Administration Reverses Course on Census Question
Court Blocks Trump’s Border Wall Spending
Rick Snyder Won’t Be Going to Harvard
Ocasio-Cortez Says U.S. Headed Towards Fascism
Trump Says U.S. Should Manipulate the Dollar
It’s Son vs. Son-In-Law
• ...And Another One Is Just Getting Started
• Fourth of July: Tanks for the Memories
• We Have a (Minor?) Mike Pence Mystery
• More Good Polls for Harris
• Sanders' Goose Is Getting Crispy...
• ...While Hickenlooper's Is Already Cooked
On Monday, it certainly seemed as if Donald Trump was ready to defy anyone he needed to defy, and to ignore any rules or laws he needed to ignore, in order to get a citizenship question on the census. On Tuesday, however, he (or, at least, his administration) changed course 180 degrees, and announced that the 2020 census would be printed without the citizenship question.
Because the start date for the census is legally mandated (April 1, 2020), and because it takes a long time to print the necessary paperwork, the administration had already missed preliminary deadlines, and was already positioning itself to defy the law. So, why did they change course? They're not saying, but at least four possibilities present themselves:
- The only hope that the administration had was that the Supreme Court, which had already
tentatively ruled against the question, would change course when the case reached them again. Trump
& Co. may have suspected, or may even have had inside information, that their chances were not good
with ruling v2.0.
- Several administration members, notably Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, told outright lies in
their effort to get the citizenship question on the census, very possibly perjuring themselves.
Perhaps someone decided that putting the whole situation in the rearview mirror was wise, so as to
avoid additional attention to any possible crimes.
- Delaying the census would almost certainly have put members of the administration in the
position of violating federal law. It could be that Trump is willing to do this, but his underlings
- The Census Bureau has already been preparing to collect citizenship data, including preparing for the possibility that they would not get direct information, and would have to infer citizenship numbers based on other data. So, Team Trump may have decided that they want to fight this fight another day, in another way.
If we had to guess, we'd pick #4, but it could be any, all, or none of these. Whatever the case may be, this particular drama is over, at least for now. (Z)
The fight over the census may have reached its conclusion, but that doesn't mean there will be time for everyone in Washington to take a breath, because another battle royale got underway on Tuesday. House Ways and Means Chair Richard Neal (D-MA) had already requested Donald Trump's tax returns from the IRS, a privilege that the Congressman is specifically afforded by federal law. And Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig had already told Neal to shove it. Now, Neal has formally sued the pair, demanding the returns.
The administration's argument, such as it is, is that Neal's request has no legitimate legislative purpose, and that he's just on a fishing expedition. Neal's response to this is that he certainly does have a legitimate purpose, as he and his committee want to evaluate the laws governing IRS audits of presidents (which are required annually). Neal also has two other arguments in his back pocket. One of those is that asking for Trump's returns is also consistent with Congress' oversight role, so they can make sure he's not in bed with foreign entities. The other is that the intent of the request is not actually relevant, as the law that Neal is triggering (known as IRS provision 6103) does not specify that there must be a legitimate reason for the request. In theory, he could be asking for them because he needs a new lining for the bottom of his birdcage, and that would be within the letter of the law.
Thus far, Trump has been handed defeat after defeat by the courts in his various attempts to keep his taxes secret. All three of the arguments Neal could make appear to be stronger than the administration's argument, so the losing streak is likely to continue. The President is presumably pinning his hopes on two things: (1) that the Supreme Court will sustain him where other courts would not, or (2) that this takes so long to work its way through the legal process that it's not resolved in time for next year's election. However, IRS provision 6103 is so simple, and so clear, that there really isn't a lot of room for creative interpretation, or for foot-dragging with motions and discovery and postponements. That means there's a pretty good chance that neither of these things rescues the President.
Of course, Trump may have a fall-back position: If the Supreme Court orders Mnuchin to turn over Trump's tax returns, Trump may order him to refuse. This would probably trigger the House to impeach Mnuchin. But Trump may order all the senators not up in 2020 and those up but not vulnerable to vote for acquittal, thus saving Mnuchin's neck. At that point, what could Neal do? (Z & V)
There used to be a handful of occasions where we could reliably count on partisanship being checked at the door, allowing folks of all stripes to come together, at least for a moment or two. The Kennedy Center honors. The first pitch of the baseball season. The White House Correspondents Dinner. The Super Bowl.
