Dem 48
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GOP 52
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New polls:  
Dem pickups vs. 2012: (None)
GOP pickups vs. 2012: (None)

Trump Lawyer Says the President Is Not Under Investigation

One of President Donald Trump's Lawyers insisted yesterday that the president is not under investigation. Jay Sekulow, appearing on "Meet the Press," literally said: "Let me be very clear here, as it has been since the beginning, the president is not and has not been under investigation for obstruction." How can one sentence have so many things wrong with it? For starters:

  • Trump himself tweeted a complaint about his being investigated.
  • If special counsel Robert Mueller is not investigating Trump after what James Comey has said, it is malpractice.
  • Sekulow has no idea what Mueller is doing, since Mueller isn't talking.

The third one is probably the most important one. Prosecutors generally don't inform targets that they are under investigation until the investigation is fairly far along and a grand jury proceeding is likely. Then the target is informed that he should get a lawyer to prepare for the testimony before the grand jury. We are nowhere near that stage and may not be for months.

However, what is already increasingly clear is that Trump's strategy is to stonewall everything, admit no wrongdoing of any kind, and deny every news report that suggests he is in trouble. (V)

King Says Russia Investigation Only 20% Completed

Sen. Angus King (I-ME), said on "Meet the Press" that the Senate's investigation of Russiagate has a long way to go. He estimated that it is only 20% completed. He didn't think it would finish until the end of the year, but even that is not certain. He also said that the committee possesses thousands of pages of intelligence documents and there are many more potential witnesses. King is a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is running the investigation, so he knows of what he speaks. (V)

Senate Healthcare Plan Leaks

A group of about a dozen men (but no women) in the Senate is feverishly working on a new healthcare bill that can be voted on before the end of this month. The whole process is being done in secret, with no hearings, no expert testimony, no committee meetings, and no markup sessions, all of which are part of the regular order. Nevertheless, The Hill has obtained some information about the bill as it currently stands. To start with, despite Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-KY) saying that the Senate was going to draft its own bill from scratch, the structure of the Senate bill is very much the same as the House bill. In fact, it can be considered a slightly less harsh version of the House bill. Here are some areas where the Senate bill differs from the House bill.

  • It will phase out Medicaid expansion more slowly than the House bill, but in the end, the expansion will be gone
  • Tax credits for poor people will be somewhat more and for rich people less or none
  • To pay for its relative generosity, some of the taxes imposed by the ACA will be kept in place
  • There will be more funding to fight the opioid crisis
  • The bill will keep the ACA exchanges and try to stabilize them
  • High-risk pools for people with pre-existing conditions will be retained but get some additional funding

The Senate bill sounds a lot like RyanCare Lite. Nevertheless, it may have trouble getting 50 votes in the Senate because a few items, such as defunding Planned Parenthood, are not acceptable to all Senate Republicans. And even if the bill musters exactly 50 votes in the Senate, the House will never accept it, which means it will have to go to a conference committee to hash out a compromise. But to many House Republicans, compromises are the work of the devil and they want no part of them. So even if the Senate passes a bill, Republicans are not home free yet. (V)

'Mean' Comment Likely to Haunt Republicans

Donald Trump's shoot-from-the-hip style has hurt him on many occasions. One of the worst missteps, though, has yet to really blow up in his face. In part, this is because it happened at the same time as the baseball practice shooting, and so was overshadowed. And in part it is because the damage likely won't be apparent until 2018. That misstep was Trump's description of RyanCare as "mean."

There was already no question that the blue team would put Obamacare at the center of their case for the House in 2018 (and the White House in 2020). And that's going to happen whether or not the GOP-controlled Congress is able to make changes, since their proposals alone speak to the Party's priorities. However, Trump just handed the Democrats a line that will become the crown jewel of their messaging. They don't need talking heads, or statistics, or pictures of sick people to seal their case, they need only quote the Republican President of the United States, perhaps while juxtaposed against pictures of him celebrating RyanCare in the White House Rose Garden. The Democrats are launching a centralized, concerted effort to weave the "mean" line into speeches, commercials, media appearances, and any other place they can air it out. Even Republican operatives acknowledged the potential for this line of attack, with one noting that, "You can almost see the ads being written already."

Surely, there are hundreds of Republican representatives who realize that when Trump shoots himself in the foot, they lose a toe or two as well. They have only so many toes to spare, which suggests that if a viable opportunity to be rid of the President comes up, they will take it. This means, if we continue this line of thinking, that some (many?) must be rooting for Robert Mueller to turn up lots and lots of dirt, even if they are publicly pooh-poohing the investigation. (Z)

GA-06 Race Is Too Close to Call

The most expensive House race in history will be over tomorrow and we don't know how it will end. Pollster Matthew Towery released a poll on Friday showing Democrat Jon Ossoff leading Republican Karen Handel by 1 point. But he also said: "I'd say the preponderance of evidence suggests that Ossoff has a very, very slight lead. But it really is a coin flip right now." In Towery's poll, Ossoff has a 15-point lead among early voters, but what Towery can't say is whether Ossoff is drawing new voters or that the people who like him are simply voting early, meaning that he will do less well on Election Day.

