Inside the Democrats' Café California

What do you do when your party has no viable policies acceptable to voters and no candidate to credibly lead them?  I wanted to find out, so I wandered over to the Café California, where Democrats never leave.  I'm old enough that with a bit of padding and an ugly large hat, I could look like a Bella Abzug wannabe, and I sat in the middle of the room, turning my hearing aids up to full blast.  I couldn't stare at the speakers and don't know most of them, so I can't give you their names, but this is what I recall of the conversations around me.

"Now we've got him.  Manafort was convicted on eight counts."

"For things that happened in 2007, involved Ukrainians, not Russians, and had nothing to do with Trump."

"Well, there's the Cohen conviction."

"It says right here in the New York Times – Cohen made the extraordinary admission that he paid a pornographic film actress 'at the direction of the candidate' to secure her silence about an affair."

"That doesn't seem to be illegal, even if he was, for once, telling the truth.  Professor Dershowitz says, 'Any candidate has the right to contribute unlimited amounts to his own campaign.'  And if you argue that somehow it was not reported and that that was a violation, he counters: 'Do you know how many technical violations the Obama campaign has committed and every other campaign has committed?  Failure to report a contribution by the candidate itself is essentially jaywalking.'"

"In any event, it seems a weird interpretation of the FEC requirement.  Even the former FEC chairman says it's a strained interpretation of the distinction between campaign and personal expenditures."

In the Wall Street Journal, Professor Bradley Smith explained it:

Not satisfied with an old-fashioned sex scandal – perhaps because the president seems impervious to that – some want to turn this into a violation of campaign-finance law.  Trevor Potter, a former member of the Federal Election Commission[,] told "60 Minutes" the payment was "a $130,000 in-kind contribution by Cohen to the Trump campaign, which is about $126,500 above what he's allowed to give."  The FBI raided Mr. Cohen's office, home and hotel room Monday.  They reportedly seized records related to the payment and are investigating possible violations of campaign-finance laws.

But let's remember a basic principle of such laws: Not everything that might benefit a candidate is a campaign expense.

Campaign-finance law aims to prevent corruption.  For this reason, the FEC has a longstanding ban on "personal use" of campaign funds.  Such use would give campaign contributions a material value beyond helping to elect the candidate – the essence of a bribe.

FEC regulations explain that the campaign cannot pay expenses that would exist "irrespective" of the campaign, even if it might help win election.  At the same time, obligations that would not exist "but for" the campaign must be paid from campaign funds.

If paying hush money is a campaign expense, a candidate would be required to make that payment with campaign funds.  How ironic, given that using campaign funds as hush money was one of the articles of impeachment in the Watergate scandal[.]

"With that line of attack falling on its face, the N.Y. attorney general is subpoenaing Cohen on the theory that Trump's own money – all held in a trust – couldn't be used legally, either."

"Looks to me as if Cohen may have implicated himself, not Trump, in something that in any event seems a non-crime."

"How will this play with FEC records showing that the Hillary campaign laundered $84 million?" 

"We tried to block it by refusing to confirm FEC commissioners to vacancies so there'd be no quorum when the complaint was filed, but there is a breakout provision that allowed the complainant to file in federal district court, and he just did."

"Why haven't I seen anything in the press about it?"  [Loud laughter from that table.]

"Didn't Lanny Davis say Cohen would testify that Trump knew about the Trump Tower meeting even though Trump said he learned of it only afterward?"

"Davis changed that story."

"Yeah, and Trump capitalized on it."

Donald J. Trump
‏Verified account @realDonaldTrump
8m8 minutes ago

Michaels [sic] Cohen's attorney clarified the record, saying his client does not know if President Trump knew about the Trump Tower meeting (out of which came nothing!).  The answer is that I did NOT know about the meeting.  Just another phony story by the Fake News Media!

"You have to hand it to him.  Lanny Davis announced the GoFundMe page on Megyn Kelly's show.  The audience just laughed at him.  In the meantime, Trump realized that Davis had never registered the domain so if viewers clicked on the link they were sent to a Trump website."

"It is a bit like watching the Roadrunner and Wile E. Coyote," said some guy in the corner, who sounded dismayed.

"We got a lot of good coverage for stuff that never panned out, didn't we?  Voting machines hacked, ballots not fully counted, electoral college will turn our way and refuse to elect Trump, Russia collusion, repeated writs of impeachment that go nowhere, Trump violating the emoluments clause, Trump is mentally ill and the 25th Amendment will be invoked.  Now Cohen and Manafort.  And we still aren't making any real progress.  It's like wrestling Jell-O.  The voters aren't buying."

"Not even with the salacious stuff that always used to work against Republicans.  Remember CNN's reports that there was a Russian prostitute arrested in Thailand who claimed to have evidence of Russian interference with the 2016 election?"

"Yes, whatever came of that?  Turns out she was servicing Oleg Deripaska, whom dossier author Steele was representing and was likely employed by to blackmail clients into spying."

