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TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  Digging the Hole Deeper, Part I: Ukraine
      •  Digging the Hole Deeper, Part II: China
      •  Digging the Hole Deeper, Part III: The IRS
      •  Let the Table Pounding Begin
      •  Biden's Q3 Fundraising Is Underwhelming
      •  Warren Making Inroads with Black Voters
      •  Lieberman Running for Senate

Digging the Hole Deeper, Part I: Ukraine

The Ukraine whistleblower story is still big news, with many parts of it still unfolding. So, it's a rare day that does not see new developments on that front. And, in general, those developments tend to be adverse to Donald Trump and his administration. So it was on Thursday.

The big story of the day was former Special Envoy for Ukraine Kurt Volker's testimony before members of several different House committees. If there was any doubt about his being in the bag for the administration, we know now that he's definitely not. First of all, he showed up when requested, and answered all of the questions he was asked for five hours. Second, he told the committee members that he facilitated meetings between Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky and Donald Trump's TV lawyer/fixer Rudy Giuliani, and that he (Volker) helped Zelensky to make sense of what he (Zelensky) was being asked to do. Third, the former envoy said that he warned Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and others that the documents "proving" Biden's guilt were phony. And finally, Volker provided copies of text messages between U.S. diplomats and Ukrainian officials; the content of the messages makes clear that the Ukrainians understood that they better investigate the Bidens, or else.

Needless to say, none of this looks good for Team Trump. As one senior Congressional aide observed, "This is when the inquiry gets real." And it's going to get even more real next week. We also learned yesterday that Trump recalled Ambassador to Ukraine Marie "Masha" Yovanovitch because Giuliani complained that she was undermining his efforts to influence Zelensky. Just that one sentence suggests corruption on about six different levels. And next Friday, it will be Yovanovitch's turn to chat with the members of the House. Given what we already know, that day could make Volker's appearance look like a walk in the park from the vantage point of the administration.

And then there is Secretary of Energy Rick Perry. He's at least a little bit exposed here, and does not particularly care to be so, since he's not a Trump loyalist, nor is he interested in keeping his job. On Thursday, he confirmed that he will resign before the end of the year, probably in November. He also said that he will cooperate with House Democrats' investigations, whenever they want to speak with him.

And finally, now that everyone's had the "transcript" of Trump's Ukraine conversation for about a week, there's been quite a lot of talk about the...odd things about it. The three ellipses, of course, all of which occur at key points in the conversation. Other strange markings that, to those in the know, suggest that there is something significant missing from the document. And, on top of that, the fact that it's awfully short for a chat that supposedly lasted 30 minutes. If Nixon had to give up his tapes, the smart money says that Trump will eventually have to give up the actual transcript. And when he does, there must be something pretty bad there, if he and his team would go to such great lengths to hide it, particularly given how damning the publicly released portions of the document were. But even if the Supreme Court orders Trump to release the unredacted transcript, we may never know if it is really complete since the few people who would know probably aren't going to be blowing any whistles. (Z)

Digging the Hole Deeper, Part II: China

There's a very good chance that Donald Trump asked the Russians to provide dirt on his political rivals. He definitely asked the Ukrainians to provide dirt on his political rivals. And once you've gone to that well once, or twice, or who knows how many times, then why not visit it again? And so, on Thursday, Trump announced that he would really like the Chinese to launch an investigation into the Bidens.

It is staggering, given how much trouble he could be in, that Trump would say such a thing. Frankly, declaring such a thing on camera, in front of reporters, is not all that far from carrying out his threat to murder someone on Fifth Avenue. It's clear-cut evidence of a pattern of behavior, and one that absolutely breaks the law. There's also a strong argument to be made that this is a brand new corrupt act, since when a U.S. president proclaims something loudly in the media, he knows full well that it will get back to whomever he talked about. It does not make it better that the target of these particular remarks happens to be engaged in a Trump-initiated trade war with the United States, raising questions about how the Chinese might be "rewarded" if they play ball. That is to say, there is at least a lightly implied quid pro quo here.

Even more staggering, perhaps, is that Trump imagines that Xi Jinping might actually help him. Does the President really think that Xi is his friend and/or that the Chinese president wants to see Trump reelected? Xi most certainly does not care for the Donald, and would vastly prefer someone more stable and consistent to deal with. If the Chinese do get involved in the 2020 election, it will not be on the side of the red team.

