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Political Wire logo A Weak Argument Against Impeachment
Trump Basically Guarantees He’ll Be Impeached
Trump Sidelines Mulvaney
Half Support Removing Trump from Office
‘Render to God and Trump’
Turkey Poised for Imminent Attack
TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  Tail, Meet Dog
      •  China to Trump: Your 2020 Campaign Is None of Our Business
      •  Judge to Trump: Fork 'em Over
      •  Barbara Res Predicts Trump Will Resign
      •  Brace Yourself for 2020, Part I: Trump vs. Biden
      •  Brace Yourself for 2020, Part II: Ratfu**ing
      •  Warren Hires Texas State Campaign Director

Tail, Meet Dog

Last week, we speculated that Donald Trump might make some sort of rash foreign policy decision, probably in the Middle East vicinity, in order to deflect attention from his current Ukraine-related woes. This prediction did not take all that much creativity, since it's basically just the plot of the movie Wag the Dog . That said, we certainly didn't expect that it would happen nearly so quickly as it apparently has.

Yep, that's right. Very late Sunday night, after getting off the phone with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, Trump entirely upended his (and previous administrations') policy in Syria, announcing that he is going to promptly withdraw most U.S. forces from the northeastern part of the country, so that Turkey (a.k.a., home of Trump Towers Istanbul) would be able to launch an offensive against Kurdish fighters there. Inasmuch as those Kurds have been U.S. allies up to this point, this is effectively throwing them to the wolves That will certainly help America when it tries to make such partnerships in the future. Meanwhile, after announcing the new policy via Twitter, Trump promptly turned around and rattled his saber in Erdogan's direction:

Hmmmm. Given Trump's "great and unmatched wisdom," maybe he knows what he's doing here.

Or maybe not. Soon after he made the announcements, the "wag the dog" thesis got a fair bit of support, since the change in plans caught everyone by surprise. America's allies had no idea this was about to happen, and Trump's supposed national security team was completely blindsided. Or, to borrow the words of one administration insider, "POTUS went rogue." In other words, Trump was going with his gut, and not with any insight, intelligence, or advice he may have had at his disposal. That means, in turn, that the President is either wrapped around Erdogan's finger, or he sensed a quick and easy opportunity to distract from Whistleblowergate, or both.

The experts appear to be universally aghast at this choice, and opposed to it. Former NSA Susan Rice, for example, pulled no punches during an appearance on CBS' "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert," describing the President's new policy as "bats**t crazy." Of course, she's a Democrat who worked for Barack Obama, so maybe she's not trustworthy. Very well, then how about Nikki Haley, who worked for Trump as his ambassador to the U.N.? She didn't use any four-letter words, but she did describe the decision as a "big mistake."

Haley isn't the only Republican who is displeased. Quite a few GOP senators spoke up and implored the President to change course, including Pat Toomey (R-PA), Ben Sasse (R-NE), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). The latter said, "a precipitous withdrawal of US forces from Syria would only benefit Russia, Iran, and the Assad regime" and that "American interests are best served by American leadership, not by retreat or withdrawal." Toomey and Sasse have been known to criticize the administration on occasion, but when Graham and McConnell get on board as well? The President would do well to interpret that as a sign of which way the winds are blowing (Hint: Not in his direction).

As of Monday night, however, Trump appeared to be making this personal, and to be digging his heels in. He spent much of the day defending the decision, and said of Syria: "We've been there for many, many, many years beyond what we were supposed to be. Not fighting. Just there. Just there. And it's time to come back home." He's wilted under pressure from other Republicans before (e.g., the government shutdown), but sometimes he resists them with all his might (e.g., the trade wars). So, it's anyone's guess how this turns out. (Z)

China to Trump: Your 2020 Campaign Is None of Our Business

Last week, during a press conference, Donald Trump suggested that he would very much like to see the Chinese government investigate the Biden family. The unstated implication, which was crystal clear after what happened with Ukraine, was that the President would be delighted to receive any dirt the Chinese might come up with, and that such assistance with his 2020 campaign would be rewarded.

