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Political Wire logo Ben Sasse Condemns Trump’s Call for China Probe
Text Messages on Ukraine Released
Where Republican Senators Stand
Buttigieg Bets His Campaign on Iowa Breakthrough
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Diplomats Drafted Statement Committing Ukraine to Probe

House Democrats Will Subpoena White House Documents

House Government Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-MD) warned Donald Trump that he is about to subpoena documents related to Trump's phone call to the Ukrainian president. John Roberts said "Oh, sh*t, why do I have to solve everybody's problems?" Ok, Roberts didn't actually say that, but he is surely thinking it, because this will be an epic clash of the executive branch against the legislative branch, and only the Supreme Court can resolve it. What Roberts is undoubtedly fervently hoping to avoid is a 5-4 decision, entirely or mostly along partisan lines. But when House Democrats issue the subpoenas, Trump is certain to refuse to comply, meaning the Democrats will sue and set the process in motion. The Democrats have already issued subpoenas to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Trump's TV lawyer Rudy Giuliani.

There were plenty of fireworks yesterday. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) held a news conference, at which Pelosi promised that the House inquiry would be fair, and Schiff said there was a sense of urgency and that he was not going to fool around. Pelosi's appearance with Schiff was intended to indicate to everyone that Schiff is in charge of the inquiry, not Cummings or Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) or anyone else.

Trump watched them speak, was enraged, and so started tweeting, including sending out this one:

That's not very presidential language, now is it? Also, the actual electoral count was 304-227. It's not 100% clear why he's got the wrong number, but most of it is that he's crediting himself for the two faithless electors who were pledged to him but voted for someone else, while he's essentially double-debiting Hillary Clinton for the five faithless electors who did the same for her.

Pelosi later told ABC's George Stephanopoulos that she thinks Trump is scared. He's probably right to be scared. During the Watergate hearings, the Supreme Court ordered Richard Nixon to turn over tape recordings of private conversations with top aides in the Oval Office. If anything deserves executive privilege, it's that. So there is a good chance the Court will tell Trump to give Congress whatever it wants to conduct an impeachment inquiry. (V)

Pence Was Involved in Pressuring Ukraine

The Washington Post is now reporting that Vice President Mike Pence was more involved in pressuring Ukraine for dirt on Joe Biden than was previously known. In particular, Pence was instructed to tell Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that U.S. aid was being withheld until Zelensky complied with Donald Trump's request for more action on corruption. What Trump meant, of course, is for Ukraine to dig up dirt on Joe Biden's son, Hunter Biden. It is hard to imagine that Pence didn't know this, even though some people close to Pence have said he was in the dark about what he was doing and why.

Also, one of Pence's top advisers was in on the now-infamous July 25th call between Trump and Zelensky and Pence would have been given the unredacted transcript within hours of the call. On Sept. 1, Pence traveled to Warsaw and met Zelensky. It staggers the imagination to believe that Pence, who is an experienced politician, would meet with a foreign leader and not be aware of what was going on and what Trump expected of him. As preparation for his trip, his aides would have given him material to read, certainly including the transcript of the call.

Despite denials from people close to Pence, the vice president was clearly deeply involved in the whole matter of pressuring the Ukrainian leader and knew all about it from the beginning. Pence's involvement could have two consequences down the road. If the whole Whistleblowergate affair really takes off and Republicans start thinking about calling for impeachment, at least some of them are going to realize that replacing one corrupt president with another may not be to the party's advantage, especially when Pence lacks Trump's most valuable skill, his ability to "troll the libs" like no one else.

