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Barr Might Not Appear before the House Judiciary Committee

Attorney General William Barr has told Congress that he might not appear to give testimony on Thursday if they stick to the format they have proposed. Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) reacted angrily, saying: "The witness is not going to tell the committee how to conduct its hearing, period." Barr has not been subpoenaed, but if he fails to show up voluntarily on Thursday, Nadler has said he will issue a subpoena and enforce it in court if need be.

The format that Nadler has chosen is to allow each member to have 5 minutes for Q & A in round one. In round two, each party (i.e., Democrats and Republicans) would get 30 minutes, to use as it wishes. Furthermore, in round two, the panel's lawyers could also ask questions. This is the sticking point. Barr does not want Nadler's lawyers, who have studied the Mueller report in great detail and who are experts on obstruction of justice and impeachment, to get a whack at him. He would greatly prefer grandstanding politicians who haven't read the report and probably wouldn't understand it if they did. Nadler also wants to get the unredacted report and have a closed session to discuss redacted matters. Barr has rejected this idea.

Having lawyers who are not members of the Committee ask questions is unusual, but not unprecedented. During the run-up to the confirmation vote of now-Justice Brett Kavanaugh, the Republicans hired Arizona state prosecutor Rachel Mitchell to interrogate Christine Blasey Ford as if she were a defendant on trial and ceded all of their time to her. Only when it became clear at intermission that she was getting nowhere, did they dump her and take over themselves. Barr is clearly afraid that Nadler has some enthusiastic young lawyers on his staff who are fully prepared to show how much he has lied to the country and written/said things contrary to what Mueller actually wrote.

If the two sides cannot come to terms, Nadler will issue a subpoena to compel testimony and Barr will likely ignore it. Nadler will then sue Barr in court. The case will drag out for months, maybe years, and the Supreme Court will ultimately have to rule: (1) whether Congress has the authority to compel testimony from administration officials, and (2) what the penalty is for noncompliance. The case could potentially change the power balance between Congress and the Executive Branch forever.

While waiting for the case to move through the courts, the House could also cite Barr for contempt of Congress. In that case, Speaker Nancy Pelosi would refer the case to the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, who has the duty to impanel a grand jury to indict the contemptuous person. However, Barr and Donald Trump would surely say that since U.S. attorneys serve at the pleasure of the president, they can't take action that a president orders them not to take. The penalty for contempt of congress is jail time of up to 12 months and a fine of not more than $100,000. Needless to say, if the House decides to go down this road, it is going to get very hairy, though it's worth remembering that it's ok to break the glass over the fire extinguisher in the event of an emergency. The last-ditch, if-all-else-fails option exists for a reason. (V)

The Democratic Primaries Move to the Next Phase

All the major Democrats who were itching to run for president in 2020 have now announced. Yes, there might be a county commissioner from East Cupcake, IL, or a dogcatcher from Duxbury, VT, who parachutes into the race unexpectedly (and immediately sinks without a trace), but almost certainly, what you see now is what you get. So the suspense of "Will he or won't he" is all over now, and the race now moves into its second phase. Here are things to look for.

  • Cattle calls: Local parties and organizations in many states—but especially in the four small states that go first—often organize forums or town halls or other events and invite all the candidates to show up. Typically many of them do, but there are a lot of these events, and they are spread out from New Hampshire to Nevada, such that not every candidate can show up at every one, so they have to make choices. These choices sometimes are strategic and give a clue as to the candidate's priorities. For example, on June 21, Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC) will hold his annual fish fry in a state where most Democrats are black. Will Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) show up and try to improve his national standing among black voters, even though he has zero chance of winning South Carolina? Or will he spend his time in the nearly-all-white states of New Hampshire and Iowa, where he has a shot at coming in first? Then there is the Iowa State Fair from Aug. 8 to 18, where candidates can eat pork chops on a stick and talk to the voters. Sanders, and many of the other candidates, are sure to be there. But will Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) show up when she could be campaigning in delegate-rich California? Sometimes these events are humdrum, but occasionally something important will happen at one, such as the Nov. 2007 Jefferson-Jackson dinner in Iowa, which was a breakout moment for Barack Obama.

