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Political Wire logo Park Service Diverts $2.5 Million for Trump’s July 4th
Mark Kelly Posts Another Good Fundraising Quarter
U.S. to Drop Citizenship Question from Census
Bernie Sanders Is In Big Trouble
White House Gives Donors Tickets to July 4th Event
The Welcome Humiliation of John Bolton

TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  A Weekend of Foreign Policy, Trump-Style
      •  ICE Raids Are Apparently Back On
      •  Census Delay Looking More Likely
      •  Social Media Platforms Take (Small) Steps to Combat Abuses
      •  Two More Post-Debate Polls Are Out
      •  Buttigieg Takes in Nearly $25 Million
      •  Collins Now Has a Serious Challenger

A Weekend of Foreign Policy, Trump-Style

Donald Trump has returned from his trip to Asia. However, the headlines are still being dominated by the adventures that he and his cohort had while abroad, including his interactions with the Koreans, his daughter's faux diplomacy, one staffer who got into a brawl, and another who got banished to Mongolia.

Starting with the President, he's getting a lot of positive attention (which he loves) for his "historic" accomplishment of physically setting foot in North Korea. It's not just Fox News and Breitbart, either, the non-right-wing media has also given quite a bit of positive coverage.

Frankly, we don't get it. Any president since the 1950s could have visited North Korea if he had decided to do so. But they all chose not to, because they knew they would be handing the Kim family a huge propaganda victory. And if there were any doubt about that, one need only watch the video, and take note of how aggressive the North Korean press was as they tried to capture photos for use by their Dear Leader:

It's true that there's something to be said for symbolic gestures. One thinks of Ronald Reagan's handshake with Mikhail Gorbachev in Geneva in 1985 (the first meeting between a Soviet premier and an American president in nearly a decade), or Barack Obama's trip to see the Dead Sea Scrolls in Israel, or Richard Nixon's visit to China. However, Trump and his predecessors have made plenty of those gestures in Kim's direction, and yet the North Korean leader (and his father and his grandfather) have kept developing their weapons (and, more often than not, lying about it). "Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me," goes the old saying. Well, what about "fool me a dozen times"?

Meanwhile, continuing on the theme of playing into Kim's hands, the New York Times reports that the Trump administration is probably going to move the goal posts on North Korea. Instead of aiming for denuclearization, which was never going to happen, the new target may be a "nuclear freeze," in which Kim agrees not to develop any more nuclear weapons than he already has. The administration will also declare, allegedly, that since Trump personally kept a war with North Korea from taking place, that is enough of a "victory" for any president. Of course, the notion that a war was imminent is false, while a "nuclear freeze" would still leave a very dangerous country and leader in possession of enough firepower to wreak havoc on South Korea, Japan, and possibly the United States. And once again, why would anyone believe Kim even if he says he is "freezing"?

And the interaction with Kim is not the only news that Trump made vis-á-vis a Korean leader. He also had a private chat with South Korea's President Moon Jae-in. That's not inherently problematic, but the Trump Organization is building condos in Indonesia in partnership with a company partly owned by the South Korean government. This has people wondering if Trump's business interests came up in his ostensibly diplomatic meeting with Moon. Odds are that we will never know.

Moving on to Ivanka, there is nobody who is describing her weekend as "historic." At the very least, she embarrassed herself, and very possibly her father and her country, as well, by presuming a level of importance and status that is not her due. Here's the photograph everyone is talking about, which tells the story pretty well:

Ivanka at the G-20

There's also a video, which was filmed and then posted online by the French. In it, Ivanka tries to insinuate herself into a conversation between a group of world leaders, including French president Emmanuel Macron, British prime minister Theresa May, and Christine Lagarde, the International Monetary Fund managing director. None of them are particularly pleased by Ivanka's presence, and Lagarde's expression, in particular, is full of disdain. Anyhow, the French government apologized for posting the video, claiming they had no idea how it would be received, and they certainly didn't think people would end up laughing at Ivanka. Needless to say, that's a bit hard to believe, and the general consensus is that the Macron administration did it to poke Ivanka's father in the eye.

