Politics Podcast: The Fallout From The Mueller Report Has Just Begun

FiveThirtyEight

 

The U.S. Department of Justice released a redacted version of the full Mueller report Thursday. On this episode of the FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast, the crew reacts to special counsel Robert Mueller’s findings that the Trump campaign did not criminally conspire with Russia to interfere in the 2016 election. The report came to no conclusion about the criminality of President Trump’s actions during the investigation.

Also, the FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast is recording a live podcast in Houston on May 8. Find more information and tickets here.

You can listen to the episode by clicking the “play” button in the audio player above or by downloading it in iTunes, the ESPN app or your favorite podcast platform. If you are new to podcasts, learn how to listen.

The FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast publishes Monday evenings, with additional episodes throughout the week. Help new listeners discover the show by leaving us a rating and review on iTunes. Have a comment, question or suggestion for “good polling vs. bad polling”? Get in touch by email, on Twitter or in the comments.

Politics Podcast: Which 2020 Candidates Have Had The Best Rollouts So Far?

FiveThirtyEight

 

The Democratic primary field is taking shape. In this episode of the FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast, the crew debates which candidates have done the best job of introducing themselves to voters in the early days of the contest. The team also takes stock of Republican defections from President Trump — on the recent national emergency declaration vote and other issues.

You can listen to the episode by clicking the “play” button in the audio player above or by downloading it in iTunes, the ESPN app or your favorite podcast platform. If you are new to podcasts, learn how to listen.

The FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast publishes Monday evenings, with additional episodes throughout the week. Help new listeners discover the show by leaving us a rating and review on iTunes. Have a comment, question or suggestion for “good polling vs. bad polling”? Get in touch by email, on Twitter or in the comments.

How Cable News Reacted To The Cohen Hearing

Not everyone has time to watch C-SPAN for five-and-a-half hours in the middle of the week. Not even to watch President Trump’s former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen call Trump a “racist,” “con man” and “cheat,“ as happened on Wednesday. And not even to watch Cohen be forcefully questioned by Republicans in response.

As such, we rely on the news media to watch for us. But the media is not a monolith. How an outlet condenses a big event like the Cohen hearings can shade how its audience interprets the events. And when it came to cable news, the networks differed in their coverage of the hearing’s aftermath, as you might expect. But an analysis of how the words used by each network differed is a window into how they’re framing the threats to Trump’s presidency. MSNBC, for example, appeared particularly focused on the legal implications of the hearing — on Robert Mueller and prosecutors. CNN was heavy on issues of credibility, money and payments, and the claim by Cohen that Trump is a “racist.” And Fox News was especially focused on other news altogether, namely what was happening thousands of miles away, where Trump was sitting down with Kim Jong Un.

Certain specific words gave the Cohen hearing these flavors on each of the three cable networks. Using data from the Internet Archive’s Television News Archive and processed by the GDELT Project, we analyzed the coverage of Cohen on CNN, Fox News and MSNBC from 5 p.m. to midnight the day of the testimony.1 To suss out any differences in the networks’ coverage, we first looked at when “Cohen” was spoken and which other words were said within the same 15-second window. (That’s the size of the clips we can access from the data sources.) Then we looked at the 200 most-used Cohen-adjacent words across the three networks and isolated the 15 words that were most particular to each network. (By most particular, we mean the words that were used relatively more often in a network’s Cohen coverage.)2 You’ll see those words plotted on the chart below; we arranged each word by what percentage of clips that used that word came from each network. For example, of all the Cohen-related clips mentioning the word “summit,” 80 percent were on Fox News, 15 percent were on MSNBC and 5 percent were on CNN.

The words close to each network’s corner of the coverage triangle are the ones most specifically associated with its coverage. For CNN, “certainly,” “credibility” and “racist” stood out. Fox News was notable for its use of the word “summit” — presumably in reference to Trump’s meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, which happened around the same time as the Cohen hearing. And MSNBC’s coverage was distinguished by its talk about “prosecutors” and “Mueller.” (Words in the center, such as “news,” were used a lot but not especially favored by any network in particular.)

And the qualitative flavor of the coverage varied widely as well. CNN talking head Chris Cillizza baldly declared “winners” and “losers” from the hearing. The former included the performance during the hearing of U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York — “and man, did she nail it.” Ocasio-Cortez’s interrogation of Cohen was praised elsewhere for being “well thought out.” The latter included Mark Meadows, the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, who was “out for blood,” revealing little in his questions beyond his contempt for Cohen.

On the other hand, other coverage suggested that the hearing was merely a tool for Trump’s opponents and that given Cohen’s history of lying, the whole thing was something of a farce. The day after the hearing, the morning show Fox & Friends, for example, went meta, declaring that the media “misses the mark.” “This is what you get when you have partisan political operatives masquerading as journalists,” said Ned Ryun, a Republican strategist and the show’s guest. “They can barely control their glee.” He went on to call it “theater of the absurd” and a “total clown show.”