  • Debates: The DNC isn't going to do what it did in 2016, holding only four debates, which incensed supporters of Bernie Sanders who thought he would have done better if he had only gotten more exposure. After all, why make the same mistake when there are so many other mistakes the DNC can make? This time there will be 12 debates. Surely some losing candidate will later complain that he or she lost due to all the time wasted preparing for so many debates, the last half dozen or so which will go unwatched because by then everyone will know which candidates support the Green New Deal and which don't. The bar for getting on the stage the first time is incredibly low: either poll at 1% or have 65,000 donors. The first one is scheduled for Miami, but if a whole bunch of publicity-hungry politicians get wind of how low the bar is and suddenly jump in, the DNC could try to move the debate to Yankee Stadium if need be. When the debates start, each candidate will have to compare himself or herself to the other Democrats, not to Donald Trump, since they all agree that Trump is a Bad Person. Each one is probably going to have to pick a key issue, as Gov. Jay Inslee (D-WA) has done (environment), and run with it.

  • Fundraising: Unlike previous years, when just walking for months in the snows of Iowa and New Hampshire could get you the nomination, in 2020, a dozen or so states, including big ones like California, Texas, and North Carolina, will vote on March 3. Advertising in those states requires big bucks. This could be the automatic sheep-goat separator. When the Q2 totals are announced on or before July 15, we will have a much better idea who is playing in the major leagues and who is in the minors. Also a factor here is how the money is raised. Getting $20 from each of 1 million donors is a lot better for Democrats than getting $1 million from each of 20 donors, especially since that size donation can only be made to a super PAC and not to a campaign, and super PACs pay much higher advertising rates than actual campaigns do.

In short, for the next quarter, the news will be about what the candidates are up to and is no longer going to be about whether x, y, and z are going to run. (V)

Democrats Haven't Made Up Their Minds Yet

A new Washington Post/ABC News poll taken April 22-25 shows that most Democrats haven't made up their minds yet about who they want as their presidential nominee. In fact, 54% did not name anyone. In second place was Joe Biden at 13%, followed by Bernie Sanders at 9%. Coming in fourth and fifth, respectively were Pete Buttigieg (5%) and Kamala Harris (4%).

Clearly the field is very fluid at this point. A lot can and will change as the results of the cattle calls, debates, and fundraising start to play a role. History shows that people who are front runners at some point often lose their leads (see: Bush, Jeb!; see also: Cain, Herman; Dean, Howard; and Brown, Jerry). For Biden to be at 13% or Sanders to be at 9% given their near universal name recognition is not a great achievement. We have a very long way to go. (V)

Biden Raised $6.3 Million in the First 24 Hours

Presidential candidates don't have to disclose any fundraising amounts for Q2 until July, but Joe Biden has jumped the gun and announced that he raised $6.3 million in the 24 hours after he threw his hat in the ring. That is more than any of his rivals, but is hardly surprising given his universal name recognition and email lists. He further said that 97% of his contributions were under $200.

The candidate who came closest to Biden in the first 24 hours is Beto O'Rourke, who pulled in $6.1 million in day 1. Bernie Sanders snagged $5.9 million, so the difference between the top three is less than 10%. As all three of them know, as does everyone else, this race is a marathon, not a sprint, so a good 24 hours is great, but it is hardly the end of the story. (V)

Some Democrats Are Inching Back to the Center

While some Democratic candidates previously supported free college, Medicare for all, the Green New Deal, a $15/hr minimum wage and other flavors of pie-in-the-sky, a number are beginning to qualify their support for these things as the price tags start coming up. Paying for all these wonderful things has always been the problem, and that has been known for years. A poll among Bernie Sanders' supporters in 2016 showed that 66% were not willing to pay more than $1,000 a year more in taxes just to achieve universal health care, let alone the others. And health care is the easy one because higher taxes might be offset by not having to pay insurance premiums or copays. The Green New Deal will require massive expenditures without eliminating any current payments that people are making.

