Julian Assange Arrested In London
The Netanyahu Playbook
GOP Border Hawk Rebukes Trump Over Cutting Aid
Bibi Trump and Donald Netanyahu
Trump’s Sister Retires, Ending Probe Into Tax Schemes
Biden Holds Early Lead In New Hampshire
• Undocumented Immigration Way Up
• Republicans Push Back Against Trump
• Pelosi Cancels Budget Vote
• Barr Says Mueller Report Is Coming Soon
• Gravel Enters the Democratic Presidential Race
• Israel's Next Prime Minister Is Probably Benjamin Netanyahu
Today is the deadline that House Ways and Means Chair Richard Neal (D-MA) set for the IRS to turn over copies of Donald Trump's tax returns. In testimony before two different House committees on Tuesday, Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin advised that he did not expect to meet the deadline. So, this is presumably headed for court, as early as tomorrow morning.
If that were not enough, Mnuchin also admitted that his underlings had consulted with White House counsel Pat Cipollone on the matter. At best, this is unethical, since the President and his staff don't have a vote here. At worst, it is illegal, though Mnuchin probably doesn't need to lose sleep worrying that he might be held accountable.
Once the tax return issue does head to court, does Trump have a chance of prevailing? Not so much. Vox talked to 11 law professors, and they were unanimous in their opinion that the President has no leg to stand on. The biggest problem is that the 1924 law that Neal invoked does not mention any limitations or exceptions, it just says that the IRS "shall furnish" tax returns on request. The President's lawyers will try to argue that the law itself is unconstitutional, and that Congress is overstepping its authority. The problem there is that Congress has two main duties: legislating and oversight, and asking for the tax returns falls squarely within the province of both of them. In his request letter, Neal specifically said that Congress wanted to examine the laws governing presidential audits, so as to ascertain if they need to be updated. In other words, legislating. And, he also noted that there are concerns about Trump's financial entanglements, and how they may be affecting his governance. In other words, oversight.
So, Trump's attorneys have been dealt a losing hand. The President's only plausible outs here are: (1) This drags on long enough that it's not resolved until after next year's election, or (2) The Supreme Court's conservatives, once they get the case, decide they want to twist themselves into legal pretzels to protect him. Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito would probably be willing to play ball here, and maybe even Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch. But for Chief Justice John Roberts, that would probably be a bridge too far.
Also on the tax return front, while we are at it, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) announced on Tuesday that he will release his returns by Monday. He has been very obviously dragging his feet, and now we know why. Since the last presidential race, he's become a millionaire from his book sales. Obviously, for a champion of the proletariat to have a bank balance more characteristic of the bourgeoisie is a little embarrassing. Come to think of it, this could also be the reason that Trump is hiding his returns; that when people read them, they'll find out that he's (just) a millionaire. (Z)
We are getting a clearer picture of Donald Trump's renewed obsession with the Southern border. Customs and Border Protection released its monthly report on Tuesday, and it reveals that there were 92,000 arrests of undocumented immigrants last month, compared to just 37,390 in March of 2018. The 92,000 marks the highest total for any month since 2008. Let's put that another way: Securing the southern border was the central issue of Trump's presidential campaign, and his administration is not only failing at it, but they are also doing worse than Barack Obama's administration ever did. No wonder Kirstjen Nielsen and a bunch of other DHS muckety-mucks got canned.
In response, Trump has turned to the only person he knows for certain will be even harsher than Nielsen was: Stephen Miller. There is zero chance Miller could actually get through a Senate confirmation, but that did not stop Trump from telling him that he is now "in charge" of immigration. Miller very much wants to start separating families again; we will see if he gets his way. We will also see if he is able to do what he wants to do without breaking the law, and if Kevin McAleenan, who will have the actual legal authority in this area as acting DHS secretary, will play along. (Z)
When Donald Trump was doing traditionally Republican things, like appointing conservative judges and signing off on supersized tax cuts, the GOP members of the Senate were willing to overlook some of the less savory elements of his administration. But now, he's pursuing a lot of not-so-Republican things, like trade wars, and appointing amateurs to the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, and imposing an overly harsh immigration policy. So, there's some trouble in paradise.
Following the massacre at the Dept. of Homeland Security over the past few days, there is much unhappiness among the Republican senators, particularly the old-guard types. They recognize, first of all, that Trump's previous, draconian efforts at the border were a disaster, politically. Beyond that, the GOP has paid lip-service to being anti-immigration (or anti-undocumented-immigration) for many decades, but that was just to keep the xenophobic elements in the Party happy. In truth, the business interests—that is, the folks who pay the bills—like having an ample supply of cheap labor. So, it's not a surprise that the oldest of the old guard Republicans in the Senate, namely Chuck Grassley (R-IA), publicly rebuked the administration for firing so many "good public servants," and warned that this better be the end of the housecleaning. The Senator also took a few shots at Stephen Miller, a.k.a. the guy who's now "in charge" of immigration (see above), observing that, "I think it would be hard for him to demonstrate he's accomplished anything for the president."
Meanwhile, Trump's nomination of Herman Cain to the Federal Reserve is in deep trouble. The GOP senators who would have to approve him recognize that a person whose degrees are in mathematics and computer science, and whose only economic policy experience was deciding the correct price to charge for a medium pizza with two toppings, has no business anywhere near the Fed. Further, they realize that Trump is appointing Cain so that Cain will do the President's bidding, particularly in terms of cutting interest rates. If the Federal Reserve becomes a political tool like this, its utility will be severely and permanently compromised. So, several senators, including Mitt Romney (R-UT) and Johnny Isakson (R-GA), have warned the President not to move forward with Cain, and suggested that confirmation is unlikely.
Of course, Republican pushback against Trump is not exactly new, going back at least as far as the Charlottesville fiasco. For two years, however, the supposed lions of the Senate have acted more like paper tigers, summoning strong words but then falling in line when it comes time to vote. Maybe this is all more of the same. On the other hand, as noted, Trump is pursuing some particularly un-Republican initiatives right now. Further, the fact that he does not seem to have learned anything from the 2018 midterms must have them scared to death. And there has been an unusually high amount of pushback recently, including forcing Trump to issue his first two vetoes. So, maybe the tipping point is near. (Z)
There's some trouble in the Democrats' paradise, as well. It's been 100 days since they retook the House, a period that featured partisan unity at some times, and serious dissension in the ranks at other times. Day 100 was among the most serious examples of the latter, as Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was forced to cancel a vote on a budget bill on Tuesday because she did not have the votes for passage.
So, who rebelled? Was it the Blue Dog (conservative) Democrats? Or the AOC-led progressive Democrats? Actually, it was both. The former faction is leery of increasing spending, arguing that at least one of the two political parties has to be the adult in the room. And the latter faction, of course, wants to see more money spent on things like renewable energy and education.
This is a little bit of a setback for Pelosi & Co., but don't read too much into it quite yet. The budget proposal was something of an opening bid, and there's still time to rework it and get additional members on board. Further, the Speaker did not do any whipping of votes, and senior aides said she could have gotten the bill through the House if she had really wanted to. Still, it's a reminder of a lesson that the GOP majority taught us all repeatedly during the years they were in power: Passing a budget, especially these days, is really difficult. (Z)
The Electronic Privacy and Information Center wants to see the Mueller report right now. And so, they filed a lawsuit asking a federal judge to order AG William Barr to make it public immediately. Judge Reggie Walton wasn't buying the argument, though, and told them on Tuesday that they would have to wait just like everyone else.
As it turns out, that may not be all that long. Barr is apparently close to finishing the (grueling? incredibly time consuming? leisurely?) work of redacting the report, and told the House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday that he expects to make it available in the next week. House Democrats, in particular, are likely to be unhappy with the release, and will almost certainly head to court to get more. Still, sometime very soon, we're presumably going to know a lot more than what was revealed in a carefully crafted and somewhat dubious four-page document. So, get your popcorn ready. (Z)
We thought we had managed to profile every Democrat (or Democratic Socialist) who might plausibly enter the 2020 presidential race. It would seem that we missed one, because on Tuesday, former senator Mike Gravel launched his bid. Unlike the other dozen-and-a-half candidates in the Democratic field, the 88-year-old Gravel has absolutely no intention of winning, nor of running for some other office in the future. Consistent with that, he's adopted an exceedingly left wing platform that makes Bernie Sanders look like Ronald Reagan. Gravel's only goal, other than to have a little fun in his retirement years, is to get onto the stage at the Democratic debates so he can do a little rabble-rousing.
In the end, this could be a blessing in disguise for DNC Chair Tom Perez. Gravel has attracted a groundswell of support, mostly from people who are 60+ years his junior. So, he may very well clear the 65,000-donor bar that has been set for candidates to earn a debate 1 invite. If so, Perez can then announce that it was lots of fun to give everyone a chance, but that it's now time to tighten things up so that only serious candidates are allowed to participate. He could, for example, say that to get on stage for debate 2, a candidate must have raised at least $1 million, and have at least 250,000 donors, with at least 10,000 in each of 20 states, and be polling above 2.0% in three nonpartisan polls to be selected by Perez. Thus, Perez would have some cover to disinvite some of the other candidates who are more serious than he is, but have no chance of winning the nomination (ahem, Eric Swalwell). (Z)
The polls suggested that the election in Israel would be close, and it was. At various points in the day, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his main rival Benny Gantz both claimed victory. With most of the votes counted, it appears that Gantz's center-left Blue and White Party will be the largest one in the Knesset, but that right-wing parties will increase their overall majority, thus paving the way for an unprecedented fifth term for Netanyahu.
That said, it's not quite a done deal yet. The votes from soldiers, prisoners, and hospital patients are yet to be counted. Further, many Arab voters planned to boycott the election in protest, but there was a late-in-the-day push by religious leaders to get them to the polls (including loudspeaker announcements from the roofs of mosques). So, there could be an anti-Netanyahu surge that has not yet been recorded. Further, given that he's alienated a lot of voters and that he's about to go on trial for corruption, it's not guaranteed Netanyahu will be picked to lead the new majority coalition. And even if he is, he might not be able to keep doing the job once his trial starts, and he may have to step down.
Assuming the current numbers hold, and that Netanyahu does get his fifth term, Donald Trump is going to interpret the victory (though razor-thin) as a mandate and a validation for his policies. So, expect even more punitive actions aimed in the direction of Iran. Further, the U.S. will presumably throw its support behind the Prime Minister's promise to assert sovereignty over the West Bank. This will be yet another poke in the eye for America's European allies, and will create much drama at the United Nations. (Z)
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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Apr09 Trump Designates Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard as a Terrorist Organization
Apr09 Trump Administration Kills Baseball Deal
Apr09 Swalwell Announces Presidential Run
Apr09 Alabama Senate Race Just Keeps Getting More Crowded
Apr09 Trump and Nadler Have Been Fighting Each Other for Decades
Apr09 Israel Heads to the Polls
Apr09 India, Too
Apr08 Nielsen Meeting with Trump Becomes Nielsen Resignation
Apr08 Mulvaney Says Democrats Will Never See Trump's Tax Returns
Apr08 Nadler: Congress Has a Right to See Mueller's Report
Apr08 Nunes to Send Eight Criminal Referrals to Barr
Apr08 Polls: Voters Support Democrats on the Issues
Apr08 Democratic Candidates Are Struggling to Win Their Home States
Apr08 Top Democratic Senate Candidates Aren't Running
Apr08 Booker Raises $5 Million
Apr08 Manchin May Run for Governor in 2020
Apr08 Gardner Wants to Legalize Pot to Help His Reelection Chances
Apr08 Monday Q&A
Apr05 William Barr Is Losing the Narrative (And So, by Extension, Is Donald Trump)
Apr05 Trump's Staff Appears to Have Won the Border Battle
Apr05 Second Presidential Veto Is On Tap
Apr05 Trump Taps Herman Cain for the Fed
Apr05 Michael Cohen Has More Singing To Do, Apparently
Apr05 New Mexico Votes to Join National Popular Vote Interstate Compact
Apr05 Republicans Are Doing their Best to Help Doug Jones Keep His Seat
Apr05 Tim Ryan Throws His Hat into the 2020 Ring
Apr05 Democratic Presidential Candidate of the Week: Seth Moulton
Apr04 House Judiciary Committee Approves a Subpoena for Mueller's Report
Apr04 Trump Changes His Mind on Releasing Mueller's Report
Apr04 Some Mueller Investigators Think Report Was More Damning than Barr Suggested
Apr04 House Democrats Officially Ask for Trump's Taxes
Apr04 Biden: I Won't Do It Anymore
Apr04 Senate Goes Nuclear
Apr04 Ambassadorships Now Cost $350,000
Apr04 War Erupts within the Democratic Party
Apr04 Iowa Will Allow Remote Voting in the Caucuses
Apr04 Conservative Leads in Wisconsin Supreme Court Race
Apr04 First Quarter Fundraising Reports Are Dribbling In
Apr04 Thursday Q&A
Apr03 Trump Flails Around on Border Policy
Apr03 Behind the Healthcare Flip-Flop
Apr03 Too Many Democrats?
Apr03 And Speaking of Too Many Democrats...
Apr03 Life In the Digital Age, Part I: Google Search "Winners"
Apr03 Life In the Digital Age, Part II: New Facebook Algorithms Haven't Had Much Impact
Apr03 Life In the Digital Age, Part III: The 2020 Census is the New Frontier in Hacking
Apr03 Lori Lightfoot Elected Mayor of Chicago
Apr02 White House Tries to Figure Out What Kind of Theater to Perform at the Border
Apr02 Trump Rammed through Dozens of Security Clearances