• Federal Judge Bars Major Source of Wall Funding
• Trump to Declare Judaism a Nationality
• Buttigieg Releases Client List
• Yang Makes Cut for the Seventh Debate
• Rep. Ted Yoho Will Retire
• Brits Head to the Polls Tomorrow
The cat is now officially out of the bag. On Tuesday morning, the Democrats followed through on their plans, and announced two articles of impeachment against Donald Trump. The House Judiciary Committee, which was responsible for authoring the articles, will engage in a couple of days of markup and then will send them to the whole House for a vote. Barring anything unexpected, Trump will officially be impeached on Wednesday, December 18. That is also Joseph Stalin's birthday, so Vladimir Putin is going to have two things to celebrate.
The articles of impeachment, which are brief and can be read at the above link, are eminently predictable. House Democrats decided to go after the President for abuse of power (Art. I), and for obstruction of Congress (Art. II). In laying out their case, they relied heavily on the articles of impeachment lodged against Bill Clinton, and those that were going to be lodged against Richard Nixon. At the same time, they also addressed aspects of the current situation that are distinctive, most obviously that this is all happening right before a reelection campaign rather than after. The Democrats' argument—and they have been consistent on this point—is that Trump's malfeasance is ongoing, and that the country cannot wait 11 months to put an end to it.
And now, some of the big questions that all of this raises:
Why didn't the Democrats go after obstruction of justice, since special counsel Robert Mueller gift-wrapped all the evidence they need?
Party leadership was split on this question, but ultimately the view of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) won out. In short, they believe that the two charges they went with are black and white, while obstruction is gray. Tactically speaking, if voters (or senators) are open to being persuaded, the black and white offenses should get the job done. All that including obstruction would do is muddy the waters and bog things down.
Put another way, Pelosi and Schiff don't think there are a lot of folks out there who would say "I'm not persuaded that Trump abused his powers or obstructed Congress, but I'm sold on the argument that he obstructed justice." Undoubtedly, the Democrats have polling that supports this tactical choice. That said, they do intend to backdoor the Mueller report, Russia, etc. by talking about things like "a pattern of misconduct" and a "propensity for corrupt behavior."
Were there any other notable omissions from the articles of impeachment?
Yes. In the end, the Democrats decided against the use of the words "bribery" or "extortion" in the articles. Because those have clear-cut legal definitions, they feared they would end up in a debate as to whether all of the elements of those crimes were really present. They decided that using the more broad "abuse of power" would still cover these two offenses, while not allowing for arguments based on subtle legal nuances. After all, one does not actually have to commit a crime to be impeached and removed.
Beyond that, a number of people are named in the document; any of them could theoretically be called as witnesses. However, there was one major omission: former NSA John Bolton. If he's not listed, it's going to make callling him as a witness somewhat dubious. This presumably means that the Democrats decided that he is more risk than it is worth.
How did Donald Trump react to this development?
In his characteristic way, with braggadocio and claims of malfeasance and corrupt intent on the part of his opponents. He had a rally in Pennsylvania last night, which gave him ample opportunity to hold forth on the matter. He described the Democrats as "partisan lunatics," and said that "any Democrat that votes for this sham will be voting to sacrifice the House majority, their dignity, and their career." He also predicted that impeachment would backfire on Pelosi & Co.
What is Trump's plan for the Senate trial?
The President is, of course, a showman, a member of the WWE Hall of Fame, and a reality TV star. Consistent with that, his preference is to make the trial as long and as showy as is possible, as he believes that it will all be free PR for how innocent he is, and how wrongheaded and obsessive the Democrats are. Whether that analysis is correct is open to debate. Sometimes, his instincts for these things are very good. Who would have thought, for example, that the ridiculous "descending the Trump Tower escalator" performance would be the start of a successful presidential campaign? On other occasions, his instincts are not so good. Shutting down the government last year was also supposed to be free PR for him, and to show how wrongheaded and obsessive the Democrats are. How did that work out?
What about Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY)?
McConnell, as you may imagine, sees things very differently from how Trump sees them. There are many things the Majority Leader might plausibly be concerned about, like the Constitution, the rule of law, historical precedent, and the like. However, his #1 concern in the impeachment trial (which is his #1 concern at all other times, as well) is maintaining his and his party's grip on power. And he believes that the best way to do that is to make this as quick as is possible while keeping up appearances—about 10 days. That will be long enough for him to claim that the trial was legitimate, and short enough—particularly if conducted in the cold of January, when people are still recovering from the holidays—that voters won't take too much notice (he hopes).
