The Morning Jolt

DOJ: Nah, FBI, No Need to Investigate Favor-Trading at the Clinton Foundation

Buried in the 26th paragraph of a CNN report:

Early this year as the investigation into Clinton’s private email server was in full swing, several FBI field offices approached the Justice Department asking to open a case regarding the relationship between the State Department and the Clinton Foundation, according to a law enforcement official. At the time, DOJ declined because it had looked into allegations surrounding the Clinton Foundation around a year earlier and found there wasn’t sufficient evidence to open a case.

That lede was buried so deep, we needed a team of archeologists to find it.

If you thought the Obama administration’s Department of Justice would scuttle a full investigation of the Clinton Foundation, you were right!

Trump’s in a Bad Spot, with Few Signs of Hope on the Horizon

Another week of mostly brutal polls for Donald Trump. Hillary Clinton has led the past 14 national polls; with Libertarian Gary Johnson and Green Party nominee Jill Stein in the mix, Trump is struggling to hit 40 percent in most polls. Clinton has a small but consistent lead in Ohio. There’s a little more variety in the most recent polls in Florida, but the average is about the same, a small lead for Clinton. She’s got a larger and steady lead in Pennsylvania, and about the same size lead in Wisconsin.

In the Senate races, the news is a little better for Republicans. In Florida, Marco Rubio continues to enjoy a consistent lead over either Democratic challenger. In Ohio, Rob Portman’s consistent lead over former governor Ted Strickland is one of the cycle’s most pleasant surprises for the GOP. Maybe it helps when your opponent is a classless ninny:

Former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, a Democratic Senate candidate, has apologized for cheering the timing of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s death.

“My friends,” the former governor said Monday at an Ohio AFL-CIO event in the Cleveland area, “a lot of average citizens out there don’t understand the importance of that court.

“I mean, the death of Scalia saved labor from a terrible decision,” Strickland continued, as his audience clapped and laughed. “And I don’t wish anyone ill, but it happened at a good time, because once that decision had been made it would have been tough to reverse it.”

Portman seems to be immune from Trump’s troubles in his state, but sadly for the GOP, in Pennsylvania Pat Toomey doesn’t seem to be able to keep his head above water. He’s narrowly trailed the last four polls.

Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball:

We’re moving Pennsylvania from Leans Democratic to Likely Democratic in the presidential race, which is where we had it as of a couple of months ago. This doesn’t change our overall total of 347 electoral votes for Clinton and 191 for Trump — precisely where our map has been since we unveiled it March 31 . . . We now have 269 electoral votes — just one short of the magic number of 270 — rated as Likely or Safe Democratic.

Trump is in Florida today and Pennsylvania tomorrow, and Pence is in Wisconsin. But there are some unnerving indicators that the Trump campaign is still thinking of spending time and resources in one of those deep blue states:

Donald Trump’s presidential campaign is beefing up its Connecticut presence with the hiring of a new state director and plans for a rally.

Ben Proto, Trump’s new state director, declined comment. An email to the campaign’s national press office was not returned.

J.R. Romano, executive director of the Connecticut Republican Party, said the Trump campaign is seeking a venue for a rally, possibly this weekend, but nothing has been finalized.

“There is a willingness for Donald Trump to come back to Connecticut,” Romano said. “It means that Connecticut’s in play. The Democrats in this state may not want to see it but it’s true.”

You can’t help a man who doesn’t want to help himself, and you can’t help a campaign that doesn’t want to help itself.

The Coming Recriminations

Sure, Trump could somehow pull a rabbit out of a hat, completely reverse all of these awful-looking polls, and win in November. But you would be a fool to bet the mortgage on that scenario. (It’s easy to boldly predict a sweeping landslide for Trump when you’re an anonymous egg on Twitter.) Dilbert cartoonist Scott Adams is revising his prediction of a Trump landslide, “because Clinton has evidently hired some weapons-grade Master Persuaders and moved to a purely emotional appeal, specifically fear.” He seems really surprised that the Democratic nominee is using fear-mongering and demonization tactics against the Republican nominee, which is perhaps the single most safely predictable quadrennial American tradition.

