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“Nothing Is Off The Table”: 4 Scenarios That Could Cause Havoc At The Republican National Convention

Back when it looked like Republicans might well hold a “contested convention” in Cleveland on July 18 to 21, the excitement of journalists at the prospect of covering something other than the usual four-day infomercial knew no bounds. It’s entirely possible, in fact, that the very recent breathless coverage of dozens of delegates preparing to vote to unbind themselves from primary and caucus commitment in order to make it possible to dump Trump owes a lot to the power of the “contested convention” fantasy, and the need to justify lavish outlays for media outlets for Cleveland.

The odds of a coup are extremely low for reasons I explain here and here.

But even if a rules-based coup to get rid of Trump isn’t happening short of the committing of a major felony by the candidate in broad daylight, that doesn’t mean other wild things are off the table. Here are four scenarios that could throw the RNC into turmoil:

Violent protests and counterprotests.

While the original nightmare of angry Trump supporters rioting as the nomination is “stolen” has abated, protests against Trump are a certainty. And they could get out of hand.

Local police originally drew up a plan to keep protesters as far away from the convention site as possible. But a federal judge has intervened with an order killing the plan. No telling which restrictions might survive.

And yes, even without a coup, there are going to be pro-Trump demonstrators in the vicinity. A group called Citizens for Trump is expecting 5,000 people to show up under its banner. Worse yet, the Traditionalist Worker Party, a pro-Trump fringe group that recently became embroiled in violent clashes with leftists in Sacramento, is planning to travel to Cleveland to “protect Trump supporters.” The convention will be an all-purpose freak magnet. And if that’s not scary enough, it’s clear Ohio’s “open carry” law will be in force in whatever area is eventually made available to the various protesters (it might have been enforced even inside the convention site had the Secret Service not stomped on that possibility).

Are local police up to the challenge? Maybe. But at least one out-of-state police chief who had been asked to bring officers to help with convention security has already pulled out, citing “a lack of preparedness for the RNC.”

It’s true that Secret Service agents will be available to make sure any violent activity doesn’t penetrate the actual convention perimeter. But as we learned in Chicago in 1968, violence in the streets has a way of spreading beyond any security perimeter. If violence is extensive, it will co-star with Donald Trump on television screens around the world.

A veep challenge

The freedom of delegates to do anything they want so long as they respect their binding commitments to vote for a presidential candidate extends to the nomination of a running mate. If a majority of delegates don’t actually favor Trump, there’s no inherent reason they should defer to his wishes on this important matter. There could be a mini-conspiracy to impose a veep on Trump who would make his candidacy or election less scary, like someone with extensive governing experience or perhaps a Latino elected official. Or if Trump names someone deemed unacceptable to a broad swath of delegates, a revolt on the floor could develop spontaneously — especially if the mogul chooses to spring his choice on the convention with no advance notice, which some observers think he would prefer to do to elevate the drama of “his” convention.

There is precedent for a veep revolt. In 1920, the same cabal of party leaders who chose Warren Harding as the GOP presidential nominee in the famous Chicago “smoke-filled room” decided to offer the vice-presidential nomination to Senator Irvine Lenroot of Wisconsin. But delegates stampeded to Massachusetts governor Calvin Coolidge, whose crushing of the Boston Police Strike of 1919 made him popular — sort of the Scott Walker of his time. Coolidge, of course, went on to become president upon Harding’s premature death.

A more subtle revolt occurred among Democrats in 1944. Shortly before the convention, party leaders convinced Franklin Roosevelt to dump Vice-President Henry Wallace owing to his strident liberalism and personal eccentricity. They then talked FDR into their consensus favorite, Harry Truman, who also became an accidental president.

All this talk of strange doings in Cleveland, of course, is pure speculation. Although it’s hard to imagine a convention that nominated Donald Trump for the presidency being “normal” in any real sense, it could lack unplanned drama. The only thing we know for sure is that any private meeting held to make key decisions out of the public eye will be smoke-free.

