Archive for the 'Donald Trump' Category


Former White House Coms Director predicts Trump will quit WH2020 race by March

Monday, August 19th, 2019

Could it be that the President won’t be the nominee?

Over the weekend I’ve placed of bets at effectively about 10/1 that Trump will not be the Republican nominee at WH2020. I’ve done this by laying Trump on the Betfair 2020 nominee market. This has been prompted by two developments.

First there have been the public comments of former White House Coms Director, Anthony Scaramucci, who has been infuriating Trump over the last few days with a series of TV interviews. These have been widely covered. In response the President is pointing out that Scaramucci only served at the White House for 11 days before he got fired and knows, in the President’s word, nothing about what’s going on.

Scaramucci’s actual comment in an interview that is relevant to my bet is this:

“He’s gonna drop out of the race because it’s gonna become very clear. Okay, it’ll be March of 2020. He’ll likely drop out by March of 2020. It’s gonna become very clear that it’s impossible for him to win.

He’s got the self-worth in terms of his self-esteem of a small pigeon. It’s a very small pigeon. Okay,” Scaramucci continued about Trump. “And so you think this guy’s gonna look at those poll numbers and say — he’s not gonna be able to handle that humiliation.”

Scaramucci is basically saying that his reading of Trump is that such polling might lead to Trump not wanting to go  forward. The prospect of defeat is something that he would be unable to cope with.

This was followed by new polling from Fox News showing just that. It suggested that Trump was someway behind each of the leading contenders. These had Biden leading him by 11, Sanders by 9, Warren by 7 and Harris by 6.

My bet is simply that Trump has less than a 90% chance of being the nominee.

Mike Smithson



Trump and the inverted yield curve

Friday, August 16th, 2019

2 to 10 year yield spread

President Trump would seem to have an advantage over whoever the Democrats select as his 2020 challenger: since the Second World War, nine elected presidents have sought a second term, and seven of them succeeded.

The two exceptions were Jimmy Carter in 1980, and George H. W. Bush in 1992. In both cases, the US economy was performing badly in the lead-up to the election. US voters seem to be indulgent towards their incumbent presidents, but less so if jobs are being lost. In 1980, the Ronald Reagan was able to attack Carter with a memorable line: “A recession is when your neighbor loses his job. A depression is when you lose yours. And recovery is when Jimmy Carter loses his”. In 1992, Bill Clinton’s campaign was similarly focused on the recession then affecting the USA: “It’s the economy, stupid”.

As Trump is fond of telling us, so far the US economy has been doing well under his watch. Unemployment is historically low, and consumer spending has held up well. The long recovery and bull market which followed the 2008/9 financial crisis have continued into his term, boosted by historically low interest rates, tax cuts, and Trump’s sensible decision to make it more attractive for US companies to repatriate foreign profits.

But there is a warning sign flashing a very strong danger signal for the US economy. The graph shows the difference between the interest rates on ten-year and two-year Treasury bonds. Usually this is positive – you get more interest for locking your money away for a long period, but it has just gone negative. Historically this ‘inversion of the yield curve’ has been a very good indicator of impending recession: not only has it preceded all economic downturns since WWII, but also it hasn’t given any false signals, as can be seen on the graph above where recessions are shaded in grey.

What should worry Trump most is that in each case there has been a lag, of around 6 to 18 months, between the curve inverting and the US economy entering recession. If that correlation holds, voters could be casting their votes just as the economy worsens considerably. Given Trump’s dependence on support from blue-collar workers in the central industrial belt, that could cost him his second term.

Of course there is one easy thing he could do to help avoid this. Economists don’t know much, but they do know one big thing: there are no winners in trade wars, only losers. If Trump wants to be re-elected in 2020, he’d better get on the phone to President Li and do a deal to cancel the spiral of competitive tariffs which China and the US are imposing on each other, and which is damaging both economies.

