Trump campaign takes steps to prevent a challenge within GOP
By ZEKE MILLER and STEVE PEOPLES
Tuesday, February 5
WASHINGTON (AP) — Worried about a potential Republican primary challenge, President Donald Trump’s campaign has launched a state-by-state effort to prevent an intra-party fight that could spill over into the general-election campaign.
The nascent initiative has been an intense focus in recent weeks and includes taking steps to change state party rules, crowd out potential rivals and quell any early signs of opposition that could embarrass the president.
It is an acknowledgment that Trump, who effectively hijacked the Republican Party in 2016, hasn’t completely cemented his grip on the GOP and, in any event, is not likely to coast to the 2020 GOP nomination without some form of opposition. While any primary challenge would almost certainly be unsuccessful, Trump aides are looking to prevent a repeat of the convention discord that highlighted the electoral weaknesses of Presidents George H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter in their failed re-election campaigns.
To defend against that prospect, Trump’s campaign has deployed what it calls an unprecedented effort to monitor and influence local party operations. It has used endorsements, lobbying and rule changes to increase the likelihood that only loyal Trump activists make it to the Republican nominating convention in August 2020.
Bill Stepien, a senior adviser to the Trump campaign, calls it all a “process of ensuring that the national convention is a television commercial for the president for an audience of 300 million and not an internal fight.”
One early success for Trump’s campaign was in Massachusetts, where Trump backer and former state Rep. Jim Lyons last month defeated the candidate backed by Massachusetts Republican Gov. Charlie Baker, a Trump critic, to serve as the state party chairman.
“We have a constant focus on tracking everything regarding this process,” Stepien said. “Who’s running, what their level of support for the president is and what their vote counts are.”
The campaign’s work extends beyond state party leadership races, which are taking place in many key states in the coming weeks. Trump’s team plans to organize at county and state caucuses and conventions over the next 18 months to elevate pro-Trump leaders and potential delegates. Ahead of the convention, it aims to have complete control of the convention agenda, rules and platform — and to identify any potential troublemakers well in advance.
That sort of organization is a leap from Trump’s 2016 delegate operation, which faced challenges by anti-Trump activists in the party. Trump aides say it’s the most aggressive effort ever launched to protect an incumbent.
Nick Trainer, a White House veteran named last month as the campaign’s director of delegates and party organization, is leading a team of three to coordinate with state and local parties in the run-up to the convention.
Yet the efforts to protect Trump simply highlight his vulnerability, said an adviser to one potential Republican opponent.
“They’re not talented, but they’re not idiotic. They rightfully understand that he could be badly damaged or lose in a nomination battle. They’re doing too much. It looks weak,” said John Weaver, a senior adviser to former Ohio Gov. John Kasich, one of the few high-profile Republicans seriously contemplating a primary challenge.
Trump’s campaign is closely monitoring the intentions of Kasich and other potential primary challengers, and aides said they expect someone to mount a campaign for the nomination. But they insist their efforts are not borne out of fear that Trump is vulnerable.
Primary challenges against incumbent presidents have never been successful in the modern era. And Trump’s poll numbers among Republican voters have proven to be resilient. Still, his aides said they are taking lessons from one-term leaders who lost their re-elections after embarrassing nominating fights.
Those in the past who challenged a president both distracted the incumbent from the November campaign and offered a voice to intraparty discontent, seeding weaknesses that were exploited by a general-election rival.
Pat Buchanan’s campaign against Bush in 1992 focused in part on highlighting Bush’s broken pledge not to raise taxes, a vulnerability that dogged Bush throughout the campaign. In a show of party unity Buchanan was awarded the opening night keynote at that year’s GOP convention. He delivered a “culture war” speech that Bush loyalists believed contributed to his loss.
As an incumbent, Trump already wields control over the Republican National Committee, which voted last month to express its “undivided support” for Trump and his “effective presidency.” But he’s getting a boost from well-placed allies at the state level.
