Michael Cohen Releases Tape Of Conversation With Trump About McDougal Payoff

A new recording of a conversation between Donald Trump and his one-time attorney/"fixer" Michael Cohen appears to put the President in a more difficult position than he has already been in.

Late last night, the attorneys representing former Donald Trump attorney and “fixer” Michael Cohen released a tape of a conversation between Cohen and Trump reportedly made just days prior to the 2016 election where the two men apparently are discussing a payment to Playboy model Karen McDougal, who has alleged she had a months-long affair with the President while Melania Trump was pregnant with their child:

WASHINGTON — President Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, escalated his dispute with the president on Tuesday by releasing a secret recording of a conversation in which Mr. Trump appears to have knowledge about hush money payments to a former Playboy model who said she had an affair with Mr. Trump.

The recording, which was broadcast by CNN, is sometimes muddled but provides details on payments to the former model, Karen McDougal. However, it does not definitively answer the question about whether Mr. Trump directed Mr. Cohen to make them in cash or by check just two months before the 2016 presidential election.

Mr. Cohen is heard telling Mr. Trump that he will need to set up a company to arrange the payments.

Mr. Trump then asked, “What financing?”

“We’ll have to pay,” Mr. Cohen said.

Mr. Trump then appears to say, “Pay with cash.”

Mr. Cohen then says, “No, no.”

The word “check” is uttered, but it is not clear by whom, and the audio is then cut off.

Lanny J. Davis, a lawyer for Mr. Cohen and a longtime supporter of Bill and Hillary Clinton, told The New York Times on Tuesday night that Mr. Cohen released the tape because he is “on a new path — it’s a reset button to tell the truth and to let the chips fall where they may.”

Ms. McDougal was paid $150,000 by The National Enquirer for her story in summer 2016. The tabloid, which has often given Mr. Trump favorable coverage, then did not publish the story. According to people close to Mr. Cohen and Mr. Trump, the two men were discussing on the tape a second payment to The Enquirer that would continue to keep Ms. McDougal from speaking publicly about Mr. Trump.

On the recording, Mr. Trump shows some familiarity with a deal between Ms. McDougal and American Media Inc., the publisher of The Enquirer, and does not act as if he is only learning about it then. When The Times reported on the existence of the payment on Friday, Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, said the tape would prove “exculpatory,” indicating that the conversation was the first time that Mr. Trump had heard about the deal Ms. McDougal struck with A.M.I.

On the tape, Mr. Cohen raises the possibility of creating a separate company to buy the rights to Ms. McDougal’s story from A.M.I.

“I need to open up a company for the transfer of all of that info regarding our friend David,” Mr. Cohen is heard saying. David Pecker is the chairman of A.M.I.; he has acknowledged being “personal friends” with Mr. Cohen and Mr. Trump.

(…)

As they discuss Ms. McDougal and A.M.I., Mr. Trump and Mr. Cohen appear to be concerned that in leaving the rights to Ms. McDougal’s story in A.M.I.’s hands, they are ceding an uncomfortable level of control in trusting a tabloid publisher, even such a friendly one, with such a delicate story.

Mr. Cohen is heard saying, “You never know where that company — you never know where he’s gonna be,” to which Mr. Trump is heard raising the fear that “he gets hit by a truck.”

Here’s the full audio of the tape in question, which lasts for just about two minutes. Additionally, The Washington Post has a helpfully annotated transcript of the tape:

Not surprisingly, President Trump responded to the reports this morning on Twitter in much the same manner that he did when the existence of the tape was first disclosed:

The context of all of this is well-known at this point, of course. Karen McDougal, who had appeared as a centerfold in Playboy in December 1997 and went on to be named “Playmate of the Year” in 1998, has claimed that she had an affair with Donald Trump that lasted several months and which coincided with the time when Trump’s wife Melania was pregnant with their son Barron, which places it roughly in the 2005-2006 time frame.

Two months prior to the 2016 election, McDougal entered into an agreement with American Media Inc., which owns the National Enquirer among other publications and whose CEO happens to be David Pecker, a long-time friend of Trump’s. Under that agreement, McDougal was paid $150,000 for the rights to her story regarding the affair and also apparently promised column space in AMI publications which she has alleged she was never actually given. McDougal has also said that her attorney at the time was also in communication with Michael Cohen regarding such an agreement, although she was not aware of those conservations at the time and the contents of those communications were never revealed to her. In March of this year, McDougal filed suit against AMI alleging that it had not complied with its obligations under the agreement and that the entire purpose for entering into the agreement was to obtain the rights to the story of McDougal’s affair with Trump and then never publish it, a practice known as “catch and kill” that AMI has been known to use in the past when it came to stories about people with whom Pecker has a close relationship, such as President Trump. That lawsuit was settled in April, with the result being that McDougal was allowed to keep the payment and retained the rights to tell her story.

For his part, up until the release of this tape the President had denied the affair, denied having any knowledge of payments to McDougal, and denied having any discussions regarding the McDougal matter prior to the election. This tape appears to make it clear that all of these denials are false and, as Jennifer Rubin notes, raises several other questions:

First, what kind of lawyer secretly tapes his client? It would be instructive to find out whether Cohen knew what he was discussing with Trump was legally problematic. Was he taping the conversation to protect himself in case Trump later denied knowledge of Cohen’s actions? This is not the normal conduct of a lawyer.

This is a question many people are asking this morning. As far as the law is concerned, and as I’ve noted before, New York is a one-party consent state meaning that it is perfectly legal for one person to record a conversation with another person or persons without the knowledge or consent of the other party. Additionally, while I’m not familiar with the Disciplinary Rules governing lawyers in New York, where Cohen is admitted to practice, it’s been reported that this does not necessarily violate applicable rules.

That being said, it certainly isn’t common for a lawyer to record their conversations with their clients, for what I would assume are rather obvious reasons, and even less common for this to be done without the knowledge or consent of the client. As I said during a Twitter conversation I had this morning regarding this issue, this is not something I would consider doing without the client’s knowledge and consent and the fact that it’s happening at all seems to be a strong indication that the lawyer has reason to distrust the client to the point where they think secretly recording conversations is necessary. At that point, though, it’s arguably the case that the relationship between the attorney and the client has deteriorated to such an extent that the attorney ought to seriously consider withdrawing from the representation.

All that being said,  it was reported months ago that Cohen had the habit of routinely recording conversations he had with third parties, although he had reportedly claimed that he had never recorded conversations with Trump. It’s now obvious that this last part was inaccurate, and it also appears that there may be other Cohen-Trump recordings out there, although we don’t know (yet) what the subject matter of those recordings might be.

Second, why did Cohen’s lawyer Lanny Davis think releasing the tape to CNN would help his client? Maybe it’s an attempt to signal that he has the goods on Trump (there are purportedly about a dozen tapes), but prosecutors already would know what’s in the tapes. Frankly, the recording makes both Cohen and Trump seem sleazy. Trump’s TV lawyer Rudy Giuliani inexplicably commented that “I’ve got 4,000 hours of mafia people on tape. I know how to listen to them, I know how to transcribe them. I’ve dealt with much worse tapes than this.” Alrighty then. (One wonders whether there is a “bad lawyer” contest underway between Davis and Giuliani.)

