• Sanders: All of America Wants the Wall
• Supreme Court Hands Trump a Defeat
• Ruth Ginsburg Had Surgery for Lung Cancer
• Russia Actively Tried to Compromise the Midterms
• Gallup To Cut Back on Political Polling
• Bettors Think Trump Will Be Impeached
Mueller’s Team Exempt from Shutdown
Extra Bonus Quote of the Day
Mystery Company Appeals Mueller Subpoena
A Rogue Presidency
Mnuchin Denies Trump Wants to Fire Fed Chair
Shutdown Will Last Until at Least Thursday
At the stroke of midnight, the government turned into a pumpkin. No, wait. That's a different story. At midnight, the government (a quarter of it, anyway) shut down. Consequently, 800,000 government employees will either be furloughed (if their jobs are deemed 'inessential'), or will be required to work without pay.
This is the third time in a year that the federal government has been partly or completely shuttered. It also happened January 20-22 and February 9; both of those were the result of squabbling over DACA. This time, there were valiant last-minute attempts to avoid the shutdown, with lots of maneuvering on the floor of the Senate, and via cell phone in the Senate cloakroom. But in the end, there was no middle ground between Donald Trump and the Freedom Caucus' insistence that a border wall must be built, and the Democrats' (and some moderate Republicans') unwillingness to support that.
There is every reason to think that this shutdown will last considerably longer than the others. First of all, because of the timing. Today and tomorrow are weekend days, and then the next two days after that are Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Then there are three workdays (which many employees will have taken as vacation days, anyhow), followed by another weekend and then two more holidays. In other words, there is going to be fairly little pressure to get this resolved and get people back to work, since most of the 800,000 employees are largely off work, anyhow. On top of that, most of the members of Congress have already headed home for the break, and some of the ones who are leaving office have suggested that they aren't coming back. So, it's going to be very hard to negotiate, to whip votes, or to get people in town to conduct a vote.
Beyond the timing, however, there's also the symbolism here. In the end, $5 billion is a relative drop in the bucket, budget-wise. However, the Democrats feel, quite understandably, that they have just been given a mandate by the voters, and that mandate includes standing up to Donald Trump's immigration policies. If Pelosi, Schumer & Co. give in on the wall without getting something very, very juicy in return, their voters will be furious. Meanwhile, Donald Trump has not always impressed with his intellectual gifts, but his political instincts are actually pretty good. He knows that the 60% of Americans beyond his base are a lost cause for him, and so keeping the base energized is essential. The response this week, when he appeared ready to defer on the wall (again), made clear to him that this is a make-or-break moment, what with Democratic control of the House looming. So, he can't afford to give in, nor can he afford to give up something juicy (like, say a path to citizenship for the dreamers). In other words, it's a classic game of political chicken.
In the short term, Trump is going to do a lot of finger-pointing. Though he took responsibility for a shutdown last week, on camera, he's now doing everything possible to shift the blame to the Democrats. For example:
The Democrats now own the shutdown!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 21, 2018
Shutdown today if Democrats do not vote for Border Security!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 21, 2018
The Democrats, whose votes we need in the Senate, will probably vote against Border Security and the Wall even though they know it is DESPERATELY NEEDED. If the Dems vote no, there will be a shutdown that will last for a very long time. People don’t want Open Borders and Crime!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 21, 2018
Trump has since repeated all of these lines, including the "very long shutdown" threat, several times while speaking to the press and/or appearing on TV. So, he's got his talking points down.
In the end, however, Trump—whether he realizes it or not—has painted himself into a corner. Again, nearly every day between now and January 3 is either a holiday or a weekend, and many of the remainder are the sort of days that people often take as vacation so as to give themselves a nice, long holiday. So, the amount of pain imposed by a "very long shutdown" is going to be about as minimal as is possible, at least for the next week and a half or so.
Then, on January 3, the new congressional term will start. Automatically, at that point, the House bill with $5 billion for a wall will be a dead item (as bills do not survive beyond the Congress that passed them). Presumably, House Democrats will promptly pass a new spending bill (probably within the first hour of taking the gavel) that has no border wall funding, but does have some money for, say, disaster relief in the South, and to cover whatever pay federal employees lost. The Senate will presumably pass such a bill, since they just passed an essentially identical bill this week unanimously. And then the ball would be entirely in Trump's court, leaving him to personally decide whether to keep the government partially closed (and to deny some red states their disaster relief, and to deny some federal employees their back pay), or to move forward with no wall funding.
To put that another way, whatever limited leverage that Trump has shrinks every day as we move closer and closer to Jan. 3. And it won't be easy to negotiate with the Congress scattered across the country, and the President at Mar-a-Lago. We shall soon see if the Donald blinks, or if he rides the base right over the edge of the cliff. (Z)
To get started, that's press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, not Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). On Fox & Friends yesterday, Sanders was asked if the Senate should end the filibuster in order to fund Donald Trump's wall, and she said: "This is such an important issue, and it's something that all of America wants to see happen."
Actually, that's not true. In fact, it is completely false. Not only is America not unanimous in wanting a wall, a majority does not want a wall (albeit a slow-decreasing majority). Quinnipiac University has been polling this issue for years, with these results:
While support for the wall has increased over time, it is still well below 50% and opposition to it is well above 50%. At the moment, only 25% of Americans think that building a wall is a priority, and a majority do not want a government shutdown over it.
The breakdown by partisanship is noteworthy, with 86% of Republicans supporting the wall. So when Sanders says "Americans want a wall," she seems to be omitting everyone who is not a Republican. It is possible that Sanders knows the truth and is just lying, but it is also possible that she is so encased in the Fox News bubble, that she genuinely has not heard a single person oppose building the wall. That said, if she really believes what she is saying, then it raises the question: "If America is so fully in agreement on this project, then why hasn't it happened?" It is not likely that Fox & Friends will be asking Sanders a tough question like that, nor that she would be able to answer if it was asked. (V)
A little over a month ago, the Trump administration announced a new policy, wherein asylum seekers could petition for such only at selected points of entry along the American border. The courts quickly blocked the order, since it is not at all clear that the President has the authority to change the rules in this way. Team Trump went to the Supreme Court to ask them to lift the block and on Friday, by a 5-4 margin (with Chief Justice John Roberts joining the four liberals), SCOTUS said: "Nope!"
This is a pretty big setback for the President. Officially, per solicitor general Noel Francisco, the reason for the policy is to make the handling of asylum-seekers more efficient and expeditious. The real purpose, however, is to reduce immigration from countries to the south of the United States (particularly Central American countries), and to show the base that "something is being done!" It would seem that the courts all saw clearly what was going on, since three levels of the federal system all reached the same conclusion. Friday's ruling also suggests that when the policy itself gets its day in court (as opposed to the temporary injunction that is the current point of contention), Trump is not likely to fare much better when SCOTUS weighs in again. (Z)
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Ginsburg had two malignant nodules in her left lung removed yesterday. Her doctors believe they got all the cancer and that she will be all right. However, this is her third bout with cancer. She previously had colon cancer and pancreatic cancer. She is one tough old bird, but she is 85 years old and having had cancer three times is not a good thing.
It is probably obvious to her now that she should have retired in 2009 when Barack Obama was president and the Democrats briefly had 60 seats in the Senate (before the filibuster for Supreme Court justices was abolished). She probably could have told Obama whom to nominate and he would have saluted and done it. It's a bit late now. Needless to say, she understands what her death could mean for the country, so it is unlikely she will move to Oregon and ask for physician-assisted suicide. More likely, she will do everything she can to hang on until Jan. 20, 2021 and hope for the best. (V)
As predicted, Russia tried hard to influence the midterms, according to Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats. It used social media, false-flag personas, sympathetic spokesmen, and more, with the intention of inflaming the political debate. That did happen, but how successful it was is not yet clear. One thing the Russians did in 2016 was to attempt to suppress the vote of minorities and other Democratic-leaning groups. In 2018, turnout was way up, so if there was a turnout-suppression operation, it wasn't a big success.
Attempts to change actual vote totals may also not have worked, according to Coats. He didn't elaborate on how hard the Russians tried to do that. In 2016, they were more focused on disenfranchising voters in Democratic areas, rather than changing vote totals. In 2018, they may not even have tried.
One thing the Russians did in 2016 that was a huge winner for them was hacking the Democratic Party and releasing e-mails. That didn't occur this time, possibly because the Democrats were better secured or possibly because the Russians did collect e-mails and decided there was nothing incriminating in them so releasing them would only be counterproductive. In any event, Coats confirmed that the Russians are still at it. Presumably they will still be at work in 2020 as well. (V)
"Gallup Poll" used to be a synonym for "political poll" in the same way "Xerox machine" meant "copier" or "Scotch tape" meant "transparent tape," regardless if those copiers were actually made by the Xerox corporation, or that tape was actually made by 3M. After a long and mostly successful run, however, the Gallup organization is pulling back on political polling. The polls on presidential approval will henceforth be monthly instead of daily and instapolls to see the reaction to some major news event are going the way of the dodo.
The move to deemphasize polls on U.S. politics stem from Gallup's massive failure in 2012, when it greatly underestimated how well Barack Obama would do. In 2016, it didn't do any horse race polling at all for the presidential race.
Gallup won't stop polling altogether—that is its core expertise, after all—but it will focus on advising businesses rather than polling for media outlets for publication. It will help companies understand long-term trends better, such as how the public views capitalism vs. socialism. In addition, long-time editor-in-chief Frank Newport is being replaced by Mohamed Younis. (V)
Political betting is illegal in the U.S., but is legal in the U.K. and Ireland. PaddyPower, an Irish bookie, is now setting the odds on Donald Trump being impeached in his first term at 4/5, which implies a 56% chance of an impeachment. It is not clear from the site if PaddyPower (or the bettors) understand that an impeachment does not mean removal from office, only that a trial will be held in the Senate. Since the Democrats will control the House in 2 weeks, the chances of an impeachment might well be 56%, but the chances of a conviction are lower. That said, the odds of impeachment and the odds of impeachment with conviction and removal are actually probably pretty similar to each other, if only because the Democrats are not likely to pull the trigger unless they think conviction is reasonably possible. (V)
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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Dec21 Trump Changes Course, Won't Sign Short-term Funding Bill
Dec21 Meadows to Federal Employees Who May Not Get Paid: You Signed Up for This
Dec21 Trump Administration Will Lift Sanctions against Deripaska's Companies
Dec21 Ethics Officials Told Whitaker to Recuse Himself, but He Refused
Dec21 Perez Axes the Kiddie Table in 2020
Dec21 Should the Democrats Use Ranked-Choice Voting in 2020 Primaries?
Dec20 Trump Wants to Pull Out of Syria Immediately
Dec20 Shutdown Averted--For Now
Dec20 Michigan Power-Grab Partially Fails
Dec20 Cummings Is Already Sending Out Letters Requesting Information
Dec20 Trump Signed a Letter of Intent on Moscow Project during the Campaign
Dec20 Paul Ryan Bids Farewell
Dec20 No Sanctions for Kavanaugh
Dec20 Kasich Doesn't Think He Could Beat Trump in a Primary
Dec20 South Carolina GOP May Skip 2020 Primary
Dec20 Thursday Q&A
Dec19 Trump's Wall Collapses
Dec19 Washington Decides to Do Something Different, Passes Bipartisan Crime Bill
Dec19 Trump Foundation to Dissolve
Dec19 Flynn Sentencing Postponed
Dec19 Trump Launches Reelection Machine
Dec19 Will Trump Cooperate with His Campaign?
Dec19 McSally Wins by Losing
Dec19 Republicans Want to Create an ActRed
Dec19 Could Kansas Be a Senate Battleground in 2020?
Dec18 Republicans Are Waiting for Guidance from Trump over the Shutdown
Dec18 Much Drama on the Michael Flynn Front
Dec18 Takeaways from the Report on Russian Interference
Dec18 Pennsylvania Could Be Trump's Waterloo
Dec18 The Gender Gap May Haunt the Republicans in 2020
Dec18 GOP Has a Looming Evangelical Problem, Too
Dec18 Klobuchar Moving Up in Iowa
Dec18 Lamar Alexander Won't Run for Reelection in 2020
Dec18 We Know Where the Tax Break Went
Dec17 Leaked Senate Report Shows Massive Scale of Russian Election Interference
Dec17 Giuliani: Trump Will Meet with Mueller over My Dead Body
Dec17 Collins Is OK with Mueller and a Challenger to Trump in 2020
Dec17 Iowa Democrats Want to Win
Dec17 The "Guess the VP" Game Has Begun
Dec17 Tom Perez Is at War with the State Democratic Parties
Dec17 Trump Is at War with Saturday Night Live (Again)
Dec17 Monday Q&A
Dec16 Interior Secretary Is Out
Dec16 Harris in Deep Trouble in NC-09
Dec16 7-Year-Old Dies in Custody
Dec16 The Koch Network Is Fading
Dec16 Weekly Standard Is No More
Dec16 Democratic Presidential Candidate of the Week: Amy Klobuchar
Dec15 Federal Judge Strikes Down ACA