• Trump Blames Perry for Call to Zelensky
• Most Republicans Still Back Trump
• The DNC Is Caught Between a Rock and a Hard Place
• Is Dirt a Thing of Value?
• Will Trump Be Done in by a Lack of Toadies?
• Biden Donors Are Worried
• Democrats Are Worried about Who Tulsi Gabbard Will Attack Next
• Sanders Had a Heart Attack
• The Senate Races Are Becoming Nationalized
• Make Sure to Register
Andrew Bakaj, the attorney representing the whistleblower who spilled the beans on Donald Trump's phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, yesterday said that "multiple whistleblowers" have now come forward and his team is representing them. There could be more than two; Bakaj didn't say.
It is not known if the one (or more) additional whistleblower(s) are closer to the call than the first one was. One of the defenses the Republicans have given for Trump is that WB #1 had only hearsay evidence, which is not admissible in court. However, an impeachment hearing is not a trial court and the House can hear anyone it thinks is credible. In particular, the Intelligence Community Inspector General has heard the entire story from WB #1 and deemed it credible. If it turns out that one or more of the new whistleblowers actually heard the call in real time or has read the unredacted transcript, then the Republicans' already flimsy "hearsay is not admissible in court" argument will go down in flames.
Needless to say, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) is already in contact with the law firm representing the whistleblowers and is undoubtedly trying to negotiate a deal in which all of them talk to the Committee behind closed doors, at least initially. If the new whistleblower wants to remain anonymous, Schiff could interview him or her behind closed doors and later release an unredacted transcript of the interview. (V)
Donald Trump has only a few guiding principles, but he honors them deeply. One of the most important is: "When something goes wrong, it is never my fault." Faced with growing criticism and possibly additional witnesses to his call to Volodymyr Zelensky, Trump has lashed out at his hand-picked Secretary of Energy, Rick Perry, and blamed him, saying that Perry urged him to make the call. Needless to say, Perry can't give orders to Trump and Trump could easily have refused to do what Perry asked, assuming that Perry asked at all, which is doubtful. Trump also said that he didn't want to make the call. Believing that Perry essentially forced Trump to make a call to Zelensky in which the two presidents discussed Joe Biden is beyond preposterous.
One source that talked to Axios, which first reported the attempt to shift the blame to Perry, said that Trump will continue to point the finger at Perry in the days ahead. The Secretary did have a connection with Ukraine, namely he was trying to convince Ukraine to buy more American liquified natural gas, which is a legitimate subject for an energy secretary to discuss with another country. However, the transcript of Trump's call to Zelensky doesn't mention Perry or LNG. Perry has announced that he will be leaving the administration shortly, and it remains to be seen if he is willing to fall on his sword for Trump. Perry is 69 and a millionaire and probably is not interested in running for elected office again, so Trump may not have much leverage against him if things get nasty. (V)
Despite the transcript of Donald Trump's call to Volodymyr Zelensky and the texts Ukrainian Envoy Kurt Volker released, most Republicans are still backing Donald Trump. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) told NBC's Chuck Todd yesterday that Trump wasn't interested in dirt. He was merely trying to understand what happened in 2016. Uh-huh.
Many other Republicans were keeping their powder dry, waiting to see how this all turns out. Nevertheless, a few cracks are starting to show in the Republican Senate caucus. Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) sent out this tweet:
When the only American citizen President Trump singles out for China’s investigation is his political opponent in the midst of the Democratic nomination process, it strains credulity to suggest that it is anything other than politically motivated.— Mitt Romney (@MittRomney) October 4, 2019
As usual, Trump is unable to let any insult pass, so he shot back with this tweet:
Somebody please wake up Mitt Romney and tell him that my conversation with the Ukrainian President was a congenial and very appropriate one, and my statement on China pertained to corruption, not politics. If Mitt worked this hard on Obama, he could have won. Sadly, he choked!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 5, 2019
Romney wasn't the only Republican senator to go after Trump. Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) wasn't too keen on Trump asking China to investigate the Bidens. He said: "Americans don't look to Chinese commies for the truth. If the Biden kid broke laws by selling his name to Beijing, that's a matter for American courts, not communist tyrants running torture camps."
Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) was the third senator to speak out against Trump, saying: "I thought the president made a big mistake by asking China to get involved in investigating a political opponent." She didn't want to express an opinion on his potential impeachment, since she noted that if the House impeaches him—and she expects that it will—she will be a juror in his trial.
That's three down, 50 to go. Most of the others are keeping their heads down and hoping for the best. (V)
Republican senators aren't the only ones who are keeping a low profile on Whistleblowergate. So is DNC Chairman Tom Perez. The DNC hasn't come to Biden's rescue, despite the RNC's going after Biden (not Trump!) vigorously on social media and elsewhere. Here is Perez' problem: On the one hand, Democrats are criticizing Perez for not defending Biden. On the other, Perez knows that supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) probably cost Hillary Clinton the 2016 election by voting for Jill Stein or Gary Johnson or not voting at all, so he is scared to death of doing anything that helps Biden (like defending him), lest Sanders' supporters start yelling: "See, the establishment is once again interfering in the primaries to help its preferred candidate and hurt Sanders." It's a lose-lose situation for Perez.