In the era of Trump, such occasions basically do not exist anymore (a process that started under Barack Obama, and then accelerated after January 20, 2017). The latest casualty is the national celebration of Fourth of July, which has fairly well been commandeered by Trump. The customary parade through the streets of Washington, D.C. has not previously featured an address by the president, but this year it will. The parade has not previously highlighted instruments of war, like tanks, but this year it will (albeit not on Pennsylvania Avenue, which would be torn to shreds by the tanks' treads). The parade has not previously raised security issues such that airplane traffic had to be diverted, but this year it will.
A lot of people are not happy about the change in tone and tenor. The Democrats in Washington are outraged, of course, particularly D.C. mayor Muriel Bowser. Also expressing unhappiness, however, are several high-ranking former military officers, who lament the militaristic (and vaguely fascist) tone, and the obviously partisan nature of something that is supposed to be non-partisan. "This fits into this larger, troubling trend of identifying America itself as a military state," opined Maj. Jason Dempsey (ret.). "The president is using the armed forces in a political ploy for his reelection campaign and I think it's absolutely obscene," said Maj. Gen. William Nash (ret.). "This looks like it's becoming much more of a Republican Party event," agreed Lt. Gen. David Barno (ret.).
On the latter point, there is no question what kind of event this is shaping up to be. Here's the Presidential tweet promoting the affair:
HOLD THE DATE! We will be having one of the biggest gatherings in the history of Washington, D.C., on July 4th. It will be called “A Salute To America” and will be held at the Lincoln Memorial. Major fireworks display, entertainment and an address by your favorite President, me!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 24, 2019
The National Park Service has also diverted $2.5 million to cover the additional expenses prompted by Trump's vision, which is certainly an interesting choice at a time when the government says it can't afford soap and toothpaste for people being held at the border. In any event, the significant government expenditures create a bit of a legal landmine for the President, courtesy of the Hatch Act. While he (unlike, say, Kellyanne Conway) is not forbidden from electioneering on the job, even he is not allowed to do it on the government's dime. And so, if he turns the whole thing into a rally, he will be breaking the law. The above link has a full list of things that would cross the line, but they would include Trump using any of his slogans, mentioning his reelection bid or his polling numbers, or mentioning any of his hypothetical Democratic opponents. If anybody would care to bet that Trump can make it through a whole speech without doing any of these things, we'll be happy to lay 10-to-1 odds. Of course, accountability is in short supply in Washington these days, particularly when it comes to enforcement of the Hatch Act. (Z)
Vice President Mike Pence was scheduled to be in New Hampshire yesterday, to have a meeting and a photo op related to America's opioid epidemic. However, at the last minute, the trip was canceled, and he was told to remain in Washington and to head over to the White House. He was in the West Wing within the hour, with Air Force Two never having left the tarmac.
The administration is not saying why he was needed so urgently, only that it is not related to national security, that it is not related to any sort of personal issues for the Veep (like, say, a sick family member), and that the secret will be revealed in the next week or so. There are, of course, two things that only the vice president can do. One of those is break ties in the Senate, but that's not it, because they're not even in session right now (and they don't pass very many bills these days, even when they are in session). And everyone knows the other thing. So, maybe this is kinda like the visit Jerry Ford got from Chief of Staff Al Haig on August 1, 1974. Probably not, but stranger things have happened. Alternatively, maybe they need someone to dress up as Uncle Sam for the Fourth of July parade (see above), and the 5'10', 160-pound VP is the only one who can fit into the costume. (Z)
Two more post-debate polls were published Tuesday, one of them a national poll from Quinnipiac, and the other a USA Today/Suffolk poll of Iowa. As with the other polls we've seen this week, everything is coming up roses for Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA). Here, first of all, is a comparison between the new Quinnipiac poll and the previous entry (conducted Jun. 6-Jun. 10), including all candidates above 1% in either poll:
|Candidate||Quinnipiac, New||Quinnipiac, Previous||Change|
And now, the Iowa poll. There is no earlier poll of the state from USA Today/Suffolk, so we'll compare to the last pre-debate poll there, which was conducted from May 31 to Jun. 12 by CBS News/YouGov. Again, all candidates who exceeded 1% in either poll are listed:
|Candidate||USA Today||CBS News||Change|
That's not only two polls that show Harris making a big jump from before the debates, it's also two polls that have her as the second-place candidate, behind only Joe Biden (who is currently sagging). What should really have the former VP nervous, however, is that Harris is making significant gains among black voters. The Quinnipiac survey had 31% of black respondents supporting Biden and 27% supporting Harris, which is effectively a tie, given the margin of error. If Uncle Joe loses that bloc, he's in deep trouble. White non-college blue-collar men are nice, but there aren't so many of them in Nevada or South Carolina, and if he loses two of the four early states, that will mean a very unpalatable narrative heading into Super Tuesday. (Z)
Joe Biden is not the only candidate to do a little crashing back to Earth this week. Sen. Bernie Sanders' (I-VT) campaign announced its fundraising take for Q2 on Tuesday, and it's $18 million. If we ignore context, that's a pretty nice haul. However, this comes one day after Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D-South Bend) announced a take of nearly $25 million for the same quarter. Buttigieg was an unknown six months ago, and he had to build his money-making machine from the ground up. Sanders is one of the best-known politicians in the country, and he had a behemoth of a fundraising apparatus already in place when he declared. Further, he stoked it for all it was worth, starting with one e-mail a day at the start of June, and working all the way up to five a day by the end of the month (and of the second quarter), for a grand total of 61(!) e-mails to supporters (often supplemented by text messages). In other words, Sanders shook the money tree as hard as he could, and then he shook it some more. All of these things being the case, $18 million has to be considered something of a disappointment.