As the campaign heats up, candidates are beginning to see that pushing these goals is going to force them to explain how they will pay for them. This is leading to more cautious approaches. Beto O'Rourke's health plan keeps private insurance, but adds a Medicare option for some people if they want it. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) has emphasized the need to avoid letting the perfect be the enemy of the good. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (DFL-MN) and Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D-South Bend) have pointedly refused to back single-payer health care and free college because they would require higher taxes and their internal polls undoubtedly have told them what the poll of Sanders' supporters in 2016 reported: People don't want higher taxes, although a free lunch would be fine.

What it may come down to in the end is whether there are more progressive Democrats or more moderate Democrats. Some candidates, certainly Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), will continue to push for the items listed above, but many of the others will say these are great ideas, just not for the 2021-2029 time span when they might have to implement them and confront the math. Ultimately, Democratic primary voters will get to decide, although another dynamic is also at play: The size of the field. If most Democrats are moderates, but their votes are split 18 ways, whereas the progressive vote is split only two ways (Sanders and Warren), the party could end up with a progressive candidate that most Democrats don't want. (V)

A Possible Economic Platform for the Democrats

Democrats have floated a few possible economic ideas, like a $15/hr. minimum wage and "tax the rich," which would be hard to put verbatim into actual legislation. So what should Democrats actually put in the platform in the economic/tax section? Joe Stiglitz, who won the Nobel Prize in economics, has now written a book staking out possible platform planks that most Democrats probably agree on. Here is a brief summary:

  • Avoid labels: While some of the items in the book might be viewed as "socialism," it is important not to label them as such because "socialism" is a dirty word in the U.S. If a label is needed, "progressive capitalism," or something similar might do. The book sticks pretty much to economic orthodoxy on most things, and certainly avoids saying that cutting taxes raises revenue.

  • Stronger antitrust laws: Under current law, if a company becomes a monopoly through legal means, that does not violate the law. Stiglitz advocates a much tougher approach for dealing with monopolies, even those that acquired their position legally. This includes pharmaceutical companies that have a monopoly on some drug due to a patent on it. He also wants Facebook to be regulated as a public utility, like an electric company.

  • A guaranteed job for everyone: Andrew Yang and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) have pushed for a universal basic income, which they think everyone should get even if they have no interest in working. Stiglitz rejects that. Instead, he says that the Democrats should promise anyone who can't get a job on his (or her) own, a job from the government. This would end unemployment and would probably disproportionately benefit black citizens, since they have a higher unemployment rate than whites.

  • Public options: Americans should have not only the option of a government job, but also the option to sign up for Medicare, to get a mortgage directly from the government, and many other things. The private sector would continue to offer these services, but they would have to compete with the government and if their terms were worse, they would lose customers. This wouldn't eliminate capitalism, but would keep the capitalists on their toes much more.

The good thing about Stiglitz's approach is that his proposals could make a big difference for many people, but they don't give the Republicans ammo. It would be difficult for most Republicans to oppose more choice on many items. The argument that the government can't deliver a pizza can be parried with "if the government can't do anything right, why are you so worried that the private sector will lose customers to the incompetent government?" (V)

The Des Moines Register Is in Trouble

Local newspapers are in trouble everywhere, and that includes the Des Moines Register, the paper of record for the state of Iowa. As you might know, the Hawkeye State's caucuses get a fair amount of media attention, and the Register has always had lots of reporters on the ground covering candidate activities. Its pre-caucus polls, run by Ann Selzer, are widely regarded as the best in the business. And its editorials and endorsements carry at least some weight, although less than they used to since nobody reads newspapers anymore.