Also, if Trump ultimately resigns or is impeached and convicted and Pence becomes the 2020 Republican nominee, the whole problem brought up by the whistleblower won't go away. Democrats will say that Pence is just as corrupt as Trump. In Richard Nixon's case, Republicans in Congress knew that Jerry Ford was clean as a hound's tooth, so they knew that their problem was just Nixon himself, not the whole administration. That's not true this time. If the House impeaches Trump, the Senate has to render two verdicts. First is "guilty" or "not guilty." That's straightforward. But the Senate also has to vote on whether to disqualify Trump from holding public office in the future. At that point the Republican senators may decide that going with a corrupt but popular candidate (Trump) in 2020 is better for themselves than going with a corrupt but largely unknown candidate (Pence). So they could vote to not disqualify Trump from running in 2020 using the slogan "Let the people decide." (V)

State Dept. Inspector General Spoke to Congressional Committees Yesterday

The State Department's inspector general, Steve Linick is responsible for rooting out corruption and malfeasance within the Department. Given the responsibilities of the job, Linick is largely organizationally independent of Mike Pompeo, and he's required by law to be politically independent of both parties.

Linick probably meets that test. In 2008, he was nominated by George W. Bush to be the inspector general of the Federal Housing Finance Agency and was renominated by Barack Obama. In 2013, he was put in his current job. Thus, presidents of both parties have seen fit to appoint him to especially sensitive positions. He has a reputation for being a straight shooter and for enforcing the rules. For example, earlier this year he called out department leadership for harassing staffers who were deemed insufficiently loyal to Trump. The assistant secretary for international affairs, Kevin Moley, took no action in response, so in the summer, Linick issued a report very critical of Moley. Linick also was involved in reviewing the material concerning Hillary Clinton's e-mail server. He was considered quite aggressive in that matter. In short, he has a track record of investigating both Republicans and Democrats and letting the chips fall where they may.

That, of course, will not stop Trump from accusing Linick of bias, should Linick share anything adverse to the White House with Congress. And sharing adverse information is exactly what the Inspector General did during a visit with members of the House on Wednesday. He wasn't subpoenaed, or even asked informally to make an appearance, but he showed up anyway, because he wanted the legislature to know about a mysterious packet of documents that somehow ended up in Pompeo's hands. The packet, which was pure propaganda, contained documents falsely implicating Joe Biden and former ambassador to Ukraine Marie "Masha" Yovanovitch in various unspecified misdeeds. Either Pompeo was unable to recognize the documents for what they were, or he recognized what they were and didn't care, because he had them copied and distributed widely.

Naturally, the House Democrats who heard what Linick had to say had many more questions than he had answers to give. Where did the packet originate? How did Pompeo end up with a copy? Why did he share the information? How many copies were made, in total? Did the false information influence any decisions or policy-making? And why did the packet include stationery from a Trump-owned hotel? (Really.) Undoubtedly, the blue team will do everything they can to get to the bottom of all this, even if their plate is just a wee bit full at the moment.

Fortunately for the Democrats, Rudy Giuliani just came to their rescue. Yesterday he admitted to being the source of the documents. He gave them to Pompeo, who gave them to a subordinate who passed them around. Eventually the inspector general saw them and was alarmed enough to bring them to Congress.

At the very least, this deepens Giuliani's connection to the whole affair and makes it more likely that at least one of the House committees will want him to testify under oath. If Trump claims that discussions with a private citizen who has no official connection to the White House fall under executive privilege, he will be stretching that concept to the breaking point and beyond. That is very unlikely to stand up in court. Having Giuliani testify would be a disaster for Trump because, unlike, say, former White House counsel Don McGahn (who could yet be a key witness), Giuliani is a loose cannon and frequently says things that are harmful to his own side without even realizing what he is doing. (V & Z)

Support for Impeachment Is Growing

Three polls this week indicate that support for impeaching Donald Trump is increasing. A Politico/Morning Consult poll has 46% of voters saying that the House should begin impeachment proceedings. In contrast, 43% said the House should not begin the process. The rest were undecided. This represents a 3-point gain for the pro-impeachment side since last week. The opinions are sharply divided along partisan lines, with 80% of Democrats and only 9% of Republicans in favor of starting impeachment hearings. Among independents, the pro-impeachment sentiment is slightly stronger than the anti-impeachment sentiment, 43% to 39%.

Meanwhile, there is also the CNN/SSRS poll we mentioned earlier this week. It is even more ominous for the President. Recall that SSRS asked if Trump should be impeached and convicted (whereas the Morning Consult poll asked only about an impeachment inquiry). In the CNN/SSRS poll, 47% said they want Trump impeached and removed from office, with 45% against this. Compared to early CNN/SSRS polls, support for impeachment and conviction has risen since May from 6% to 14% among Republicans and from 35% to 46% among independents. At this rate, by the next poll, a majority will favor impeachment and conviction.

A third poll released yesterday, from Monmouth University, also asked about impeachment and removal from office. Here 49% thought an impeachment inquiry is a good idea and 44% wanted Trump impeached and convicted. In short, the polls are broadly consistent. We are not yet to the point where a majority wants Trump out of office, but we are moving in that direction. (V)

Trump's Impeachment Inquiry Will Be More Divisive than Nixon's or Clinton's

Ronald Brownstein has a good piece about how much more divisive the impeachment hearings of Donald Trump will be compared to those of Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton. The fundamental problem is that the country is much more ideologically divided and partisan than it was in Nixon's day or Clinton's day. In fact, it is more like Andrew Johnson's day than like either of the two more-recent impeachment inquiries. Brownstein makes the following observations:

  • Nixon: The parties were much more heterogeneous then. There were many liberal Republicans in Congress representing the Northeast and West Coast. Furthermore, many of the Democrats were unreconstructed Southern segregationists. The country was also less polarized. In fact, after Nixon won reelection in 1972, a Gallup poll showed that 51% of Democrats approved of his job performance. Nixon also had a solid record of achievement to fall back on. He was a strong environmentalist and he reset relations with China. In the House Judiciary Committee, six of the 17 Republicans approved the articles of impeachment.

  • Clinton: The country was more polarized by 1998 than it was in Nixon's day, but still less than it is today. At the time of impeachment, 40% of Republicans approved of Clinton's job performance. In the Senate trial, 10 Republicans voted against one of the articles of impeachment and five voted against the other. In other words, Senate Republicans were far from unified in their desire to remove Clinton.

  • Trump: The partisanship is much worse now and the confirmation battle over Justice Brett Kavanaugh made it even more severe. Furthermore, many Democrats feel that Trump's election was not legitimate in the first place on account of Russian interference in the 2016 election. In addition, Congress is much more divided along ideological lines than it was in the past. There are no liberal Republicans in the Senate and even the most conservative Senate Democrats are far more liberal than any Republican. What is even more telling is that for many people, their entire self worth is tied to their politics. Most Republican voters feel that Democrats reject their entire lifestyle and beliefs and see them as clinging to their guns and religion. Many Republicans don't see city-dwelling liberal Democrats, especially nonwhite ones, as "real Americans" (Sarah Palin's term). So impeachment plays out against this backdrop.

Also new is that each side now has its own facts. In the past, at least everyone agreed on the facts, only the interpretations were different. Now everyone has their own set of facts (more below). (V)

Justice Dept. Tells White House to Preserve Records

It shouldn't be necessary for the Justice Dept. to tell the White House not to destroy documents that might be needed as evidence in an impeachment or criminal case later on, but with this White House, maybe it is. Anyway, that's what the Justice Dept. has done. Specifically, it told all White House personnel to preserve all notes relating to Donald Trump's meetings and phone calls with foreign leaders.

The Justice Dept. didn't issue this memo entirely out of a sense of civic duty, however. The government has been sued by transparency and archivist groups that are afraid important documents will be destroyed. The revelation that the Justice Dept. told White House personnel not to shred or delete stuff came as part of the lawsuit.