(One of the most depressing revelations of this cycle is the recognition that Scott Adams isn’t most like his hilarious creations Dilbert or Dogbert; no, when he declares that “it is easy for a President of the United States to assign people to find the best advisors” and “name a political topic I can’t master in one hour under the tutelage of top experts” it suddenly reveals that Adams was the pointy-haired boss all along. Really good presidents can have bad advisers that steer them onto the rocks.)

Everything Allahpundit says here should be a big factor in conservative recriminations after the election:

The closer the outcome, the more plausibly #NeverTrumpers can be blamed for having made the difference. The more of a blowout it is, the more people like [Sean] Hannity will be laughed at for suggesting that missing Republican votes mattered — although he’ll try to make the case regardless, rest assured. In a way, he and Morning Joe are merely preempting the angry accusations of culpability that’ll be thrown in their own faces if the election turns into a debacle. “You made Trump possible!” angry Republicans will say, pointing fingers at both of them. “I never backed Trump,” Scarborough will meekly reply. “Well, you made Hillary possible!” Hannity will bellow, pointing the finger right back. Between the two I think pounding the table and staying on offense is the shrewder strategy, but in Hannity’s case he doesn’t have a choice. Scarborough really has criticized Trump at times and never formally endorsed; he can make a not convincing but still sort of tenable case that he didn’t technically “support” Trump. Hannity? Trump fan numero uno. He’s stuck riding this missile no matter where it goes, even if he ends up like Slim Pickens at the end of “Dr. Strangelove.”

He’s almost uniquely badly positioned among Republicans to make the “you own Hillary now” accusation against #NeverTrumpers, though. The person who’s best positioned is someone who opposed Trump in the primaries and then came around to him reluctantly in the general, as a superior if still flawed alternative to Hillary. That person can say, honestly, that they didn’t want Trump, knew he’d be a weak hand in the general election, but concluded that at least he’ll deliver a better Supreme Court as president than Clinton. That’s a defensible argument, although I think it glosses over the possibility that Trump has a bigger upside and downside than Clinton. The person who’s not so well positioned to attack #NeverTrumpers is the person who preferred Trump in the primaries too, when he could have had Cruz or Rubio or Kasich or, God help me, even Chris Christie. Hannity used to say during the primaries that he didn’t favor any one candidate over the others and merely tried to be fair to all of them. To which all I can say is, ask Team Cruz about that. Ask any Fox viewer who watched Hannity’s show between last June and this May if they had any inkling about whether the host might have a preference for any of the candidates. The irony is, even if it were true that Hannity was studiously neutral among Trump, Cruz, Rubio, etc., he shouldn’t have been. A guy who advertises himself as a rock-ribbed true-blue conservative should have had no difficulty at all concluding that Trump was the least attractive candidate in the field.

ADDENDA: Remember Breitbart’s breathless coverage of the Wisconsin primary between House Speaker Paul Ryan and challenger Paul Nehlen? Ryan was “running scared”, declares his team “terrified” of defeat Tuesday and that his “policy record is collapsing among voters here under scrutiny.”

Here’s Matt Boyle’s last piece before the primary:

The sitting Speaker of the House, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), has been brought to his knees, bowing down before the almighty nationalist populist movement, as his life’s work—a career in politics—flashes before his eyes.

Final tally: Ryan 84 percent, Nehlen 16 percent.

Now, the Breitbart coverage wasn’t just a wrong prediction, or having hopes dashed on Election Day. This is giving readers a perspective of what’s happening in a primary that is completely different from what is actually going on. There were no late gaffes by Nehlen, or sudden game-changing scandalous revelations. The polls showing Ryan with a 60-point lead were in the ballpark. We can now say, pretty definitively, that Nehlen never had a chance of beating Ryan in his primary. But if you were reading certain sites, you probably thought that the next Brat-beats-Cantor scenario was imminent.

Part of being a good journalist is telling readers the news that they don’t want to hear and the news that you don’t want to write.

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