Meanwhile, if you haven't already heard, then you're probably dying to know which Trump staffer ended up in a brawl. It's gotta be NSA John Bolton, right? Maybe he threw another stapler at someone? Nope. Possibly Stephen Miller? After all, it's pretty easy to imagine someone walking up and sucker punching him. No, not him either. Were Steve Bannon or Anthony Scaramucci along on the trip, perhaps, for old time's sake? They've both got big mouths. Nope, though anyone who guessed "the Mooch" is getting warmer, because it was actually newly appointed press secretary Stephanie Grisham, who had a (brief) tussle with some North Korean reporters as they jockeyed for position outside the room where Trump and Kim were talking. Sarah Huckabee Sanders certainly did many unorthodox things, but even she never ended up in fisticuffs with a bunch of reporters.

Meanwhile, Bolton wasn't the brawler, but he was the staffer who was shuffled off to Mongolia. He doesn't like Kim, and Kim doesn't like him, so while Trump was doing his DMZ song and dance, Bolton was in Ulaanbaatar discussing "regional security issues." Mongolia isn't quite Siberia, but it's awfully close (in fact, Joseph Stalin's favorite place to banish his enemies was outer Mongolia). Naturally, given the numerous reports that Trump has grown disenchanted with his NSA, pretty much everyone has interpreted this as a sign that Bolton is a short-timer. If so, then the President would be moving on to his fifth NSA in less than three years. Only Dwight D. Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan had so many, and each of them did it in eight years.

So, that is where things stand in terms of Donald Trump's Asian adventure. Now that he's back in the United States, there will undoubtedly be plenty of wild stuff that quickly moves all of this into the rearview mirror. (Z)

ICE Raids Are Apparently Back On

You may recall that, a little over a week ago, ICE was scheduled to launch a series of raids on undocumented immigrants, but then Donald Trump called them off at the last moment. The official explanation was that the President was giving Congress time to work on the border situation. The unofficial explanation was that Trump's loose lips risked making the raids less effective, and at the same time more dangerous for federal law enforcement officials, as the targets would be on their guard.

Since then, of course, the Congress passed a $4-billion dollar package sending much needed funds to the border. The bill was much more a GOP bill than a Democratic bill, and represented a rare defeat for Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). Presumably, then, the administration got what it wanted, and Trump's negotiating tactics worked, right? Or, even if that is not the case, the rescheduled raids will be kept secret this time, so as to avoid tipping off the targets?

Nope! On Monday, Trump made clear that—victory or not—he did not get nearly everything he wanted (i.e., no border wall money). And so, barring something "miraculous," he said the ICE raids will take place shortly after the Fourth of July holiday. Again, announcing them like this only makes them less effective and more dangerous. Which makes clear, in case you didn't already know, that Trump's primary concern is not actually to do something about undocumented immigration (which, by the way, is down 25% at the moment), but to signal to his base that he's doing something about undocumented immigration by loudly announcing to the world everything that he's doing about undocumented immigration. One can only hope that nobody gets killed because the target of a raid knew the authorities were coming. (Z)

Census Delay Looking More Likely

The Trump administration says they really want to know which Americans are undocumented, and which ones are not. Their stated reason is that this information will make it easier to enforce the Voting Rights Act of 1965. How? Well, the idea is that only citizens are protected by the Act, and the Justice Dept.—working with limited resources—can't make informed decisions about enforcement actions without citizenship data. To take a specific example, imagine if Justice was looking at East Los Angeles, which is predominantly Latino, and South Los Angeles, which is predominantly black. East L.A. has 30% more people, but also undoubtedly has more non-citizens. Without citizenship data, the Justice Dept. can't be entirely certain which area has more people entitled to Voting Rights Act protections, and might have to guess which one deserves more resources (or any resources).