Officially speaking, at least, the Chinese aren't interested. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi announced that his country "will not interfere in the internal affairs of the U.S.," and that "We trust that the American people will be able to sort out their own problems."

Maybe Wang is telling the truth, and maybe he is not. Whichever is the case, his public remarks are not so good for Trump, because they confirm that the Chinese heard his proposal, loud and clear, and understood it for what it was. Given that Trump's words: (1) could constitute a crime unto themselves, as he was asking for something of value from a foreign national for his campaign, and (2) serve as evidence of a pattern behavior that also includes the Ukraine phone call, it would have been better for him if the Chinese had said nothing.

Some Republicans are working hard to try and dig Trump out of the hole he created for himself, the latest line of attack is that the President was just joking. Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Roy Blunt (R-MO) have suggested as much, as has Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH). The problem there is that it doesn't read like a joke, the Chinese certainly didn't take it as a joke, and it definitely did not sound like a joke when Trump said it. If you want to watch for yourself, the video is here:

Normally, when people make a funny, they laugh or, at very least, smile a little. As compared to Trump, whose frown got deeper and whose tone got angrier when he mentioned, China.

Outside of the few Republicans who have tried to rescue the President, however, most of the red team is taking a "three wise monkeys" approach, and pretending that they heard no evil, saw no evil, and spoke no evil, in hopes that this will eventually go away. CNN tried to talk to over 80 GOP members of Congress, about the subject, and nearly all of them managed to avoid saying anything at all. Given their passive approach here, their irritation over Syria (see above), and that four GOP senators have now rebuked Trump for this (Rob Portman, R-OH, joined the list on Monday) perhaps a tipping point is getting nearer. (Z)

Judge to Trump: Fork 'em Over

Sometimes, Donald Trump does pretty well in court. Sometimes, not so much. Monday was in the latter category, as federal Judge Victor Marrero (a Clinton appointee) rejected, in no uncertain terms, the President's argument that he should not have to give his tax returns to Manhattan prosecutor Cyrus Vance Jr., who is looking into the payments made to Stormy Daniels, as well as other possible hush money that might have been paid to various folks.

The essential claim made by Trump and his attorneys was that, as a sitting president, he is not only immune to federal prosecution, he is also immune to any and all state-level prosecutions (and investigations). That notion did not please Marrero, and in his 75-page-opinion he wrote that the framers of the Constitution did not intend to create an absolute monarch, and that the very suggestion is "repugnant to the nation's governmental structure and constitutional values." The Judge also took a swipe at the DoJ policy that Team Trump is relying on, wondering if the "presidential immunity from judicial process that the President here invokes, unqualified and boundless in its reach described above, cuts against the grain of these Constitutional precedents."

The President's lawyers foresaw that a loss was coming, and were also concerned about the possibility that Trump's accounting firm Mazars might cough up the returns as soon as practicable. So, just minutes after Marrero announced his ruling, Team Trump filed an appeal with the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. There, a three-judge panel will consider the matter.

This story is, in effect, triple bad news for the President. First, of course, he lost yesterday's ruling. Second, the Second Circuit says they are going to fast-track the case. If Trump loses again, which is likely given the tenuousness of his legal argument, he's going to be running out of appeals more than a year before the election, dramatically increasing the chances that he cannot hold things off until Nov. 4, 2020. Third, and finally, in relying so heavily on a potentially dubious DoJ policy, the President and his team may inadvertently persuade a judge (or a panel of judges) to strike down that policy. If that happens, the President could be in a world of hurt. Clearly there is something pretty damaging in those tax returns, but until we see them, it's just guesswork about what's in there. (Z)

Barbara Res Predicts Trump Will Resign

Barbara Res knows Donald Trump quite well, having worked directly with him as a top Trump Organization executive for 14 years. And so, even though she's not a fan of his anymore, her predictions carry a little more weight than most. And when she was asked how the Trump presidency will end, she guessed that he will ultimately resign.