Trump is pretty powerful, but McConnell runs the Senate with an iron fist. So, we have a pretty good idea of who is going to win here.
And Chief Justice John Roberts?
Roberts has said virtually nothing on this subject, leaving us (and everyone else) to guess. He is a staunch Republican partisan, have no doubt about that. And he certainly appears to be on board with much of Trumpism; since the Donald took over the White House, only Clarence Thomas has had a more conservative voting record than Roberts. That said, Roberts does have concern about the "impartial" reputation of the Court, and he tends to prefer to blend into the background. The odds are that he will take a generally passive role in the trial, though it would not be a surprise if he issued forth with the occasional Trump-friendly ruling.
And what about the Democratic Senators who are running for president right now?
By the time the Senate trial takes place, there will likely be three senators who still have a legitimate reason to be on the campaign trail: Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Amy Klobuchar (DFL-MN). Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) made clear on Tuesday that he expects them to make impeachment priority #1. He's not exactly the boss of them, but they will likely comply. Conceivably (but unlikely), they could spend January in Iowa holding viewing parties with 500 of their best friends there, each day in a different city. After all, senators are not allowed to ask questions verbally during the trial so watching the whole show on television is really not different than watching it in the Senate chamber. They can submit written questions, but that is obviously something that can be done remotely. Trump could become the first president to be impeached via text message, which would be strangely apropos given his affinity for Twitter.
How is this impeachment different from those that came before?
The answer is obvious, but Politico Magazine's Lawrence Lessig does a good job of laying it out: the media environment. Not only is the nation extremely polarized, but it is now entirely possible for people to live in a bubble tailored to the reality that they desire. One could see the genesis of our present circumstances when Bill Clinton was impeached back in 1998-99, but even back then, people could generally agree on basic facts. Now, even the "facts" are dependent on where a person lives, and what political party they belong to.
Lessig proposes that this makes the current impeachment especially dangerous for the democracy, and hopes that the politicians proceed very carefully, and in a manner that encourages some sort of consensus. He's going to be disappointed, of course.
How are the two sides dealing with the media environment of 2019?
They both have "war rooms," a term that does not bode well for the possibility of a consensus. The guiding principle, in both war rooms, is that the fight over impeachment will be waged online as much as it will be in the Senate chamber. So, if you are online during the trial, expect a deluge of—for lack of a better term—pro- and anti-impeachment propaganda. And speaking of propagandists, the fellow who is quietly running Trump's war room is...Steve Bannon.
How are left-leaning commentators responding to Tuesday's news?
Pretty much as you would expect. Some representative headlines:
- Frank Bowman, Slate: Nancy Pelosi Has Gotten Impeachment Right
- Michael D'Antonio, CNN: Trump desperately using lies, distortions to fight impeachment
- Thomas L. Friedman, The New York Times: Impeach Trump. Save America.
- Dana Milbank, Washington Post: Articles of impeachment speak truth to the 'most less facts'
- Matt Fuller, HuffPo: Trump's Top Stooges: To Hell With History!
Clearly, the Democratic war room is doing its job.
How are right-leaning commentators responding to Tuesday's news?
Also pretty much as you would expect. Some representative headlines:
- Rich Lowry, The National Review: An Election Too Important to Be Left to Voters
- Ben Shapiro, WND: Will Democrats accept the results of 2020 election?
- Yael Halon, Fox News: Polls show impeachment hearings not working for Democrats
- Michael Patrick Leahy, Breitbart: Pelosi Rushing Impeachment Vote to Keep Wavering Democrats in Line Before Christmas Recess
- Michael Knowles, The Daily Wire: Nancy Pelosi Says Impeachment Isn't About Politics. She's Lying.
Clearly, the Republican war room is doing its job, too.
Is there any chance Trump gets convicted?
Very little, if current circumstances hold. That said, his being impeached was very unlikely just three months ago. Further, Richard Nixon looked unimpeachable right until he didn't anymore. So, you can never be sure. Stranger things have happened. The one wild card now is the Democrats' calling somebody from Trump's inner circle to testify and having Chief Umpire Roberts OK the subpoena. That person might decide that bean spilling was preferable to going to prison.
There is also an outcome available that would be a pretty big win for the Democrats, even if they don't secure a conviction. If a handful of GOP senators (or more than a handful) vote for conviction, it would legitimize the whole matter and would enable the Democrats to say, "Look! Even Republicans—those willing to be honest, at least—see that there's something fishy here."