This could be another case of "Be careful what you wish for because you might get it." If China gets involved in the 2020 election (for the purpose of defeating Trump) it has a couple of advantages over the 2016 Russian efforts. First, tens of thousands of Chinese students have gotten graduate degrees in computer science at M.I.T., Stanford, Carnegie Mellon, Berkeley, UCLA, and numerous other top schools, meaning that China's potential version of Russia's "Internet Research Agency" has a vast pool of highly qualified potential hackers. Second, China knows what Russia did in 2016, what worked and what didn't work, and can benefit from that knowledge. This doesn't mean China will intervene—it's risky after all—just that if China does intervene, it may do a better job than Russia did in 2016. (Z)

Digging the Hole Deeper, Part III: The IRS

On Thursday, we got a second country that Donald Trump is trying to sic on the Biden family (see above). We also got another whistleblower, though one whose whistleblowing has nothing to do with Ukraine. This one works for the IRS, and although the details of their complaint are not yet fully public, reportedly the claim is that a Trump political appointee may have tried to interfere in the agency's audit of the President's and/or the Vice President's tax returns.

This could be much ado about nothing, since even if the claims are true, it's at least possible that the appointee was acting of his or her own volition, without orders from above. On the other hand, it could also help to more fully paint a picture of an administration rife with corruption and abuses of power, especially since the really corrupt presidents always seem to tinker around with the IRS. It could also strengthen the Democrats' hand even more when it comes to getting the President's tax returns, since they would obviously be directly relevant to an investigation of this story. And finally, it could encourage even more whistleblowers to come forward. We may get to a place where we have to start talking about Whistleblowergate A, Whistleblowergate B, Whistleblowergate C, Whistleblowergate D, etc. Or we could become more creative and go with Ukrainegate, IRSgate, Barrgate, Ozziegate, etc. We shall see what, if anything, comes of this. (Z)

Let the Table Pounding Begin

There is an old saying among lawyers that goes something like this: "If you have the facts on your side, pound the facts. If you have the law on your side, pound the law. If you have neither on your side, pound the table." When it comes to the Ukraine situation, neither the law nor the facts appear to be on the side of Donald Trump. And so, it's no surprise that the table-pounding from the President and his allies is already in full effect.

Trump, for his part, has been on "tilt" for at least a week. For example, the Washington Post has edited together a video showing the President attacking the inquiry in nine different ways on the same day. Trump's Twitter account has also been a sight to behold; he's gotta be averaging something like 25 tweets a day these days. Many of them are attacks on the Democrats in general, or on specific members of the party, while others are protestations of innocence, and still others retweet "polls" like this one:

You surely don't need us to tell you that a poll from an outlet like Breitbart, that allows people to vote as many times as they wish, and that produces results like this (probably made up), is less meaningful than putting on a blindfold and throwing darts. Still, even with Breitbart toting many lakes full of water for the President each day, he's still not happy, especially since Fox News has not been 100% on his side. So, he is also talking about starting his own "news" network, so that he can "put some real news out there." There is a name for an operation like that; it's called the Ministry of Propaganda (actually, in the U.S., it was called the Office of War Information during WWII, and the Committee on Public Information during World War I).

Naturally, Trump's allies in Congress are also doing what they can. Just about all of the biggies—Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), and Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), among others—have spoken to one or more media outlets this week, and insisted that there was no quid pro quo with the Ukrainians, that the whistleblower is a secondhand source who has no idea what he or she is talking about, and that there's nothing to see here. Trump allies in the House, meanwhile, have been deploying the (limited number of) parliamentary magic tricks at their disposal. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has proposed a resolution that would end the impeachment inquiry, while several House Republicans are at work on a formal rebuke of House Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff (D-CA). As you may have heard, the Republicans are in the minority in the House, so these things will go nowhere. Still, when these are the tables you have available, these are the tables you pound. (Z)

Biden's Q3 Fundraising Is Underwhelming

Earlier this week, we learned how much Donald Trump and the RNC raised in Q3 ($125M), along with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT, $25.3M), Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D-South Bend, $19.1M), Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA, $11.6M), Andrew Yang ($10M), and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ, $6.0M). On Thursday, another member of the Democratic field made his big reveal: Joe Biden.