The fact that newspapers are dropping like flies and cutting back on local coverage could mean that Gannett, which owns the Register, might be forced to strongly cut back on reporting what the candidates are up to in the next 9 months. Since the paper's staff knows Iowa far better than any national media outlet, losing its coverage would be a real loss for the country.

On top of the general trends in the newspaper business, MNG Enterprises, which is operated by the Alden Global Capital hedge fund, is attempting a hostile takeover of Gannett. It has already made a bid $12 above the market price of the shares and the investors may take the money and run. In the face of this, Gannett's CEO decided to retire. When Jeff Bezos bought the Washington Post, he poured money into it and brought in many tech savvy people who propelled it to the top ranks of American journalism, rivaled only by the New York Times. That's not how MNG works. It has no interest in the long-term sustainability of the companies it buys. If it can fire all the employees, stop publication, and make a profit by selling the building, printing press, and other assets, it will not hesitate for a second to do so. It already ravaged the Denver Post and other papers it has gotten ahold of, so this is no idle threat.

Carol Hunter, the Register's executive editor, is well aware of all of this, but tries her best to put out a quality newspaper and website every day. She knows that the national media are interested only in the political news, but that local farmers, who actually pay to subscribe to the paper, care more about the price of pork belly futures. So, she has to balance these competing interests. Among other things, she has assigned five reporters to cover politics full time and nine reporters to cover it part time. This sometimes could lead to conflicts. For example, if Bernie Sanders is going to address 10,000 people at a rally and a local company is holding a press conference, and the only reporter free is one who does both politics and business, where does the reporter get sent? As the caucuses get closer, usually politics wins, but a lot depends on Hunter and her editors (most of whom are women). If MNG takes over and replaces her with a bean counter, things could change fairly radically. (V)

McGrath Hasn't Ruled Out Challenging McConnell

It is ironic that the Democrats are having trouble finding a 2020 challenger to the least popular senator in the country, Mitch McConnell (R-KY). The Majority Leader has a 50% disapproval and only a 36% approval rating, putting him 14 points underwater, which is not a good place to be for an incumbent with universal name recognition back home. Six other senators have lower approval ratings, in the range of 33% to 35%, but only one of them, Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), is underwater (by 10 points), but he was on trial for corruption last year.

National Democrats are putting all their hopes on former Marine fighter pilot Amy McGrath, who flew 89 combat missions bombing al-Qaeda and the Taliban. She was the first woman to fly in combat for the Marine Corps, an organization in which she served for 20 years. As such, she won't be easy to swiftboat. She ran for Congress in 2018 in KY-06 against Garland Hale Barr IV, who calls himself "Andy." Barr was running for his fifth term in an R+9 district but got only 51% of the vote to McGrath's 48%. The DCCC figures that a Marine Corps veteran who almost unseated a four-term congressman in a fairly red district might have a shot at toppling a highly unpopular senator. Especially when that senator spends most of his time worrying about things other than the folks back home.

Now the ball is in the court of McGrath, who has three young children. She has said that she is open to a race, but hasn't decided yet. Given how much Democrats hate McConnell, money would not be a problem and she wouldn't have to spend a minute raising any. It would pour in by the boatload from Act Blue and other national Democratic organizations. McConnell is no slouch when it comes to raising money, though, so she would need all the outside money. The Senate majority leader raised $2 million in Q1 of this year and can count on major donations from well-heeled Republican donors when he reminds them of exactly how Merrick Garland didn't make it and Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh did.

Donald Trump is far more popular in Kentucky than McConnell, and although the president has had arguments with McConnell, he would campaign all over Kentucky in 2020 if asked. That could be a huge asset for McConnell. Nevertheless, even Trump's presence is no guarantee of victory. The President went to Montana four times in 2018 to stump for Matt Rosendale (R) but it didn't work: Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) was reelected. If McGrath decides to go for it, it will be one of the top Senate races next year. (V)

Monday Q&A

We're not sure that one Q&A (Friday's, in this case) ever did so much to set the stage for the next Q&A.