None of the GOP senators have really given much indication what way they are leaning, because they did not have to, and because taking a position was lose-lose. But within the next month or two, they are going to have to take a side and cast a vote. The assumption is that the whole Republican Senate caucus will stick with Trump, but that is just an assumption. There is going to be much pressure on purple-state senators who are up for reelection in 2020, like Susan Collins (R-ME) and Cory Gardner (R-CO). They could make a political decision that they are better served voting for conviction than against. It's also possible that some senators become concerned about the fact that a vote to exonerate Trump on the second article (obstruction of Congress) would give future presidents, including future Democratic presidents, carte blanche when it comes to resisting congressional oversight. Someone like Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who doesn't have to face voters again for five years, or Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Ben Sasse (R-NE) are candidates for thinking in this way. It's also possible that some GOP senators decide that this whole situation offends their sense of justice and their conscience, and they decide to buck the party line. Retiring senators, like Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN), are candidates for this list. So too are Sens. Mitt Romney (R-UT) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK).
Of course, there's a similar sort of victory available for Trump. If the GOP holds firm, and three or four Democrats defect and vote to exonerate him, he will spend the rest of the campaign talking about how even some Democratic senators could not stomach the corruption and misdeeds of their own party. This outcome is pretty unlikely, but if there are Democrats who decide to go apostate, then Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Doug Jones (D-AL) are the likeliest candidates.
That is where things currently stand. There is, of course, no way this all gets done before Congress leaves for recess on the 19th, but get ready for some truly historic political theater once the holidays are over.
Oh, and it took a while to read 60 stories on impeachment and distill them, so Watergate has to wait one more day. (Z)
By the time Nov. 3, 2020, rolls around, Donald Trump really needs to get something built along the Mexican border. His promise of a massive, border-length, cement wall paid for by Mexico is already dead in the water. Now, it's going to be a small, partial fence, made of steel slats, and paid for by American taxpayers. But even that poses two issues for the President: (1) getting the wall/fence actually built, and (2) paying for it.
Trump just suffered a pretty serious setback when it comes to the "paying for it" part of the equation. Congress, even the Republicans, has no interest in appropriating money for this task, and so the administration has to find piggy banks to raid elsewhere. On Tuesday, Judge David Briones ruled that the administration has to keep its mitts off one of the biggest piggy banks it planned to crack into, namely $3.6 billion in funds diverted from other Pentagon projects. The Judge's finding was that building a wall is not an emergency, as defined in the law, and thus Trump does not have the right to overrule Congressional appropriations.
The administration has other sources of money it can tap, including Treasury forfeitures and "war on drugs" funds. Still, these sources are not especially large, and aren't going to cover too many miles of fencing. Further, the clock is ticking down to Election Day. At this point, Trump might have to just put up 20 miles of chain-link fencing and call it a day. (Z)
Sometime today, Donald Trump will sign an executive order declaring that, as far as the U.S. government is concerned, Judaism is a nationality. This move was primarily the work of First-Son-in-Law Jared Kushner. Its purpose is to allow the federal government to punish public entities, particularly universities, for taking an anti-Israel stance. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 allows the government to withhold funding from entities that discriminate on the basis of national origin, but not on the basis of religion. This is an attempt to "rectify" that.
Actually, it's more like an attempt to do an end run around the law. If Congress really wants to prohibit discrimination against Jews and other religious groups, they can easily pass an updated law. Further, the new policy is rooted in two rather dubious assumptions: (1) that anti-Israel activism is inherently anti-Jewish, and (2) that Jews can properly be considered a national group. Are all Roman Catholics citizens of the Vatican? Are all Muslims citizens of Saudi Arabia? One imagines that this is going to be challenged in court by the ACLU, and that it won't take a judge very long to make a decision.
The President's move comes just days after he was accused of anti-Semitism (again), this time for giving a speech to a Jewish audience that was full of anti-Semitic tropes. For example, his assertion that the folks in the room have no choice but to vote for him, because they do not want to pay Elizabeth Warren's wealth tax. It would seem that, in his mind, Jews value money above all else, which may just be an offensive stereotype. Of course, by declaring Judaism to be a nationality, he has just sanctioned one of the most notorious anti-Semitic stereotypes of them all, namely that Jews have loyalty to multiple nations. Does anyone in the White House think about the implications of their actions before they take them? It does not appear so. (Z)
Under pressure from Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and others, Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D-South Bend) shed light on the most mysterious chapter of his adult life, and on Tuesday released the list of clients he consulted for while working at consulting firm McKinsey and Company.
