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      •  Saturday Q&A

Saturday Q&A

There may not have been any testimony this week, but impeachment is still on many folks' minds.

Q: Being completely jaded at this point, I'm wondering about your analysis of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and his being in a "pickle" if Mulvaney & Co. testify before the Senate and spill (even more) condemning beans. Much of the analysis seems to be that damning testimony could be a problem, or that there would be bad optics. We already have essentially a slam dunk case on the House side, and, taking Reps. Devin Nunes (R-CA) and Jim Jordan (R-OH) at their word, it's all a vapid lefty conspiracy to invalidate the 2016 election. What reason do we have to believe that McConnell cares what the testimony is, or its optics, since he knows his team will do exactly what we all expect: acquit and justify? And will they really pay the price at the voting booths? Won't this act be exactly what their voters want? Do you really believe that there is still deference to truth, honor, and country? McConnell has the same concern about an acquittal as he has about being a hypocrite if he has a chance to confirm a SCOTUS justice in 2020: zero. B.H., Lunenburg, MA

A: Sometimes we get messages that say we are too optimistic and, in particular, too willing to say "this could really hurt Donald Trump." And maybe that's correct. Certainly, he seems bulletproof, and his support in the House and Senate seems unyielding.

However, there is much historical precedent telling us that when and if a situation like this reaches a tipping point, things can change very rapidly. The obvious example is Richard Nixon and Watergate. His support, both within Congress and without, remained steady right until it collapsed. A less obvious, but perhaps more instructive, example is Lyndon B. Johnson and Vietnam. The anti-war and pro-war factions remained fairly stable until early 1968. Then, the North Vietnamese launched the Tet Offensive in January, Walter Cronkite denounced the war in February, and Americans preparing to cast presidential ballots started to think long and hard about what 4 more years of LBJ would look like. On January 1, 1968, LBJ was confident he would get a second term. On March 31, he announced: "I shall not seek, and I will not accept, the nomination of my party for another term as your president."

Maybe a tipping point will be reached with Trump, and maybe it won't—nobody knows what the future holds. But it's certainly possible. There are also two other concerns that the senators have to keep in mind. The first, which you note, is their reelection campaigns. It's true that many voters these days have a lot of tolerance for nonsense from members of their own party, as long as that all-important (D) or (R) appears by a candidate's name. However, not all voters are like that. Further, even among the staunch partisans, some have limits. Keep in mind that deep-red Kentucky and deep-red Louisiana have just sent Trump-loving gubernatorial candidates packing. At some point, that has to give pause even to someone like Mitch McConnell. This is doubly true for someone in a less-red state like Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) or Cory Gardner (R-CO).

The other concern is encapsulated by the old observation that "a bell cannot be unrung." Whatever behaviors that the Senate Republicans ignore, they will also be protecting for future Democratic presidents. It's ok for presidents to withhold aid at their discretion? Very good, perhaps the next Democrat will withhold aid to Israel until it agrees to recognize Palestine. White House employees don't have to respond to subpoenas? Ok, then have fun conducting investigations in the future, House/Senate Republicans. You may think McConnell doesn't consider such things, but there's a reason the filibuster (for legislation) is still in place.

Q: I have a question regarding the recent increase in people waiting on courts to tell them whether they have to testify or not in regard to the impeachment hearing. I am talking about former NSA John Bolton, for example (and formerly "Acting" Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, until he decided not to use this tactic). Politically, what's the point of this? Aren't your two choices basically: (1) testify, potentially to the detriment of your own career, but to the benefit of looking patriotic, à la Fiona Hill, or (2) hold out completely, thus keeping favor with loyal GOP members? The middle ground approach of, "Well, I'll do it if I have to" seems rather weak. Can you further explain the strategy? S.S., Dublin, CA

A: Presumably the folks who are adopting the "middle" position each have different reasons for doing so. And, of course, none of them are sharing their inner thoughts. However, here are a few possible explanations that leap to mind:

  • Buying Time: There are significant downsides to not testifying, not the least of which is the risk of being found guilty of contempt of Congress (which is what Roger Stone basically got popped for two weeks ago). However, there are downsides to showing up, too, not the least of which is the need for (expensive) counsel. It could be that some folks would prefer to avoid that cost, if possible. It could also be that some are scraping together the money that will be needed.

  • Hedging their Bets, Part I: Nobody knows how toxic the Trump name will be in two, four, or six years. Someone who testifies "unwillingly" can plausibly remain a part of the Party of Trump, if that is what the GOP still is in 2024 or 2026, but they can also plausibly claim they saw him for what he was and jumped ship, should Trumpism become notio non grata by then.

  • Hedging their Bets, Part II: Similarly, if someone wants to preserve their future as a lobbyist, party functionary, candidate for office, Fox News contributor, etc., testifying "unwillingly" will allow them to argue that they are not traitors/stool pigeons, they were merely left with no other choice.

  • The NDAs: Trump required pretty much everyone to sign a nondisclosure agreement before starting work in his White House. Those are probably unenforceable, but unenforceability would not necessarily stop Team Trump from filing an expensive-to-defend lawsuit. A court order to testify, however, would head an NDA suit off at the pass.

  • The Bar: At least some of the folks in question, like Don McGahn, are members of the bar in good standing. It's at least possible that they have concerns related to their law license, and that a court order would put them in a stronger position on that front.

Again, we're just guessing here, but we suspect that at least some of these are on target. As always, we welcome readers' thoughts, particularly on any explanations we might have overlooked.

Q: If (when?) the House votes to impeach, it seems we are heading for a (serious) trial in the Senate. Given that Republicans have maintained full support of the President up till now, I see no way the Senate will convict except, perhaps, if there is a secret ballot. Could you explain again what the chances are that the Senate vote could be secret? Who proposes this? How is it decided? Has this been done before (secret votes in any other instances, since impeachment is exceptional)? Can the Senate Majority Leader prevent it? Does the Chief Justice have a say? If there were a secret ballot, what are the chances it would change the vote? After all, it might be hard for a Senator to hide—people might deduce who voted to convict. E.F., Brussels, Belgium

A: The procedures for an impeachment trial are laid out in the rules of the Senate. What will happen is that McConnell will, based on the existing rules, propose a set of guidelines for how Trump's trial will be conducted. That set of guidelines would have to be approved by 51 senators. What this means is that if just three GOP senators held out (along with the 47 Democrats), that would be enough to hold McConnell's feet to the fire, because in procedural matters the VP doesn't get to break ties. Just four GOP senators (along with the 47 Democrats) would be enough to adopt a secret ballot, assuming McConnell allowed such a proposal to come before the Senate. The Chief Justice has no say in any of this.

While there is no historical precedent for secret impeachment ballots, it has occasionally (but rarely) happened that the Senate went into secret session, usually when discussing and voting upon matters that are sensitive from an intelligence perspective. Any votes held during such sessions were, necessarily, secret. Further, the senators would be acting as a jury, and federal juries often cast secret ballots. So, a secret impeachment ballot would not be entirely unprecedented, but it would be exploring somewhat new legal territory.

There is every reason to believe that a secret ballot would change the vote, as senators who dislike Trump would no longer be quite as fearful of recrimination from the base. And it's certainly possible that their votes could be deduced or could leak out, but that's probably a minor concern. Imagine that we learn the vote was 56-44 to convict Trump. Is it probable that Collins and Gardner were among the defectors? Sure, but "probable" is not "definite."

Q: Because of the currently intransigent nature of the executive branch, every request Congress tries to get ends up on a long slow trek through the different courts and finally in SCOTUS. Isn't it possible for the justices to pre-weigh in on similar cases working their way through the circuits? C.W., Carlsbad, CA

A: Supreme Court justices cannot issue advisory or preemptive rulings. So, if you are asking whether it is possible for John Roberts and four of his black-robed friends to announce on Monday that John Bolton must testify, that is not possible.

It is possible, however, for the parties to a lawsuit to request that their case be sent directly to the Supreme Court, and that the other levels of the federal judiciary be bypassed. So, if Roberts & Co. really and truly wanted these matters to be resolved pronto, they could publicly hint (or privately communicate) that they are open to granting fast-track status to one or more cases, and wait for one of the parties to request that status. However, there is no chance that Roberts and his colleagues will do this, because they would largely prefer to stay out of such divisive and controversial matters unless it is unavoidable, and because they want everything to be done "by the book" if they do have to get involved.

"How come one of the parties to the lawsuits has not requested fast-track status?," you might ask. Well, for Team Trump, there is no upside to doing so. The current status quo is just fine with them. For Team Schiff, we are left to guess, but we think we have a couple of pretty good ideas. First, getting fast-track status is a pretty rare and special dispensation. It is likely that the Democrats are saving such requests for a "special occasion," as it were. Second, the Democrats surely suspect that the Roberts Court would like to sustain Trump, at least on some points. It will be somewhat harder for the Court to do so, legally and politically, if the Democrats already have lengthy decisions from two different layers of the federal court system (district court, court of appeals) that support their position.

Q: The President can obviously be impeached for his actions regarding Ukraine but would Trump and/or Giuliani's actions with Ukraine be considered illegal? Can they be prosecuted after Trump leaves office? If so, what would the charge be? M.J., New Brunswick, New Jersey

A: Generally speaking, prosecutors are very good at finding things to charge. In this case, that task should not be too hard if that is what the Justice Dept. wants to do, since a lot of shady stuff took place. For example, there certainly appear to be violations of 18 U.S.C. 201, which covers the crime usually referred to as "influence peddling." Basically, Giuliani's whole business model is selling access to high-placed government officials. Another potential charge is being an unregistered foreign agent.

Q: It's been said (and I think you've said it) that a lawyer should never ask a witness a question to which the lawyer doesn't already know the answer. (I assume that applies to direct questioning; I'm not sure if that applies to cross-examination. But I digress.) That's why Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) deposed all the witnesses in closed session first, before having them testify in open session. I assume that, if the House managers decide to subpoena Bolton, they won't be able to depose him in secret first. So how do they avoid Bolton from giving an unexpected answer to a question? S.C., Mountain View, CA

A: We think you might be assuming facts not in evidence. If Bolton is ordered to appear before the Senate, he could also be ordered to give a deposition. That said, every prosecutor—and Schiff is a very good one—knows how to voir dire (critically question) people on the stand. This is usually used to identify friendly/unfriendly jurors, but is sometimes used in the examination of undeposed witnesses as well. And that means that Schiff (or whoever examined Bolton) would try to steer him to what they want him to say, but would also be ready to push the "eject" button if he appears to be in the bag for the other side.

Q: In all the discussion of Trump withholding aid authorized by Congress from Ukraine seeking a quid pro quo, I have a question. Can he do that (withhold aid already authorized by Congress)? Why? Does Congress authorize the aid or does Congress authorize the president to give the aid? A minor but seemingly important difference. L.V.A., Idaho Falls, ID

A: Under the terms of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, the President does have the power to withhold aid under certain circumstances. That Act, and numerous amendments to it (including one specifically addressing Ukraine), spell out those circumstances. For example, if a country is found to be engaging in gross human rights violations, or if they are taking the aid they get from the U.S. and using it to support terrorism, the president is empowered to withhold the money (or to establish conditions for the release of the funds). In the case of Ukraine, the Ukraine Freedom Support Act of 2014 (which is the most recent amendment to the Foreign Assistance Act) specifically speaks to ongoing corruption as a legitimate condition for withholding aid.

This is why the Trump administration is working so very hard to convince everyone that they had legitimate concerns about Ukrainian corruption, because that would give legal cover for their behavior. The problem is that there are some serious holes in this defense:

  • Volodymyr Zelensky was elected on an anti-corruption platform, while his predecessor (Petro Poroshenko) was considerably weaker on that issue. So, why did the administration release last year's money without reservation, but hold this year's?

  • Similarly, if this was the real concern, why did the administration not share that immediately with the State Dept. and the OMB when asked "why is the money being withheld"?

  • As we all know, the money eventually was released. If there were legitimate concerns about corruption under Zelensky, what changed that allowed the money to be released?

  • Why is the involvement of a private citizen like Rudy Giuliani needed, if an expert assessment (like from former ambassador to Ukraine Masha Yovanovitch) is what is needed to invoke the Ukraine Freedom Support Act?

  • Similarly, if this was a legitimate exercise of the authority granted by Congress, why was it done through channels far outside the correct and normal ones? Why, for example, would the ambassador to the EU be involved, while the ambassador to Ukraine was excluded and fired?

And all of these issues come up before we even talk about quid pro quos, Joe and Hunter Biden, Burisma, and so forth. What we're saying here is that a more...competent (and patient) group of folks could probably have given themselves more than enough cover here, since corruption in Ukraine is bad enough that it was literally the subject of a specific congressional act. But Team Trump is impatient and ham-fisted—it's kind of like Richard Nixon and his plumbers, except without the enormous intelligence and deviousness of Tricky Dick at the center.

If you want to read a more thorough accounting of the rules about withholding foreign aid, the Washington Post had a good op-ed just this week.

Q: Who was the last U.S. president to write his own speeches? Abraham Lincoln? Teddy Roosevelt? William Howard Taft would certainly have been capable of writing his own. Or was the political speech writer in the wings much earlier than I'm estimating? M.M., San Diego, CA

A: Let us start by noting that every president got some help with his speeches. For example, George Washington's most famous speech (the "farewell address") was substantially written by James Madison and Alexander Hamilton. And conversely, every president has played some role in the crafting of their own speeches, whether giving instructions about the tone and content, or editing, or engaging in rewrites. In recent years, Democratic presidents (especially Barack Obama and Bill Clinton) have tended to be more hands-on than Republicans (especially Donald Trump, George W. Bush, and Ronald Reagan), but they all have some meaningful input.

With those caveats out of the way, we will say that the last president who took primary responsibility for writing his speeches was Woodrow Wilson. He used the same typewriter on which he wrote his Ph.D. dissertation. The first president to hire a full-time speechwriter was Warren Harding, who tapped Judson Welliver for the job, and gave him the title "literary clerk." If you really want to read a lot about this subject, there's actually a whole book, entitled White House Ghosts: Presidents And Their Speechwriters. It was published in 2008, though, so no Obama and no Trump.

Q: I wonder if you wouldn't mind spending a few minutes on the subject of poll manipulation? I'm pretty sure you've talked about it in the past, but your item on Wednesday about Sen. Elizabeth Warren's (D-MA) sudden apparent deflation jostled me a bit. From observation, my understanding is that candidates generally don't lose that much support that quickly unless they've committed a major unforced error. In other words, it's clearly the candidate's own fault, not because someone else is actively climbing.

But that doesn't seem to be what happened here. As far as I can see, Warren hasn't made any blunders, large or small. Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D-South Bend) does seem to be nascent right now, but there isn't any obvious reason for that, either. Is it just "his turn in the spotlight"? Could the pollsters have decided, separately (or even together?) that a Warren presidency is a thing up with which they cannot put, and designed their questions accordingly? Politics may not be subject to Newton's laws of motion; still, there should be some explanation. The obvious facts don't add up.
B.W.S., Pleasant Valley, NY

A: We think it is very unlikely that there is any poll manipulation going on. In part, because we generally reject conspiratorial thinking. And in part, because it would make no sense. Any pollster who called another polling house and proposed cooking the books like this would be taking an enormous risk. After all, that second polling house is also the competition. What if they ran to the New York Times or FiveThirtyEight and blabbed? Polling house #1 would be ruined. Further, there would be little benefit to this. Polls have little impact on voter behavior, and if a house (or a bunch of houses) tried to "take down" a candidate, all they would do is end up with egg on their face when their numbers turned out to be way off.

Warren's unusually sharp decline in the polls is much more likely due to a bunch of small factors that all happened to work against her: sampling issues, margin of error, a lot of polls from Biden-friendly houses like Emerson, slight improvements in the fortunes of Buttigieg and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), the added scrutiny she got when moving to "frontrunner" status, and the added reluctance that voters have when someone is the frontrunner. We will have an item on that last point later this week. In any case, if each of these things cost her 1-3 points, that would be enough to explain her drop. And it would be a much more plausible explanation than a pollster conspiracy.

Q: What would happen to the gobs of money raised for Donald Trump's reelection campaign if Trump were to be removed from office, or were to choose to drop out of the race at some point before the election? I assume that the possible uses for said money would differ depending on whether Trump was banned from running for public office in the future (as a condition of impeachment and removal from office), as opposed to him hypothetically remaining eligible to run for office again in the future.

Also, in this scenario, what would be the potential for Trump to "repurpose" campaign funds for his own personal gain? My general understanding is that campaign finance laws are fairly detailed and strict and designed to limit the possibility of personally profiting from campaign funds. However, I suspect the probability of Trump & Co. utilizing any loopholes in the law to personally profit would be high.
C.W., Grafenwöhr, Germany

A: You're right that candidates are limited in what they can do with excess campaign funds. If any of Trump's funds were found to be illegal in nature (for example, $1 million from a Russian oligarch), then those would have to be sent back. Beyond that, the options that he and/or his campaign would have: (1) refunding the donations, (2) transferring the money to the RNC or other organ of the Republican Party, (3) transferring the money to other candidates, albeit with maximum donation caps, (4) using the money for a future campaign for office, or (5) donating the money to charity.

We agree that Trump would be particularly likely to find ways to send the money to himself. In fact, we would argue that the RNC's purchase of $100,000 worth of copies of Trump Jr.'s book was exactly that: Steering campaign donations into the pockets of the Trump family (note that this is not solely a GOP problem; alleged anti-corruption Democrat Russ Feingold ran much the same scheme). Anyhow, it's not too hard to imagine things like a $10 million "celebrating the Trump years" party at Mar-a-Lago, or the lease of the second floor of Trump Tower New York for purposes of hosting the Trump presidential library, at the bargain-basement price of just $50 million a year.

Q: Can you write more about Martin Van Buren? Your: "Van Buren—whose skill at political tactics is criminally unappreciated" in the Petticoat Affair explanation is certainly a teaser! T.B., Tallahassee, FL

A: Well, his nicknames were "Sly Fox" and "Little Magician." You don't get those nicknames by accident.

Anyhow, Van Buren was really the first politician to fully appreciate the importance of networking and, in particular, the value of patronage in maintaining party unity. He created the Albany Regency, which became the template for the political machines of the 19th and early 20th centuries (the notorious Tammany Hall technically predated the Albany Regency by about a decade, but was not truly machine-like until several decades later). Anyhow, with Van Buren as its leader, the Albany Regency used patronage and backroom dealmaking to control politics in the state of New York in the 1820s and 1830s.

In the messy election of 1824, which featured four candidates, Van Buren couldn't quite figure out whom to support. He picked William Crawford, who proved to be a poor choice, and finished in fourth place. From this, the Sly Fox learned that: (1) the right horse was actually Andrew Jackson, and (2) the time had come for much better political organizing on a national level. And so, Van Buren started cozying up to Jackson, and sharing quite a few ideas about politics, impressing upon Jackson the value of patronage, and of party discipline. Old Hickory tends to get the credit for founding the modern Democratic Party, but Van Buren actually took a greater role. It was he who built a national network, who attracted 800,000 new voters to the Party, and who came up with the idea of a nominating convention (and, with it, the "smoke-filled room").

Beyond being extremely innovative, Van Buren also had a real talent for ending up on the right side of contentious issues. In the rundown of the Petticoat Affair, we explained how he was the only cabinet member (besides John Eaton) to escape unscathed. In fact, not only was he unscathed, he managed to somehow ride the whole mess to the vice presidency and then, as Jackson's handpicked successor, the presidency. Nice trick. To take another example, the Erie Canal was largely the work of Gov. DeWitt Clinton (D-R, NY), a political enemy of Van Buren. The Little Magician managed to use Clinton's support for the Canal to ruin him and end his political career, and then managed to claim much of the credit for the Canal once it was finished and became a huge success. Another nice trick.

Van Buren's magic touch largely abandoned him as president, In part, this is because events beyond his control, most obviously a severe recession triggered by the policies of Andrew Jackson, conspired to ruin his presidency. In part, because "backroom deal-maker" is not necessarily the skill set needed to be a good president. Because Van Buren had such a poor term, and did little to redeem himself after leaving office, his overall reputation suffered badly.

And one final note: Van Buren managed to do all of this as the only U.S. president whose first language was not English. He grew up speaking Dutch, and did not learn English until he was a teenager.

Q: If Andrew Jackson could so freely ascribe the "T" word (traitor) to John Calhoun, to what do you attribute the reticence to use it on modern-day counterparts? These days, it would seem to apply only in the instance of crimes in wartime. Calhoun's shenanigans would seem (at least to me) to pale in comparison to current events. Has treason been redefined? J.M., Everett, WA

A: Well, Calhoun did foment rebellion against the government of the United States. Successfully, we might add, although the Senator had been dead for a decade by the time his machinations culminated in secession. So, it's not too far out of bounds to call him a traitor or to accuse him of treason.

If there has been a change in the meaning of the words treason/traitor, it has been toward a more narrow definition of those concepts. In particular, there is an argument made by many today that treason can only take place if the beneficiary of the act is a nation against which the United States has formally declared war. However, that has not been the standard used in the past. Philip Vigol and John Mitchell (Whiskey Rebellion), John Fries (Fries' Rebellion), William Dorr (Dorr Rebellion), John Brown and Aaron Dwight Stevens (the raid on Harpers Ferry), Walter Allen (the Miner's March), and Julius and Ethel Rosenberg (Cold War) were all publicly accused of treason absent a declared war, and many were convicted (although in some cases, ultimately, of a different and easier-to-prove crime).

With our current highly charged political environment, a looser understanding of "treason" appears to be making a comeback. Just yesterday, in fact, one of the women running for the right to challenge Rep. Ilhan Omar (DFL-MN) was permanently suspended from Twitter for suggesting that the Representative shared information with Iran, and should be hanged as punishment.

Q: It seems that, no matter what he has done or might do, Donald Trump is holding on to the support of about 43% of the electorate. He won about 46% of the popular vote in 2016. Is there any way that those 43% might be distributed that he can win the Electoral College with only their support? J.C., Westminster, VT

A: Is it possible? Certainly. Is it plausible? Not really. Keep in mind that Trump won by a whisker in several key swing states, most obviously Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, which he won by a combined total of less than 80,000 votes. If Trump were to collect 43% of the vote, that would mean a decline of about 4 million votes in his overall total. Possibly more, since voter enthusiasm appears to be very high right now, and so turnout may be much greater than in 2016. Though not impossible, it will not be easy for him to lose 4 million votes in very red or very blue states, without losing any votes in purple states.

Q: This might be a controversial topic, but race has been mentioned many times in the debates: HBCUs, busing, Affirmative Action, EEOC, integration, reparations, and other topics. There's a lot at stake here, legally and monetarily. A few years back, for example, an American of Indian (subcontinent) descent managed to get into medical school by pretending to be black.

So, to my question: Is there a legal definition of "black"? Or white, or Asian, or Native American for that matter? If not, should there be?

Just to add a historical footnote, I read that in the 1896 case Plessy v Ferguson (which was basically a setup to test the 'whites only' rule), that Plessy was an "octoroon" (I hope that's not an offensive term!) and thus, was not white.
F.L., Denton, TX

A: "Octoroon" is an anachronism, of course, but appropriate when referring to a historical concept in historical context. That is why they are the United Negro College Fund and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and not the United African American College Fund or the National Association for the Advancement of Black People.

Anyhow, in the past, there were some places that tried to craft a legal definition of racial status. These were mostly in the South, as you can imagine. In the slave era, the most important legal concern was that slave status descended from the child's mother. This conveniently made the children of a white master and a slave (very common) into slaves, while making the children of a white mistress and a slave (virtually unheard of) into freedpeople. After the Civil War, the most important legal concern was maintaining segregation. There was a whole 19th century nomenclature to describe fractional African status, including griffe (three-quarters black), mulatto (half black), sacatra (three-eighths black), quadroon (one-quarter black), octoroon (one-eighth black), and hexadecaroon (one-sixteenth black). That said, the prevailing custom was that even one drop of African blood made someone black. And we use the word "custom" because the rules governing slave status and African status were more often a matter of habit and tradition, and were only occasionally incorporated into formal legal codes.

Today, there is no legal basis in the United States for most racial identifications. Abuses are rare, and any effort to define who is and is not "black" or "Latino" or "Asian" or "white" would be enormously controversial. It would also run into all sorts of messy situations. Are a person from Cuba and a person from Brazil the same race? How about Spain and Brazil? Sri Lanka and Japan? China and Turkey? Egypt and Jamaica? South Africa and Nigeria? Canada and Iran? Very difficult questions to answer. And that is before we get into questions that result from multi-ethnic relationships, like "what are you if your father was German and Sudanian and your Mother was Korean and Japanese?"

