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Supreme Court Hears a Double Jeopardy Case

The Fifth Amendment prevents the government from trying a person more than once for a single alleged crime. However, the courts have long held that separate prosecutions under federal law and state law are allowed because the federal government and the state governments are deemed to be separate sovereign entities. Yesterday, the Court heard a case involving a 29-year-old named Terance Gamble, who has been charged by the state of Alabama for being a convicted felon possessing a firearm. While those charges were pending, the federal government charged him with the same thing. His lawyers say he can't be charged by both governments.

The federal government's position, that people can be charged twice by different sovereign entities, is based on the notion that if this were not the case, then someone charged in a foreign country and acquitted could not be charged in the U.S. This is, of course, a position the U.S. government rejects.

From the oral questioning, it appears that the case may not break down along ideological lines. Justices Neil Gorsuch and Ruth Ginsburg appear to be on the same page. Also important here is that overturning a long-standing precedent is something the justices don't like doing, so for some of them, the case may turn on whether existing precedent is so wrong that it must be reversed (Think: Dred Scott).

Needless to say, lurking in the background is the very real possibility that some people who are indicted by special counsel Robert Mueller may receive presidential pardons. Then the issue of whether they can be tried in state court for the same offense becomes a very big deal. But at least from the questioning, it does not appear that this is the key issue for the justices. It is more individual rights and overturning long-standing precedent that seem to matter most. But reading the tea leaves from the oral questioning isn't all that reliable, so it could go either way. (V)

Arrest of Chinese Executive Makes a Messy Situation Messier

In a development likely to become quite significant in coming months, Meng Wanzhou was arrested in Vancouver, British Columbia, on Saturday. Meng is CFO of Chinese telecomm giant Huawei, and daughter of the company's founder. Her arrest was kept secret for several days, and the charges are still unknown. The scuttlebutt is that the U.S. wants Meng extradited so they can extract a pound of flesh in retribution for Huawei's violating Trump's sanctions against Iran.

The timing of the arrest was almost...poetic, as it happened at very nearly the same time that Donald Trump and Chinese president Xi Jinping were breaking bread in Buenos Aires. That is to say, just as the two leaders were (sort of) coming together, events were conspiring to drive them apart again. The Chinese are none too happy about what's happened, and there is every chance that this could further complicate the already fraught relationship between the Trump and Xi administrations. Certainly, Wall Street seems to think so; after the news of the arrest was made public on Wednesday night, the Dow Jones took a dive. If the Chinese haven't already decided to just wait for the next president, they've got to be close to reaching that conclusion. (Z)

Trump Employs an Undocumented Housekeeper

Maybe Donald Trump's supposed hatred for undocumented immigrants is fake news. After all, according to a report in the New York Times, he has employed one to make his bed at his New Jersey golf club for years. The housekeeper, Victorina Morales, said that there are plenty of others as well.

Morales entered the U.S. illegally in 1999. She eventually made it to New Jersey, where Trump hired her on the basis of phony documents that he apparently didn't bother to check. It appears that at least some of the employees at the club know she and other workers are in the country illegally, because they drive the workers to the club every day (undocumented immigrants can't get driver's licenses in New Jersey).

When asked about the matter, Trump Organization senior vice president for marketing and communications Amanda Miller said: "If an employee submitted false documentation in an attempt to circumvent the law, they will be terminated immediately." Of course, if the Trump Organization doesn't bother to check the documents presented to it, no employees will ever be terminated on this basis. (V)

Haley Replacement: It's Nauert, of Course

The grown-ups in the White House would like whoever replaces Nikki Haley as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations to actually be qualified for the job. Donald Trump, however, wants to tap former Fox News personality Heather Nauert, because she is good on TV, and...well...did we mention the "good on TV" thing? The President humored his advisors on this matter for a few weeks, but on Wednesday he made clear he's planning to pick Nauert.

The move makes perfect sense for Trump. He's never cared a whit about the U.N., and his feelings about the body surely did not grow warmer after he got laughed at during his recent speech there. What the President wants is someone who can go on the talk shows and do a credible job of peddling the administration's agenda, particularly as regards foreign policy. Indeed, it is expected that the post will be knocked a few rungs down the hierarchy once Haley leaves, given that Nauert isn't actually going to have much of a role in shaping foreign policy. She is going to have to be approved by the Senate, but given that the number of Trump-loving Republicans in that body is about to grow by four, that presumably won't be a problem, despite her lack of qualifications. After all, having a totally inadequate résumé didn't stop Ben Carson, Rick Perry, or Betsy DeVos. (Z)

Manchin Will Be Ranking Member of the Senate Natural Resources Committee

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-Coal) is moving up in the world, and a lot of Democrats are not so happy about it. The problem is that Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA), a staunch environmentalist who is now the ranking member of the Senate Natural Resources Committee, is almost certainly going to move over to the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee. That one has jurisdiction over aviation and software, industries very important to her state (Boeing, Microsoft, and Amazon are there, for starters). She will be the ranking member there. This creates an opening for ranking member on Natural Resources. Manchin is not next in line. In fact, three other Democrats on the Committee outrank him, namely Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), ranking member of the Finance Committee, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), ranking member of the Budget Committee, and Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), ranking member of the Agriculture Committee. None of them want to leave their current positions, however, and a senator can't be a ranking member on multiple committees, thus clearing the way for Manchin.