The Democrats should also heed a lesson from history, and especially from Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign. You don’t win elections by playing to your base and calling your would-be swing voters stupid or racist. You win elections by winning the argument on the economy, jobs, and health-care.

I don’t expect either side will take my advice, though!

Richard Nabavi


Is Trump really just a 17% chance to be impeached?

Thursday, August 8th, 2019

Graphic – Recent YouGov polling on impeaching Trump

Impeachment is a legal procedure, with an indictment delivered by the House and a trial conducted by the Senate. But, assuming that there is a plausible yet arguable case for it, the procedure naturally resolves itself into a political process like any other.

To recap, impeachment is defined as the House passing one or more articles of impeachment, by a simple majority vote. The House has 435 voting members, of which 235 are Democrats. A strict party-line vote on impeachment would therefore pass. Any such articles of impeachment are likely to originate from the House Judiciary Committee, chaired by Democratic Congressman Jerry Nadler, and it is worth noting that the Committee is edging towards possibly recommending such articles this autumn:

Once a President is impeached, the trial by the Senate – with the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court presiding – requires a two-thirds majority for his conviction, and automatic removal from office. This is exceptionally unlikely given that 53 of the 100 Senators are Republicans, though, as with Nixon, it is possible that the mood of the Senate could change in light of any new information. But, for the purposes of this article, let us assume that Donald Trump’s impeachment would largely be “for show”, much like Bill Clinton’s.

The experience of the Clinton impeachment – an apparent electoral backlash against the Republicans for pursuing it – is one of the main reasons that the Democratic leadership (mostly in the form of Nancy Pelosi) has been keen to downplay the possibility. A second reason is to protect her members that represent swing districts [who, after all, are the ones who make up the majority]. Only one Democratic Congressman from a district won by Trump has come out for impeachment so far. Moderate (i.e. swing) voters are slightly against impeachment at present,  in line with the country as a whole.

At this juncture, it is worth noting that there may also be tactical arguments for impeachment. Not impeaching Trump could allow him to run in 2020 using lines such as: “Mueller cleared me, and the tragic Democrats didn’t even dare to impeach. NO COLLUSION!!!” But I think it is fair to say that the main motivation for impeaching Trump is simply the Democrats’ belief that he did indeed commit “high crimes and misdemeanors” – and, even worse, they might have allowed him to win the 2016 election.

Increasing Democratic internal pressure

Nancy Pelosi may not be able to withstand the pressure from within the Democratic Party for impeachment for much longer. In the wake of Robert Mueller’s testimony to Congress, in which he all but made clear that he would have recommended prosecution of Donald Trump, were he not the President, a procession of House Democrats went public with their desire to see a formal impeachment inquiry begin. The psychological barrier of 118 – “a majority of the majority” – has been breached. And that number can only realistically climb: this is a one-way ratchet, with every new tweet from Trump potentially converting more Democrats to the cause.

There is also electoral pressure on House Democrats to come out for impeachment in the shape of Congressional primaries: if you represent a very liberal district (just as Pelosi does) your primary electorate are likely to be highly pro-impeachment (perhaps 70%+), so you would need to be pretty sure of your personal appeal to go against that. It is for the same reason that the majority of the Democratic Presidential candidates have recommended impeachment – though none of the serious contenders want to focus on it. Such cues add further to the pressure on Pelosi.

5.7 – a good value bet

Turning to the betting, Republican (but anti-Trump) commentator Bill Kristol certainly noticed the stream of House Democrats:

It was this tweet – and notably his 50-50 prediction – that prompted me to check up on the Betfair market on impeachment, where you can still back impeachment at 5.7 (17.5%). In the interests of disclosure I should say that I already had a substantial pro-impeachment position with Betfair Sportsbook, which I had partially laid off on the Exchange. In the light of the developments I have chronicled above, I reversed my Exchange position so that I am currently very substantially pro-impeachment. It may not (yet) be 50-50, but I think it is more like 40-60 or so.

