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TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  Trade War with Mexico Set to Begin Monday...Maybe
      •  As Biden Runs, He Can't Hyde
      •  Horowitz Could Take the Wind Out of Democrats' Sails
      •  Did Someone Say "Emoluments"?
      •  John James Announces Senate Bid
      •  Democratic Presidential Candidate Update: Gov. Steve Bullock (D-MT)

Trade War with Mexico Set to Begin Monday...Maybe

As late as Thursday afternoon, it appeared that American and Mexican negotiators might be able to work out some sort of deal on immigration, such that Donald Trump would not impose the new tariffs he's been threatening for the last couple of weeks. However, the talks hit an impasse, and there was no agreement as of Thursday night. That means the clock has pretty much run out, as the paperwork has to be signed by noon EST today in order for the tariffs to begin on Monday. The administration said on Thursday that this remains their plan, and that they are ready to move forward.

So, the U.S. is about 72 hours away from trade war #2, then? Maybe, but maybe not. As a practical matter, surprising everyone with a tariff threat, then hemming and hawing on that point for 10 days or so, and then making a final decision with three days to go, does not allow enough time to implement something so complex. The businesses that would be responsible for paying the tariffs say they are nowhere near being ready to comply, especially since they don't have any details. For example, if they import something that was assembled in Mexico, but using American components, what is the tariff, if anything? US Customs and Border Protection, who would have to calculate the tariffs, hasn't been given any information either.

On top of that, both sides of this little drama have much motivation to work something out. Mexico does not want to take a giant economic hit. And if Trump can rattle his saber, and extract some concession on immigration from the folks down South (even if it's a fairly trivial concession), he and his base would be absolutely thrilled. Not only would he be "doing something" about immigration, but that something would be the direct result of his brand of "diplomacy." When you come down to it, his form of diplomacy, and negotiating in general, is bullying weaker opponents. With Mexico, that could work. With China, not so much, although the Chinese are smart enough to realize that if they make some small concession that Trump can tout as a "win," they don't have to concede anything important.

In short, the odds are pretty good that it takes a couple of days to "iron out the details" for the new tariffs, and that before that process is complete, the two countries work out a deal. (Z)

As Biden Runs, He Can't Hyde

A new poll from CNN confirms something that everyone could see coming from a mile away: with new, more permissive abortion laws in New York and Virginia, and new, more harsh abortion laws in Alabama and Mississippi, abortion rights are emerging as a major issue for 2020. In particular, one-third of women, including 42% of independent women voters, now regard this as a "critical" issue.

This trend puts current Democratic frontrunner Joe Biden in a bind. On one hand, he's counting on votes from a lot of Democratic women (and some men) who want a staunchly pro-choice candidate. On the other hand, he's a Catholic, and he's also counting on votes from a lot of his fellow Catholics, as well as other folks who are moderately-to-staunchly pro-life. Biden has walked this line in the past by backing abortion rights, while also supporting the Hyde Amendment, a 1976 provision (updated several times, most recently in 1993) that forbids the use of federal funds for abortions, except in cases of rape or incest, or when the life of the mother is threatened.

As the various members of the Democratic field have campaigned this week, and weighed in on this issue, the Hyde Amendment has been a particular topic of discussion. Biden was asked on Wednesday, and then again on Thursday morning, if he still backs the Amendment, and he said he most certainly does. That makes him an outlier among the members of the Democratic field, but since he's been pro-Hyde for more than two decades, it's not terribly surprising.

Still, Biden's affirmation provoked howls of outrage on the left, with spokeswomen for Planned Parenthood and other groups giving him a particularly vicious flaying. And so, over the course of roughly six hours on Thursday, the former VP apparently had a come to Jesus moment. Mere hours after he said he still supports the Hyde Amendment, he announced that he's changed his mind, and he doesn't support it anymore. That flip-flop happened so quickly it generated a sonic boom. Even John Kerry was rolling his eyes.

When Biden launched his (third) presidential campaign, the four biggest weaknesses he had were probably these:

  • A severe case of foot-in-mouth disease
  • A reputation for being guided by expediency rather than principle
  • The disastrous handling of Anita Hill's testimony
  • The plagiarism scandal

Just this week, between his plagiarized climate change plan and changing positions on Hyde so fast it makes your head spin, he's managed to affirm at least two of the items on the list. Perhaps three, if you count Anita Hill and coming out pro-Hyde yesterday morning/Wednesday afternoon as both being anti-woman. It is a reminder that it's not easy to be the frontrunner and that, as we noted in the Q&A yesterday, Biden is most certainly not a sure thing. (Z)

Horowitz Could Take the Wind Out of Democrats' Sails

On the instruction of Attorney General William Barr, Dept. of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz is working on a report about the FBI's role in the origins of the Russia probe. In contrast to Barr, Horowitz is regarded as a straight shooter, and is respected on both sides of the aisle. So, his conclusions cannot easily be dismissed. And when he issues his report, which could come within the month, it's not likely to paint the Bureau in a favorable light.

Horowitz isn't going to declare a deep state conspiracy. Nor is he likely to declare that the investigation into Russian interference was illegitimate (since, of course, they actually were interfering). However, FBI pooh-bahs clearly made some clumsy errors, and Horowitz will not be pulling punches as he reports on those. That will be more than enough for Donald Trump and his supporters to claim vindication, and to reiterate that Hillary Clinton/Barack Obama/the Democrats are the real crooks.

The blue team recognizes that this will not make it any easier to hold Trump accountable for any misdeeds, much less to impeach him. So, they are scurrying to get some juicy anti-Trump dirt out there before Horowitz can make his report. On that front, they will vote next week on a new rule that would allow committee chairs to go directly to the federal courts to enforce their subpoenas, without needing a vote of the whole House (as is currently required). Wonder what particular subpoenas they might have in mind?

One of these days, this is going to make a great movie. But for now, it's just a giant soap opera. (Z)

Did Someone Say "Emoluments"?

Iraqi sheikh Nahro al-Kasnazan really hates Iran, and would really like to see the United States invade that nation and overthrow its government (because one time apparently wasn't enough). So, Kasnazan has been aggressively lobbying NSA John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, writing them a number of letters, and exerting pressure through other channels. If only he could find a way to gain the favor of Donald Trump, though. Fortunately, Kasnazan had plenty of time to think of possible ways to do that while he spent 26 nights in a row at Trump International Hotel in Washington. "We normally stay at the Hay-Adams hotel," he told the Washington Post, "But we just heard about this new Trump hotel in Washington, D.C., and thought it would be a good place to stay." Yes, it was undoubtedly a decision driven by the hotel's reviews on Yelp, and not by any other considerations.

Naturally, this has renewed the conversation about the Constitution's Emoluments Clause, and any possible violations of that clause that might be taking place. Previously, Team Trump has said that any profits from foreign governments would be donated to charity, so "problem solved." This week, however, the Trump Organization changed its tune, telling Congress that it's just too hard to figure out which money came from foreign governments, and which money did not, so they can't possibly be expected to abide by the emoluments clause. Their exact words, from a statement provided to the House Oversight Committee:

To fully and completely identify all patronage at our Properties by customer type is impractical in the service industry and putting forth a policy that requires all guests to identify themselves would impede upon personal privacy and diminish the guest experience of our brand.

The funny thing is, this is almost certainly correct. It was also entirely foreseeable. That is why, when Trump said, "don't worry about it—I'll just donate the money to charity," approximately 1 million people pointed out that, given the complexity of his portfolio, he would never be able to separate out the "foreign" profits in any meaningful way. We shall see what Oversight Committee Chair Elijah Cummings (D-MD) does with this; it's surely going to depend on what happens with the lawsuits that seek Trump's financial records. (Z)

John James Announces Senate Bid

When it comes to the Senate, the Republicans have the sort of grim map in 2020 that Democrats faced last year. They're playing defense all over the place, including several states where the GOP incumbent appears to be in serious trouble (North Carolina, Arizona, Maine, Colorado, etc.). They have three incumbents who are retiring. Their one seemingly certain pickup, Alabama, has been thrown into doubt by the re-emergence of Roy Moore. In short, it's not a fun time to be chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which is probably why Majority Leader Mitch McConnell dumped the job on a freshman senator, Todd Young (R-IN).