Res' basic reasoning is this: Trump cares about his own self-image, and saving face, above all else. According to her, it would be utterly humiliating for him to be impeached, even if he is not convicted and removed from office. If so, it would suggest that even he is aware that an exoneration from the Senate would not be a true exoneration, merely an exercise in party discipline.

We are inclined to agree that a resignation is growing more and more likely, although we tend to think that keeping himself and his kids out of jail will be even more important than saving face. Trump has many blind spots as a person, a businessman, and a politician, of course, but he has shown an ability to cut his losses when he has to, from closing his casinos and his "university" to backing down on various policy decisions that proved particularly unpopular. If someone that Trump trusts persuades him that trading the presidency is his only viable hope at avoiding the hoosegow, he'd probably make the deal.

Of course, that assumes that such a deal is even on the table, since it would take buy-in from a lot of high-ranking Democrats in both the federal government and the New York state government. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), New York AG Letitia James, and others may not be happy to send the message that a president can do whatever they want and, when push comes to shove, use resignation as a "Get Out of Jail Free" card. If Team Trump is smart, then they will send someone who is not Rudy Giuliani over to the Hill in order to suss out whether a trade of this sort is even possible. (Z)

Brace Yourself for 2020, Part I: Trump vs. Biden

Sitting presidents don't usually start running against anyone until after the opposing party's convention. There are quite a few reasons for this, most of them obvious. They could end up targeting the wrong person, for example or, even if they don't, they could end up giving their opponent lots of free publicity. Further, it is in poor taste to get involved with the other party's nominating process, and it also looks more than a little desperate.

Of course, Donald Trump is not like any of his predecessors. He's got a vast war chest accumulated already, he personalizes everything, he's terrified of losing next year's election, and he's got absolutely no ability to be patient and bide his time. Oh, and he also has a dozen very serious scandals swirling around him, of which the most prominent (at least right now) is Whistleblowergate. All of these things being the case, it isn't remotely surprising that Trump 2020 is already running some vicious anti-Democrat and anti-Joe Biden commercials, including this one:

It's only 30 seconds, but if you don't care to watch, the ad implies—actually, it basically outright says—that Joe Biden used $1 billion in U.S. government funds to buy off the Ukrainian government, so that they would fire prosecutor general Viktor Shokin, and thus protect the then-VP's son Hunter. Of course, virtually none of this is true, beyond the fact that there is indeed a country called Ukraine. The spot is so beyond the pale, even when accounting for the slanted nature of political advertising, that CNN flatly refused to run it (and one other ad, which you can see here). Fox was happy to take the Trump campaign's money, however, so both anti-Biden ads ran on all Fox platforms throughout the day on Sunday, including during nationally televised NFL broadcasts.

The Biden campaign has fought back with its own ad:

If you don't want to watch (it's a little bland), the main points are that: (1) Trump is running false ads targeted at Biden (true), (2) because he fears Biden (true again), and (3) because he's also unhinged (open to discussion, but probably also true).

If there is anyone who enjoys being bombarded with political ads, we have yet to meet them. And negative ads, with unsettling music, and unpleasant images, are worst of all. It is 393 days until the election, the ads are already all over television, and Trump 2020 has nine figures in the bank. Now may be a good time to head over to Amazon and buy some ear plugs. (Z)

Brace Yourself for 2020, Part II: Ratfu**ing

Let us begin this with three propositions about the Republican Party:

  1. In recent memory, they have been much more comfortable engaging in ratfu**ing (the occasional LBJ notwithstanding)

  2. In Donald Trump, they are led by a man who is entirely ok with this, and does not even pay lip service to the notion that this kind of underhanded chicanery is wrong and unethical

  3. 2020 looks to be a particularly desperate year for the Party, as the man at the top fears losing (and with it, the possibility of post-presidential criminal prosecution), while other pooh-bahs are worried not only about the White House, but the possible loss of the Senate, and also some (or many) state houses and governor's mansions heading into the next round of redistricting

If these suppositions are correct, then it follows that 2020 will witness more dirty tricks than we have seen in a very long time (and maybe ever), with the lion's share coming courtesy of the red team.

