• ...Nor Can Mulvaney
• Congressional Caucuses Produce Dueling Memos
• 100 House Republicans Down, and Counting
• Look Closely at the Pennsylvania Suburbs
• Today's Completely Unsurprising News, Part I: Of Course Trump Knew Giuliani's Indicted Associates
• Today's Completely Unsurprising News, Part II: Of Course Stephen Miller Is a White Nationalist
• Guess Who's Leading in Iowa?
• Apparently, the Presidential Field Is Still in Flux
• Trump Campaign Plans to Set up a Wall Cam
Say what you will about Donald Trump, he's a man of action. So much so, in fact, that he cannot abide inaction, even when that's the best course of action. And so, he desperately wants to do something about this Ukrainama Papers mess. Since Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), impeachment showrunner Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), and House Democrats are basically ignoring the President, and since the whistleblower continues to be beyond his reach, his gaze has apparently settled on the biggest link between those two ends of the chain, namely Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson.
Atkinson, of course, is the fellow who received the WB report, confirmed its veracity, and then turned it over to Congress. In other words, he did his job. Still, the President badly wants a whipping boy, he thinks that Atkinson would do (in the absence of knowing the WB's identity), and so he is toying with the idea of firing Atkinson. The reason, in so many words, is "disloyalty," which means that we have yet another case where Trump refuses to recognize that not all federal employees are there to do his bidding.
The argument for terminating Atkinson is that Trump has nothing to do with intelligence, and so is not a proper subject for scrutiny by the intelligence community IG. Now that word of the President's thinking has gotten out, at least a couple of GOP Senators—John Cornyn of Texas and Susan Collins of Maine—have warned the President not to do it. Not only would it be an injustice, since Atkinson was just doing his job (under enormous pressure from all sides), it would also be bad optics (think: Saturday Night Massacre), and it could potentially add to the list of charges against Trump (another case of abuse of power, or of obstruction of justice, or both?).
It's not entirely clear how serious Trump was about this; he may have just been blowing off steam when he mentioned it to...well, basically everyone he talked to this week. That said, the President has previously lamented the disloyalty of Jeff Sessions, John Kelly, and James Comey, and you will note that none of them are in their jobs anymore. Further, even if Trump has put the idea out of his head for now, all it takes is for him to wake up angry one morning, reach for his phone, and...well, you know what comes next. (Z)
Donald Trump is not the only White House insider who seems to be flailing around a bit as they try to respond to the biggest scandal of this presidency. "Acting" Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney apparently wants to put off an appearance before House Democrats for as long as is possible. So, he tried to join Charles Kupperman's lawsuit, in which Kupperman is asking a judge for guidance about whether to obey a House subpoena (since withdrawn) or an order from Trump to defy it. Kupperman was John Bolton's #2 at NSA and neither Kupperman nor Bolton likes Mulvaney, and so they told him to shove it. Consequently, Mulvaney said on Monday that he would file his own lawsuit. That position held for roughly 24 hours until, on Tuesday, Mick the Knife said there would be no lawsuit at all, and that he will let events take their course without his involvement.
Mulvaney's ham-fisted maneuvering has led to much irritation on the part of the President and his loyalists. First, because it makes the administration look dysfunctional (which, let's be honest, it is, but they don't like to broadcast that fact). Second, because it makes it look like Trump and Mulvaney are not on the same page, and possibly are in opposition to each other. Third, because there is at least a little bit of suspicion that Mick Mulvaney's loyalties are to Mick Mulvaney, and that he's laying the groundwork to save his own neck, everyone else be damned.
So, the "Acting" Chief of Staff appears to be at least partially in the doghouse. Add to that the fact that he was already falling out of favor before this whole Ukraine business came to light, and that now the President is desperately looking for a whipping boy (see above), just so he can feel like he's doing something, and it's very possible that Mulvaney is a short-timer. On the other hand, it's also possible that he would already be gone if not for the dirt he has on Trump, and that what is keeping him employed is the fear that he would pull a John Dean if shown the door. The White House must be a fascinating place to work these days, like a real life "Game of Thrones." (Z)
Today, the impeachment inquiry gets real, as former Ukraine ambassador Bill Taylor sits for the first televised hearing. In anticipation, House Republicans have been circulating a memo, so that everyone is on the same page, talking-point wise. The main thrust of the memo is that both Donald Trump and Volodymyr Zelensky said there was no extortion, and that the money was eventually released to Ukraine, so all is well.
Of course, the Democrats can write memos, too. So, they have written a rebuttal. It's very long, and makes a detailed argument (with specific evidence) that of course there was extortion going on, and that of course Zelensky and his team knew about it, and that any denials have come from people who have a motivation to lie (including Zelensky, who cannot afford to alienate Trump). Meanwhile, those who have no such motivation have consistently insisted that an attempt to extort Zelensky was made.
And so, the Overton Window for the next phase of impeachment is pretty much set. The Republicans will continue to keep things simple and understandable, although generally less truthful, and consistently without evidentiary support. The Democrats will continue their habit of being more accurate, and more evidence-based, but also much wordier and harder to understand. It should be pretty easy to guess which base each approach will reach. The blue team better hope that the testimony of Taylor, et al. is so compelling that it stands on its own, without the aid of supporting documents that seem like they were written by a 1950s law professor. (Z)
Yesterday, we noted that Rep. Peter King (R-NY) has become the 20th GOP member of the House to announce his retirement this cycle. What we missed, however, was something interesting pointed out by NBC News, namely that King becomes the 100th Republican to depart the House since the beginning of the Trump administration.
Turnover, of course, is a way of life in Washington, particularly in the House. Here is how the first three years of the Trump presidency compare to the first three years of the Obama presidency on that front, with the total members of the president's party in the House on the day that president took office, how many of those folks left due to losing elections/leaving voluntarily, and how many of the original contingent were left three years in:
|President||Years||Total at Start||Voted Out||Retired/Resigned||Total Remaining||Percentage Gone|
|Obama||2009-11||256||63||25||168 (of 193 Dems. total)||34%|
|Trump||2017-19||241||41||59||141 (of 197 Reps. total)||41%|
As you can see, the attrition among House Republicans over the last three years is more substantial, by a fair amount, than the attrition among House Democrats was in the first three years of Obama's term. It is also the case that the Republicans of the Trump era were much more likely to throw in the towel voluntarily than the Democrats of the Obama era.
What this presumably means, in the short term, is that the House Republican caucus might as well be called the House Trump caucus. The GOP folks who were unenthusiastic about Trump, or who were openly anti-Trump, are largely gone. Undoubtedly, the vast majority of the 56 current House Republicans who were not in office when Trump was inaugurated three years ago are fire-breathing Trump loyalists. So, one should not expect much support for articles of impeachment, or anything else Democrats want to do, from the current House Republican caucus.
Long term, these numbers should make Republican pooh-bahs kind of nervous. Most of the seats (and members) they lost in 2018 were suburban districts, and it doesn't look like those are coming back (more below). Further, what are all these fire-breathing Trump supporters going to do once there's no Trump to serve as focal point for their party? Basically, we're back to the tea party again, once the Trumpist faction has no standard-bearer. And while the tea party was great at getting headlines, they generally weren't so good at winning elections (except in deep red districts). (Z)
As we noted after voters cast their ballots last week, one of the most important (but subtle) stories of the night was the extent to which the suburbs went blue. Now that angle is getting a lot more attention, particularly as regards Pennsylvania.
To start, there is this piece from Politico entitled "Pennsylvania suburbs revolt against Trump." It points out that the "red wall" of suburban county councils outside of Philadelphia has crumbled; the Democrats took control of the Delaware County Council for the first time since the Civil War, and also reduced the size of the GOP minority in Chester and Bucks counties. With the blue team already in control of the Montgomery County Council, that means that the Party now controls all of the Philadelphia suburbs. Meanwhile, in the city itself (already deep blue), one of the two city council seats reserved for a member of the non-majority party went to a third party instead of to the GOP.
Then there is this piece headlined "As a result of Trump, the suburbs are nearly gone for the GOP," written by Republican and former representative Charlie Dent for CNN. He makes the same basic observation, noting that eastern Pennsylvania is now deep blue, and totally shut off to Republicans of any stripe. He also points out that the district that sent him to Congress (which was then PA-15, and is now PA-07) has gone from being R+10 to D+1. Though pretty moderate, Dent believes he couldn't possibly win election to the House from that area today.
Of course, as James Carville famously observed, Pennsylvania is Philadelphia and Pittsburgh with Alabama in between. And while Pittsburgh and its suburbs have gotten a little bluer, and Philadelphia and its suburbs have gotten a lot bluer, the Alabama part has gotten very red, and very Trumpy. "It's Trump country, Trump country, unbelievable Trump country," notes one GOP operative.
The obvious problem, from the perspective of Republicans in 2020, is that there are far more people in the two big cities and their suburbs than there are in "Alabama." Consequently, the trends that showed themselves last week will work more to the advantage of the blue team, assuming similar levels of turnout on both sides. As a reminder, Trump won the Keystone State by just 44,000 votes in 2016. And, writes Dent, "the political environment is worse now than in 2016, making Trump's Pennsylvania re-election prospects improbable and imperiling down-ballot congressional and state legislative candidates." If Trump were to lose Pennsylvania and its 20 EVs, and did not take any Clinton states (or he only took New Hampshire, and its 4 EVs), then he would be defeated if he lost any one of Florida or Texas, or any two of Arizona, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, or Wisconsin. (Z)
Igor Fruman and Lev Parnas, who are close associates of Donald Trump TV lawyer/fixer Rudy Giuliani, were indicted a couple of weeks ago by federal authorities and charged with funneling foreign money to U.S. political campaigns. Donald Trump has insisted that he does not know these two men and that, even if there are pictures of him with them, it doesn't mean anything because he takes pictures with everyone. That story was a bit hard to swallow, given how close Trump is with Giuliani. Also complicating that narrative is the fact that the men's lawyer has proposed that some of their activities might be covered by executive privilege. It would be rather difficult for that to be the case if Trump has no idea who they are.
Anyhow, it would appear that—brace yourself—Trump was lying. Beyond the fact that the two men seemed to get an invite to every VIP event staged by the President, CNN has documented at least 10 occasions where he interacted with them, including seven different times that the President was photographed with the duo. To believe that he was entirely ignorant of their identities, and the work they were (allegedly) doing, one would have to be...well, ignorant.
Actually, let's take it a step further. If these fellows really were laundering illegal political donations, it is inconceivable that some of that money did not go to the Trump campaign. In fact, it's a bit hard to believe that most of it did not go to the Trump campaign. Is it really plausible that Fruman and Parnas would risk their necks to help fund the reelection bid of, say, Sen. John Boozman (R-AR)? Note also that there is still considerable mystery surrounding much of the funding for the Trump inaugural. It's unlikely this will all get unraveled in the next month or two, but there is now definitely a version of events where Donald Trump becomes the first president to be impeached, exonerated, and then impeached again. Alternatively, this could be added to the list of charges he could face once he leaves office.
Please be clear that we are not saying the President is guilty of anything, since so much about this situation is unknown until Fruman and Parnas go on trial. Merely that, as with so much of the chicanery and alleged chicanery going on in Trump's orbit, it certainly looks very suspicious. (Z)
Stephen Miller, though himself the grandson of immigrants, has taken the lead in fashioning the Trump administration's anti-immigrant policies. It is possible that Miller loathes all immigration, though it was more probable that he agrees with the President, and that he just doesn't like immigrants from "sh**hole" countries. In other words, white European immigrants are welcome, but no others need apply.
Anyhow, given Miller's politics and xenophobic point of view, not to mention some of the well-known stories about his past (like the time in high school where Miller told a Latino friend that he could no longer be friends with a Latino), the smart money said that Miller is a white nationalist. And it turns out that the smart money was right. A bunch of e-mails written by Miller to that beacon of enlightened thought Breitbart News were leaked, and it turns out that he is pretty much what we thought he was (with apologies to Dennis Green). Miller has a taste for white nationalist websites (like VDARE and American Renaissance), for the exceedingly racist French novel Camp of the Saints, for Confederate iconography, and for the Immigration Act of 1924, which ended legal immigration from Asia and Africa in a eugenics-inspired effort to maintain white purity in the United States. Not to put too fine a point on it, but there was a fellow in Germany at the time who read that law while sitting in prison, and decided it would be a fine model for him and his party to use should they ever gain power.