In your previous Q&A, A.M. from Miami Beach asked about prominent Democrats who shifted to the right. Wasn't Ronald Reagan originally a Democrat? T.M., Orange, CA

Yes, he was. As were many Southerners who switched after the Civil Rights movement, from Strom Thurmond to several members of the House and Senate who are still sitting (for example, Sen. Richard Shelby, R-AL, who didn't switch parties until 1994). There are some notable non-Southerner examples, as well, like Ben Nighthorse Campbell and Arlen Specter. The latter, in fact, went Democrat to Republican to Democrat again.

With that said, we would be pretty mediocre politics "experts" if we racked our brains and failed to come up with these examples. Particularly (Z), who claims to be a historian. The original question, as we understood it, was asking specifically about people who made the Democrat-to-Republican switch during the Era of Trump. And the responses we got affirm our sense that the only answers to the question are celebrities like Roseanne and Kanye West, and people who were already Republicans in all but name, like Gov. Jim Justice (R-WV) and Rowan County clerk Kim Davis.

Given the ubiquity of lies and deception coming from this administration, should we be concerned that government produced statistics might be manipulated for political advantage? I would think that the professional civil servants who do the real work would resist and go public, but if fear is widespread enough, perhaps that wouldn't happen. What safeguards exist? R.S., Madrid, Spain

It's certainly possible, particularly if coming from a department that produces a lot of data/reports, and is run by a particularly devoted Trump loyalist (we're looking at you, Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin). That said, we don't think it's too likely for the following four reasons:

  1. As you point out, the bureaucrats (sometimes called the fourth branch of government) are not likely to play along. All it takes is one whistleblower to humiliate the administration, and to possibly set the stage for (more?) criminal charges. The DoJ might not allow the indictment of a president, but there's nothing in the policy about a cabinet secretary.

  2. Faking data is hard. Really hard, in fact, because humans tend to create discernible patterns in their fake numbers. This was, for example, part of the reason that UCLA grad student Michael LaCour was caught when he faked the results for his (not so) groundbreaking study of public opinion and gay marriage.

  3. Computer scientists have something called a checksum, which is used to confirm that a program is internally consistent. And with the various types of data that the federal government produces, the same thing tends to exist, at least on some level. For example, could the administration discover that the unemployment rate is actually 3.9%, and fudge that down to 3.5%? Probably. But if they tried to fudge it enough to make a meaningful political difference (say, down to 2.2%), then that would be way out of step with other indicators (like, say, unemployment insurance claims) that correlate with unemployment numbers.

  4. Generally speaking, this administration has tended to deal with less-than-favorable data by downplaying it, burying it, or denigrating it as "fake news." All of those things are easier and less risky than cooking the books.

Again, anything is possible. However, for these reasons, we are skeptical.

One of the most important things that Robert Mueller found, but which is almost never discussed in the U.S. media, is that Russian intelligence supported Bernie Sanders' campaign in addition to Donald Trump's. This is because the Russians knew that Sanders' attacks on the Democratic party establishment undermined trust in the party in general, and in Hillary Clinton in particular. Knowing this, why haven't Democratic congresspeople and rivals for the presidency used this information to hurt public support for Sanders' candidacy? Candidates with a background in law enforcement or national defense like Pete Buttigieg or Kamala Harris should be able to use that knowledge to make a case that Sanders' last campaign hurt the country. I feel the U.S. media are treating Sanders with kid gloves. R.M.S., Lebanon, CT

We agree that the general trend you observe exists. Here are four reasons for it that we can think of:

  1. One of these men is president of the United States, and one of them is not.

  2. Whether it rose to the level of a criminal conspiracy or not, there is no question that Trump's staff worked with the Russians, and that Trump himself encouraged this. Sanders may have benefited from Russian interference, but he did not overtly encourage or condone it.