It’s even possible the convention could turn out to be boring. But the word that threatens to hang over the convention until the whole show is over is disorganized, which is first cousin to chaotic.

A vote on unbinding delegates

While delegates will not vote to unbind themselves from the primary and caucus results, they may have to vote against them. It only takes one-fourth of the Rules Committee to approve a minority report that will be entitled to a vote by all delegates when the convention’s rules are adopted. So a mere 28 delegates on that committee could get the convention off to a bad start by forcing a vote on, in effect, dumping Trump.

There’s no way it will pass, but there could be some anticipatory hype and of course some bad blood between Trump and anti-Trump factions.

A messy platform fight

Even if there is no serious challenge to the binding of delegates on the first ballot, the delegates are by no means forced to follow the direction of “their” presidential candidate on other matters. Platform fights are a time-honored way for party elites, interest groups, and defeated candidates to seek vindication even if they’ve lost the main battle. And in the case of a nominee like Trump, whose fidelity to conservative ideology is very much in question, there could well be efforts to rope him in with explicit platform planks, even on those issues where his positions are ostensibly kosher.  Depending on how Trump and the convention managers handle such efforts, you could wind up with big, noisy platform fights over items the GOP and Trump would just as soon not broadcast nationally during an event that is supposed to make the party look toothsome and non-controversial.

These could include the traditional GOP language opposing any rape-or-incest exceptions to a hypothetical abortion ban (Trump supports such exceptions); abrasive anti-LGBT planks styled as “religious liberty” guarantees; and challenges to Trump’s positions on banning Muslim immigration or deporting undocumented immigrants. Once the Pandora’s box of the platform is opened up, anything could happen.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, July 4, 2016

July 4, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Vice Presidential Nominee, Republican National Convention | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Donald Can’t Afford His Own Ego Trip”: Does Donald Trump Even Have $45 Million To Repay His ‘Loans’?

A few weeks ago, the Trump campaign tried to quash rumors of its financial demise by announcing that Trump would write off the $45 million in loans he had used to “self-fund” his campaign.

Trump spokes Hope Hicks says Trump will submit signed statement today to FEC forgiving $50 mil personal loan per legal requirement.

— Beth Reinhard (@bethreinhard) June 23, 2016

After that statement, a far-too-small-handful of political journalists responded: Show us the money.

Why? As The National Memo has reported, since Trump began bragging about his financial independence, “self-funding” doesn’t really mean self-funding. It’s a talking point: Trump can repay his loans with donations from supporters at any time before the Republican convention and walk away from this campaign having pulled off the most cost-efficient advertising campaign in history.

So far, that seems to be the case. According to NBC News, whose Ari Melber has tracked the promise in recent days, the FEC maintains that Trump hasn’t converted any of his loans into donations, and the Trump campaign itself is refusing to release any documentation that would prove Trump has donated his campaign anything.

Campaign spokesperson Hope Hicks told NBC that the paperwork “will be filed with the next regularly scheduled FEC report [on July 20],” but declined to provide any documentation proving that claim.

Of course, that’s what she did last time.

In the meantime, what about the rest of Trump’s campaign? HIs fundraising efforts may have just broken federal law, and it is currently tens of millions of dollars in debt on top of what Trump has promised to pay. By all financial measures, billionaire Donald can’t afford his own ego trip.

 

By: Matt Shuham, The National Memo, June 30, 2016

July 1, 2016 Posted by | Campaign Finance Laws, Campaign Financing, Donald Trump | , , , , | Leave a comment

“Yet Another Fraudulent Operation”: Move Over, ‘Trump U,’ The New Scandal Is The ‘Trump Institute’

The scandal surrounding “Trump University” is already an albatross for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. The entire enterprise has been accused of being a con job, ripping off “students” who trusted the developer’s name.

But as it turns out, there’s a new, related controversy surrounding the “Trump Institute,” which is something else. The New York Times reports today that the Republican candidate “lent his name, and his credibility” to this seminar business, which offered Trump’s “wealth-creating secrets and strategies” for up to $2,000.

The truth was something else altogether.

As with Trump University, the Trump Institute promised falsely that its teachers would be handpicked by Mr. Trump. Mr. Trump did little, interviews show, besides appear in an infomercial – one that promised customers access to his vast accumulated knowledge. “I put all of my concepts that have worked so well for me, new and old, into our seminar,” he said in the 2005 video, adding, “I’m teaching what I’ve learned.”

Reality fell far short. In fact, the institute was run by a couple who had run afoul of regulators in dozens of states and been dogged by accusations of deceptive business practices and fraud for decades. Similar complaints soon emerged about the Trump Institute.

Yet there was an even more fundamental deceit to the business, unreported until now: Extensive portions of the materials that students received after forking over their seminar fees, supposedly containing Mr. Trump’s special wisdom, had been plagiarized from an obscure real estate manual published a decade earlier.

All things considered, when Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) referred to Trump as a “con man,” the senator may have been on to to something.

Consider the revelations from recent weeks:

* Those who ran “Trump University” have faced credible allegations of stuffing their own pockets by preying on the vulnerable, selling unsuspecting students snake oil at indefensible prices and through misleading claims.

* Trump has boasted at great length about the millions of dollars he’s given away through charitable donations – though many of these donations don’t appear to exist and many of the promises he made publicly went unfulfilled.

* A considerable chunk of Trump’s campaign fundraising went to Trump corporate products and services, giving rise to a new word for the political lexicon: “scampaign.”

* And now the “Trump Institute” is facing allegations of being yet another fraudulent operation, complete with bogus claims, shady characters, and “the theft of intellectual property at the venture’s heart.”

The Timesreport added:

The institute was another example of the Trump brand’s being accused of luring vulnerable customers with false promises of profit and success. Others, besides Trump University, include multilevel marketing ventures that sold vitamins and telecommunications services, and a vanity publisher that faced hundreds of consumer complaints.

Mr. Trump’s infomercial performance suggested he was closely overseeing the Trump Institute. “People are loving it,” he said in the program, titled “The Donald Trump Way to Wealth” and staged like a talk show in front of a wildly enthusiastic audience. “People are really doing well with it, and they’re loving it.” His name, picture and aphorisms like “I am the American Dream, supersized version” were all over the course materials.

Yet while he owned 93 percent of Trump University, the Trump Institute was owned and operated by Irene and Mike Milin, a couple who had been marketing get-rich-quick courses since the 1980s.

I realize, of course, that there are many voters who trust Donald J. Trump’s word. I’m less clear on why.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, June 29, 2016

June 30, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Fraud, Trump Institute | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“It Really Is This Simple”: Donald Trump Should Not Be President Of The United States

The #NeverTrump movement is rightfully disgusted and deeply concerned about the prospect of Donald Trump winning the presidency. These #NeverTrump conservatives have admirably broken from the Republican National Committee, which seems to care far more about avoiding “an embarrassing spectacle” at the convention than about sparing the party from being enduringly identified with Trump.

I admire and sympathize with #NeverTrump motives. But I’ve been unable to shake the feeling that the movement’s goal is not just futile but also somehow illegitimate. Trump won the nomination fair and square. He pulled in nearly 45 percent of the vote in the GOP primary, which is on the low end historically but not at all unprecedented. He carried 36 states and ended up with 300 more delegates than he needed to clinch the nomination. Roughly 14 million people voted for him, which is 4 million more than Mitt Romney won four years ago. All of which means that Trump seems to deserve the honor of standing as the Republican Party’s nominee for president.

The GOP should dump Trump anyway.

Yes, an anti-Trump coup (in which delegates are given the freedom to vote their consciences) would most likely fail. And even if it succeeded, it would almost certainly guarantee a GOP loss in November. Bill Kristol may like to indulge in fantasy-tweets about how an alternative nominee could win in November. But the result would almost certainly be a badly fractured party, with probably around a third of its voters bolting to a protest candidate or just staying home on Election Day.