In Iowa, the state Republican Party adopted new rules more than a year ago to seize control of the delegate selection process in direct response to the messy convention floor fight in Cleveland in 2016. Virtually all of Iowa’s delegates had preferred Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, and they fought unsuccessfully to oppose Trump at the convention.
“It was embarrassing. It was troubling. To be honest with you, it made me mad,” said Iowa GOP Chairman Jeff Kaufman, a strong Trump supporter. “Donald Trump won the Republican nomination fair and square. That was about people not accepting a loss.”
The new rules, made in consultation with the White House, would make it much more difficult for a Trump challenger to install anti-Trump delegates after the caucuses. Smart campaigns with energized activists, like Cruz’s and Ron Paul’s before him, had been able to send their own loyalists to the national convention regardless of the wishes of party leaders or caucus voters. No more.
Going forward, a nominating committee that’s already been named by the pro-Trump state central committee will control part of the delegate selection process.
Kaufman said that technically, he and the rest of the state GOP would be neutral should Trump face a primary challenge. He makes clear, however, that he’s been a strong supporter of the president and doesn’t see a serious primary challenge on the horizon.
It’s much the same in New Hampshire, where party leaders must technically remain neutral to preserve their status as the first-in-the-nation primary. But the Trump campaign backed Saturday’s election of new state GOP Chairman Stephen Stepanek, who served as Trump’s state co-chairman in 2016.
Stepanek was viewed as decidedly more supportive of the president than former state chairwoman Jennifer Horn, who emerged as an outspoken Trump critic since leaving the position after the 2016 election.
Meanwhile, states like South Carolina and Kansas are openly discussing cancelling their primaries and caucuses, but the Trump campaign insists it is staying out of those discussions, noting that state parties in some states are required to foot the bill for nominating contests.
Peoples reported from New York.
Federal prosecutors subpoena Trump’s inaugural committee
Tuesday, February 5
NEW YORK (AP) — Federal prosecutors in New York issued a subpoena Monday seeking documents from Donald Trump’s inaugural committee, furthering a federal inquiry into a fund that has faced mounting scrutiny into how it raised and spent its money.
Inaugural committee spokeswoman Kristin Celauro told The Associated Press that the committee had received the subpoena and was still reviewing it.
“It is our intention to cooperate with the inquiry,” she said.
A second spokesman, Owen Blicksilver, declined to answer questions about which documents prosecutors requested. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan, which issued the subpoena, declined to comment.
The investigation is the latest in a series of criminal inquiries into Trump’s campaign and presidency. Special counsel Robert Mueller is looking into whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia and whether the president obstructed the investigation. In a separate case in New York, prosecutors say Trump directed his personal lawyer Michael Cohen to make illegal hush-money payments to two women as a way to quash potential sex scandals during the campaign.
The Wall Street Journal, citing a copy of the subpoena, reported that prosecutors asked for “all documents” related to the committee’s donors and vendors, as well as records relating to “benefits” donors received after making contributions.
The newspaper reported late last year that federal prosecutors are investigating whether committee donors made contributions in exchange for political favors— a potential violation of federal corruption laws. It said the inquiry also was focused on whether the inauguration misspent the $107 million it raised to stage events celebrating Trump’s inauguration.
The subpoena also requested documents relating to donations “made by or on behalf of foreign nationals, including but not limited to any communications regarding or relating to the possibility of donations by foreign nationals,” the Journal reported.
The New York Times reported late last year that federal prosecutors are examining whether anyone from Qatar, Saudi Arabia or other Middle Eastern countries made illegal payments to the committee and a pro-Trump super political action committee. Foreign contributions to inaugural funds and PACs are prohibited under federal law.
The head of the inaugural committee, Tom Barrack, confirmed to The Associated Press that he was questioned by Mueller in 2017. He told the AP he was not a target of the Mueller investigation.
White House says feds’ inaugural probe part of ‘hysteria’
By JIM MUSTIAN and CHAD DAY
Tuesday, February 5
NEW YORK (AP) — A federal subpoena seeking documents from Donald Trump’s inaugural committee is part of “a hysteria” over the fact that he’s president, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said on Tuesday.
