• Trump Rammed through Dozens of Security Clearances
• Democrats Preparing to Make Mueller Report Subpoena Official
• More Trouble for Moore
• Two Republican AGs Break Ranks on Obamacare
• Another Accusation Against Biden
• Buttigieg Is Raking it In
• Luján Will Run for Senate
Last week, several Fox News pundits suggested that if Donald Trump cannot get his wall built, he should close the border entirely. Several hours later, Trump coincidentally concluded that if he cannot get his wall built, he should close the border entirely. At that point, just about everyone who is not a Fox News pundit pointed out that closing the border entirely would have at least one of the three following impacts: (1) Stretching ICE beyond the breaking point, (2) Wreaking havoc on international commerce, and/or (3) Encouraging a different form of sneaking across the border, one that could be even harder to stop than the current forms.
On Monday, it became clear that some people in the White House recognize the move could be "catastrophic," and that the potential consequences are now being "examined." In general, a president thinks very carefully about such questions before announcing a major policy initiative, but that is not how this president works. He wanted to put on a show to please the base, and threatening to shut down the border fulfilled that agenda. Which, in the end, is really his only agenda.
So, Trump's underlings are putting the brakes on this whole "shut down the border" thing. They know it would almost certainly turn out disastrously if it happened, from an economic perspective, but also from a PR perspective. One can just imagine pictures of trucks loaded with American goods lined up at the border, with no place to go. Or of overtaxed detention centers, with apprehensions up, and staffing inadequate to the task at hand. And what if another kid (or two, or three) dies in custody? Add it all up, and it's unlikely Trump will follow through on his threat.
In fact, the administration has already been trial ballooning a new border control initiative: The appointment of an "immigration czar." That person's job, ostensibly, would be to coordinate the activities of the various agencies that oversee security at the southern border. Given that that is already in the job description of DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, this new post certainly appears to be for show. And when we learn that the leading candidate for the appointment is former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, whose primary qualification for any post is that he is beloved by the base, it pushes us even further toward that conclusion. The other candidate under consideration is former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who once tried to get the U.S. Constitution amended to eliminate birthright citizenship, and who once tried to get the Virginia constitution amended to make it legal to fire someone for not speaking English, and then to deny them unemployment benefits. That would be another appointment that suggests the number one goal here is to fire up the base.
Incidentally, there may be another reason that Trump is eager to do something vis-à-vis Mexico, beyond pressure from the talking heads on Fox, and his ongoing post-Mueller victory lap. By all indications, the President's NAFTA replacement is headed for failure. Republicans (and the Canadians) want Trump to back off of his tariffs. Democrats dislike about half a dozen parts of the pact, but their biggest complaint is that it doesn't do enough to punish Canada or Mexico if they flout the rules designed to protect laborers. If NAFTA v2.0 doesn't pass (and every day closer to the election we get, its chances get dimmer) then the President will have virtually nothing on his résumé in terms of sticking it to Mexico, which was the central plank of his whole campaign (not to mention the subject of his announcement speech). Hence the talk of border shutdowns and immigration czars. (Z)
It is not a secret that Donald Trump railroaded through a security clearance or two, particularly the one granted to Jared Kushner, whose background raises so many red flags he might as well be a Chinese military parade. On Monday, the news broke that the granting of questionable clearances was far more widespread than previously known. According to whistleblower Tricia Newbold, who has spent decades adjudicating security clearances for both Democratic and Republican presidents, there were at least two dozen cases where a clearance was denied for various serious reasons—financial problems, drug use, criminal conduct, etc.—and the decision was overruled by the President.
This revelation came during testimony before the House Oversight Committee last week. Newbold came forward because she was suspended for two weeks after pushing back against the clearances, and then saw her responsibilities in the White House curtailed. She is not only concerned about the behavior she reported, she is also fearful of a retaliatory termination. Needless to say, Oversight Committee chair Elijah Cummings (D-MD) is very interested in all of this, and will be looking into it very carefully.
It is understandable why Trump did what he did: He wants to be able to talk to the people in close orbit around him (Kushner, Ivanka Trump, etc.) and the people in his orbit tend to be...something less than paragons of virtue, shall we say. It would be problematic for any president to expose the security of the United States with so many different people, just because of their own personal needs. For a president surrounded by questions about his links to Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and untold other foreign and financial entities, however, it is inexcusable. Cummings will spend much energy trying to hold the President accountable, but he's fighting an uphill battle. (Z)
It is possible that AG William Barr is delaying the release of the Mueller report for as long as he can. It is definitely the case that Barr is going to let House Democrats have less of the report than they want. There is zero chance that this is going to be resolved in a friendly way, and there is a 100% chance that it will end up in court. And so, the blue team is already getting their ducks in a row.
Among the committee chairs whose province this falls under, the one in the strongest position to make the demand is Judiciary Committee chair Jerry Nadler (D-NY). And so, he is the one taking the lead. Nadler has scheduled a markup for Wednesday, a necessary procedural hurdle before moving forward with the subpoena. The subpoena will demand not only the report, but all of the underlying evidence that Mueller collected. It is unclear whether Nadler will move preemptively, or if he will wait for Barr to issue whatever redacted version of the report he's going to issue. The fact that the deadline the Democrats gave Barr arrives on Tuesday, and Nadler is holding his hearing just 24 hours later, may provide a clue, however. (Z)
Stephen Moore, Donald Trump's pick for the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, has a checkered past, to say the least. To start, he doesn't have the traditional résumé for the post, in that he doesn't have a Ph.D. in economics, nor has he actually worked as an economist. He was also a key architect of the tax cuts in Kansas that tanked that state's economy and, during that time, was barred from the pages of the Kansas City Star for writing op-eds that contained blatant falsehoods. His personal life has also come under the microscope, as the IRS claims he owes them $75,000.
The skeletons just keep emerging from the closet. The Guardian decided to look into Moore's past, and hit pay dirt. They found that he failed to pay over $300,000 in spousal support, child support, and settlements he owed as part of his divorce agreement, and that his intransigence in the matter eventually led him to be found in contempt of court. In fact, his house was almost seized and sold before he came up with two-thirds of what he owed and his ex-wife agreed to forgo the rest. That was pretty generous of her since, according to court filings, the marriage was wrecked by his serial philandering, as well as his psychological and emotional abuse of her.
There are things about Moore, then, that make him hard to support from a qualifications standpoint. There are also things about him that make him hard to support from a political standpoint, particularly for a senator who faces a tough reelection campaign in 2020 (like, say, Sens. Joni Ernst, R-IA, Susan Collins, R-ME, and Cory Gardner, R-CO). As we all know, it takes only four Republicans to torpedo the nomination, assuming the Democrats and Independents hold firm against him. That is, if Moore's mounting problems don't cause the nomination to get yanked first. (Z)
In the latest sign that the GOP is not behind Donald Trump's attempt at a total overthrow of Obamacare, two Republican attorneys general—Dave Yost of Ohio and Timothy Fox of Montana—have filed a brief urging a federal appeals court to overturn Judge Reed O'Connor's ruling that struck down the whole law. They argue that O'Connor erred in his interpretation of the law, and warn that the consequences of allowing his ruling to stand would be dire.
The two states represented here are interesting. Ohio is a traditional swing state, and home to a lot of old guard, John Kasich-style Republicans, as well as a lot of Obama-Trump voters. Montana is a libertarian-populist kind of state, home to a lot of folks whose leanings are not well captured by the traditional left-right dichotomy. Trump could potentially be vulnerable in both kinds of states, and the brief seems to suggest that he's already being hurt in both by his new anti-Obamacare crusade.
It would appear that Trump has gotten the message (most likely from Fox News), because late Monday he announced via Twitter that a great new GOP healthcare plan was in the works:
Everybody agrees that ObamaCare doesn’t work. Premiums & deductibles are far too high - Really bad HealthCare! Even the Dems want to replace it, but with Medicare for all, which would cause 180 million Americans to lose their beloved private health insurance. The Republicans.....— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 2, 2019
....are developing a really great HealthCare Plan with far lower premiums (cost) & deductibles than ObamaCare. In other words it will be far less expensive & much more usable than ObamaCare. Vote will be taken right after the Election when Republicans hold the Senate & win......— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 2, 2019
....back the House. It will be truly great HealthCare that will work for America. Also, Republicans will always support Pre-Existing Conditions. The Republican Party will be known as the Party of Great HealtCare. Meantime, the USA is doing better than ever & is respected again!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 2, 2019
It hardly even needs to be said that the only way to achieve lower premiums and lower deductibles is to substantially reduce coverage (in one way or another). Meanwhile, this is the second time that Trump has promised to deliver an amazing healthcare plan just as soon as the next election is over. If anyone votes for him on the basis that he'll deliver on this promise, it would seem to be a textbook example of, "Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me." (Z)
For the second time in four days, a woman has come forward and accused former VP and expected presidential candidate Joe Biden of inappropriate touching. Her name is Amy Lappos, and she says that during a 2009 fundraiser, Biden pulled her toward him so they could rub noses, Inuit-style.
It is possible that both of these women are lying or misremembering, but don't bet on it. Biden has always had a reputation for being pretty touchy-feely. And the fact is that he's pushing 80, and this sort of behavior was considered apropos for most of his adult life. Maybe it shouldn't have been, but it was, so it is entirely plausible that he would do it without giving it a second thought.
The big question is whether the 2020 Democratic electorate will forgive Biden for (alleged) behavior that passed muster in previous generations, but is clearly unacceptable today. Our guess is that they will not. It is true that the GOP electorate forgave behavior from Donald Trump that was considerably more egregious, and that was never apropos, either in past generations or this one. However, that is a big part of the reason that many voters, particularly millennials and women, are extremely put off by the Donald, with many of them fleeing the Republican Party. Those folks are likely to say, "You know what you call a more benign form of sexual assault? Sexual assault." And they will give their votes to someone who they feel confident kept their hands to themselves. (Z)
On Monday, the campaign of South Bend mayor and would-be president Pete Buttigieg (D) announced its fundraising total so far, and it's impressive: $7 million. There are only a handful of other Democratic candidates who can match that, most obviously Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Beto O'Rourke. Unlike those two, however, Buttigieg did not enter the contest with a pre-built nationwide fundraising network already in place. That makes the $7 million an especially significant feat. The Mayor is also doing well in polls; he's not pulling 9% like in the Emerson poll from a couple of weeks ago, but he's consistently getting 5% support, and finishing in the top 4 (behind Joe Biden, Sanders, and O'Rourke, usually).
Under the circumstances, there are plenty of stories being written about how Buttigieg is surging. And he certainly is. The $7 million question is whether he's surging too early. On one hand, the Democratic field is so large, and the process is starting so early, that it may be essential to get out ahead of the pack, sort of like the Kentucky Derby. On the other hand, the annals of U.S. political history are littered with the bodies of folks who surged too early: Howard Dean, Jerry Brown (twice), Rudy Giuliani, Ross Perot, Herman Cain, and Mario Cuomo, to name just a few. The next two months will be pretty critical for Buttigieg 2020; if he can remain near the front of the field, the June debates play to his strengths. At that point, if he does well, Buttigieg will be able to claim real momentum, as opposed to just a surge. (Z)
When Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) announced his retirement last week, anyone and everyone expected Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) to try to succeed the Senator. After all, Luján succeeded Udall once before, with the latter handing off the seat representing NM-03 to the former. On Monday, the Congressman made it official, announcing that he will indeed mount a Senate campaign in 2020.
Because New Mexico is quite blue, the seat is likely to remain in Democratic hands. However, the blueness also means that the Democratic bench is quite deep, and so Luján could draw one or more serious challengers. Reps. Deb Haaland (D-NM) and Xochitl Torres Small (D-NM) could run, as could Lt. Gov. Howie Morales (D), or New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver (D). Heck, if you want a wildcard and a blast from the past, Valerie Plame (of CIA leak scandal fame) is a New Mexico resident and has expressed interest. Luján, by virtue of his high profile in the House (he's the fourth-highest ranked member of the Democratic leadership) and his service as chair of the DCCC, would be a heavy favorite over any of them. However, he would really prefer not to have to fight off a primary challenge. We shall see if he gets his wish. (Z)
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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Apr01 Trump Faces Five Court Battles on Health Care
Apr01 Biden Defends Himself against Charge of Unwanted Kissing
Apr01 Senate Poised to Change Rules to Ram Judicial Nominees Through
Apr01 Republicans Change Their Minds
Apr01 Google Helps Democrats
Apr01 CEOs Help Republicans
Apr01 Biden and Sanders Lead in Nevada
Apr01 Trump Will Hurt Ernst
Apr01 Monday Q&A
Mar29 Mueller's Report Is over 300 Pages
Mar29 House Republicans Attack Adam Schiff and Schiff Fights Back
Mar29 Trump Lied on His Financial Statements
Mar29 Trump "Saves" the Special Olympics
Mar29 NY-11 House Race Heats Up
Mar29 First Democratic Primary Debate Will Be June 26-27 in Miami
Mar29 Klobuchar Announces Her Top Priority: Infrastructure
Mar29 Michael Bennet Is Very Inclined to Run for President
Mar29 Stephen Moore's Nomination to the Fed May Be in Trouble
Mar29 Democratic Presidential Candidate of the Week: Marianne Williamson
Mar28 Republicans Push Back Against Trump
Mar28 Trump Wants to Run on an Anti-Green New Deal Platform
Mar28 Today's Mueller Report News
Mar28 McAuliffe Preparing to Enter the Presidential Race
Mar28 Should the DNC Start the Debates Now?
Mar28 Brexit Gets Messier, with May's Premiership as the Latest Victim
Mar28 Thursday Q&A
Mar27 Snatching Defeat from the Jaws of Victory, Part I: Obamacare
Mar27 Snatching Defeat from the Jaws of Victory, Part II: Obstruction of Justice
Mar27 Senate, House Each Hold Show Votes
Mar27 Tom Udall to Retire in 2020
Mar27 2018 Election Was Apparently a Mess in Texas
Mar27 SCOTUS to Look at the Gerrymander Again
Mar27 Pete Buttigieg Channels His Inner Viking
Mar26 Trump & Co. Taking Victory Laps
Mar26 Trump Administration Moves Forward on Agenda Items
Mar26 Pundits Don't Care Much for Early VP Plan
Mar26 O'Rourke Picks Campaign Manager
Mar26 Democrats Avoid Ugly Primary in Arizona
Mar26 Avenatti Arrested
Mar26 Tuesday Q&A
Mar25 Barr: Trump Didn't Conspire with the Russians
Mar25 Takeaways from the Mueller Report Summary
Mar25 Trump's Problems Aren't Over
Mar25 Harris and O'Rourke Zero in on Each Other
Mar25 Gillibrand Savages Trump in Her First Major Campaign Speech
Mar25 Sanders and Biden Are Leading in Iowa
Mar25 Manafort May Be Trying to Salvage Some of his Forfeited Money
Mar25 Kentucky Legislature to Strip Alison Lundergan Grimes of Election Authority
Mar25 Florida Ex-Felons Aren't Home Free Yet