Biden Vows to Fight Trump’s Attacks
A One Man War Room
Giuliani Consulted Manafort on Ukraine
Odd Markings Fuel Doubts About ‘Rough Transcript’
My Conversation with Adam Schiff
Ex-National Enquirer Editor Tries to Kill Farrow’s Book
• A Preview of What's to Come?
• How Might Senators Vote in an Impeachment Trial?
• Trump Administration Has a Good Day in Court
• The Farmers Are Restless
• Q3 Fundraising Numbers Are Trickling In
• Lewandowski Pooh-Poohs Senate Run
Over the weekend, the Democrats advised Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that they would like to depose several of his underlings. On Tuesday, the Secretary gave them his answer: No. In a letter to Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Pompeo said that his staffers could not possibly be available as quickly as House Democrats desire and, in any case, he thinks that the blue team is just trying "to intimidate, bully, & treat improperly the distinguished professionals of the Department of State."
Needless to say, the Democrats were apoplectic, and quickly fired off their own letter (although one that was pointedly addressed to Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan, since the blue team takes the view that Pompeo should have recused himself from the whole matter). Several other committee chairs joined Engel in warning that if Pompeo tries to prevent the depositions, that would be "illegal and will constitute evidence of obstruction of the impeachment inquiry." They undoubtedly have the right of it here. Congress has an awful lot of power when looking into impeachment. They have a lot of leeway in whom they subpoena, and even more leeway in whom they depose. Pompeo is a lawyer; he graduated from a modest little law school in Cambridge, MA, that is also the alma mater of a majority of the Supreme Court justices. So he certainly knows this, and is just trying to buy as much time for his boss as is possible.
House Democrats aren't the only ones who are unhappy, incidentally. Many employees of the State Dept. are furious that Pompeo and Trump have treated them with nothing but contempt, and that the Secretary is now pretending to be their champion because it serves his ends. Others are irked that the administration is still trying to hurt Hillary Clinton, and that they (the members of the State Dept.) might get caught up in it. And still others do not appreciate the things that Trump has said about the whistleblower, since his words have put the whistleblower in real danger, while also working to stifle others who may be thinking about coming forward.
We don't mean to keep repeating ourselves, but as Watergate (among other scandals) demonstrated so well, if you throw enough of your underlings under the bus, one (or more) of them will eventually return the favor. There will come a time, very likely sooner rather than later, when the five folks the Democrats want to talk to will be deposed. And if those folks are feeling raw, they might just give the committee(s) an earful and a half. First up is probably former ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, who is scheduled to be deposed later this month. She is a Russian-speaking career diplomat with 30+ years of experience who may well have lost her job as part of the administration's questionable dealings with that nation. Who knows exactly what she knows, but as the Los Angeles Times points out, she "had a front-row seat to the machinations of Rudolph W. Giuliani." So, she probably knows something pretty juicy. (Z)
There are many things to be concerned about in the next several months, as a potential presidential impeachment plays out. Among those things is that the United States has a president who may be in the midst of significant cognitive decline, and who definitely lashes out recklessly when he's feeling angry and/or cornered. For example, what might happen the next time Iran pokes the bear, and the U.S. is locked, loaded, and ready to respond? Especially if it happens the same day as, say, the whistleblower testifies? It could make Wag the Dog look like a day at the park.
It is with that in mind that we note this story published by the New York Times on Tuesday. Speaking with White House insiders, they learned that this past March, when Donald Trump was particularly angry about the Mexican border (and the lack of a Mexican-funded wall there), he ordered his staff to shut down all movement between the two countries by noon the next day. Eventually, of course, he backed down, in part because some of his underlings pointed out that action would trap many American tourists in Mexico.
That's not all. At various other times, Trump wanted to pursue a number of other...unorthodox "solutions." He suggested, for example, electrifying the existing wall and putting sharp spikes on top of it, so that anyone who tried to climb it would be impaled and electrocuted. He wanted soldiers to start shooting undocumented migrants in the legs, in order to slow them down. And he even suggested that the U.S. should build a moat along the border, and fill it with snakes and alligators. The latter proposal, though it sounds like it came out of a bad game of Dungeons and Dragons, was actually serious enough that Trump's staff got estimates for him on how much it would cost.
This is all pretty concerning. Probably the least worrisome explanation would be if Trump was joking, except that these "jokes" aren't funny. Further, his staff certainly didn't think he was joking. Alternatively, this is a man who regularly becomes dangerously unhinged, either due to his rage and his hatred, or due to his impaired mental state, or both. And again, what happens if and when articles of impeachment are adopted? It could get really ugly, though it could also mean that people again start talking seriously about a removal under the terms of the 25th Amendment. (Z)
Many GOP senators (and two or three Democrats, like Doug Jones, D-AL) are nervous about the effect that an impeachment trial, and the vote they will have to cast, will have on their electoral chances. After all, some voters feel that Trump is a borderline fascist who has already done irreparable damage to the country, while others feel that removing him from office would be tantamount to a coup (a sentiment that the President spent the day on Tuesday heartily encouraging). There is, of course, no way to thread that needle. A vote for conviction will infuriate one faction, a vote for acquittal will infuriate the other, and a vote of "present" will look cowardly and will infuriate both.
So, let's get way ahead of ourselves and think about how the Senators might vote, if it comes to that. Here is a list of Republican senators, along with their home states, those states' PVIs, the year the senators will next face voters, and the President's net approval rating as of the latest poll of the state. It is sorted on the latter column:
|Senator||State||PVI||Next Up||Trump Net Approval|
|Richard Burr||North Carolina||R+3||2022||-2%|
|Thom Tillis||North Carolina||R+3||2020||-2%|
|John Thune||South Dakota||R+14||2022||5%|
|Mike Rounds||South Dakota||R+14||2020||5%|
|John Hoeven||North Dakota||R+17||2022||8%|
|Kevin Cramer||North Dakota||R+17||2024||8%|
|Lindsey Graham||South Carolina||R+8||2020||10%|
|Tim Scott||South Carolina||R+8||2022||10%|
|Shelley Moore Capito||West Virginia||R+19||2020||21%|
We assume that, in the end, even the most centrist of Democrats (Jones, Joe Manchin) will fall in line with the rest of their party, so they are not included.
Unfortunately, while we have a lot of numbers, we don't have a lot of answers. When trying to guess which way each of these senators might ultimately break, in the case of a trial, there are many hard-to-answer questions:
- What numbers are most important? One might guess that
Trump would be in most danger in the blue and/or purple states (like, say, Colorado or Maine). On
the other hand, one might guess that Trump would be in the most danger in the states where his net
approval way underperforms the PVI (like, say, Utah), since that implies that Republican voters have
begun to desert him in those places. Which is it? Who knows?
- What is the effect of an upcoming election? One school of thought says
that Senators up in 2020 are most likely to turn against Trump, in an effort to protect themselves
from a(nother) possible blue wave. On the other hand, it's possible those people will need to shore
up their support with the President's base, and the senators most likely to convict are the ones who
have 2 or 4 years left in their terms, giving them time to ride out the storm that their votes will
- How much does personality matter? From a numerical perspective, Ron
Johnson should be one of the Republicans most likely to vote for impeachment, since his state is
purple, and the residents there are not enamored of the President. Meanwhile, Tim Scott should be
voting for acquittal, as he represents a red state where Trump's approval remains well above water.
However, Scott has been a Trump skeptic, while Johnson has been a fanboy, which means it's hard to
know which of them is more likely to turn on the President (if either).
- What about the retirees? There are four folks who are done in the Senate, either this year (Isakson), or next year (Roberts, Alexander, Enzi). Might the end of their career free them to vote without regard for Trump's base? Maybe, though it certainly didn't free Jeff Flake or Bob Corker to rebel against the party line prior to their retirements in 2018.
There is no good way to answer these questions satisfactorily. So while it is certainly possible to identify a few folks who are particularly likely to turn on Trump (Gardner, Romney) and a few who are particularly unlikely (Kennedy, Cotton), there's no way to "count" how many votes Trump does or does not have. That said, it is abundantly clear that under current circumstances, there is no way the Democrats are going to get 20 Republicans to publicly vote to convict. That would be political suicide for at least 10 of them.
What that means is that there are two ways that this ends with a Trump conviction. The first is that public sentiment changes, such that sizable numbers of Republicans come to favor impeachment. The second is that the Senate rules change, such that votes for acquittal/conviction are secret. Flake claims there are 30-35 of his former colleagues that would vote to remove Trump if only they could vote anonymously. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) could rule that when the vote came, each senator would be given a small card with the words "ACQUIT" and "CONVICT" on them and a box next to each one. Each senator would mark one of the boxes and then deposit the card in a sealed ballot box at the front of the Senate. The President of the Senate, Mike Pence, would then open the box, count the ballots, and announce the results, all of this on national television. If 67 or more cards had "CONVICT" marked, he could optionally yell "Whoopie!" although that is not his normal style. Since Chief Justice John Roberts would preside over the trial, he would be conveniently available to swear in the new president on the spot.