Federal prosecutors in New York issued the wide-ranging subpoena Monday, furthering a federal inquiry into a fund that has faced mounting scrutiny into how it raised and spent $107 million on events celebrating Trump’s 2017 inauguration.
Inaugural committee spokeswoman Kristin Celauro told The Associated Press the committee was still reviewing the subpoena and “It is our intention to cooperate with the inquiry.”
The investigation is the latest in a series of criminal inquiries into Trump’s campaign and presidency.
“Actually, I think the common thread is a hysteria over the fact that this president became president,” Sanders said Tuesay in response to a CNN question. “The common thread is that there is so much hatred out there that they will look for anything to try to create and tie problems to this president.”
Later, Sanders told reporters the investigation “has nothing to do with the White House.”
“I think the biggest focus and the thing that most Americans care about has nothing to do with the inaugural and it has everything to do with what the path forward looks like,” she said.
The subpoena seeks “all documents” related to the committee’s donors and vendors, as well as records relating to “benefits” donors received after making contributions, according to a person familiar with the document. The person was not authorized to discuss the ongoing investigation and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
“They want everything,” the person said, referring to federal prosecutors.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan declined to comment.
Among other things, the subpoena sought documents related to any payments made by donors “directly to contractors and/or vendors” who worked for the committee, the person familiar with the document said. Any such payments sent directly from donors to vendors, without being passed through the committee, could potentially violate public disclosure laws.
The subpoena also requested documents relating to donations “made by or on behalf of foreign nationals, including but not limited to any communications regarding or relating to the possibility of donations by foreign nationals,” the person familiar with the document said.
The New York Times reported late last year that federal prosecutors were examining whether anyone from Qatar, Saudi Arabia or other Middle Eastern countries made illegal payments to the committee and a pro-Trump super political action committee. Foreign contributions to inaugural funds and PACs are prohibited under federal law.
The head of the inaugural committee, Tom Barrack, confirmed to The Associated Press that he was questioned by special counsel Robert Mueller in 2017. But he told The AP last year that he is not a target of the Mueller investigation, which is focused on Russian interference in the 2016 elections.
The subpoena issued Monday does not mention Barrack or any members of the inaugural committee by name.
But it did request documents related to Imaad Zuberi, a Los Angeles based financier, and his company, Avenue Ventures, which gave $900,000 to the inaugural committee. Zuberi’s company also gave $100,000 to the Cleveland 2016 Host Committee to pay off debt from the 2016 Republican National Convention.
Zuberi has given more than $1.1 million to Trump-backed organizations and has accompanied the foreign minister of Qatar during meetings with Trump officials.
A spokesman for Zuberi, Steve Rabinowitz, said Zuberi has not had any contact with federal investigators about the inaugural committee.
“It’s well known that after supporting President Obama and later Hillary Clinton, Imaad gave generously and directly to the Trump inaugural committee but others gave substantially more,” Rabinowitz said. “If in fact he is named on this subpoena, never mind somehow named alone, he is bewildered why.”
Day reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Darlene Superville in Washington and Bernard Condon in New York contributed reporting.
Why the Seattle General Strike of 1919 should inspire a new generation of labor activists
February 6, 2019
Steven C. Beda, Assistant Professor of History, University of Oregon
Disclosure statement: Steven C. Beda does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Partners: University of Oregon provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.
It shut down a major U.S. city, inspired a rock opera, led to decades of labor unrest and provoked fears Russian Bolsheviks were trying to overthrow American capitalism. It was the Seattle General Strike of 1919, which began on Feb. 6 and lasted just five days.
By many measures, the strike was a failure. It didn’t achieve the higher wages that the 35,000 shipyard workers who first walked off their jobs sought – even after 25,000 other union members joined the strike in solidarity. Altogether, striking workers represented about half of the workforce and almost a fifth of Seattle’s 315,000 residents.
Usually, as a historian of the American labor movement, I have the unfortunate job of telling difficult stories about the decline of unions. However, in my view, the story of this particular strike is surprisingly hopeful for the future of labor.
