Trump Made a Bad Bargain With Woodward

The president imagined that he could do unto Woodward as Woodward was doing unto him.

A Bob Woodward book is a record of a sequence of transactions. In exchange for access and information, Woodward offers Washington power holders the opportunity to disparage their rivals and aggrandize themselves. But be warned that a Woodward proposition is never guaranteed. It comes hedged with dense, finely printed terms and conditions. And Woodward’s scoops have a way of turning out to be less new than they are first advertised.

Shrewd Washington players understand the risks of a deal with Woodward and negotiate their contracts carefully. The classic example is Alan Greenspan, the former chairman of the Federal Reserve. Greenspan gave access to Woodward in the late 1990s and collected a handsome return in the form of an adulatory book, unironically titled Maestro. The book concludes with lavish praise:

Although his words are almost unbearably opaque, he appears to be doing something rare—telling the truth. The very act of thinking, the strain in his wrinkled forehead, can be seen in the video footage of him before the microphone. At times it seems painful. But the public has rewarded his caution, reflection and the results with their confidence. That he is the unelected steward of the economy is simply accepted. … With Greenspan, we find comfort.

That’s the reward that can be extracted by those who know their business—the prize for the canny and effective. It’s the prize Donald Trump hungered for and that Woodward dangled in front of him at the beginning of the Trump era. Woodward was spotted headed into Trump Tower on January 3. Two weeks later, he appeared on TV to entice Trump with a mouthwatering bid: validation of Trump’s accusations of an FBI plot against him. That day, Woodward made a rare non-book-promoting TV appearance on Trump’s favorite network. Speaking to Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday, Woodward poured ferocious scorn on the Steele dossier, which had been recently published by BuzzFeed. Trump immediately tweeted his gratitude. “Thank you to Bob Woodward who said, ‘That is a garbage document…it never should have been presented…Trump’s right to be upset (angry)…”

Despite the thank-you tweet, Woodward’s hopes for early access to Trump were disappointed—a fact Woodward communicated in September 2018 by releasing an audiotape of a conversation with the president from the month before.

Bob Woodward: I’m sorry we missed the opportunity to talk for the book.

Donald Trump: Well, I just spoke with Kellyanne [Conway], and she asked me if I got a call. I never got a call. I never got a message. Who did you ask about speaking to me? … I’ll speak to Kellyanne. I am a little surprised that she wouldn’t have told me. In fact, she just walked in. He said that he told you.

Kellyanne Conway: Yes.

Trump: About speaking to me. But you never told me. Why didn’t you tell me?

Conway: [Inaudible.]

Trump: I would’ve been very happy to speak to him. All right, so what are you going to do?

Part of the art of the deal with Woodward is that it’s dangerous to sell a “yes” too cheaply, but there may also be a price to pay for an outright “no.” Woodward preserved in Fear the trajectory of his disillusionment with Conway. He writes about her in glowing terms on pages 16 through 18, more neutrally on pages 24 and 25; belittles her on page 36; and then drops her from most of the remainder of the book. He tells one negative story after another about the president, culminating in the book’s final assessment, a quote from Trump’s then–personal lawyer, John Dowd: “[He’s] a fucking liar.”

Yet in retrospect, it’s evident that Woodward was still bargaining with TrumpFear was nowhere near as harsh a book as it could have been. On Trump’s central concern from 2017 to 2018, the investigation into whether his campaign had colluded with Russia, Woodward published unchallenged the arguments of Dowd and others that the whole matter was a hoax. Dowd’s quote about the president lying was embedded in a long defense of Trump, a verbatim transcript that fills much of the final chapter of the book.

But as Woodward continued his negotiation, he also apparently revised his assessment of his negotiating partner. Back in 2017, Woodward seems to have believed that with Trump he was doing business with a savvy customer like Greenspan. Hence, Woodward’s endorsement of Trump’s denials of Russian influence—although on that topic, Woodward may also have succumbed to “Not invented here” syndrome, the temptation to dismiss stories he hadn’t himself uncovered. As he commenced discussions on a second book, however, Woodward evidently realized that he was dealing with a chump, a sucker, a patsy, a galoot—the schmendrick of all schmendricks. In the end, Trump gave much, and got nothing.

Trump had absorbed the light slapping of Fear and concluded that if only he had spoken with Woodward, he could have coaxed him into more flattery. As Peter Baker reported in The New York Times:

The president did not speak with him for Fear, Mr. Woodward’s first book on Mr. Trump published in 2018, a decision that the president blamed on his staff and regretted because he believed he could have made the account more positive. As a result, Mr. Trump decided early on to cooperate with Rage, to be published Tuesday by Simon & Schuster, reasoning that he would be able to better shape the narrative.

Trump did not understand that you do not reason with Woodward. You haggle with him, then you work him. You also must understand the risks. Woodward will adhere to the strict letter of any agreement. But if you think there is some unspoken understanding of favorable treatment beyond the strict letter, you will be rudely awakened, just as President George W. Bush was rudely awakened when Woodward followed two laudatory volumes—Bush at War and Plan of Attack—with the harshly critical State of Denial. Presidents talk with Woodward hoping to sway public opinion about their administrations. Their mistake is not understanding that Woodward does not sway conventional opinion. He is swayed by conventional opinion. So long as that is with you, Woodward is with you. Let that turn against you, and Woodward will turn.

Trump instead imagined that he could do unto Woodward as Woodward was doing unto him: flatter him into compliance. As Baker further reported:

During his first interview with Mr. Woodward for the book last December, aides tried to end it after a while, but the president brushed them off. ‘Go ahead,’ he said to Mr. Woodward. ‘I find it interesting. I love this guy. Even though he writes shit about me.’

Trump was only towel-snapping with that comment. Deep into 2019 and well into 2020, Trump deluded himself that he had found a potent media ally in Woodward. He tweeted in October 2019, “Good job, I must say, by Bob Woodward on ‘Deface the Nation.’ The CBS no name host(ess), and other guest, Peter Baker of The Failing New York Times, were totally biased, boring and wrong (as usual), but Woodward was cool, calm and interesting. Thank you Bob!

Not until August did it occur to Trump that he, the nation’s con artist in chief, had been out-conned. In fact, he had conned himself. He tweeted:

“About the only way a person is able to write a book on me is if they agree that it will contain as much bad ‘stuff’ as possible, much of which is lies. It’s like getting a job with CNN or MSDNC and saying that ‘President Trump is great.’ You have ZERO chance. FAKE NEWS!

“..Even whether it’s dumb warmongers like John Bolton, social pretenders like Bob Woodward, who never has anything good to say, or an unstable niece, who was now rightfully shunned, scorned and mocked her entire life, and never even liked by her own very kind & caring grandfather!”

And again, after the first reports on the book were published:

For years Fake stories and investigations, then the phony Russia, Russia, Russia HOAX, next Ukraine and the failed Impeachment, now the crummy Atlantic Magazine’s MADE UP STORY, and lastly, the political hit job by rapidly fading Bob Woodward and his boring book. It never ends!

As the initial reports on Rage whipped up a firestorm of controversy, Trump added:

Bob Woodward had my quotes for many months. If he thought they were so bad or dangerous, why didn’t he immediately report them in an effort to save lives? Didn’t he have an obligation to do so? No, because he knew they were good and proper answers. Calm, no panic!

But all too late.

For what it’s worth, I believe that there is much less than meets the eye to the most headline-grabbing quote in Rage: “I wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic.”

As recorded, that reads like a cold-blooded confession that Trump intentionally concealed deadly knowledge at a time—February and March—when that knowledge could have saved lives. But you can reach that conclusion only if you believe that Trump knows things the way fully rational people know them: as statements about reality that exist independently from the speaker. Trump’s mind does not work that way. He does not observe the world and then use words to describe it. He speaks the words he wishes you to believe, and then trusts the world to conform to his wishes.

Understanding Trump’s indifference to fact supplies the answer to the question that most puzzled me when I first heard Trump’s self-damning COVID-19 quotes to Woodward. The earliest of those comes from February 7, fully three weeks before the first documented COVID-19 death in the United States on February 28. If Trump understood on February 7 how dangerous the coronavirus was, why didn’t he do something about it? It’s at least rational to cover up a scandal or a crime. A pandemic cannot be covered up. If Trump understood the lethality, he could have acted in time to protect—not the country, because there’s little evidence he cares about that—but himself. Yet he did not.