At least, that's the argument (if you'd like to read a longer, and not terribly well written, explanation by J. Christian Adams, a Republican former Justice Dept. lawyer, click here). Of course, as anyone who has been following politics for the last decade knows, this explanation is utter nonsense. It was a Republican-dominated court that gutted the Voting Rights Act, and it is Republicans who have done everything possible to limit minority voting, including voter ID laws, a reduced number of polling places, reduced voting hours, and the like. Indeed, if you need to know exactly how trustworthy that op-ed is, then know that Adams was a member of Donald Trump's Presidential Advisory Commission for Election Integrity. That commission was tasked with uncovering and eliminating alleged fraudulent votes by undocumented immigrants, which barely exist, and had to shut down when chairman Kris Kobach fumbled things so badly that the whole endeavor became a huge embarrassment to Trump.

That brings us back to the citizenship question, which—far from being an attempt to protect the rights of minority voters—is actually just an alternative way to reduce Democratic power. As we have noted many times, the administration knows full well that asking a citizenship question will cause many non-citizens to avoid responding to the census. That, in turn, will cause them to be undercounted, and thus will cost areas with sizable undocumented populations (most of which are blue) billions in federal dollars as well as seats in the House of Representatives, and consequently electoral votes. Trump knows this, and he badly wants this result. The courts have handed him multiple defeats, but the Supreme Court has not made a final determination, so the President is holding out hope that his administration will ultimately prevail. And while he waits, he very much wants to delay the census. He said so when SCOTUS first ruled against him, and he reiterated it even more forcefully yesterday.

Note that there is much going on here that is illegal. First, the Constitution requires that all residents of the country be counted, not just those that have citizenship and/or legal status. Any steps taken with the knowledge that they will produce undercounting are thus inherently unconstitutional. Meanwhile, the Constitution does not specify a start date for the next census, but federal law does (April 1, 2020). It's true that Congress could change the law, and thus the start date, but that won't be happening as long as Nancy Pelosi is running the House. So, if Trump does delay, he will be violating federal law. That said, we all know at this point how enthusiastic the Justice Dept. and the Senate are about holding the President accountable, so it is unlikely that he's going to let a little something like 13 USC 141 bother him. (Z)

Social Media Platforms Take (Small) Steps to Combat Abuses

In the past few days, the two most important social media platforms announced interesting new initiatives designed to combat various sorts of abuses. Facebook, for its part, said that it was establishing strict rules about the promulgation of census-related information, and that anything that is factually incorrect, or that attempts to intimidate people into not responding, will be promptly deleted. Meanwhile, Twitter announced that some tweets from world leaders will now be labeled thusly: "The Twitter rules about abusive behavior apply to this tweet. However, Twitter has determined that it may be in the public's interest for the Tweet to remain available."

Neither Facebook nor Twitter mentioned anyone in particular when announcing these new policies. But apparently, they think there might be an organized effort to persuade people not to respond to the census, and also that there is some world leader who sends out abusive tweets that violate Twitter's terms of service. Hard to know exactly whom Facebook and Twitter had in mind, but hopefully we can figure it out eventually and report back. (Z)

Two More Post-Debate Polls Are Out

TheHill/HarrisX and CNN have completed their first post-debate polls. Here's how they look for the candidates polling above 1% in either poll (ranked by their performance in the CNN poll):

Candidate CNN, Current CNN, Previous Change The Hill, Current The Hill, Previous Change
Joe Biden 22% 32% -10% 33% 35% -2%
Kamala Harris 17% 8% +9% 11% 5% +6%
Elizabeth Warren 15% 7% +8% 9% 7% +2%
Bernie Sanders 14% 22% -8% 15% 13% +2%
Pete Buttigieg 4% 5% -1% 6% 4% +2%
Beto O'Rourke 3% 5% -2% 4% 6% -2%
Cory Booker 3% 3% None 2% 3% -1%
Amy Klobuchar 2% 2% None 0% 1% -1%

The two polls generated pretty different numbers, particularly for Biden, which is a reminder that methodology matters a lot, particularly when voter preferences are not very set. Nonetheless, the two polls confirm the same overall picture as the Morning Consult poll we discussed yesterday: Harris clearly got the biggest boost from the debates, while Warren got a smaller boost. Biden is slipping, maybe a little or maybe a lot, and the other candidates appear to be treading water (with the possible exception of Sanders, whose numbers are all over the place). Of course, even if we're just counting down to the Iowa caucuses, there are still dozens of weeks (a.k.a. more lifetimes than several cats) left in this horse race, so don't bet too much on any particular horse just yet. (Z)

Buttigieg Takes in Nearly $25 Million

Most of the Democratic campaigns, if not all of them, already know how much money they took in during Q2, which ran from April 1 to June 30. And all of them have to report those numbers to the FEC within the next two weeks. At this point, they are all thinking tactically about headlines. The campaigns that did well will try to time their reveal to draw maximum attention to how well things are going. The campaigns that did not do so well will likely submit to the FEC at 4:55 p.m. EST on July 15, and hope nobody notices.

Anyhow, the campaign of Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D-South Bend) has fired the first salvo, announcing that they collected $24.8 million over the last three months. Our staff mathematicians are still working out the specifics, but our preliminary estimates suggest that is an average of more than $8 million a month. Buttigieg did it by holding more than 70 in-person fundraisers, while also deploying his husband Chasten to host a bunch of others. The campaign reported that their average donation was $47.42.

To put Buttigieg's total in context (as well as the other figures that will be announced over the next week or so), here are some candidates' takes for the equivalent period four years ago (i.e., Q2 2015):

Candidate Funds Raised
Hillary Clinton $46.7 million
Bernie Sanders $15 million
Ted Cruz $14.2 million
Marco Rubio $13.2 million
John Kasich $11.5 million
Jeb! $11.4 million
Carly Fiorina $3.4 million
Martin O'Malley $2 million
Rick Perry $1.1 million
Donald Trump $93,000

Note that Trump had just entered the campaign at that point, that few people (probably even including the Donald himself) thought he was a serious candidate, and that he wasn't actually soliciting donations yet.

In any event, Buttigieg's total makes clear he's playing with the big boys and girls, fundraising-wise. Money isn't everything, as Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush showed us in 2016, but it will certainly be interesting to see how Joe Biden, in particular, is doing on this front whenever his campaign makes its report. If the number is below $25 million, that will be kinda embarrassing. (Z)

Collins Now Has a Serious Challenger

As you may have heard, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) is looking at a tough reelection contest in 2020. First of all, her purplish home state favored Hillary Clinton by a 47-44 margin in 2016, so any GOP Senator would likely have an uphill battle when on the same ticket as Donald Trump. On top of that, however, is that many folks across the country, and many within Maine, are furious that she supported the elevation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. So, not only is there going to be some sort of backlash at the ballot box, but activists have already raised more than $3 million for whoever the Democratic challenger is.

Until last week, the most prominent name in the Democratic race was Betsy Sweet, an outspoken progressive and activist who finished third in 2018's gubernatorial primary. Not a bad candidate, but her lack of actual experience in elective office, and her position well to the left of most Maine voters, makes her less than ideal. And now, the blue team has now gotten a real heavy hitter to enter the race: Speaker of the Maine House of Representatives Sara Gideon, who announced a run over the weekend. Gideon is probably the third most prominent Democrat in the state, behind recently inaugurated governor Janet Mills and two-term Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap. She's got six years in office under her belt, and as a woman, a daughter of immigrants, and an ethnic minority (her father is from India), Gideon checks a lot of boxes. The Democratic pooh-bahs have already lined up behind her, from Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) on down.