The answer to this question seems to be a fairly obvious one to me. Just as Giuliani has been engaged mostly in being a public relations spokesperson for the President since becoming a part of Trump’s legal team, the addition of former Bill Clinton adviser and lawyer Lanny Davis on to the Cohen team seems to be as much about fighting a public relations war with the Trump camp as anything else. In releasing this tape, which Trump and his lawyers apparently had decided to waive any attorney/client privilege claim, Davis is basically engaging in a PR battle with Giuliani and, on behalf of his client, sending a message to the Trump Team that whatever hope they might have had that Michael Cohen would remain loyal to his former boss, client, and, at least in Cohen’s previous estimation, friend, is essentially out the window. This fact became even clearer in the light of an off-camera interview with ABC News in which Cohen essentially said that his primary concerns were for himself and his family. Considering that this is the same person who once said he’d “take a bullet” for Trump, this is significant.

Third, isn’t this evidence of a possible illegal campaign-finance issue? Maybe. Cohen discussed the McDougal payoff in conjunction with other campaign matters, including a poll and possible revelation of documents from Trump’s divorce from his second wife. In this case, Trump/Cohen never purchased the rights to McDougal’s story from AMI, but we do not know whether they previously urged AMI to tie up the rights. In any case, using a corporation to disguise the payment (and apparently considering a payment of cash) suggests a deliberate effort to conceal what would have amounted to a campaign expenditure, one that Trump certainly did not report. A pattern of secret payments deliberately left off financial disclosures can transform run-of-the-mill civil campaign violations into a criminal matter. While some may think campaign violations are trifles, remember that Al Capone was brought down by financial crimes (tax cheating), not his underlying deeds.

The short answer to Rubin’s third question is an emphatic yes. Whether you look at the payment to McDougal from AMI, which took place in September 2016, or the discussion just days before the campaign that apparently centered around buying the rights to McDougal’s story that AMI had purchased, both of these transactions involve what can quite plainly be described as an “in-kind” contribution to the Trump campaign. The only question that we don’t have direct evidence for is whether it was intended by AMI that the payment to McDougal was for the purpose of assisting the Trump campaign by buying McDougal’s story so that she could be kept silent in the remaining weeks of the Presidential campaign. The timing of the payment and agreement, though, seems to make it clear that this was exactly the intent behind the agreement. Additionally, it seems clear that the discussions between Cohen and Trump regarding purchasing the rights to McDougal’s story from AMI were clearly intended to protect Trump in the waning days of the campaign. There’s nothing per se illegal about this kind of in-kind contribution, although one could make the argument that it potentially violates the donation limits set forth in applicable Federal law.

Fourth, how many other payments and women are out there? It is far from clear that McDougal and adult-film actress Stormy Daniels are the only women Trump considered paying off. If there were other payments to hush up women, investigators will need examine who made the payments, the context in which they were made and whether a pattern of deliberate campaign-finance violations emerges. One does wonder just how many “mulligans” Trump’s evangelical flunkies are willing to give him.

This has been a question that’s been hanging over Trump for the better part of 2018, of course, ever since the reports about the payoffs to McDougal and Stormy Daniels became public. At various times, Michael Avenatti, the attorney representing Daniels in her claims against Trump and others, has hinted that he has heard from other women who received payments under similar circumstances as his client but so far at least none of those women have come forward. If those payments exist, though, and if they also coincided with Trump’s Presidential campaign, then that could create some significant legal headaches for the President.

Fifth, did anyone else, including the Russians, know about Trump’s payments? For those who think the Russians “have” something on Trump, this provides an interesting line of inquiry. Russian operatives’ knowledge of Trump’s sex life, of a list of accusers and of payoffs, would be powerful leverage for Moscow. One thing is clear: Trump conducted himself in such a way as to leave himself open to blackmail. There may or may not have been the Steele dossier’s alleged tape of Trump in Moscow with prostitutes, but there is certainly reason to believe that there was enough evidence of Trump’s poor personal conduct to fill a whole file cabinet in some Russian intelligence agency’s office.

This too is an interesting question, but ultimately one we cannot know the answer to without more direct evidence. As things stand, though, it does seem like Trump is acting toward Russia in a manner that indicates he’s trying to hide something. What that something is, though, is another question entirely.

All of this leads back to an observation I made last Friday:

It’s too early to tell what impact this tape, and any others that might exist, could have on the investigations swirling around the President, but it’s clearly not good news and yet another indication of just how important the developments regarding Michael Cohen could end up being. Within weeks after the F.B.I. search of Cohen’s home and office, there were signs that the President was clearly worried that his former attorney might cooperate with investigators and that, generally speaking, he was more worried about the Cohen investigation than the Mueller investigation. Those reports resurfaced in May. Last month, we learned that Cohen’s defense team had terminated a joint defense agreement with Trump’s legal team and that Cohen has said in an off-camera interview with ABC News that he was primarily concerned with himself and his family. Both of these were seen as pointing to the possibility that Cohen, the man who reportedly knows all of Donald Trump’s secrets might be about to become a cooperating witness with prosecutors in both New York and Washington. If true, that could be the most significant development of all in this entire investigation.

In and of itself, this tape doesn’t necessarily prove anything. It is, however, another piece to the puzzle that is Donald Trump, his business dealings, and any potential wrongdoing he may have been a part of. Too bad we didn’t know about it sooner.

FILED UNDER: Donald Trump, Law and the Courts, Politicians, US Politics, ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    GET ME A COKE, PLEASE!!!!

    The most shocking thing is that Dennison says please.

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  2. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    In and of itself, this tape doesn’t necessarily prove anything.

    It doesn’t…and I’m guessing Cohen wanted to put out something innocuous to show that he was serious about carrying out his threat.
    But it also doesn’t disprove anything. In fact…in the last two years how much exculpatory evidence have we seen in Dennison’s favor? I would say zero.
    Big picture…we are discussing the POTUS paying off porn stars for sex and it’s like, meh…
    ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

  3. CSK says:

    One point: Melania Trump wasn’t pregnant when Trump had his affair with McDougal and his one night stand with Daniels. Barron was born in March 2006. Trump and McDougal began their affair in June 2006, and Trump and Daniels, ah, ot together after that.

    Trump was dismissive of Melania to McDougal, tellin her that he and his wife ad separate bedrroms

  4. Michael Reynolds says:

    I suspect the biggest impact from the tape is merely its existence. For the first time the Trumpaloons are faced with proof that Trump lied. Not ‘fake news’ but an actual recording of Cult Leader conspiring to pay off a woman he slept with yet denied even knowing.

    It’s not what’s in this tape, it’s that facts are beginning to emerge – facts Hannity can’t effectively spin. This – along with a dozen other developments – will not cause Trumpaloons to change sides, but it will force them to be more cautious in their defense of Trump. It will make them wary. And if you doubt that Trumpaloons know when they’ve got nothing, just watch the ebb and flow of our OTB culties.

    What the Trumpaloons expected was that the country would come to see the brilliance of their guy and come to worship as they do. Instead they’re reduced to arguing over the legal definition of the word, ‘traitor.’ If you go to war and find yourself after 18 months holding less ground, with your reserves depleted and no coherent strategy, you’re losing. The Trump Cult is losing. And they know it now.

    538 has Trump at 53 to 41, 12 points underwater. 12 points underwater with a roaring economy. That’s bad. It’s real bad. More than half the country opposes him, more than half the country don’t believe his Russia lies. His own cabinet sneers at him behind his back, calling him ‘stupid’ and ‘a moron.’ The world laughs at Trump.

