• Biden Throws His Hat in the Ring
• Trump's Reelection Team Confronts Reality on the Ground
• Don't Mention Russia to Trump
• FEC Is a Mess
• Financial Impact of Global Warming Is...Substantial
When it comes to Donald Trump's ability to build border walls, the jury is still out. Stonewalls, on the other hand, are right up his alley. He and his team continue to dig in, and to signal their intention to defy the Democrats on all investigative fronts.
To start, House Democrats would like to chat with Senior Advisor Stephen Miller about his influence on the nation's immigration policy. On Wednesday, the White House sent a letter to House Oversight Committee Chair Elijah Cummings (D-MD) telling him to dream on, because Miller has no intention of talking to the committee. Cummings must now decide whether to subpoena Miller (which will be ignored) and then add him to the "contempt of Congress" list.
The administration also made clear, once again, that it will do everything in its power to stop former White House counsel Don McGahn from testifying, a possibility that has Trump absolutely terrified. The problem is that McGahn was once a part of the inner circle, so he knows where a lot of the bodies are buried, as it were. Now, he's been cast out, and he's reportedly angry about how he was treated. So, he's a prime candidate to spill his guts, and to deliver some very juicy stuff while doing so. In fact, more and more, he's looking a lot like John Dean, redux. Dean, of course, was the linchpin of the imminent impeachment case that caused Richard Nixon to throw in the towel.
The President did not limit his Wednesday activities to the issues actually before him, either. No, he also made threats in anticipation of a hypothetical future impeachment, warning Congressional Democrats that he would take it to the Supreme Court if they tried it. If things got to that point, one wonders if Trump's lawyers would be able to keep a straight face while explaining to Chief Justice John Roberts and his colleagues that when the Constitution says that the House can impeach the president, it doesn't actually mean that they can impeach the president.
In short, Team Trump is battening down the hatches. Politico talked to a number of experts, and asked them the obvious question: Will the President and his lawyers be able to drag this out until the election is over? And the consensus was: It's very possible, because these things tend to move slowly. It will vary from case to case and issue to issue, but that thought surely will make it a little easier for Trump to sleep at night.
That's really the only good news for the President, though. It would appear that stonewalling is the only viable strategy here, because the experts consulted by The Hill concur that once these cases get to court, he hasn't got much of a leg to stand on. On top of that, because Trump is simply unwilling to learn from his mistakes, his consistent blustering on Twitter and his pressure on current and former staffers not to appear before the House could very well be strengthening the case for...that's right, obstruction of justice. Wouldn't it be ironic if the Donald was brought down by obstruction of justice committed in an effort to avoid obstruction of justice charges?
There was an additional bit of news on Wednesday that will certainly not gladden Trump's heart. Deutsche Bank has begun turning over their Trump-related records to New York AG Letitia James. Few people know what those documents might reveal, but Trump certainly does. And they could show that the President has financial ties to foreign powers (like Russia), or that he's not worth nearly what he says he is, or that he's committed various forms of fraud, among other things. So much for him sleeping easier at night. (Z)
Early Thursday morning, Joe Biden formally declared his 2020 presidential bid. The timing is surely not random; he'll be able to dominate one regular news cycle, and then the weekend talk shows.
As a wily old political vet, Biden is doing everything he can to make sure he hits the ground running. His first campaign event is a rally in Pittsburgh, to be attended by thousands of the city's union workers. This will serve as a not-so-subtle reminder that the former VP is the candidate of, well, regular Joes. He's busily arranging lots of campaign donations, so that he can make a big splash when the next reporting deadline arrives at the end of June. Biden is also making liberal use of something he's got that the other Democratic candidates would trade their first-born to get: Barack Obama's e-mail list.
There will be much ink spilled (and many pixels activated) on the pros and cons of Joe Biden in coming days and weeks. At the moment, though, everything seems to be coming up roses for him. One new poll shows that he's the most popular candidate among Democratic women (34%), even though the majority of them say they are well aware of his history of touchy-feely behavior. Another new poll has Biden leading Donald Trump by 8 points in a hypothetical head-to-head matchup. As we have noted many times, national opinion polls are not entirely predictive of the electoral vote. However, it is essentially impossible to lose the popular vote by more than 4-5 points and win the White House. The President has behaved in a manner that suggests he's very worried about a Biden challenge, and it would seem he's right to feel that way.