What becomes clear from all of this is that Anastasia Vashukevich was positioned as a Red Sparrow; a recruiting agent for prostitutes and escort workers – under the employ of Oleg Deripaska, likely using the sex trade as Russian trade-craft.

Anastasia Vashukevich was busted in Thailand for her recruiting efforts, as outlined in the media report.  Ms. Vashukevich tried to extricate herself from the trouble by signaling/leveraging her knowledge of the communication between Deripaska and Christopher Steele to the media.

It is entirely possible Ms. Vashukevich even had the recording of Deripaska telling Steele the ridiculous Trump-Russian-Hookers story; and was trying to use that tape as an exit from the Bangkok prison[.] ... Which, given the current situation and collapsing narrative, Deripaska would not want to have public.

This further proves the extent to which the corrupt FBI/DOJ were willing to use Deripaska through the intermediary of Chris Steele.  Remember, the DOJ allowed Deripaska to enter the U.S. by dropping the VISA block on his travel.  In return for removing his travel restriction, the FBI asked Deripaska for help in framing Donald Trump and providing information about Paul Manafort in September of 2016.

"Trump-supporters don't care about any of this.  Salena Zito is right."

This new conservative populist coalition is not the fluke the political class hoped it was.  Donald Trump did not cause it, he is just the result of it, so no matter what he does, it continues.  It is predicated on them, not him.

The coalition is a strike at not just tone deafness in both Congress and the White House but also high levels of incompetence, negligence and shoddy performance at agencies, as well as inept social services, a bloated and incompetent bureaucracy, endless wars and multinational agreements and treaties that don't benefit average people.

These voters knew who Trump was going in, they knew he was a thrice-married, Playmate dating, Howard Stern regular who had the morals of an alley cat.  They were willing to look past all of that because of how institutions had failed their communities for three consecutive presidencies.

Right now, the value of Trump to the Trump voter is he is all that stands between them and handing the keys to Washington back over to the people inside Washington.  That's it.  He's their only option.  You've got to pick the insiders or him.

"Bummer.  Well, we have a policy advantage, don't we?  Higher taxes, bigger federal government, anti-energy production, open borders, anti-Semite, anti-Christian, anti-male, anti-white, pro-Palestinian, pro-Antifa, pro-MS-13,support for unfair trade policies, anti-military, anti-law-enforcement," said someone out of eyesight who seemed to be sniffling.  "Maybe we should try selling crazy to another group of voters – American voters seem full up on ours."

That's about it as September looms.  I paid my check and left.

What do you do when your party has no viable policies acceptable to voters and no candidate to credibly lead them?  I wanted to find out, so I wandered over to the Café California, where Democrats never leave.  I'm old enough that with a bit of padding and an ugly large hat, I could look like a Bella Abzug wannabe, and I sat in the middle of the room, turning my hearing aids up to full blast.  I couldn't stare at the speakers and don't know most of them, so I can't give you their names, but this is what I recall of the conversations around me.

"Now we've got him.  Manafort was convicted on eight counts."

"For things that happened in 2007, involved Ukrainians, not Russians, and had nothing to do with Trump."

"Well, there's the Cohen conviction."

"It says right here in the New York Times – Cohen made the extraordinary admission that he paid a pornographic film actress 'at the direction of the candidate' to secure her silence about an affair."

"That doesn't seem to be illegal, even if he was, for once, telling the truth.  Professor Dershowitz says, 'Any candidate has the right to contribute unlimited amounts to his own campaign.'  And if you argue that somehow it was not reported and that that was a violation, he counters: 'Do you know how many technical violations the Obama campaign has committed and every other campaign has committed?  Failure to report a contribution by the candidate itself is essentially jaywalking.'"

"In any event, it seems a weird interpretation of the FEC requirement.  Even the former FEC chairman says it's a strained interpretation of the distinction between campaign and personal expenditures."

In the Wall Street Journal, Professor Bradley Smith explained it:

Not satisfied with an old-fashioned sex scandal – perhaps because the president seems impervious to that – some want to turn this into a violation of campaign-finance law.  Trevor Potter, a former member of the Federal Election Commission[,] told "60 Minutes" the payment was "a $130,000 in-kind contribution by Cohen to the Trump campaign, which is about $126,500 above what he's allowed to give."  The FBI raided Mr. Cohen's office, home and hotel room Monday.  They reportedly seized records related to the payment and are investigating possible violations of campaign-finance laws.

But let's remember a basic principle of such laws: Not everything that might benefit a candidate is a campaign expense.

Campaign-finance law aims to prevent corruption.  For this reason, the FEC has a longstanding ban on "personal use" of campaign funds.  Such use would give campaign contributions a material value beyond helping to elect the candidate – the essence of a bribe.

FEC regulations explain that the campaign cannot pay expenses that would exist "irrespective" of the campaign, even if it might help win election.  At the same time, obligations that would not exist "but for" the campaign must be paid from campaign funds.

