Whistleblower Complaint Was About Trump Promise
Harris Bets It All on Iowa
Pelosi Would Have Held Lewandowski In Contempt
Intelligence Chief Agrees to Testify
Photo of Justin Trudeau In Brownface Surfaces
Voter Interest In 2020 Sky High
• About that Wall Construction...
• List of Candidates to Replace John Bolton down to Five
• Trump Administration Throws Down the Gasoline Gauntlet in Battle with California
• Sanders Campaign Hits a Rough Patch
• Rep. Paul Cook to Retire
• Bye-Bye for Bibi?
Corey Lewandowski was ordered, by a subpoena, to appear before the House Judiciary Committee yesterday, which he did. He was also ordered, by Donald Trump, to say nothing. Lewandowski did that, too. The result was a waste of six hours of everyone's time. Well, except maybe Lewandowski's.
Perhaps the best way to get a sense of how things went is to look at some of the headlines that the former Trump campaign manager generated on Tuesday:
- CNN: Lewandowski hearing was a disaster
- CNN: Democrats whiff again as Lewandowski makes a mockery of oversight
- Yahoo!: Lewandowski hearing devolves into partisan circus
- The Guardian (UK): Chaotic scenes at House hearing as Corey Lewandowski refuses to answer questions
- Washington Post: Lewandowski mocks Democrats
- The Hill: Lewandowski hearing descends into chaos
In short, Lewandowski refused to answer nearly all of the questions that were posed to him. On those occasions when he did answer, it was often with a question, or with a snotty remark. He also lambasted the "harassment of the president from the day he won the election," and looked on with a smirk as Democrats and Republicans on the committee shouted at one another. Chair Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) was furious, and gave a stern lecture to the witness, while also threatening to go to court and have him held in contempt.
Lewandowski's game here is as plain as day. Although the polls say it's a poor idea, he is absolutely going to run for the U.S. Senate in New Hampshire. That means that, unlike an Anthony Scaramucci or an Omarosa Manigault Newman, Lewandowski still needs Trump. Ideally for rallies and some in-person appearances but, at very least, for a few supportive tweets. On top of that, it will fire up Republicans if Lewandowski "owns the libs," which is what he was doing on Tuesday. In case there was any doubt as to what was going on, he sent out this tweet during a break in the hearings:
New website just launched to help a potential senate run. Sign up now! https://t.co/WlI11PaQ7M— Corey R. Lewandowski (@CLewandowski_) September 17, 2019
The soon-to-be candidate also hightailed it over to Fox News after he was dismissed, so that he could talk about what numbnuts the Democrats are, how great a president Trump is, and how great a senator he would be if given the chance.
So, Lewandowski probably got what he wanted on Tuesday. Donald Trump, on the other hand? Maybe not so much. Yes, he managed to generally muzzle his former campaign manager, but Lewandowski did let slip that he served as go-between when Trump wanted former AG Jeff Sessions' arm twisted, so that Sessions would order Robert Mueller to look only into future election interference, and would ignore anything that took place in 2016.
The result of all of this is that impeachment talk has been given a bit of a shot in the arm, in three different ways. First, some Democrats argue that only an impeachment inquiry will put them in a position to demand answers, and stop wasting their time with circuses like the one that took place yesterday. Second, some believe that Lewandowski's admission about Sessions strengthens the existing argument, also made by Mueller, that obstruction of justice took place. Third, some believe that the pressure that Trump put on Lewandowski on Tuesday constitutes a new instance of obstruction, and one that might be more easily proven. So while Trump thinks that things went according to plan yesterday, he might well find that he is mistaken. (Z)
The foremost promise of Donald Trump's campaign, first proposed in his announcement of his candidacy, and reiterated many, many times thereafter, was that he would oversee construction of a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico and that the Mexicans would pay for it. Both halves of that were much easier said than done. The "Mexicans will pay for it" part was never credible, and disappeared pretty quickly after that nation's government said, in no uncertain terms, "¡De ninguna manera, José!" ("No way, José"). The construction part of it did not go much better. Democrats were never willing to play ball, of course, but neither were most Republicans in Congress, who recognize that even if one is committed to slowing undocumented immigration, a wall is a lousy way to do it. Eminent domain laws, environmental regulations, and significant logistical issues on the 800-mile-long mountainous Texas border also worked to undermine Trump's plans.
The President finally decided to seize $3.6 billion in funds that had been appropriated for other projects, and then to order the military to build the wall. They would have to play ball, since he's the commander-in-chief and they have to follow his orders, right? Maybe not, as it turns out. They are not openly defying Trump, of course, but on Monday the Dept. of Defense filed a brief that says they cannot build the 20 miles of wall/fence they had planned to build in California and Arizona because the $2.5 billion they intended to use for construction costs will not be nearly enough. They have thus confirmed what everyone else (besides Donald Trump, apparently) knew two years ago: That building walls/fencing is really expensive, especially when all the places where construction would be relatively cheap and easy already have barriers.