And I believe it holds lessons for today’s labor activists – whether they’re striking teachers in West Virginia or Arizona, mental health workers in California or Google activists in offices across the world.
Low wages, soaring living costs
The Seattle General Strike had its origins in the city’s many shipyards.
During World War I, workers flocked to Seattle to take jobs as welders, pipefitters, riveters and other dozens of jobs in the early-20th century shipyard. In 1918, there were about 16,000 shipyard workers in Seattle. Just a year later, their numbers had swelled to 35,000.
While work in the shipyards was plentiful, it wasn’t exactly lucrative. Throughout World War I, workers continually demanded wage increases, and employers routinely ignored them. As rents and the cost of living climbed, the workers finally announced that, absent higher wages, they were going on strike on Feb. 6.
A few days before the deadline, the shipyard unions made a then-unprecedented request: They asked the Seattle Central Labor Council – which oversaw most of the city’s unions – to issue orders for a general strike, which brought out 25,000 cooks, waitresses, factory workers, store clerks and many others to join the 35,000 shipyard workers already striking.
Despite the usual divisions within unions along lines of race, gender, skill and citizenship, the majority of the locals belonging to the council voted to join the strike.
‘No one knows where’
Perhaps it was the rising cost of living that motivated workers across the city to walk off their jobs. Maybe it was a new culture of working-class solidarity emerging in post-World War I America.
Most certainly, it had much to do with the words of Anna Louise Strong.
A pacifist, feminist and welfare advocate, Strong made a name for herself reporting for Seattle’s Union Record, the major union newspaper in the city.
An editorial she authored on Nov. 4 encouraged Seattle’s workers to put aside their differences and embrace a new future in which all workers were united. Her editorial ended with what would become iconic lines in American labor history: “We are starting on a road that leads – NO ONE KNOWS WHERE!”
Strong’s point was to promote unity among Seattle’s workers, not advocate revolution, though that’s not how many politicians interpreted it. The Russian Revolution two years earlier still weighed on the minds of the city’s elite and many worried that Strong’s editorial was the opening salvo in a war to overthrow American capitalism.
The violence that never come
Fearing violence, anti-labor organizations and the city’s politicians peppered the streets with pamphlets warning that Bolsheviks were behind the strike. Newspapers as far away as New York picked up Strong’s editorial and ran sensational stories of the strike that stoked alarm over a rising tide of radicalism.
While Seattle did lurch to a halt, the violence that Seattle Mayor Ole Hanson and others feared never came. Hanson called on the police force to maintain order in the city, through violence if necessary, and asked the governor to mobilize the National Guard. He even paid students from the University of Washington to patrol the streets.
But in the words of Earl George, a striking dockworker who went on to became the first African-American president of Seattle’s longshoremen’s union, “Nothing moved but the tide.”
What George and workers remembered as they walked away from their jobs was the peacefulness of the city. And with shops and restaurants closed due to the strike, the workers themselves pitched in to provide essential services, such as stocking food banks and washing sheets at hospitals.
The power of solidarity
What ultimately ended the strike, on Feb. 11, was the very thing Strong warned against in her editorial: divisions among workers.
Unions representing skilled workers began to fear that the general strike was undermining their prestige and began ordering members back to work. Other unions succumbed to the threats being made by Hanson and returned to their jobs.
In purely material terms, the strike was a failure. It also directly contributed to a new wave of repression and the “red scare” of the post-World War I era.
Yet, the strike was not without meaning. It’d proven to workers, both in Seattle and elsewhere, that there was power in unity, however fleeting. For five days, workers had shut down the city and then run it themselves.
For today’s workers tired of decades of wage stagnation and fleeting benefits in the gig economy, the Seattle General Strike offers an important lesson about the power of organized laborers: When united, workers can take on the most powerful foes.
Striking teachers, activists at Google and participants in the Women’s March, to name just a few examples, are today standing on the same road that Anna Louise Strong described 100 years ago.