If paying hush money is a campaign expense, a candidate would be required to make that payment with campaign funds.  How ironic, given that using campaign funds as hush money was one of the articles of impeachment in the Watergate scandal[.]

"With that line of attack falling on its face, the N.Y. attorney general is subpoenaing Cohen on the theory that Trump's own money – all held in a trust – couldn't be used legally, either."

"Looks to me as if Cohen may have implicated himself, not Trump, in something that in any event seems a non-crime."

"How will this play with FEC records showing that the Hillary campaign laundered $84 million?" 

"We tried to block it by refusing to confirm FEC commissioners to vacancies so there'd be no quorum when the complaint was filed, but there is a breakout provision that allowed the complainant to file in federal district court, and he just did."

"Why haven't I seen anything in the press about it?"  [Loud laughter from that table.]

"Didn't Lanny Davis say Cohen would testify that Trump knew about the Trump Tower meeting even though Trump said he learned of it only afterward?"

"Davis changed that story."

"Yeah, and Trump capitalized on it."

Donald J. Trump
‏Verified account @realDonaldTrump
8m8 minutes ago

Michaels [sic] Cohen's attorney clarified the record, saying his client does not know if President Trump knew about the Trump Tower meeting (out of which came nothing!).  The answer is that I did NOT know about the meeting.  Just another phony story by the Fake News Media!

"You have to hand it to him.  Lanny Davis announced the GoFundMe page on Megyn Kelly's show.  The audience just laughed at him.  In the meantime, Trump realized that Davis had never registered the domain so if viewers clicked on the link they were sent to a Trump website."

"It is a bit like watching the Roadrunner and Wile E. Coyote," said some guy in the corner, who sounded dismayed.

"We got a lot of good coverage for stuff that never panned out, didn't we?  Voting machines hacked, ballots not fully counted, electoral college will turn our way and refuse to elect Trump, Russia collusion, repeated writs of impeachment that go nowhere, Trump violating the emoluments clause, Trump is mentally ill and the 25th Amendment will be invoked.  Now Cohen and Manafort.  And we still aren't making any real progress.  It's like wrestling Jell-O.  The voters aren't buying."

"Not even with the salacious stuff that always used to work against Republicans.  Remember CNN's reports that there was a Russian prostitute arrested in Thailand who claimed to have evidence of Russian interference with the 2016 election?"

"Yes, whatever came of that?  Turns out she was servicing Oleg Deripaska, whom dossier author Steele was representing and was likely employed by to blackmail clients into spying."

What becomes clear from all of this is that Anastasia Vashukevich was positioned as a Red Sparrow; a recruiting agent for prostitutes and escort workers – under the employ of Oleg Deripaska, likely using the sex trade as Russian trade-craft.

Anastasia Vashukevich was busted in Thailand for her recruiting efforts, as outlined in the media report.  Ms. Vashukevich tried to extricate herself from the trouble by signaling/leveraging her knowledge of the communication between Deripaska and Christopher Steele to the media.

It is entirely possible Ms. Vashukevich even had the recording of Deripaska telling Steele the ridiculous Trump-Russian-Hookers story; and was trying to use that tape as an exit from the Bangkok prison[.] ... Which, given the current situation and collapsing narrative, Deripaska would not want to have public.

This further proves the extent to which the corrupt FBI/DOJ were willing to use Deripaska through the intermediary of Chris Steele.  Remember, the DOJ allowed Deripaska to enter the U.S. by dropping the VISA block on his travel.  In return for removing his travel restriction, the FBI asked Deripaska for help in framing Donald Trump and providing information about Paul Manafort in September of 2016.

"Trump-supporters don't care about any of this.  Salena Zito is right."

This new conservative populist coalition is not the fluke the political class hoped it was.  Donald Trump did not cause it, he is just the result of it, so no matter what he does, it continues.  It is predicated on them, not him.

The coalition is a strike at not just tone deafness in both Congress and the White House but also high levels of incompetence, negligence and shoddy performance at agencies, as well as inept social services, a bloated and incompetent bureaucracy, endless wars and multinational agreements and treaties that don't benefit average people.

These voters knew who Trump was going in, they knew he was a thrice-married, Playmate dating, Howard Stern regular who had the morals of an alley cat.  They were willing to look past all of that because of how institutions had failed their communities for three consecutive presidencies.

Right now, the value of Trump to the Trump voter is he is all that stands between them and handing the keys to Washington back over to the people inside Washington.  That's it.  He's their only option.  You've got to pick the insiders or him.

"Bummer.  Well, we have a policy advantage, don't we?  Higher taxes, bigger federal government, anti-energy production, open borders, anti-Semite, anti-Christian, anti-male, anti-white, pro-Palestinian, pro-Antifa, pro-MS-13,support for unfair trade policies, anti-military, anti-law-enforcement," said someone out of eyesight who seemed to be sniffling.  "Maybe we should try selling crazy to another group of voters – American voters seem full up on ours."

That's about it as September looms.  I paid my check and left.