Exactly how vulnerable Collins is will be hard to judge for a while. On one hand, the only poll that has tested a Collins-Gideon matchup thus far gave the edge to Collins, with 45.6% saying they would likely vote for the Senator, and 26.7% saying they would likely vote for the Speaker. However, nearly 41% of respondents to that survey said that they did not know enough about Gideon to have an opinion about her, which suggests her support has room to grow. Also, her launch video got nearly 2.5 million views in the first 48 hours after her announcement:

Given that the entire population of Maine is only 1.34 million, that's a pretty impressive total.

However the chips fall when it comes to Collins vs. Gideon, it's also worth noting that this race remains somewhat fluid. On the Democratic side, Dunlap is still pondering a run, which could set up a nasty primary fight. Also, Sweet will certainly attack Gideon from the left, which could weaken her. On the Republican side, fire-breathing former governor Paul LePage has not yet ruled out the possibility of challenging Collins, and Collins has not formally committed to running. She's still quite young by Senate standards (66), but if she decides she's not up for a tough reelection campaign, it's not impossible she could throw in the towel. In any event, this figures to be one of the more interesting Senate races of 2020. (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Jul01 Second Debate Sets Viewing Record
Jul01 Harris Raises $2 Million in 24 Hours after Debate
Jul01 Harris' Attack on Biden Was Carefully Choreographed, Months in Advance
Jul01 Harris Jumps Way Up after Debate
Jul01 Democrats Defend Harris after Trump Jr.'s Tweet
Jul01 Pelosi and Schumer Feel Betrayed--By Each Other
Jul01 Judge Blocks Wall
Jul01 Florida Governor Signs Bill that De Facto Redisenfranchises Felons
Jul01 Monday Q&A
Jun30 Trump Says He's Talking with China, North Korea
Jun30 Trump to Putin: Don't Meddle in the Election (Wink, Wink!)
Jun30 41 Republicans Oppose Iran Amendment
Jun30 SCOTUS to Take on DACA
Jun30 Democratic Debate(s) Postmortem
Jun30 Debate Q&A
Jun28 And Now, the Heavyweight Debate
Jun28 SCOTUS: Partisan Gerrymandering is None of Our Business
Jun28 Supreme Court Blocks Citizenship Question for the Moment
Jun28 Trump Is at the G-20 in Japan
Jun28 Booker: I Wouldn't Be Biden's Veep
Jun28 Pelosi Capitulates
Jun27 The Democrats Finally Debate
Jun27 Trump Attacks Mueller
Jun27 Mueller's Staff Will Also Testify
Jun27 House Committee Subpoenas Kellyanne Conway
Jun27 Warren Has Passed Sanders as the Choice of Progressive Activists
Jun26 Mueller Will Speak With Congress
Jun26 Debate Day Is Here
Jun26 House Democrats Pass Border Aid Bill
Jun26 Judge Hands Trump a Setback on Emoluments Case
Jun26 Trump Is Tiring of Mulvaney
Jun26 Mike's Choice
Jun26 Border Protection Chief Has Resigned
Jun26 Stephanie Grisham Will Replace Sarah Sanders
Jun26 Biden Earned $200,000 a Pop for Speeches after Leaving Office
Jun26 Another Swing-District Representative Has Called for Trump's Impeachment
Jun26 Duncan Hunter Is in Deep Trouble
Jun25 Iran: The Plot Thickens
Jun25 White House: No Way Cummings Gets His Way on Conway
Jun25 Economic Trade Wind May Soon Become a Head Wind for Trump
Jun25 Sanders Unveils Student Debt Plan
Jun25 And Then There Were Two...Dozen
Jun25 Tuesday Q&A
Jun24 Trump Aggressively Shifts Gears, Twice in Two Days
Jun24 The Subpoenas May Fly This Week
Jun24 Poll: There Are Too Many Candidates
Jun24 Why Isn't Trump Benefiting More from a Good Economy?
Jun24 What If Trump Loses But Won't Concede?
Jun24 Conway Is at It Again
Jun24 Democrats Are Divided on Health Care