The list contains the names of nine private or public concerns, most of them fairly benign. For example, it's hard to imagine how much scandal could emerge from the revelation that Buttigieg once advised the U.S. Postal Service. However, there are two names that stuck out. The first is Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Michigan, which engendered much controversy (and many lawsuits) due to its apparent mismanagement. This ultimately led the company—about two years after utilizing Buttigieg's services—to lay off 10% of its workforce. The second is Canadian grocery chain Loblaws, which (like a number of Canadian grocers) got in trouble for price fixing, a scam that unfolded before, during, and after Buttigieg's time spent consulting for them.
It seems somewhat unlikely that either of these things will come back to haunt the Mayor, though you never know. It also does not help that McKinsey itself has gotten into some hot water, for helping the Trump administration execute its border control policies, and for taking money from New York City while lying about the efficacy of anti-violence programs at Riker's Island. Both of these things came after Buttigieg's time with the firm, but some might decide that the company he chose to work for reflects on him in some way. (Z)
The Democratic candidates for president have until Thursday to qualify for the Party's seventh debate, to be held Dec. 19 in Los Angeles. Andrew Yang was right on the cusp, and on Tuesday he got the last poll that he needed to qualify, pulling a 4% in Quinnipiac's latest.
Now that Yang has punched his ticket, it means that at least seven folks will be up on that stage, as he will be joined by Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, and Tom Steyer. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) needs one more poll, while Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) needs a miracle.
Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) had also qualified, but she gave up her spot when she ended her campaign. She could easily have held on for another week or so, and tried a Hail Mary pass at the debate in an effort to turn things around, but she clearly did not believe that there was any possibility of a game changer. Given how many debates there have already been, and the fact that this one is just three days before Hanukkah, six days before Christmas, and is up against some heavy-duty TV programming, she's probably right to think that. (Z)
Another day, another Republican member of Congress deciding they're done. Tuesday, it was Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL), who was elected on a promise to serve only four terms, and said he has decided he will keep that promise. By our count, that makes him the 24th Republican member of the House to decide to pack it in this cycle.
Yoho's district is located in the Northeastern portion of the state, has a PVI of R+9, and went for Donald Trump by 15 points. So, it will presumably remain in Republican hands, and those hands will belong to a dyed-in-the-wool Trump lover. Thus far, the two Republican candidates are Amy Pope Wells and Judson Sapp. Neither has any political experience, but both have campaign webpages that emphasize that they are business owners, and that they very much love Jesus and the Donald. It is not clear in what order those two rank. Meanwhile, the Democrats in the race are a pair of perennial candidates, Philip Dodds and Tom Wells. According to their campaign websites, neither of them likes Trump at all. Their feelings about Jesus are not specified. (Z)
Tomorrow, the good people of the United Kingdom will head to the polls to try to choose a parliament that can finally rectify the Brexit situation, one way or another. With that, of course, could come a new prime minister. The general consensus seems to be that this is one of those elections that the United States seems to have so often these days, where voters will be choosing the less problematic of two bad options. On one side are the Conservatives and Boris Johnson. His flaws are pretty well known, but just in case anyone has forgotten: He's a nativist and populist who abuses his power and has been guilty of what the Guardian describes as "breathtaking hypocrisy." He's also hardly a model of ideal behavior in private; he alienates the people he works with, is allegedly somewhat lazy, and has been credibly accused of having a child from an extramarital affair, and then pretending that child does not exist. Should he be sustained, he's going to try to ram through Brexit, and then negotiate whatever comes next, once that is done. That is likely to make very few people happy, as it could keep the UK tied to the other EU countries in many ways, except without a lot of the benefits of actual EU membership, such as having a say in crafting EU policies, or having duty-free borders with Ireland.
