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Political Wire logo The Choice for GOP Senators
Pelosi Suggests Withholding Impeachment Articles
As Goes His Presidency, So Goes His Impeachment
President Trump Impeached
McConnell Is Leading a Senate Cover Up
Appeals Court Says Obamacare Mandate Unconstitutional
TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  Tuesday's Impeachment Maneuvering
      •  What Senators Are Most Likely to Buck Their Parties?
      •  House Passes $1.4 Trillion Spending Bills
      •  Georgia Follows Wisconsin's Lead
      •  Anti-Trump Republicans form Anti-Trump Super PAC
      •  Democratic Debate Is On
      •  Gates, Meet Walls (and Bars)

Tuesday's Impeachment Maneuvering

If all goes according to plan, today will be the big day. The House will "debate" for six hours (a period of time that will undoubtedly feature many stunts from Republicans). And then, December 18, 2019, will join February 24, 1868, and December 19, 1998, as the three days on which presidents of the United States were impeached. In anticipation of that auspicious occasion, just about all of the major players involved got in a bit of last-minute maneuvering on Tuesday.

Since the ball was in the court of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY)—by virtue of the letter sent to him this weekend by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY)—we'll start with him. Predictably, he rejected everything that Schumer proposed, particularly the calling of new witnesses who did not already speak to the House. "It is not the Senate's job to leap into the breach and search desperately for ways to get to 'guilty'," said the man who has spent most of the last month searching desperately for ways to get to "not guilty." And in case anyone is not clear on McConnell's approach to this whole thing, he also visited with Sean Hannity and explained: "I'm not an impartial juror. This is a political process. There is not anything judicial about it. Impeachment is a political decision."

Schumer, for his part, has largely been on the sidelines while Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) managed the first stages of the impeachment process. However, he's a savvy political operator, just as she is, and has been ubiquitous on TV this week as he maneuvers in response to McConnell. On Tuesday, the Minority Leader emphasized that the 47 members of his caucus are on the same page (translation: Senate Republicans, feel free to defect and join us on some issues). He also lamented McConnell's having reached a verdict before hearing any evidence, and pushed back on the "calling no more witnesses" issue, wondering how "less evidence" would ever be better than "more evidence." Schumer has been flogging polls that say that 70% of Americans want to hear more on the Ukraine matter from the members of the Trump administration.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump—who, as we know, simply cannot bear to sit on his hands—also took action, sending a six-page letter (some would call it a rant) to Pelosi, ripping into her and the Democrats. Among the "highlights":

  • "You have cheapened the importance of the very ugly word, impeachment!"
  • "[Y]ou are offending Americans of faith by continually saying you pray for the President when you know this statement is not true, unless it is meant in a negative sense."
  • "Now you are trying to impeach me by falsely accusing me of doing what Joe Biden has admitted he actually did."
  • "You view democracy as your enemy!"
  • "As you know very well, this impeachment drive has nothing to do with Ukraine..."
  • "More due process was afforded to those accused in the Salem Witch Trials."

It's that last assertion that has gotten the most attention (and mockery). For our part, we are dubious that Trump is capable of explaining what actually happened at the Salem Witch Trials. In fact, we doubt he would be capable of giving three facts about them. Heck, it's not terribly likely he even knows in what century the trials took place. In any event, though, he has reportedly been working on the letter for over a week. And, given the often-clunky verbiage as well as the punctuation errors, there's really no doubt he wrote it himself. Not long after the letter went to Pelosi, a link went out to the Trump 2020 and White House e-mail lists, warning supporters about the "Impeachment War" that is about to begin.

Pelosi, for her part, rolled her eyes at being characterized as the enemy of democracy by the President of the United States, and described the missive as "ridiculous" and "really sick." There are 20 days between today and the start of the 2020 session of Congress (Jan. 7). That's 20 days for the President to fume, and tweet, and appear on TV to whine and bitch and moan. By the end of that, even Fox News viewers may be hoping for a silent night. (Z)

What Senators Are Most Likely to Buck Their Parties?