Consistent with this prediction, there were two eyebrow-raising stories about prominent Democratic women in the last week. The first, which starred Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), came courtesy of an ex-Marine who said that, after his tours of Afghanistan, he returned home and found work as a gigolo. In the latter capacity, he claimed that he was hired by Warren to perform and receive a number of violent sex acts, and that her behavior was shocking even to someone who has seen the horrors of combat. The second, which starred Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), involved an attendee at one of her town hall events, who stood up and proclaimed that the only way to combat global warming was for people to start eating their babies. Right-wing media outlets were all over these "news" items for a couple of days, observing that Warren's perversion makes her unfit for office, and that Ocasio-Cortez's followers are clearly a bunch of wacko baby-killers who are a few bricks shy of a load.

Naturally, neither of these stories is true. The ex-Marine really is an ex-Marine, but he was never deployed overseas, and he was never "procured" by Warren. In truth, he was just the latest put-up by comically inept GOP scam artist Jacob Wohl, who has proven once again that he's not the sharpest knife in the drawer. Meanwhile, the "baby eater" was actually a plant paid for by the Donald Trump-supporting Lyndon LaRouche PAC. LaRouche may have been dead for six months, and may last have been relevant in the 1970s, but he still has followers, apparently.

It is not random chance that both of the targets here were women. Undoubtedly, male politicians have to put up with some of this sort of nonsense, but not nearly as much as the women do. Ocasio-Cortez, for her part, carries herself like a veteran politico with more experience than she actually has, and so was unfazed by the silly remarks. Meanwhile, Warren knows that by engaging directly with someone like Jacob Wohl, you just give them more oxygen. However, as a person who knows a bit about language, including that "cougar" is slang for a woman who pursues much younger men, Warren got off some ninja-level shade just a couple of hours after the ex-Marine made his claims:

If she becomes the Democratic nominee, one imagines she has a few ideas for how she might get under Donald Trump's skin while appearing to be totally innocent of any ill intent. (Z)

Warren Hires Texas State Campaign Director

On Monday, Elizabeth Warren hired Jenn Longoria to oversee the campaign's operations in Texas. Longoria is a longtime Democratic organizer who also worked for the Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama campaigns, and has significant experience with data collection and analysis.

Warren is the first Democratic presidential candidate to hire a Texas State director other than Beto O'Rourke (who lives in Texas, of course). The Lone Star State is a none-too-cheap place to mount a campaign, but backed by the nearly $25 million she banked in Q3, Warren is apparently ready to make a go of it. The move suggests any or all of the three following things:

  1. Warren is looking to make a splash on Super Tuesday, which is when Texans will cast their primary ballots

  2. Warren recognizes, as Barack Obama did, that even red states (particularly the big ones) have lots of Democratic delegates

  3. Warren thinks that the state might actually be in play in the 2020 election

Once we see how quickly the Senator staffs up in Texas, and how much time and money she spends there, we should have a better sense of which of these it is. Oh, and in case you were wondering, the state has 228 Democratic delegates. If you mouse over the map at the top of this page, it will tell you how many each state has, and how they were divvied up in 2016. (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Oct07 There Are Now Multiple Whistleblowers
Oct07 Trump Blames Perry for Call to Zelensky
Oct07 Most Republicans Still Back Trump
Oct07 The DNC Is Caught Between a Rock and a Hard Place
Oct07 Is Dirt a Thing of Value?
Oct07 Will Trump Be Done in by a Lack of Toadies?
Oct07 Biden Donors Are Worried
Oct07 Democrats Are Worried about Who Tulsi Gabbard Will Attack Next
Oct07 Sanders Had a Heart Attack
Oct07 The Senate Races Are Becoming Nationalized
Oct07 Make Sure to Register
Oct06 Sunday Mailbag
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