One of the biggest mysteries is whether younger voters will show up. They are notoriously uncertain voters even under the best of conditions, and a special election in the middle of June is not the best of conditions. Also important is whether affluent voters who normally pull the lever for the GOP will see this as Handel vs. Ossoff, or a chance to register a "no" vote on the Trump administration. Finally, will the shootings at the congressional baseball game practice last week have an influence? Some Republicans in Georgia are certainly hoping so, and have been running an ad insisting that such shootings will keep happening as long as Democrats like Ossoff are elected to office. The spot is in terribly poor taste, so much so that a Handel spokeswoman denounced it, declaring that, "For any group to use the shootings this week for political or personal benefit is shameful." That said, the Handel campaign has pointedly refused to ask that the ad be pulled by the super PAC that's running it. In any case, the ad is outrageous enough that it could well do Handel more harm than good. (V)

What Does Sanders Want?

Last week, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) wrote an op-ed for the New York Times entitled, "How Democrats Can Stop Losing Elections." There is no question that the Senator's heart is in the right place. However, if he wants to issue calls to action for the Democratic Party, then perhaps he should actually join the Party, as opposed to being a Democrat when it suits him and being an independent when it does not. More importantly, his call to action suffers from a pair of problems. These problems are nothing new for the Senator, and help explain why it's so hard for many Democrats to buy in to what Sanders is selling.

The first problem is that Sanders—much like Donald Trump—is long on dramatic pronouncements, but short on specifics. For example, he writes, "A vast majority of Americans understand that our current economic model is a dismal failure. Who can honestly defend the current grotesque level of inequality in which the top 1 percent owns more than the bottom 90 percent?" Similarly, he proposes that, "The party's main thrust must be to make politics relevant to those who have given up on democracy and bring millions of new voters into the political process." Few Democrats would disagree with these things, but the devil is in the details. How can the government fix income inequality? How can the Party find and attract these millions of hidden voters? And even when the Senator gets a bit more specific, such as his continued advocacy for single-payer health care and free college for all, he's offering up proposals with no road map for how to get there. As we have all learned with the Obamacare repeal, and the Mexican wall, and tax cuts, it is hard to make big changes, even if your party has an iron grip on the three branches of government. Remember, that back in 2009, Democrats couldn't get a single-payer healthcare system through the Senate even when they had 60 votes, because not all Democrats wanted it. What Sanders apparently does not understand is that any Democrat to the left of Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) couldn't win a general election in West Virginia. It's either Joe "I-love-coal" Manchin or a Republican. The same holds for Indiana, Missouri, and other states with moderate-to-conservative Democratic senators.

And that, in a nutshell, is the second problem. If any of these progressive items are going to find their way into law, then lots of Democrats need to win elections. Not only elections in liberal, urban areas like San Francisco, Chicago, and New York, but also elections in purplish areas like Atlanta, Orange County, Durham, and Austin. Sanders pays lip service to this reality in his op-ed, acknowledging that, "Democrats should appeal to moderate Republicans who are disgusted with the Trump presidency," but he immediately follows that by lamenting that, "too many in our party cling to an overly cautious, centrist ideology." Maybe he doesn't know, or maybe he doesn't care, but a cautious, centrist ideology is sometimes what it takes to win in districts that are home to a lot of moderate Republicans and conservative Democrats.

Lest there be any doubt where Sanders stands on this point, he gave a pointed non-endorsement to Jon Ossoff last week, answering a question about the would-be representative by noting that, "Some Democrats are progressive, and some Democrats are not." Sanders (and those who follow his lead) are clearly making the exact same choice that the tea party did: prioritizing ideological purity over electability. And we know how that worked out: The tea party elected enough people to gum up the works when they want to, but not enough to actually get anything done. (Z)

Scalise's Condition Improves after Shooting

After Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) was shot in the hip at a congressional baseball game practice, he was taken to a Virginia hospital and listed as in "critical condition." That term means that the patient's vital signs are unstable, indicators are unfavorable, and death may be imminent. Now Scalise has been upgraded to "serious condition," which means the patient is acutely ill, vital signs may not be stable, but death is probably not imminent. This suggests that Scalise may well pull through, just as former representative Gabby Giffords did after she was shot. A hospital spokesman said that there are hundred of bullet fragments in Scalise's body, but removing them now is not a priority. (V)

Macron Wins a Big Majority in French Parliamentary Election

British Prime Minister Theresa May is probably wishing she were French now. In her parliamentary election, instead of gaining seats, she lost her majority. In contrast, French President Emmanuel Macron is poised to win a large majority, probably around 350 seats in the 577-seat lower chamber of the French Parliament. With this large majority, Macron will be able to carry out his program with little opposition.