But despite the hashtag #TrumpKnew, Trump did not actually know anything. He said things to meet the need of the fleeting moment. In February, the need of the moment was to levitate the stock market. By mid-March, the need of the moment was to sound smart, aware, in the know. Two days before Trump’s headline-grabbing quote to Woodward, on March 17, Trump said virtually the same thing at a televised press conference. “I felt it was a pandemic long before it was called a pandemic.” Woodward did not unearth some big scoop. Trump simply repeated for Woodward the same I knew all about it better than anybody message that Trump had already placed on the public record.

That’s the weird thing about the Trump era. The biggest scandals occur in full public view. When Trump takes bribes, he does so in a huge building on Pennsylvania Avenue with his name on the door. When Trump directs public money to his own businesses, he invites the press corps along to record him doing it. When Trump solicits Russian help against his political opponents, he shouts the ask on live TV. And when Trump admits that he lied about the coronavirus, he admits it in real time, again on television.

The young Woodward earned his fame connecting Richard Nixon to the Watergate break-in of June 1972. If Trump had ordered that crime, he’d have bragged about it on TV the very next day, insisted he was smart to do it, that the Democrats had always done worse, and that he was the real victim. The burglars would have posed for selfies inside the office in Trump-Pence 2020 sweatshirts and called into Hannity to cackle about their caper.

We saw it all happen! The president not only told everybody at the time—he bragged about it at the time. We are surprised only because we forgot what we ourselves witnessed. There’s something quite brilliant in how Woodward and his publishers can use our amnesia for their marketing. But there is something very unbrilliant, indeed ominously dangerous, in the inability of the American public and even the American media to remember crimes and scandals that they witnessed in every last detail as they happened.

Trump Grants Clemency to Blagojevich, Milken and Kerik

The president also pardoned or commuted the sentences of eight others on Tuesday, including Edward DeBartolo, a former owner of the San Francisco 49ers.

WASHINGTON — President Trump, citing what he said was advice from friends and business associates, granted clemency on Tuesday to a who’s who of white-collar criminals from politics, sports and business who were convicted on charges involving

  • fraud,
  • corruption and
  • lies

— including the financier Michael R. Milken.

The president pardoned Mr. Milken, the so-called junk bond king of the 1980s, as well as the former New York City police commissioner Bernard B. Kerik and Edward J. DeBartolo Jr., a former owner of the San Francisco 49ers. He also commuted the sentence of Rod R. Blagojevich, a former Democratic governor of Illinois.

Their political and finance schemes made them household names, and three received prison terms while Mr. DeBartolo paid a $1 million fine.

Mr. Trump also pardoned David Safavian, the top federal procurement official under President George W. Bush, who had been sentenced in 2009 to a year in prison for lying about his ties to the lobbyist Jack Abramoff and obstructing the sprawling investigation into Mr. Abramoff’s efforts to win federal business. The president also granted clemency to six other people.

Mr. Trump has repeatedly stated his commitment to prison reform and addressing the excessive sentences given to minorities. At the urging of Kim Kardashian West in 2018, he pardoned Alice Marie Johnson, a 63-year-old African-American woman serving a life sentence for a nonviolent drug conviction. Ms. Johnson was the centerpiece of a TV ad the Trump campaign ran this month during the Super Bowl.

But the president’s announcements on Tuesday were mostly aimed at wiping clean the slates of rich, powerful and well-connected white men. And they came after years of sophisticated public relations campaigns aimed at persuading Mr. Trump to exercise the authority given to him under the Constitution.

Patti Blagojevich, the wife of the former Illinois governor, frequently appeared on Fox News calling for Mr. Trump to commute her husband’s sentence. Mr. Kerik, a regular on Fox News, appeared on the network as recently as Monday night. Mr. Milken has sought to rebrand himself as a philanthropist in recent years as allies campaigned on his behalf for a pardon.

In conversations with his advisers, Mr. Trump has also raised the prospect of commuting the sentence of Roger J. Stone Jr., his longtime adviser, who was convicted in November of seven felony charges, including tampering with a witness and lying under oath in order to obstruct a congressional inquiry into whether the Trump campaign conspired with Russia to influence the 2016 election.

Asked about a pardon for Mr. Stone on Tuesday, Mr. Trump insisted that “I haven’t given it any thought.”

Democrats pounced on the president’s announcements.