Anyhow, that is who is making immigration policy for the United States right now. If the president for whom Miller was working was Jefferson Davis, he'd fit right in. In any White House since the 1950s, however, he would have been fired as soon as this news came to light. Well, except the current White House, where Miller's views are not a bug, they are a feature. (Z)
There's a new poll of Iowa out, from Monmouth University, and it has a surprising frontrunner: Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D-South Bend). Here's their result, along with the four most recent polls of Iowa by other houses (along with publication date). Candidates are listed in order of their average across the five polls.
|Candidate||Monmouth||Quinnipiac (11/5)||NY Times/Siena (10/30)||Iowa State U. (10/22)||USAToday/Suff. (10/18)||Average|
Our initial response, on hearing about the Monmouth poll, was that it must be an outlier. But clearly it's not. Buttigieg is pretty firmly ensconced in second place in the Hawkeye State, and a slight uptick in support, or a poll's margin of error working in his favor, could put him in first, given the relatively small gap between him and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).
Obviously, the candidate for whom this is not-so-good news is Joe Biden, since he and Buttigieg are fighting for the same voters, and since a third-place finish in Iowa would be a very bad look. We don't believe that Iowa can pluck a candidate from the third- or fourth-tier and propel them to frontrunner status, but the voters there can certainly elevate someone from the second tier, or can knock a presumed frontrunner down several pegs. It's been close to 30 years since a Democrat finished outside the top two in Iowa and went on to claim the nomination, and that year (1992) was wonky because native son Tom Harkin was on the ballot.
Team Biden, for its part, is somewhat flummoxed by the fact that he consistently underperforms his national polling numbers in the first two states to cast their ballots. Really, though, it's not too hard to figure out. He's no longer blue-collar Joe to most Democrats, he's Joe the Obama sidekick. Consequently, he's doing well with minority voters, but only so-so with white noncollege voters (most of whom have left the blue team for Trumpier pastures). Iowa and New Hampshire being 90+% white, they're not really his bread and butter anymore.
The problem for Uncle Joe is that third-place finishes in the first two caucuses/primaries will produce a very bad narrative for him. He can recover some in South Carolina and Nevada, but the two biggest Super Tuesday states (California and Texas, but particularly California) aren't great for him. If we get to March 4 (the day after Super Tuesday), and he's still in third place, that could get ugly for him, especially given his (relative) lack of funds. So, he's really got to improve his numbers in one of the two early states. New Hampshire is probably a lost cause, so what it amounts to is that Biden really needs to find a way to flip the script in Iowa. Expect him to hit Buttigieg during the upcoming Democratic debate (a week from today). (Z)
Because ballot access deadlines have begun to arrive, it's not so easy to join the presidential race anymore. And because there aren't many "game changer" events going on right now, the Democrats' Nov. 20 debate notwithstanding, there isn't too much pressure for also-rans to drop out. So, one might expect a certain amount of stasis to set in, at least for a week or two. But, as it turns out, one would be wrong.
To start, Mark Sanford has decided it's no fun to run for the Republican nomination against someone so well-entrenched as Donald Trump. Attendance at Sanford's rallies and other events was sparse, which was embarrassing. So, the former South Carolina governor is out. One wonders exactly what he was expecting. The only reasons to run such a campaign were: (1) to get media attention when criticizing Trump, or (2) to be there to take advantage, if and when Trump were to become unable to run again, for whatever reason. Sanford did not exactly wait long enough for either of these things to become a possibility. Anyhow, his departure means that the only well-known "competitors" Trump has for the GOP nomination are former Massachusetts governor Bill Weld, and former Illinois representative Joe Walsh. Not exactly a fearsome twosome.
That said, Trump may get some competition from a third-party direction, as West Virginia coal baron and ex-convict Don Blankenship has decided to run for the Constitution Party nomination. Blankenship's platform is that Trump has good ideas, but poor execution, and that by electing him (Blankenship), America will finally be able to drain the swamp and secure its borders. It is hard to imagine that a mini-Trump, complete with dubious entrepreneurial record and bad comb-over, is going to steal too many votes from the full-size Trump. And it's even harder to imagine who else he might steal votes from. For what it's worth, though, the Constitution Party expects to be on the ballot in at least 16 states, among them the key swing states of Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.