    None of that is even remotely what the Trumpaloons expected. They thought they had a winner, what they do have, is a loser. That won’t budge the 41%, but it will weaken their enthusiasm as Democrat enthusiasm rages like an L.A. wild fire.

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  5. CSK says:

    One point: Melania Trump had given birth to Barron in March 2006, and Trump’s affair with McDougal began in June 2006; the one-night stand with Daniels took place after that, so Melania wasn’t pregnant at the time of either.

    By McDougal’s account, Trump was dismissive of Melania, telling McDougal that they occupied separate bedrooms and implying that their sex life was over.

  6. CSK says:

    @CSK:

    Delete this comment: It got posted before I finished writing and editing it.

  7. Jay L Gischer says:

    As interesting and salacious as the stories about Karen McDougal and Stormy Daniels are, they aren’t remotely the worst things that Cohen potentially knows.

    The theory is that Cohen went to Prague to meet with Russian agents in late August/early September of 2016. It has been reported that Mueller has evidence of this.

    But Cohen’s testimony on this would be a bombshell that makes this current stuff look like firecrackers.

    But here we are with him leaking tapes about the women, and there’s no mention at all of Prague.

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  8. James Pearce says:

    In and of itself, this tape doesn’t necessarily prove anything.

    Yea, but finally….our first tape!

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  9. James Pearce says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    538 has Trump at 53 to 41, 12 points underwater.

    Late summer of 2016, 538 had Hillary at 85% chance to win the election. I posted that shit to Facebook, not because I wanted to look like an idiot, but because I didn’t know any better.

    Won’t be making that mistake again…

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  10. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Jay L Gischer:

    But here we are with him leaking tapes about the women, and there’s no mention at all of Prague.

    Be careful…you shouldn’t conflate the SD New York investigation into Cohen with the Mueller investigation into Dennison. Two different things.

  11. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Breaking…the Emoluments lawsuit, against Dennison, is being allowed to go forward by a Federal Judge.

  12. Pylon says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    Be careful…you shouldn’t conflate the SD New York investigation into Cohen with the Mueller investigation into Dennison. Two different things.

    True, but the fact Cohen has tapes relevant to one matter means he very well might have tapes on the other.

  13. SenyorDave says:

    I think that a truly important part of this development is that Cohen has completely turned on Trump. What else does he have on Trump is the big question.

    As for Trump’s peeps, there is nothing that will make them turn on him. He could be caught in bed with a six year old boy while wearing klan robes and giving the nuclear codes to Putin over the phone, and all we would hear is “but the emails”.

  14. Kathy says:

    @James Pearce:

    Won’t be making that mistake again…

    What mistake will you be making this time?

    People don’t understand probabilities. A 15% chance of something happening is low, but not that low. In craps, for example, it’s a good enough place bet (but a terrible hop bet).

    The difference between craps and an election, is that the election consists of one play with millions of events, while in craps you get as many plays as you have money for and the number of events per play is small. If we bet on elections like we do on sports, a bet on Trump based on the 538 odds of 15% would have had a huge payoff, while a bet on Clinton would have been a bridge-jumper (ie you need to bet a big sum in order to make a little money, and if you lose you’ll feel like jumping off a bridge; gambling slang is often crude).

    Or put more simply, if the weather forecast predicts 15% chance of rain, that doesn’t mean it can’t possibly rain that day.

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  15. MBunge says:

    If this Stormy Daniels/Karen McDougal stuff is just to try and personally hurt Trump by causing pain to his wife and their child, that’s vile but rational.

    Anyone who thinks any of it is going to hurt Trump politically is insane. When I say insane, I mean stuff like this…

    For the first time the Trumpaloons are faced with proof that Trump lied.

    There’s been plenty of proof for Trump lying. Everyone knows it. His supporters know it. To think this is something that needs additional proof is quite an amazing level of denial. It’s not that people don’t know Trump lies, it’s why they don’t care.

    Mike

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  16. Kathy says:

    @SenyorDave:

    I think that a truly important part of this development is that Cohen has completely turned on Trump. What else does he have on Trump is the big question.

    He hasn’t quite done that yet. I think he’s signalling that he might, unless El Cheeto does something he wants. If not, then he’ll turn.

    Whether a fixer extorting the nominal leader of the free world on TV is a good thing, I’ll leave others to decide.

    I think what makes sense for Cohen to have on Trump, is evidence of something illegal, but that both mean took part in. For Cohen to give that up, he’d want immunity in return, or some sort of slap on the wrist kind of sentence (ie no prison time).

  17. MBunge says:

    @Kathy: People don’t understand probabilities.

    You are right, which is why they lost their damn minds over Trump’s completely probable election victory and still haven’t gotten over it.

    Mike

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  18. MarkedMan says:

    @Kathy: Exactly. Teams that are up by three runs in the 7th inning win 85% of the time*. Which means they win 15% of the time. More importantly, it means that their opponents might change strategy.

    But while I appreciate the sensibility of your answer, take a closer look at what Pearce was saying: “If you hear bad polling about Trump, keep it to yourself or you’ll be a loser.” Oh, he’s a sly one, Mr. Pearce. /sarcasm, and cue the sock puppet to come out and “defend” him/

    *totally made up statistic

  19. MarkedMan says:

    It’s not that people don’t know Trump lies, it’s why they don’t care.

    I was scrolling up due to the delayed display of posts issue, when I came across this comment. God help me, I thought the above quote was trite but accurate. And it came from a source I would never read if I saw the name first. Wonders never cease…

  20. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @MBunge:

    It’s not that people don’t know Trump lies, it’s why they don’t care.

    So tell us Bunge…why exactly do you continue to blindly support a liar, excuse attacks on this country, and endorse sexual assault and child molestation?

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  21. Michael Reynolds says:

    @MBunge:
    I appreciate your admission that Cult Leader is a huge liar. Six months ago you would not have.

    One is left to wonder what sort of person worships a pathological liar.

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  22. CSK says:

    @MBunge:

    I agree with you that the Daniels/McDougal business won’t bother the Trumpkins in the least.

    As for Melania: She’s probably not the brightest bulb in the chandelier, but she’s shrewd enough to understand her role as a trophy wife, which is to appear by her husband’s side looking good. She’s made it plain that she married Mangolini for his money. She would probably prefer that Trump’s adulteries not be made quite so public, but I’m sure it doesn’t touch her on any emotional level. And she’s no doubt quite relieved she doesn’t have to service him sexually.

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  23. Slugger says:

    Nobody has any doubts about Trump’s sexual behavior. He has bragged about it for years. His supporters don’t mind no matter what they claim about their views on morality. No surprise; nothing new.
    Let me do a little bragging of my own. I haven’t been with as many women as Trump, but I never paid tens of thousands of dollars nor gotten anybody a green card. The best things in life are free.

  24. dazedandconfused says:
  25. James Pearce says:

    @Kathy:

    What mistake will you be making this time?

    I dunno, but I’m going to be ignoring the probabilities from poll aggregators from now on.

    In other words, you won’t hear me saying “According to 538…”

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  26. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @CSK:

    she’s shrewd enough to understand her role as a trophy wife

    Metaphorically…
    Historically, a house Negro was a higher status than a field slave or “field Negro” who worked outdoors, often in harsh conditions, and might perform tasks for the household servants.
    Melania is the house Tramp. Daniels and McDougal were field Tramps.

