Morning Briefing: Which of the Last Week's Scandals Will Matter Most a Week From Now?
The news cycle in the Trump era moves so fast, and so many scandals can pile up over the course of a single week that it is often difficult to stand back and take a longer view. Last week was a particularly chaotic week in the White House and in the world of politics, and it’s difficult now to assess which of these scandals will stick.
— Stormy Daniels and her interview with 60 Minutes certainly was the most salacious of the scandals, and will in all likelihood receive the most attention. But what’s at stake here? It’s clear no one cares about Trump’s sex life — even his evangelical base, and apparently Trump’s wife, Melania. There’s still a lawsuit in the works, but now that Stormy has shattered her NDA, I suspect Cohen’s lawsuit will quietly vanish, if only because it will invite more attention to the scandal. There is the matter, however, of the threats — Cohen and/or Trump allegedly sent a goon to threaten Daniels in front of her daughter, but as Daniels doesn’t know who the goon is, the matter will likely go away in a few days time.
The bigger issue is also the least sexy: Trump and Michael Cohen may have run afoul of campaign finance laws, and there is currently a lawsuit being waged on that front. It’s the same kind of lawsuit that ultimately led to the indictment of John Edwards, but I suspect that here, it will most likely lead to a few fines.
— Likewise, Trump’s other mistress, Karen McDougal, spoke to Anderson Cooper about her affair with Donald Trump, and even though that affair was apparently more meaningful and longer, it’s already being swept under the rug. For whatever reason, McDougal — a former Playmate — has not captured the public’s attention as much as a porn star. There is, however, a similar campaign finance lawsuit at play here, over payments by the publisher of the National Enquirer to catch and kill the story to aide Donald Trump’s campaign.
— The firing of H.R. McMaster (only a week after the firing of Rex Tillerson) will likely reshape American foreign diplomacy, and the hiring of John Bolton as the National Security Advisor will almost certainly lead to military conflict. War with Iran — and even more chaos in the Middle East — is on the table, and the lives of thousands of South Koreans (and Americans stationed in South Korea) have been put in jeopardy.
— Remember Conor Lamb? He won a Pennsylvania special election held less than two weeks ago, and his opponent finally conceded last week. It’s another sign of what may come in the midterms, and yet another Pennsylvania Republican, Rep. Ryan Costello, decided against running in November after the gerrymandered map was redrawn. It looks like the new map will give Democrats a leg up in at least three to four races in a midterm election where Democrats are already favored to take back the House.
— The Cambridge Analytica may not only reach into the Trump campaign, but it will surely reshape social media in the future and is already leading thousands (if not millions) of people to sour even more on Facebook.
— The year’s federal budget was passed (and signed by the President) and it may ultimately matter most for what’s NOT in it: The funding that Trump asked for to build the wall, and protections for DREAMers.
— There was yet another shakeup in Donald Trump’s legal team. He lost his lead attorney, John Dowd; another attorney, Ty Cobb, is on the ropes; and the two lawyers that Trump wanted to hire to replace them have been “conflicted out,” which may or may not be another way of saying, “They declined,” or “Trump’s people rejected the conspiracy theorists.” This will likely have larger implications in the future, as Trump’s legal team is in tatters as Robert Mueller closes in on Trump. At this point, Jay Sekulow — a lawyer whose expertise is on religious freedom — is basically calling all the shots.
— There is another potentially huge scandal brewing right now, and it is only burbling largely because it’s not that interesting and it’s difficult to describe in small soundbites. George Nader — a businessman who has been convicted of child sex crimes — has been funneling money from the U.A.E. to Trump and other Republicans through a top Trump fundraiser, Elliott Broidy, in order to influence American policy against one-time ally, Qatar. That influence campaign appears to have worked to some degree, and Nader is currently cooperating with Robert Mueller (there’s also a lot of smoke surrounding Qatar and the Kushner family). (Also, Broidy managed to defy the Secret Service and get Trump to take a picture with the child pedophile, Nader).
— Ideally, it will be the March for Our Lives that will ultimately matter most next week, next month, in the midterms, and beyond, and not just in terms of gun reform legislation (although, that too). The Women’s March last year inspired millions of women, and an unprecedented number of women are running for office this year. Hopefully, the March for our Lives will do the same for young people, who are the most socially progressive and yet vote at the lowest rates in the country. If that March can double or triple participation rates among the younger generation, and if we can survive John Bolton, the rest won’t matter because the Republican party will be cooked. The demographics in this country heavily favor Democrats, but participation rates among young people have lagged. If we can activate those voters, we’re looking at a much more promising future.
How many of you attended the March? Here in Portland, there were reportedly 10,000 people in attendance (our population is only 66,000), and it was apparently the largest protest march in our city’s history. Why? Because it was student-led, and those students brought their parents along, and then those students blew us the hell away with eloquent, sad, angry, heartbreaking, and passionate speeches with kids as young as 11 years old. It was an incredible day for Democracy, and one that I suspect will resonate for months and years to come.