• Trump's Tax Returns Get a Little Closer to Seeing the Light of Day
• Today in Irony: Donald Trump Jr.'s Visit to UCLA
• Nikki Haley Has a Book, Too
• Patrick Suggests He Might Run
• Cummings' Widow Will Run for His Seat
• Peter King Becomes the 20th Republican Member of the House to Retire
The Democrats would very much like at least a handful of House Republicans to join them in voting for articles of impeachment related to Ukrainaquiddick. They would like even more than a handful of Senate Republicans to join them in voting for conviction. At the moment, however, they have not flipped a single member of the GOP in either chamber.
The obvious targets, in the House, would be the 20 Republican members who are retiring, and who theoretically need not worry about a backlash from the base, or a challenge from the right. However, those folks, from the moderate and sometimes-iconoclastic Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX) to the latest retiree, Rep. Peter King (R-NY, more below), remain solidly anti-impeachment. Their reasons, which are indistinguishable from those being offered by strong Trump supporters, fall into three basic categories:
- Red Herrings: We won't be convinced until we hear from __________ (the
whistleblower, Hunter Biden, etc.)
- Fair Game: Trump was doing his job, pursuing corruption in a potential
recipient of U.S. aid
- It's a Misdemeanor, not a Felony: What the President did was tacky/inappropriate/less-than-ideal/not what I would have done/concerning, but it's not impeachable
None of these arguments is especially strong. As to #1, the WB/Biden/etc. are red herrings, regardless of how problematic they or their activities may have been (and there's no evidence of anything criminal or unethical on their parts), it doesn't change what Trump did, nor the fact that everything the whistleblower said has been corroborated. As to #2, that argument has been thoroughly debunked by the witnesses who have already testified. Trump was not interested in Ukrainian corruption writ large, he was interested only in two things specifically related to his own personal political interests: alleged Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election, and dirt on the Biden family. As to #3, if a president withholding aid that Congress has already appropriated in service of his own personal interests is not "high crimes and misdemeanors," then we might as well just excise that portion of the Constitution.
Why are GOP officeholders, to a man (and a woman) holding firm behind Trump? Undoubtedly, some of them really believe that he's innocent of wrongdoing. Maybe a lot of them believe that. However, we find it hard to accept that is the sole reason that not a single one of them, even the soon-to-be-retirees, has turned against the President. After all, House Democrats took a long time to get unified behind impeachment, and even then, there are still seven holdouts. It makes no sense that there would not be some of that on the other side of the aisle. Similarly, about 12% of registered Republican voters support impeachment, which should translate into about 22 pro-impeachment GOP members of the House and 4-6 pro-impeachment GOP senators. For there to be zero of each type? Very unusual.
If we assume that Republican unity is not solely because 197 representatives and 53 senators looked at the evidence and reached the exact same conclusions, then what's going on here? Here are some possibilities:
- Future Career: Some of these folks, even the retirees, have future
political aspirations, and they believe that in 2022 or 2024, the GOP will still be the Party of
Trump. That's certainly the case for Will Hurd, for example, who is definitely planning a 2024
- The Spoils System: Donald Trump still controls a lot of resources,
like jobs and funding and so forth. He also has no problem rerouting said resources from one state
or congressional district to another state or congressional district, even if he's not technically
empowered to do so. A member who opposes him could find that funding for that bridge or that opioid
treatment clinic has suddenly evaporated.
- The Spoils System, Part II: Thus far, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY)
and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) have had the President's back. Any member who defies
them could find themselves without committee assignments, or much of anything to do. Ask Rep. Steve
King (R-IA) what that's like. There's a reason that Rep. Justin Amash (I-MI) left the GOP as soon as
he turned against Trump, because he knew he was a dead man walking.
- They're Still Republicans: Most of the 250 GOP members of Congress, if
speaking off the record, would admit they prefer Mike Pence as president over Trump. However,
elevating the Veep would not only give the Democrats a major victory, it would also badly divide the
GOP at a critical time (i.e., right before redistricting). It could be that the "pros" of impeaching
and removing Trump simply do not outweigh the "cons."
- Personal Safety: Donald Trump thinks nothing of suggesting that his
opponents be targeted for violence, and some of his supporters have no problem acting on those
suggestions. A Republican member of Congress who turns against Trump, particularly if they are the
only one, could very well be taking their life into their hands. Francis Rooney (R-FL), who has come
closest to supporting impeachment, and who is retiring, has gone completely silent on the matter
since getting death threats.
- Lack of Fortitude: It's not easy to abandon one's colleagues after two
or ten or twenty years of working with them. Even for those who are exiting Congress, it's much
easier and more comfortable to just go gentle into that good night. Think of former senator Jeff
Flake, who was more than willing to criticize Trump and Trumpism, but was never willing to back that
up with his vote.
- Timing: Assuming that one (or many) GOP members plan to vote against Trump, there is simply no upside to announcing that right now. That person would be constantly pestered by colleagues, harangued by constituents, and hounded by reporters. If they're going to do it, then it's better to do it when time has run out (i.e., when the articles of impeachment are voted on, or when conviction is voted on). At that point, there might be more than one apostate, and the spotlight on any one of them won't be so harsh.
There are only 250 people who know, for sure, which of these are correct. Maybe all are correct, with the specific combination depending on which member we're talking about. Some of these theories leave room for the possibility that some (or many) Congressional Republicans will eventually shift positions. For example, if they are trying to keep the patronage spigot open for as long as possible, they could remain "pro-Trump" until the very last second. On the other hand, some of these theories leave relatively little room for movement. If a person is convinced that turning against Trump means the end of any future political career, it's going to be very hard to get them to vote for articles of impeachment and/or for conviction.
For the Democrats, all they can do is continue to work on public opinion, since that is the only form of pressure that truly matters to the GOP members of the House and Senate. To that end, the blue team released another three transcripts on Monday, from their depositions of Defense Dept. official Laura Cooper, along with Catherine Croft and Christopher Anderson, who both served as assistants to former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker. Because of the holiday weekend, and the fact that all three witnesses made abbreviated appearances (Cooper was the one interrupted by the GOP stunt where they crashed the hearing), not too many outlets did "takeaways" pieces. However, the main points that all three of these folks established were that: (1) Trump definitely ordered the $400 million in aid to Ukraine to be delayed, and (2) That the Ukrainians were aware of this at the time of the infamous phone call.
As leader-of-impeachment Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) & Co. prepare for this week's public testimony, they are also going to have to think long and hard about whether or not they want to go after White House insiders like former NSA John Bolton and "Acting" Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney. The latter announced on Monday that he's going to file his own suit asking a judge whether or not he has to testify (as opposed to joining someone else's suit). Bolton is similarly waiting for guidance from a court. Those two men, in particular (but also some others, like Secretary of State Mike Pompeo), could offer explosive testimony that would force some (or many) Republicans to support impeachment and/or removal. However, it could take a long time to get a final court decision, and by then the momentum the Democrats have built up could have dissipated. If the percentage of Americans who support impeachment drops from 50% back down to 40% or 30%, then it's game over.
Meanwhile, the Democrats aren't the only ones who understand that they are trying this in the court of public opinion. Trump has announced that he will release another transcript from a different call with Volodymyr Zelensky today. This call is apparently the first one that Trump made to Zelensky, to offer congratulations on being elected. Presumably, this new transcript will be "clean," and won't have anything about extortion in it. If so, then it's another red herring; if the bank has video of you robbing the place, then the video you have showing yourself entering the bank and committing no crime on some different day does not make you innocent. (Z)
It is very likely that one or more of the federal lawsuits filed by House Democrats (or by New York DA Cyrus Vance) will result in a decision that they are allowed to see Donald Trump's tax returns. However, just in case, the state of New York passed a law that would allow Congressional Democrats to see the president's state returns. The state returns won't have quite as much information as the federal ones would, but odds are they have plenty of juicy stuff in them.