Finally, it is also always worth comparing US Betfair markets with their PredictIt equivalent. PredictIt is an academic research project that has a derogation to allow US “punters” to play, similarly to the Iowa Electronic Markets. However, there are two key limitations per market that may affect the pricing – each customer is limited to a $850 liability, and each market is limited to 5,000 customers. Bearing these caveats in mind, it’s still notable that the PredictIt impeachment market is currently at 26%, markedly higher than Betfair.

There are sound political reasons why the Democrats should not impeach Donald Trump. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be able to stop themselves. I think the 5.7 is an excellent value bet.

Tissue Price


What does the UK’s next PM have to say about Trump’s latest racist Tweets?

Monday, July 15th, 2019

No doubt he’ll be pressed at his first PMQs

One of the current big political issues in Washington at the moment is a series of Trump Tweets yesterday attacking elected female Democratic members of Congress for their criticism of him particularly over the regime he’s imposed on immigrants in border camps.

The Tweets above are part of his response and are probably the most overtly racist public comments that he’s made. The fact that his focus is on elected prominent female members of the House of Representatives has made the matter more explosive. They have the same democratic legitimacy as he does.

If Boris, as the Times is reporting, is planning an early visit to the US  capital then he’s likely to be pressed both before he goes and while he’s there on these comments as well as similar attacks of Sadiq Khan, his successor as Mayor of London. Where does Boris stand and will he raise it if he gets a meeting.

Clearly if Brexit goes ahead as planned, and that’s still very dependent on the parliamentary numbers, then the UK will need a trading relationship with the US and will be very much the supplicant.

Mike Smithson


Might Trump be impeached after leaving office?

Thursday, July 11th, 2019

Losing in 2020 might just be the start of the game

Obscure corners of the US constitution were made for delving into, particularly when they interact with a scenario which is not wholly implausible: in this case, a post-presidency impeachment.

“Hang on”, you might say; “doesn’t impeachment, if successfully carried, involve the loss of office? In which case it would be pointless for someone who’s already gone?”.

Yes, it does – but that’s not all it does, which is what might become key here.

Before turning our attention to the constitution, let’s think about one key assertion that Trump has made: that he has the power to pardon himself of federal crimes. As the constitution is written, he’s technically right. There is only one limitation placed on the presidential power of pardon for offences against the United States, and it doesn’t relate to who they can be for. If he wanted to issue himself and his family and associates blanket pardons for any federal crime committed (whether tried or not), he could do so on the day he left office. I would not put it past Trump to do so.

Which begs the question, what could anyone do about the lawful – but grossly abusive – exercise of a constitutional presidential power; one which would effectively give him a blank cheque? Well, the constitution’s checks and balances provides the answer in the form of impeachment, which is the one form of conviction that the president cannot override.

Could Congress, however, convict an impeachment without some specific ‘high crime or misdemeanour’ to hang it on, and would that be sufficient to nullify a blanket pre-emptive (and hence unspecific) self-pardon? On the first, probably no: impeachment articles would need to be more specific than a pardon would – but there is no shortage of options to work with. On the second, again, probably no: it’d be limited to the articles of impeachment.

Here we need to turn back to the constitution and in particular, the clause which limits the consequences of impeachment not just to loss of office and debarment from future office but also that “the party convicted [in the impeachment] shall nevertheless be liable and subject to indictment, trial, judgement and punishment, according to Law.”

In other words, it follows that if a presidential pardon cannot be applied to an impeachment (which the constitution says it can’t), then an impeachment must override any pre-emptive pardon and render the subject liable to the due process of law.

Trump and his lawyers might well still argue that you can’t impeach someone who’s not in office, perhaps pointing to Section 4 of Article II, which says “The President, Vice President and all Civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors”. They would, presumably, argue that as he was at that point no longer president, he was no longer subject to its process. However, that would be a very limited view of its scope and far from the only one possible. While that clause identifies the automatic consequence for impeachment for the holders of the specified offices, it neither places a limit on those consequences (though other clauses do, and go beyond this one), nor does it necessarily limit impeachment to those holding the named office.