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  27. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    One is left to wonder what sort of person worships a pathological liar.

    The sort that posts nonsensical, often inflammatory, comments on a website, then scurries away like a little varmint.

  28. CSK says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    I’d agree, but I don’t think Melania’s put out for Donny since she learned she was pregnant with Barron. No need to do so after that; she got the kid to seal the deal.

    And in breaking news: Trump is postponing Putin’s visit to the U.S. till 2019. (Putin never accepted the invitation by the way.) Donny says he wants the “Russia witch hunt” to be over first.

  29. SenyorDave says:

    @James Pearce: One of the major tools that 538 used was poll aggregation. As others have stated, 85% was a probability. 538 did not say that Trump could not possibly win. They said he had a 15% chance of winning.

    I used to work as an actuary for a few different insurance companies. An annual exercise for almost any property and casualty insurer is an analysis of its book of business to make sure that the possibility of the company being unable to pay claims is sufficiently small. An outside vendor would look at all our existing policies and run Monte Carlo simulations to determine the statistical probability of ruin (inability to pay all claims). The tolerance was usually in the .001% range, i.e. a 1 on 100.000 chance of ruin. There was a very small chance that the company could experience a cataclysmic series of losses and go under. In the case of an insurer, to get a smaller chance of ruin there is a financial cost – increased reinsurance, lower risk tolerance (and smaller profit margins), or other tools.

    Bottom line is that few things in life are a 100% probability. I could flip a coin 100 times and it could come up heads all 100 times, but its a pretty small probability of that happening. Small, but not zero.

  30. MarkedMan says:

    @CSK:

    And in breaking news: Trump is postponing Putin’s visit to the U.S. till 2019. (Putin never accepted the invitation by the way.) Donny says he wants the “Russia witch hunt” to be over first.

    FWIW, It was reported earlier in the day that this postponement came from Putin’s team first. They suggested it might not be the best time to meet. Trump obeyed. Do you think he called up Putin’s assistant and begged to be let off the hook?

  31. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @MarkedMan:

    Do you think he called up Putin’s assistant and begged to be let off the hook?

    No…he texted Pooty-Poot, after being turned down;

    No worries…rain check?

    And then a bunch of emoji’s in failed attempt to show he is blasee about the relationship…….

  32. dmichael says:

    @Michael Reynolds: I love you, Michael but Trump did not deny knowing McDougal: there are pictures of them together. I agree with everything else you said.

  33. Kathy says:

    @SenyorDave:

    One of the major tools that 538 used was poll aggregation.

    There’s more. They also weigh the different polls, in part according to methodology, so a truer picture emerges.

    As to probability, it gets really hard to explain. I think to understand it one must be able to grasp it, and for some reason most people can’t. For example, if I say a video poker machine has a 100.76% player advantage with optimal strategy, most people think that’s only a small number not worth bothering with. Me, I think, “I can make real money off this machine.”

    In fact, I did 🙂 There was one such machine, full pay deuces wild game, at The D in Vegas, which I exploited with mere simple strategy, to the tune of + $600 over the course of two weeks. It was a nickel machine, meaning each play was just $0.25. A natural royal paid only $200.

  34. Kathy says:

    @MarkedMan:

    Do you think he called up Putin’s assistant and begged to be let off the hook?

    I think St. Vlad said “Denny, we can’t keep meeting like this. People are starting to talk.”

  35. SenyorDave says:

    @Kathy: I had a similar experience about 20 years ago at the Palace Station. They had a bank of machines that they advertised as paying off at 101.5%. The catch was that it was a nickel machine and you had to manually put in the nickels (this was just about when video poker was going to tickets instead of cash). I played for a few minutes but it really wasn’t very interesting (When I used to gamble I used to go to LV about once every three years and at that point I played mostly blackjack). I did speak to an older gentlemen , a local, who said he played a couple of hours once or twice a week. Made a few bucks, they comped him a buffet each time and it kept him out of trouble since he got in some no risk gambling.

    Funny thing as to how gambling and risk affects people differently. When I lived paycheck to paycheck I loved to gamble. The rush of winning a few hundred bucks was great, and I was able to put the losses out of my mind. Now that I am retired and financially comfortable I’ve almost completely stopped gambling. The relatively small loss of a few hundred dollars irritates me much more than when I had almost nothing, and I can’t win enough to ever make it very meaningful.

  36. Bill says:

    @Kathy:

    People don’t understand probabilities. A 15% chance of something happening is low, but not that low. In craps, for example, it’s a good enough place bet (but a terrible hop bet).

    A certain sign of the apocalypse. Kathy knows how to play craps. What is this world coming to?

  37. Joe says:

    As Michael Reynolds asks,

    One is left to wonder what sort of person worships a pathological liar.

    But as MBunge asks

    It’s not that people don’t know Trump lies, it’s why they don’t care.

    What surprises me is that Trump would continue to be concerned what Cohen could say or Trump could say on tape about other women or damn near anything else because Trump’s base is clearly driven by something other than his honesty or rectitude. I have a lot of guesses about what that is, and none of them are complimentary, but he is never going down over the body count of women he has slept with or sleazy associates he has.

  38. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:
  39. Kathy says:

    @SenyorDave:

    I had a similar experience about 20 years ago at the Palace Station. They had a bank of machines that they advertised as paying off at 101.5%. The catch was that it was a nickel machine and you had to manually put in the nickels (this was just about when video poker was going to tickets instead of cash). I played for a few minutes but it really wasn’t very interesting (When I used to gamble I used to go to LV about once every three years and at that point I played mostly blackjack).

    The one at The D was old, dating from the 80s, and nickels, too. But it had a bill acceptor and slot for a player card grafted on the side. So I could put in a $20 and play for several hours.

    Pays for a royal and four deuces, $200 and $125 respectively, were done by hand by an attendant. Anything else came in nickels from the slot. I ran out the nickels several times, cashing out $40 or $50, which required another attendant to bring in more.

    I’ve been to Vegas a number of times, but I don’t play Blackjack. I can’t grasp it. I see a poker hand and I know what I have. I see a BJ hand and I have to pull out a calculator and add it up. I play video poker, craps, and Pai Gow Poker. Sometimes I’ll play carnival games like let it die (let it ride??), 3-card poker, and I’m honor-bound to play high card flush when I find it, because a late acquaintance was involved in developing it, and his family still gets royalties from the hold.

    I like playing without worries, too. So I set a budget for losses for each visit, and stick to it. I tend to stick to games with a low edge, and I look for simple player advantage when I can, like good video poker (there is still some in existence Downtown). Real advantage play is work, and it’s debatable whether you can make a living off it. Those who say they can, for some strange reason wind up selling books about it, holding seminars on the means to do so, etc.

    In between trips, I play at free sites, no money involved, here and there online.

  40. de stijl says:

    @MBunge:

    If this Stormy Daniels/Karen McDougal stuff is just to try and personally hurt Trump by causing pain to his wife and their child, that’s vile but rational.

    Why is a contemporaneous recording of Trump talking about paying off a mistress “vile”? Any pain caused was because of Trump’s previous actions. Your implication is utterly wrong. His actions are the cause; *Trump* hurt his wife and child. Revealing that is neutral or a positive good. Would you react thus to proof of Clinton or Obama infidelity?