The only exception to the previous paragraph is Native American status, as that often comes with significant financial and other advantages, and sometimes a somewhat different set of legal rights (on reservations/tribal lands, a member of the tribe has different rights than a non-member). Consequently, a person claiming Native American descent can request a Certificate of Degree of Indian Blood from the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). A Native American must show this certificate to be entitled to certain privileges, like special educational funding from the federal government.

And before anyone asks, we will note that Elizabeth Warren does not have such a certificate. This is not dispositive, however. First, in order to qualify, one has to be at least 1/16th Native American. Warren, assuming her accounting of things is truthful, is far less than 1/16th, and so would not be eligible for a certificate. Other complicating factors (though not relevant in her case): Native status cannot be conferred to (or through) adoptees, and not all tribes have been recognized by the BIA, for various reasons.

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Nov29 Trump Paints Impeachment as an Attack on All Conservatives
Nov29 Nadler Invites Trump to the First Judiciary Committee Hearing on Impeachment
Nov29 The Knives Are Coming Out for Buttigieg
Nov29 Yang Releases His Tax Returns
Nov29 Richard Spencer Is Not Going Gentle into that Good Night
Nov29 Congress May Pass a Bill Somewhat Limiting Robocalls
Nov29 Georgia Governor Brian Kemp May Cross Trump When Filling Isakson's Seat
Nov29 Cummings' Daughters Support Their Father's Aide, Not His Wife
Nov28 Are Trump and Giuliani Turning on Each Other?
Nov28 Giuliani Was Also Doing Business in Ukraine
Nov28 Poll: Support for Impeachment Is Holding Steady
Nov28 Warren Is Slipping in Iowa
Nov28 Some Voters Want Divided Government
Nov28 Everything is Closing in Rural Areas
Nov28 Moderators for December Debate Named
Nov28 North Carolina Senate Race Could Break Spending Records--Again
Nov28 William Ruckelshaus Dies
Nov28 I Am Not a Crook: A Look at History's Most Scandalous Scandals, Part III
Nov27 Impeachment Inquiry Never Stops
Nov27 Trump, GOP Angry at Google
Nov27 Warren Gets a Bad Poll
Nov27 What Is Bloomberg Thinking?
Nov27 Obama Reportedly Doesn't Want Sanders to Get the Nomination
Nov27 I Am Not a Crook: A Look at History's Most Scandalous Scandals, Part II
Nov26 Navy SEAL Situation Devolves from "Big Mess" to "Total Fiasco"
Nov26 Legal Blotter, Part I: The Congressional Subpoenas
Nov26 Legal Blotter, Part II: The Tax Returns
Nov26 Activist Group Says New Citizens Could Flip Swing States
Nov26 Perry Calls Trump "The Chosen One"
Nov26 Trump Certainly Looks Like He's Losing Support
Nov26 I Am Not a Crook: A Look at History's Most Scandalous Scandals, Part I
Nov25 Bloomberg Is Running
Nov25 Report: Nunes Met with Former Ukrainian Official to Get Dirt on Biden
Nov25 What's Next?
Nov25 Will Bolton Testify at the Impeachment Trial?
Nov25 Ruling in McGahn Case Is Expected Today
Nov25 Mulvaney Tried to Justify Holding Up Ukraine Aid Afterwards
Nov25 Trump: Pompeo Might Run for the Senate
Nov25 Ruth Bader Ginsburg Was Hospitalized Again
Nov25 Navy Secretary Richard Spencer Is Fired
Nov24 Sunday Mailbag
Nov23 Saturday Q&A
Nov22 Two More Nails in the Impeachment Coffin
Nov22 GOP Plots Impeachment Strategy
Nov22 FBI Official Under Investigation for Document Tampering
Nov22 Trump Signs Short-Term Funding Bill
Nov22 Trump Gets Another Tax Return Victory
Nov22 Google to Significantly Limit Targeted Political Ads
Nov22 About that Trump Jr. "Bestseller"
Nov22 Lots of Drama in Israel