• Mulvaney Sues Trump
• Bolton Has a Book Deal
• Democrats Are Preparing for the Impeachment Testimony
• Impeachment Puts Barr on the Spot
• Demographic Changes Are Making Trump's Reelection More Difficult
• Sanders Blasts Bloomberg
• Steyer's Iowa Political Director Quits
• Democrats Move the December Debate 10 Miles South
Donald Trump and other Republicans are desperately trying to out the Ukraine whistleblower, undoubtedly to punish him or her and thus make it clear to any potential future whistleblowers that blowing that whistle isn't worth it. Also, once that person has been outed, a team of Republican oppo researchers will tear that person's life apart to try to show that he or she is a dyed-in-the-wool Trump hater whose complaint is totally biased and must be discarded as fake. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) isn't going down that road with them. On Saturday, he said that the WB's testimony would be "redundant and unnecessary." He's probably right, since almost everything in the WB's complaint has been corroborated by multiple other witnesses. The edited summary of Trump's phone call to Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky is also very strong evidence that Trump tried to extort Zelensky.
Schiff's comment was a response to a list of witnesses the Republicans gave him Saturday morning. Besides the WB, the Republicans want to grill Hunter Biden, United States Special Representative for Ukraine Kurt Volker, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale, and senior director for European and Russian affairs on the National Security Council Tim Morrison. According to House procedures, Schiff gets to make the final call on who gets a subpoena and who doesn't. Don't hold your breath waiting for Hunter Biden to get one, but the others might.
Schiff has already announced the initial witnesses, who will testify in public this week. Diplomats Bill Taylor and George Kent will appear on Wednesday and former Ukraine ambassador Marie (Masha) Yovanovitch will testify Friday. Schiff understands how to get maximum publicity from the inquiry he is running. First, each witness testified in private, but the highlights leaked immediately and dominated the news cycle that day. Then, a few weeks later, he released the full transcripts of the witnesses, one or two a day, each of which revealed new details. These also dominated the news cycle for a day. This week, the actual public testimonies will also dominate the news. Thus, the way Schiff is doing it, each witness gets a lot more than the 15 minutes of fame he or she is entitled to. Maybe even 45 minutes.
This is critical, because the real trial will take place in the court of public opinion, not the Senate. The key to understanding the almost-certain upcoming Senate trial is to realize that the Republican senators don't give a hoot about what happens to Trump. They care only about their own hides. Only if they believe that a vote to acquit Trump will cost them their seats will they vote to convict. So Schiff's entire strategy is to mold public opinion with the goal of making a vote to acquit toxic. (V)
Well, sort of. Actually, "Acting" Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney doesn't want to obey a subpoena from the House Intelligence Committee to testify as to what he knew about Donald Trump's extortion of Ukraine's president and what role he played in it. He also doesn't want to go to prison for contempt of Congress. So, he is hoping a court will declare that executive privilege trumps congressional subpoenas (no pun intended), getting Mulvaney home free. A potential witness, Charles Kupperman, started a lawsuit against both the White House and the House of Representatives for the same reason and now Mulvaney wants to be added to the suit because he has the same problem. District Court Judge Richard Leon has asked Mulvaney to show up at 5 p.m. today to make his case.
At its core, Kupperman, Mulvaney, and others have a genuine problem. One branch of government has ordered them to do something and another branch has forbidden them from doing it. What's a person to do? Asking the courts to decide does make some sense. One also suspects that Mulvaney is just stalling for time. If Leon, a George W. Bush appointee, orders everyone to testify, Mulvaney and the others are probably going to appeal, possibly eventually to the Supreme Court. That could take months and make the whole issue moot. Of course, if all the courts act quickly and force Mulvaney to testify, he is in deep doodoo. He is up to his ears in the Ukraine mess and if forced to testify would either have to rat on Trump or commit perjury, each of which could have unpleasant consequences for him. His only hope is that the courts drag this out for many months. (V)
Former NSA John Bolton has said that if he is subpoenaed, he will ask the courts whether to obey or not, just as Charles Kupperman did and Mick Mulvaney is trying to do. Nevertheless, he is not just sitting in front of his mailbox waiting for that subpoena to arrive. He has signed a book deal with Simon & Schuster. The book will come out before the 2020 election.
The book deal throws new light on his request to the courts for advice on what to do if he is subpoenaed. He knows a great deal about the Ukraine situation and much more, but if he is required to tell it all in public in front of a House committee, there may not be enough left for an exciting book that he hopes will sell millions of copies. So this deal suggests that he doesn't really want to tell Congress anything, at least not until the book is out and the money is made.
Of course, we don't know what will be in the book. Bolton probably doesn't know either. Furthermore, we don't even know if he will write it himself or hire a ghostwriter. We do know two things, though. First, Trump never listened to him and dumped him in an unceremonious and embarrassing way. If he wants to get back at Trump, the book gives him that opportunity. It could be really nasty and bring up things not on anyone's radar yet. Second, however, is that Bolton has been a life-long exponent of unbridled executive authority. To say he believes the president is like a king is an understatement. How about an emperor? Or better yet, a demigod, or maybe even a full god. It is not clear how he will reconcile these two strands of thought. If presidents can do anything they want, then we are very close to Richard Nixon's famous remark: "When the president does it, it is not illegal." If that is Bolton's view, it will be hard to complain about anything Trump did, since by definition, if he did it, it was OK. Of course, books don't have to be consistent to be best sellers and this one may not be. (V)
Democratic members of the House and their staff are feverishly working on the upcoming public testimonies. They are preparing questions, thinking about how to rebut likely Republican questions and strategies, working on daily talking points to distribute to members, and even (or maybe, especially) working on their social media plans, since the ultimate goal is to convince the public that Trump must go.
It is no accident that Bill Taylor will be the first witness. He took detailed notes on all his work relating to Ukraine and all his interactions with other people relating to it, and in real time. He will be a damning and unshakable witness. He will set the stage and other witnesses will confirm his testimony later on.
Democrats are also working to rebut Republican charges that all Democrats care about is reversing the 2016 election. Consequently, the House will soon vote on bills to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank, fund the government after Nov. 21, and create a new voting bill of rights. The Democrats are also carefully scheduling House meetings to avoid conflicts, so all members can attend all the hearings. Republicans are going to have their work cut out for them to somehow stop the coming storm. (V)
A news story last week had it that Donald Trump wanted AG William Barr to hold a press conference and announce that in his phone call to Volodymyr Zelensky, Trump broke no laws. According to the report, Barr refused to do this. Trump denies that he ever made the request, but on its face, it sounds exactly like the kind of thing the President might do. Maybe Trump means that he never made a request because what he did was issue a demand, not a request. We don't know yet.
The AP is reporting that Barr is angry about being lumped in with Rudy Giuliani on the infamous July 25th phone call to Zelensky, and angrier still that Trump seems to think of both of them as his personal lawyers. Barr at least understands that he is supposed to be independent of the President and that the Dept. of Justice is not the President's personal law firm.
House Democrats have noticed that Trump expects Barr to act like his personal lawyer and have demanded that Barr recuse himself from all matters Ukrainian and Russian. Barr has thus far refused to do so, probably because he knows what happened to Trump's first AG, Jeff Sessions, when Sessions recused himself from the Russiagate investigation. Trump wants a redo of the Mueller report and Barr has hired U.S. Attorney John Durham to do it. What Trump wants to hear is that (1) the Russians did not help him in 2016 and (2) that the Ukrainians helped Hillary Clinton. If Durham, who is generally regarded as a straight shooter, finds otherwise, Barr is going to have to defend him and Trump is going to be furious with Barr. Of course, if Durham goes along with Trump's conspiracy theories, Durham will lose all credibility in legal circles. Durham is nearly 70 and could retire after this project, but ending your career with every lawyer in the country thinking you are a coward and a phony isn't what most federal prosecutors aspire to. See, for example, Alex Acosta. (V)
A new study from the Center for American Progress shows that even if turnout in 2020 merely matches that of 2016, Donald Trump could lose. As political analyst Ronald Brownstein points out, Trump's problem is that his base is shrinking as a percentage of the electorate and groups that strongly oppose him are growing. The changes are small, but Trump won Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania by 0.2%, 0.7%, and 0.7% respectively, so a 1% shift away from him in those three states could make him a one-term president. He also won Florida by 1.2% so small changes also matter in this mother of all swing states.
The study and Brownstein's analysis of it are based on the voting-eligible population. If, for example, there are fewer blue-collar men in Wisconsin in 2020 than in 2016, but a larger percentage of them vote for Trump than did in 2016, all bets are off. The study projects that noncollege whites—Trump's base—as a percentage of the population will drop by 2.3% in 2020. Latinos will grow by 1.3%, and other minorities will grow by 0.6%. Black voters and college-educated whites will increase by 0.2%. That is not much, but +0.2% is better than -2.3%.
What the study does not deal with is the recent trend of noncollege women moving away from Trump. Such movement would make things even worse for Trump, especially if the Democrats nominate a woman. However, the woman has to be acceptable to them and it is not clear yet if Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) is that woman. She might appear elitist to them, as Hillary Clinton did. If she is the Democratic nominee, Trump may stop calling her "Pocahontas" and start calling her "Professor Pocahontas," thus killing two birds with one stone (with apologies to bird lovers).
Of course, generals (and politicians) are always refighting the last war. 2020 will not be a rerun of 2016. Other factors will play a role, such as the whole impeachment process, the economy, and whom the Democrats nominate. Nevertheless, losing a couple of points to demographics means that they have to be made up for somewhere else, and it is not clear yet where that might be. If Trump were to lose in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, he would have to flip a state Hillary Clinton won. Realistically, only New Hampshire seems like even a faint possibility, and it has but four electoral votes. (V)
Democratic Socialist Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is no fan of billionaires. He made that clear on Saturday in Iowa by accusing former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg of trying to buy the election. Sanders said: "You're not going to buy this election by buying hundreds of millions of dollars of media in California."
What Sanders means is that Bloomberg's likely strategy, if he does enter the race, is to skip the four early states, where retail politics is essential, and focus on massive media campaigns to pick up delegates in California, Texas, North Carolina, and a dozen other states that vote on March 3. The strategy of skipping the small states and going for broke in one or more biggies was tested by Rudy Giuliani in 2008. He skipped Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada and spent all his time in Florida. He got 14% of the vote there, far behind John McCain and Mitt Romney, and withdrew from the race shortly thereafter. Bloomberg's situation is different since he can run a massive media campaign in a dozen Super Tuesday states at the same time, but if there is clearly a front runner by March 3, it may be too late. (V)
As Michael Bloomberg may soon discover, being a billionaire running for president isn't as easy as one might think. Billionaire Tom Steyer just lost his Iowa political director, Pat Murphy. The core problem is that billionaires tend to think that money can solve all your problems, and spend accordingly. Murphy apparently took this to heart and decided he needed more local endorsements, so he tried bribing some local officials. He got caught with his hand in the cookie jar, so he had to quit. No doubt Steyer can find a new political director (if he pays enough), but that person will have to start from scratch less than 3 months from the Iowa caucuses.
This is the second "problem" for Steyer in a week. A few days before Murphy was unmasked, a Steyer campaign worker in South Carolina was caught stealing campaign data from the campaign of Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA). If you can't bribe people and steal data, it is tough running a campaign when people don't really like you much. What's a billionaire to do?
Steyer doesn't think these things matter much. His response was: "Look, we had a couple of incidents. We tried to make sure that we understood what was going on. I've always run my businesses with complete integrity." Note that he didn't say that he opposes bribery or stealing, didn't admit that his people did it in the past, didn't say he was sorry for their behavior, and didn't even promise to stop doing it in the future. But Bloomberg does have a key advantage over Steyer (in addition to having many billions more than Steyer): He was elected mayor of the nation's most cantankerous city three times and knows a bit more than Steyer about how to get elected. Still, don't count on him being able to buy the election. (V)
The December Democratic debate was supposed to take place at a massive public university, UCLA (which has 45,000 students), on Dec. 19. However, a labor dispute between the largest union on campus and the UCLA administration forced a change. So, rather than give up on Los Angeles, the Democrats are going to debate about 10 miles south of the Westwood campus at a 9,000-student Catholic school, Loyola Marymount University.