Thus far, the blue team has not taken advantage of this opportunity, because they want to make the case that their pursuit of the tax returns is part of legitimate oversight of the IRS, and not a partisan fishing expedition. Still, Trump badly wanted to shut off this avenue, so he filed suit in federal court. On Monday, federal judge Carl Nichols (a Trump appointee) tossed the suit, and said that federal court in D.C. is not the place to challenge New York state laws. Trump knows he has no hope in a New York state court, and that he has little hope in a New York federal court, especially since he couldn't even get a favorable ruling from a federal judge that he himself appointed (for reference, only 3 of 25 currently sitting judges on the Second Circuit—Connecticut, New York, and Vermont—are Trump appointees). So, it looks like he's pretty much out of luck here, which means the Democrats' "break glass in case of emergency" option will presumably remain available to them in case they need it. (Z)
The Democrats don't want to cross any picket lines, so they moved their December debate from UCLA to Loyola Marymount. Republicans have no such compunctions, it would seem, and so this weekend the right-wing student group Turning Point USA hosted Donald Trump Jr. for an event on campus, so that he could hawk copies of his new book, Triggered: How the Left Thrives on Hate and Wants to Silence Us. Young Trump apparently does not see any contradiction in the thesis of his book and the fact that it's a bestseller on Amazon, which he's promoted to his 4 million followers on his Twitter account, and supported with numerous appearances on various news outlets and campus/bookstore/rally appearances. In other words, doesn't sound to us like he's been silenced.
Anyhow, the appearance did not go so well. It was supposed to last two hours, but about a half an hour in, Trump Jr. was interrupted by protesters and hecklers. The presidential son took this opportunity to engage in some very self-righteous complaining about how liberals never give conservatives a chance to speak, while conservatives never engage in tactics like this. Here's the video:
Trump Jr.'s girlfriend Kimberly Guilfoyle also got in on the lecturing, explaining to the protesters how badly their parents had raised them. One problem, as it turns out. The leader of the protests was actually Nick Fuentes, who hosts the America First podcast, and who is definitely a conservative (some would say he's a white supremacist). Fuentes & Co. were protesting because they think Trump Jr. is not right-wing enough.
Knowing who was actually behind the protests, Guilfoyle's probably still correct with the "your parents did a bad job of raising you" point, but Trump Jr. is clearly wrong to say that conservatives never engage in tactics like this. Anyhow, the point here is not a little schadenfreude at the expense of Donald Trump Jr. (that's just a fringe benefit). No, it's that Trump Jr. is among the many Republicans who think that a 2024 or 2028 presidential run is in their future (obviously, he spends considerably more time in La La land than just this weekend). Quite clearly, even if the GOP remains the Party of Trump, Junior does not have his old man's ability to command and control the base. And without that, there's no way another Trump ends up in the White House. (Z)
From John Bolton to Donald Trump Jr. to "Anonymous," it seems that everyone connected with Donald Trump is putting out a book. It's like they know that now is the very best time to get those sales figures up. Anyhow, former Trump U.N. Representative Nikki Haley is not above cashing in, and she's got a book coming out, too. It's called With All Due Respect, and it's out today.
The revelation in the book that is getting the most attention: Haley says she was recruited by former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and former White House chief of staff John Kelly to help undermine Donald Trump in order to "save the country." She writes that she found the proposal "shocking," and that she refused to play along. She also says, in another section of the book, that she opposed the president's efforts to put pressure on Ukraine, but that impeachment is a "death penalty," and what Trump did does not warrant that much punishment.
In terms of the present, Haley's book is yet more confirmation that there are people, including some very high-ranking people in the White House, who were actively working to undermine Trump because they found him dangerous. That apparently includes his own chief of staff, which is really something, especially since Kelly was a loyalist when he was first hired. Whether there are still folks in the White House who are actively working against the President is not known to Haley (who left her job at the start of the year), but given that "Anonymous" has implied that he or she is still on the job, the odds are pretty good that this dynamic did not end when Kelly and Tillerson were cashiered.
In terms of the future, Haley is yet another person who thinks a White House run is in the cards in 2024 or 2028. With the book—both her unwillingness to resist Trump and her opposition to impeachment—she's gone all-in on Trumpism, a gamble that could end up being equivalent to going all-in on Richard Nixon in 1973. Haley's also made clear that she's willing to throw colleagues under the bus, by name, in order to make a buck. That does not seem a great résumé to us, but perhaps GOP primary voters will feel differently in four or eight years. (Z)
It would appear that we are in the "white knight" portion of the nomination process, wherein folks who previously decided against a run have found the field wanting, and are now talking about riding to the rescue. Last week it was Michael Bloomberg, and this week it is...former Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick. He could declare as soon as tomorrow; if he jumps in, he will become the second former Massachusetts governor to announce a run (along with Bill Weld, who's running as a Republican), and the fourth citizen of the Bay State in total (Patrick, Weld, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-MA, and Rep. Seth Molton, D-MA).
