible. If Democrats withhold consent from everything the Senate does until such a process is established, they can stall Trump’s agenda and confirmation of his nominees indefinitely. Sen. Richard Durbin has been a leader in demanding an independent investigation. But unless Democrats back their calls with the threat of action, McConnell will steamroll them and never look back.

Of course, it would be unwise to deploy this strategy blindly. The kind of universal obstruction pioneered by McConnell during Obama’s presidency is not in Democrats’ nature: They believe in the smooth functioning of government.

But Democrats’ concern with delivering results for their constituents is also part of who we are and something we should embrace. Even for innately cautious Democrats, some issues demand dramatic action. If Trump wants to put their concerns about his legitimacy to rest, he can reach out with consensus nominees and policies, and come clean about his ties to Russia and his tax returns (which may show whether he has compromising financial debts to Russian interests). Until then, Democrats can stand up for America by withholding their consent.