Trumps explore limits of nepotism

The heir to generations of hard-won success and Donald Trump, Jr.

They’re a bunch of hardasses over at the New Yorker, where coverage of Donald Trump, Jr. renders the possessive of his name with a period-comma-apostrophe-s. For example: Donald Trump Jr.,’s Love for Russian Dirt. That’s some strict copy editing, right there. No one is eyeballing it at the New Yorker. Probably, the way they maintain such high standards is by hiring the old copy editor’s son. It just makes sense. Once a guy has spent his whole career editing copy, practicing at the highest level until he knows every page of the stylebook, the second-best copy editor in the world has got to be his kid. Being good at stuff is hereditary. That’s why the world is ruled by kings.

Anywhom, Donald Trump Jr.’s emails tested the limits of this principle when he released them on Twitter this morning. He seems to have published them in an attempt to scoop the New York Times, which reported today that Trump Jr. expressed interest in damaging information about Hillary Clinton that was explicitly provided by the Russian government. Here is an actual email exchange between “Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer” Natalia Veselnitskaya and Trump Jr. that I am not making up:

Veselnitskaya: This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.

Trump: If it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer.

Kids: When someone asks you if you want sensitive information from a foreign government to help your political campaign, you say, “Are you a cop?” They have to tell you if you ask. I don’t know how this exchange could be more explicit. If you were writing a comedy sketch where Donald Trump, Jr. gets caught in a DOJ sting, you could use this wording. Trump surrogates have argued that the meeting that came from these emails turned out to be about Russian adoption policies, and Veselnitskaya offered “very high level and sensitive information” as a false pretext. That would explain her wording. If you had such information, would you ever say so in an email? But Trump Jr. literally goes on record as loving this illegal plan, bringing to his role in his father’s presidential campaign less discretion than one brings to a weed deal on Facebook.

It’s almost as though he attained his position by favoritism. There’s something gross about the way President Trump gives important jobs to his children. It’s un-American. A founding principle of our government is that it will be run by people who have earned it, or at least won a popularity contest. Getting born into it was the old way, the collapsing system that took Europe down with it. Maybe I’m just mad because my dad isn’t president. But if Trump had hired an experienced campaign operative to do Donald Jr.’s job, I bet they wouldn’t have sent this email. They might still have colluded with Russia to influence the election, whatever that means. But they wouldn’t have embarrassed the whole country doing it.

Close Reading: Yahoo scans emails on behalf of NSA

Former NSA general counsel Stewart Baker

Former NSA General Counsel Stewart Baker

Yesterday, Reuters reported that Yahoo secretly built software to scan its customers’ emails for keywords provided by the NSA and FBI. One can only imagine the number of recipes for bars this program uncovered. Among Americans, at least, a Yahoo account is a badge of unfamiliarity with the contemporary internet second only to Hotmail. But this remains a massive breach of trust. Your aunt might not have signed up for Yahoo mail if she knew all her messages would be scanned and turned over to law enforcement. This may be the secondary infection that kills Yahoo’s ailing business, but I’m more interested in the argument this discovery prompted from Stewart Baker, former general counsel at the NSA. I quote:

“[Email providers] have the power to encrypt it all, and with that comes added responsibility to do some of the work that had been done by the intelligence agencies.”

Does it? Close reading after the jump.

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Trump demands justice for Ben Carson against Ted Cruz

Ted Cruz, the character Phil Hartman never got to play

Ted Cruz is the character Phil Hartman never got to play.

Donald Trump is shocked and disgusted at what happened to Ben Carson in Iowa. On Monday night, around the time the caucuses began, the Cruz campaign sent notes like this one to leaders in its ground operation:

Carson note

Trump tweeted this image around noon today. It could be a fake, but I want it to be real because it is wonderful. I sincerely hope Spencer Rogers is not the only Cruz staffer who signs his emails, “For Liberty.” What’s more delightful is that this misleading email is technically true. Carson did take time off from the campaign trail (to stop by his house on his way to New Hampshire.) He will make some kind of announcement next week (as he continues to campaign for president.) Cruz apologized for the misunderstanding just as soon as caucus night was over. But Trump is not going to let him treat Dr. Carson like that.

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Rubio email describes “threat my campaign poses” to US

Marco Rubio drinks water—too much water?

Marco Rubio drinks water—too much water?

Yesterday, the Marco Rubio campaign sent an email to supporters that may not have said what it meant. Props to Twitter’s Mike Tipping for the screenshot:


The first draft read, “I know you get a lot of email, but I wouldn’t be sending this unless it was urgent. And it is, because I’m sending it. Because it’s urgent. That’s why I’m sending it…” and continued for 970 words. But this draft merely assures us that “the media and Democrats know the threat that my campaign and supporters pose to our nation when we win next November.” It’s a weird thing to say, because I get the sense the media doesn’t know anything about Rubio at all. But at least he made a unique donation button just for me. I hate to click on the same button other people have clicked on. It makes me feel like that button’s a whore.

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New GOP chair Essman calls for fresh ideas to criticize governor with

Jeff Essmann rehearses a play about a mean state senator

Jeff Essmann and Scott Boulanger rehearse a play about a mean state senator

The Republican Party of Montana elected Jeff Essmann its party chair last month, replacing Will Deschamps after six years. Essmann was president of the senate in 2015, so this move finally unites the two branches of Montana’s state government: the Republican legislature and Republican politics.

You may remember Essmann from the most wonderful email chain in the world, in which he discussed ways to reduce the power and perhaps number of moderates in his party with then-majority leader Art Wittich (now the representative from Glendive) and then-senator Jason Priest (now convicted of partner/family abuse.) Arguably, Essmann’s struggle with moderates began when he defeated Jim Pertersen in the 2011 vote for senate president. It hit a snag this past session, when Democrats joined moderate Republicans to pass Senator Ed Buttrey’s (R–Colstrip) Medicaid expansion compromise. But now that Essmann is party chair, it appears the conservatives have won.

He has a mandate. He controls the machinations of his party and the levers of the senate. And from this catbird seat, he sent an email to the state’s Republicans calling for “examples large and small” of bureaucratic failures under Democratic Governor Steve Bullock.

“It is our goal to develop a list of all these failures and begin a drumbeat of steady criticism,” he wrote, echoing the dream of ancient Greeks as they built the first democracies. You can read all about it in this weeks’ column for the Missoula Independent.

I know many of you struggle to explain why Montana politics is important to your lives—and possibly, on a causal level, it is not. But my lands, it’s entertaining. Everyone is crookeder than a dog’s hind leg and lacks the skill or the inclination to keep it secret—except for the ranchers and schoolteachers who make law 90 days every other year and take it really seriously.  The news from Helena is like a musical about trying to save the town from speculators, but without the songs. So it’s perfect. I encourage you to get hooked.