August 13, 2020
Today was another one for the history books.
This morning, in an interview with Fox Business Network’s Maria Bartiromo, Trump came out and said it: he wants to starve the United States Postal Service to destroy mail-in voting. Claiming that mail-in voting favors Democrats, he said: “Now they need that money in order to make the post office work so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots... Now, if we don’t make a deal, that means they don’t get the money. That means they can’t have universal mail-in voting, they just can’t have it.”
The president’s acknowledgement that he is deliberately sabotaging an institution established in the Constitution to steal the election provoked outrage. He is tampering with an election by attacking mail-in voting even as he and Melania Trump have requested mail-in ballots for themselves. And the USPS does not simply handle ballots, it also handles many aspects of our lives: packages, medicines, and so on—things vital to our economy and way of life. “When the president goes after the Postal Service, he’s going after an all-American, highly approved-by-the-public institution,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said.
The attack on the USPS dovetails with the push of the Trump administration to privatize the USPS, a push launched shortly after Trump took office. This week we learned that Trump’s new Postmaster General, Louis DeJoy, retains at least $30 million in holdings of the company XPO Logistics, a private competitor to the USPS, and that on the same day in June that he got rid of a large number of shares of Amazon, he bought stock options at a lower price. Amazon would be hard hit by the disintegration of the USPS. “The idea that you can be a postmaster general and hold tens of millions in stocks in a postal service contractor is pretty shocking," said former director of the Office of Government Ethics Walter Shaub.
But the bottom line is that, until the Senate decides to do something about it, the House is powerless to fund the USPS to help it survive the economic crisis sparked by the coronavirus pandemic. In the $3 trillion Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act the House passed in May, there was a $25 billion support for the USPS. But the Senate declined to take up the HEROES Act. When the Republicans could not agree on a new measure at the end of July, the Democrats began to negotiate directly with the White House, which proposed a more limited, $1 trillion bill. Democrats suggested a compromise at $2 trillion, but the White House has refused to budge. With this stalemate, Congress has gone on vacation for the rest of the month, while negotiators continue to try to reach a deal.
Representative Ted Lieu (D-CA) noted that DeJoy's new regulations are slowing the mail dramatically. He tweeted: “Here is the truth and I need you to spread it: the voters need to take control. Voters need to [vote by October 22] if using USPS.”
Other Democrats pushed back on Trump in their own way. In his interview, Trump said of New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democrat: “AOC was a poor student. I won’t say where she went to school, it doesn’t matter. This is not even a smart person, other than she’s got a good line of stuff. I mean she goes out and she yaps.” Ocasio-Cortez retorted: “Let’s make a deal, Mr. President. You release your college transcript, I’ll release mine, and we’ll see who was the better student. Loser has to fund the Post Office.”
The admission he is sabotaging the post office was not the only piece of news in Trump’s morning interview. He made it clear that he is eager to have Attorney General William Barr counter the story that Russia intervened in the 2016 election in Trump’s behalf. Trump wants Barr to reach a different conclusion based on a new Department of Justice investigation. When it became clear that the DOJ’s own inspector general would conclude that the FBI probe of certain of Trump’s campaign advisors was begun legitimately and without partisan bias—as he later did-- Barr launched his own, separate investigation, placing U.S. Attorney for the District of Connecticut John Durham in charge of it.
This morning, Trump indicated he has great hopes that the Durham investigation will establish that former FBI Director James Comey, former CIA Director John Brennan, and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper spied on his campaign and lied to Congress about it. “Bill Barr can go down as the greatest attorney general in the history of our country, or he can go down as an average guy,” Trump said, depending on whether or not he produced a report that, according to Trump, is not tainted with political correctness. “We’ll see what happens…. It goes all to Obama, and it goes right to Biden.”
The president’s campaign has also launched a full-fledged attack on Senator Kamala Harris, tapped yesterday by presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden as his running mate. Trump and his surrogates say it is an “open question” whether she is constitutionally eligible to be president. This is a lie. There is no question that she is a natural-born citizen; she was born in California. Trump supporters are trying to argue that because her parents were not citizens when she was born, she is not a natural-born citizen, and is therefore ineligible for the presidency.
The Supreme Court answered this question definitively in the 1898 United States v. Wong Kim Ark decision. The Supreme Court evaluated the Fourteenth Amendment’s first clause, which says that "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside." The justices decided the clause established that anyone born on U.S. soil is an American citizen regardless of the nationality of their parents.
The rather tortured argument the Trump campaign is making is that the words “and subject to the jurisdiction thereof” excludes babies born to foreign-born parents because the parents retain some legal ties to their former countries and are therefore not fully subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, so their babies must not be, either. This is hogwash. The distinction made in the Fourteenth relates to certain Native American tribes in this era, whose members were certainly born in America, but did not acknowledge the jurisdiction of the federal government and therefore should not, lawmakers thought, be accorded the right to vote. (The next section of the amendment names Indians explicitly, saying “Indians not taxed” should not be counted toward congressional representation.)
What’s going on with these blatant attacks on American democracy?
The Biden campaign pushed back on Trump’s attack on the USPS, saying: “This is an assault on our democracy and economy by a desperate man who’s terrified that the American people will force him to confront what he’s done everything in his power to escape for months – responsibility for his own actions.”
There is something to the idea that the president is desperate. Trump’s former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen today released the introduction to his forthcoming book. It’s a doozy. Cohen claims Trump colluded with the Russians in 2016 to get a “major real estate deal in Moscow…. I know because I personally ran that deal and kept Trump and his children closely informed of all updates, even as the candidate blatantly lied to the American people saying, ‘there’s no Russian collusion, I have no dealings with Russia…there’s no Russia.’”
Cohen says he set up a secret back channel to Vladimir Putin, “stiffed contractors on [Trump’s] behalf, ripped off his business partners, lied to his wife Melania to hide his sexual infidelities, and bullied and screamed at anyone who threatened Trump’s path to power. From golden showers in a sex club in Vegas, to tax fraud, to deals with corrupt officials from the former Soviet Union, to catch and kill conspiracies to silence Trump’s clandestine lovers, I wasn’t just a witness to the president’s rise—I was an active and eager participant.”
Cohen’s book, Disloyal, is due out in September.
Garrett Haake @GarrettHaakeThat's all folks: McConnell sends the Senate home for the month, saying on the floor that if a COVID relief deal is reached, Senators will get at least 24 hours notice to return for a vote.
Trump and Melania: