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Jason Linkins   |   November 1, 2016    6:02 PM ET

On March 2, 2015, Hillary Clinton campaign chair John Podesta sent an email to venerable Clinton aide Cheryl Mills in which he counseled, “we are going to have to dump all those emails so better to do sooner than later.”

The emails to which Podesta refers are, of course, those that were stored on then-Democratic presidential contender Clinton’s private email server. But what to make of the instruction to “dump” them? Does Podesta mean that the emails should be “dumped” in some sort of landfill, for emails, perhaps after loading the emails into an email wheelbarrow? Hmmm, it’s a real thinker. But the answer is no. Podesta wanted those emails disclosed.

This particular email has become something of a partisan Rorschach test, in which Clinton critics are hopeful that it means something much more nefarious than “make the emails public.” This is really a case in which the media should spend five minutes on forensic diligence, however, lest someone publish a report that leaves the reader in suspense, as this CBS News report does, or provide fodder for some Donald Trump campaign misinformation. Though, truth be told, the Trump team has already handled this with its trademarked pratfall comedy. 

And, yeah, the most fact-free campaign in American history is gonna ride that pony. 

 So, what does “dump the emails” mean, exactly? Well, once you’ve ruled out the idea that Podesta is encouraging the Clinton team to break off a romantic relationship with some emails, the basic question becomes, “Does he mean delete or or does he mean disclose.”

The answer is “disclose.” The first indication that Podesta is not suggesting that the emails should be deleted is that he does not say, “Delete the emails,” a thing you would say if you wanted some emails deleted. Instead, he uses a bit of Beltway parlance: “dump,” as in “news dump” ― as in, get it out there, “sooner,” as opposed to “later.”

Here’s how we know this. The full email from Podesta reads: “On another matter....and not to sound like Lanny, but we are going to have to dump all those emails so better to do so sooner than later.”

Lanny, in this case, refers to crisis management guru and Clinton sycophant par-excellence Lanny Davis. And what was Davis “sounding like” around this time? He was sounding like a guy who wanted Clinton to be fully upfront with the public about this matter. Davis, in fact, made a March 9 appearance on Bloomberg’s “With All Due Respect” in which he “defended Hillary Clinton but [said], in hindsight, she should have immediately let everyone know about her email account and server.” 

This isn’t the easiest thing to write, because typically, Davis is the absolute worst. But on this occasion, Davis is offering some very good advice, and Podesta is right to suggest it be followed. Disclose everything and be forthright about it. That’s the ticket. You know how, there’s another email in which Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook expresses the desire to “zap Lanny out of our universe?” Well, sure, do that. But first, follow this one piece of good advice.

In the parallel universe where Clinton was smart enough to just use the damn State Department email system and none of this ever happened, are all these Clinton confidants any happier? You’d like to think so, but knowing them, there was probably some whole other dumb thing.


Jason Linkins edits “Eat The Press” for The Huffington Post and co-hosts the HuffPost Politics podcast “So, That Happened.” Subscribe here, and listen to the latest episode below.  

Jason Linkins   |   November 1, 2016   10:32 AM ET

It’s been a pretty strange world ever since FBI Director James Comey decided to break with what is apparently some sort of federal law enforcement tradition and announce that the bureau is in full “Anthony Weiner: Sum Of All Fears” mode on the Hillary Clinton email beat. The media has frantically glommed on to further their “tightening” narrative. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is back for one last turn as a dark rumor-monger. And even die-hard Clinton critics such as former Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.) have stepped forward to say that Comey has cocked things up to a fare-thee-well.

In this environment, I’m almost relieved to see talk-radio superstar Hugh Hewitt just get down to some of that good old-fashioned partisan hackery. On Monday’s edition of “MSNBC Live,” Hewitt told host Steve Kornacki that if the FBI is able to quickly conclude that there’s nothing amiss with the new cache of emails it is said to be poring through, they should just hold off, and not tell anyone. Let’s just have a cloud of suspicion until the election is done and dusted!

KORNACKI: Hugh Hewitt, between now and the election, what more do you think James Comey owes the public? What specifically should he be saying between now and the election?

HEWITT: Only if there is a smoking gun do I think he ought to come forward. An exoneration would be wildly viewed as rigged.

In the context of Clinton’s email scandal, I’m not sure we’ll ever be to the point where there will be an “exoneration.” (Comey has already characterized Clinton’s handling of emails as “careless,” after all.) But apparently if there is reason to dispel the cloud of suspicion that Comey has recently brought into being, it would actually be widely viewed as “unrigging” things. It already looks like Comey has (perhaps unintentionally) put his finger on the scales.

In other news ― and apropos of nothing, I’m sure ― Hewitt thinks Democrats should vote for Green Party nominee Jill Stein. Cool, cool. I’m sure that’s totally sincere.

Jason Linkins edits “Eat The Press” for The Huffington Post and co-hosts the HuffPost Politics podcast “So, That Happened.” Subscribe here, and listen to the latest episode below.  

Jason Linkins   |   October 29, 2016   11:41 AM ET

New York Magazine’s Gabriel Sherman has a richly reported account of what he’s calling the “Final Days” of Donald Trump’s campaign to win the presidency. Basically, it’s a good chance for all the major players in the Trump camp to show up, briefly account for their actions, and try and build the case that they’re not really to blame for what happened.

“If Donald Trump had only listened to me!” is a dominant theme.

One of the more important members of that coterie is Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway, who is basically of the opinion that the GOP presidential nominee is an unruly infant:

To hear Kellyanne Conway talk about managing her boss is to listen to a mother of four who has had ample experience with unruly toddlers. Instead of criticizing Trump’s angry tweets, for instance, she suggested that he also include a few positive ones. “You had these people saying, ‘Delete the app! Stop tweeting!’ ” she recalled. “I would say, ‘Here are a couple of cool things we should tweet today.’ It’s like saying to someone, ‘How about having two brownies and not six?’ ”

This is something we’ve heard before. As The Washington Post’s Danielle Paquette reported in July:

When Claudia emerged from her room on Memorial Day sporting turquoise, Conway asked her to change into blue. “She goes, ‘Turquoise is blue.’ And it is. But it wasn’t a shade available to Betsy Ross when she stayed up through the night sewing the damn flag.”

She chose not to argue with the preteen, which would have delayed their morning. Instead she laid out four Betsy Ross blue choices on her bed. “Minutes later,” she says, “she came out in one of those shades.”

Conway follows the same approach with the Republican presidential nominee. Never command. That could insult him. Always make suggestions, backed with information in 10-second sound bites: Betsy Ross lacked turquoise. Female voters want compassion.

Throughout it all, Conway has insisted that this guy should be the leader of the free world.

As long as the checks clear, I guess! (They don’t always.)

Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liarrampant xenophoberacistmisogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims ― 1.6 billion members of an entire religion ― from entering the U.S.


Jason Linkins edits “Eat The Press” for The Huffington Post and co-hosts the HuffPost Politics podcast “So, That Happened.” Subscribe here, and listen to the latest episode below.  

Jason Linkins   |   October 28, 2016    3:02 PM ET

When we last left the Republican members of The Politico Caucus, they were spiraling wildly through Kübler-Ross’ stages of grief, having been driven to an emotional meltdown by GOP presidential nominee and sewage-poisoned log flume Donald Trump. A year’s worth of high anxiety and deep frustration had left them clinging to whatever shred of their vaunted expertise could help them make sense of the universe. Pretty bad scene, all around.

But there were still a few weeks left of election cycle to get through, alas! And on Friday they returned to a state of semi-denial and quasi-bargaining, as detailed in a new piece, titled: “GOP insiders: Polls don’t capture secret Trump vote.”

So, the idea here involves the theory that there are “shy Trump voters” out there who, for some reason, don’t like telling pollsters that they plan to vote for the GOP nominee. Why anyone who’d want to vote for Trump would sit around worrying about the judgment of pollsters is beyond me ― Trump voters don’t really seem like awkward wallflowers. But political scientists have noted phenomena like this before.

For instance, there is the famed “Bradley effect,” named for former Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, an African-American politician who lost his California gubernatorial bid despite leading in the polls. The theory here is that voters told pollsters that they were going to choose Bradley, just because they felt that was a more socially acceptable answer. Then they actually voted differently.

Not all pollsters and political scientists agree that the “Bradley effect” even exists. But here’s the thing you need to know about it: It’s a theory that was posited to explain a data discrepancy. So if you’re going to talk about “shy Trump voters,” it has to be done in that context. If you’re speculating that a data set ― in this case, Trump’s polling numbers ― may not be telling the whole story, you need to be able to show your work. (It should come as no surprise that people who have attempted to show this work find the “shy Trump theory” wanting.)

But what Politico’s Insiders are doing is something different. See, they’ve obviously heard of the “shy Trump voter” theory, but rather than rigorously analyzing their premises, they are Thought Leadering instead ― taking stray observations and gut feelings and ascribing significance to them. Correlation...must….equal...something, right?

Per Politico:

“I’m not sure how big a factor it is, but there is definitely a ‘Bradley effect’ going on out there,” said a Virginia Republican, referring to the African-American mayor of Los Angeles who led in polls but lost unexpectedly in the 1982 California gubernatorial race. “I personally know many Republicans that won’t admit that they are voting for Trump. I don’t like admitting it myself. It won’t matter if Hillary is up more than 5 points, but we might be in for a surprise if Hillary’s lead is less than 5 points on Election Day.”

It really doesn’t matter if you know a bunch of guys who won’t admit they’re voting for Trump, man. “I personally know many [x]” is not a sample size.

A Michigan Republican — who, like all insiders, completed the survey anonymously —added that Trump voters are reticent to admit it publicly: “Anecdotally, that’s clearly the case in barber-shop conversations.”

Conversations in barber shops are not data, bro.

“I see a lot of Trump signs on people’s lawns, plus a lot of anti-Clinton signs,” said a New Hampshire Republican.

Oh, honey. Do you not remember Peggy Noonan, circa Nov. 5, 2012? Let me jog your memory-grapes. She wrote:

And there’s the thing about the yard signs. In Florida a few weeks ago I saw Romney signs, not Obama ones. From Ohio I hear the same. From tony Northwest Washington, D.C., I hear the same.

Is it possible this whole thing is playing out before our eyes and we’re not really noticing because we’re too busy looking at data on paper instead of what’s in front of us?

Now you, anonymous New Hampshire Republican, are making the same mistake.

Can I get a buffet option?

The phenomenon known as social desirability bias “may be part of it,” a Nevada Republican said. “I also think that the pollsters have not accounted for the uniqueness of this election and are not necessarily asking the right questions of the correct samples. Finally, many of the polls are deliberately slanted to suit the media’s political agenda. Taken all together, it’s almost impossible to know who is leading at this point.”

This is fantastic. Pollsters are victims of social desirability bias AND they are not asking the right questions AND they are deliberately misleading people AND they have not calibrated their poll-abacuses to account for this election’s “unique special snowflakeness.” It’s all of these things simultaneously ― because every pollster in America wants to be unemployed in a few weeks’ time, I guess?

There is a big difference in the way the “shy Trump voters theory” adherents and the “shy Trump voters theory” discounters talk about the matter: The discounters seem to have actual polling expertise. To wit:

“Does anyone really care whether or not a survey-taker disapproves of their choice?” a North Carolina Republican asked. “Besides, Trump doesn’t always fare worse in live-caller polls. The IBD/TIPP poll, which has been among the handful of outlier polls more positive to Trump, is after all a live-caller poll. The truth is that Trump’s support is not substantially different in live-caller polls versus IVR and internet panels. Both types of polls have outliers, but the difference is not a significant one.”

Added a Colorado Republican: “In 2012 people said the polls were wrong because voters didn’t want to sound like racists for not voting for President Obama. Polls weren’t wrong. People on the losing side of the polls always invent a reason for it.”

That’s what people who have learned from experience, or read a book, sound like.

Now, many of the Politico Caucus’ Democratic Insiders do not exactly shower themselves in glory, either. Here is my favorite:

And an Iowa Democrat suggested: “I think polls underestimate Clinton’s strength because of the married women who tell their husbands they are for Trump to keep the peace.”

Well, no shit, Sherlock. You know why polls can’t account for “the married women who tell their husbands they are for Trump to keep the peace?” Because pollsters can only account for the people they contact, Sherlock. Pollsters aren’t eavesdropping on the nation’s Pilates classes, listening to Marjorie telling Bryce and Jane about how Susanne is voting for Hillary Clinton but won’t tell her husband about it because he’s a Trump supporter and it would be a whole big thing

And pollsters don’t have extra sensory perception that allows them to divine what’s secretly going on in every household. At least, I don’t think they do. Hey, Pew Research, what number am I thinking of right now?

Another fun thing about the GOP Insiders is that just about every one of them whose gut is telling them that there are a lot of Trump voters who won’t disclose their intentions to pollsters are also receiving a second, simultaneous transmission from the same gut: Hedge your bets, though!

Despite the widespread belief in the “shy Trump voter” theory, Politico says “a 59-percent majority still say Clinton would win their state if the election were held today,” and that although “a number of Republicans” still “believe that the polls are underestimating Trump,” they simultaneously believe that “his deficit is too large for it to matter.”

As one Insider puts it, in a very definitive assessment: “He’ll outperform the polls but still won’t win.”

So the polls are almost certainly off, but it won’t matter, because look at Clinton’s huge lead in the polls! In the end, the one thing in which this panel of experts truly has demonstrated expertise is the ability to consistently have things both ways. Come Election Day, they’ll all be simultaneously right and wrong. It’s a good gig if you can get it!


Jason Linkins edits “Eat The Press” for The Huffington Post and co-hosts the HuffPost Politics podcast “So, That Happened.” Subscribe here, and listen to the latest episode below.  

Jason Linkins   |   October 27, 2016    3:44 PM ET

So, that happened: In 2016, voters really have a choice in presidents. But do they know the full extent of their choices? Yes, the media has made everyone aware of the fact that numerous humans are running to serve as commander in chief. But the media has raised just as much awareness of how imperfect all of them are, forcing everyone to have to accept something less than ideal.

But what if there was a candidate who promised to end all of that? As it happens, there is: the Sweet Meteor Of Death. On this week’s edition of “So That Happened,” we reached into the depth of space to secure an interview with the Sweet Meteor, who maintains both a trajectory that will collide with the planet Earth and a Twitter account.

As the Sweet Meteor is the first celestial body to run for president, it offers up a lot of genuinely outside-the-box ideas about the future of America, such as swiftly killing everyone who ever used the term “outside the box” or, indeed, had any sort of interaction with a box at all. With the Sweet Meteor, there are no facts to check, no policies to evaluate, and no worries about whether it’s being influenced by outside money or a corporate agenda. Just a bold and unbreakable promise, as it says, “to offer a better alternative in the form of the end of human civilization.” (Of course, a meteor is nothing more than a fragment from an astroid or meteoroid that enters Earth’s atmosphere. Pieces that strike the ground are meteorites.)  

You can listen to our interview with the Sweet Meteor of Death by clicking below. (Interview begins at the 41:00 mark) Learn all about the Sweet Meteor of Death’s path to victory (unrelenting, through space) and its plans for its first 100 days in office (there won’t be 100 days).

Elsewhere on this week’s edition of “So, That Happened”: With the election winding down, Donald Trump is running out of creative ways to spend Republican money on himself. But the wily old grifter has still got it, and now people who thought they were donating to a presidential campaign have actually bought copies of The Art Of The Deal. We’ll take a look at Trump’s ability to rook gullible Republican donors.

Meanwhile, the 2016 election cycle has been a real boon for the fact-checking industry. Interest in fact-checking among readers is seemingly at an all-time high. And thanks to Donald Trump, there is a never-ending supply of material. And yet, it doesn’t seem that it makes much of a difference. Joining us to talk about how fact-checking is still losing the battle of confirmation bias is New York Times columnist Emma Roller, who wrote about this conundrum this week.

Finally, the media has been having a debate about Trump’s voter base. On one side you have people who believe it’s entirely driven by racial resentment. On the other, you have those who insist it’s all rooted in economic anxiety. But what if the real problem is that we’ve all just taken sides in a dumb debate? Joining us to travel to a middle ground is University of Connecticut history professor James Kwak.

“So, That Happened” is hosted by Jason Linkins, Zach Carter and Arthur Delaney. Joining them this week: University of Connecticut history Professor James Kwak, New York Times columnist Emma Roller, presidential candidate and pending extinction-level event the Sweet Meteor Of Death, as well as HuffPost reporters Zach Carter and SV Date.

This podcast was produced, edited and engineered by Christine Conetta.

To listen to this podcast later, download our show on iTunes. While you’re there, please subscribe to, rate and review our show. You can check out other HuffPost podcasts here.

Jason Linkins   |   October 27, 2016    2:49 PM ET

Earlier this week, The New York Times obtained a timely cache of audio recordings in which Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Michael D’Antonio interviews Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, as well as members of his family, for his 2016 biography The Truth About Trump. The contents of those recordings have been featured on the paper’s “The Run Up” podcast, and they shed a lot of light on what makes Trump tick. It isn’t always flattering.

Times reporter Michael Barbaro has deftly distilled the contents of the audio files in a piece titled “What Drives Donald Trump? Fear of Losing Status, Tapes Show.” You’ll learn that Trump has tremendous difficulty empathizing with or respecting other people, that he is uniquely driven by a personal obsession with seeking out the loving lens of the television camera, and has tremendous insecurities about lapsing into irrelevance.

Resonating most deeply, however, is Trump’s deep-seated fear of losing ― of being publicly shown up. This, of course, takes on new relevance given the fact that he has left it an open question whether he’ll accept the results of the presidential election if they do not go his way. In the tapes, Trump’s former spouse Ivana Trump describes the time she outperformed him on the slopes ― after withholding from her husband that she was a skilled skier ― touching off a “volcanic” snit of anger and embarrassment.

All in all, the tapes paint a troubling picture of a man unsuited for the pressures of the presidency and the routine tension, constant scrutiny and never-ending criticism that comes with the job. You really can’t help thinking that if the Hillary Clinton campaign had gotten a hold of this stuff, they would have really made a lot of hay with it.

 Oh wait, what’s that, Michael Barbaro?

Mr. D’Antonio now disapproves of Mr. Trump’s candidacy and gave transcripts of the interviews to Hillary Clinton’s campaign this year. After a brief meeting with a few Clinton aides, he said, he never heard back from Mrs. Clinton’s staff.

Ha, wait, for real? That seems strange!

In the Clinton team’s defense, they’ve already obtained the services of one repentant Trump biographer ― The Art Of The Deal ghostwriter (or, if you prefer, actual author) Tony Schwartz. Schwartz has been advising the Clinton team on a pro bono basis, and has been cited frequently for his services during Clinton’s debate preparation, where he helps give the Democratic nominee insight into Trump’s psychological triggers.

Still, why not corner the market on penance-seeking former Trump biographers? While Schwartz may have had the keener read of Trump, D’Antonio had Trump and various family members speaking on tape, using their own words. Much could have been made of Trump saying things like, “For the most part, you can’t respect people because most people aren’t worthy of respect.” Or, perhaps his extended conversation in which he admits to a fondness for physical violence. When Trump tells D’Antonio, “I don’t like to analyze myself because I might not like what I see,” he’s serving up a pretty good sting line for any number of campaign ads.

You know, maybe Trump has just served up so many insane statements over the past year that this would be overkill. Still, one can’t help but think that the Clinton campaign really did Donald a solid by not using this material.

According to several senior members of The Huffington Post’s D.C. bureau, D’Antonio’s tapes contained much more substantive and newsworthy insights into Trump than the limp opposition research the Clinton camp and its assorted allies occasionally offer up to reporters here. (HuffPost’s own Sam Stein peeled back the curtain on the relationship between reporters and opposition researchers on the July 2, 2014, edition of “Drinking And Talking,” if you want to learn more about our venal business.)

“These tapes are great,” said HuffPost D.C. bureau chief Ryan Grim, who added, “Most of the stuff the Clinton camp shops around is terrible, not that we’re first in line. But this would have been a lot better than most of it.”

Oh well! I guess the Clinton camp can take solace in the fact that this all got out there eventually. But they probably should have gotten back to D’Antonio after he offered to gift-wrap this for them.

A side note: Should I be super bummed out that D’Antonio did not simply give this stuff to us? I am trying to not be super bummed out about that!

“I’m definitely bummed,” said Grim.


Jason Linkins edits “Eat The Press” for The Huffington Post and co-hosts the HuffPost Politics podcast “So, That Happened.” Subscribe here, and listen to the latest episode below.  

Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S.

Jason Linkins   |   October 26, 2016    1:34 PM ET

As the rest of his campaign desperately tries to keep Utah’s electoral votes from falling into the wrong hands, GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump was in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, attending a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the new Trump International Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue. You might remember this as the venue for Trump’s last hotel promotion-slash-birtherism event ― the one that got full coverage on cable news and featured a collapsing stage evidently rush-delivered from the metaphor store.

The cable news cameras stayed away this time, but as Trump is ostensibly still running for president and Election Day is less than two weeks away, a few reporters were obligated to attend this latest example of Trump’s mixed-up priorities. One of them was The Daily Beast’s Olivia Nuzzi, who is at her sly and savage best as she sets the scene for this ribbon-cutting

There’s a lot to absorb, but I can’t stop thinking about this hotel’s cocktail bar, which seems to violate a number of conventions, perhaps even some of the Geneva ones. Per Nuzzi:

The bar at the new Trump International Hotel in Washington, Benjamin’s Bar and Lounge, is a sprawling space with high ceilings, few customers and too-sweet cocktails that go for $20 to $100, the most expensive being the bar’s namesake, a concoction of rye, potato and winter wheat vodka, shaken and served with raw oysters and caviar. There is also, inexplicably, a section of the menu called BY THE CRYSTAL SPOON that offers literal spoonfuls of wine for anywhere from $15 to $140.

Let me just tastefully arrange some exclamation points and question marks really quick:


Nuzzi also tweeted a photo of this bar’s cocktail menu. 

Holy cats, you guys! That is some hot nonsense, right there. Look at those prices! What would have to happen for you to pay $24 for a finger of bourbon, a gloop of honey and a couple dashes of orange bitters? I would need a few questions answered before I paid that much for a half-assed Old Fashioned. Questions like: “Did Kentucky just get nuked from space, causing a supply shock, and nobody told me?”

Who on earth would pay $100 for whatever is being done to Benjamin Franklin’s good name on that first item? It’s vodka and rye and potato and raw oysters and caviar? What? How? Why? Hop in a cab, go up to Eat The Rich and you can have a shot of rye and a shot of vodka and a bunch of raw oysters for much less than $100. If you’re willing to forgo the caviar, you can even tell everyone that you’ve “deconstructed the Benjamin.” Now you a fancy molecular gastronomist, bruh!

Not everything on this menu is terrible. In the privacy of my own home I might try this “Rocking Chair” thing. I am guessing that Trump’s bartenders are simply rinsing the glass with the Laphroaig to give it some smoke, but advertising it in such a way that it sounds like you’re getting your money’s worth of decent scotch, because how else would you justify a $20 charge on a peat-smoked glass of rum and honey and lime juice?

That “Please Sign Here” cocktail, with the mezcal and aperol, is a solid drink, but I liked it even better when it was called the “Naked And Famous” and it was created by Joaquin Simó of New York City’s iconic Death & Company bar ― who will typically sell you drinks mixed by professionals for about $15. Unless you can confirm that the mezcal was hand-bottled from the personal secretions of the Aztec god Quetzalcoatl, do not pay $20 for this drink.

I was talking, a few hours ago, to a certain bartender I’m lucky to know. Her take:

I can’t decide what upsets me the most about this. Is it the recipes? Is it the random capitalization? Is it the terrible names? Is it the venue? Aw, it’s all of it. I would like to suggest adding the following cocktail: “Bitter Tears of Regret.” 1 part Malort, 1 part Root, 1 part Rumchata, absinthe rinse. Garnish with Hemlock.

Really, by any metric, this place is absurd. Did you know during the Sept. 26 presidential debate, this bar sold hummus for $29? One order was supposedly enough for six people, but still: You would literally have to not know what hummus was to agree to pay that much.

As The Huffington Post’s Travis Waldron reported at the time, the hotel bar was also offering a debate-night drink special that entailed you paying $100 to essentially drink all the Budweiser you could get down your gullet in three hours. As getting your money’s worth would involve slamming back a beer every 12 minutes, it was the perfect deal if you wanted to watch a presidential debate and then get rushed to a hospital and/or a recovery program immediately afterward. (To be fair, that’s what a lot of people wanted to do after that debate.)

Why is this cocktail bar so insane? Well, probably because Trump is going to have to go to some great lengths to recoup the investment he’s made in this hotel. As Fortune’s Jennifer Wang reports, when the General Services Administration first made the property available for redevelopment, Trump won the right to refurbish Washington’s iconic Old Post Office by sensationally overbidding his rivals. By doing so, he might have created a financial hole for himself that’s too deep to dig out of:

Soon after, rival bidders complained to the GSA, alleging that Trump’s promise to spend up to $200 million on renovations (reportedly $60 million higher than competing bids) and pay $3 million in yearly rent is financially unfeasible. “A properly conducted price reasonableness analysis would have resulted in the conclusion that the minimum base lease proposed by Trump would require Trump to obtain hotel room revenues which are simply not obtainable in this location based on the concepts for the redevelopment,” read a Hilton team lawyer’s letter to the GSA.

Trump’s checkered financial history, marred by numerous corporate bankruptcies, was also questioned. Colony Capital, a private investment firm that was a partner in the initial bid, eventually bowed out of the project, citing that the timeline had become too long for the firm. To finance the renovations, Trump took out a $170 million credit line at Deutsche Bank (his camp says he only drew down $125 million of that credit line); Trump reportedly spent an additional $40 million from his own accounts.

Since then, Trump has faced numerous setbacks, some of them self-inflicted. As Wang reports, Trump’s anti-immigrant positions so repulsed Jose Andres and Geoffrey Zakarian, the chefs who’d agreed to open restaurants at the hotel, that they subsequently backed out of the deal. (Litigation is pending.) Trump got another restaurateur to take one of the spaces, in a contract less favorable to Trump than his original deals. The other space is being transformed into about 5,000 or 6,000 square feet of conference space ― which will only generate revenue if the 30,000-some-odd square feet of conference facilities that were already there are filled.

Wang also reports that Trump has not been able to rent his hotel rooms at the preferred rate, instead having to offer them at “heavily discounted prices,” which a Trump spokesperson puts down to simple market fluctuations. But, there is a but!

In the days leading up to the World Bank-IMF’s October meetings in D.C., the property reportedly offered discounted room rates, while other five star hotels in the downtown area were fully booked out. Currently, rooms at The Four Seasons Hotel ― which Trump’s camp has compared his property to ― start at $775 per night for a Oct. 27th booking, while prices at the Trump hotel start at $404 per night. The nearby St. Regis, another historical landmark close to the White House, charges $565 and up per night.

When you add Trump’s need to recoup this investment to the revenue shortfalls he’s already faced, it makes sense that you’d see this sort of shakedown happening at the cocktail bar. Everything really might depend on convincing people to order spoonfuls of wine and insanely marked-up mixed drinks (which range from quotidian to fussy to unnecessary) on a regular basis. Who knows? Maybe there are enough people willing to pay $20 for a confused Kir Royale thingy that can’t decide if it should have pear liqueur or Chambord, so now it has both.

Look: If you are coming to D.C. and want to drop some major scratch on cocktails, please take my advice and go to Copycat, or the Passenger, or Southern Efficiency, or the Columbia Room, or Denson’s, or literally anywhere else.

And if you ever find yourself thinking you might just spend $100 to drink 15 Budweisers in 180 minutes, please, find someone to talk to. Your life is too precious.


Jason Linkins edits “Eat The Press” for The Huffington Post and co-hosts the HuffPost Politics podcast “So, That Happened.” Subscribe here, and listen to the latest episode below.  

Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S.

Jason Linkins   |   October 25, 2016   10:37 AM ET

As the 2016 election winds down, and the White House recedes ever further from his grasp, you might be wondering: “So, what’s the next zany scheme for ol’ Donald Trump?” Many observers suspect he’ll go on to a rewarding new career in election-delegitimizing and fabric-of-nation-corroding, perhaps from a perch at a brand-new media enterprise ― the better to keep wringing coin from his fans’ hands. But what about all the old Trump-branded luxury goods of yesteryear?

No one knows for sure, but it certainly looks like Trump’s namesake company is planning for a brand-damaged future. Bloomberg’s Hui-Yong Yu and James Nash report that “as the race approaches its conclusion amid a torrent of controversy, his company is launching a new brand that won’t carry his name.” Said brand will be known as Scion ― a word you may soon see affixed to a new “line of hotels that will target younger clients.” (”Scion,” of course, means “descendant of a notable family” ― more on that in a second.)

Whatever the plans for Scion, Trump himself is keeping uncharacteristically mum about it. Bloomberg notes that a quote from Donald was conspicuously missing from the organization’s press materials on launch. And let’s face it, that’s kind of weird, considering Trump’s only real skill is talking about how awesome he is.

As you may have heard (because he never shuts up about it), Trump has some very interesting ― and excitingly varied ― ideas about his overall net worth. Perhaps the clearest window into his thinking came during a December 2007 deposition, when Trump testified that his net worth “fluctuates,” going “up and down” with both the “markets” and according to “attitudes and feelings, even my own feelings.”

[Attorney Andrew] Ceresney: Let me just understand that a little. You said your net worth goes up and down based upon your own feelings?

Trump: Yes, even my own feelings, as to where the world is, where the world is going, and that can change rapidly from day to day...

Ceresney: When you publicly state a net worth number, what do you base that number on?

Trump: I would say it’s my general attitude at the time that the question may be asked. And as I say, it varies.

On the face of it, this is risible. But it’s actually not a bad way to think about Trump’s business ventures, many of which ― at least in theory ― derive some part of their value from simply having his name on them, the way an “Oprah” or “Martha Stewart” imprimatur might help a product stand out from its competitors. Trump himself, as has now been amply documented, is not actually that great of a businessman. But if people think his name represents success ― even success of a gaudy, obnoxious, faintly sleazy variety ― then that perception creates a kind of value all the same.

Trump may have hollowed out a lot of that value with his presidential campaign, though. The whole “pitting Americans against each other” thing? The whole “lifelong pattern of mild sociopathy”? Not a good look. Not classy. In January, Politico’s Will Johnson and Michael D’Antonio found that Trump’s reputation was “taking a major hit” among the posh set:

In categories such as “prestigious,” “upper class” and “glamorous” the Trump name has plummeted among high-income consumers. Within the same group, it is also losing its connection with the terms “leader,” “dynamic” and “innovative” ― quite a blow for a man who criticizes others for being “low energy” and considers himself an industry trailblazer.

And earlier this month, The Wall Street Journal’s Alexandra Bruell reported that Trump’s name has only taken on more water since the release of a 2005 video in which Trump was heard bragging to Billy Bush about how easy it is for him to commit sexual assault.

According to Bruell, the Trump name ― during less controversial times ― really did carry some special value-inflating mojo. As Robert Passikoff, founder and president of the market research firm Brand Keys, put it, the “added value” of Trump’s name as recently as 2015 was “anywhere from 20% to 27%, depending on the category” ― a range he described as “enviable.” Even by the time Trump secured his party’s nomination, Passikoff told the Journal, “the added value of the Trump brand in entertainment was as high as 43%.”

Since the release of the Billy Bush video, however, things have not gone well. Per Bruell:

That added value has been significantly diminished since the video surfaced. The perceived added value in TV and entertainment, a category with which [Trump is] closely associated after “The Apprentice,” fell 13 percentage points as of Oct. 9, while the value of the Trump brand dropped 8 percentage points in real estate and 6 percentage points in country clubs and golf clubs, according to Brand Keys.

“What we know for sure is that these brand engagement numbers correlate very highly with consumer behavior in the marketplace,” said Mr. Passikoff. As the Trump brand becomes more toxic, “consumers will be distancing themselves from Trump-branded products as well.”

This is where Scion comes in. As Bloomberg’s Yu and Nash report, the name will be affixed to a new hotel chain. It’s not intended to replace the Trump brand. Indeed, Bloomberg notes that “Trump Hotels will continue to expand its namesake properties,” even though bookings at those hotels have “tumbled 29 percent in the past six months,” according to the research firm Ovation Vacations.

“In a way, [the campaign is] starting to affect the family negatively and could affect the hotel brand. The statistic is women make more hotel reservations than men,” one source close to Trump told The Huffington Post.

Scion’s hotels will be “aimed at younger customers,” which puts them in a crowded marketplace of similar big-brand offshoots competing for the same people. The most notable aspect about Scion is that it won’t be a “luxury” brand. Not that you should expect the Holiday Inn Express when you check in ― just that these hotels will not feature the five-star perks and pampering prominently advertised on the website for, say, Trump’s latest venture in Washington, D.C. Rather, the focus will be on the “budget constrained under 45-business traveler.”

If you, or the flapping inflatable tube man in your life, are wondering whatever happened to the line of sport compacts also known as “Scions,” wonder no more: That brand has been discontinued and its products folded back into the Toyota catalog. So the name “Scion” is, once again, available ― and the Trump family has an angle of their own. Per Bloomberg:

“We chose this name as a nod to the Trump family and their tremendous business successes, including Trump Hotels,” Eric Danziger, chief executive officer of Trump Hotels, said in an e-mail. “We want to acknowledge the association with Trump in a genuine way, while allowing the new lifestyle brand to stand on its own.”

But does anyone actually want Scion to be associated with Trump? It’s not so clear.

See, Scion has been in the works for a while now. The Wall Street Journal, in fact, reported in June that a new line of hotels without Trump’s name was on the way, and word about the “Scion” brand has been out for at least a month or so.

But Trump himself has seemingly made no real mention of it ― even though we all know how much he loves talking about his businesses. This week, Trump took time off from his ersatz presidential campaign to promote his Trump National Doral Miami golf resort. And as his running mate, Mike Pence, heads to Utah to try and stanch the bleeding there, Trump will be going to D.C. to preside over a ribbon-cutting at his newest hotel.

This is probably all to the good, as far as his kids are concerned. While no one involved with the Trump organization has explicitly said as much, the name “Scion” suggests that this is largely the venture of Eric, Ivanka, and Donald Jr. ― who currently run the family hotel business as executive vice presidents, and who would probably like to have some kind of cushion in place once their father is finished destroying the family name, or America, or both.

On that score, Trump’s kids may have a legitimate reason to worry. As Yahoo Fashion’s Kristine Solomon reported over the weekend, Ivanka’s fashion line is now the target of a boycott effort. And earlier this month, Yahoo News political correspondent Holly Bailey reported that “those in and close to Trump World describe anything but a happy relationship between Trump and his adult children.” In her report, Bailey re-raised an old concern that was first reported by NBC News’ roving Trump correspondent Katy Tur ― the idea that les enfants Trumps are beginning to “worry about the campaign’s effect on the family business.”

As best I can tell, Trump has not mentioned the Scion hotel line on Twitter at all. And maybe Trump’s own scions would prefer to keep it that way. As for Trump’s own post-election prospects, perhaps he can look forward to a lucrative career in taking his name off of things.

Ryan Grim and Ben Walsh contributed reporting.


Jason Linkins edits “Eat The Press” for The Huffington Post and co-hosts the HuffPost Politics podcast “So, That Happened.” Subscribe here, and listen to the latest episode below.  

Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S.

Jason Linkins   |   October 24, 2016   11:47 AM ET

Here’s some good news for those maintaining the bulwarks of our democracy and guarding them from harm. Scott Adams, the guy who draws the Dilbert cartoon, has pledged to take up arms against Donald Trump should he become president and subsequently become “Hitler-ish.” Just as the Czech resistance depended on those willing to make cutting critiques of the foibles of upper management to pull off Operation Anthropoid, so too will America’s future anti-fascist coup-plotters be able to rely on the strategic stockpile of glibness necessary to preserve our post-enlightenment endeavors.

It will make all the difference, I’m sure, so let’s enter Adams’ contract with America into the public record:

My promise: If Trump gets elected, and he does anything that looks even slightly Hitler-ish in office, I will join the resistance movement and help kill him. That’s an easy promise to make, and I hope my fellow citizens would use their Second Amendment rights to rise up and help me kill any Hitler-type person who rose to the top job in this country, no matter who it is.

As I often say, Democrats generally use guns to commit crimes. Republicans use guns for sport and for self-defense. If you are a Republican gun-owner, and you value the principles of the Constitution, I’m confident you would join me in the resistance movement and help kill any leader that exhibited genuine animosity toward people because of their genitalia, sexual preference, or skin pigmentation.

In other words, I’m willing to bet my life that the “monster” view of Trump is an illusion. 


I’m not sure what more needs to be said. Some might feel that this makes tremendous light of people who actually did risk their lives to kill Hitler when he was beginning to do things that looked slightly Hitler-ish (him-ish?), but I assure you, there was room to make light of them. One of my favorite accounts from Russell Miller’s Behind The Lines: The Oral History of Special Operations in World War II involved an OSS proposal to airdrop “hardcore pornography” on Hitler’s headquarters in the hopes it might make him suicidal with horniness.

Besides, we’ve already made light of Hitler’s resistors this election cycle by speculating on whether people might be willing to go back in time and kill Baby Hitler.

I’m sure that some folks might adopt a position of “Well, what are you waiting for, Scott Adams?” Others might simply scoff and move on.

Adams, of course, has found our current election cycle to be an excellent source of grist for an elaborate game of trolling, much of which involves him ginning up the notion that he has actual personal stakes in this election and then dramatizing them for the purpose of getting a reaction. In a previous online missive, for example, he explained that he was endorsing Hillary Clinton because he felt his life would be in danger otherwise.

In reality, Adams is an affluent celebrity to whom the repercussions of political decisions ― from the Commodity Futures Modernization Act to ruinous overseas misadventures to any number of laws passed and appointments made over the past 20 years ― simply do not attach. And he’s not even particularly intellectually curious about these decisions and their repercussions, either. In the paragraph that follows his promise to kill Trump should he become Hitlery, he admits that he’s only really interested in the trolling game: “That said, I also don’t know which candidate has the best policies. I wouldn’t risk my life for any of their tax plans or ISIS-fighting strategies. I’m only interested in helping the public see past their hallucinations about the monster under the bed. You’re on your own to decide who has the best policies.”

There hasn’t been a monster under Adams’ bed for a long while. He’s just one of those lucky people that live a blithe and carefree life inside a consequence-free bubble. So, yes, this is an “easy promise” for Adams to make. Easier still in late October of 2016


Jason Linkins edits “Eat The Press” for The Huffington Post and co-hosts the HuffPost Politics podcast “So, That Happened.” Subscribe here, and listen to the latest episode below.  

Jason Linkins   |   October 23, 2016    3:29 PM ET

After Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump said that he would “keep [us] in suspense” as to his intentions to honor the result of the election, the media has been pressing to find out what he really intends to do should he lose on election night. Well, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus went on “Face the Nation” to clear everything up.

“I know where he’s at on this,” Priebus said.

Sweet. Where’s he at?

”He’s saying he wants to reserve all options,” Priebus assured CBS News’ John Dickerson, “and, ‘If there is grounds for a recount, I will exercise my options.’”

“He is not willing to not concede if he loses and there’s no fraud,” he added.

Not willing to not concede. Cool, cool. Clear as can be!

Priebus wanted to make sure everyone knew that the RNC really, really liked having Trump as their nominee, a thing that the RNC chairman normally does in October of a presidential election year.

“He’s the nominee of our party ― of course we’re behind Donald Trump,” Priebus insisted.

He added, “I mean, this is ridiculous ― as if we wouldn’t be behind the nominee of the party, of course we are.”

Hey, man, that’s great. Sounds like you’re really satisfied with the way things are going.

Was there anything else Priebus wanted to add?

“This isn’t Italy,” Priebus said. “We don’t have 12 different parties where everyone can fit neatly into a box.”

BREAKING: This isn’t Italy.

Jason Linkins   |   October 23, 2016   12:31 PM ET

Kellyanne Conway did not have the day off on Sunday, and so Donald Trump’s campaign manager was called into surrogate duty on this morning’s edition of CNN’s “State of the Union.”  

There, host Jake Tapper uncomfortably reminded Conway that before she started working for the GOP nominee, she took a dim view of him constantly complaining about rigged elections:

TAPPER: Let’s talk about this idea that everything is rigged. Yesterday, Mr. Trump once again arguing that the election will be rigged ― it’s a charge that he makes with no real evidence to suggest it, that many Republican secretaries of state and others are very upset that he is making. Now, back in April when you were working against Donald Trump, when you were working for Ted Cruz and advising his super PAC, you had some tough words for Mr. Trump when he was lashing out at the time against the system being rigged. Take a listen.


CONWAY, on video clip: We hear from the Trump campaign, rules ... the rules change, it’s not fair, the system’s rigged, the system’s corrupt. He can whine and complain all he wants that he didn’t know the rules.

TAPPER: Is this a pattern with Mr. Trump? If he starts losing, he starts lashing out and calling the system corrupt and calling it rigged?

CONWAY: We love watching that clip together. But that was actually about what was happening on the weekends. When Donald Trump would win the vote, he would basically win all the electoral votes in a state, and on the weekends, the Cruz campaign would go back and follow the rules and get back some of those delegates. So no, it’s not a pattern for him.

Conway then attempted to use 2000’s post-Election Day wrangling in Florida as a marker for comparison.

Tapper found the parallel to be inapt: “That’s not the same thing. It’s not the same thing ... there was a state-mandated recount because the margin of error was so small. Donald Trump is out there saying ... the only way he’s going to lose Pennsylvania is if it’s stolen.”

“You can’t compare that to a state-mandated recount,” Tapper said.

Jason Linkins   |   October 19, 2016   11:36 AM ET

Based on the polls, it seems pretty clear that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has got either the best chance or the second-best chance at becoming the next president of the United States. And that means there are a host of questions those of us in the media should start planning to answer.

Chief among them: How many more profiles of Huma Abedin need to be written? Not a lot, right?

This is pretty important. Should Clinton win, she’s going to spend four years in the Beltway limelight. And with so little to talk about most of the time (besides the gutting of Social Security), the temptation to start commissioning profiles of Abedin will be too great for many people to resist.

Abedin, as you may have heard, is Hillary Clinton’s celebrated “body woman.” She is also the estranged spouse of implacable sext-monster and former New York City mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner ― a fact that you may want to not ride too hard if you’re angling to get her participation in a profile, I’m guessing.

“Body woman” is the feminine form of “body man,” the insider-y term for “a person who is always hanging around a given politician, usually holding, like, a satchel and a phone, and probably also some breath mints ― you know, a roll of Certs or something. Also some Zantac would be a good idea?” As such, Abedin is an endless source of fascination for the Beltway press, especially people who like to put the term “body woman” in stories.