How likely is all this? Improbable but far from impossible. There’s no saying what a desperate Trump might do in an effort to win an election he could be losing – never mind what Mueller has found that he’s already done. His Louis XIV view of what his relationship should be with the state and the law provides the possibility both for the action and the pardon. But a defeated Trump does not generate the fear for Republican congressmen and senators than an elected one does. Not only would the spell have been broken but Trump’s opportunity for revenge would be limited – and we can reasonably assume that if Trump does lose, especially if surrounded by scandal, then the Democrats will control both Houses, even if they’d be well short of 2/3rds in the Senate. That might not matter though. Senators’ terms are long and the political imperative to provide cover for a former president – a loser and potentially (in this scenario) a crook – would be greatly reduced. Indeed, there may well be a desire to draw a line under the political aberration that presidency represents. Opposition from Republicans shouldn’t be necessarily assumed.

There is, it has to be said, every chance we don’t end up exploring this particular constitutional oddity. Trump may not spend the rest of his days fighting off the law. He might go quietly into retirement at the end of his term (whenever that may be), or back to the media and property – and Washington might exhale a sigh of relief and try to get back to normality. But then again, he might not.

David Herdson


The Trump buzzword bingo market

Tuesday, June 4th, 2019

What will Trump say in his press conference today?

Because of my consistent record in these buzzword bingo markets I view these markets as my contribution to the Christmas bonus fund for Shadsy even before we consider that someone as volatile and rambling as Donald Trump is the focus of this market.

If I was forced to choose I’d back Fake News and Witch Hunt, two subjects dear to Trump’s heart. One of his tweets yesterday upon his arrival in the UK was about Fake News, so it is something that is on his mind. There are more options in this market if you click on the Ladbrokes tweet, the tweet by Ladbrokes only show the top options.

But if you can spot any value let me know in the comments of this thread.



Paging all Brexiteers who hate American Presidents interfering in UK politics

Friday, May 31st, 2019

I’m not sure being Donald Trump’s preferred choice as Prime Minister will ultimately help Boris Johnson.



What can we expect from the planned Brexit inquiry

Tuesday, March 26th, 2019

A look at what’s happened before

In January 2004 the Hutton report into Dr David Kelly’s death was awaited with anticipation. The hearings had put the actions of politicians, civil servants, journalists, senior BBC management under a forensic scrutiny they would not normally expect.

The Iraq war – the inquiry’s bloody context – had turned into a desperate civil war. No WMD had been found. The sad story of a respected scientist apparently bullied to his death as part of a greater political game between press and politicians seemed to epitomise what happens when powerful people act without a care for the individuals affected by their actions. We did not know the names of dead Iraqis but we could relate to a bearded, bespectacled, middle-aged civil servant and his grieving family, caught up in affairs over which they had little control.

When the Tories were given advance access before the Parliamentary debate, there were hopes that Michael Howard would be able forensically to wound – perhaps fatally – Blair, who had so tied his fortunes to this war and a snobbishly derided US President.

It did not turn out like that. Howard was given precious little to work with. It was the BBC which was severely criticised and lost its Director-General and Chairman of the Board of Governors. The politicians escaped, perhaps not scot-free, but freer than the public hearings had led everyone to expect (to the surprise of observers who had heard the evidence). And they went on the attack: immediately and brutally. It seemed as if Blair had got away with it.

It was not until July 2016 when the Chilcott report was finally published that a far more damning conclusion was given on the whole Iraq adventure, surprisingly so as Chilcott and his assessors had not particularly distinguished themselves as attack dogs during the hearings. By then, of course, the public and Blair’s party had largely made their minds up about the whole sorry affair.

It was seen – at best – as a misguided venture; at worst – as a war crime deliberately embarked upon on the basis of intentionally fabricated evidence. Even if Chilcott had absolved Blair of all sins, it is unlikely that his detractors would have changed their minds.