The case for a coup has different grounds. It’s not about the conservative movement or the Republican Party’s chances in the 2016 election. It’s about what’s best for the country.

Since he clinched the nomination, Trump has managed the seemingly impossible by becoming even more erratic and even less presidential than he was during the primaries. The insults, the transparent lies, the racist taunting and bullying, the demagoguery, the narcissistic self-obsession, the incapacity to take a position and stick to it, the failure to raise funds and manage a campaign — the man has no business running anything of public consequence, let alone the government of the most powerful nation on the planet.

It really is that simple: Donald Trump should not be president of the United States. If there is even a small chance of successfully deposing him at the convention — an act that, if it worked, would deprive him of the means to compete in the general election — it should be undertaken. The alternative is complicity in a politically reckless and blatantly irresponsible endeavor: the attempted election of a candidate who deserves to lose.

Beyond the dangers posed by Trump himself are more sweeping concerns. As Jonathan Rauch argues in his important cover story in The Atlantic, American politics has gone “insane” in recent years due to the unintended consequences of a series of democratic reforms since the 1970s. These reforms severely weakened, and in some cases eliminated entirely, numerous informal intermediary institutions in Congress and the parties that once served to stymie the self-interested egoism of individual politicians and channel the populist passions of grassroots movements. Individual politicians are now increasingly free agents out to do the bidding of the angriest and most agitated voters, with both sides using social media to circumvent the institutions that would have once hemmed them in.

Rauch’s analysis is mostly correct — and he’s right to conclude that the best thing we can do to prevent the further degradation of our political system is to reassert the vitality of those old, anemic intermediary institutions. Allowing delegates to opt for an alternative to Trump would be a powerful example of precisely such a reassertion. The party would be saying, in effect, that although Trump prevailed democratically, democracy isn’t the only thing that counts. The party itself stands for something — not just popular government, but good government — and it would rather go down upholding a high standard than allow itself to be used as a hollow conduit for a demagogic rabblerouser to attain the pinnacle of power.

But wouldn’t this backfire? If the party denied Trump the nomination at the Republican convention, wouldn’t it fuel a “stabbed in the back” narrative that would inspire an even darker political movement four years from now? This was Jeet Heer’s argument in a recent smart piece in The New Republic. The Trump voters are a problem for American democracy, Heer asserted, one that can only be solved by allowing them to get their nominee and then ensuring that he’s roundly defeated at the ballot box in November.

It’s a powerful argument, but I’m unpersuaded that a general-election defeat will “solve” the problem of the Trump voters. These voters are activated now. Trump has given them a style and the rudiments of a policy agenda that they clearly prefer to the offerings from either the Republicans or the Democrats. The only way to keep those voters from flocking to Trump four years from now, or rallying around some even-worse populist copycat, is for the GOP to woo them by adjusting its platform and agenda.

That’s what both parties did after the original Populists upended American politics in the 1890s. It could happen again. It needs to happen again. And whether and how it happens will do far more to determine the future shape of the Republican Party than whether it dumps Trump this July.

In the short term, the party would most likely be wrecked. But that could well be less destructive, in the longer term, for both the party and the country, than trying to ride the Trump tiger. Exiling the Trump voters in 2016 would save the GOP from making a fatal compromise with competence and put it in a relatively strong position to run more compelling and capable post-Trump populists in the 2018 midterm and 2020 presidential elections. America would be much better for it.

At the end of the transformation, the Republican Party would look and sound quite a bit different than it has since Ronald Reagan took it over 36 years ago. But Republicans should consider that vastly preferable to allowing Trump to remake the party in his own Know Nothing image. We all should.

