April 11, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 8:36 PM

60-40 NATION:

Trade War With China Is Bad, U.S. Voters Say 3-1, Quinnipiac University National Poll Finds (Quinnipiac University Polling, 4/11/18)

A trade war with China would be bad for the U.S. economy, American voters say 68 - 22 percent in a Quinnipiac University National Poll released today. Every party, gender, education, age and racial group says a trade war would be bad.  [...]

American voters say 77 - 18 percent, including 59 - 35 percent among Republicans, that undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children - the so-called Dreamers - should be allowed to stay in the U.S. and eventually apply for citizenship. Support for Dreamers is strong in every listed group. Voters disapprove 57 - 35 percent of the way Trump is handling the dreamers and say all parties in Washington are exploiting this issue. Voters say:
63 percent that Trump and Republicans in Congress are using Dreamers for political gain while 25 percent say Trump and Republicans care about Dreamers; 57 percent that Democrats in Congress are using Dreamers for political gain, while 34 percent say Democrats care about Dreamers.

Undocumented immigrants do not take jobs from American citizens, voters say 59 - 37 percent. Undocumented immigrants are not more likely than American citizens to commit crimes, voters say 71 - 22 percent. "They won't take our jobs or commit more crimes than Americans, but it's clear that President Donald Trump's campaign mantra has legs. Americans see a wave of undocumented immigrants as troubling and they are just fine with posting the National Guard at the border to stop them," Malloy said. 

Gun Control 

American voters support 56 - 39 percent stricter gun laws in the U.S. 

But voters oppose 79 - 17 percent repealing the Second Amendment. 

The Parkland students campaigning for new gun laws are more popular than the National Rifle Assn. (NRA):

52 percent have a favorable opinion of the students, with 33 percent unfavorable and 13 percent who haven't heard enough about them to form an opinion of them;

The NRA gets a negative 39 - 43 percent favorability, with 16 percent who haven't heard enough.

Posted by orrinj at 4:34 AM


ABC: Comey compares Trump to mob boss (Axios, 4/11/18)

According to the source:

The Comey interview left people in the room stunned -- he told George things that he's never said before.

Some described the experience as surreal. The question will be how to fit it all into a one-hour show.

Comey answered every question.

If anyone wonders if Comey will go there, he goes there.

Posted by orrinj at 4:30 AM

Posted by orrinj at 4:29 AM


Posted by orrinj at 4:14 AM


At the White House, Trump Takes Selfies and Seethes Over Mueller (JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS and MAGGIE HABERMAN, APRIL 10, 2018, NY Times)

White House advisers were particularly alarmed by the president's tirade in front of reporters on Monday, when he called the raids on Mr. Cohen "an attack on our country" in far angrier terms than he has ever referred to the Russian assault on the 2016 election.

Few people still at the White House are able to restrain Mr. Trump from acting on his impulses after the departures of crucial staff members who were once able to join forces with other aides to do so. That included Hope Hicks, his former communications director; Rob Porter, his former staff secretary; and, in 2017, the chief of staff Reince Priebus and the chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon.

John F. Kelly, the current chief of staff whose influence over the president has waned for months, appeared beaten down and less hands-on, according to two White House officials. Mr. Kelly has told Mr. Trump it is frustrating for staff members that the president deems most news media stories fake news but believes the ones accusing various advisers of leaking, according to people familiar with the discussions.

It is not clear whether Mr. Trump can fire Mr. Mueller himself. Many legal experts believe the president would have to direct Mr. Rosenstein to do so because Mr. Sessions has recused himself from the case and Mr. Rosenstein technically oversees Mr. Mueller.

Mr. Rosenstein has told Congress that he would dismiss Mr. Mueller only for cause, and people close to Mr. Rosenstein have indicated he would resign if the president ordered him to fire Mr. Mueller. Bipartisan legislation has been introduced to protect Mr. Mueller, with senators urging the president to let it go forward "without impediment."

Republican leadership has dismissed such legislation as unnecessary. But the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa, warned Mr. Trump on Tuesday to not fire Mr. Mueller, saying in an interview on Fox Business Network it would be "suicide" to continue to talk about firing him.

Doesn't this have to end with the Oval surrounded by authorities and Donald inside wearing a grenade vest?
Posted by orrinj at 4:04 AM


Housing Was Undersupplied during the Great Housing Bubble (Kevin Erdmann, 4/10/18, , Mercatus Center)

The question that needs to be addressed about the housing bubble and the ensuing bust is not what caused prices to rise so sharply. That is a fairly straightforward question, with a standard economic answer. Fundamentally, there weren't enough houses.

What caused the massive out-migration from the Closed Access cities? The answer to that question is also, fundamentally, that there weren't enough houses.

This leaves one additional question that has been rarely asked, and which must be answered if we are to come to terms with the crisis that followed. If a lack of housing was fundamentally the cause of the housing bubble, then why had housing starts been collapsing for more than a year before the series of events occurred that we associate with the crisis, like nationally collapsing home prices, defaults, financial panics, and recession? And what caused the Closed Access migration event to suddenly stop at the same time as the collapse of housing starts?