Fox & Friends then stepped hard on the FiveThirtyEight brand, comparing data on the amount of time the cable news networks had spent on Cohen versus the U.S.-North Korea summit during the run-up to the hearing, lamenting the fact that the other networks had given far more airtime to the former. “There’s a reason they call us fair and balanced,” a host said. (FiveThirtyEight has not independently verified those numbers.) The summit fell apart early, and no deal was reached.

There will be more political events in the weeks and months to come. The cable networks’ coverage surely won’t march in lockstep on those, either. We’ll be watching.


From ABC News:


Politics Podcast: Our Best (Or Worst) Show

FiveThirtyEight

 

North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District will be the first district to redo an election since 1975, after evidence of absentee ballot fraud in 2018. Elections analyst Nathaniel Rakich joins the FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast to discuss the evidence of fraud and what to expect from the redo. The crew also debates what would constitute a serious primary challenge to President Trump and plays a round of the game “Guess What Americans Think.”

You can listen to the episode by clicking the “play” button in the audio player above or by downloading it in iTunes, the ESPN App or your favorite podcast platform. If you are new to podcasts, learn how to listen.

The FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast publishes Monday evenings, with occasional special episodes throughout the week. Help new listeners discover the show by leaving us a rating and review on iTunes. Have a comment, question or suggestion for “good polling vs. bad polling”? Get in touch by email, on Twitter or in the comments.

Politics Podcast: 99 Problems And Mueller Is Just One

The word is that special counsel Robert Mueller could wrap up his investigation as early as next week. Whatever the outcome, it will be an important political moment in Donald Trump’s presidency. However it probably won’t be the end of his legal troubles. In this installment of the FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast, legal reporter Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux shares an overview of the criminal investigations involving the president, ranging from campaign finance violations to fraud.

You can listen to the episode by clicking the “play” button in the audio player above or by downloading it in iTunes, the ESPN App or your favorite podcast platform. If you are new to podcasts, learn how to listen.

The FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast publishes Monday evenings, with occasional special episodes throughout the week. Help new listeners discover the show by leaving us a rating and review on iTunes. Have a comment, question or suggestion for “good polling vs. bad polling”? Get in touch by email, on Twitter or in the comments.

Does Trump’s National Emergency Set A Problematic Precedent For Conservatives?

President Trump has declared a national emergency to obtain funding to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, after lawmakers did not approve the $5.7 billion he’d requested. And in doing so, he has sparked a debate on whether the executive branch can — or should — use its power to unilaterally achieve a policy goal. The president does have an enormous amount of latitude to declare national emergencies, but Trump’s use of the power in this way is unusual and could have far-reaching consequences.

“A Democratic president can declare emergencies as well,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi warned Republicans on Thursday. “So the precedent that the president is setting here is something that should be met with great unease and dismay by the Republicans.”

The action raises problems of both principle and precedent for some right-leaning and libertarian legal specialists. But others argue that Trump’s action is probably legal or say they’re not especially worried about potential consequences down the line.

First of all, some legal experts see a fundamental problem with Republicans’ endorsement of a potentially dramatic expansion of executive power. There is a potential case to be made that Trump’s action, regardless of what it means for the future, violates basic principles of limited-government conservatism, which is generally opposed to executive overreach and supportive of a strong separation of powers. “I think it’s problematic in general, regardless of the legality, for the president to stretch his authority under these broad statutory delegations in ways that haven’t been done before,” said David Bernstein, a professor of law at George Mason University. “It gives the president more power to act unilaterally, and that’s not the way our system is supposed to work.”

Bernstein added that he blames former President Barack Obama for beginning this trend. First in 2012 and then again in 2014, Obama issued sweeping executive orders that protected young undocumented immigrants who were brought to the country as children. But he said Republicans shouldn’t allow this kind of executive overreach to continue, particularly for an expensive project like the wall. “It’s not just that overly broad executive power is being endorsed here — it’s being endorsed for a quintessential big-government boondoggle,” he said.

The question of property rights is another potentially sticky issue for conservatives, because Trump will likely need to use eminent domain — the government’s power to take private property and put it to public use — to seize much of the land he needs for the wall, according to Ilya Somin, who is a law professor at George Mason and identifies as a libertarian. Conservatives and libertarians both tend to be critical of eminent domain in general, and members of his own party have criticized Trump in the past for his history of support for the tactic and his attempt to use it in a real estate project. “Building this wall will require the seizure of a large amount of private property without congressional authorization,” Somin said. “To the extent that Republicans support Trump on this, they deserve censure for that.”