Barring very unexpected developments, Donald Trump is not going to be removed from office. However, that doesn't mean that there will be no drama. As we've noted many times, there is no guarantee that the GOP caucus (or, for that matter, the Democratic caucus) remains unified throughout the trial. If there are even a few Republicans who do not toe the party line, that might allow the Democrats to win some important procedural votes. And if even a few Republicans vote for conviction, it will significantly blunt the Trump argument that all of this was just a witch hunt. "Apparently, half a dozen GOP senators are also in on the witch hunt?" Democrats will observe. Of course, Democratic defectors will confer the same basic benefit to the President and his supporters.

Quite a few outlets have tried to speculate which senators might possibly go rogue, at least on some votes. That includes The Bulwark, FiveThirtyEight, and Politico, among others. Of course, we have our ideas, too. There are some general "types" of senators who tend to make the lists. Specifically:

  • Politicians: Senators who may fear they will be punished by their constituents if they don't vote the "right" way.

  • Institutionalists: Senators who may still place the Constitution and/or the traditions of the Senate above party, at least sometimes.

  • Nothing to Lose: Senators who are retiring, or who otherwise aren't terribly concerned about reelection.

  • Trump Skeptics: Senators who have sometimes (or often) held the President at arm's length, or who otherwise have reason to dislike him.

Here is a table of senators, in both parties, who could break ranks, along with the categories from above into which they fit. They are listed from most likely to cross the aisle to least likely, in our judgment:

Senator State Poli Inst NtoL Skep Comments
Mitt Romney UT          ✔   ✔  Appears to have run for the Senate specifically so he could poke Trump in the eye
Susan Collins ME  ✔           ✔  Up in 2020, and many Mainers are furious about her Brett Kavanaugh vote
Cory Gardner CO  ✔              Up in 2020; no Republican senator will face an electorate bluer than Colorado's
Lisa Murkowski AK      ✔       ✔  About as rebellious as any Republican senator
Doug Jones AL  ✔           ✔  Up in 2020; if he thinks he can keep some of the Republicans who voted for him over Roy Moore, may vote for acquittal
Joe Manchin WV  ✔              Represents a very red state, but not up until 2024, and may be ready to retire by then
Lamar Alexander TN      ✔   ✔   ✔  Retiring next year
Chuck Grassley IA  ✔   ✔       ✔  Some of his constituents are unhappy about Trump's trade war, personal behavior
Joni Ernst IA  ✔           ✔  Up in 2020 in a reddish-purple state; see Chuck Grassley
Thom Tillis NC  ✔           ✔  Up in 2020 in a purple state; now that he's not facing a primary challenge, may be able to push back against Trump
Kyrsten Sinema AZ  ✔           ✔  Arizona is reddish-purple, not blue, and she's got one of the most conservative voting records among Democrats in her first year in the Senate
Richard Burr NC      ✔   ✔   ✔  Retiring in 2022; as Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee must be (at least) privately angry about Trump's behavior
Pat Roberts KS      ✔   ✔      Retiring next year
Rand Paul KY              ✔  In every situation, he is a wild card
Ted Cruz TX              ✔  He certainly hasn't forgotten the insults against his wife and father
Martha McSally AZ  ✔              Up in 2020; just lost an election in 2018 because she could not attract moderate/independent votes
John Cornyn TX  ✔   ✔          Up in 2020, facing a challenger that could attract a lot of independent/moderate/NeverTrump votes
Ben Sasse NE              ✔  Up in 2020 in a red state, but has sometimes pushed back against Trump's worst excesses
Mike Enzi WY          ✔      Retiring next year

How many of these folks, particularly on the Republican side, will actually jump ship? Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) says it's five or fewer. His senior colleague Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) believes it's "five to ten." GOP presidential candidate Bill Weld, who is somewhat dialed in, predicts "four to six." Senate Republican insiders, speaking off the record, are worried about roughly 10 members of their caucus. You will note that none of these folks are predicting zero defections. And so, even if Trump is acquitted, he is likely to suffer some significant damage in "victory." (Z)

House Passes $1.4 Trillion Spending Bills

The thought of a government shutdown, heading into an election year, gives most politicians nightmares. And so, the folks in Washington are working hard to get the government funded through next year. On Tuesday, the House passed a $1.4 trillion spending package that will now head to the Senate for its approval.

The package, of course, reflects the spending priorities of both parties. It's heavy on military spending, the way Republicans like. Specifically, $738 billion is set aside for the military, while $632 billion is allocated for the entire rest of the government. In addition, three taxes used to raise money for Obamacare will be killed off. Those things should make Donald Trump happy. On the other hand, there's just $1.4 billion for border fencing, which is the usual allocation, needed for maintenance and repair. The President did not get the $8.6 billion he wanted. Democrats are calling that a win for them, Republicans say it's no big deal, Trump can just move some money around, the way he's doing in 2019.

If all goes as planned, the Senate will take up the matter today and tomorrow, and then the bills will head to Trump's desk for his signature. He's expected to sign, although he's also said he would not sign omnibus funding bills anymore. Further, he was expected to sign last year, and then he changed his mind at the last minute and shut the government down. So, don't count any chickens until the eggs are actually hatched. (Z)

Georgia Follows Wisconsin's Lead

You don't often see Georgia and Wisconsin grouped together, given the distance and the differences between the two. However, they do have a few things in common, like a state legislature that is dominated by the GOP. And that may just help to explain a second commonality that presented itself this week: both are purging hundreds of thousands of "inactive" voters from the state's voter rolls. In Wisconsin, it is 234,000 voters, while in Georgia it is over 300,000.

In both states, the contours of the argument are the same. State officials—Republicans, in both cases—argue that it is their responsibility to keep voter lists up to date, and that the removals are within the scope of their authority to do so. Opponents—Democrats, in both cases—argue that the purges are too broad, and are being undertaken after inadequate efforts to contact would-be purgees. Both arguments have some merit.

In any case, the people being purged are more likely to be Democrats than not, and could show up at their polling place next year, only to find that they are no longer registered. Given ongoing GOP efforts to limit Democratic votes through maneuvers like voter ID laws, it is easy to assume that this is the latest salvo on that front. Legal challenges are ongoing in both states, though the Democrats probably face an uphill battle in both. In Wisconsin, it is possible for citizens to register on Election Day at their polling place, but that requires proof of residence, which not everyone carries in their hip pocket at all times. In Georgia, no such luck. (Z)

Anti-Trump Republicans form Anti-Trump Super PAC

George Conway, lawyer and husband of Kellyanne; Steve Schmidt, former adviser to John McCain; John Weaver, former strategist for John Kasich's presidential campaign; and Rick Wilson, longtime political strategist are among the most prominent anti-Trump Republicans in the country. And now, they have banded together to announce the formation of the Lincoln Project, an anti-Trump Super PAC that will work to block the President's reelection in 2020.

At the moment, the group has a New York Times op-ed, a rock-solid name, and a spiffy website to its credit, but that's about it. There's no evidence, as yet, that they can raise the millions they say they plan to raise. Nor have they outlined a clear plan for how they might spend that money to Trump's detriment. After all, anywhere they do an ad buy, he will be able to outspend them 10 to 1. Their best move would probably be to recruit Rep. Justin Amash (I-MI) and to back a Libertarian bid by him. The Libertarians would presumably agree to that (since Amash was always more Libertarian than Republican), it would get Amash on the ballot in all 50 states (no longer possible for an independent candidate), and it would give Republicans who hate Trump but can't bear to vote Democratic an outlet for their votes. In any event, until Conway & Co. scrape together some money and lay out a cogent plan, there's no reason to believe they will be able to influence the election in a meaningful way. (Z)

Democratic Debate Is On

Well, that didn't last long. Although there was a very strong possibility that labor unrest would derail the sixth Democratic debate, peace in our time has been secured. Ok, maybe not peace in our time, but enough of a peace that union workers have shut down their picket lines, which will allow the seven Democratic candidates to appear on stage without looking like scabs.