And then, of course, there are Sanders' polling numbers. Prior to the debate, he regularly pulled numbers in the high teens or low 20s, once even getting 27% in an Emerson poll. In the four post-debate national polls, he's registered 19%, 15%, 14%, and 13%. This trendline is clearly heading in the wrong direction.
The biggest problem, however, are the fundamentals of the race. It is difficult to envision exactly what could change that would allow him to grow his support significantly beyond his base. He's already got near-universal name recognition, and most Democratic voters like him, so he doesn't have any particular opportunity to benefit from voters getting to know him. He delivered his standard debate performance at the first Democratic debates, and was very good—what would a "breakout" performance at the second or third debates even look like for him? An infusion of cash isn't going to do much, he's already got plenty of money on hand. And meanwhile, many of his signature issues have been co-opted by his rivals, some of whom may be more attractive to progressive voters than he is, for various reasons.
In short, there are at least half a dozen Democrats who appear to have a more plausible path to the nomination than Sanders does. He'll be able to remain in the race for a long time, if he wants to, thanks to his cadre of loyal supporters and his huge war chest. However, he may want to start thinking about having a chat with Elizabeth Warren or Kamala Harris, and securing some concessions from them in exchange for his endorsement. (Z)
Bernie Sanders' 2020 campaign is in trouble, but it's nothing compared to the dire straits in which John Hickenlooper finds himself. His left-leaning-but-pretty-centrist populism clearly plays well in Colorado, hence his election to two terms as governor of that state. However, he's way out of step with the national party, leading to his being booed at candidate cattle calls more than once in the past month. His debate performance was underwhelming, and when he did have the spotlight on him, he spent his time talking about how the Democrats need to make clear they're not socialists. That may (or may not) be sound tactical advice, but it's not going to win him many votes or much support in the polls.
It gets worse, though. His campaign's Q2 fundraising total was just $1 million, from just 13,000 donors, which is bad news on two levels. First, it means he's going to run out of money sometime this month. Second, it means he's got virtually no hope of making it to the stage for the third round of Democratic debates. At least half a dozen campaign staffers have seen the writing on the wall, and have resigned, with some of them departing for the greener pastures of the Beto O'Rourke campaign. That seems a little like abandoning the Lusitania because you'd prefer to rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic, but there it is.
If Hickenlooper wants to continue his political career, there is only one logical way to do it: stop tilting at windmills, and run for the Senate. Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) is probably the most endangered Senator in 2020, and he hasn't drawn an A-list challenger yet. If Hickenlooper were to declare for that race, he would instantly become the favorite for his party's nomination, and would probably be the favorite to win the general election as well. Democratic pooh-bahs are strongly encouraging the candidate to make the jump, as are his close advisers. Of course, it's possible this has been the plan all along, hence all the declarations about how centrist he is. Or it could become the plan tout de suite, as the campaign's bank balance dwindles. We will presumably know by the end of July. (Z)
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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Jul02 ICE Raids Are Apparently Back On
Jul02 Census Delay Looking More Likely
Jul02 Social Media Platforms Take (Small) Steps to Combat Abuses
Jul02 Two More Post-Debate Polls Are Out
Jul02 Buttigieg Takes in Nearly $25 Million
Jul02 Collins Now Has a Serious Challenger
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