Exactly what path Patrick sees for himself is a mystery. He has virtually no hope of making a dent in Iowa or Nevada at this late date, given his total lack of funds or infrastructure. He might do a little better in New Hampshire, since it's close to Massachusetts, but he'd be competing there with Warren and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), both of whom have established footholds. That means he would probably spend his time targeting South Carolina, with its sizable percentage of black voters. However, if those folks were interested in simply voting for someone of the same skin tone, then Sens. Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) would not be foundering there.
More broadly, Patrick's policy positions place him in the progressive wing of the party. He's taken a tolerant view of undocumented immigrants, he favors gun control, he likes to spend money on education, and he's staunchly pro-environment. However, he's got some items on his résumé that are not going to please the lefties. While governor, he got caught with his hand in the cookie jar more than once, like the occasion where his administration secretly diverted $27 million to an offshore account to pay for some of the governor's pet projects, as well as first-class travel for him and his staff. Further, since he left office, he's worked for Bain Capital—Mitt Romney's former company, known for stripping the carcasses of struggling businesses and tossing their employees out on the street. And consistent with that, as Patrick has geared up for a 2020 run, he's gone to Wall Street to raise the necessary funding.
We are doubtful that Patrick will actually throw his hat in the ring. Either way, though, he's going to have to decide quickly. He's already missed a couple of ballot deadlines, and several more are coming up in the next week or two. (Z)
Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, widow of the late Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings, announced on Monday that she will run for the right to succeed him. "We fought alongside of each other for a very long time, and now I'm looking to continue to fight. He would want me to continue to fight and so that's what I'm going to do," she said in her announcement video.
Given that the district, MD-07, is D+26, the odds were approximately 99.9% that the seat would remain in Democratic hands. Given that Maya Rockeymoore Cummings has name recognition (which is critical in these sorts of elections), and that she will be seen as an avatar of her popular husband, the odds are now about 97% that the seat will remain in the family, too. Thus continues a longstanding tradition of wives succeeding their dead or retired Congressional spouses, a list that includes former Rep. Lois Capps, former Rep. Mary Bono, former Sen. Jean Carnahan, current Rep. Doris Matsui (D-CA), and current Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI). Or, if you prefer a husband succeeding his wife, that's pretty close to what Mark Kelly is trying to do in Arizona. (Z)
Peter King has served 14 terms in the House of Representatives. This weekend, he decided that he won't try for 15, and announced via Facebook that at the age of 75, he's throwing in the towel. He said he's weary of commuting to Washington every week, and wants to be at home with his wife full time.
It's hard to do justice to King's career using the usual right-wing/left-wing spectrum. On some issues, like law enforcement, he is very conservative. On others, like gun control and Obamacare, he's much more liberal. In any case, he used to win elections by double digits, but in 2018 he outpaced an unknown by just 6%, winning 53% to 47%. Given that his district, NY-02, is R+3, he might not have been so lucky in a presidential year. In any case, the departure of the incumbent means that the seat is definitely in play now.
The other big story here is that, despite his impending retirement and the end of his political career (at 75, he's surely not thinking about a presidential run in 2024 or 2028), he's still strongly opposed to the impeachment of Donald Trump (see above). King is willing to buck his party sometimes, including on this very issue. In fact, he's the last remaining Republican in the House who voted against the impeachment of Bill Clinton. His intransigence here should be worrisome for the blue team; one imagines Adam Schiff will have a chat with King to learn what kind of evidence it would take to change his mind. (Z)
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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Nov11 Mulvaney Sues Trump
Nov11 Bolton Has a Book Deal
Nov11 Democrats Are Preparing for the Impeachment Testimony
Nov11 Impeachment Puts Barr on the Spot
Nov11 Demographic Changes Are Making Trump's Reelection More Difficult
Nov11 Sanders Blasts Bloomberg
Nov11 Steyer's Iowa Political Director Quits
Nov11 Democrats Move the December Debate 10 Miles South
Nov10 Sunday Mailbag
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