It would appear that DNC Chair Tom Perez, the former Secretary of Labor, stepped in and lent his skills to resolving the impasse between service workers at Loyola Marymount and the third-party company that employs them and that contracts with the university for their labor. Once agreement had been reached on a three-year contract, Perez took a victory lap, declaring: "This agreement is also an important reminder of our values as a Democratic Party. Every single Democrat running for president believes in the importance of collective bargaining, believes in the importance of the labor movement."

It would be interesting and appropriate for Thursday's moderators—PBS NewsHour anchor and managing editor Judy Woodruff, Politico chief political correspondent Tim Alberta, PBS NewsHour White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor and PBS NewsHour senior national correspondent Amna Nawaz—to ask the candidates about this dispute, or about labor issues in general, since that subject has not gotten all that much play at the first five debates. That said, it's more likely that we'll get more "gotcha" questions about whether or not Medicare for All raises taxes on middle class Americans, or flimsy questions about subjects where everyone already knows the candidates' positions, like abortion rights or Donald Trump's income taxes. (Z)

Gates, Meet Walls (and Bars)

Robert Mueller and his report have been all-but-forgotten in Washington, a testament to how effective a job the GOP spin machine did of converting "I can't prosecute a sitting president for obstruction of justice, but Congress sure can, hint, hint" into "nothing to see here."

The courts have not forgotten, however, and on Tuesday another Donald Trump underling was sentenced to some time in the hoosegow. That would be former campaign adviser Rick Gates, who got only 45 days because he was so cooperative with Mueller's investigation. Implicit in Judge Amy Berman Jackson's remarks on the matter was a warning that folks who are guilty of misdeeds but do not cooperate (ahem, Mick Mulvaney, Mike Pompeo, etc.) could find themselves on the receiving end of a much less tolerable sentence, should it ever come to that.

As a reminder, Gates is the 8th person associated with the Trump campaign/Trump administration to be sentenced for crimes related to their work on behalf of Trump (soon, Michael Flynn will make it nine). By way of comparison, 15 members of the Nixon administration were sentenced, as were 9 members of the Bush 43 administration, and 8 members of the Reagan administration. The grand total for all three Democrats to serve since 1968 (Darleen A. Druyun, the United States Under Secretary of the Air Force for Bill Clinton). (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Dec17 Schumer Makes His Impeachment Counter-Moves
Dec17 Van Drew Loses Staff, Gains Two Admirers
Dec17 About that 4%...
Dec17 Thursday Debate in Serious Jeopardy
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Dec17 Some States Spend on Census, Some Don't
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Dec16 How Trump Wins in 2020
Dec16 Booker Asks DNC to Soften the Rules for Qualifying for the Debates
Dec16 Bloomberg: Boris Johnson is the Canary in the Coal Mine
Dec16 Democrats Have Found Their 2020 Campaign Issue
Dec16 Biden Is Counting on Texas
Dec16 Fox News Poll: Half the Country Wants Trump Removed from Office
Dec16 Judge Orders 234,000 Wisconsin Voters to Be Purged from the Rolls
Dec16 New Voters Are Not Like Old Voters
Dec16 Pompeo Opens a Personal Twitter Account
Dec16 Jefferson Takes a Stand
Dec15 Sunday Mailbag
Dec14 Supreme Court to Take Up Trump Taxes
Dec14 House Judiciary Committee Makes it Official
Dec14 Saturday Q&A
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Dec13 Senate Recognizes Armenian Genocide
Dec13 About that Trump Family Hypocrisy...
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Dec12 I Am Not a Crook: A Look at History's Most Scandalous Scandals, Part VII
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