A lawyer for the Justice Dept. confirmed that the order to preserve material had been given, but was unable to confirm that it would be obeyed. The judge, Amy Berman Jackson of the D.C. District Court, was apparently satisfied with this and took no further action. (V)

Poll: Only 40% of Republicans Believe Trump Discussed Biden with Ukrainian Leader

Even though support for Donald Trump's impeachment is growing (see above), many Republicans are not convinced. In fact, a new Monmouth University poll released yesterday shows that only 40% of Republicans believe that Trump discussed Joe Biden when he spoke to Volodymyr Zelensky in July. On the other hand, 29% think he probably didn't, and 31% aren't sure. This is despite the release of the summary of the call in which Trump clearly mentions Biden and asks Zelensky for help investigating him.

This finding shows the power of Fox News and other right-wing news outlets. They can simply say things that directly contradict the established facts and a large fraction of their viewers and readers believe what they are told. And of course, social media is full of false statements and lies. Going forward, we can easily imagine Trump losing the election (assuming he makes it that far) and claiming that he won and having 40% of the Republicans believe that he won. We may not have another civil war, but when so many Americans are unaware of simple facts, it could get nasty. (V)

Judge Upholds Iowa's Voter ID Law

An Iowa judge, Joseph Seidlin, has upheld the state's controversial voter-ID law, which requires voters to show ID before being allowed to vote. He admitted that voter impersonation is not a problem in Iowa, but said that the decision to require ID is a legitimate one for the legislature to enact. He did, however, strike down some minor provisions in the law.

Joe Henry of the League of United Latin American Citizens of Iowa, a civil rights group which brought the lawsuit, said that they have not decided whether to appeal the decision. The group argued that the law disproportionately affects Latinos, but the judge wasn't convinced.

In 2018, Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate (R) instructed poll workers to ask for ID, but if a voter didn't have ID, the voter could sign an oath that he or she was entitled to vote and then be given a ballot. About 11,000 voters signed the oath in lieu of showing ID. (V)

Sanders Has Heart Stents Inserted

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) had two heart stents inserted into a blocked artery yesterday. Sanders has canceled campaign events until further notice. The procedure itself is relatively routine and generally successful, but the political fallout may be worse than the medical fallout.

Sanders' problem is that some Democrats are going to think twice about nominating a 78-year-old with heart problems. In particular, progressive Democrats have a clear alternative to Sanders this time in Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), who is a (relative) spring chicken at the age of 70. Sanders just announced that he raised $25 million in Q3, so he could take it easy on the campaign trail and just flood the airwaves and Internet, but that might cause some people to say that if he is too old to campaign, he is too old to govern. The heart problem is not fatal (either to Sanders or his campaign), but it is not good either. (V)

Yang Pulled in $10 Million in the Third Quarter

Businessman Andrew Yang, who is polling in the 2-3% range, is not going to go gentle into that good night any time soon. Candidates rarely end their campaigns because the voters don't want them. After all, the candidate knows better than they do how great the candidate is. What makes candidates drop out is running out of money. That's not going to happen to Yang for the time being because he pulled in an impressive $10 million in the third quarter, more than Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and almost as much as Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), who has won statewide election three times in the country's most populous state. Here are the numbers:

Candidate Q3 haul
Donald Trump $125.0
Bernie Sanders $25.3
Pete Buttigieg $19.1
Kamala Harris $11.6
Andrew Yang $10.0
Cory Booker $6.0
Michael Bennet $2.1

As you probably noted, Joe Biden and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) haven't reported yet, but their reports are due by Oct. 15 at the latest. Candidates that did well tend to report early. Candidates that did really well may require more time to count the money. Fundraising, and not debates, is ultimately what separates the sheep from the goats. (V)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Oct02 Pompeo to Democrats: Shove It
Oct02 A Preview of What's to Come?
Oct02 How Might Senators Vote in an Impeachment Trial?
Oct02 Trump Administration Has a Good Day in Court
Oct02 The Farmers Are Restless
Oct02 Q3 Fundraising Numbers Are Trickling In
Oct02 Lewandowski Pooh-Poohs Senate Run
Oct01 A Bad Day for Team Trump
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