    He’s President – it’s legitimate news.

    13
  41. Lounsbury says:

    @James Pearce: So your mistake then is to double down on innumeracy – that is math illiteracy – rather than try to learn probabilities maths and not be quite so dim.

  42. de stijl says:

    If someone burglarizes me and I have proof and I report that crime, I don’t care if he / she has a spouse or kids. Totally not my business or concern.

    Melania and Barron are not going to be eating food-shelf canned lima beans in a homeless shelter.

  43. Kylopod says:

    @SenyorDave:

    I could flip a coin 100 times and it could come up heads all 100 times, but its a pretty small probability of that happening. Small, but not zero.

    Let’s just be clear–and I know you realize this–but events with 15% probability happen quite often: roughly 1 out of every 6 or 7 tries, slightly less likely than the chances of getting heads twice in a row, but more likely than getting heads three times in a row.

    Getting heads 100 times in a row by pure chance, on the other hand, is essentially a miracle. If I’m remembering how calculate the probability correctly, it would take 2 to the 100th power trials to become probable–more than the number of seconds that have elapsed since the Big Bang. Astronomically more.

    It’s true that from a mathematical perspective it has a nonzero probability, meaning it’s technically “possible.” But I really don’t wish to make that a point of comparison with Trump’s election, because it helps perpetuate the myth that Trump’s election was some vastly improbable event. It was certainly a bizarre event based on all the conventional thinking about how politics is supposed to work, but from the perspective of how he was doing in the polls, there was always a real, significant chance of him winning, even if not everyone saw it. But 538 always saw it, and they repeatedly cautioned readers against thinking Clinton had the election in the bag. They also were one of the earliest sites to notice that the Electoral College was skewed in his favor.

    10
  44. Kathy says:

    @Kylopod:

    But I really don’t wish to make that a point of comparison with Trump’s election, because it helps perpetuate the myth that Trump’s election was some vastly improbable event.

    Hear, hear.

    It’s like winning the lottery. Given one chance in many millions, the chances of any one person winning the jackpot is small. That’s not what El Cheeto of the Cheeseburger did.

    Given many millions of people playing millions of numbers, the chance that one of them will win the jackpot is very high (higher than 15%). That’s what a Clinton win would have been.

    But sometimes no one wins the jackpot, because not all the possible numbers get sold(*). That is what happened int he 2016 election, with Trump winning being equivalent to the jackpot going unclaimed (it’s certainly no jackpot for the world that El Cheeto won).

    (*) I read once that so many people play combinations like 1,2,3,4,5,6,7, that if it hit, the jackpot payouts after division would be paltry by most standards.

  45. de stijl says:

    … by causing pain to his wife and their child, that’s vile…

    #MeToo accusers always get this: You are ruining someone’s life by publicly alleging behavior that happened two weeks ago or two decades ago that is probably not directly provable. It’s “unfair” because the allegation is splashier than the rebuttal, apology, “explanation”.

    It’s a guilt / play – nice device to shield the powerful from the powerless.

    That is not the accuser’s concern. Professional and seasoned people will investigate and evaluate the accusation and decide to charge a criminal offense or not. What happens because of the accusation is not up to her (or him). Accusers are not cops or prosecutors. Accusers are not responsible for anything but making an accurate statement. Please, let’s stop making accusers responsible for criminal or professional damage to powerful men.

    The accuser owes nothing to the accused or his family – let alone obvious bull-shit coercion to not proceed because this would hurt a good, innocent family. Mbunge’s assertion is vile – Karen McDougal has a family and friends, too.

  46. Hal_10000 says:

    First, what kind of lawyer secretly tapes his client?

    The sort Donald Trump would hire.

    Regarding election projections and probabilities. You are right that an 85% chance doesn’t mean a guarantee. As Silver likes to note, if your 15% chance thing doesn’t actually happen 15% of the time, you’re doing your statistics wrong.

    I think the more interesting issue is that Silver gave Trump a puncher’s chance while everyone else was smugly saying Trump’s chances were 1% at most. I wrote before the election that I thought Silver was right about and the result was a huge vindication of his methods. He noted, correctly, that the polls were not nearly as certain as people assumed and the likelihood that they were all missing in the same direction — toward Trump — was not zero. Wang and his ilk has always assumed that polling errors are purely random while Silver has said that if Trump over-performs his polls in, say, Pennsylvania, he’s likely to do it in Michigan as well.

    The lesson is don’t take anything for granted. That Trump is trailing a hypothetical Democrat two years before the election means very little.

  47. de stijl says:

    Victim blaming never goes out of style, it just shifted from “she’s a slut who asked for it; she wore a knee-length skirt” to “she’s ruining a good man and and an innocent family with these sordid allegations”.

  48. de stijl says:

    @Hal_10000:

    I wrote in August 2015 that Trump would win the R nomination, and y’all thought I was crack-head.

  49. Kylopod says:

    @Hal_10000:

    I think the more interesting issue is that Silver gave Trump a puncher’s chance while everyone else was smugly saying Trump’s chances were 1% at most.

    Note that on the eve of the election, while Wang gave his now-infamous above-99% estimate of a Hillary victory, and HuffPost gave her about a 98%, NYT was at 87% and Silver at 71%. So NYT didn’t come off so bad. And Wang had a history of ridiculously overconfident estimates for candidates who went on to lose. In 2010 he gave a 99.997% chance (I kid you not) of Sharron Angle defeating Harry Reid, who went on to win by more than 5 points. Granted, the polls were wildly off in that race (Reid did about 8 points better than the RCP average), but the point is, polling misfires of that magnitude happen every now and then–certainly way more often than 1 out of every 10,000 elections–and a probability forecaster needs to take that fact into account. (Silver gave Angle about an 83% chance of victory.) I also found out recently that in 2004 Wang gave John Kerry a 98% chance of victory. I find that especially bizarre, since Kerry (unlike Hillary in 2016) was trailing in most of the polls taken before the election.

    The problem wasn’t all the probability forecasters besides 538, it was just the pundits in general, as well as the betting markets. Reports suggest that Trump himself was surprised when he won.

  50. James Pearce says:

    @Lounsbury:

    So your mistake then is to double down on innumeracy – that is math illiteracy – rather than try to learn probabilities maths and not be quite so dim.

    I’m fine letting you smart people aggregate the polls and figger all the probabilities, while I stand over here looking on somewhat amused. What are you looking for in those polls, augury or reassurance?

  51. PJ says:

    @Kylopod:

    Getting heads 100 times in a row by pure chance, on the other hand, is essentially a miracle. If I’m remembering how calculate the probability correctly, it would take 2 to the 100th power trials to become probable–more than the number of seconds that have elapsed since the Big Bang. Astronomically more.

    It’s 0.5^100, which is like… 7.888609e-31, or 0.0000000000000000000000000000007888609….

    That is if a fair coin is used that has the same probability for either heads or tails.

    Now, if the coin was made in Russia…

  52. MarkedMan says:

    @Hal_10000: As long as we are taking credit here: During the run up to November, I repeatedly pointed out that Clinton never polled above 50%, and when a racist runs against a decent human being, the undecideds usually fall to the racist. It’s one of the reasons I went out of my way to defend her (on legitimate grounds). Even OTB thread participants, who were anti-Trump as a whole, were buying the Hillary is a liar / b*tch / schemer / chameleon / worst human being that ever existed nonsense. I knew we were in trouble.