Is this a pitch for Catholic voters? The Democrats aren't saying, although if that were the goal, why wasn't Loyola Marymount their first choice? Actually, what is really strange about this is why have the debate in one of the most Democratic cities in one of the most Democratic states? The first five debates were held/will be held in Florida, Michigan, Texas, Ohio, and Georgia. Three of those are clearly swing states and Democrats have dreams about someday winning Texas and Georgia. But what's the point of doing it in California? If going to the West is important to the Democrats, Nevada is a conveniently located swing state and the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, with 30,000 students, is surely up to the task. And Colorado is another swing state that is considered western. Maybe there is a reason for choosing L.A., but it is not obvious to us what it might be.
That said, we're in the business of guessing, and so we'll do our best. Los Angeles is home to a large number of wealthy Democratic donors who like to be reminded how special they are. Normally, that is achieved through $25,000/plate dinners hosted by George Clooney or Leonardo DiCaprio, but maybe VIP debate tickets are also going to be used to get the rich folks excited about 2020. Los Angeles is also one of the world's most cosmopolitan and diverse cities. If the blue team wants, for example, an audience with sizable black, Asian, and Latino representation, that's easier to pull off in L.A. than in Las Vegas or Denver. The choice of Los Angeles could also have something to do with the date of the debate. There is zero risk of snow (and little risk of bad weather of any sort) in Los Angeles, even on December 19, something that is not true of most other cities (note that even Las Vegas had snow earlier this year). One also cannot help noticing that Christmas comes just a few days after the debate; one wonders if the DNC is not setting things up so that some folks can extend their post-debate stay and have themselves a nice, warm Christmas vacation drinking eggnog on some friendly megadonor's yacht. We're not particularly confident in any one of these theses, but they're the best straws that present themselves, so grasp at them we shall. (V & Z)
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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Nov09 Saturday Q&A
Nov08 Bloomberg Makes His Move?
Nov08 Today's Impeachment News
Nov08 Trump Hit with $2 Million Judgment
Nov08 First Revelations from "Anonymous" Book
Nov08 Warren Has a...Calculator for That?
Nov08 Steyer Tried to Buy Endorsements
Nov08 Could Bevin Steal a Victory from the Jaws of Defeat?
Nov08 Time to Start Ignoring Moody's
Nov07 Public Hearings in Impeachment Inquiry Will Begin Next Week
Nov07 Most Voters Think Trump Will Be Reelected
Nov07 Russian Media Have Possibly Outed the Whistleblower
Nov07 Even Barr Has His Limits, Apparently
Nov07 Will The Next Impeachment Be Like the Previous Ones?
Nov07 Supreme Court I: A Momentous Decision Ahead
Nov07 Supreme Court II: Chief Umpire Roberts May Soon Get a Project He Doesn't Want
Nov07 Most Republicans Aren't Showing Up for the Impeachment Hearings
Nov07 White Working-Class Women Are Moving Away from Trump
Nov07 Flying to the White House
Nov07 Sessions Is In
Nov07 Pressley Endorses Warren
Nov07 Bevin Makes it Official
Nov07 What Really Matters in the Long Term
Nov06 Bye, Bye Bevin
Nov06 Sondland's Memory Improves
Nov06 Tuesday's Impeachment Maneuvering
Nov06 The State of the Presidential Race, Part I: The New York Times and the Washington Post
Nov06 The State of the Presidential Race, Part II: A Broader View
Nov06 The State of the Presidential Race, Part III: The Betting Markets
Nov06 Democratic Leadership Cool on Kennedy
Nov05 Not a Great Day for Trump, Part I: Impeachment
Nov05 Not a Great Day for Trump, Part II: The Courts
Nov05 Voters Head to the Polls Today
Nov05 U.S. Begins Paris Accord Withdrawal Process
Nov05 About that Move to Florida...
Nov05 The Castro Death Spiral Has Begun, Too
Nov04 Trump Hates Ukraine
Nov04 Trump Also Hates California
Nov04 Whistleblower Willing to Answer Questions in Writing
Nov04 Warren Unveils Medicare for All Funding Plan
Nov04 All in All, It's Just a Hole in the Wall
Nov04 Sports and Trump Just Don't Mix
Nov04 Today's Polls, Part I: The State of the Democratic Race
Nov04 Today's Polls, Part II: Impeachment
Nov03 Sunday Mailbag
Nov02 Beto Says "No Más"
Nov02 Saturday Q&A
Nov01 House Formalizes Impeachment Inquiry
Nov01 About That Offer to the Republican Senators...