Today, Trump granted clemency to tax cheats, Wall Street crooks, billionaires and corrupt government officials,” said Senator Bernie Sanders, independent of Vermont, the leading Democratic candidate for president. “Meanwhile, thousands of poor and working-class kids sit in jail for nonviolent drug convictions. This is what a broken and racist criminal justice system looks like.”

Representative Bill Pascrell Jr., Democrat of New Jersey, said in a statement that the president abused the pardon power by using it to reward friends and repair the reputations of felons who do not deserve it.

The pardoning of these disgraced figures should be treated as another national scandal by a lawless executive,” he said.

But Mr. Trump defended his grants of clemency on Tuesday.

He was particularly critical of the 14-year prison sentence for Mr. Blagojevich, who was convicted of trying when he was governor of Illinois to essentially sell the Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama when he became president. Mr. Blagojevich also once appeared on the reality series “The Celebrity Apprentice,” which Mr. Trump hosted.

“That was a tremendously powerful, ridiculous sentence, in my opinion,” Mr. Trump said after announcing that Mr. Blagojevich would go free after serving eight years in prison. The president alleged that the former governor was a victim of the same forces that investigated him for years, citing James B. Comey, the former F.B.I. director, and Patrick Fitzgerald, the U.S. attorney in Chicago who prosecuted Mr. Blagojevich.

It was a prosecution by the same people — Comey, Fitzpatrick, the same group,” Mr. Trump told reporters, misstating Mr. Fitzgerald’s name.

Mr. Trump gave no indication that he relied on the usual vetting process that guides presidents making use of their constitutional authority to wipe away criminal convictions or commute prison sentences.

Traditionally, the Justice Department’s pardons office would make recommendations about pardons and commutations to the deputy attorney general, who would weigh in and then pass the Justice Department’s final determinations to the White House. Instead, Mr. Trump told reporters that he followed “recommendations” in making his decisions.

Those recommendations, according to a White House statement, came from the president’s longtime friends, business executives, celebrities, campaign donors, sports figures and political allies.

In pardoning Mr. Kerik, who pleaded guilty of tax fraud and lying to the government, Mr. Trump said he heard from more than a dozen people, including Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former New York mayor and Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer; Geraldo Rivera, a Fox TV personality; and Eddie Gallagher, a former Navy SEAL and accused war criminal whose demotion was overturned by Mr. Trump last year.

Mr. Kerik had a pardon application pending and Mr. Blagojevich had a commutation application pending; but a source close to the pardons office did not believe that the pardon attorney had given either of those applications full-throated support.

Mr. Milken, whose dealings contributed to the collapse of the savings-and-loan industry, fought for decades to reverse his conviction for securities fraud. Richard LeFrak, a billionaire real-estate magnate and long time friend, Sheldon G. Adelson, a prominent Republican donor, and Nelson Peltz, a billionaire investor who hosted a $10 million fund-raiser for the president’s 2020 campaign on Saturday, were among those who suggested that the president pardon him.

Mr. Milken did not have a pardon or commutation applications pending at the Justice Department’s pardons office, meaning that Mr. Trump made that decision entirely without official Justice Department input. Two previous applications had been denied and closed.

Football greats Jerry Rice and Joe Montana — but also the singer-songwriter Paul Ankaurged him to pardon Mr. DeBartolo, who pleaded guilty in 1998 to concealing an extortion attempt. Mr. DeBartolo avoided prison but was fined $1 million and suspended for a year by the National Football League. He later handed over the 49ers to his sister Denise DeBartolo York.

Trump Explains Decision for Commuting Blagojevich’s Sentence

President Trump commuted the sentence of former Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich of Illinois, calling him a “very nice person,” and said he had not considered a pardon for Roger J. Stone Jr, his longest-serving adviser.

“We have commuted the sentence of Rod Blagojevich. He served eight years in jail — it’s a long time. And I watched his wife on television. I don’t know him very well. I met him a couple of times — he was on, for a short while, on ‘The Apprentice’ years ago. Seemed like a very nice person. Don’t know him. But he served eight years in jail — has a long time to go. Many people disagree with the sentence — he’s a Democrat, he’s not a Republican. It was a prosecution by the same people: Comey, Fitzpatrick, the same group.” Reporter: “Are you planning to pardon Roger Stone?” “I haven’t given it any thought. In the meantime, he’s going through a process. But I think he’s been treated very unfairly.”