And finally, another Democratic white knight—this time, one who actually wears white on regular occasions—is making noise about getting into the race. It's...Hillary Clinton, who told reporters on Monday that "many, many, many people" are urging her to run again. She also said "I'd never say never to anything," which is rather far removed from the Full Sherman.
Clinton is probably the only person, besides Michelle Obama, who might actually make a dent in the polls at this late date. If she did run, her liabilities could seem almost quaint compared to the reality Americans have dealt with for the last three years. For example, even if she was responsible for those four deaths in Benghazi (dubious), that's small potatoes compared to abandoning Syrian Kurds or looking the other way after Mohammad bin Salman had a U.S. resident brutally murdered. It's highly unlikely she will throw her hat into the ring a third time, though if she did, and if she became the nominee (again), demographic changes alone would probably be enough for her to claim victory this time around. That said, nobody has won a "presidential rematch" since 1892, when Grover Cleveland did it, and undoubtedly many millions of Democrats would prefer that Clinton not be the one to try to reverse the trend.
If not a white knight, then how about a black one? Former Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick is also considering jumping in. Not that he has a chance, but maybe he's bored being a former politician and is looking for something to do. It's pretty clear that if the voters wanted a center-left charismatic black politician from the Northeast, then Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) would be polling above the 2.3% that RCP now has him at. It's hard to imagine Patrick coming in higher than maybe 5th or 6th in Iowa, and more like about 10th. Since Massachusetts is near New Hampshire, maybe he could do better there unless some other candidates were also from states neighboring the Granite State. Oh, wait, Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) are also running. Maybe South Carolina then, where 60% of the Democrats are black? Hmmm, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) is pulling in a whopping 7% there and Booker is at 3.5%, so the black candidates are getting over 10%. It's a start, and maybe Patrick could get a piece of that pie. Maybe Patrick knows something we don't, but it is hard to see him making even the second tier, let alone the first one. Memo to kindergarten teachers: Tell your kids that yes, anyone can grow up to be president, but it helps if someone other than yourself thinks that's a good idea.
The real story here is that a number of moderate Democratic politicans don't believe Joe Biden can get the nomination and they are scared of Warren getting it. It's not that they dislike Warren personally. She gets along with her fellow senators well and is known as a work horse, not a show horse. She also is quite willing to compromise to get things done. She would undoubtedly accept a public option as a first step to Medicare for all at some future date. The problem is that many Democratic politicians don't think she could beat Trump. Hence we see Michael Bloomberg, Hillary Clinton, Deval Patrick, and others putting their toes in the water. C'mon, Al Gore and John Kerry, what are you waiting for? (Z & V)
We noted, a couple of days ago, that one strength the Trump campaign has is that it's really good at gimmicks. Well, they've come up with another one, and it's very shrewd. Given that the President promised to build a wall, and yet only four miles of new wall have actually been built since he took office, he really needs to come up with a way to make it appear as if more progress is being made. So, someone came up with the idea of the Wall Cam, which will launch early next year and will allow viewers to watch in real time as the wall is being built.
It will be interesting to see how this is implemented, as it could potentially be manipulated by partisans on either side. For Team Trump, for example, it would not be terribly difficult to record a few days' footage of construction and then to loop it over and over. That would make it seem like stuff was getting done, even if it wasn't (though it would likely be pretty easy to expose such deception). For Trump's opponents, it could be an opportunity to demonstrate the weaknesses of the wall—say, by climbing over the wall using ladders, while on camera. Still, given that people trust their own eyes above all else, this is a very smart way to make 4 miles of wall (or 5, or 6, or whatever it is by January) seem like an awful lot more. (Z)
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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Nov12 Trump's Tax Returns Get a Little Closer to Seeing the Light of Day
Nov12 Today in Irony: Donald Trump Jr.'s Visit to UCLA
Nov12 Nikki Haley Has a Book, Too
Nov12 Patrick Suggests He Might Run
Nov12 Cummings' Widow Will Run for His Seat
Nov12 Peter King Becomes the 20th Republican Member of the House to Retire
Nov11 Schiff: Whistleblower Testimony Is Not Needed
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