Environmentalists are screaming and yelling about making Mr. Coal the top Democrat on environmental issues. If they don't like him, they should have supported his opponent in the midterms, which would probably have led to a 46-54 Senate instead of a 47-53 Senate. If Democrats want to win Senate seats in extremely red states, like West Virginia, they are going to have to tolerate senators who reflect at least some of the concerns of their state. It isn't like Manchin is a Republican, though, even though he is very pro-coal. He is also a strong union supporter (especially the coal miners union) and a big backer of Obamacare (because a lot of those coal miners have pre-existing conditions). But he wants to be on Natural Resources, so that's the way it is.

The chair of the Committee is Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Oil). Needless to say, the fossil-fuel industry is ecstatic about having an oil woman and a coal man writing the environmental laws. The only fly in the ointment is that any bills the two hatch have to get through the House before they can become law, and that may not be so easy. (V)

Trump Tries to Save Coal, Is Doomed to Fail

After having pooh-poohed last week's federal government report that global warming is for real and is getting worse, Donald Trump doubled down on that position, and announced that he wants to further ease regulations that make it hard to build new coal plants. He is persuaded that this will reinvigorate "clean, beautiful coal" (as he describes it) as a commodity.

As with the Mexican wall, the Muslim travel ban, and a host of other ideas, Trump pretty much backed himself into a corner here, making promises that sounded good during the campaign but that don't really add up. Coal is dying, with U.S. consumption now at 1970s levels (despite a population almost twice as large), and is shrinking each year. The problem is not regulation, nor environmentalism. It's that alternative fuel sources are less labor-intensive and thus more profitable. All the deregulation in the world is not going to change that, and the sooner those coal miners who are just waiting to get back in the biz realize that, the better off everyone will be. And Trump, for his part, really should get a lump of coal in his Christmas stocking this year. After all, given his actions as president, he's definitely earned it. (Z)

Valadao Concedes

The last open California House race is now officially over. Rep. David Valadao (R-CA) has conceded defeat to T.J. Cox (D) in a very close race in CA-21. This means the Democrats have picked up at least 40 House seats. If the NC-09 election is voided due to North Carolina Republicans being caught breaking the law, a special election will be scheduled there so the blue team will have a shot at 41 pickups.

Some California Republicans think the California Republican Party is dead and we are now just waiting for the funeral. The congressional split in the Golden State is now 46 Democrats and 7 Republicans. The Democrats also control every statewide office and three-quarters of the seats in the Assembly. Back in 1994, there were 25 Republicans in the U.S. House delegation, so the fall to 7 is gigantic. It won't be easy for the red team to climb back from the grave since the problem is that any Republican who fails to hug Donald Trump won't get any Republican votes and any hugger won't get any Democratic votes. There is no middle ground. (V)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Dec06 Bush Is Memorialized, and Yet Trump Becomes the Story
Dec06 Takeaways from Mueller's Memo about Michael Flynn
Dec06 Maryland and D.C. AGs Subpoena Trump's Businesses
Dec06 Roger Stone Keeps Seeking the Limelight
Dec06 Two Down, 40 to Go
Dec06 Sanders Looks to Be Gearing up for 2020, but Maybe He Shouldn't
Dec06 Thursday Q&A
Dec05 Flynn Spilled His Guts
Dec05 NRCC Says it Was Hacked
Dec05 Trump: I Am the "Tariff Man"
Dec05 Trade War Has Cost Nebraska Farmers a Billion Dollars So Far
Dec05 GOP Senators Are Hopping Mad About Saudi Arabia
Dec05 Democrats Lost Florida Because They Took Latinos for Granted
Dec05 Democratic Governors: Opposing Trump Is Not Enough
Dec05 House Democrats May Not Seat Mark Harris in January
Dec04 Trump Wants to Withdraw from NAFTA
Dec04 Nielsen Appears Safe for Now
Dec04 Trump Attacks Cohen, Praises Stone
Dec04 Bush Wanted Trump at His Funeral
Dec04 Republican Legislatures in Michigan and Wisconsin Try to Weaken Incoming Governor
Dec04 NC-09 Just Keeps Getting Shadier
Dec04 Iowa Democratic Leaders Want a Young 2020 Candidate
Dec03 The Real Reason the Government Shutdown Has Been Delayed
Dec03 Senate to Take up Saudi Arabia Punishment
Dec03 Trump Is Embedded in a Culture of Lying
Dec03 The New Senate Will Be Even Friendlier to Trump than the Old One
Dec03 No Autopsy This Time
Dec03 Comey and Goodlatte Reach a Deal
Dec03 Harris to Decide on a Run over the Holidays
Dec03 Monday Q&A
Dec02 Trump and Xi Make Nice
Dec02 Mattis: Russia Tried to Interfere in Midterms
Dec02 Bush Plans Come into Focus
Dec02 Replacing Nikki is Tricky
Dec02 Pelosi Promotes Barbara Lee
Dec02 Six White House Officials Violated the Hatch Act
Dec02 Democratic Presidential Candidate of the Week: Tulsi Gabbard
Dec01 George H.W. Bush Dead at 94
Dec01 Trump Nails Down NAFTA Replacement, But He's Not Out of the Woods Yet
Dec01 Senate Republicans Dump All over Flake
Dec01 Democrats Reveal Their First Bill
Dec01 Schiff Wants to Investigate Trump's Plan to Give Putin a Penthouse
Dec01 Shenanigans in NC-09?
Dec01 Espy Will Run for the Senate Again in 2020
Nov30 A Tale of Two Rats
Nov30 Trump in Meltdown Mode
Nov30 Deutsche Bank Headquarters Raided
Nov30 No Meeting with Putin
Nov30 House Democrats Elect Cheri Bustos to Head the DCCC
Nov30 Tim Scott Shoots Down Farr