Exactly what will happen next is anyone's guess. It's unlikely Trump is going to be able to come up with any more money; as it is, even Republicans are pushing back against his cancellation of various projects in their districts. Presumably he will just stick with the strategy he already adopted, namely completing already-scheduled and funded repairs to the existing fencing, perhaps building a few additional miles of new fencing, and then going on Twitter and trying to sell people on the idea that his administration has constructed a barrier that puts the Great Wall of China to shame. He's already fired off five tweets like that just this month, including this one:
WE ARE BUILDING THE WALL... pic.twitter.com/OQQaag2ZUW— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 8, 2019
Will his base go for it? Probably so; they've bought so many of his whoppers that he might as well be a Burger King franchise. (Z)
Donald Trump needs a new National Security Advisor, having burned through three of them (plus one interim) already. On Tuesday, he unveiled the list of the five finalists for the honor of being the next victim...er, NSA. They are:
- Fred Fleitz, who was John Bolton's chief of staff and closest advisor
- Maj. Gen. Rick Waddell, who served as a deputy NSA to Trump from May 2017 to May 2018
- Lisa E. Gordon-Hagerty, currently Undersecretary for Nuclear Security in the Dept. of Energy
- Gen. Keith Kellogg, currently VP Mike Pence's national security advisor
- Robert O'Brien, who works in the State Dept. as special envoy for hostage affairs
It's never easy to predict what the mercurial Trump will do, since he's as likely to make the decision based on how much he likes the cut of the candidate's jib as he is to make it based on their actual qualifications. That said, there's a good chance that Kellogg is the frontrunner, since Trump likes to give orders to generals, and also likes it when someone else (in this case Pence) has done the vetting for him. Fleitz, given his association with Bolton, would seem to be the least likely choice, especially since he may be even more hawkish and more anti-Iran than Bolton was (if that is possible). If Trump wanted someone like that, he could have just kept Bolton on board. Although Fleitz doesn't have a mustache, so there is that.
It is also possible that Trump could go off script entirely and appoint someone who's not even on the list. You just never know with him. The only thing you can really be confident about is that, whoever gets the nod is 50/50 at best to hold on to the job through next year's election. (Z)
One of the best contemporary examples of federalism in action is California's auto-emission standards. When the state acquired a well-known and extremely justified reputation for filthy, disgusting air in the 1970s (triggering constant smog alerts), its legislature responded by adopting standards for automobile emissions that were much more stringent than federal standards. While the air still isn't great, it's much cleaner than it used to be, particularly given that there are many more cars on the road today than there were 25 years ago. The Golden State's standards have also had an effect elsewhere, as it is generally impractical for automakers to produce vehicles to many different sets of standards, so they tend to just accommodate whichever state has the most stringent ones. The Trump administration, which favors much more lax standards for fuel efficiency than California has, does not like this state of affairs. And so, they announced that the state's Clean Air Act waiver will be canceled today, and that henceforth California will have to adhere to federal standards rather than setting its own.
Why is Trump pursuing this? Here are some possibilities:
- He hates California, particularly when the state pushes back against his decrees
- He hates the fact that the state, by imposing stricter standards, is effectively carrying the
torch for Barack Obama, whose stricter federal standards were canceled by Trump
- He's in the thrall of ostrich-head-in-the-sand global-warming deniers, who are threatened by any
policy that challenges their worldview
- He's in thrall to the petroleum industry, for whom more efficient cars mean lower
- He's in thrall to the Saudi government, for whom more efficient cars mean lower revenues
Of course, it could be some combination of these things, or it could be all of them. Note, however, that we did not put "in thrall to the auto industry" on the list, since the auto makers tend to be generally ok with stricter standards. Many of them want to be able to sell their cars in Europe and in Asia, where very strict standards already exist, or are on their way down the pike. Strict standards in California allow them to position themselves globally without ceding ground to their rivals.
Needless to say, this is headed to court, where Team Trump will have the weaker hand to play. First of all, there is an awful lot of jurisprudence, based on the Tenth Amendment, that says that states can pass laws more aggressive than the ones written into the U.S. code. To take one obvious example, many states have set a minimum wage that is higher than the federal minimum wage. On top of that, once this gets before a judge, that judge is going to want to know about the underlying reasoning for each side's positions. California has a strong, public-policy-based rationale (remember the dirty skies of the 1980s). The administration can't exactly say "We're here because California makes the President angry," so they're going to have to come up with something compelling, which they have often struggled to do in other situations like this.