On Thursday, however, the red team got some good news, surely the best it's gotten so far in this cycle. John James, a veteran and businessman who gave Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) a run for her money last year, has agreed to take another shot, this time against Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI). Republicans think that the charismatic James, with the benefit of higher name recognition and much more time to campaign, has a real chance to win this time.

They may be right. Peters, with an anemic 33% approval rating, is considerably less popular than Stabenow (46% approval), so he's certainly vulnerable. On the other hand, presidential years tend to favor Democrats. And between the trade wars and the renewal of the Flint water scandal, the GOP brand is not so strong in Michigan right now. Further, James is still an amateur with no actual political experience, and 2018 wasn't that close (he lost by more than 6%). Add it up, and Peters is still the favorite, but Michigan is definitely the Republicans' best pickup opportunity, outside of Alabama. (Z)

Democratic Presidential Candidate Update: Gov. Steve Bullock (D-MT)

Depending on what happens in the next few days (more below), we may not have another opportunity to revisit Bullock's presidential campaign. Here is our original profile of him.

Steve Bullock
  • Where Has He Been Recently?: He's got a day job, and he's been doing it. But whenever he's not in Montana, he's in Iowa. He's been hiring staffers there like mad, and he's got half a dozen events scheduled in the Hawkeye State in the next few days.

  • Recent News: Bullock, and nearly everyone else, thought that he had already qualified for the Democratic debates. Not so fast, as it turns out. On Thursday, it came out that the DNC isn't going to count a couple of the polls where he cleared 1% because of their unorthodox methodology. The Bullock campaign is calling it an 11th-hour surprise, while the DNC says Team Bullock has been aware of this problem for weeks. Either way, he's got until June 12 to make a dent in the polls, or to cross the 65,000-donor mark, or there will be no debate spot for him.

  • Offbeat News: Bullock is in the midst of the nastiest political fight of his life, over the issue of...bison. He wants to set aside a vast swath of land for them, creating a permanent home for the buffalo to roam. Though he has many supporters, there's also a faction that wants no bison preserve, and another that wants them to be able to roam anywhere. Oh well, as Tip O'Neill observed, all politics is local. If Bullock does make the Democratic debates, we'll see how many bison questions he gets.

  • Finances: Officially, he's raised zero dollars, as he declared his intent to run after the most recent FEC filing deadline had passed. Unofficially, the failure to qualify for the debates so far strongly suggests that he's struggling.

  • Polls: Obviously, they are not going well. His best number is 1%, most recently achieved in the June 2 Morning Consult poll. His overall average, even if you count the polls that the DNC does not, is 0.4%. If you drop those polls, he's below 0.2%.

  • What Did We Guess His Signature Issue Would Be?: Dark Money.

  • What Appears to Be His Signature Issue Now?: Dark Money. It is the only issue featured on the front page of his website, under the heading "One Big Idea."

    This isn't a political position, per se, but he's also been making an electability argument, pointing out that he's the only member of the Democratic field to have been elected in a "Trump state." That's true, but only if you ignore candidates who won non-statewide elections in Trump states (e.g., Pete Buttigieg in Indiana, Beto O'Rourke in Texas), and you don't count Mike Gravel as a candidate.

  • Strengths for the Democratic Primaries: (1) He's very popular with Republicans, which could get him some votes in states that allow crossover votes; (2) Similarly, there are quite a few delegates to be earned in states where Republicans are dominant and Democrats are pretty conservative; and (3) If Joe Biden falters, Bullock is in a position to pick up some of those votes.

  • Weaknesses for the Democratic Primaries: (1) The progressives are never going to get behind someone who loves coal so much he's basically the Joe Manchin of the West; (2) Some voters will not be happy that he's turned up his nose at a very winnable U.S. Senate seat that the blue team needs very badly so that he can mount a quixotic presidential bid; and (3) More than two-thirds of Democratic voters have no idea who he is.