Others, however, pointed out that Trump isn’t drawing on powers that don’t exist — he’s acting within the broad authority that was given to the president by Congress. “This is not the president making stuff up,” said Josh Blackman, a professor at the South Texas College of Law Houston. But Blackman said that just because Trump’s action may be legal, that doesn’t mean Congress has to go along with it — and he thinks they shouldn’t. “The president asked for the authority to build this wall, Congress said no, and now he’s trying to go around Congress,” he said. “Do I think that’s a good idea? No. But I think the president probably has the authority to do this.”

John Malcolm, a senior legal fellow at the right-leaning Heritage Foundation, said he’s “not overly concerned” about future Democratic presidents declaring a national emergency to achieve their own policy goals because the declaration would need to be grounded in a statute and he doesn’t think there is an obvious candidate to use for something like climate change. “The president doesn’t get to declare a national emergency about anything,” he said. “I think creative presidents might try to do various things along these lines in the future, but they won’t necessarily be successful.”

He added that he’s inclined to trust Trump when he says there’s an emergency that justifies immediate action. “I think there’s no doubt that the threats the president is describing along our southern border are real,” he said. “The real shame is that Congress hasn’t worked with him to come up with a more workable solution that responds to those threats. It seems to me that they’re not doing that because they just don’t like this president.”

But Somin and Bernstein both said they thought Trump was setting a dangerous precedent — future Democratic presidents might want to declare a national emergency of their own over something like gun violence or climate change. “This is how slippery slopes work,” Bernstein said. “One president breaches the norm, then another president breaches it more, and it just keeps going.”

Trump’s declaration of a national emergency is now headed for what will almost certainly be a lengthy court battle. The more immediate question is how Republican politicians will respond. Congress has the power to terminate a president’s emergency declaration through a joint resolution of disapproval, but the resolution would need to pass with veto-proof majorities in both chambers to be successful.

Some Senate Republicans have already voiced concerns similar to Pelosi’s. Sen. Marco Rubio said that “today’s national emergency is border security” but also said that a future Democratic president “may use this exact same tactic to impose the Green New Deal,” a policy framework recently proposed by Democrats that calls for large public investments to combat climate change. But other Republicans — including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — have changed their public positions; after originally opposing a national emergency declaration, they are now lining up behind the president. In the coming days and weeks, they’ll have a tough choice: whether to back the president or rebuke him.


From ABC News:


What Went Down In Trump’s 2019 State Of The Union

What Went Down In Trump’s 2019 State Of The Union | FiveThirtyEight

Skip to main content

Why Trump Blinked

President Trump blinked. The 35-day partial government shutdown appears to be ending.

From the start of the shutdown, congressional Democrats said they would not negotiate regarding Trump’s proposal for a border wall until the government reopened. Trump said he would not agree to legislation opening the government unless it included money for the border wall. That standoff lasted until Friday. Congress is expected to pass a bill that funds the government through Feb. 15 and does not include wall money, and Trump said that he would sign it in a Rose Garden address.

Why did Trump back down? Well, for all of the reasons we’ve been talking about for weeks. Polls consistently showed that the public was largely blaming the president, more than congressional Democrats, for the shutdown. That “blame Trump” view had recently gained more traction:

Moreover, Trump’s approval ratings were declining amid the impasse:

The public response had clear effects in Congress. Congressional Republicans had been unified behind the president in the early stages of the shutdown, but cracks started to emerge as it dragged on. In public, this was demonstrated on Thursday by six Senate Republicans voting for legislation put forward by Senate Democrats that would fund the government without money for the wall. And, in private, disagreement with the president’s strategy extended beyond those six. A meeting between Senate Republicans and Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday reportedly turned into a venting session, with some senators scolding Pence for the White House’s strategy. Among the critics was Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has the power to bring forward legislation, whether Trump likes it or not.

We don’t know much about the private discussions between McConnell and the White House, but it’s possible that Trump folded in part because McConnell suggested Senate Republicans would likely move forward soon with legislation funding the government without paying for the wall — with or without the president’s support. Although Trump, in a Rose Garden speech on Friday, acted as if it were his decision to end the shutdown, the decision to fold may not truly have been Trump’s to make, and the speech may have been McConnell allowing the president to save face and concede before the Republicans in the Senate fully broke with him.

[embedded content]

To be clear, it’s not certain that Trump has lost the broader fight over the wall. It’s hard to see congressional Democrats offering much funding for it, but maybe they will agree to some kind of compromise that includes a few billion dollars. (I wouldn’t bet on this, as liberal Democratic opposition to the wall seems to be hardening.) Or, as he suggested on Friday, Trump could declare a national emergency and reallocate funds from other parts of the government to finance a wall. Such a move will almost certainly draw legal challenges. But Trump might win in the courts, as he (eventually) did on his executive order banning travel from certain countries into the United States.