Biden will not activate the Democratic base the way, say, Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) or Kamala Harris (D-CA) would. He can support some of Sanders' policies, like a $15/hr minimum wage, which might help a little, though. He can also pick a young black person as his running mate, such as Stacey Abrams, Harris, or Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), which will also help a little. Choosing Booker would be going full Obama, with his veep and his clone on the ticket, not to mention Obama himself probably campaigning 24/7 for the ticket. Nevertheless, people vote for the top of the ticket, not the bottom, so a Biden nomination means the battles will be in the Midwest, not Georgia, North Carolina, Florida, and Arizona. Of course, by November 2020, Trump could be so damaged that even those states are in play. (Z & V)
Despite the obvious discomfort that the thought of running against Joe Biden or Bernie Sanders triggers, Donald Trump consistently claims his reelection is in the bag, regardless of whom the Democrats nominate. They could resurrect Jesus and pair him with Santa Claus, and Trump would predict an easy win over Christ/Claus 2020. After all, Santa is fat, and Jesus is an immigrant who is under 35 and who doesn't even speak English.
Whether Trump is aware of the truth of the situation is anyone's guess. But his underlings know that he's got some serious electoral problems to worry about, and are already scrambling to plug the holes in the dam. They are very worried about the possibility that Bill Weld, or some as-yet-undeclared candidate, could make a good showing in the New Hampshire primary, which would be a very bad look for the President. So, Team Trump is already at work on their ground game in the Granite State.
And New Hampshire isn't the only potential trouble spot on the Trump 2020 radar. There's also Pennsylvania, which is actually an even bigger problem. While New Hampshire has symbolic importance, given its place near the front of the primary line, Pennsylvania has electoral importance, given its swing-state status and its 20 electoral votes. The President won the Keystone State in 2016, and he really needs it again in 2020. Problem #1 is that he's now 7 points underwater there, approval-wise, (45% approve/52% disapprove). Problem #2 is that the state GOP apparatus is badly divided between Trump lovers and Trump haters. Members of the Trump campaign will be in Pennsylvania today for meetings with state GOP pooh-bahs and, presumably, a few choruses of kumbayah. However, the fissures in the state party run deep, and won't be papered over easily. And if the Democrat is Joe Biden, who is very literally a native son (remember, he's launching in Pittsburgh, and he was born in Scranton), then those 20 electoral votes may well be a lost cause for the President.
With that said, it's not time to write Trump's political obituary quite yet. Larry Sabato, of Sabato's Crystal Ball, has an op-ed in the Washington Post in which he points out that a Trump landslide win is inconceivable, but another narrow victory is certainly within the realm of possibility. He'll have incumbency, possible help from the Russians, a hefty war chest, and a finely-tuned PR operation working on his behalf. Plus, the Electoral College-winning (but popular vote-losing) coalition he built in 2016 is still viable until we have concrete evidence to the contrary. (Z)
The New York Times had a very interesting story on Wednesday. Reportedly, before she resigned, former DHS secretary Kirstjen Nielsen (who bore primary responsibility for the nation's election security) wanted to focus Donald Trump's attention on the need for better election security in 2020, since the Russians aren't going away. And, per the Times, she was told by Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney not to bring it up, because it angers Trump, and makes him feel like his legitimacy is being questioned.
When asked for comment, Mulvaney said "I don't recall" telling anyone not to mention election security to Trump. That is politician-speak for: "If I deny it, and someone heard me say it, I could get caught in a lie, but if I say I don't remember, nobody but me can say for sure if I am telling the truth." So, it would appear that key federal government officials will have a harder time safeguarding the integrity of America's elections because Trump is a delicate flower who cannot bear to discuss the issue. Imagine if his predecessors had taken that approach:
George Washington: Fake teeth? Fake news!
Abraham Lincoln: Mention slavery to me, and you'll be in some Gettysburg distress.
William McKinley: Forget the Maine.
Franklin D. Roosevelt: Adolf Hitler? More like Little Adolf Schittler.
Ronald Reagan: Mr. Gorbachev, feel free to leave that wall right where it is.
The good news is that most of the folks who will be responsible for addressing this issue are pros who aren't personally offended by the thought that Russia is up to no good. Hopefully they can tiptoe lightly enough that the President remains in the dark as they do their work. (Z)
The Federal Election Commission is responsible for safeguarding America's elections on a number of levels, including securing them from outside interference, making sure that people are not unlawfully denied their right to vote, and seeing to it that political campaigns play by the rules, money-wise. In other words, they are needed particularly badly right now.
Unfortunately, the FEC is also in a fair bit of disarray right now. There is a long list of problems. The agency is underfunded, despite having a much greater workload these days, thanks in particular to Citizens United. Employees are also weary of being undermined by GOP members of congress, and by the GOP-appointed members of the commission that oversees the FEC. "It's not a problem of gridlock, it's not a problem of disagreement, it's a problem of half the commissioners don't agree with the mission of the agency," said FEC Chairwoman Ellen Weintraub, who has been on the commission since 2002. "It's the Republican commissioners who are against enforcement." As a result of these issues, the FEC has been bleeding employees, and is now down to just 304 staffers, compared to nearly 400 a decade ago. The number of attorneys in the enforcement division has declined even further, as a percentage, from 59 to 41.
These developments are largely by design, the work of a political party that wants to leave open the option of gaming elections without recrimination. The leadership of the FEC is a six-person commission, with three appointees per party. The purpose of this setup was to force the agency's leaders to develop a bipartisan consensus before doing anything. However, about 10 years ago, a newly-appointed GOP commissioner figured out that he and his two Republican colleagues could effectively paralyze the FEC as long as they stuck together. That fellow, as chance would have it, was...Don McGahn. So, if he does try to cut Trump off at the knees, the assumption has to be that it's purely personal, as opposed to being an expression of McGahn's deep and abiding commitment to fairness and democratic government. (Z)
A new study of global warming was published this week; it specifically focuses on the rapidly melting permafrost in the Arctic, and the economic effects that process will have if it is not quickly halted. Their estimate of the overall cost to the world is staggering: $70 trillion. Actually, that's worth writing out: $70,000,000,000,000.
Studies like these should theoretically be good news for the Democrats, since one of the major critiques of the Green New Deal (and other anti-warming proposals from the Party) is the high cost. Whatever that cost turns out to be (hard to calculate, given the current vagueness of the plan), it will presumably be far less than $70 trillion (silly partisan estimates notwithstanding).
However, the current state of this "discussion," such as it is, is revealed by a new poll commissioned by the Green Advocacy Project. They find that just 32% of MSNBC viewers feel they have heard "a lot" about the Green New Deal, while 37% of CNN viewers feel that way. For Fox News, on the other hand, the number is...81%. Needless to say, it's not positive coverage that Fox viewers are being bombarded with all day. And as long as right-wing politicians and their media partners treat the fight to preserve global warming as a sacred quest, it's not going to be easy for the Democrats to get much done on this issue. (Z)
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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Apr24 Trump Lashes Out
Apr24 Trump to Formally Nominate Kelly Knight Craft to the U.N.
Apr24 SCOTUS Appears Ready to Allow Citizenship Question on Census
Apr24 Buttigieg Will Do Fox News Town Hall
Apr24 Iowa's Longest-serving GOP Lawmaker Switches Parties
Apr24 Wednesday Q&A
Apr23 The Subpoena Wars Have Commenced
Apr23 Team Trump Losing the Battle of Spin
Apr23 Trump: Nobody Disobeys My Orders
Apr23 Social Security Trust Fund Will Be Tapped Out by 2035
Apr23 One Fed Nominee Down. One to Go?
Apr23 Democratic Candidates Jockey For Position
Apr23 SCOTUS Will Consider Census Citizenship Question Today
Apr22 Following Mueller Report's Release, Everyone Makes Their Next Moves
Apr22 Trump Administration Wants to Kill Iranian Oil Exports
Apr22 Biden Will Make it Official This Week
Apr22 For Many Young Christians, Jesus is Alright, but not Mike Pence
Apr22 Shaheen Wants to Derail New Hampshire Voter Residency Law
Apr22 United States Now Among the Most Dangerous Countries for Journalists
Apr22 Monday Q&A
Apr19 "Document of the Decade" Drops
Apr19 Takeaways from the Mueller Report
Apr19 Mueller Report Headlines
Apr18 Let the Spin Begin
Apr18 Trump Administration Announces New Sanctions Against Three Countries
Apr18 Trump Officially Vetoes Yemen Resolution
Apr18 Rick Perry to Exit
Apr18 Buttigieg for Governor?
Apr18 Democrats Are Struggling in Virginia
Apr18 McAuliffe Won't Run in 2020
Apr17 Barr Announces Major Change to Immigration Policy
Apr17 Both Trump Fed Picks Are in Trouble
Apr17 Sanders' Town Hall Was Apparently Quite Successful
Apr17 Democrats' Q1 Fundraising Totals Are In
Apr17 Trump's Fundraising Is In, Too
Apr17 Green New Deal Has Solid Bipartisan Support
Apr17 Guess Who Is Atop the Senate Polls in Alabama?
Apr16 Mueller Report Coming on Thursday
Apr16 Let the Subpoena Wars Begins
Apr16 Sanders Releases His Tax Returns
Apr16 Tax Cuts Apparently Not What the Doctor Ordered
Apr16 Buttigieg Officially Declares
Apr16 So Does Weld
Apr16 It's Trump vs. Omar
Apr15 Trump Told CBP Head He Would Get a Pardon If He Broke the Law
Apr15 Sanders Woos Trump Voters--by Attacking Trump
Apr15 Harris Releases 15 Years of Tax Returns
Apr15 Neal Gives Mnuchin More Time to Produce Trump's Tax Returns
Apr15 Democrats Are Already Thinking about Super Tuesday