Biden brought in $15.2 million, which is a middle-of-the pack number, and is about $7 million less than he collected in Q2. It is not so great for the frontrunner to be collecting considerably less than some of his rivals (Sanders), not to mention less than/not much more than candidates whom nobody had ever heard of nine months ago (Buttigieg/Yang). Fundraising, particularly at this point in the process, is about enthusiasm, and a big part of the secret of Sanders'/Buttigieg's/Yang's success is that their support is deep, even if it's not necessarily wide. As we have pointed out, an enthusiastic vote is worth precisely the same as an unenthusiastic one, so a lack of die-hard supporters is not necessarily fatal to a candidate. Still, unenthusiastic people also tend to be the ones who change their minds most easily when it comes to which candidate they are supporting, and also the ones who may not bother to get to the polls on the Election Day. Biden's fairly middling Q3 fundraising suggests that he's having real trouble getting people excited about his candidacy, while the reduced take suggests that the excitement that is there is waning. (Z)

Warren Making Inroads with Black Voters

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) is the only major candidate who has not announced her Q3 fundraising totals. That information should be very interesting, particularly since she spends all of her time taking selfies, and very little of her time asking people for money. If her total rivals Bernie Sanders', or even if it outpaces Joe Biden's, that's going to be very good news for the campaign.

Whatever is happening with the money, there's also been some excellent news for the Senator in recent polls. The top-level numbers have pretty clearly affirmed her as the second-place candidate, and the main challenger to Joe Biden (at least, at the moment). Meanwhile, as Politico's Maya King points out, the crosstabs may have some even more significant good news for Warren: Her support among black voters is growing, and is up 5-10 points since August. Warren has made a concerted effort to hold outreach events for black voters, and has also made a point of speaking about issues that matter to that constituency, and it seems to be working.

If this trend is for real, and if it continues, it would represent a sea-change in the Democratic race. Black voters are a large, loyal, and very important Democratic constituency. And, unlike some groups (ahem, millennials) they get to the polls and vote (especially black women). Thus far, Joe Biden has had the black vote squarely in his corner, thanks primarily to his association with Barack Obama. Warren was a tougher sell with those folks, since she's not associated with Obama, and she's a pointy-headed Harvard professor. Were she to claim some meaningful portion of the black vote, she would almost certainly overtake Biden as the frontrunner. The lesson here, then: Keep an eye on the crosstabs. (Z)

Lieberman Running for Senate

No, not that one. His political career is presumably over, as he is a 77-year-old man who hasn't held political office in 6 years. It's his son, Matt. The younger Lieberman has been living in Georgia since 2005, and has decided he would like to take a crack at the Senate seat that Johnny Isakson is going to vacate.

Lieberman is a businessman, and has no experience in political office. Voters don't seem to care too much about that particular shortcoming these days, however. And, as the son of a long-serving former senator and a vice-presidential candidate, Lieberman has big-time name recognition, not to mention access to his old man's political network (assuming it extends down to Georgia). Although the Democratic bench is reasonably deep in Georgia, no other Democrat has thrown his or her hat into the ring, as yet.

The special election for Isakson's seat will take place on the same day as the regular election for Sen. David Perdue's (R-GA) seat, not to mention the presidential election (Nov. 3, 2020). So, Lieberman won't be able to score a sneaky victory thanks to wonky turnout. However if the Democrats make a concerted effort to turn the Peach State blue, he might just ride those coattails into office. It would be particularly helpful to him if Stacey Abrams, who has already declined a Senate run, was the Democrats' VP candidate, since that would get a lot of Georgia Democrats to the polls. (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Oct03 House Democrats Will Subpoena White House Documents
Oct03 Pence Was Involved in Pressuring Ukraine
Oct03 State Dept. Inspector General Spoke to Congressional Committees Yesterday
Oct03 Support for Impeachment Is Growing
Oct03 Trump's Impeachment Inquiry Will Be More Divisive than Nixon's or Clinton's
Oct03 Justice Dept. Tells White House to Preserve Records
Oct03 Poll: Only 40% of Republicans Believe Trump Discussed Biden with Ukrainian Leader
Oct03 Judge Upholds Iowa's Voter ID Law
Oct03 Sanders Has Heart Stents Inserted
Oct03 Yang Pulled in $10 Million in the Third Quarter
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