Long term, Trump is definitely going to lose this one. Automobile development takes years and years. If an automaker is working to meet the California standards, then switches to the more lax standards, they could be left holding the bag if the Golden State triumphs in court. Or when a Democrat takes the White House again and, inevitably, tightens up standards and/or reissues California's Clean Air Act waiver. On top of that, there is the aforementioned issue of sales in Asia and Europe. So, the great likelihood is that the Fords and GMs of the world ignore what the administration is up to, and stay the course they were already on. (Z)
As we wrote yesterday, the tea leaves currently suggest that Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) is on the rise and is solidifying her place as Joe Biden's main rival, and as the champion of the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party. In politics, as in physics, every action has an equal and opposite reaction. And so, Warren's rising fortunes have been paralleled by difficulties emerging with the campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT).
The first sign of trouble came in New Hampshire this weekend, when Sanders reassigned Joe Caiazzo, the director of his New Hampshire campaign. Caiazzo was banished to Massachusetts, which is not unlike Siberia in these circumstances, given that it is Warren's home state (i.e., pretty much hopeless). Judging by polling, Sanders is actually doing pretty well in the Granite State. The latest had him up by 8 points, and while that one is a bit of an outlier, he's consistently been neck and neck with Joe Biden. Normally, when things are going well, you don't change horses midstream. However, Caiazzo's underlings in New Hampshire were in a state of open rebellion against him and against the general direction of the campaign, believing that their ideas and their concerns weren't being heard. Sanders reshuffled the deck in hopes of calming things down.
Unfortunately for the Senator, things took another turn for the worse on Monday, when the progressive Working Families Party threw its support behind Warren. This, plus the New Hampshire fiasco, has left the campaign in some amount of disarray, with a lot of squabbling, finger-pointing, and complaining about a lack of organization and poor communication. One major concern is that Sanders is running a 2016-style "by the seat of your pants" campaign instead of the professional, disciplined kind of campaign that is needed to be a serious challenger for the Democratic nomination. Another concern is that Warren appears to be winning the hearts and minds of many progressives, and that a tipping point could soon come in which she emerges as the unquestioned progressive standard-bearer for 2020.
Policy aside, the Democratic Party's pooh-bahs know that despite her fiery rhetoric, Warren is a team player. Her goal is to lead the Party, not to overthrow it. In the past, she has often compromised in order to get things done, notably the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. While many Party leaders would prefer Joe Biden, they are probably OK with Warren if need be. If Biden stumbles badly for whatever reason, many of them will gravitate to her and few to Sanders. Warren knows that very well, so while she will continue to stick to her policy positions, she is very careful not to offend the Party's leaders. In contrast, Sanders speaks his mind and lets the chips fall where they may. His supporters see this as authenticity: A politician who tells the truth all the time. But Party leaders are not enthralled by it and that might matter down the road.
In short, there's some trouble in socialist paradise. The good news is that it is better to have these kinds of problems five months before people start to cast ballots as opposed to, say, five weeks. In addition, Sanders is more open to criticism and to trying to improve than some presidential candidates are (ahem, both of the 2016 general-election nominees). So, he's on the phone daily with key members of his campaign, trying to figure out what's going wrong and how it might be rectified. Still, if Warren doesn't shoot herself in the foot—and she hasn't had any major mistakes or issues in months—she will be very hard to catch, even if the Vermont Senator does find a way to right the ship. (Z)
It's that time in the election cycle when members of the House have to decide if they are in, and are going to start firing up their campaign machinery, or they are out, so that potential successors have time to get their ducks in order. Rep. Paul Cook (R-CA) has taken a look at the landscape, and decided that he is out after four terms in the House.
Although Cook is 76, he's not leaving politics. Instead, he's planning to run for a seat on the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors. That would seem to be a step down for most politicians, but perhaps that says something about how unpleasant life in the House minority is these days. It may also say something about Cook's re-election prospects; he faced a legitimate challenge last year by a challenger from the right in the form of tea partier and former assemblyman Tim Donnelly, and could face another in 2020. And then, if Cook made it to the general (again), he might just get knocked off by a Democrat, given the frequency with which Republicans have been booted from the state's Congressional delegation in the last 2 years.
In what was clearly a pre-arranged development, a serious GOP contender for the seat, Assemblyman Jay Obernolte, has already announced. Obernolte's campaign website is already online, and he's already got Cook's endorsement. He will probably draw some challengers, possibly including Donnelly, who could return for another shot at the seat. The district, CA-08, covers a wide swath of territory directly northeast of Los Angeles. Its PVI is R+9 which, under normal circumstances, would make it a very safe Republican seat. However, 2020 will not be normal circumstances, and recent results—particularly in California—suggest that the seat could be in play, particularly if the jungle primary produces a matchup between a far-right-winger like Donnelly and a Democrat. Meanwhile, Cook becomes the 16th House Republican to retire this cycle, compared to just four Democrats. (Z)
Israelis have gone to the polls for the second time in five months. And with most of the votes counted (the final tally will be announced today), the only thing that is clear is that nothing is clear. Both the Likud party of Benjamin Netanyahu and the rival Kahol Lavan party of Benny Gantz appear to have won 32 seats in the 120-seat Knesset. When added to the seats won by each candidate's allies, neither of them will easily be able to put together the 61-seat majority needed to control the government. It appears that Avigdor Lieberman, whose Yisrael Beiteinu party won nine seats, will play kingmaker, and he says he wants a unity government made up of both Likud and Kahol Lavan.
This is not the circumstance that Netanyahu wanted to find himself in as he tries to secure a fifth term as prime minister. Obviously, you don't have the kind of career he's had without having a few tricks up your sleeve. However, this marks two consecutive elections where he was unable to deliver a governing majority. Plus, he's about to go on trial for corruption. The members of Likud may decide that they need new leadership. Or, probably more likely, Netanyahu's stepping aside may be one of the requirements for forming the governing coalition that Lieberman wants. A third election is also not outside the realm of possibility, but that would infuriate a lot of voters. In the address he delivered on Tuesday night, Netanyahu made it clear that he would not mind one bit if Donald Trump did something to bolster his chances, like bomb Iran. Trump, thus far, has sent nary a tweet about Tuesday's results. (Z)We have had overwhelming feedback that the Q&A works best on its own, on Saturday, when folks have time to read it fully. On other days, we are told, the feature can get drowned out by all the other material. So, instead of one regular-length Q&A on Wednesday and another on Saturday, we are going to do a double-length one on Saturdays. That seems to be most efficacious for all involved. A lot of the questions are detailed technical questions (e.g., about the mechanics of the 25th Amendment) from people who already know a great deal about politics, and are not tied to any day's news cycle, so they can wait a few days.
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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Sep17 Oops, They Did It Again
Sep17 When Trump Said "Locked and Loaded," Did He Mean "Locked and Loaded"?
Sep17 White House Blocks Testimony from Lewandowski, Dearborn, and Porter
Sep17 Chao Being Investigated
Sep17 Trump Making a Play for New Mexico?
Sep17 Israelis Head to the Polls
Sep16 This May Be the One
Sep16 Warren Gained the Most from the Debate
Sep16 Washington Post Ranks Warren as Most Likely to Be the Democratic Nominee
Sep16 Democrats Are Calling for Kavanaugh's Impeachment
Sep16 Why Don't the Democrats Who Have No Chance Drop Out?
Sep16 Fourth Debate Is (Almost) Set
Sep16 Trump's Challengers Are Not Happy Campers
Sep16 No More Pie in the Sky
Sep16 Romney Praises Trump for Doing Nothing
Sep14 Saturday Q&A
Sep13 Warren Is the Lone Star in Democrats' Texas Debate
Sep13 Judiciary Committee Approves a Resolution to Move Forward on Impeachment
Sep13 Federal Charges Recommended for McCabe
Sep13 Democratic Group Will Spend $50 Million on Swing-State Rural Voters
Sep13 Warren Releases Social Security Plan
Sep13 Trump's Advisers Are Trying to Block His Tariffs
Sep13 Cruz Will Oppose a Trump Judicial Nominee
Sep12 It's Time for the Third Debate
Sep12 All Major Democratic Candidates Lead Trump
Sep12 Biden Is Slipping in the Primary Polls
Sep12 SCOTUS Allows Asylum Limitations to Take Effect
Sep12 Nadler and Hoyer Are Not on the Same Page about Impeachment
Sep12 Why Bolton Was Fired
Sep12 Senators Give Trump's Judicial Nominee a Hard Time
Sep12 Mulvaney Ordered Ross to Back Trump on Sharpiegate
Sep12 9/11 Day, the GOP Way
Sep12 Shaheen Leads Lewandowski by 10 Points
Sep11 Bolton Gets Broomed
Sep11 Trump Doesn't Like Foreign Assets
Sep11 Trump Administration Targets Homelessness in California
Sep11 Who's Really to Blame for America's Crummy Election Security?
Sep11 It's the Economy, Stupid
Sep11 Latinos Prefer Biden, Sanders
Sep11 GOP Goes 2-for-2 in North Carolina
Sep11 The End of Democracy?
Sep11 Wednesday Q&A
Sep10 Trump Scandal Update, Part I: The Resorts
Sep10 Trump Scandal Update, Part II: The Alabama Hurricane
Sep10 Trump Scandal Update, Part III: The Taliban Talks
Sep10 Trump Won't Debate Primary Opponents
Sep10 Ossoff Launches Senate Bid
Sep10 It's Showtime in NC-09
Sep10 Republicans Turn On Their Own