Previous presidents have often waited until the final moments of their presidency to wield the pardon power on behalf of their friends. Former President Bill Clinton pardoned Marc Rich, a hedge fund manager and financier who was convicted of tax evasion and other crimes, on January 20, 2001, Mr. Clinton’s last day in office.

Others, including former presidents Bush and Obama, largely reserved their clemency authority for people convicted of nonviolent, low-level drug crimes and other offenses who were identified as part of a rigorous process run by a team of government lawyers in the Justice Department.

Mr. Trump, however, has shrugged off those traditions and the controversy that sometimes comes with the use of the pardon power. He issued a “full and unconditional pardon” to Joseph M. Arpaio, the Arizona sheriff and immigration hard-liner convicted of contempt of court, in August of 2017.

Less than a year later, he did the same for I. Lewis Libby Jr., a former aide to Mr. Bush who was convicted of obstructing justice and perjury.

In addition to helping erase the convictions of the well-connected and powerful, Mr. Trump on Tuesday also pardoned a tech executive who pleaded guilty to conspiracy, the owner of a construction company who underpaid his taxes and a woman convicted of stealing cars. He also commuted the sentences of a woman convicted of drug distribution, another woman who was part of a marijuana smuggling ring, and a minority owner of a health care company who was sentenced to 35 years for a scheme to defraud the government.

Their relative anonymity was a sharp contrast to the prominence of the four men highlighted by the president.

Mr. Milken, was credited in the 1980s with using junk bonds to finance big debt-laden corporate buyouts an, pleaded guilty to securities reporting violations and tax offenses and the Securities and Exchange Commission banned him for life. The investigation came to highlight the corporate excesses on Wall Street in the 1980s.

In the years since his conviction, Mr. Milken has emerged as a major cancer philanthropist and is the founder of the Milken Institute, a nonpartisan think tank that holds a popular conference in Los Angeles, which convenes the world’s most powerful people in government, industry and finance.

Mr. Kerik, a police detective, served as Mr. Giuliani’s bodyguard and chauffeur during the 1993 mayoral race and later served in a series of high-ranking positions in the city’s Department of Correction. Eventually, Mr. Giuliani named Mr. Kerik correction commissioner in 1997 and police commissioner in 2000.

In 2004, his bid to become Homeland Security secretary in the Bush cabinet collapsed amid scandals. In June 2006, he pleaded guilty in State Supreme Court in the Bronx to two misdemeanors tied to renovations done on his apartment. Four years later, Mr. Kerik pleaded guilty to tax fraud and making false statements.

Mr. DeBartolo presided over the golden era of the 49ers when the team won five Super Bowl championships under coach Bill Walsh with legendary players like Joe Montana, Steve Young, Ronnie Lott and Jerry Rice. He was elected to the National Football League Hall of Fame in 2014 despite his conviction.

But in the late 1990s, Mr. DeBartolo was an investor in the Hollywood Casino Corp., a Dallas company seeking permission for a riverboat casino in Louisiana. On March 12, 1997, he met Edwin W. Edwards, the influential former governor of Louisiana, for lunch in California and handed over $400,000 that Mr. Edwards had demanded for his help in securing a license. The next day, the Gaming Board granted the license. A month later, federal agents raided Mr. Edwards’s house and office, seizing the $400,000.

“Why do it? It actually was just plain stupidity, and I should have just walked away from it,” Mr. DeBartolo told NFL Films for a biographical documentary in 2012. “I was as much to blame because I was old enough to know better and too stupid to do anything about it.”

Why Trump Can’t Tweet His Way Out of This

On impeachment and Syria, Congress and the news media at last care more about what the president does than what he says.

October 07, 2019

Jack Shafer is Politico’s senior media writer.

You needn’t believe the hype about President Donald Trump being a 21st-century media wizard to concede he has a special talent for powershifting through the gears of the news cycle to blow past whatever current event might threaten his presidency. Whether it’s a function of Trump’s volatility or a measure of his craft, he has a knack for freezing out damaging news by creating his own news storms that transfix the press. He fires members of his Cabinet and staff, over-reaches with executive orders, picks fights with a Gold Star mother and football players, engages in ad hominem, and insults entire friendly countries.