And that is a lot of people. So you can probably see the problem: The “Huma Abedin profile” genre is very overpopulated.

For example, you can read the 2016 Vogue profile (”Abedin is in many ways the engine at the center of Clinton’s well-run machine, crucial and yet largely out of sight”), or the 2016 Vanity Fair profile (”Whatever the title, the job she performs for Hillary has always been essentially the same: confessor, confidante, and constant companion”), or a 2016 Newsweek profile (”[Her] selfless servility and uncanny knack for predicting what the boss wants have put her closer than almost anyone to the most powerful woman in American politics”), or a 2015 Politico profile (”Like a mother monitoring her child on the playground, she never let Clinton drift out of her line of sight, ever vigilant and poised to act”), or a 2016 Los Angeles Times profile (”Abedin, who has been referred to as Clinton’s ‘second daughter,’ is the gatekeeper to the nominee”).

Now, Politico has gone back for a second bite of the apple, using the volume of recent WikiLeaks disclosures to profile Abedin anew. What did they learn? “Neither simply body woman or scheduler, Clinton’s long-time aide acts as shield, translator, and history keeper.” 

Didn’t we know that already? I thought we knew that already?

The WikiLeaks release of thousands of stolen campaign emails — the authenticity of which the campaign has neither verified nor denied — shed new light on her unique internal role this cycle: Abedin has been around so long (she started her career as an intern in the first lady’s office), she’s become more than a body woman.

She is now Clinton’s external hard drive.

She’s an external hard drive? Um, that’s not working for me, Politico. It reads as, “She’s become more than a body woman ― she’s also backup storage for Hillary Clinton’s digitized music collection.” Right? So not feeling this metaphor, sorry.

As we can see, it’s reaching a point where these profiles all have something of a strained quality, even if they come with a fresh news hook. I’m thinking the rule of diminishing returns might be in effect. So this is a good time to set some hard and fast limits on the number of Huma Abedin profiles that we allow to be written in the next four years. To my mind, it’s five, tops. 

I’m being really generous, here. Meeting everyone halfway and whatnot.

So! Here are some specifics:

1. Mark Leibovich gets to write one. I think that’s in the Constitution somewhere.

2. Let’s have one really crazy-ass one from, like, Infowars or something. I know it’s irresponsible to encourage Alex Jonesian crackpots to take a run at profiling Abedin, but honestly, they’re going to do it one way or another. And if it were done when ‘tis done, then ‘twere well it were done quickly. Just get on with it, guys. And challenge yourselves: Either really deliver the goods or make it entertainingly bonkers-sauce.

3. There should be one from a talented woman with a wry, offbeat perspective who’ll shake me loose from my middle-class-white-guy point of view and get me thinking more about the lives of others. Let’s have The New York Times’ Emma Roller and New York magazine’s Marin Cogan just work out between themselves who’s going to handle it.

4. We’ll have one more really tired regurgitation of the previously written profiles. Just so I can write a post about how it’s a really tired regurgitation of the previously written profiles. Who’s up for it? Time magazine, you look thirsty. Pistols at dawn with Bloomberg Businessweek. (It’s really too bad that Portfolio didn’t last long enough to do this story. What might have been.)

5. Garden & Gun gets to do one. Garden & Gun is, like, the best damn magazine in America. They get to do one of everything.

That’s it. No more. 

And in case you were wondering, yes, I will be handling “The Oral History Of Huma Abedin Profiles” for HuffPost Highline. Look for it in October 2019.


Jason Linkins edits “Eat The Press” for The Huffington Post and co-hosts the HuffPost Politics podcast “So, That Happened.” Subscribe here, and listen to the latest episode below.  

Jason Linkins   |   October 18, 2016   10:39 AM ET

The Center for Public Integrity came out with a blockbuster report on Monday describing how journalists are way, way too poor to influence elections with their money. A ragtag group of television reviewers and restaurant critics have combined to add almost $400,000 to the campaign coffers of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump (with Clinton winning the lion’s share of this largesse), as Dave Levinthal and Michael Beckel detail. In a billion-dollar election, that puts “journalists” somewhere near “accounting error” in terms of their contributions.

But that doesn’t mean journalists aren’t good political donors ― you just have to account for the stuff they give away for free. And one big beneficiary of such in-kind offerings has been beleaguered House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).

In case you’ve not been keeping up with the latest in Ryaniana, the Wisconsin representative and former vice presidential nominee has found himself in another round of back-and-forth sparring with his party’s nominee. Ryan desperately wants the presidential race to be something he no longer needs to think about, because his party’s standard-bearer is an odious lunatic and because the speaker has been attempting to run a parallel Republican campaign from the safety of his office. Trump, however, won’t let him go and has even worked Ryan into his larger mythology of a “rigged” election, painting him as one more party to a “sinister deal.”

The straight story here, of course, is that Paul Ryan brought all of this upon himself. By offering Trump his endorsement ― a move that he’d have cause to regret within hours ― he invited the vampire into his home. And throughout his dance of death with the candidate, Ryan has desperately tried to make it work. As recently as Oct. 7, he was planning to appear on the stump with Trump, only to rescind the invitation when it became clear that Trump’s “grab her by the pussy” comment wasn’t going to be quickly swept away by the news cycle.

In other words, Ryan has made poor choices and taken ill-advised actions. Fortunately for him, he’s receiving his traditional round of fluffing from the media, who are depicting him as a noble sufferer ― unfairly victimized by Trump but ultimately responsible for nothing ― and who are giving him immense credit for finding a way to exist in the liminal space between not quite endorsing Trump and not quite rescinding that endorsement either. 

Take, for example, Jennifer Steinhauer’s New York Times piece from over the weekend, “For Paul Ryan, a Long, Labored Path Leading Away From Donald Trump.” Which sounds like Ryan had, you know, broken with Trump. That’s not the case! But the larger argument being made is that Ryan has ended up a casualty to cruel fate:

He didn’t see it coming.

Speaker Paul D. Ryan was in a hotel room in Cincinnati last May when he learned that Donald J. Trump — a man he barely knew, with no institutional ties to his party and a mouth that had already clacked his nerves — had secured the Republican nomination for president.

Huh, what now? He didn’t see Trump coming? From as far back as ‘Mexicans are sending rapists’? And we’re to believe that in May, Trump’s ascension still caught him unawares? By May, the only non-Trump nomination options that were left were the desperate ones ― the aborted Cruz-Kasich team-up plan or a massive procedural fight at the very convention over which Ryan was obligated to preside.

The Times piece goes on to describe Ryan as having been plunged into a “singular abyss,” as if something other than his passivity put him there. Ryan absorbs the “unsparing ... disparagement” from Trump and makes his tepid objections known through spokespersons. He supposedly came to learn the hard way that Trump doesn’t “deal in good faith” when Trump falsely claimed to have earned Ryan’s endorsement before it was actually offered (making Ryan one of the last people to realize that Trump doesn’t “deal in good faith”). After that, Ryan chose to take Trump’s selection of running mate Mike Pence as a “bright spot” that surely represented a change in tone.

