McConnell Faces Pressure From Republicans on Shutdown
Quote of the Day
Trump Is Well Versed In Russian Talking Points
Pelosi Sends a Message to Trump
Pelosi Says Trump’s Wall Is ‘Immoral’
Postcard from Vietnam
• Trump Goes Easy on Pelosi So Far
• Trump Attacks Romney: "I Won Big and He Didn't"
• Five House Chairs Will Drive Trump Nuts
• Pittenger Won't Run in NC-09 Primary If There Is One
• Beto vs. Bernie: It's On
• Thursday Q&A
Editorial note: The mouseovers on the map now give the election results for each state from 1992 to 2016. For 2016, the pop-up boxes include not only Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump but also Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson. The reason for omitting Green Party candidate Jill Stein is pragmatic: The software was written in 2004, when there was only one serious independent candidate (Ralph Nader), so it was written to handle three candidates but not four. In 2016, Johnson came in third with 3.28% of the vote, triple Stein's 1.07%. He topped 5% in nine states. She didn't pass 3% in any state, and passed 2% in only three states (Hawaii, Oregon, and Vermont). In all 47 states where she was on the ballot, Johnson outpolled Stein, so he was clearly #3.
Donald Trump met with Democratic leaders Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) yesterday to talk about ending the shutdown. Briefly summarized, Trump wants them to include $5 billion in the DHS spending bill so he can start building a wall on the Mexican border, and they have zero interest in giving him the money. So, the shutdown continues. If both sides continue to hold their current views, the shutdown will last until at least Jan. 20, 2021. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) was much more optimistic, saying it could last for merely weeks instead of years.
Both sides have much incentive to stick to their guns. For Trump, building the wall was his #1 campaign promise and if he doesn't get the money now, he never will and his base will be furious. Plus, he would look very foolish shutting down the government and then getting the same thing he would have gotten if he'd never done so. That's not our opinion, it's his—Trump admitted that to Schumer during their meeting, according to multiple sources. Meanwhile, for the Democratic leaders, their base would run them out of town if they gave Trump his wall without getting something very big in return (such as citizenship for the dreamers). Besides, polls show that the public blames Trump, and the longer the shutdown goes on, the more he will suffer.
Up until now, the shutdown hasn't been painful for many people, but now as paychecks don't get sent out and the national parks are filling with garbage, people are going to get much angrier. This will not work in the Republicans' favor, especially if the House passes a new spending bill every few days and sends it over to the Senate. Mitch McConnell may eventually decide he doesn't like the monkey on his back, so he could bring the House bills up for a vote. They will probably pass, forcing Trump to veto them, making it even more clear whose fault the shutdown is. (V)
The Democrats will take over the House of Representatives today and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is virtually certain to be elected speaker of the House. As such, she is going to be a gigantic thorn in Trump's side for the next 2 years. He will discover that immediately, as he is going to have to negotiate with her and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) about ending the government shutdown (see above).
So far, Trump has carefully avoided attacking Pelosi directly, even though in the conservative media, she is bête noire #1. It is not clear why he has spared her, but it could be because he understands that if he is to get any legislation at all passed, she will have to approve it, and antagonizing her for nothing this early could be counterproductive. On the other hand, as soon as he starts negotiating with her and discovers that she is tough as nails and won't give him a nickel for his beloved wall, the knives could come out for her. One thing is certain, though: She can take it and won't budge unless he offers her something really good.