The impact of Macron's win on U.S. politics will not be felt immediately, but by 2020 it could have a big effect. Macron, at 39, is younger than the youngest U.S. president, Teddy Roosevelt, who was 42 when he assumed the office. Imagine that with all his youth, energy and power, Macron brings major changes to France and they work out well. By 2020 we should know. If that happens, dynamic young presidential candidates will point to him as their role model and will say they can do for the U.S. what he did for France. This could favor young Democrats like Cory Booker (48), Julian Castro (42), and Kirsten Gillibrand (50), rather than elderly ones like Bernie Sanders (75), Joe Biden (74), and Elizabeth Warren (67). Of course, if Macron makes a real mess, the elderly candidates may be touting their experience. (V)

Another Attack in London

Details are scarce as of Sunday night, and will likely remain so until Donald Trump gets onto Twitter again, but there's been another attack in London. In this one, a van plowed into a crowd near Finsbury Park Mosque in north London, leaving at least one person dead. London mayor Sadiq Khan described the incident as a "horrific terrorist attack" and the investigation is being conducted by the Metropolitan Police's counterterrorism unit. The suspect in the case, a 48-year-old man, has been apprehended. (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Jun18 Line of Succession at Justice Dept. May Become Crucial
Jun18 Trump Says He Has the Legal Authority to Fire Mueller
Jun18 Trump's PR Strategy Is to Get Allies to Attack Mueller's Relationship with Comey
Jun18 Trump's Interests and Those of His Staff Are Diverging
Jun18 It's Getting Harder and Harder for Trump to Hire People
Jun18 White House Is Trying to Water Down the New Sanctions on Russia
Jun18 Early Voting in the GA-06 Special Election Is Soaring
Jun18 Rural Americans Resent Minorities, non-Christians, and Big City Dwellers
Jun18 Coulter Slams Trump
Jun18 Democratic Presidential Candidates Need to Work on Name Recognition
Jun17 Trump Attacks Rosenstein
Jun17 Trump Releases 2016 Financial Disclosure Forms
Jun17 Trump Reverses Obama's Cuba Policy
Jun17 Are Democrats Looking for Voters in the Wrong Place?
Jun17 Murkowski Is Committed to Funding Planned Parenthood
Jun17 Trump Hires Another Lawyer
Jun17 Trump's Lawyer Hires a Lawyer
Jun17 Brownback Being Vetted for Position in Trump Administration
Jun17 Newt Gingrich, Flip-Flopper
Jun17 Ossoff Gets More Donations from San Francisco Bay Area than from Georgia
Jun16 Trump Lashes Out at Report Mueller is Looking into Obstruction of Justice
Jun16 Mueller Following the Money
Jun16 Trump & Co. Working Hard to Delegitimize Mueller
Jun16 Sessions Met with Russian Lobbyist During the Campaign
Jun16 Trump Punts on Commander-in-Chief Responsibilities
Jun16 Pence Hires a Defense Lawyer
Jun16 Trump Sells $12 Billion Worth of Arms to Terrorist Sponsor Qatar
Jun16 Senators of Both Parties Criticize Secrecy around Senate Health Bill
Jun16 Putin Offers Asylum to Comey
Jun16 AHCA's Margin of Error is Dropping
Jun16 Turnbull Mocks Trump
Jun16 Democrats Crush Republicans--in Baseball
Jun15 Mueller Looking into Obstruction of Justice
Jun15 Scalise Shot by Unbalanced Sanders Supporter
Jun15 Senate Approves New Sanctions on Russia
Jun15 Feinstein Defends Blue Slips
Jun15 Government Ethics Office Says Bannon's Waiver Is "Problematic"
Jun15 Why Do Republicans Still Grovel to Trump?
Jun15 Trump's Plan to Privatize the Air Traffic Control Systems Is Hitting Turbulence
Jun15 Fox News Drops the "Fair and Balanced" Slogan
Jun15 Trump's Twitter Etiquette Raises Eyebrows
Jun15 Christie's Approval Rating Is Ghastly
Jun14 Sessions Bobs, Weaves, and Jabs
Jun14 Russian Hacking Much Worse than Previously Thought
Jun14 Could the Georgia Special Election Next Week Be Hacked?
Jun14 Virginians Choose Northam, Gillespie
Jun14 Not Achieving Much? Fake It
Jun14 How Trump Could Fire Mueller
Jun14 Longitudinal Study Gives Insight into the Obama-Trump Voters
Jun14 Good News for Democrats