  • Bullock on Trump: "Family farmlands in Iowa are drowning while Donald Trump plays games with their livelihoods. His priorities are clear—so must ours. We've got to make him a one-term President." (6/1/19)

  • Trump on Bullock: Bullock has not yet appeared on Trump's radar, but a Trump-affiliated super PAC is running anti-Bullock ads. Their concern is not his presidential bid, but instead poisoning the waters for a Senate bid, if it eventually happens.

  • The Bottom Line: Between his solid legislative record and crossover appeal, Bullock has a great argument for landing the Democratic nomination, and no chance of actually getting it.

You can access the list of candidate profiles by clicking on the 2020 Dem candidates link in the menu to the left of the map. (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Jun06 Biden Is Attacking Trump on Trade
Jun06 Biden and Sanders Leading Trump by Double Digits in Michigan
Jun06 Majority of Americans Think Trump Will Win in 2020
Jun06 Neal Doesn't Want Trump's New York State Tax Returns
Jun06 Trump Will Address the Nation from the Lincoln Memorial on July 4th
Jun06 Russian Interference in 2016 Was Much Greater than We Thought
Jun06 Election Software Vendors May Have Made it Easier for the Russians in 2016
Jun06 Democrats Begin Sniping at Each Other
Jun06 Greg Gianforte to Announce a Run for Governor of Montana
Jun06 Thursday Q&A
Jun05 Trump vs. His Own Party, Part I: Trade War with Mexico
Jun05 Trump vs. His Own Party, Part II: Ken Cuccinelli
Jun05 Trump vs. the Other Party, Part I: The Dreamers
Jun05 Trump vs. the Other Party, Part II: Hope Hicks and Annie Donaldson
Jun05 Jared Kushner Is a Small Fish in a Big Pond
Jun05 Virginia Beach Shootings: A Tale of Two Parties
Jun05 Biden Unveils Someone Else', His Climate Change Plan
Jun05 Team Trump Tries to Expand His 2020 Map
Jun05 Tar Heels Feeling Blue?
Jun04 Judge Gives Trump a Victory
Jun04 Trump Meets, Greets, and Tweets
Jun04 GOP Members of Congress Not Sure What to Do About Trade Wars
Jun04 House Democrats Prepare to Hold Barr in Contempt
Jun04 Is the Right Time to Impeach...November 2, 2020?
Jun04 Facebook, Google Get Some Bad News from the House
Jun04 Another Mueller Indictment Is Revealed
Jun03 Division Among Democrats Is Very Apparent in California
Jun03 California Democrats Elect a Union Leader as Party Chairman
Jun03 Labor and Progressives Are at Odds over the Green New Deal
Jun03 Deutsche Bank Appeal Will Be Fast Tracked
Jun03 Trump Will Launch His Campaign in Florida in 2 Weeks
Jun03 Iowa and New Hampshire Are No Longer the Only Games in Town
Jun03 Trump's Approval Holds Steady but Support for Impeachment Rises
Jun03 Hoyer Supports Statehood for D.C.
Jun03 Monday Q&A
May31 About That Citizenship Question...
May31 Trump Lashes Out, Part I: Mueller
May31 Trump Lashes Out, Part II: Mexico
May31 Moore Punches Back
May31 Kushner Peace Plan
May31 Democratic Presidential Candidate Update: Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)
May30 Mueller: Congress, the Ball is in Your Court
May30 How the Media Reported Mueller's Speech
May30 Fox News Legal Analyst: Mueller Wanted to Indict Trump but Couldn't
May30 Trump Is Restructuring His Legal Team
May30 Perez Raises the Bar for the Third Debate
May30 Poll: Americans Don't Believe China Is Paying the Tariffs
May30 National Journal Ranks the Most Competitive Senate Races
May30 Trump Warns Moore Not to Run for the Senate
May30 Democrat Jaime Harrison Will Challenge Lindsey Graham