Fear of offending Sanders' supporters is also the reason Perez didn't raise the bar substantially for the next debate. He wants to be seen as completely neutral. As a consequence, 12 candidates will be on stage next week, and only the longest of long shots were pushed off stage. But with 12 candidates, there will hardly be time for any of them to say much. (V)
Federal law prohibits any political campaign from asking a foreign national for a "thing of value." If more whistleblowers come forward and Donald Trump isn't able to shift the blame for his Volodymyr Zelensky call to Rick Perry, his next strategy may be to say: "Dirt isn't a thing of value." Clearly $100 bills, Krugerrands, diamonds, and bitcoins are "things of value," but what about dirt on your opponent? As it turns out, in criminal investigations in the past, this subject has come up before. In particular, the Justice Dept. has argued in court that information, sex, witness testimony, worthless stock, an agreement not to run for office, and even amusement are "things of value." In his report, Robert Mueller wrote that dirt on an opponent would likely be a "thing of value," although that specific thing has not been tested in court. In practice, however, the Justice Dept. generally doesn't usually indict people on a felony count unless the value of the thing is $25,000 or more.
Assigning a dollar value to intangible things is very difficult, of course, but the law prohibiting soliciting things of value from foreign nationals doesn't have a threshold—that, say, soliciting $99.99 is OK but soliciting $100 is not. Justice Dept. practice aside, the law itself doesn't have a minimum value in it. At the very least, one could ask how much would it cost to hire oppo researchers to find the dirt that was solicited. But in any case, the actual dollar value of the dirt doesn't matter and the fact that dirt has some value is self-evident. (V)
Donald Trump has filled almost all top offices with people who are yes-men (and a few yes-women). But in the end, he may be done in because he wasn't sufficiently thorough. While he was busy filling the top jobs with people whom he could trust to be subservient to his every wish, he forgot about one category of federal bureaucrat: the inspectors general. In the past two weeks, two of them have come forward with evidence of corruption that could ultimately sink Trump. First, the Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson found that a whistleblower's complaint about Trump's behavior was both credible and urgent, so he gave it to Congress. Next, the State Dept.'s inspector general, Steve Linick, went to Congress with more evidence of Trump's malfeasance in office.
Until two weeks ago, few people had even heard of the office of inspector general. Throughout the government, there are 73 inspectors general. They are expected to be nonpartisan and each is relatively free of interference from the relevant cabinet secretary. In particular, they are authorized to go to Congress when they think they have uncovered wrongdoing, even if the secretary doesn't want that. Nevertheless, they are presidential appointees, so it is not hard for the president to subvert their functions. How come that didn't happen?
Most likely, Trump wasn't even aware of what inspectors general do and saw them as mid-level bureaucrats not of concern to him. Atkinson is a Trump appointee, but Trump knew little about him or his office when he made the appointment. He probably saw Atkinson as a small and unimportant fish in a very large pond. Now he knows better, but it is too late. Linick is an Obama holdover. He made a name for himself by going after Hillary Clinton's e-mails aggressively. Trump knew this and figured Linick was his kind of guy. What Trump didn't realize is that Linick just takes his job seriously and aggressively goes after all kinds of bad behavior, not just that of Democrats. When Rudy Giuliani started spreading a bunch of bogus documents around the State Dept., Linick sprang into action.
Ultimately, Trump's lack of interest in detail and "minor" appointments may prove to be his downfall. We shall see. (V)
With Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) announcing that she raised $24.6 million in Q3, it is now official: Joe Biden came in fourth in the Q3 fundraising race, not only behind Warren and money-leader Bernie Sanders, but also behind Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D-South Bend). Biden is also slipping in the polls, and is under assault by Donald Trump on account of crimes that Trump imagined Biden to have committed. These are entirely figments of the President's imagination, but Trump's base generally believes whatever he tells them. Anyhow, add it all up, and Biden's donors are worried.
The big Biden donors assembled in Philadelphia over the weekend to take stock. They now realize that Biden can't compete with Sanders, Warren, and Buttigieg in terms of getting millions from small donors, so he has to rely on a smaller number of big donors. Biden tackled the money problem by addressing the donors—behind closed doors—despite earlier pledges of transparency. People who were there said that all the buzz was about Warren, whom the donors now see as his primary rival in the primaries.
The donors were nervous about how the impeachment proceedings would play out. Would Trump's obvious fear of Biden make Democrats also think he was a massive threat to Trump, and thus race to nominate him? Or would the RNC's full-court press against Biden hurt him in the end? They also realize that in the coming months, both Warren and Sanders are likely to outspend Biden. Warren has $26 million in the bank now and Sanders has an astonishing $34 million in cash. Biden hasn't released the corresponding figure, but it is likely much less. For a one-time clear front runner, Biden is going to have to work much harder going forward.
In addition to giving the donors a pep talk, Biden also published an op-ed in the Washington Post this weekend. Its headline is "Trump won't destroy me, and he won't destroy my family," so you can pretty much infer the content from that. Needless to say, the folks who make up Biden's base largely do not read the Post's op-ed page, but plenty of big-time Democratic donors and influencers do, so it's clear that he knows where the holes in the dike are, and that he's desperately trying to plug them. (V & Z)
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) has virtually no chance at getting the Democratic nomination, but if the presidential nominee is an old white man (yes, Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, we're looking at you), he is probably going to be looking for a young nonwhite woman as his running mate. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) is a potential candidate and she knows it. In one of the earlier debates, she lit into Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), and everyone is wondering whom she is going to go after in next week's debate. One thing we can be fairly certain of is that it won't be Biden or Sanders, because those are her potential meal tickets.
One potential target is Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). Warren is a twofer because she is a threat to both Biden and Sanders, so taking her down a peg or two would help both of the people who could raise Gabbard from a backbencher to vice president. Gabbard is a veteran and her area of expertise is foreign policy. Warren's major weakness is foreign policy. So if we had to make a prediction here, Gabbard will go after Warren on this subject, either saying the Senator doesn't have the experience to be commander in chief or finding some position Warren has taken on foreign or military policy and trying to demolish it. Gabbard will certainly try to go for broke next week, because if she just fades quietly into the background, her hopes for getting on the ticket at all will be pretty much finished. (V)
The story about Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and his two stents is starting to come out. His doctor announced on Friday that Sanders had a heart attack. When someone has a heart attack, blood stops flowing to the heart, at least temporarily, and some heart tissue usually dies. The damage is always permanent, but whether it is serious depends on the circumstances.
In Sanders' case, the damage may be more political than medical. After he left the Las Vegas hospital where the stents were put in, he went for a walk in a park with his wife, as if he hadn't a care in the world. Then he went home to Burlington, VT, where he said he would rest for a few days. Doctors say that after having a heart attack, resting is a good idea. They didn't say whether cramming intensely for a high-stakes Democratic debate next week counts as resting.
Maybe Sanders doesn't have any cares, but some Democrats may be wondering whether nominating a 78-year-old man who just had a heart attack is the best way to win back the White House. In particular, progressive Democrats who haven't decided whether they prefer Sanders or Elizabeth Warren, who is 70, may now have a reason to jump on the Warren bandwagon. The moment of truth may be approaching for Sanders. Is he in this for the movement he started in 2016 or is his main goal to become president himself? If helping the movement is his top priority, he now has the ideal excuse for dropping out and supporting Warren: his health. But experience shows that while heart disease can be treated, there is no known treatment for Potomac Fever. (V)
Tip O'Neill was wrong: All politics is national. At least, it is rapidly going in that direction. It is very likely that the biggest issue—maybe the only issue—in the 2020 Senate races is how each senator voted on impeachment. In 2016, every Senate election was won by the same party that won the presidential election in that state. That has never happened before. The split ticket is dead and it isn't coming back any time soon. An up-or-down vote on whether Donald Trump should be booted out of office is about the most critical vote a senator could make and all of them may be forced to take a stand before the election.
As a consequence of the nationalization of the Senate elections (helping senators in Trump states and hurting senators in non-Trump states), Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball has updated two of its Senate ratings. Alabama has been moved from toss-up to leans Republican and North Carolina has been moved from leans Republican to toss-up.
Currently, Sabato has three Senate races as toss-ups: Arizona, Colorado, and North Carolina. Five races lean Republican: Iowa, Alabama, Maine, and both Georgia races. Two races lean Democratic: New Hampshire and Michigan. We might argue with Sabato on Maine, since Maine is largely a bluish state and the anti-Trump voters are likely to take it out on Susan Collins.
One footnote to the above is that if the Republicans nominate child molester Roy Moore again in Alabama, Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL) might have a fighting chance (or better), even if he votes to convict Trump. (V)
This is an off-year, elections-wise, but that does not mean that nobody will be casting ballots this year. The good people of Louisiana will vote for their next governor and legislature later this week, while on Nov. 5, Kentuckians will pick their next governor, Mississippians will vote for governor and both houses of the legislature, folks in Virginia will choose their next assembly, and residents of New Jersey will vote for the lower house of the state legislature. There are also a substantial number of municipal elections and/or ballot initiatives in other places. A comprehensive list can be found here.
If you live in any of the places where people will head to the polls this year (except Louisiana), there is still time to register to vote if you need to do so. However, in many places, including Mississippi, the deadline is today, while in others, including Kentucky, the deadline is tomorrow (it's next week in New Jersey and Virginia). Here is a list of options the various states offer when it comes to registering, and what the deadlines are for each. (Z)
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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Oct05 Saturday Q&A
Oct04 Digging the Hole Deeper, Part I: Ukraine
Oct04 Digging the Hole Deeper, Part II: China
Oct04 Digging the Hole Deeper, Part III: The IRS
Oct04 Let the Table Pounding Begin
Oct04 Biden's Q3 Fundraising Is Underwhelming
Oct04 Warren Making Inroads with Black Voters
Oct04 Lieberman Running for Senate
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?