TrumpWatch, Day 292: Democrats Sweep GOP in State and Local Races

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Supporters of Ralph Northam, the new Virginia Governor, celebrate as results come in, November 7, 2017 (Aaron Bernstein)

Candidates supporting ObamaCare, LGBT rights, immigration, and gun control win across country


Developments on Day 292 of the Trump Administration:

Democrats Win Big in Governor and State Legislature Contests

In the first major electoral test in the Trump era, Democrats have won sweeping victories from New Jersey to Virginia to Washington State against Republican opponents.

In the most closely-watched of the contests, Democrat Ralph Northam defeated Ed Gillespie, a former Republican National Committee chairman to become Virginia Governor. The margin was unexpectedly large, with Northam triumphing by 9%.

Donald Trump, on his tour of Asia, immediately set aside Gillespie as he tried to deny the vote had anything to do with his record:

The campaign was charged with hostility and racial overtones, with Gillespie and Trump trying to whip up the specter of gang violence and economic disaster — even though Virginia has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the US and a lower-than-average crime rate — if the Democrats won. Gillespie also attempted to play on anti-immigration sentiment and to use the Confederate issue, following the white supremacist violence in Charlottesville in August.

Northam, a physician and army veteran, said in his victory speech:

Virginia has told us to end the divisiveness, that we will not condone hatred and bigotry — and to end the politics that have torn this country apart. It’s going to take a doctor to heal our differences.

Democrats easily took the New Jersey’s Governor seat from the outgoing Trump associate Chris Christie, with former Goldman Sachs executive Philip Murphy defeating New Jersey Secretary of State Kim Guadagno by 13%.

The Democrats also gained in Virginia’s legislature, winning at least 12 seats and closing on control of the Assembly.

One of the winners was Chris Hurst the boyfriend of a TV reporter, Alison Parker, shot and killed during a live newscast in 2015. Another was Danica Roem, the first transgender candidate to win a US State election: she defeated incumbent Robert Marshall, who referred to himself as the state’s “chief homophobe” andintroduced a “bathroom bill” trying to restrict transgender individuals earlier this year.

In Seattle, Washington, Jenny Durkan became the city’s first lesbian mayor and the first woman to hold the post since the 1920s.

And in Maine, voters gave a ringing endorsement of ObamaCare — and a rejection of the attmepts of Trump and the GOP to bury it — by supporting the expansion of Medicaid.

Anger from Hard Right

Going beyond Trump’s washing of his hands of failed candidate Gillespie, the hard-right attack site Breitbart — led by former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon — rewrote the history of the past week as it attacked the GOP “establishment”.

On Sunday, Bannon said Gillespie would win because he had embraced Trumpism, but this morning Breitbart is deriding him: “Republican Swamp Thing Gillespie Rejected”>


At Trump Urging, CIA Director Meets Advocate of Disputed DNC Hack Theory

At the urging of Donald Trump, CIA Director Mike Pompeo has met a former US intelligence official</strong> promoting the theory the hacking of the Democratic National Committee’s e-mails, during the 2016 Presidential campaign, was an inside job rather than an attack by Russian operatives.

Pompeo met on October 24 with William Binney, formerly of the National Security Agency, who co-authored an analysis by a group of former intelligence officials challenging the US intelligence community’s assessment that Russian intelligence was behind the theft of information from the DNC, Hillary Clinton’s chief of staff John Podesta, and other public figures.

Binney said Pompeo told him of Donald Trump’s call for the meeting. A “senior intelligence source” confirmed that discussion was at Trump’s urging.

The former NSA employee said that Pompeo asked whether he would be willing to meet with NSA and FBI officials to discuss his theory over the DNC hacking. Binney agreed and said Pompeo said he would contact him when he had arranged the meetings.

Trump may have learned about Binney by watching Fox TV, where the 74-year-old has appeared at least 10 times since September 2016. In August, Binney was on Tucker Carlson’s Fox show, asserting that “many people are emotionally tied to this agenda, to tie the Russians to President Trump”.

Binney’s claims are tied to the discredited conspiracy theory that the murder of DNC staffer Seth Rich last year is connected to the data theft


Russian Twitter Campaign for Trump Started When He Declared Candidacy

Reviewing 159,000 deleted tweets from 2,752 accounts identified as part of a Russian propaganda campaign, The Wall Street Journal summarizes that Moscow’s effort began as soon as Donald Trump announced his Presidential candidacy on June 16, 2015.

The assessment of Twitter messages over the next three months concludes that the accounts pushed praise for Trump over criticism by almost a 10-to-1 margin.

Even the criticism was tailored to win support for Trump, by portraying his supposed Twitter challengers as irrational and unacceptable. One account, @Jenn_Abrams, tweeted, “I’d rather join #ISIS than have Donald Trump as my president,” on the day that Trump declared his candidacy.


60% of US Career Ambassadors Have Left Since January

A letter from the President of the American Foreign Service Association sets out the sharp fall in America’s high-level diplomats since Donald Trump took office.

Ambassador Barbara Stephenson writes of the “mounting threats to our institution [the State Department — and to the global leadership that depends on us”:

There is no denying that our leadership ranks are being depleted at a dizzying speed, due in part to the decision to slash promotion numbers by more than half.

The Foreign Service officer corps at State has lost 60 percent of its Career Ambassadors since January. Ranks of Career Ministers, our three-star equivalents, are down from 33 to 19. The ranks of our two-star Minister Counselors have fallen from 431 right after Labor Day to 369 today—and are still falling.

Stephenson notes that with “the self-imposed hiring freeze” under Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, intake will fall from 366 entry-level officers in 2016 to around 100 in 2018.

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