Overall, Ryan kept up a campaign of pretending Trump didn’t exist, until such time as that became untenable: the release of the 2005 video in which the real estate mogul lewdly promoted sexual assault as a perk of fame. As punishment, Trump was disinvited from a Wisconsin rally, but that’s as far as Ryan was willing to push things. Per Steinhauer:

Mr. Ryan agonized over his options. Ultimately, he chose not to withdraw his endorsement to keep Republicans motivated to vote, which still angered some of his conference. “I think they ask far too much of the speaker,” said Representative Jason Chaffetz, Republican of Utah, who has renounced Mr. Trump. “His job is to help House Republicans. Period.”

Several of Chaffetz’s colleagues briefly followed his lead, only to re-endorse Trump after a few hours of courage. If only they had someone setting an example to follow!

But Ryan has clearly decided to ride this one out by ignoring Trump and putting on a happy face, all the while never indicating which of his charges are doing right by their party and country: the ones who have broken with Trump, the ones who have attached themselves to Trump, or the ones trying to have it both ways. “Just please vote the straight GOP ticket, anyway” is Ryan’s only position.

And it’s all so sad, because ― as Steinhauer ruefully reports ― after all the dust has settled, his own party may not let him stay on as speaker:

If Mr. Trump is defeated on Nov. 8 — as Mr. Ryan has all but conceded — but Republicans maintain their House majority, it will fall largely to Mr. Ryan to piece the rubble of his party back together.

There is, of course, the question of whether House members would let him do so.

It’s hard to imagine that Ryan would have any trouble convincing his fellow House colleagues to keep him on, what with all this authoritative command he is showing.

At this point, the only thing that’s keeping Ryan from being seen as a feckless, failed invertebrate is the media’s determined campaign to paint him as the tragic figure in all of this. Tuesday morning’s Politico Playbook, for example, literally describes Ryan as Trump’s “fall guy,” bullied by the nominee’s sneering remarks. As Playbook puts it:

THIS IS STUNNING. Trump is essentially accusing the speaker of the House of sabotaging his campaign to benefit his own political future. (We think it’s an absurd argument.)

It is an absurd argument, but only because the Trump campaign is the one thing Ryan isn’t sabotaging for the sake of his political future. Yet Playbook maintains that Ryan has somehow become fortune’s unwitting fool in this whole escapade, ignoring the fact that he’s been one of Trump’s principal enablers:

STEP BACK: There’s been a lot of chatter over the last few days about whether Ryan did the right thing by speaking out against Trump. Why is he always the scold, people have asked? His handling of Trump will be dissected plenty over the next few months. Ryan has an incredibly complicated job and has to balance the needs of 245 other Republicans, many of whom wanted cover to break with Trump. But there’s no question he’s now bearing the brunt of the decision. We’re not going to play the can-he-win-the-speakership-again game. There are far too many variables at play, like a) how much Trump loses by and b) what the margin is in the House. But Trump and his allies are signaling a long fight against Ryan. Put it all together, and you come up with a pretty simple question: Why would Ryan want to become speaker again?

Why should anyone care if Ryan becomes speaker again? How is that a going concern? He had his chance to put down his marker and opted to refrain from doing so, preferring to pretend that this is all some bad dream from which he’ll shake himself when the morning comes.

Ryan has been the sort of statesman who offers up his strongest statements while timidly backing out the door, leaving everyone left in the room wondering if he was even there in the first place. And then he’s off to shelter behind closed doors, making another video about tax cuts as a solo act of Speaker of the House cosplay.

It’s a real curiosity: In a town where fanciful notions of “leadership” are venerated even when doing so flies in the face of reason, Paul Ryan has emerged as the one figure of real status who has been given a pass from all of that. Typically, you’d expect the media to light him on fire for both his non-endorsement endorsement and his subsequent non-unendorsement unendorsing of Trump.

But no. He gets credited by The New York Times with making a break he hasn’t made. He earns the concern of Politico over whether he’ll keep a job that he’s been avoiding doing. He’s been a flailing, indecisive mess and a big reason why his party ― and the country― has been gravely imperiled by Trump. But it seems like the press is going to allow Ryan to go down as this election cycle’s St. Sebastian. And sure, Ryan’s fantastic abs have been shot up with metaphorical arrows, but he’s not earned a martyrdom. That’s the media’s donation.


Jason Linkins edits “Eat The Press” for The Huffington Post and co-hosts the HuffPost Politics podcast “So, That Happened.” Subscribe here, and listen to the latest episode below.  

Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liarrampant xenophoberacist, misogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S.

Jason Linkins   |   October 14, 2016    5:36 PM ET

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, the Republican vice presidential nominee, vowed on Friday that there was evidence to disprove the many claims of sexual improprieties against his ticket-mate, Donald Trump. Well, the Trump campaign made good on its promise, contributing yet another surreal twist to this already stupefying election season.

At issue are the allegations of Jessica Leeds, who told The New York Times this week that Trump had “grabbed her breasts and attempted to reach up her skirt” more than three decades ago when she was seated next to him in first class on a cross-country flight to New York.

“He was like an octopus,” Leeds told the Times.

Now, as the New York Post’s Daniel Halper reports, a British man named Anthony Gilberthorpe has stepped forward to serve as an exculpatory witness:

The man says he was sitting across from the accuser and contacted the Trump campaign because he was incensed by her account — which is at odds with what he witnessed.

“I have only met this accuser once and frankly cannot imagine why she is seeking to make out that Trump made sexual advances on her. Not only did he not do so (and I was present at all times) but it was she that was the one being flirtatious,” Anthony Gilberthorpe said in a note provided to The Post by the Trump campaign.

Gilberthorpe insists that Leeds was the one “trying too hard,” and that she confessed to him that she wanted to “marry” Trump. Reports suggest that Gilberthorpe would have been around 18 years old when at the time of the flight. 

“Gilberthorpe has no evidence to back up his claim — just his self-described excellent memory,” Halper reports. 

And speaking of excellent memories, here’s one the U.K. Mirror had in July 2014:

Senior Tory cabinet ministers were supplied with underage boys for sex parties, it is sensationally claimed.

Former Conservative activist Anthony Gilberthorpe said he told Margaret Thatcher 25 years ago about what he had witnessed and gave her names of those involved.

His allegations that he saw top Tories having sex with boys comes after David Cameron launched a Government inquiry into claims of a cover-up.

Anthony, 52, said: “I am prepared to speak to the inquiry. I believe I am a key witness.”

Trawling seedy streets during a Tory conference, Gilberthorpe says he was asked to find underage rent boys for a private sex party at a top hotel.

Hmmm. Halper mentions this in his piece, but that hasn’t stopped the Trump campaign from excitedly tweeting about the story:

An additional memory of sex and deception and rumored payoffs comes from Talking Points Memo, which notes that:

Gilberthorpe was also the alleged tipster behind a sex scandal that led to the downfall of conservative British parliamentarian Piers Merchant’s career. Merchant, after he resigned, accused Gilberthorpe of setting up his affair with a 17-year-old hostess and leaking news of it to the Sunday Mirror, a British tabloid, in exchange for £25,000.

I reckon that when you’ve been accused of as many sexual grotesqueries as the reality-television host has, you have to take help wherever you can find it. Still, if I had to pick a defender, Gilberthorpe ― to use one of Trump’s turns of phrase ― wouldn’t be my first choice.


Jason Linkins edits “Eat The Press” for The Huffington Post and co-hosts the HuffPost Politics podcast “So, That Happened.” Subscribe here, and listen to the latest episode below.   

Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S.