Tim Murphy

Tim Murphy

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Tim Murphy is a senior reporter at Mother Jones. Email him with tips and insights at tmurphy@motherjones.com.

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Donald Trump's political director told a room full of Republican bigwigs on Thursday that if the tower-dwelling steak magnate is the party's nominee for president, he will redraw the electoral map in November. Per the New York Times:

As the Republicans ate oysters in a dim, stuffy conference room overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, Mr. [Rick] Wiley walked them through a slide show that predicted victory for Mr. Trump not just in swing states with large Hispanic populations like Nevada, Colorado and Florida, but in states that Republicans have not captured since the 1980s: Pennsylvania, Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Connecticut.

This sounds crazy because it is, but it's not a kind of crazy that's unique to Trump. Republican nominees (or prospective nominees) always say this.

In a video for Republican donors in June 2008, John McCain's campaign manager, Rick Davis, showed off a map highlighting states McCain had in the bag and states that might be in play. The list of states that were Republican locks included three that Barack Obama ultimately won: Indiana, North Carolina, and Virginia. The list of states that McCain's campaign considered battlegrounds included California and Connecticut. Oh, and Pennsylvania, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.

Okay, that was 2008. It was a long time ago. We didn't have self-driving cars or even face-swap back then. But in 2012, Republican nominee Mitt Romney again proposed to redraw the electoral map by flipping Midwestern states the party hadn't won since the Ronald Reagan era. His campaign spent much of the final week of the race in Pennsylvania. It considered Wisconsin the new Ohio. In October, Romney and his backers went on the air in Michigan and Minnesota.

Trump is out of step with his party's previous standard-bearers on many things, but when it comes to overstating his electoral chances in blue states, he talks a lot like the establishment.

Donald Trump is counting on a hometown boost in Tuesday's New York primary showdown against Ted Cruz. The Texas senator has taken heat from prominent Republicans there, such as Rep. Peter King and ex-Mayor Rudy Giuliani, for his comments about "New York values" and his campaign positions. ("Any New Yorker who even thinks of voting for Ted Cruz should have their head examined," King told an interviewer last week.) When Cruz visited the Bronx, he was heckled repeatedly.

But perhaps no candidate has done more to offend the sensibilities of New Yorkers over the years than Trump, a tabloid fixture who was once sued by the Department of Justice for housing discrimination in Brooklyn and Queens and who spent $85,000 on advertisements demanding the state "bring back the death penalty" after the arrest of the (wrongfully convicted) Central Park Five.

Trump sought to use his influence in the city on more pedestrian matters, too. In a 1985 letter, Trump complained to then-Mayor Ed Koch about the blight of hot-dog vendors leaving ketchup and mustard stains on his sidewalk.

Dear Ed:

While I usually agree with your decisions and philosophy (except as they concern me), I cannot understand how you can allow once one of the truly great streets of America, Fifth Avenue, to be overrun by peddlars [sic] and food vendors. They have created such a blight that shoppers and visitors alike are appalled to see the decline of this historic avenue. Having ketchup and mustard splattered all over the sidewalk by vendors who "couldn't care less" is disgraceful. I only wish I had their political muscle—they really need it in order to keep this outrage going.

I know that you must have your reasons and also know that you won't change your mind, but it is a shame. As the filthy food carts come in, the Guccis, Jourdans, et cetera will leave, and with them both prestige and taxes will be lost to the City forever.

After signing off, he added one last shot. "P.S. The new 'act' on Fifth Avenue is the humongous vegetable stand which operates at Fifth Avenue and 57th Street," Trump wrote. "It does wonders for increasing the value of real estate on Bond Street in London and the Champs Elysses [sic] in Paris."

The correspondence with Koch was included in the personal papers of former New York Times executive editor A.M. Rosenthal at the New York Public Library.

Trump's beef with street vendors was not a one-time thing. In The Art of the Deal, his best-selling memoir, he lamented the "peddlers" who were "degrading" Fifth Avenue. "I learned a lesson from Walter Hoving," he wrote, referring to another New York developer. "I now employ some very large security people who make absolutely sure that the street in front of Trump Tower is kept clean, pristine, and free of peddlers."

Update: This was a really longstanding beef. The New York Daily News reported that Trump also complained about the Fifth Avenue food vendors in 2004 to then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Evidently the problem wasn't fixed.

A federal judge in West Virginia sentenced former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship to a year in prison on Wednesday for conspiring to commit mine safety violations at his company's Upper Big Branch mine during a period leading up to the explosion there that left 29 miners dead in 2010.

The mountaintop estate where Blankenship once hosted visitors. Read MoJo's chronicle of Blankenship's rise and fall in West Virginia. Stacy Kranitz

Blankenship was convicted of the misdemeanor charge in December, but the conviction was explicitly not linked to the Upper Big Branch disaster itself and Blankenship's attorney worked hard to ensure the accident was hardly mentioned during the trial. And that verdict was a disappointment to prosecutors; he was found not guilty of the more serious felony charges of making false statements to federal regulators in the aftermath of the blast in order to boost Massey's stock price. (Had he been convicted on all counts, he would have faced up to 30 years in prison.) The conspiracy conviction rested on evidence of Blankenship's domineering management style, which emphasized profits over the federal mine safety laws designed to avert underground explosions:

[T]he attention to detail that made Blankenship such an effective bean counter may also be his undoing. He constantly monitored every inch of his operation and wrote memos instructing subordinates to move coal at all costs. "I could Krushchev you," he warned in a handwritten memo to one Massey official whose facilities Blankenship thought were underperforming. He called another mine manager "literally crazy" and "ridiculous" for devoting too many of his miners to safety projects. Despite repeated citations by the MSHA, Blankenship instructed Massey executives to postpone safety improvements: "We'll worry about ventilation or other issues at an appropriate time. Now is not the time." And this is only what investigators gleaned from the documents they could find: Hughie Stover, Blankenship's bodyguard and personal driver—and the head of security at Upper Big Branch—ordered a subordinate to destroy thousands of pages of documents, while the government's investigation was ongoing. (Stover was sentenced to three years in prison in 2012 for lying to federal investigators and attempting to destroy evidence.)

Before he stepped down as Massey's CEO in 2010, Blankenship had built the company into one of the largest coal producers in the United States and become a polarizing figure in his home state, where he bankrolled the rise of the Republican Party, pushed climate denial, and crushed unions. For more on Blankenship, read my piece from the magazine on his rise and fall.

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