  53. MarkedMan says:

    Also in defense of Nate Silver and FiveThirtyEight: in the previous election (pre-538?) he called 50 out of 50 states. But he wrote a column about how that made him concerned about his models. Based on his methodology he should have gotten at least 5 or 6 wrong, and he couldn’t understand why that didn’t happen.

  54. Michael Reynolds says:

    @dmichael:
    You are absolutely correct. He denied the payoff. I should know better than to trust my memory.

  55. Hal_10000 says:

    @MarkedMan:

    Yep. That was one of things I noted in my post. A lot of undecideds were out there and third party voters who weren’t actually going to vote third party. And with Clinton not breaking 50%, it seemed rife for an upset.

    In the end, she polled very close to her national polls and basically what she’d bene polling all year, give or take: +2%. But electoral college gonna electoral college.

  56. de stijl says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    You were the only one here who said “I think he might very well be correct.” You got that it was about this new raw psychology of today’s R base that differed markedly from past cohorts.

    And guess what?, Trump was well ahead in the polls in August 2015 and no one believed it as really true and certainly not sustainable. Someone here with OP rights asserted that since more folks polled picked a non-Trump R candidate, Trump wasn’t *really* leading the polls. I believe the article was titled something like 78% > 22%. Really, that was the argument.

  57. MarkedMan says:

    The saddest thing about all this is to realize how many Americans are amoral quislings. I should have realized that, when their parents attended lynchings with their whole family and a picnic lunch, it was unlikely that they had would accept American ideals at any kind of a deep level when they grew up. When W came along they embraced torture in a heartbeat, and when Trump followed with racism, xenophobia, and sexual harassment they signed right up.

    I check 538 pretty much every day and the percentage of people who are amoral scumbags (Trump supporters) hardly moves off the 41% needle. That’s the percentage of Americans that would show up at a lynching with a picnic basket. And sell their country to trash like Trump.

  58. Kylopod says:

    @MarkedMan:

    As long as we are taking credit here

    I’ll take both credit and blame. First, my confession: Trump’s nomination totally caught me off guard. I simply didn’t believe it was going to happen, even as he kept dominating the polls throughout 2015.

    Once it became clear he was headed toward the nomination, however, I knew there was at least an outside chance he’d win the general election. I didn’t think it was the likeliest outcome, but I thought it was possible. I knew Hillary wasn’t going to win in a landslide, and that the race would remain relatively competitive. In particular, I thought a lot of people here (and a lot of Democrats elsewhere) were putting too much faith in the quirks of the Electoral College. There was this idea floating around that Democrats had the edge in the EC. It was expressed in detail in an uncomprehending column by Chris Cilizza in early 2016. A lot of liberals hate Cilizza, but this particular column was widely quoted across the liberal blogosphere to prove Democrats’ near electoral invincibility. Its basic premise was that from 1992 to 2012, if you took all the states Dems had won in those elections and added Florida, it resulted in an EC majority. Therefore, Cilizza argued, the Dems had a much easier path to winning the EC than the Republicans.

    The problem with Cilizza’s argument was that he was considering the EC in isolation, and not in relation to the popular vote. Dems won the popular vote in all but one of those elections, so it’s hardly surprising they also enjoyed impressive electoral numbers. Dems certainly appear to have a popular vote advantage in recent elections, which has usually translated to electoral victories. But that doesn’t imply they have an EC advantage, and in point of fact, they don’t. By the summer of 2016, 538 was already reporting that the chances of Trump winning the EC while losing the popular vote, while small, were substantially higher than the other way around. When I mentioned that here, I received 9 downvotes, a record for me.

    I still didn’t think Trump was likely to win. I initially pooh-poohed Michael Moore’s prediction in the early summer that Trump would win by dominating the Rust Belt. (Part of my reaction had to do with my feelings about Moore, who has always been something of an attention-seeking contrarian who likes to engage in left-wing doomsaying–he was also predicting Romney would win in 2012.) But I knew Clinton’s position was precarious, and my regular reading of 538 increased this feeling. I was skeptical of the hype that Trump was doing unusually well among white working-class voters, and I thought there’d be better-than-expected turnout from minorities to offset this supposed effect. But as the election got nearer, my confidence was waning. Six days before the election, over at Jonathan Bernstein’s blog, while responding to a HuffPost article claiming that Hillary had the election in the bag, I outlined a scenario for a possible Trump victory that ended up being strikingly accurate in its details:

    The HuffPost article arguing that Dems shouldn’t panic uses a fallacy that you, JB, have dealt with before, and which Nate Silver has been pushing back against for months: the notion that Dems have an “electoral college advantage.”

    This isn’t even remotely true. In fact, the situation is the opposite: Trump has a massive advantage in the electoral college…. If she wins the popular vote by a significant amount, she will almost certainly win the EC vote. But if she wins it only very narrowly, then there’s a very real possibility she’ll lose the EC…. If her popular vote lead shrinks to less than 1% or disappears entirely (or, alternately, if the polls are off and she already is in that range), then a lot of those supposedly “safe” states like Penn., Wisconsin, NH, Michigan, etc. will rapidly become a lot less safe.

    Notice I happened to name the exact three states that ended up putting Trump over the top–PA, WI, and MI–except for some reason I added NH (which ended up going to Clinton by a hair). I also implied she’d be in big danger of losing those states even if she maintained a narrow popular-vote lead (though I underestimated just how large a gap there might be between the popular and EC results).

    What was driving my thinking was my belief that Dems were being way too complacent about states up north that they were used to winning but which there was no real reason to think they had a lock on. For instance, while it’s true that Trump was the first Republican to win Wisconsin since Reagan’s 1984 landslide, Dubya twice came within half of a percentage point of winning it. Obama won it overwhelmingly in 2008, but his lead was cut in half four years later, as his national lead decreased (and it might also have been affected by Ryan on the GOP ticket). People were making the mistake of considering the length of time in which Dems had just made it past the finish line in those states, instead of considering the margins, which were not consistently overwhelming. In any event, history suggests that states are safely blue or safely red until the moment they aren’t.

  59. de stijl says:

    Today I just bought a crappy, project house in a great location – two blocks to the beach, a block and half to city hall, massive water views.

    In SF this is a $10 mill house just on location and view. But Duluth is not SF.

    It’s legally habitable per city code. I will spend twice or thrice this by next year what I spent today to make it cool. I will likely live in a residential suites motel for months.

    I’m now a contractor’s fool bitch.

    My God, what have I done?

  60. MarkedMan says:

    @Kylopod: That was some insightful prognostication. As for me, in the early primaries I thought Trump’s natural limit was somewhere around 22-26% and once enough candidates had dropped out the majority of Republican voters would fall in behind a consensus candidate. But once it became apparent that Trump was going to win the primary it hit me hard that while in general 22-26% was the percentage of people who would support anything or anyone, the percentage of Republicans who would support someone like Trump was so much higher. For decades the Republicans have been hanging out the “Racists Welcome” sign, and it went from tolerating fantasists and science deniers to mandating it as a condition of entry. I knew the Republican Party was deeply disfunctional but hadn’t accepted the depths of depravity it had reached. The gleeful and proud embrace of torture should have made it obvious.

