Good morning. Here’s your Early Warning for Thursday, 15 November 2018.
InFocus: Yesterday, I referenced Sen. Chris McDaniel, who is a Mississippi state senator and not a U.S. Senator. But speaking of real senators, Chuck Grassley (R-IA) may be stepping down from his Judiciary Committee chairman post, paving the way for Lindsey Graham (R-SC) to step into that role. That’s a huge step for the GOP’s fight against Democrats, because Graham has expressed willingness to re-open the investigation into Hillary Clinton, adding that he’d also investigate potential fraud and illegal activities surrounding the FBI’s probe into Trump campaign officials. This afternoon, President Trump is scheduled to meet with Senate Republican leadership, and the GOP response to 85-100 Democratic House investigations could be formulated. In a Hannity/Fox News interview last night, Sen. Graham warned, “If you want to look forward [in 2019], I’ll look forward. If you want to look back, we’re going to all look back to everything and everybody, not just Trump.” [source] It’s yet another reason why 2019 is shaping up to be an ugly, brutal year.
Following up in the races in Georgia and Florida, Democrats are already casting doubt on the legitimacy of those statewide races. Brian Kemp appears ready to win the Georgia governor’s race, and several prominent Democrats have accused Kemp of stealing that election. Speaking to the National Action Network, founded by Jesse Jackson and who’s slogan is “No Justice, No Peace,” Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) accused Republicans of stealing the election: “If Stacey Abrams doesn’t win in Georgia, they stole it. It’s clear. It’s clear. I say that publicly. It’s clear.” [source] Senator and 2020 presidential hopeful Cory Booker (D-NJ) piled on, too, accusing the election of being stolen by Republicans.
Meanwhile in Florida, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) has accused Democrats of trying to steal the election of Rick Scott. Since voting and initial counting ended, Broward County election officials have been able to find at least 85,000 (and possibly more) votes in some odd places. (The Florida Attorney General’s office has opened an investigation into numerous violations of state voting laws in Broward County.) It appears that Republican Rick Scott is poised to win the battle for his Senate seat, and Republican Ron DeSantis is already setting up his transition team in expectation of being certified as the next Florida governor. (The official re-count has a scheduled 3pm EST deadline, although a federal judge ruled this morning that 4,000 voters have until Saturday to correct the ballot signatures that don’t match the signatures on voter registration forms.)
Theft of an election is a serious threat the country’s social and political stability, which is under some duress. Political pundits point to repeated accusations of election theft as being dangerous and destructive for the country. What’s actually dangerous and destructive for the country are the illegal activities aimed at stealing elections. A build up of political resentment with no redress can be used to rationalize political violence. Without addressing the partisanship of election officials, the 2020 election runs the risk of both real and perceived election interference, which will cause further resentment and could lead to political violence.
The President is scheduled to meet with Marines, deliver remarks on the administration’s support for veterans, and meet with Senate Republican leadership.
Caravan Watch: During his survey of troops at the border yesterday, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said he doesn’t expect military members coming into contact with migrants at the border. He also told troops to ignore what the media reports. Thousands more migrants, up to 8,000-10,000, are expected to funnel in during the next several days and weeks.
Secretary Pompeo is scheduled to meet with Mexico’s Foreign Secretary-Designate. (The new Mexican president and his staff will assume their positions in December. Vice President Pence is scheduled to be in attendance for the ceremony.)
Defense Secretary Mattis is traveling to survey the U.S.-Mexico border
These are the last publicly reported locations of these ships. Conflict requiring an aircraft carrier/carrier strike group does not appear imminent.
The Carl Vinson (CVN-70) was last reported as taking part in a sustainment exercise off the coast of southern California.
The Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) was last reported as being in port at Norfolk, but will be transitioning to a new home port in San Diego.
The John Stennis (CVN-74) was last reported as being underway in the eastern Pacific as it begins its shift to a new homeport in Norfolk.
The Harry Truman (CVN-75) was last reported as being off the coast of Portugal.
The Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) was last reported as being in the Philippine Sea.
The George H. W. Bush (CVN-77) was last reported as having returned to port in Norfolk.
* Indicates significant changes to last reported location or other amplifying information.
Significant House Activity:
- Nothing significant to report.
Significant Senate Activity:
- The Senate Armed Services Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on the “findings and recommendations of the Commission on the National Defense Strategy”.
* Only events pertinent to national security are listed. Significant reporting will appear in this week’s Strategic and National Intelligence reports.
Home buying continues to trend down as mortgage applications have fallen to 220,000 from 260,000 earlier this year. Both existing home sales and mortgage demand are falling. Of home builders, 23 percent are now reporting month-over-month price decreases for October (as compared to September) so they can move inventory. That number is up from nearly 15 percent in September, 10 percent in August, and three percent in July. Some economists say that the stock market measures the financial health of the economy and home sales measure the financial health of the people. Whether or not that’s true, the combination of declining home sales, mortgage applications, and overall traffic viewing new homes suggests a slow down in the housing market, which does not bode well for short term economic growth.
Earlier this week, I mentioned contraction in the Japanese and German economies, which is alarming but may be temporary. Looking at Moody’s data this morning, government debt in developed economies (as a percentage of gross domestic product) has increased by 50 percent since just before the last financial crisis and global recession. In Q12007, government debt represented 72 percent of total GDP, compared to nearly 110 percent of GDP in Q12018. The headlines are true: NO ONE HAS LEARNED THE LESSONS OF 2008.
HurricaneWatch: The National Hurricane Center reports no cyclonic activity in the Atlantic Ocean. About 15 days remain in “hurricane season,” which ends on 30 November. [source]
What I’m Looking at this Morning
“You still see solid growth, but you see growing signs of a bit of a slowdown. And it is concerning.” – Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell