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Happy Independence Day

July 4 photo

Trump: Citizenship Question Will Be Included in the Census

It would be easier to report on what the government is doing if Donald Trump and the rest of his administration were on the same page. But very often, they are not. On Tuesday, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said that the controversial citizenship question would not be on the 2020 census due to a Supreme Court ruling that the government needed to concoct a better excuse for it being there. The Justice Dept. said that printing is beginning and that the question wasn't going to be on the form.

Sounds like a done deal, right? Well, no. Yesterday, Donald Trump sent out this tweet affirming the presence of the question:

So what is the truth here? Is there such a thing as truth? Does truth matter? Are we living in a post-truth world? In the end, people will be getting the census form. Either the question about citizenship will be on it or it won't. It's binary. Is it there, yes or no?

After Trump made his announcement, the Justice Dept. (apparently?) fell into line behind him, and announced that they still feel there is a legal way to get the question on there, and that they will ask the Supreme Court to hurry up and make a final decision. However, it remains the case that the process is behind schedule, and that printing of the census forms had (allegedly) already begun. Since SCOTUS is not in session right now, and is not scheduled to be back until early October, it's hard to see how the administration can both (1) wait, and (2) adhere to the April 1, 2020 deadline to commence the census that is required by federal law.

Most likely, the administration is eventually going to have to yield, and the question won't be on the census. However, Trump probably won't admit that for one of two reasons. First, he is trying to convince Latinos, immigrants, and others who might be afraid to answer the citizenship question that it is there, so they throw out the form without looking at it. That is just as good as scaring them with the question. Second, he hates to admit to his base that he lost (again) in the courts, so he will just claim he won and then assume Fox News will celebrate his victory. His base's willingness to accept whatever "truth" he's selling may just carry the day.

It is also possible, but unlikely, that Trump simply overruled everyone and ordered the question put in, without actually waiting for the court ruling. This would be something along the lines of "better to ask forgiveness than to ask permission." However, this would be playing with fire, because defying the Supreme Court would be daring the Democrats to impeach him and might make Republican senators very nervous about letting him get away with it. But with Trump, you never know. (V & Z)

Trump Defends Cost of the Independence Day Event

Donald Trump is turning the normally low-key and nonpartisan Independence Day celebration in D.C. into a political rally for himself, including displays of tanks and military aircraft that would have fit in well at patriotic events in Red Square in the former Soviet Union. Former military leaders have condemned it and Democrats have complained about the price tag. Yesterday Trump said that the cost wasn't much and, in any case, was well worth it.

Part of the expenditure will be the $2.5 million that Trump has diverted from the National Park Service's entry-fee account, which is supposed to be used to maintain and improve the national parks. Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN) pointed out the obvious when she noted that the Park Service's fee account is not a slush fund for the president to use at will. Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) echoed her, tweeting that the park fees "are for maintaining and upgrading our national parks, not a 4th of July military parade for wealthy donors and Republican party insiders." Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ called the situation "shameful." (V)

Ninth Circuit Bars Military Funds for Wall

Since Congress has repeatedly refused to appropriate funds to build a wall on the border with Mexico, Donald Trump is trying to make an end run around Congress by using money Congress has appropriated, but for a different purpose. A lower court ruled that he can't do that, so he appealed. Yesterday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, based in California, upheld the lower court decision 2-1. This was not a final decision, but Judge Richard Clifton, a George W. Bush appointee, ruled immediately against the administration's request for money on the grounds that the final appeal of the lower court's decision was likely to go against the administration. In his opinion, Clifton wrote: "As for the public interest, we conclude that it is best served by respecting the Constitution's assignment of the power of the purse to Congress..."

The suit to block Trump from using military funds for the wall was brought by the ACLU and the Sierra Club. It marks another legal setback for Trump, who has frequently lost cases in court. The battle isn't over yet, as Trump could go forward, get a final ruling from the 9th Circuit, and then appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. Still, his case is extremely weak since if there is anything the Constitution is very clear about, it is that Congress is the part of the government that gets to decide how federal funds are spent. (V)

Biden Raises $21.5 Million in Q2

There have been a spate of stories this week about how Joe Biden's in trouble after his poor debate performance. That is yet to be seen, but his Q2 fundraising wasn't too bad. He raised $21.5 million from 256,000 donors. The donations averaged $49. This is not as much as Pete Buttigieg's $24.8 million, but Biden didn't enter the race until 3 weeks into the quarter, so he was at a bit of a disadvantage. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) raised $18 million in Q2. Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) raised $2.8 million, and John Hickenlooper about $1 million. The others haven't reported their totals yet. (V)

Trump is Worried that Key Republican Groups Won't Help Him in 2020

Three major organizations that have traditionally helped Republicans may sit out the 2020 elections (or, at least, play a diminished role). First comes the NRA, which helped get its 5 million members to the polls for Trump in 2016. Many of those members live in the key battleground states of Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and North Carolina. However, the organization is now in meltdown mode. In April, NRA President Oliver North was ousted in a very public way. NRA Chief Executive Wayne LaPierre has been spending NRA money to buy luxury clothes in Beverly Hills. Chief lobbyist and political strategist Chris Cox has resigned. An organization in turmoil is hardly a good partner to work with, particularly when that organization's bank balance is in danger of hitting zero in the near future.

Second comes the Chamber of Commerce, which has always been 100% in the Republican camp, but now wants to rebrand itself as bipartisan. It may have noticed that its current clout with the Democratic-controlled House is zero, and will get even worse if a Democrat is elected president. It is also not a fan of Donald Trump and is unlikely to help his campaign, although it will donate to some Republican senators seeking reelection.

Third is the Koch brothers network. David Koch is in poor health and doesn't play much of a role in the network's political activities anymore. Charles Koch is 83 and is gradually turning the reins over to his son, Chase Koch (41). All of the Kochs are libertarians and believe in free markets, free trade, and immigration. None of them like Donald Trump, who hates all of these things. Chase Koch isn't even all that political, and is more interested in a kinder, gentler, libertarian philosophy. His real passion is education, not politics. It is very unlikely that the Koch network will help Trump at all, and it will probably stay out of the presidential race altogether. The absence of three of the most powerful outside Republican groups has the Trump campaign worried, but they have little control over the situation. (V)

Trump's Campaign and RNC Raise $105 Million in Q2

Maybe Donald Trump won't need the NRA, Chamber of Commerce, and Koch brothers, however. He is raising money at a brisk pace already. Together with the RNC, which has basically become part of the Trump campaign, the President pulled in $105 million in Q2. Of that, $54 million was raised by the campaign and $51 million was raised by the RNC. In 2011, the Obama campaign and DNC raised $85 million, so Trump is ahead of where Obama's reelection campaign was at this point.

In 2016, the Trump campaign was underfunded and run by a series of amateurs. This time it will be well funded and run by professionals. That could be a big advantage. On the other hand, no one knew what a Trump presidency would be like during the 2016 campaign. Now most people have a pretty good idea of what it is like. That may work for him or it may work against him.

It is also worth noting that fundraising is a somewhat useful gauge of voter enthusiasm, but the numbers are very much open to interpretation. To start, if we adjust for inflation, then the Obama/DNC 2011 take was $97 million in 2019 dollars, which is within spitting distance of the Trump/RNC $105 million. Further, politicians of all stripes have gotten utterly shameless at using social media and e-mail to press voters for donations, much more so than a decade ago. We've noted in previous posts (and below) that the Democratic mail blasts got a little out of hand as the end of Q2 drew near. Well, Team Trump also indulged, with 20 fundraising e-mails in just the last week (and if you're looking to buy a MAGA swimsuit for 20% off, now's the time). And so, everyone's takes are up, even if we correct for inflation. We already know that the various Democratic contenders who have reported their Q2 totals collected $70 million; once the other candidates' totals and the DNC take is known, the figure will probably exceed the Trump/RNC figure.

Finally, and most importantly, there are so many places to donate money that it's tough to get a complete picture. Beyond the two national committees, there are also the four Congressional election committees (NRSC, DSCC, NRCC, DCCC), Patriot Pass and ActBlue, super PACs, individual candidates' campaigns at all levels, and outside groups that are political in nature (ACLU, NRA, Planned Parenthood, and so forth). In short, comparing the takes of current Democratic presidential candidates is somewhat instructive, because that's an apples to apples comparison. When it comes to the Trump/RNC take, however, there is no number (Obama/DNC 2011, Democratic contenders/DNC 2019, etc.) that is really equivalent. So, the only thing that $105 million tells us for certain is something we already knew: that he's got a loyal cadre of supporters who are all-in, come hell or high water. (V & Z)

Warren Leads in Iowa Poll

A new poll of Iowa conducted for Focus on Rural America by Democratic pollster David Binder has Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) on top by a hair, closely followed by Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Joe Biden. This is the first poll showing anyone except Biden leading in Iowa. In fact, all previous polls of Iowa showed Biden ahead by more than the margin of error, so there has been real slippage on his part. It's become a true horse race. Here are the results:

Candidate Pct.
Elizabeth Warren 20%
Kamala Harris 18%
Joe Biden 17%
Bernie Sanders 12%
Pete Buttigieg 10%
Amy Klobuchar 4%
Cory Booker 2%

None of the other candidates polled above 1%. Once again, it's very early in the season and the next debate could change everything, but it does appear that while Biden may yet be the nominee, it is not going to be a coronation, as it was for Hillary Clinton. (V)

Democrats Would Be Disappointed If Williamson Were Their Nominee

As we have pointed out before (and will again—sorry), polls this early don't mean too much because things change. In 2015 at this point, Jeb! was leading the GOP race, followed by Scott Walker and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL). Yesterday's WaPo/ABC News poll is similar to other post-debate polls, with the top five being Joe Biden at 28%, Bernie Sanders at 16%, Kamala Harris at 11%, Elizabeth Warren at 10%, and Pete Buttigieg at 3%.

But a poll from The Economist/YouGov asked something different, namely, who the respondent would be unhappy with as nominee. The winner (?) was Marianne Williamson, who would make 32% of the Democrats unhappy. The "loser" was Warren, whose nomination would displease only 8% of the Democrats. That suggests that while she may not be the most popular Democrat, she is one who could unify the party the best, since over 90% find her acceptable. Interestingly enough, some of the most popular candidates are also among the least popular candidates, with 24% expressing unhappiness with a Sanders candidacy and 23% being unhappy with Joe Biden. Harris and Buttigieg are almost as acceptable as Warren, with only 10% not liking them. While this is an unusual question, it may point the way to a potential compromise candidate that the party can live with. (V)

Mark Kelly Hauls in $4.2 Million in Q2

One of the Democrats' top targets in the Senate is Sen. Martha McSally (R-AZ), who lost a Senate election in 2018 and was later appointed to the seat of the late John McCain. She had the bad luck that the Democrats quickly found a nominee, Mark Kelly, and thus avoided a nasty primary. Kelly neutralizes one of McSally's greatest strengths: she was the first American woman to fly combat missions, thus making her popular with veterans.

Kelly, however, is also a veteran, having been a naval aviator during the Gulf War. After leaving the Navy, he became an astronaut, flying four missions for NASA. His twin brother is also an astronaut (who spent a year on the ISS) and Kelly's wife, Gabrielle Giffords, is a former congresswoman who was nearly assassinated. That's also a pretty strong profile.

Kelly has now reported pulling in $4.2 million in Q2, slightly beating the $4.1 million he raised in Q1. He has $6 million cash on hand. McSally raised $2.1 million in Q1 but has not announced her Q2 totals yet. In any event, Kelly is going to be very well funded in his race to unseat McSally. The fact that Donald Trump won Arizona by only 3.5% in 2016 means that it will likely be a presidential battleground state in 2020, which will only help Kelly, as the DNC is likely to pour real money into the state next year. (V)

Poll: Half of Republicans See the Media as the Enemy of the People

A new Hill-HarrisX poll shows that 51% of Republicans and 14% of Democrats see the media as the enemy of the people, a line Donald Trump has used over and over. Among independents, 35% agreed that the media was the enemy. Calling the media the enemy of the people is common in dictatorships and authoritarian regimes, but extremely rare in democracies. However, Trump's repeated tweets about fake news, etc. are clearly starting to take hold. (V)

Thursday Q&A

Sometimes, we get additional information about one or more answers after we post in the morning. We often go back and adjust the answer, as apropos, but there is no way to bring the new/updated answer to the attention of those who already read that day's post. So, we're going to try something new, and do follow-ups, as warranted. See below for the first two.

Does the allocation of VIP tickets to the 4th of July Presidential Address to the Trump Campaign and the RNC, which are being given to reward big donors, violate the Hatch Act? If so, what are the consequences? T.B., Pinecrest, CA

Thus far, everything about this event looks like a violation of the Hatch Act, from the choice of participants, to the promotion being done by the president, to the system by which VIP tickets are being distributed. We will see what the President says in his speech, but as we have already made clear, we expect that he will convert what is already an open and shut case into one that is shut, locked with a Kryptonite lock, put into a Hamilton safe, and then encased in 10 tons of concrete under Fort Knox. Fundamentally, the president can do electioneering all he wants, but he can't spend government money to do it. That's the problem.

As to consequences, the Hatch Act provides for a number of penalties, ranging from a reprimand, to a fine, to suspension, to termination. This works ok when it is, say, an employee of the Social Security Administration who breaks the rules. Then, the decision is generally made by the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB). When the guilty party is Kellyanne Conway or some other White House staffer, well, we already know their boss won't fire them. And when the guilty party is Trump himself, well, he's pretty clearly above the law these days. Oh, and even if the MSPB had jurisdiction over Trump and his staff, it wouldn't matter, because—due to the President's failure to make the necessary number of appointments—they don't have a quorum right now.

Anyhow, the only consequences that seem vaguely plausible, at this point, would come if this generates such bad PR that there is blowback, even from Trump's base and from the Fox Newses of the world. That has happened before; Scott Pruitt got to be more trouble than he was worth, for example. If it does come to pass that Trump & Co. decide they want to "make amends," then they would probably calculate how much of the celebration was political and how much was government business, and then Trump 2020 would reimburse the federal government. This is how it is done when, for example, the President uses Air Force One to travel to a rally. Or, at least, it's how it's supposed to be done.

And now, let's think just a tad bit conspiratorially. Everyone knows that there isn't support for impeachment among enough Democratic members of the House to move forward, but also that things are moving slowly in that direction. It is very likely that, in the event that impeachment furor grows loud enough that she has to make a move, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is keeping careful notes on clear-cut violations of the law, so they may be added to the articles of impeachment. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell & Co. could find themselves in the position that a vote to sustain Trump is also a vote to give the next Democratic president vast powers (like the right to move around money in the federal budget as they see fit, or to defy congressional subpoenas) that the GOP would prefer that president not have.

Many people are going to spend the evening of July 4th watching fireworks and listening to patriotic music, and if this year is typical, one of the most anticipated pieces of patriotic music will be Peter Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture (preferably featuring real cannons). But how is it that the 1812 Overture—a piece composed by a Russian, celebrating a Russian military victory—came to be regarded as patriotic here in America, especially considering America's long, antagonistic relationship with Russia? R.M., Torrance, CA

We will give you three answers. The first, which probably applies to most people today, is that folks are not aware of the background of the composition. It's patriotic/militaristic sounding, big explosions are literally a part of the performance, and that's good enough for government work.

The second answer is that while the Russians were in a war in 1812, so were the Americans. And our war even has "1812" in its name. Now, it's true that the War of 1812 was hardly a glorious victory for the United States, and that the one battle that was a glorious victory for the country—The Battle of New Orleans—was in 1815 (and technically after the war was over). But it's close enough that the Overture could be read as a celebration of America's military prowess. After all, the second line of the Marine Corps Hymn ("The shores of Tripoli") commemorates an engagement in which a grand total of eight U.S. marines participated and the U.S. lost. It should be noted that Tchaikovsky encouraged people to think of the composition as being both a Russian and an American song, even going so far as to conduct a performance of it at the official opening of Carnegie Hall on May 5, 1891.

And the third answer is that while the piece is indeed Russian, it was popularized at a time when the U.S. and the Russians were actually pretty close. Meanwhile, it's also anti-French, composed at a time when the relationship between the U.S. and France was a little chilly (thanks primarily to their violations of the Monroe Doctrine). So, it was not politically problematic when the Overture caught on over here, and once a tradition is formed, well, it tends to stay that way.

I recently read an article that June was the hottest month ever recorded on earth. With many of the Democratic candidates talking about global warming (and cooling, for those who don't understand the processes), why haven't we heard more about the ozone layer? That seemed to be the primary focus through the '80's and '90's. B. S-C., Pittsburgh, PA

Just to clarify, it was the hottest June on record, not the hottest month. The hottest month ever was July 2017, while second place goes to July 2018. Clearly the scientists who say the planet is heating up have no reason whatsoever for thinking that.

The reason you don't hear so much about the ozone anymore is that a global reduction in CFCs and other ozone-damaging substances has reversed the process, such that the ozone layer is healing. That's not to say that it has healed; that's likely to take many lifetimes. The best guess is that by 2050 or so, it will be back to where it was in 1980. Candidates probably should be talking about the ozone layer more. Not to give people something else to worry about (since that could cause them to tune out), but as a case study in how international cooperation really can work in the face of a looming environmental catastrophe.

Incidentally, the key international agreement here was Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer. It was ratified by 197 states, after being signed on August 26, 1987. That means that the president who pushed it across the finish line was, of course, Ronald Reagan. As you may have heard, Ronnie was a Republican. The current iteration of the GOP, of course, has no use for such agreements and the current Republican president not only pulled the U.S. out of the Paris Accord, he's also been specifically critical of the Montreal Protocol. This despite the fact that it, you know, worked.

I have repeatedly read that knowing when ICE raids will happen makes them inherently 'more dangerous.' I understand that many would find new places to hide, but is there evidence to show that undocumented immigrants suddenly go out and buy guns and become violent when they know arrest might be imminent? The 'more dangerous' description only seems to feed into the false narrative of rapists and killers. M.S., North Reading, MA

There is no evidence that anyone, if they know they are going to be raided, goes out and buys a gun. It is at least possible, however, that someone who already had a gun could make a point of keeping it loaded and/or close by, whereas otherwise they might not have done so. And the more guns that are locked and loaded and ready, the greater the odds that one gets used.

With that said, the real increase in risk would come from changing enforcement patterns. To minimize both the danger and the risk of escape, ICE agents tend to conduct home raids at the time people are most likely to be asleep (3:30 a.m. to 5:30 a.m.). If agents have to change the timing of their raids, even a little, then it increases the risk the target could be awake and could become startled, which is when dangerous things start to happen. And if ICE agents have to conduct more raids because of an unusually high failure rate, then the odds of any one raid going badly necessarily increase.

I'm a Democrat. Yesterday, I had over 160 political solicitations in my email inbox. A portion of them were surveys. Some of them were petitions. And most of them were requests for donations, often multiple requests from the same candidate in the same day. And, of course, the petitions and the surveys usually also include requests for donations. It's now my practice to delete them all as soon as they land in my inbox.

I have 2 questions: First, what about this situation could possibly be effective? What is the thinking behind deluging voters in this way? Second, how do I make distinctions between surveys and petitions that could actually make a difference, and those that are just a cover for a donation request? How do surveys and petitions influence the political process these days, when they are so easy to complete?
M.R., Portland, OR

Obviously, the campaigns don't know what other candidates are doing, and so don't have a full awareness that on the same day they are sending out five blasts, so are ten of their competitors. That said, they must have some evidence that this works. Our best guess is that the e-mails do not put the idea that "I should donate" in people's minds as much as they serve as a reminder/gentle nagging for folks who already made a mental note to donate. It's the same phenomenon as the one that only people who are in the market for a used car tend to notice "for sale" signs in the windows of other cars.

As to the surveys and polls and petitions, you have the right of it. They are so easy to put together, and so easy to publicize, that nobody in the public sector pays much attention to them. As we've noted previously, we have at least a few Congressional staffers as readers, and they've made clear that electronic petitions aren't worth the paper they're not printed on. It's possible that a private company may pay attention (like if a million people sign a petition demanding that Papa John be fired for being racist), but even there we're skeptical. Our advice is that you pick an organization or two or three you support, and pay attention to their e-mails, donating money or volunteering time as it suits your fancy. But otherwise, ignore it all, because it's just 21st century junk mail.

Your answer regarding Andrew Jackson and how his opponents portrayed him as an autocrat and an elitist snob who was out of touch with the citizenry got me thinking. Do you have any theories on why Hillary, the Democratic Party, and the 2020 candidates aren't doing the same? If it was up to me, I'd make Trump's hereditary wealth and how he lives and flaunts it a centerpiece of any campaign against him. Yes, I know it didn't work so well against Jackson, but there wasn't overwhelming photo evidence to cut into a nice 30-second campaign ad back then either. If anyone has no right claiming to understanding the issues of the working class it's Donald Trump. Look at Trump's bedroom, after all:

Donald Trump's bedroom

S.S., West Hollywood, CA

We would bet our last dime that the Clinton campaign not only considered this angle in 2016, but that they even focus tested it, and concluded it would not work. Why? Well, there are two reasons that occur to us. The first is that his base knows all about his gaudy lifestyle, and they see it as something to admire and to aspire to. Even before he was president, the name "Trump" was synonymous with "tacky" and "garish" for many Americans, but for others it meant "class" and "success" and "the good life." Someone had to be buying those Trump steaks and that Trump vodka and the Trump cologne, after all.

The other answer is that his base recognizes that he may not know what it's like to work in a coal mine, or to hold down three jobs, or to drive on tires that are bald, or to go without health insurance, but they feel that he "gets" the important things, like urban elites are snobs, and pointy-headed Ivy League grads are jerks, and Democrats are evil, and immigrants are taking all the jobs. Of course, he is himself an urban elite who went to an Ivy League school, was once a Democrat, and regularly hires immigrants (including undocumented ones) at his properties. However, the power of Trump's followers to stick their heads in the sand and to avoid hearing what they do not want to hear is stunningly powerful, even by the standards of modern, American hyper-polarized politics.

Put another way, many Democrats have trouble reconciling Joe Biden's or Bernie Sanders' "man of the people" image with their current status as members of the 1%. Trump's base does not have that issue at all, and so it's not a potential avenue of attack.

On Monday, you quoted Article IV, Section 3 of the Constitution, regarding the admission/formation of new states: "New States may be admitted by the Congress into this Union; but no new State shall be formed or erected within the Jurisdiction of any other State; nor any state be formed by the junction of two or more states, or parts of states, without the consent of the legislatures of the states concerned as well as of the Congress."

This raises a question in my mind: Wasn't West Virginia "formed or erected" within the jurisdiction of Virginia? If so (as defined by this constitutional provision), did they get around the constitutional problem by noting that Virginia had seceded and was in rebellion against the United States? And if they did that, were they acknowledging that the secession of the 11 Confederate states was a done deal and the Civil War was a fight to force those states back into the Union? I'd just like to know how West Virginia's admission was justified, since it seems to have been a flagrant violation of the Constitution.
R.D.T., Fresno, CA

There were two legal issues that had to be addressed when the admission of West Virginia was being considered. The first, and easier, problem was the Constitutional issue you outline. It was not too much a stretch for the Lincoln administration, and the Congress, to conclude that the West Virginia legislature was the legally elected governing body of the people of West Virginia, and that the Virginia legislature was extralegal and had no authority. That being the case, all of the necessary players required by the Constitution—the state legislature and the Congress—were in agreement on admission, and that was that.

The trickier question, as you note, was the question of where that left the other part of Virginia. Just so everyone is clear on the issue here, the Lincoln administration took great pains during the Civil War to argue that the seceded states had not legally left the Union, were not independent, and had not formed a new country. The administration also tried to act in a manner consistent with this interpretation (never, for example, formally declaring war, since only another country can be the target of a declaration of war). The reason this was important is that if the Confederacy was, in fact, a country, then the countries of Europe would recognize it and normalize relations, including trade relations. And that would have given the South a source of badly needed weaponry and manufactured goods. The odds are good, in fact, that if the Confederacy had been able to trade with Europe for these things, they would have held on long enough to achieve independence.

Anyhow, the admission of West Virginia certainly seemed to imply that the remaining portion of Virginia was no longer part of the Union, which in turn implied that it had seceded. Quite a few commentators and politicians at the time pointed out as much, and many were outraged at the admission of West Virginia, which they saw as a clearly illegal act. Lincoln himself eventually wrote and published a legal opinion on the matter. Now, he was a very skilled lawyer, so he knew what he was talking about. However, that meant he also knew he was pretty much trying to have his cake and eat it, too. So, his argument essentially boils down to him saying that he will do what it takes to win the war, and that is all that matters. His concluding observation pretty much sums it up: "It is said the admission of West Virginia is secession, and tolerated only because it is our secession. Well, if we can call it by that name, there is still difference enough between secession against the Constitution, and secession in favor of the Constitution."

Follow-Up: The question about West Virginia was in response to our answer about county-level secession. Reader J.S. in Providence, RI, points out that this issue came up a number of times in 19th century New England, sometimes with actual movement of counties or cities from one state to another, as the various states in that part of the country tried to sort themselves out. Here is a list, with half a dozen examples. The last serious attempt at this sort of thing, at least in New England, was in 1926, and it failed pretty badly. Meanwhile, reader B.P. in Salt Lake City notes that West Wendover in Nevada and East Wendover in Utah really make more sense as part of the same state, and that the Utahns have tried to make that happen, only to have government officials put the kibosh on it. So, it would seem that our conclusion—that this sort of thing is very improbable these days—was justified.

Follow-Up: We also addressed a question about the jury in a possible future Donald Trump trial in New York, and asked any lawyers with any additional insight to write in. S.B. in Los Angeles is a county criminal prosecutor, and so knows a little something about this subject. He points out that it's illegal to ask jurors about their party affiliation, so identifying a ruby-red Trump supporter or two could only be done indirectly, and with the corresponding lack of precision. R.S. in Philadelphia is a defense attorney, so he's coming at the question from the opposite vantage point from S.B., but he agrees. In fact, R.S. says that if he was in charge of Trump's defense, he would not even ask indirect political questions, because he would not want the prosecution to have that information. His view is that, given the likelihood of an unfriendly jury, the President's best strategy would be to ask for a bench trial.

If there is a jury trial, however, S.B. does have some good news for the president: it would be effectively impossible to prosecute a juror who lied about being "fair and impartial," and judges are very leery of removing jurors unless there is very clear misconduct. J.K., who practices in Asheville, NC, agrees. So if there is a jury trial, and Trump's lawyers can get a die-hard supporter (who is also a bit unethical) on the jury, they may just get themselves that hung jury. Of course, a hung jury is not a win, and there would almost certainly be a second trial.

Thanks to all the lawyers who kindly shared their expertise!

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Jul03 One Fight Ends...
Jul03 ...And Another One Is Just Getting Started
Jul03 Fourth of July: Tanks for the Memories
Jul03 We Have a (Minor?) Mike Pence Mystery
Jul03 More Good Polls for Harris
Jul03 Sanders' Goose Is Getting Crispy...
Jul03 ...While Hickenlooper's Is Already Cooked
Jul02 A Weekend of Foreign Policy, Trump-Style
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