  61. Kylopod says:

    @MarkedMan:

    I thought Trump’s natural limit was somewhere around 22-26% and once enough candidates had dropped out the majority of Republican voters would fall in behind a consensus candidate.

    That was roughly my thinking as well. First, I couldn’t believe Trump was for real. I was sure it was a publicity stunt and that he didn’t really want the nomination. But even as the race went on and it became increasingly clear he had taken the steps of building a real campaign, I thought his domination of the polls would resemble the bubbles we saw throughout the 2012 cycle, where a series of insurgent candidates had all enjoyed a period at the top of the polls before eventually collapsing. The list had included (in reverse order), Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Herman Cain, Rick Perry, Michelle Bachmann…and, um, Donald Trump.

    It amazes me how Trump’s early-2011 flirtation with a presidential run has been forgotten. He never officially entered the race, but for a period of about three months (February through April), he was leading the field according to several polls. Then a few crucial events happened in rapid succession: (1) the release of Obama’s long-form birth certificate (2) the White House Correspondents’ Dinner in which Obama and Seth Meyers literally made fun of Trump to his face (3) the killing of Osama Bin Laden.

    Very suddenly, Trump’s poll numbers collapsed. He dropped nearly 20 points, from first to fifth place. PPP called it “one of the quickest rises and falls in the history of presidential politics.” Just a few days later, Trump announced he wasn’t running.

    There’s a good chance that if Trump had experienced a similar collapse in his poll numbers in the 2016 cycle, he’d have dropped out of the race. He actually admitted just that in an interview with Chuck Todd in 2015. There’s no question that he pays close attention to his poll numbers. But in the 2016 cycle, unlike the one before, his poll numbers proved remarkably resilient, invigorating him to stick around. Still, I assumed that as primary season grew nearer, the GOP establishment would eventually settle around a candidate, whether it be Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Scott Walker, Chris Christie, or whomever, and then that candidate would serve basically the Romney role–he’d be the candidate who wouldn’t excite the base, but when it came down to him vs. Trump, he would consolidate the vote of Republicans who didn’t want Trump.

    The notion that Trump won the nomination because that’s who GOP voters wanted is not borne out by the facts. In mid-Feb. 2016 there was an interesting poll revealing that when GOP voters were asked to choose between Trump and Rubio, or between Trump and Cruz, either Rubio or Cruz beat Trump by double digits.

    https://www.nbcnews.com/meet-the-press/surprise-trump-falls-behind-cruz-national-nbc-wsj-poll-n520296

    In other words, when Trump was placed against non-Trump, GOP voters overwhelmingly preferred non-Trump. But because non-Trump was divided among several candidates, Trump held a seemingly impenetrable lead.

    One of the factors helping Trump was a feature that, ironically, GOP elites had strengthened in order to avoid the nomination of a weird candidate: GOP contests tended to be winner-take-all. So for example when Trump won his 33% plurality of the vote in South Carolina, he was awarded 100% of SC’s delegates. In point of fact, Trump didn’t receive an absolute majority of the vote in any state for the first two-and-a-half months of the primaries–which is extraordinarily unusual for an eventual nominee. He broke that pattern when he won a solid majority in the New York primary on Apr. 19th. Then he quickly began winning real majorities elsewhere. But I would caution against assuming that this proved he was the preferred choice of GOP voters even in those late states. It just happened that his victory in NY coincided with the exact moment in which Ted Cruz became mathematically eliminated from winning the nomination without a contested (or “brokered”) convention. (His other remaining rival, John Kasich, had been eliminated weeks earlier.) The prospect of a contested convention received a lot of press, and polls indicated that Republican voters overwhelmingly didn’t like the idea, no matter which candidate they preferred. So it’s likely that the reason Trump was enjoying solid majorities at that point wasn’t because GOP voters had developed a sudden affection for him–it was because they were basically saying “uncle” and accepting him rather than bring on the mess of a contested convention.

    Trump benefited enormously from facing a large and divided field, in which his rivals just sort of canceled each other out. This of course raises the question of whether Dems are headed toward a similar clusterf*ck, given the large number of people who have expressed interest in running in 2020, and the lack of a clear frontrunner. But there’s an important difference: Democratic primaries, unlike GOP ones, tend to award delegates proportionally. A candidate who wins 33% in a state will get, say, about 33% of the delegates. The flip side is that this increases the chances of a contested convention (especially now that the Dems have cut back on the superdelegates). But the prospect of some weird celeb winning the Democratic primaries the way Trump did for the GOP would seem to be forestalled by the Democratic primary rules.

  62. Michael Reynolds says:

    @de stijl:
    Been there. It’s easy, really. Whatever date the contractor gives you, add a year. Whatever the estimate is, double it. Then, clean out your bong and settle in because you’ll need to go very Zen.

  63. Lounsbury says:

    @James Pearce:
    Neither although your question shows your mathematical illiteracy and the reason you are unable to understand the subject at hand

    The polling and chances analysis of the 538 type provide clear insight into the evolving position and chances. The last month of the 538 analysis showed clearly that Mrs Clinton had a real and significant chance of losing – if you have the numeracy to understand. An essentially 1/3 chance of losing was significant and non trivial – as well as accurate as the final counts showed indeed but for some hundreds of votes in certain districts swinging (by voters showing up or not or a minor swing in voting decision). The numbers when said this clearly.

    The evolution and trend also spoke volumes. I know I went to bed on this side of the Atlantic with a gut feeling things were on a knife edge and had a terrible nightmare of Trump in the lead – based on those analyses. It was most unpleasant to read the AM news and find you lot had done what you done.

    It is simply scientific illiteracy that you fail to grasp what the numbers mean, it is not the fault of a 538 or the polls (when read with their margins of error).

    Your illiteracy is not their fault. Your insistance on your illiteracy is most certainly not their fault.

    And I see Kylopod has made the point with contemporaneous reading and commenting from 2016 – this simply highlights your problem is your innumeracy (of course widely shared with other innumerates), not the numbers / polls.

  64. al Ameda says:

    Generally I think disclosure of these (sex payoff) tapes have a few modestly worthwhile public service purposes:

    (1) Republicans have only 2 responses ‘but it was consensual’ and
    ‘unimportant, distracts us from all the good the president is doing … blah blah blah’
    (2) conservative Christians have no response,
    (3) it angers Trump,
    (4) it causes Melania to re-review her NDA, and
    (5) it causes Rudy Giuliani to revise his earlier lies on this subject.

    Don’t get me wrong, I hope it leads to more serious legal consequences for Trump, but this changes nothing among Republicans. They’re going to stay in their bunkers and hope that the 2018 elections are not too damaging to their complete control of the federal government,

  65. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl: Meh… The first comment though… (the one about “mixed up their hands”)

  66. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @de stijl: You’ve purchased a home (at an undermarket price, I assume) that will, hopefully, allow you to live in a mode that will give you peace and contentment far beyond the nuisance cost you will experience. Be happy; this is what disposable income is for.

  67. James Pearce says:

    @Lounsbury:

    It is simply scientific illiteracy that you fail to grasp what the numbers mean, it is not the fault of a 538 or the polls

    No, it’s just apathy. Thanks for your concern over my “illiteracy” though.