Alternatively, folks could check their ballots for Labour. That would put Jeremy Corbyn in 10 Downing Street. Corbyn, however, has quite a few flaws of his own. To start, the fact that he and his party are not surging despite 10 years of shaky Conservative leadership and plenty of "throw the bums out" sentiment speaks to Corbyn's rather low popularity. In fact, he has the lowest approval ratings of any major British politician of the last decade, and has shown no ability whatsoever to expand his (or Labour's) appeal beyond hard-core supporters. He has also struggled to respond to charges of anti-Semitism within his own party, with the result that some Jewish voters have taken an "anyone but Corbyn" attitude heading into Thursday's balloting. If Corbyn is elected, he has promised to negotiate a new deal with the EU and put that to a referendum. Why that would work out better than all the alternatives that two PMs have already tried is an open question. It's something of a flimsy position, not unlike "we're going to replace Obamacare with...something." This reflects Corbyn's divided feelings on the issue (he was one of the few Labour MPs who voted against joining in the first place) and also the divisions within his party. Needless to say, having a less-than-strong stance on the dominant issue of the day is not a great place to be, politically.
There are no other parties in the UK that, right now, have a plausible path to a majority in Parliament. Jo Swinson, leader of the Liberal Democrats, has far less baggage than Johnson or Corbyn, but the premiership is not in her immediate future (and is probably not in her distant future, either). The best projection available suggests that Johnson is not only going to remain in power, but that he'll pick up 25-30 seats in Parliament, which will allow him to pass his Brexit deal. Of course, polling British parliamentary elections is always a tricky business, and you should never take anything to the bank until the ballots are counted. Still, if Johnson does win convincingly, then that will presumably be the end of the line for Corbyn as Labour leader. One wonders if the Party is wishing it had its old leader, Ed Miliband, back. Not only was he more moderate, he is also Jewish. (Z)
Note: Originally, we wrote that Corbyn would cancel Brexit without another referendum. That is actually the Lib Dems' position, not his position.
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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Dec10 Horowitz Releases His Report
Dec10 Full Speed Ahead on NAFTA v2.0
Dec10 Buttigieg-Warren Spat Looks to Be Winding Down
Dec10 Another Bush Enters the Fray
Dec10 Top Cop Slams Top Senators
Dec10 The Wrong Side of History
Dec09 Judiciary Committee Issues Report Describing the Impeachment Process
Dec09 How to Fix the Impeachment Process
Dec09 Trump Appeals Tax Return Case to the Supreme Court
Dec09 Warren and Buttigieg Are Fighting with Each Other
Dec09 Booker Rakes in Big Bucks
Dec09 Maine Group Launches Massive Campaign against Collins
Dec09 North Carolina Congressman Won't Run in 2020
Dec09 Duncan Hunter to Resign from Congress
Dec09 Dixville Notch May Not Go First
Dec08 Sunday Mailbag
Dec07 Saturday Q&A
Dec06 Pelosi Marches Forward
Dec06 Joe Loses His Cool
Dec06 Kim Promises "Christmas Gift"
Dec06 Warren Has Definitely Fallen Off
Dec06 Kerry Endorses Biden
Dec06 Democrats Try to Sweet Talk Bullock
Dec06 Graves Joins the Crowd Headed for the Exit
Dec05 House Learns What "High Crimes and Misdemeanors" Are, or Maybe It Doesn't
Dec05 Democrats Hint at Three Articles of Impeachment
Dec05 Giuliani Is Still at It
Dec05 Biden Says He Will Consider Harris as His Running Mate
Dec05 Kemp Defies Trump and Appoints Loeffler to the Senate
Dec05 Graham: Russia Interfered with the 2016 Election, Not Ukraine
Dec05 Horowitz: Russia Probe Was Legitimate
Dec05 Trump Calls Trudeau "Two-Faced"
Dec05 Heck Won't Run for Reelection
Dec04 House Intelligence Committee Releases Report on Ukraine
Dec04 Who Will Be the Impeachment Managers?
Dec04 Trump Loses Another Ruling Related to His Finances
Dec04 Harris Has Her Kamala to Jesus Moment
Dec04 Steyer Makes the Debate Cut
Dec04 Democrats Can't Sleep on Michigan Senate Seat
Dec04 I Am Not a Crook: A Look at History's Most Scandalous Scandals, Part VI
Dec03 Republicans Close Ranks Around Trump
Dec03 Page and Zelensky Speak Out
Dec03 Trump Readies for Another Trade War
Dec03 Steve Bullock Exits Democratic Presidential Race
Dec03 Garland Tucker Exits North Carolina Senate Race
Dec03 Duncan Hunter to Plead Guilty
Dec03 Assessment of Open House Seats
Dec03 I Am Not a Crook: A Look at History's Most Scandalous Scandals, Part V
Dec02 Intelligence Committee Will Circulate Draft Report Today