Even if Flake is overstating things by one-third, that would still be more than enough for conviction. And for the GOP, this approach might just make sense—they would replace the erratic and baggage-laden Trump with Mike Pence, who is preferable to most of them. The Party could also assert its commitment to the Constitution and law and order, while protecting any individual senator from taking a public stance. That would thread the needle far better than any of the other options.
Is this possible? Certainly. If McConnell proposed a secret ballot, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) could (pro forma) object in order to show his undying loyalty to Trump and force a vote of the full Senate on the proposal. If the 47 Democrats and the four retirees voted for the rule change, that would be enough to make it happen without any of the GOP Senators who hope to continue their careers. Don't be too surprised if this is how things unfold if the House does indeed adopt articles of impeachment. (Z)
The White House got a couple of semi-big victories in court on Tuesday, on two very different fronts. First, Judge Morrison C. England Jr. (a Bush 43 appointee), as expected, blocked the California law that requires candidates to release five years' worth of tax returns if they want to appear on the state's primary ballot. Meanwhile, on the other side of the country, a panel of judges on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals found that the FCC's efforts to do away with net neutrality were basically acceptable. That would mean that, in theory, internet service providers (ISPs) would be able to give precedence to some traffic (say, from companies that pay for priority access) while slowing down other traffic (say, from companies that don't pay).
Of course, in both cases, Team Trump has won the battle, but not the war. Both rulings will be appealed, potentially giving other judges a chance to weigh in. In addition, there are externalities that may render Tuesday's decisions somewhat meaningless. With the tax returns, there are all sorts of efforts underway to get them and make them public, and any of those may succeed. Or, another whistleblower may step forward. As to net neutrality, there has been much pushback from big states that disagree with the FCC's decision. If those states pass their own laws requiring neutrality, and make those laws stick, then it would be impractical for ISPs to play by one set of rules in some states and a different set in others. On top of that, the next Democratic president is going to appoint people who will change the FCC rules right back, anyhow. So, the White House shouldn't celebrate too much. (Z)
It's no secret that the trade war is hitting many farmers, especially small family farmers, pretty hard, even with the administration handing out subsidies. Of course many of these people have always opposed the government giving away free money (especially to people who live in inner cities), but that was then and this is now. And now, there is another administration policy that is also undercutting these folks. To say that Donald Trump and his team are not exactly eco-friendly would be an understatement. And consistent with that, they have loosened the rules requiring refineries to purchase biofuels. That means less demand for corn and soybeans, in particular, which are the two commodities being hit hardest by the trade war. The President has promised that a "giant" ethanol-purchase plan is in the works, but he seems to have put it in the same drawer with his plan to defeat ISIS and his Obamacare replacement, because there has been nary a word as to what the plan is.
Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue was in Wisconsin on Tuesday, and he had some...cheery news when asked about the woes being faced by the nation's family farms. He said: "In America, the big get bigger and the small go out. I don't think in America we, for any small business, we have a guaranteed income or guaranteed profitability." Ouch. We don't live in Wisconsin, of course, but we're going to guess that is not what farmers want to hear. Thus far, they've remained pretty loyal to the President, but with messaging like that, not to mention the trade wars/ethanol policy, they might be ready to rethink their support by the time it comes to cast their ballots next year. (Z)
Quarter 3 of 2019 is over, which means that the fundraising for the period is in the books. The various candidates for president have about a week to report to the FEC, though some of them decided to jump the gun and announce their good news as soon as possible.
To start, the king of Q3 fundraising is, of course, Donald Trump. His 2020 campaign and the RNC took in a combined $125 million, which is a record for a non-election year. They have not yet made clear how much of that went to Trump 2020, and how much went to the RNC, but the distinction doesn't matter all that much since the two are basically one and the same right now.
Quite a few Democrats are antsy about how much money Trump has taken in, and how much he and the RNC have on hand ($156 million), and what that might portend for the 2020 race. Undoubtedly, nine-figure sums are very impressive. On the other hand, Team Trump hits supporters up for money literally every day, usually multiple times a day, and it's not clear the extent to which that is sucking up money that might otherwise go to Republicans running for Congress, or state-level office. Further, we struggle to understand how Trump 2020 might spend that money in a productive fashion. Someone who gets vast amounts of free publicity by virtue of the bully pulpit and the bullying Twitter account isn't going to get much mileage out of television and Internet ads, is he? And the Trump campaign certainly isn't spending much on oppo research; they just get it for free from the president of Ukraine.
Among the Democratic presidential candidates, the biggest haul reported so far is Sen. Bernie Sanders' (I-VT) $25.3 million. If this whole president thing doesn't work out, it won't be for lack of funds. Trailing him is Q2 fundraising champion Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D-South Bend), with $19.1 million, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), with $11.6 million, and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), with $6 million. The other candidates have not yet released their totals; obviously, the only ones who might challenge Sanders' take are Joe Biden and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).