    1
    3
  68. de stijl says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    I squatted for almost a year when I was 18/19, and I didn’t own the deed then and had to corral and cajole a bucket of dumb-ass punk rock idjits to do basic keep-us-viable crap and be cool- like if you can afford water buy water before booze and speed and cigs.

    I can do this easy. No idjits this time except me. 😉

    The key is water – makes life so such easier and running water is weirdly civilizing. Being able to flush a toilet or fill a pitcher with the push of a handle is intoxicating and to actually bathe rather than lather up in front of a bucket is very cool. Hot water makes it 127x better – not % but x. Electricity is awesome – that light switch is an under-appreciated wonder. A way to easily prepare hot food is really a godsend. Heat, while fantastic, is not essential if you’re geared correctly and make a small enclosed bed space if you have a halfway decent sleeping bag – body heat and expiration do most of the work. Also, cold chases bugs away.

    I can easily live in shitty enclosed spaces. With cold water, you can survive; if I have hot running water and electricity, I’m aces. Working furnace and I’m aces+. All that plus mod cons, and walkable grub a local pub or four (already sussed it out) I’m top of the world. Don’t smoke weed, myself, but I imagine I can manage to rustle up a shroom connection. I do need zen, harmony, and balance.

    Every Fortune 500 Project Manager should spend one cycle October 1 through May 1 homeless in a northern town. You can’t assign excess resources until you’ve ensured your team won’t die tonight from exposure or thirst – I once weighed 122 pounds at age 19. Do have any concept of what eating meat feels like when you’ve had none for weeks? You swoon. It’s quite like smoking heroin. Intensely overwhelmingly pleasurable.

    Alright, that got very dark and real at the end. And I was going for jaunty insouciance. But I won’t delete because it’s true.

    I’m no longer homeless and will never be again, but some part of me expects it will happen again when I next wake and I won’t be prepared.

  69. Mikey says:

    @de stijl:

    The key is water – makes life so such easier and running water is weirdly civilizing. Being able to flush a toilet or fill a pitcher with the push of a handle is intoxicating and to actually bathe rather than lather up in front of a bucket is very cool.

    I was never a squatting crust-punk but during my military days I went some months washing from a bucket and crapping in a hole in the ground. The first hot shower I got after that was better than the best sex I’ve ever had.

    Well, maybe. But it was still damn good. The shower, I mean.

  70. MarkedMan says:

    @Kylopod: As long as we are admitting to bad predictions about Trump, I was certain he would drop out before the primary was over if he was in danger of winning. I knew about his background with the money laundering, the Russian mob, the fact that his companies were mostly phony and that the only thing he really made money from was licensing his name to help shysters recruit suckers. There was no way that stack of tin cans was going to survive the inspection that comes from a presidential run. Even Donald J Trump could not be that stupid, right? Man, I was wrong about that. It will be astounding if he and more than half his family and associates will have escaped jail 10 years from now.

  71. CSK says:

    @MarkedMan:

    I don’t think Trump believed he’d win any more than most of us did. I think he expected to lose, become the de facto head of the Republican/Opposition Party, roam around the country giving speeches for a million a pop, hold rallies for the faithful, and, most of all, give his brand a giant boost. Given that scenario, he probably correctly surmised that no one would bother to investigate either his campaign, his finances, or his ties to the Russian mob.

  72. Kylopod says:

    @MarkedMan: @CSK: My feeling that he didn’t want the nomination had to do with just the overall way he behaved. I’ve mentioned this before, but in 2008 there was a weird candidate named Mike Gravel who ran unsuccessfully for both the Democratic and Libertarian Party nominations. At one point in an interview with some online magazine, he declared that if elected president–and this is an exact quote–“I will bring peace between the Israelis and Palestinians and thereby diffuse the entire confrontation between the Islamic world and the West.”

    At the time, my thought was that this was exactly the sort of remark you’d expect from a candidate who had the comfort of knowing he’d never be elected. He could say whatever the hell he wanted. He could claim he’d unmelt the polar ice caps and it wouldn’t matter, because he’d know no one would ever get the chance to hold him to his promise.

    The problem was, this was exactly the way Donald Trump talked. In 2013 he said, “I don’t think I’d be cutting Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid. I think what I’d do is make the country so rich, you wouldn’t have to bother.” Then there was his statement about building a wall that Mexico would pay for. And his statement that he’d win 95% of the African American vote.

    This is one of the most baffling things about Trump–he has a habit of making the most outlandish predictions that even he must know will never happen, without showing the slightest fear he’ll one day have to eat crow. It’s one thing to hear this kind of bombastic talk from some reality-TV personality where there are basically no negative consequences to acting like a deranged jackass. It’s quite another when you’re seeking a job where people are, to some degree, judged on how much they live up to their promises. It was like watching someone who’s never walked a tightrope in his life eagerly rush out onto one with no net. Trump talks as though can just spout the most transparently unconvincing bullshit and it will never come back to haunt him.

    I really don’t think Trump’s so-called “norm-busting” is part of some grand design. It’s just that there are a whole set of expectations about how a candidate–and president–is supposed to act, what he’s supposed to say and not to say, when the consequences of violating these norms have never been truly established up to now. It’s just that no one had ever bothered testing them. Trump did, not because he was trying to but simply because they reflect boundaries he’s completely oblivious to because they’ve been completely irrelevant to him in the past. In effect, though, his rise comes off like some kind of social experiment to see how far a politician can stray outside of what we used to think of as civilized behavior and get away with it. It’s an experiment that fascinates people who have no great stake in the level of damage it is causing.

  73. gVOR08 says:

    @CSK: I forget which of them, probably Flynn or Manafort, was setting out to take a legally questionable meeting shortly before the election. When this was questioned by another staffer, the guy replied, ‘Won’t matter after we lose.’ You could see it in their body language the first week of Nov, they did not look like people who thought they were winning.

  74. de stijl says:

    @Mikey:

    I apologize because my first unvoiced reaction was to go aggro “I was *not* a crustie! I had a day job! I washed up daily, I brushed my teeth, I used deodorant, etc, etc. Grr argh!”

    That was a stupid reaction, prideful and just useless. Beside, you were right. I was crustie adjacent.

    I then spent hours and hours writing things and then deleting these howling hailstorms of grief and love and shame so I will shut up. Some things are just not cool and will never be cool even 35 years later.

  75. CSK says:

    @Kylopod:

    No, I don’t think Trump’s violation of civilized boundaries was part of some grand design, either, mostly because he’s a creature of appetite and impulse who’s incapable of coming up with any kind of long-term strategy. It was his luck that his swinishness and gleeful ignorance tapped directly into some dark vein in the human psyche.

    @gVOR08:

    Thank you. That just proves my point. They didn’t intend to win, and they didn’t expect to win, so they never thought they’d be held to account for anything they did.

  76. HarvardLaw92 says:

    FYI – The Trump Org’s CFO, Allen Weisselberg, has been subpoenaed to testify in the Michael Cohen investigation.

    For Trump, that has to be the nightmare scenario. What dirt Cohen doesn’t know, Weisselberg does. All of it …

  77. CSK says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    Yep, I saw that. And Mueller is also going after Trump’s Tweets as potential evidence of attempts to obstruct justice.

  78. Mikey says:

    CNN is reporting Cohen said Trump knew in advance of the 2016 Trump Tower meeting. Cohen is prepared to state this to Robert Mueller.

    Can you spell “collusion?” I knew you could!

  79. Mikey says: