• Trump Says He's Being Lynched
• Trump Isn't Going to Like Either of These Books
• Mnuchin, Conway Under Consideration as Mulvaney Replacements
• Reports of Joe Biden's Demise May Have Been Greatly Exaggerated
• Senate Map Gets More Wide Open by the Day
• Is the Trump Organization Embarrassed To Be the TRUMP Organization?
Democrats have been waiting for a John Dean moment, in which someone who has the goods on Donald Trump comes to the Hill and shares everything they know, without prevarication or restraint. It would seem they got it on Tuesday, when diplomat Bill Taylor spoke to the House committees that are looking into impeachment. His testimony was, in a word, devastating.
Unlike Dean, Taylor was never a presidential loyalist, and he never did anything illegal or unethical. Further, Taylor had already retired after 50 years of service when he was recalled to active duty, and accepted the job only out of his sense of responsibility. So, what we have here is a stand-up guy who has nothing to hide, no concerns about losing his job or being persona non grata in Republican circles, and whose loyalties are solely to his country. Oh, and being a careerist, he also learned long ago to take lots and lots of notes. All of this freed him to fire some very serious and very credible broadsides at the President and his team over the course of 10 hours' worth of testimony, and to poke some giant holes in the administration's explanations for what happened. (Read his entire, 15-page opening statement here.)
Most significantly, Taylor said unequivocally that there was a quid pro quo, and that he had a ringside seat as Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani put the screws to Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, telling him that he would not get his badly needed aid from the U.S. until he not only agreed to investigate Trump's political enemies, but also went on television to publicly announce that an inquiry was underway. "[EU] Ambassador [Gordon] Sondland tried to explain to me that President Trump is a businessman," explained Taylor. "When a businessman is about to sign a check to someone who owes him something, he said, the businessman asks that person to pay up before signing the check." Incidentally, Taylor's version of events contradicts that of Sondland, making Sondland look much guiltier than he portrayed himself during his own session last week. He's certainly going to get called back to the Hill to account for himself.
There was little question, except perhaps among the staunchest defenders of Trump (see below), that Taylor's account was very bad for the President. When Taylor got to the most damning portions of his remarks, there were reportedly audible gasps in the room. Thereafter, Democratic members of the House described the appearance as a "game changer," a "sea change," and "incredibly damning." Others agreed with Rep. Andy Levin (D-MI): "All I have to say is that in my 10 short months in Congress, it's my most disturbing day in Congress so far."
It wasn't just the politicians saying this, either; legal experts were in agreement. For example, Elle Honig, who serves as CNN's lead legal analyst:
When a trial witness gives testimony like Bill Taylor gave today, that's usually when the defense lawyer sidles over at a break and asks if there's any plea offer still on the table.— Elie Honig (@eliehonig) October 22, 2019
Or Kurt Eichenwald, who has made a career out of exposing corporate and political malfeasance:
The more I review the Taylor statement, the more punched in the gut I feel.— Kurt Eichenwald (@kurteichenwald) October 22, 2019
This is the biggest scandal in US history. The president undermined an ally's very survival so he could blackmail that foreign nation into interfering with our election.
No scandal comes close to this.
And here are some headlines from Tuesday:
- The New York Times: Donald Trump's Quid Pro Quo Is Now a Smoking Gun
- Esquire: There's No Lynching Here, But There Is a Smoking Gun
- MSNBC: See impeachment smoking gun go off
- CNN: This could be most consequential day for Trump
- Slate: Gasp-Inducing Testimony Confirms Corrupt Quid Pro Quo for Billionth Time
- The Washington Post: Trump has lost the battle to discredit impeachment
- Commentary magazine: Trump Will Be Impeached. Ambassador William Taylor's testimony sealed the deal.
It's probably best for Trump's blood pressure that the White House just canceled its subscriptions to the Post and the Times.
There is no longer any doubt, as Commentary notes, that Trump will be impeached. As we've pointed out before, once Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) made a public show of announcing an impeachment inquiry, the Democrats pretty much passed the point of no return. Perhaps if Taylor and a few other folks had said, "We didn't see anything, and we really and truly don't think there was a quid pro quo," the blue team might have put on the brakes. But now, they have a very damning semi-transcript from the White House, a very damning public admission from the "Acting" Chief of Staff, and a neutral witness (with copious notes) who says he saw the quid pro quo for himself. And that's before we talk about all the other folks who have testified, and added their own fuel to the fire. The only remaining questions are: (1) How long will it take the House to hand things over to the Senate, and (2) What will the Senate do? (Z)
As an impeachment witness, Bill Taylor was, well, unimpeachable. There was little that Donald Trump and his supporters could do to challenge the veracity of Taylor's statements, since he knows what he saw, and he has notes and evidence to back it up. As an alternative, then, Team Trump reached into their bag of tricks, and pulled out several well-worn ones in an effort to defend the President, including playing the victim card, the personal attack card, and the obfuscation card.
Let's start with Trump himself, since it was he who made far and away the largest number of headlines. Here is what the President wrote, shortly before Taylor's testimony began, as he anticipated the serious damage he was about to take:
So some day, if a Democrat becomes President and the Republicans win the House, even by a tiny margin, they can impeach the President, without due process or fairness or any legal rights. All Republicans must remember what they are witnessing here - a lynching. But we will WIN!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 22, 2019
The Democrats are currently speaking to witnesses and collecting evidence, in anticipation of (likely) filing charges against Trump. We're not lawyers, but that sounds exactly like due process to us. Meanwhile, the bit that had everyone talking, of course, was the President's claim that this is a lynching. It is generally unwise for anyone to claim they are being lynched or enslaved. It is particularly unwise when that person is a powerful white man who has something of a history of racist behavior and white supremacist dog whistles. The remark was so over the top, even by Trumpian standards, that the White House felt the need to walk it back, with a spokesperson saying that "The President is not comparing what's happened to him with one of our darkest moments in American history." Except, of course, that this is exactly what the President is doing.
And although the lynching remark went a bit too far even for the White House staff, one person it did not go too far for was...Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC). He was 100% behind Trump, and declared: "This is a lynching in every sense." Hmmmm, let us do a quick review of three main elements of a lynching, historically speaking:
- It is extralegal
- It involves execution, or an attempt at execution, usually by hanging
- In the U.S., at least, it is/was typically done to black men (80% of the time)
So, it's a lynching in every sense, except three. As we note above, a powerful white man with a history of racist behavior is not the best person to claim that he's being lynched. A powerful white Southerner who was born before the Civil Rights Movement is similarly not the best person to evaluate what is, and what is not, a lynching. And if that was not enough, Graham also announced that he's going to introduce a resolution in the Senate condemning the impeachment inquiry. Undoubtedly his GOP colleagues will be thrilled to take a position on that matter before they really know which way the winds are blowing.
Trump isn't the first person to tell Congress he's being lynched. Remember the confirmation hearings of Justice Clarence Thomas, when he claimed that Anita Hill's accusations that he sexually harassed her were a "high-tech lynching"? Of course, Thomas is a black man, so he has a better case.
All of this, of course, is just another reminder of how very myopic Graham is. When his congressional colleagues believe the President has done something wrong, as in Syria, and Graham agrees, then any steps taken to push back against Trump are fine and dandy with the Senator. On the other hand, when he doesn't agree, as with impeachment, then it is time for formal condemnations and talk of lynchings. Not only does Graham refuse to recognize that reasonable minds can disagree, he actively tries to stomp those disagreements out. We don't want to get too far away from dispassionate analysis, so we can't say more than that, but what we can do is quote former Barack Obama NSA Susan Rice. She witnessed what Graham had to say on Tuesday, and opined that "Lindsey Graham isn't just a piece of sh** now. He's been a piece of sh**, and he is a piece of sh**."
Most other Republicans tried to make themselves scarce after the lynching tweet, though a few did condemn such rhetoric. That included, surprisingly, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), who is usually a staunch Trump loyalist, but who said "I don't agree with that language, it's pretty simple." Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) concurred: "Given the history in our country, I would not compare this to a lynching. That was an unfortunate choice of words."
That said, just because they don't want to characterize things as a lynching doesn't mean that Trump's supporters all abandoned him in his time of need. Following Taylor's testimony, White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham went on the attack, accusing the diplomat of participating in a "coordinated smear campaign from far-left lawmakers and radical unelected bureaucrats waging war on the Constitution." She also proclaimed that "Today was just more triple hearsay and selective leaks from the Democrats' politically-motivated, closed door, secretive hearings." Grisham, of course, offered no evidence in support of her assertions as she vigorously attacked the Democrats for having no evidence.
Trump's friends in the media also got in on the act. Lewinskygate special prosecutor Ken Starr appeared on Laura Ingraham's show, and said this was not a quid pro quo, and that Trump is just a "disrupter," and sometimes disrupters are misunderstood. Lou Dobbs, on his show, expressed his view that there may have been a quid pro quo, but that it was no big deal. And former acting attorney general Matthew Whitaker, who filled the roughly three-month gap between former AG Jeff Sessions and current AG William Barr, insisted that "abuse of power is not a crime." That's a very interesting legal opinion from a person who was, however briefly, the highest-ranking law enforcement official in the land. Our guess is that a sizable percentage of his colleagues—say, 99.9%—would beg to differ. On top of that, Whitaker surely knows that even if something is not a criminal offense, that does not mean that it does not qualify as a high crime and/or misdemeanor.
In short, the spin machine was operating at full throttle on Tuesday. But is this working? Well, quite a few Trump insiders are now telling the President that he really needs to hire a strategist to manage the impeachment fight. Undoubtedly, the Donald does not wish to do that, since such a move would mean admitting to himself and to others that this whole situation is actually pretty serious, and cannot be swatted away with a few tweets. Whether he likes it or not, though, he may not have a choice. A new CNN poll reports that 50% of Americans now support impeachment and removal from office. It would seem that Fox poll from a couple of weeks ago, in which 51% said they wanted Trump impeached and removed, might not have been an outlier after all. (Z)
In case there is not enough these days to make Donald Trump's blood boil, there are going to be a pair of new books coming out in the next month that will undoubtedly be bestsellers, and that will undoubtedly drive him up a wall.
The first of these, which comes out today, is entitled All the President's Women: Donald Trump and the Making of a Predator. You can probably guess what it's about, but in any case, the authors conducted 100 interviews with various folks in the know, and produced a rather exhaustive account of decades of sexual misbehavior by the President. Altogether, they uncovered 43 allegations against him that were previously not publicly known. That brings the total number to 67 accusations of inappropriate behavior, including 26 instances of unwanted sexual contact. It's been a while since this aspect of Trump's life has been in the headlines, but now it's time for everyone to be reminded of his pu**y grabbing.
The second book, meanwhile, will be out on November 19, and it should be pretty wild. The title is A Warning, and its author—"Anonymous"—is the same person who wrote the infamous op-ed in September of last year, under the headline "I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration." The book apparently picks up where the op-ed left off, and will describe in gory detail the ugliest aspects of the Trump White House. Although the author's identity has been confirmed by various outlets, it's being kept a closely-guarded secret, and it is not known if he or she is still a member of the administration. We'll see if that anonymity survives; a whole book is going to give would-be sleuths an awful lot of clues to work with.
Neither of these books would appear to have a direct relationship to the Ukraine mess (though who knows, for sure, what Anonymous will reveal). In any event, both are going to drop just as impeachment sentiment appears to be rising. And so, the timing really couldn't be worse for the President, since anything that convinces voters that he needs to go makes it more likely that he actually does. (Z)
Donald Trump is not yet ready to appoint someone to run his impeachment defenses (see above). However, he may be getting ready to dump the "Acting" Chief of Staff, Mick Mulvaney, who keeps handing the Democrats evidence on a silver platter. To that end, the President has talked to friends and allies about putting Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin or spokesperson Kellyanne Conway in the job. Apparently, Trump likes Mnuchin because he has "such great ideas," and he likes Conway because, well, she knows the correct part of his anatomy to kiss.
There is no way to know how serious this talk is. However, we do know that: (1) Mulvaney was on the hot seat as recently as last month; (2) Trump's allies are furious about Mick the Knife's screw-ups; and (3) the President tends to make big decisions impulsively, on gut instinct. So, we could have a new "acting" chief of staff tomorrow...or never. If Conway does get the nod, though, the op-eds her husband cranks out will really be a thing to see. (Z)
In the week or so before the most recent debate, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) had a noticeable surge in national polls, such that she was in the lead (or near it) in just about every poll that was published during that time. Since the debate, however, Joe Biden has had his own run of good polls. In fact, he's come out on top in each of the four national surveys taken since the debates (by Emerson, The Hill/HarrisX, Morning Consult, and SurveyUSA). Here are all the candidates who got above 1% in at least one of the four:
It should be noted that these include some of the polling houses that have been friendliest to Biden this cycle, particularly HarrisX. And the candidate is still facing a cash crunch. However, it is also plain to see that, to paraphrase Monty Python, he's not dead yet. We will continue to describe Biden and Warren as co-frontrunners until presented with strong and sustained evidence to the contrary. (Z)
It would appear that Americans, especially the activist types who are willing to get out their wallets more than a year before the election, are taking note of how important control of the Senate is. It's almost as if someone in Washington has demonstrated to them that the nation's entire agenda, or most of it at least, is under the thumb of whatever party holds the upper chamber. Consequently, sitting and aspiring senators are collecting cash at a breathtaking rate, which in turn is dramatically expanding the map for both parties.
On the Democratic side, among the folks who are raking it in are Amy McGrath ($10.7 million), who is challenging Mitch McConnell in Kentucky, Mark Kelly ($5.5 million), who wants to unseat Sen. Martha McSally (R-AZ), Sara Gideon ($3.1 million), who is set to take on Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), and Theresa Greenfield ($1.1 million), who is gunning for Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA). Among Republicans, the brightest spot has been in Michigan, where John James collected $3.1 million as he attempts to unseat Sen. Gary Peters (D). Quite a few incumbents have also maintained their usual brisk fundraising paces, particularly John Cornyn (R-TX) and Mitch McConnell, with the result that 2020 Senate candidates currently have about $200 million in the bank among them.
While the fundraising numbers have the GOP optimistic that they might be able to flip a seat other than Alabama, the Democrats appear to be the big winner here. First, because they have more candidates who are pulling in big bucks than the Republicans do. Second, because anything that significantly expands the map works to the advantage of the party that is defending only 12 seats, as opposed to the party that is defending 23. (Z)
This is kind of an interesting story out of New York. During the winter season, the Trump Organization runs a couple of outdoor ice-skating rinks in New York. This year, sharp-eyed reporters noticed a change from previous years: The Trump name is almost nowhere to be found (it's now only on the Zamboni that smooths the ice when needed).
The Trump Organization refused to explain why the President's name was scrubbed, but there are really only two possible explanations. The first is that they have had a "come to Jesus" moment on emoluments, and are scrupulously working to avoid any situation in which Donald Trump profits from his office. This seems...unlikely, shall we say, particularly given that the President attempted just days ago to steer the G-7 to his own resort. The alternative is that the Trump name has become bad for business, at least in some parts of the country. If so, that would be bad news for a company that is reportedly struggling, since Trump relies heavily on the value of his "brand," and has more properties in places where he's unpopular than in places where he's popular. In fact, if the balance sheet is really grim (and only a few people know, since the Trump Organization is privately held and does not have to file disclosures), then it may explain why the President was willing to take such a big gamble in order to reap those juicy G-7 profits. (Z)
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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Oct22 Supreme Court Sustains Political Gerrymanders Yet Again
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Oct22 State Department Concludes that Hillary Clinton Did Not Break the Law with Her E-mails
Oct22 You Can't Make This Up
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Oct22 ...But He Gets to Keep A Nemesis
Oct21 What's the Current Version of the Administration's Story?, Part I: The Quid Pro Quo
Oct21 What's the Current Version of the Administration's Story?, Part II: The G-7 and Doral
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Oct19 Saturday Q&A
Oct18 Mike Pence Practices "The Art of the Deal"
Oct18 "Mick the Knife" Stabs Trump in the Back
Oct18 Sondland Points the Finger at Giuliani
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Oct18 2020 G-7 Summit "Awarded" to Trump Doral
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Oct16 Kent: "Three Amigos" Ran Ukraine Policy
Oct16 No Formal Vote on Impeachment Inquiry, for Now
Oct16 Ocasio-Cortez to Endorse Sanders
Oct16 Aspiring Collins Challenger Is Raking It In
Oct15 Fiona Hill Piqued By Giuliani's Behavior
Oct15 Trump Sanctions Turkey
Oct15 Trump Reportedly Wanted to Release His Tax Returns in 2013
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