In recent days as bad news has swelled around him, Trump has taken to screaming “treason” and “coup” at full volume to divert the news flow. But this time Trump’s hydraulics don’t seem to be working. Instead of Trump flooding the news cycle, the news cycle has begun to flood Trump. His special talents—if they really exist—have begun to fail him, and he seems to know it. In two recent press sprays, with the Finnish president and on the White House lawn, Trump’s peach complexion has gone scarlet with rage as he dodged and parried all the bad publicity.

You’d go scarlet, too, if you were Trump. Democratic members of the House of Representatives have begun marshaling evidence to prove Trump committed high crimes and misdemeanors as part of the House’s formal impeachment inquiry against the president. Two whistleblowers have come forward to allege abuse of power by Trump in his dealings with Ukraine’s president. An IRS whistleblower has filed a complaint alleging that a political appointee at the Treasury Department attempted to interfere with the annual audit of the president or vice president’s tax returns. A federal judge has ordered Trump to turn over his tax returns to the Manhattan district attorney. In recent days, three Republican senators (Susan Collins of Maine, Mitt Romney of Utah and Ben Sasse of Nebraska) have broken ranks with their cowardly colleagues to directly criticize Trump for urging China to investigate Joe Biden and Hunter Biden.

Even the president’s closest ally, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., has turned on him. On Monday, Graham phoned into “Fox & Friends” to denounce Trump’s decision to dump the Kurds and embrace the Turks. The move is “shortsighted and irresponsible” as well as “unnerving,” Graham said, and his anger was shared by other Republican legislators. Inside the Pentagon, the brass also appeared to favor Graham’s position over Trump’s.

At the rate all this bad news is surging, Trump must be pining for the good old days when a new development in special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation was his greatest source of grief, and a nasty blast from his Twitter feed was potent enough to repel bad tidings. But suddenly Trump’s best-defense-is-a-good-offense talents are no longer sufficient to fend off the damage. In recent days, Trump has sought and failed to stall the impeachment express with tweets attacking Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., but the press has largely ignored these pathetic lines of defense. In the old days, journalists would have rushed to their keyboards to dissect the Pelosi and Schiff tweets and placed under their magnifying glass Trump’s Monday tweet about the Kurds and Turks in which he referred to his own “great and unmatched wisdom.”

But as the Smiths once sang, that joke isn’t funny anymore. These days, the press seems more interested in charting the course of impeachment and the accumulating evidence than playing “go fetch” with Trump’s tweets. Not even Pat Robertson, a Trump stalwart if ever there was one, wants to follow the president on this one. Trump “is in great danger of losing the mandate of Heaven” if he spurns the Kurds, Robertson said.

Trump’s old techniques are failing—and not just due to the volume of the bad news. What’s unique about this phase of his presidency is that he’s being attacked with so much damning information from so many directions and so many different power centers that he can’t keep up. Not even a street fighter with Bruce Lee’s skills could repulse this sort of pile-on.

As somebody who has never counted Trump out, I believe he could restore his good fortune with some self-discipline. Midway through the first year of Trump’s presidency, columnist (and doctor of psychiatry) Charles Krauthammer took to calling the “general hysteria” the press and the political classes expressed for the president “Trump Derangement Syndrome.” According to Krauthammer and others, this reflexive, partisan hatred for Trump crippled people’s judgment of the man. Krauthammer urged us to stop listening to Trump’s id and pay more attention to what Trump was doing and what he had done. Finally, it appears, the press and Democrats have independently taken Krauthammer’s advice. As we enter impeachment autumn, the only principal still acting deranged is Trump himself.

Will Trump Crash the Farm Economy?

Many people don’t even know these scandals exist — they generally don’t lead in Sean Hannity’s or Tucker Carlson’s world.

.. One smaller manufacturer — a Trump voter — told me that his costs to produce his product nearly doubled overnight, and that his business has already been hurt by the tariffs. Prices didn’t rise only after the tariffs were announced; they started rising when Mr. Trump floated the idea.

.. Senator Joni Ernst and Iowa’s agriculture secretary, Mike Naig, both say the tariffs will hurt Iowans, and Mr. Naig says we need to expand markets, not shrink them. Senator Chuck Grassley said something similar, on Fox News: “Tariffs do not put America first — low barriers and expanded access do.”