For a decade, the collapse has been treated as if it was inevitable, and the important question seemed to be, What caused the bubble that led to the collapse? This needs to be flipped around. Given the urban housing shortage, it was rising prices that were inevitable. So the important question is, Why did prices and housing starts collapse even though the supply shortage remains? And why were housing starts still at depression levels in 2011?

The surprising answer to those questions may be that a housing bubble didn't lead to an inevitable recession. It may be that a moral panic developed about building and lending. The policies the public demanded as a result of that moral panic led to a recession that was largely self-inflicted and unnecessary. They also led to an unnecessary housing depression that continues to this day.

The crash was caused by the discovery of widespread fraud in the credit markets--tied to understating the risk involved in derivatives.  While there was nothing wrong with housing loans themselves, the ability to disguise riskier loans made the entire credit market unstable.

Posted by orrinj at 3:58 AM


How the Cohen Raids and Trump's Reactions Edge Us Toward Confrontation (Benjamin Wittes, April 10, 2018, LawFare)

I will put this as bluntly as I know how: There is no way that the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York would have sought or executed a search warrant against the president's lawyer without overpowering evidence to support the action. The legal standard for such a search requires only probable cause that criminal activity is taking place. Under normal circumstances, which these are not, the prudential and policy factors counseling against such an action would be powerful.

For starters, the Justice Department is institutionally cautious about searches involving attorneys acting in their role as attorneys. As Paul Rosenzweig noted, "the U.S. Attorney's Manual has an entire section that limits how and when the offices of an attorney may be searched. Realizing full well that such searches are in derogation of the value of the [attorney-client] privilege, the manual requires high-level approvals, the exhaustion of other investigative avenues, and specifies procedures that are to be followed to limit the intrusion on privileged documents." Moreover, the Justice Department would have been additionally cautious about seeking any warrant against this particular lawyer--precisely because doing so makes clear that a ring is closing around the president. Going after a prominent person's lawyer for matters related to his representation of the client is, after all, an aggressive act toward the client, not just toward the lawyer. And Trump is, as he puts it, a counterpuncher.

This is the kind of step that would predictably elicit a reaction. The Justice Department simply would not take such an action lightly or without evidence that emphatically supports it. Add these prudential, legal and policy factors together and they cumulatively suggest that the evidence supporting the warrant application likely exceeds--probably by far--what is legally required.

Put another way, Cohen's situation, and thus Trump's situation, is grave.

This seriousness is not simply a function of the apparently advanced state of some of the evidence involved. The nature of the warrant shows that the investigation itself is spreading. According to the New York Times, "The F.B.I. agents who raided the office of President Trump's personal lawyer on Monday were looking for records about payments to two women who claim they had affairs with Mr. Trump, and information related to the publisher of The National Enquirer's role in silencing one of the women, several people briefed on the investigation said."

In short, this search warrant is apparently not about L'Affaire Russe. The FBI raided the office of the president's personal lawyer on a matter related to L'Affaire Stormy. That means that prosecutors were able to show probable cause of criminal activity connected to Cohen's representation of the president on matters far removed from Russian interference in the 2016 campaign, obstruction of justice or any of the other matters within Mueller's purview. Notably, this subject matter metastasis coincides with a bureaucratic metastasis as well. It was not, after all, Mueller who sought or received the warrant. As Rosenzweig notes:

Muller referred the matter to the Justice Department, where the investigation was assigned to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York. That office (run by a Trump appointee) then procured the warrant--with the approval of a magistrate judge--and worked with the FBI to conduct the search. In this regard, the special counsel's actions, and the Justice Department referral are completely unlike the Starr investigation on which I worked many years ago. There, Attorney General Janet Reno kept expanding the Starr investigation into new areas--mostly, I think, as a matter of convenience. Here, the department seems intent on cabining the Mueller investigation to the scope it was originally initiated for--and to also be willing to spin off unrelated matters to the relevant local U.S. attorney's office.

This bureaucratic distribution of the investigation is actually a good thing. It will have the effect of diffusing responsibility for the investigations as they develop away from Mueller. One of the problems with Reno's decision to concentrate so many investigative matters in Starr's hands was that Starr became the locus of all things related to investigations of Bill Clinton. This proved damaging to Starr's credibility, as people were able to accuse him of being on a far-flung series of vendettas against Clinton. He was also accused of mission creep, and there was some truth to that charge. But Starr also suffered from the repeated assignments of unrelated matters to his office by Reno and the Justice Department.

Rosenstein, who worked for Starr, does not appear to be making the error of concentrating things in Mueller's hands. Bloomberg reports that Rosenstein made the decision to refer the Cohen raid to the Southern District of New York, rather than keeping it within Mueller's exclusive purview. Likewise, the Times reports that Rosenstein "personally signed off on Monday's F.B.I. decision to raid the office of Mr. Cohen." Rosenstein, in other words, chose to spread responsibility around, taking some of the heat of the president's wrath off of Mueller. This was the right move. But it also carried risks--specifically, the danger of making Rosenstein himself so central to the investigations that he becomes a target of the president's ire. The metastasis may protect Mueller, but it also may endanger Rosenstein.