For now, however, we’re back to where we were when the shutdown began. Trump and Congress have three weeks to figure out a solution. In public, at least, all sides are staking out the same positions they held when the shutdown started. Trump will likely need a different strategy going forward. The one he employed over the last month — shutting down the government (which is unpopular) to get the wall (which is unpopular) — could not keep his party united forever.

In short, it was another example that Trump is not immune to broader political dynamics, despite his surprising win in 2016. The health care policy legislation he was pushing for much of 2017 was deeply unpopularand it failed. He had high disapproval ratings going into the 2018 midterms — and his party lost a ton of House seats. And now, he pushed a shutdown strategy that seemed doomed to fail — and it did.

Two Years In, Turnover In Trump’s Cabinet Is Still Historically High

It took less than a year into Donald Trump’s presidency for members of his Cabinet to start leaving their jobs: In 2017, chief of staff Reince Priebus and Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price called it quits, while Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly left his post to succeed Priebus. The departures continued to mount in 2018, as high-profile Cabinet members like Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt headed for the exits. Then, on Dec. 31, three Cabinet-level officials — Kelly, Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis — departed the Trump administration. Most recently, only a couple of days into 2019, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke followed them out the door.

About halfway through President Trump’s term seems like a good time to check in once again on the rate of turnover in his Cabinet compared with past presidents. Once again, it is unprecedented in recent history. Through this point in their presidencies, none of the preceding six presidents had weathered more turnover in the 24 offices that constitute Trump’s Cabinet1 than Trump has. As of Jan. 8, there had already been 12 staffing changes to his Cabinet. The president with the next-highest number at this point in his presidency was Bill Clinton, with only six. In fact, by Jan. 8 of the third year of the previous six administrations combined, just 16 people had left these offices.

Typically, people don’t start departing en masse until a president’s second term. All four of the two-term presidents we looked at — Ronald Reagan, Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama — didn’t reach 12 personnel changes until after they were re-elected. And it still took the one-term presidents, Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush, four years in office to pass the 12-departure mark.

In the chart above, we’ve tallied how many people departed from one of the offices in Trump’s Cabinet in each of the last seven presidential administrations by calendar year. (Close readers of FiveThirtyEight may notice that this chart is slightly different from ones that we’ve published in previous articles. That’s because those earlier stories gauged turnover by when a new Cabinet member replaced someone who left, rather than the initial departure date.) A few additional things to keep in mind:

  • We didn’t include any roles that were part of the Cabinets of other presidents but not part of Trump’s. For example, Clinton included the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy in his Cabinet, but because the so-called “drug czar” isn’t in Trump’s Cabinet, we didn’t include that office’s turnover in Clinton’s totals.
  • Similarly, a few of the jobs in Trump’s Cabinet didn’t exist in previous administrations — for example, the posts of secretary of homeland security and director of national intelligence were created during the George W. Bush administration — which means that earlier presidents had fewer positions available to turn over, potentially deflating their totals in the chart.
  • Our research doesn’t include acting Cabinet members who stepped aside for permanent appointees.
  • People who left one Cabinet position to join another are included as departures. For instance, when Kelly left the Homeland Security Department to become Trump’s chief of staff, that counted as a departure even though he stayed in the Cabinet. Likewise, the 1985 job swap of Treasury Secretary-turned-chief of staff Don Regan and chief of staff-turned-Treasury Secretary James Baker was noted as two departures in Reagan’s fifth year.

This last point provides a bit of an asterisk for Trump: His Cabinet turnover isn’t quite as high as it looks because two of his Cabinet members who left their jobs did so to assume another Cabinet-level post. (In addition to Kelly, Mike Pompeo went from being CIA director to secretary of state — a position he still occupies.) Nevertheless, 10 of the 24 people in Trump’s original Cabinet are gone, and only 13 are holding their original positions. And at the rate they’re going, we may not have to wait long for even more to exit.

Emergency Politics Podcast: Mattis Is Out, Shutdown Is On (?)

FiveThirtyEight

In an emergency installment of the FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast, the crew discusses Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis’s resignation and the looming government shutdown. Both events strain President Trump’s relationship with the congressional GOP and create uncertainty in Washington.

You can listen to the episode by clicking the “play” button in the audio player above or by downloading it in iTunes, the ESPN App or your favorite podcast platform. If you are new to podcasts, learn how to listen.

The FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast publishes Monday evenings, with occasional special episodes throughout the week. Help new listeners discover the show by leaving us a rating and review on iTunes. Have a comment, question or suggestion for “good polling vs. bad polling”? Get in touch by email, on Twitter or in the comments.