 

By: Damon Linker, The Week, June 29, 2016

June 30, 2016 Posted by | Conservatives, Donald Trump, Republican National Committee | , , , , , | 1 Comment

“In The Land Of His Imagination”: Even Donald Trump’s Most Presidential Speech Was A Bizarre, Lie-Riddled Fantasy

On Wednesday, Donald Trump gave one of the most presidential speeches he’s ever delivered — which is to say, a speech that was written out beforehand and which he read off a teleprompter, without his usual digressions into his spectacular performance in the polls and the scum-sucking lowlifes who have filed lawsuits against him (or are judges in those lawsuits). But just when you think Trump is going to put together a logical and persuasive case on something — in this speech, the all-encompassing villainy of Hillary Clinton was the topic — he dashes off into the land of his imagination, spinning out a weird series of easily debunked lies and bizarre fantasies.

This pattern repeated itself over and over in Trump’s speech (you can read the prepared text here; there were some off-the-cuff embellishments, but not too many). He would start with a reasonable critique: for instance, that Clinton supported NAFTA, which cost Americans jobs. But then he would take that critique to an absurd place: “Hillary Clinton gave China millions of our best jobs, and effectively let China completely rebuild itself. In return, Hillary Clinton got rich!”

After trade, Trump moved on to Benghazi, of course. Setting a serious tone, Trump said, “She started the war that put [Ambassador Chris Stevens] in Libya, denied him the security he asked for, then left him there to die.” Trump continued with this fanciful exploration of the full breadth and depth of Clinton’s power, which apparently existed on a scale that would make kings and presidents seem like tiny bugs the titanic Hillary could brush off her shoulder:

In just four years, Secretary Clinton managed to almost single-handedly destabilize the entire Middle East.

Her invasion of Libya handed the country over to the ISIS barbarians.

Thanks to Hillary Clinton, Iran is now the dominant Islamic power in the Middle East, and on the road to nuclear weapons.

Hillary Clinton’s support for violent regime change in Syria has thrown the country into one of the bloodiest civil wars anyone has ever seen — while giving ISIS a launching pad for terrorism against the West.

She helped force out a friendly regime in Egypt and replace it with the radical Muslim Brotherhood. The Egyptian military has retaken control, but Clinton has opened the Pandora’s box of radical Islam. [Donald Trump]

Let’s recap. You may have thought there was a revolution in Libya to overthrow longtime despot Moammar Gadhafi, a revolution that accomplished its initial goal with some help from the United States. This apparently is not correct; it turns out that what actually happened was that Hillary Clinton invaded Libya. Iran’s influence in the region? All because Hillary Clinton wanted it that way. Syria’s civil war? Started by Hillary Clinton. All those people you saw protesting Hosni Mubarak’s regime in Cairo’s Tahrir Square? Sent there by Hillary Clinton, I suppose, who then engineered the ensuing election to make sure the Muslim Brotherhood won. Radical Islam? Non-existent before Hillary Clinton came along (but don’t tell al Qaeda).

I won’t bother to go through the long list of lies Trump told through the rest of his speech (that he opposed the Iraq War from the beginning, that there’s no system to vet refugees, etc.) But whenever Trump began a legitimate critique of Clinton, it would inevitably go off the rails. It’s fine to criticize her use of private email at the State Department, which was a mistake. But Trump says that in the personal emails her attorneys segregated from those to be sent to the State Department and which were then deleted, there were terrifying secrets. “While we may not know what is in those deleted emails, our enemies probably do. So they probably now have a blackmail file over someone who wants to be president of the United States. This fact alone disqualifies her from the presidency. We can’t hand over our government to someone whose deepest, darkest secrets may be in the hands of our enemies.”

I suppose if you use “probably” as a modifier you can say whatever you want, like “Donald Trump probably keeps his hair soft and manageable by shampooing in the blood of kittens.” Do we know that, or have any concrete evidence that it might be true? No. But it probably is, right?

I have no doubt that Trump’s most ardent fans eat stuff like this up. When he calls Clinton “the most corrupt person ever to seek the presidency,” they cheer in agreement. But Trump’s task isn’t to delight his supporters, it’s to win over people who aren’t already in his camp. But only someone who is already a Trump voter could be persuaded by that kind of ridiculous hyperbole.

And that’s what Trump is like when he’s being presidential.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Week, June 23, 2016

June 25, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Middle East | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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