.. China has already responded with its own tariff on pork, which will have a dire impact on Iowa. Iowa is the nation’s largest pork producer, producing three times as much pork as the next-highest state.

.. with commodity prices down and the tariffs imposed, approximately 10 percent of our farmers probably won’t make it this year, and 10 percent more will likely fail next year. They also shared the news that in Iowa, larger agribusinesses are buying up smaller farms that are in financial trouble, and that people are starting to make comparisons to the farm crisis of the 1980s, when approximately 10,000 Iowa farmers lost their farms.

.. Even Representative Steve King, the avid Trump supporter and Iowan every liberal loves to hate, is worried about a new farm crisis.

.. Dairy farmers are particularly hard hit, suffering through four years of declining prices. It’s gotten so bad, dairy farming organizations are giving out suicide hotline numbers, as farmers are committing suicide in the hope that their insurance will save the family farm.

.. “It gives Democrats a generational opportunity to do the political work with farmers they haven’t done since the 1980s farm crisis,”

.. “Democrats do farm policy really well but are terrible at farm politics. Republicans do farm politics really well but have a history of doing terrible farm policy.”

.. With the multiple scandals, rampant corruption and the Mueller investigation, the only thing keeping him near 40 percent approval — and most important, approval among most Republicans — is a strong economy. That, and Fox cheerleading. But if he tanks the rural economy, he and his legacy are in deep trouble.

.. Furthermore, if the rural economy turns sour, much of rural America will abandon Mr. Trump, and Fox may have no choice but to follow.

 

Donald Trump’s Real Porn-Star Problem

Remember the Clinton scandals. They provoked no decisive legal thunderbolt but a series of agonizing, consequential defeats.

It’s happening again.

.. If you want to talk about foreign influence on elections, the funneling of Chinese money into the 1996 Clinton presidential campaign is still stunning, even these many years later.

.. If the Clinton wing of the Democratic party is honest with itself, it has to understand the price it paid for its corruption. In 2000, the Democrats lost a presidential election they should have won. After all, in a previous time of peace and prosperity, the Republicans got three terms, even when the vice president wasn’t half the political talent that Ronald Reagan was. In 2000, America was on an economic roll, there was an actual budget surplus, and the threat of jihad was barely on the national radar screen. Yet Gore felt as if he had to distance himself from Clinton. He had to distance himself from the drama.

.. she lost a general-election campaign to the most disliked politician in the history of favorability ratings of presidential candidates.

.. While it may well be the case (though I’m skeptical) that some sort of climactic scandal will topple Trump, I think it’s far more likely that he’ll live the way he’s always lived — the way the Clintons always lived — doing what he wants, when he wants, as a phalanx of lawyers clean up his mess and a squadron of associates and allies take the fall.

The case for taking the Trump-Stormy Daniels saga seriously

Cohen created an LLC in Delaware — where LLCs don’t have to disclose their managers — and used pseudonyms to facilitate the payment to Daniels.

  • Makes reference to Trump’s bodyguard, “Keith,” being his gatekeeper for all of her contacts with Trump. She says of “Keith” that she “met [him] every time I saw [Trump]. Keith was always with him.” Trump’s longtime body man is Keith Schiller.
  • Also refers to another Trump aide, his secretary “Rhona.” This is Rhona Graff, who had worked for the Trump Organization for more than three decades.
  • Makes a few somewhat bizarre references to Trump’s distaste for sharks. “He is obsessed with sharks,” she said. “Terrified of sharks. He was like, ‘I donate to all these charities, and I would never donate to any charity that helps sharks. I hope all the sharks die.’ ” She added at another point that they “moved to the sofa so he could get a better view of ‘Shark Week.’ “ Soon, reporters and those on social media had found other examples of Trump’s anti-shark commentary.

.. She also was reportedly in talks with ABC’s “Good Morning America” about going public during the campaign.

.. The most charitable interpretation of all of this would seem to be that someone very close to Trump paid a large sum of money to someone who was prepared to make a very serious allegation about the then-candidate.

.. if it were all true and Trump did engage in an affair with a porn star early in his marriage to Melania Trump? Would it necessarily change much of anything? It is widely known — and Trump has acknowledged — having cheated on his first wife, Ivana, with Marla Maples, who became his second wife.