Also noteworthy is that he hasn't made up a slur for her yet like "crooked Hillary." But he could well have been working on the project, given that he was holed up in the White House all alone with nothing to do for the past 2 weeks. He could go with "Hairy Nancy," since "pelosi" means "hairy" in Italian, although it's unlikely Trump is aware of that. Even with two weeks to work, something like "Nasty Nancy," which would take anyone else 15 seconds to come up with, seems more likely. (V)
Donald Trump cannot let any criticism go unanswered, so he hit back at the junior senator from Utah, Mitt Romney, yesterday. Romney wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post mildly criticizing Trump. Trump's response:
Here we go with Mitt Romney, but so fast! Question will be, is he a Flake? I hope not. Would much prefer that Mitt focus on Border Security and so many other things where he can be helpful. I won big, and he didn’t. He should be happy for all Republicans. Be a TEAM player & WIN!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 2, 2019
Romney didn't fire back, although the obvious rejoinder would have been: "You won only because you had Vladimir Putin working hard for you." It is not clear what Trump means by "is he a Flake." Given the capitalization, he presumably is referring to former senator Jeff Flake, who often talked as if he opposed Trump, but in the end always caved. Is Trump expecting Romney to ultimately cave on everything, too? Maybe Trump means that he was able to scare Flake so much that he didn't even bother to run for reelection. Romney isn't up again for 6 years and it is inconceivable that Trump will be able to drive him out of the race in 2024, assuming Romney is interested in running again.
Romney appeared on CNN yesterday afternoon. He told Jake Tapper that he won't run against Trump in 2020, although that doesn't mean he will support Trump then. He said he wanted to see what the alternatives will be before endorsing anyone.
Nevertheless, Romney listed a number of times where he strongly disagreed with Trump. These include how Trump handled the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville and his support for child molester Roy Moore in the Alabama special election in 2017. On the other hand, maybe Trump was right and Romney will prove to be a Flake (and a flake). In the interview, Romney said he would feel free to criticize Trump but still vote for his bills. The technical term for this is "spinelessness." For starters, Romney said he would vote for Trump's wall, even though building a wall has never been a high priority with him before.
Incidentally, the spat between Trump and Romney would seem to put RNC Chair Ronna Romney McDaniel in a tough position, since on one side is her uncle and on the other is her de facto boss. However, McDaniel made clear on Wednesday where her loyalties are:
POTUS is attacked and obstructed by the MSM media and Democrats 24/7. For an incoming Republican freshman senator to attack @realdonaldtrump as their first act feeds into what the Democrats and media want and is disappointing and unproductive. https://t.co/ArhI7Bi7bo— Ronna McDaniel (@GOPChairwoman) January 2, 2019
She must have checked her contract and noted that only one of these two men has the power to fire her. This is not too much of a surprise, in the end. Hell, she changed her name for Trump, and this is small potatoes compared to that. (V)
As the Democrats take over the House today, five incoming committee chairs will give Donald Trump a particularly hard time. Here is a quick rundown of the big five.
- Jerrold Nadler (D-NY, Judiciary): Trump and Nadler have been fighting
each other since the 1980s, when Nadler was in the New York Assembly and Trump wanted to
develop Manhattan real estate in a way that Nadler didn't like. So, in addition to all their political
problems, the two men have hated each other personally for decades. Nadler's committee has oversight over
immigration and impeachment, two issues of great interest to Trump. Nadler is certain to focus first on
immigration, especially things like the current policy of putting children in cages, and will wait until
special counsel Robert Mueller issues his report before thinking much about impeachment.
- Adam Schiff (D-CA, Intelligence): Trump and Schiff don't care for each
other either, but their relationship is much shorter. Nevertheless, Trump has a nickname for him:
"Little Adam Schitt." Schiff is interested in Russian money laundering, the July 2016 Trump Tower
meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, and much more. Last month, Schiff said: "There's
a very real prospect that on the day Donald Trump leaves office the Justice Department may indict
him, that he may be the first President in quite some time to face the real prospect of jail time."
With statements like that, it's no wonder that Trump is not fond of Schiff.
- Richard Neal (D-MA, Ways and Means): A 1924 law gives Neal the
authority to demand Trump's tax returns and he plans to use that authority very quickly. Trump has
already said he will fight it. The case is probably going to make it to the Supreme Court, which
could invalidate the law, with Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh voting to save Trump's
neck. The public reaction to that probably won't be pretty. On the other hand, Chief Justice John Roberts is no Trump fan, so his vote is far from certain.
- Elijah Cummings (D-MD, Oversight and Government Reform): Cummings'
committee has very broad powers and can investigate just about anything the executive branch does.
He has already sent out 51 letters asking administration officials for information about a wide
variety of matters. These will shortly turn into 51 subpoenas. Nevertheless, Cummings and his staff
have only so much time, so they will have to prioritize their investigations. So far, Cummings
hasn't announced what those priorities are, though.
- Maxine Waters (D-CA, Banking): It goes without saying that Trump doesn't care much for a black woman who has the power to investigate his finances. He has called her a "low IQ person," which has no basis in reality, but surely will motivate her to do her job thoroughly just to prove him wrong. Her particular interest is Deutsche Bank and its relation to Trump and Russian money launderers. If she hits paydirt, the sparks will really fly, since if there is one thing he really cares about, it is his money.
As the House committees begin issuing subpoenas, the administration will probably delay responding as long as it can and possibly fight every one in court, leading to a lot of frustration on the part of the committee chairs. It could get very nasty. (V)
In the Republican primary in NC-09 last year, Mark Harris (R) defeated incumbent Robert Pittenger (R). The general election has been tainted by evidence of fraud and will probably have to be done again. An open question at this moment is whether there will be new primaries. If there are, Pittenger announced yesterday that he won't be running in the Republican one. This could give Harris a clear shot at the nomination—unless one or more other Republicans decide that Harris is a weak candidate and try to grab the nomination from him.
The House is expected to declare the NC-09 seat vacant today, in which case there will almost certainly have to be a special election, probably with new primaries. There could also be court fights. We are definitely in uncharted territory here. (V)
Unlike his colleague from Massachusetts, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) hasn't officially announced his 2020 presidential candidacy yet, although he's done all the things that would-be candidates do, like visit Iowa enough times to risk getting corn poisoning. Beto O'Rourke hasn't even gone as far as Sanders has; he's still recovering from his unsuccessful U.S. Senate campaign. In the end, they'll both probably run, but it's neither official nor certain as yet. You wouldn't know that, however, from the war of words being waged, mostly online, by supporters of the two candidates.
The thus-far-hypothetical rivalry between Sanders and O'Rourke is palpable enough that articles about it have become something of a cottage industry. Examples from the last month:
- Bernie versus Beto: Democratic cannibalization begins
- Why Are Democrats Trying to Annihilate an O'Rourke Campaign Before It Has Even Started?
- Bernie Sanders supporters should worry about Beto O'Rourke
- Inside Bernie-world's war on Beto O'Rourke
- The Real Reason Why Some Bernie Sanders Fans Have It In For Beto O'Rourke
- Why the Bernie Movement Must Crush Beto O'Rourke
The two men do have much in common, at least style-wise. They're both charismatic and likable, they both refuse to take donations from lobbying and/or corporate interests, and they both seem very authentic. "In Bernie Sanders, I see a man saying that the emperor has no clothes while everyone around him insists they see clothes," the actor Dick Van Dyke once observed about the Senator. And when Barack Obama first met with O'Rourke, earlier this year, his assessment was: "What I liked most about his race was that it didn't feel constantly poll-tested. It felt as if he based his statements and his positions on what he believed."
The difference between the two candidates, of course, is in their politics. As a resident of Vermont, a small state with many iconoclasts and freethinkers and latter-day hippies, Sanders has been able to carve out a viable career as an honest-to-goodness left-wing socialist. Well, left-wing by American standards; in many European countries he would actually be middle-of-the-road. O'Rourke, on the other hand, comes from Texas. And no matter how blue TX-16 might be (it's D+17), folks there ain't got no truck with no socialists. And so, he is necessarily much more of a centrist than Sanders is, and his record reflects that.
The folks who are driving the current war of words are primarily hard-core Sanders supporters. In particular, they are the people who gravitated toward him specifically because of his socialism, as they share his inclination to view all problems through the lens of class. What these individuals realize, quite correctly, is that most of the people who made up the Bernie 2016 movement don't particularly share the Senator's particular vision, they were just attracted by his authenticity and his apparent incorruptibility. O'Rourke has those things too, probably to a greater extent, plus he has youth and momentum on his side. Also, as a Spanish-speaking fellow with a sizable Latino following, he's more appealing to voters of color than Sanders is. So, it's quite correct to think that Beto 2020 is an existential threat to Bernie 2020.
In the end, there are three takeaways here: (1) The 2020 race is well underway, even if only a handful of Democrats have thrown their hats into the ring; (2) If Sanders and/or O'Rourke plans to run, it would behoove them to announce sooner rather than later and stake an early claim on the lane they both occupy; and (3) If Sanders and O'Rourke both enter the race, Sanders is probably in deep trouble. (Z)
It wouldn't be a Q&A these days if we didn't begin with a shutdown question, so...
I'm wondering about the health insurance coverage for government workers furloughed and/or not receiving paychecks due to the shutdown. Are they covered? L.H., Silver City, NM
According to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), they are, for up to 365 days. One can only hope the government is reopened before the calendar turns to 2020 (or, more accurately, to December 20, 2019).
As you can imagine, the hundreds of thousands of people who are currently furloughed have lots of questions like this, so OPM has put together a 44-page guide that endeavors to answer all of them, and to give pointers and advice. It's not bad, but employees should probably be a little bit careful about any advice that is proffered. For example, if someone were to make use of that supposedly helpful "letter to send to creditors" that was promulgated last week, they could end up giving a bank or lender evidence of inability to pay, which would make a foreclosure suit a slam dunk.
If the President was impeached and convicted right before being reelected, would he be able to resume his office? And could Congress retry him for the same high crimes and misdemeanors, or does double jeopardy protection exist for impeachment? D.C., San Francisco, CA
The first question is the easier one to answer. Here is the relevant part of Art. I, Sec. 3 of the Constitution:
Judgment in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States: but the Party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to Indictment, Trial, Judgment and Punishment, according to Law.
This has been interpreted to mean that the Senate needs to hold two votes if they want to remove someone and disqualify them. Sometimes, they hold the second vote, and disqualify the person. Sometimes they don't. One presumes that an impeached president would be subjected to both rounds of voting, and that if he failed on one, he'd fail on the other.
As to the second question, here is the key part of the Constitution, this time from the Fifth Amendment:
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb...
This makes clear that double jeopardy applies to criminal offenses. And if you consult the portion of Art. I, Sec. 3 above, it makes crystal clear that an impeachment trial is not a criminal trial, as it notes that impeachment has no impact on the possibility of bringing a criminal indictment. This would seem to suggest that an impeachable offense is not subject to double jeopardy.
Assume that Team Trump continues their solid record of perfidy, and that Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker (or Bill Barr, or whoever assumes the post permanently) decides to withhold the report or key parts of it from Congress? What happens if it comes to light in a manner similar to the Pentagon Papers? Could the report be used, at that point, to impeach the executive? A.W., Amsterdam, Netherlands
First, it's probable that committee chairs, particularly Jerrold Nadler, have the right to subpoena the report, so that likely removes any legal issues right there. In addition, Nadler could subpoena Mueller to testify before his committee in public and then ask him: "What did the censored parts of your report say?" At that point Mueller would be required by law to repeat all the censored material.
However, if that is not the case, it's still not likely to be a problem. After all, the Mueller Report is just going to be a collection of evidence. If the Congress wants to impeach someone, it really shouldn't matter where their evidence came from, whether their own investigations, or from a whistle-blower, or from a leaked document.
If Team Trump's lawyers were to try to disqualify a leaked Mueller report from being used, they would probably have to try to argue that any evidence acquired from it is the fruit of the poisonous tree, and is therefore inadmissible. The first problem with this argument is that, as noted above, impeachment is not a criminal proceeding, and so this doctrine probably does not apply. The second is that it also does not apply to evidence that would have been discovered, anyhow. And surely the Democrats in Congress will be looking at many of the same people and events that Mueller is looking at, and so could argue that they would ultimately have discovered whatever it is that he discovered.
In other words: If Barr or Whitaker tries to bury the report, it's not likely to do Trump much good.
This morning, you made predictions for 2019. Did you make predictions for 2018? And if so, how did you do? W.R.S., Tucson, AZ
We did not think to do so, regrettably, although we did make a note to ourselves to make sure to revisit that post at the end of the year, to see how we and others did.
If this counts, (Z) did make some predictions in response to students' questions on the website for his U.S. history course. Specifically, he guessed that the House would flip, the Senate would not, there would be no impeachment in 2018, and that there would be a then-unknown Democrat who would emerge as a frontrunner for the presidential nomination by the end of the year. That last part would seem to describe Beto O'Rourke; if so, then (Z) went 4-for-4.
Can you do a favour for your many Canadian readers and share your analysis of our election in 2019? A.P., Toronto, Canada
We intended to include a brief capsule on the Canadian elections in out rundown of key 2019 contests, and then ran short on time. So, thanks for the opportunity to rectify that omission! (And because you're Canadian, we're going to let you get away with putting a 'u' in 'favour,' even though it makes our American spell-checker cranky.)
With the caveat that our expertise is U.S. politics, it appears that Canada is experiencing the same things that the rest of the Western world is: Economic change, concerns about global warming, racial/cultural/religious tensions, and the like. And given that Justin Trudeau's approval rating has dropped to a Trump-like 35%, he and his Liberal colleagues are in danger of getting washed away in a "throw the bums out" kind of election. In the U.S., that would mean a rightward lurch. But Andrew Scheer and his Conservative Party look somewhat vulnerable, too, as many Canadians' complaint about Team Trudeau is not that they are too leftist, but instead that they aren't leftist enough. Even Alberta, the Texas of Canada, has been trending purple (to use the American term). Could that pave the way for Jagmeet Singh and his New Democratic Party to somehow seize the premiership? We're skeptical, but maybe that is because we are Americans, and are used to having only two real options. Certainly, some Canadian commentators think there is a chance, if a slim one.
In terms of U.S. politics, Donald Trump would obviously prefer Scheer over the alternatives. The two men are both anti-regulation, anti-Paris Accord, and pro-Brexit. If Trudeau is sustained, he's likely to become more vocally anti-Trump, and more aggressive about global warming. And if Singh somehow achieves power, well, Trump will surely be just thrilled by photo-ops with a turban-wearing Sikh, especially since much of the base believes that turban=Muslim.
Donald Trump has a chance of winning the Electoral College in 2020 while losing the popular vote by 4-5 million votes. What would be the impact for U.S. politics be, should this happen for a second time with Trump? Even George W. Bush won over 50% in his second election. D.R., Dublin, Ireland
When it looked like Trump would lose in 2016, there were implied threats that his base would take to the streets and turn violent. That threat has remained, particularly in the event that he's impeached and removed from office.
Given that the seed has been planted in the minds of Americans, namely that this is an appropriate way to respond to an electoral defeat, it is certainly possible that anti-Trump folks would turn violent if he "stole" another election (as they see it). The good news, on this front, is that urban riots almost always happen on hot days, while Election Day is in November. So, maybe angry Democrats would just stay at home and wave their fists at their TVs while drinking hot cocoa. Or, since they are Democrats, venti Foam Cascara Nitros with soy milk.
It is also very possible that if the Republicans win their third "electoral vote but not popular vote" election in 20 years, it could provide the impetus for changing the system. That's how it happened 100 years ago; there were a number of fiascos in the choice of Senators (which was done by state legislature back then), and so the 17th Amendment, calling for direct election of Senators, was adopted in 1913. It is unlikely that the Electoral College will be taken out of the Constitution, but the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, a workaround that would have the effect of awarding the presidency to the winner of the popular vote, might just get over the hump.
The last time someone went straight from vice president to president was George H.W. Bush in 1988. Dan Quayle didn't have an opportunity, Al Gore lost, Dick Cheney didn't run, and Joe Biden lost in the invisible primaries. That means we're at 30 years and counting since we've had a vice president become president. Barring a Trump resignation or impeachment elevating Pence, we easily could hit 40 years. How unusual is this drought? C.T., Portland, OR
Interestingly, only 14 vice presidents have gone on to be president. Nine of those, of course, made the move because the president ceased to be president (4 assassinations, 4 natural deaths, 1 resignation). That leaves us with just four men, besides Bush 41, who finished their terms as vice president and then managed to get elected president: John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Martin Van Buren, and Richard Nixon. The first three of those went straight from vice president to president, in 1797, 1801, and 1837, respectively. Nixon tried to pull the trick, too, but lost to JFK in 1960, and so had to wait eight extra years.
In other words, the "drought" isn't rare at all. What's rare is what Bush did. This then raises a second question: Why do veeps so rarely manage to snag a promotion to the big job? If we remove the nine who got promoted automatically, that means that less than 13% (5 of the 39 remaining vice presidents) managed the feat. Here are five reasons that so many veeps failed to move up the ladder:
- Seven of them died in office, and thus never had an opportunity to try for the White House.
- Veeps rarely get credit for a successful administration, but they do tend to be tainted by serving in a crummy one (think: Walter Mondale).
- Ambitious politicians tend to decline nomination as VP, knowing it is a dead end.
- It is indelicate for a vice president to do too much electioneering while in office, especially on issues where he disagrees with the president.
- Veeps are often chosen because they appeal strongly to a small faction of their party, rather than appealing to the populace as a whole (think: Sarah Palin).
In short, if you're thinking about betting money on Pence 2020 or Pence 2024, don't bet much.
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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Jan04 Some States Are Switching from Caucuses to Primaries
Jan04 Nadler Introduces a Bill to Protect Mueller
Jan04 Cory Gardner Calls for an End to the Shutdown with the Wall
Jan02 Russians Arrest Alleged U.S. Spy
Jan02 Kim Jong-Un Issues Threats
Jan02 Trump Shoots Down Democrats' Funding Proposal
Jan02 Trump Slams McChrystal
Jan02 Romney Slams Trump
Jan02 The Year Ahead, Part I: Races to Watch
Jan02 The Year Ahead, Part II: Predictions
Jan01 Warren Is In
Jan01 Mattis Is Out
Jan01 House Democrats Have Their Plan in Place
Jan01 Federal Employees Sue
Jan01 Trump's 2018 in Review: The Highs and Lows
Jan01 Trump's 2018 in Review: By the Numbers
Jan01 Trump's 2018 in Review: Twitter
Dec31 Trump Can't Find a Consistent Way to Blame the Democrats for the Shutdown
Dec31 McChrystal Says Trump Is Immoral
Dec31 Kelly Gives an Interview with the Los Angeles Times
Dec31 Pay No Attention to Lindsey Graham
Dec31 The Environmental Impact of the Wall
Dec31 Democrats United against Trump but Split on Everything Else
Dec31 Where Will Trump Be Tonight?
Dec31 Monday Q&A
Dec30 Russians Pressured Manafort while He Led Trump Campaign
Dec30 Trump Keeps Tweeting; That's How the White House Staff Likes It
Dec30 This Is What Fake News Looks Like
Dec30 And This Is What Corruption Looks Like
Dec30 How Will History Remember 2018?
Dec30 Democratic Presidential Candidate of the Week: Jerry Brown
Dec29 Cell Phone Data Puts Cohen in Prague Despite His Claim He Has Never Been There
Dec29 No Movement on Shutdown, Despite Trump's Pretending Otherwise
Dec29 Trump to Freeze Federal Employees' Pay
Dec29 North Carolina Election Board Is Disbanded before Certifying the NC-09 Election
Dec29 House Republicans Conclude Investigation into FBI's Handling of Clinton E-mails
Dec29 Democrats Will Have $129 Million Extra to Spend on Staff in January
Dec29 Putin Seems to Be Favoring the GRU over the FSB
Dec28 Congress Reconvenes and Nothing Happens
Dec28 Federal Government Advising Its Workers on How to Deal with Creditors
Dec28 Poll: More Blame Trump for Shutdown than Democrats
Dec28 For Trump, Desperation Appears to Be Setting In
Dec28 Two Texas Democrats Are on a Collision Course in 2020
Dec28 How Russian Money Saved Trump
Dec28 MSNBC Tops Fox in the Latest Ratings
Dec27 Trump Finally Visits the Troops
Dec27 Effects of Government Shutdown Slowly Begin to Show Themselves
Dec27 Term Limits on the President Could be Abolished
Dec27 Markets Come Roaring Back