And now we have the Mueller report. Or only a summary for now. But the two reports – particularly in the reactions to them – have much in common, nonetheless.

  • A lot of hopes pinned on them: The inquiry into Dr Kelly’s death was seen as the route by which Blair’s mendacity over WMD would be exposed. Similarly, Mueller has been seen as a way to attack Trump, legally, and on the basis of evidence, collected by an unimpeachable source. As senior staff close to him were caught in Mueller’s net, surely – the thinking went – Trump cannot be far behind. Alas, too many people believed what they wanted to be true. Blair must have lied. Trump must have colluded with the Russians. The disappointment when these were not the conclusions was palpable. Never let your hopes run ahead of the evidence. Or, perhaps, never express your hopes so publicly until you’re sure they’re backed by evidence, might be the moral to be learned.
  • “Never hate your enemies. It affects your judgment.” (reputedly said by Mario Puzo, The Godfather’s author). Wise words. So infuriated by Trump’s victory have the Democrats been that they have assumed that he must therefore be evil or criminal or guilty or maybe all three, that his victory cannot have been legitimate. Much easier to assume that his victory was stolen than engage in analysis of why people might have voted for him, despite his obvious flaws. In much the same way, those who think of Blair as a war criminal absolve themselves of the need to ask whether the decision to go to war in Iraq might have been more finely judged at the time than it now appears, fail to ask themselves what one should do in circumstances where there is a rogue state potentially able and willing to use WMD, fail to consider that even not acting is a decision with consequences, some of them just as sanguinary, as intervention in a faraway state about which we know little. Intervention was bad then; so non-intervention is good now, or so the analysis (this is to be kind) goes. Hate is never a good basis for coolly assessing one’s opponent, let alone their arguments.
  • What is reprehensible is not necessarily criminal. A difficult concept to grasp at a time when the distinction between that which may be morally or politically wrong or unwise and what is criminal or a breach of the law is not always understood. Or hand-waved away as a mere technicality. It isn’t. There is much which politicians and others do which should not have been done. That does not make them criminal. If being wrong made one a criminal there would scarcely be an innocent man or woman alive. Too often the law is used to attack a political opponent because there are no political arguments or they are too weak or unpopular. But politicians need to be defeated politically. The law has its place, especially if the law is broken. But it is not a substitute for politics.
  • Attack is the best form of defence. Ask Alistair Campbell. Ask Trump who, in typical fashion, is now claiming that the report exonerates him completely when it pointedly does no such thing. Expect the next arguments to be about (i) publication of the whole report and Attorney-General William Barr’s good faith (or lack of) if he does not publish it; and (ii) what exactly Mueller meant – and why – when he said “while this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”
  • Playing into your opponent’s hands: If the inquiry’s target claims that the inquiry is a witch hunt, best not to respond by acting in a way which reinforces this. This is hard to do, especially when a report’s conclusions are being misrepresented. But it can all too easily look as if you are being a sore loser, as if you are unwilling to accept the findings of a report because it did not say what you hoped. That is the quickest way to ensuring that no-one listens to what you do have to say.

The most important lesson is perhaps this. It is not the immediate reaction which will determine the long-term judgment. Blair won the immediate battle and went on to win another election. But the Iraq war will always be essential to an understanding of his government and himself. That assessment – that it was an error – has played a key part in the change in the Labour Party today (Corbyn owes his leadership at least in part to it) and to British governments’ approach to foreign intervention.

Similarly, Trump may have avoided immediate jeopardy, though full publication may still be a worry and there are other investigations around. He will likely not be impeached. He may well be re-elected. But the long-term view of how Trump deals with foreign regimes, how he approaches his legal obligations, how he uses or abuses power is not likely to be favourable to him. This may continue to affect him long after he has left the White House, though he may not care. It will certainly affect how future Presidents and politicians act. He would be wise not to declare victory over the witch hunt quite so soon.