  3. From the standpoint of the media, Sanders supporters tend to be very loyal and very outspoken. And criticism of him does not tend to go over very well. That could serve to silence some of these sorts of stories.

  4. From the standpoint of other Democrats, many of Sanders' supporters were so angry last time that they preferred to give their votes to anyone but Hillary Clinton, even if that meant electing Donald Trump. In fact, some of them actually voted for Trump. Treading lightly is, in part, meant to avoid this kind of response again.

There may be other reasons that are not occurring to us, but we're confident that these four cover most of it.

Do you have a moment to explain Iowa to me? In your 4/26 posting, you noted that it's been "basically red for a while." But a quick scroll over your electoral map will show that it has voted for the winner of the Electoral College in 6 of the last 7 general elections, and 5 of those 7 were a Democrat. Could it be approaching a bellwether status? What's going on with Iowa? J.R., Lakewood, CO

You're right that Iowa has gone Democratic in many recent presidential elections, particularly those where Bill Clinton or Barack Obama was on the ticket. However, the governor's mansion has been controlled by the GOP for 12 of the 15 terms since the 1960s, and the only Democrat they've sent to the Senate since the Reagan years is Tom Harkin. So, they've been purplish-red for a generation or two, we'd say.

Anyhow, from a political standpoint, Iowa is certainly responsive to the kinds of "culture wars" issues that have been the GOP's bread and butter since the 1970s and 1980s. Hence the career of Rep. Steve King (R-IA), for example. However, they are also concerned with certain economic issues, like farm subsidies, job creation, and infrastructure creation. It is entirely possible to be an economic populist and a Democrat who says the right sorts of things about these issues, without being a white supremacist like King is. Gov. Steve Bullock (D-MT) could probably win a Senate race or the governor's mansion in Iowa, for example.

Meanwhile, the demographics of Iowa are changing. The state has an unusually large number of people who are baby boomers or older (10th in the nation, by percentage). The state's population is growing moderately (about 1.5% per year), and most of that increase is due to the arrival of nonwhite immigrants and/or children born to nonwhite immigrants. In fact, the only below-18 segment of the population that is increasing in size is Latinos. As you might guess, the new arrivals are mostly heading to Iowa's cities, so the state is urbanizing. Add it all up, and a state that is currently about 90% white is projected to be about 75% white by 2050. Meanwhile, a sizable number of older, more conservative white voters will pass from the scene, to be replaced by younger, more liberal white voters (in fact, the state offers tax incentives to young people to keep them from leaving the state). All of this gives Steve King nightmares, of course, as he thinks about his 2020 reelection campaign.

So yes, Iowa is headed to bellwether status. And in a decade or so, it might even be headed to reliably blue status, like Minnesota or Illinois.

Do you think political analysts might be overthinking the Biden campaign rollout, particularly his campaign video? Biden's biggest weakness in the primaries will be his decades-long record, bits of which may not gel with today's more socially liberal Democratic primary voter. With 15 candidates, it is easy for such voters to find someone whose platform might be closer to their values. Shouldn't he just be sticking with the very simple message: "This election is about kicking a white supremacist out of the White House. I have the best chance of doing that."? C.D., Guernsey, Channel Islands

We have to call 'em as we see 'em. And while we may be proven wrong, we don't think Biden took the right tack during his rollout.

First of all, he was going for a Kennedy-esque "soaring rhetoric" kind of rollout, a la "Ask not what your country can do for you" (and yes, we know that was actually from JFK's inaugural). The problem is that soaring rhetoric is hard to pull off unless you have the charisma and the public speaking skills of a JFK (or a Ronald Reagan, or a Barack Obama). Biden does not.

Second, we struggle to understand who the voters are who will vote against Trump on this basis and who need to be reminded of Charlottesville? Anyone who was disgusted and disturbed by that incident (not to mention the treatment of Mexican immigrants, the disdain for Puerto Rico, the sh**holes comment, etc.) remembers very well. If Biden wanted to make a play for the political center, he could have done so with commitments to specific issues, not by picking the low-hanging fruit of associating himself with Martin Luther King Jr. and the D-Day invasion. Or, if he wanted to make an electability argument, then he should have just made an electability argument.

Finally, Biden presumably wants to win back some of those Obama-Trump voters. If the message is, "You voted for a certain set of promises, and Trump did not deliver," then they might listen. If the message is, "You voted for a white supremacist," that could trigger a defensive response, and cause those folks to dig their heels in.

In short, whatever the candidate's goals were, we think there were more effective ways to achieve them. On the other hand, Biden was elected to the U.S. Senate seven times, while we have combined for zero, so take our opinion with a grain of salt or two.

You write that a charge of "inherent contempt" can lead to imprisonment in the Capitol jail. If this power hasn't been used since the 1930s, have they been keeping the Capitol jail in working order? M.T., Salford, UK

First, let us note that we got a few questions that pointed out that the Supreme Court sustained Congress' power to hold people in contempt in Jurney v. MacCracken, but wondering if the power to arrest those people was also sustained. Since William P. MacCracken Jr. was both held in contempt and arrested, the Court's affirmative ruling necessarily sustained both powers. If the contempt were legal but the arrest was not, the Court would have ordered MacCracken's release.

Moving along, we should have been more precise. There is no jail in the Capitol itself. Those who have toured the building may recall a jail-looking room in the basement:

Tomb for Washington

However, that is not a jail, it is a tomb created for the body of George Washington that was never actually used.

When MacCracken was arrested, he was actually just held in the nearby Willard Hotel. Today, if Congress was to arrest someone, there is an off-site jail that is under the auspices of the Capitol police. That is what would presumably be used.

You suggested that a Democrat who was elected president in 2020 could reverse the effect of the citizenship question on the census. Specifically, you said he or she could, "de facto spike the question." But, the real (intended) effect of the question is to force an undercount of undocumented immigrants, who may be scared off from returning the census at all. As I understand it, this becomes important because the census numbers are used for everything from congressional apportionment to per capita funding of programs worth millions and billions of dollars. So, my question is whether the next president could try to overcome the effect of the citizenship question on the census by adjusting financing formulas for government programs to account for the effect of the perceived undercount. I'm thinking that it would be like polling houses that curve their data to account for the perceived lack of responses from a specific category of individuals in their data set. D.N., Panama City, FL

Our notion is that by effectively announcing "ignore that question," the hypothetical president would thus assuage undocumented citizens' concerns.

That said, while the Census Bureau has historically been unwilling to use the sort of modeling you propose, they could if they (and the President) wanted to, and there are some very good mathematicians who would surely be happy to help. There are also potentially some clever solutions that have been used on the city and state levels to measure those who are difficult to measure. For example, New York City hires former homeless people and tells them to visit their old "haunts" in the city for one night. Then, on that night, the city sends people out to find and count as many homeless people as they can. If they find, say, 10,000 homeless people and they find 50% of the decoys, then the city assumes that those 10,000 represent 20,000. You can read a brief piece about this technique here. Anyhow, perhaps there is some way to adapt that concept to solve this particular challenge.

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Apr26 Biden 2020 Launches
Apr26 Sanders Had a Rough Day, Too
Apr26 Trump Is Contemptuous of Contempt of Congress
Apr26 Senate Republicans Are Bleeding Support
Apr26 Trump Allies to Trump: Shut Up
Apr26 North Korea Situation Deteriorates Even Further
Apr26 Friday Q&A
Apr25 The Bunker Mentality Is Setting In
Apr25 Biden Throws His Hat in the Ring
Apr25 Trump's Reelection Team Confronts Reality on the Ground
Apr25 Don't Mention Russia to Trump
Apr25 FEC Is a Mess
Apr25 Financial Impact of Global Warming Is...Substantial
Apr24 The Gauntlet Has Been Thrown Down
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