Speaking of Booker, his FEC report not only announced his total, but also revealed that he now has the 165,000 donors required to qualify for the fifth Democratic debate. That actually means that every single one of the 12 candidates who will be on stage for the fourth debate on October 15 have cleared the fundraising threshold for debate five. Biden, Sanders, Warren, Harris, and Buttigieg also have the polls they need, so they're in for sure. Booker, Andrew Yang, and Tom Steyer are just one poll short of the promised land, while Sen. Amy Klobuchar (DFL-MN) and Beto O'Rourke are three polls short. Add it up, and the new and more stringent November debate requirements may not shrink the list of qualifiers all that much. (Z)
Former Donald Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski was getting pretty serious about a Senate run from his sort of home state of New Hampshire. He even used his appearance before the House Judiciary Committee to promote his planned bid. On Tuesday, however, he downplayed his Senate ambitions, and said he may well be too busy helping the President fight impeachment to run for office.
Let us translate that for you: "I have no hope of beating an incumbent senator, particularly one like Jeanne Shaheen, whose 54% approval versus 34% disapproval makes her one of the 10 most popular members of the Senate. By running, I would just get in the way of a Republican who might actually be able to make a race of it. The GOP pooh-bahs have let me know this, so I think it's better that I remain safely moored to the S.S. Trump." With Lewandowski presumably out of the race, the leading GOP contenders are former Speaker of the New Hampshire House of Representatives Bill O'Brien and Brig. Gen. Don Bolduc (ret.). The GOP would be thrilled if Kelly Ayotte would attempt a return to Washington, but she's shown no interest, while the most serious threat to knock off Shaheen—Gov. Chris Sununu (R-NH)—has decided to run for reelection to his current job, instead. (Z)
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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Oct01 A Bad Poll for Team Trump
Oct01 Maybe Trump Really Doesn't Get It
Oct01 Two Lies and One Truth
Oct01 Three Democratic Campaigns in Trouble
Oct01 "The Body" for President?
Oct01 Two More GOP Congressmen to Exit
Sep30 Pelosi Anoints Schiff
Sep30 Whistleblowergate Shakes Up the Trump Administration
Sep30 Many People May Have Heard Trump's Call to Zelensky
Sep30 Poll: Nearly Two-Thirds of Americans See Whistleblowergate as Serious
Sep30 Poll: Majority Approve Impeachment Inquiry
Sep30 Poll: It's Biden & Sanders in Nevada, Biden in South Carolina
Sep30 Impeachment Inquiry Is Shaking Up the Democratic Race
Sep30 Two Republican Governors Back Impeachment Inquiry
Sep30 If Trump Is Impeached, There Will Be a Trial
Sep30 State Dept. Is Investigating Hillary's E-mails
Sep30 Democratic Debate in October Will Be on One Night
Sep29 Sunday Mailbag, Impeachment Edition
Sep28 Saturday Q&A, Impeachment Edition
Sep27 Thar She Blows!
Sep27 Maguire Speaks Much, Says Little in Testimony before House Intelligence Committee
Sep27 Support for Impeachment Is Growing
Sep27 Wanna Bet Trump Gets Impeached?
Sep27 While You Weren't Looking
Sep27 Issa to Challenge Hunter in California
Sep27 Tom Price May Be Back
Sep26 Is This a Smoking Gun?
Sep26 The Historian's Perspective
Sep26 Whistleblower Complaint Sent to Congress
Sep26 Senate Republicans Express Disdain for Impeachment Articles
Sep26 Is This 1974 or 1998?
Sep26 Warren Leads Nationally
Sep26 Warren Leads in California
Sep26 Progressive Candidates Announce Progress
Sep25 An Im-Peachy Day in Washington
Sep25 Trump Distractions Aren't Very Distracting
Sep25 Democratic Debates Lurch Forward
Sep25 The State of the State Polls
Sep25 Bevin Hires New Campaign Manager
Sep24 Whistleblowergate Picks up Steam
Sep23 Ann Selzer: Warren Leads in Iowa
Sep23 Trump Admits That He Discussed Biden with Ukrainian Leader
Sep23 Pennsylvania and Wisconsin Have Lost Factory Jobs This Year
Sep23 Democrats Will Target 26,000 Local Races
Sep23 Alaska Cancels Republican Primary
Sep23 What Are the Candidates Worth?
Sep23 Bill de Blasio Calls It Quits
Sep23 Booker Is Close to Calling It Quits
Sep23 Rand Paul Tries to Block Liz Cheney's Senate Ambitions