Needed 1990
Sanders 45
Buttigieg 26
Biden 15
Warren 8
Klobuchar 7
Bloomberg 0
Steyer 0
Remaining 3878
Political Wire logo A Once-In-a-Century Pandemic?
Trump Tells Supporters Coronavirus Is a ‘Hoax’
There Are Few Swing Voters, Just Non-Voters
U.S. Postpones Asian Summit
Trump Nominates Ratcliffe as Spy Chief
Court Rules McGahn Can Defy Subpoena
TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  Coronavirus Gives Trump Administration a Headache
      •  Prepare for Another Trump 2020 Photo-op
      •  A Candidate Like No Other, Part II: Bernie Sanders, Socialist
      •  Polls Have South Carolina Results All Over the Map
      •  Today's Ratfu**ing News
      •  Buttigieg Is Still Your Winner in Iowa
      •  Trump May Not Be Able to Pardon Stone

Coronavirus Gives Trump Administration a Headache

Less than a week ago, we guessed that the coronavirus would be a non-story, politics-wise. When we wrote that, we were thinking of things like SARS and mad cow disease, which attracted much attention for a short period, but proved to be something of a tempest in a teapot. It is now quite clear that coronavirus is a different kind of phenomenon, as it has become the biggest political story of the week and shows no signs of abating.

The Trump administration is clearly very concerned about the disease. The President began the week by requesting (a relatively limited amount of) money from Congress to fight the outbreak. When it became clear that was not enough, with even some Republican Senators not named "Romney" blasting the administration's response, Trump appointed VP Mike Pence to oversee and coordinate the administration's efforts to combat the disease. Team Trump is working extra hard to avoid calling Pence a "czar," though not because of the Russian connotations. Nope, it's because when Barack Obama made a similar sort of appointment in 2014 in response to the Ebola virus, he used the term "czar." And, of course, anything Obama did is, by definition, bad.

Anyhow, one would certainly hope and expect a president to be concerned about a possible epidemic or pandemic, because of its negative effect on the populace. Some (or many) presidents might also have given some thought as to the political ramifications, but that would be secondary for approximately 43 of the 43 men who preceded Trump in that office. For this president, by contrast, politics appears not only to be the main concern, it looks to be the only concern. That is indicated, first of all, by putting Mike Pence as the not-a-czar in charge of the administration's efforts. Pence has no relevant experience or expertise, and, while governor of Indiana, once responded to an upsurge in AIDS diagnoses in 2015 by suggesting that all the afflicted needed to do was pray for healing (before eventually agreeing to a needle-exchange program). If only Trump had an M.D. among the members of his Cabinet, or access to any government employee with some expertise in medicine or virology or epidemiology.

Beyond that, however, Trump has openly declared that he sees this in political terms. Some Trump supporters noticed that the CDC official who warned the media on Tuesday that a coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. is inevitable is Dr. Nancy Messonnier. Messonnier's brother is...former Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein, who is vaguely a Trump nemesis. The conclusion, then, is that coronavirus is basically a scam, and is being used by the "deep state" to harm the President. Rush Limbaugh, who apparently learned nothing from his pooh-poohing of the dangers of cigarette smoking, picked up on the conspiracy theory on Wednesday and started using his radio show to promote it. And now, the President has embraced it. When one dabbles in conspiratorial thinking about, say, a rival politician's birth certificate, it is silly, and kind of stupid, and possibly even racist, but it's not likely to physically hurt anyone. On the other hand, downplaying the seriousness of a disease by characterizing it as a hoax and a fraud could very possibly kill people.

Unfortunately for Trump, reality has a nasty habit of re-asserting itself. The Dow Jones suffered the single-largest drop by points in its history on Thursday and, barring a miracle bounce today, this week is going to be the worst since the Great Recession. We are sometimes leery of analyses that connect "event of the week" plus "stock market performance," since correlation does not always equal causation. In this case, however, it seems pretty clear that coronavirus is the culprit, as it's having pretty profound effects across virtually all economic sectors: manufacturing, sales, construction, tourism, and so forth. The Dow is now at 25,766. If it drops to 23,000 or so, that is a real problem for the President. And if it drops to 20,000, his goose is cooked.

There is another externality worth noting right now, even though it's still pretty far away. The 2020 Olympics are supposed to take place in Tokyo, Japan, in about five months (they are scheduled to start on July 24). Japan is, of course, close to ground zero for the coronavirus, and unless the disease is substantially under control by July, it would be an unacceptable risk to bring millions of people from around the world to congregate in one place (and then to return home with whatever germs they picked up). Further, the necessary work to prepare for the Olympics is not being done right now, as the Japanese have halted most construction projects, and can't hold training sessions for personnel. Add it up, and the 2020 games are in trouble. It's true that there are "the sky is falling" stories about many Olympics (the 2016 Rio and 2004 Athens games being recent examples), but it is also true that Olympic Games have been postponed or canceled before in response to global events (wars, in most cases). In any event, the cancellation of the Olympics, if it did come to pass, would be an enormously high-profile reminder of the situation, and would very likely spook the markets (again).

If coronavirus does remain an ongoing problem, it is surely going to work to Trump's detriment. His administration has already botched the response in numerous ways, including reports from yet another whistleblower that Dept. of Health and Human Services employees handled American coronavirus sufferers without proper training or protection. In addition, about 18 months ago, Trump got rid of the folks at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention whose specific job it was to watch for and work to contain epidemics. If coronavirus spreads widely across the land, that decision may just come up once or twice during the presidential campaign.

As we noted at the beginning, we are less than six days removed from writing that this was likely a non-story, politics wise. It's just another reminder that, in politics, a week really is a lifetime. (Z)

Prepare for Another Trump 2020 Photo-op

Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign was long on promises. His presidential administration has been short on accomplishments. That's not a great situation for a president who aspires to be reelected. And so, the next nine months are sure to be full of photo-ops and other maneuvers designed to create the impression of achievement, even if there's no real substance: meaningless trade deals with China, Mexican walls that are really fences (and that sometimes blow over), and the like.

This weekend, we are likely to get another entry on the list. In 2016, Trump promised to end the war in Afghanistan. For the last couple of months, the administration has been negotiating with the Taliban. And it is generally expected that, this weekend, a "peace deal" with the Taliban will be signed. That this is happening on a weekend when Trump would like to distract attention from the coronavirus (see above) and steal some of the Democrats' South Carolina thunder (see below) is surely just a coincidence.

Anyhow, we put "peace deal" in quotations, because expert after expert after expert thinks that this reflects nothing substantive, and is just an affirmation of the status quo. To start, the Taliban has the upper hand in Afghanistan right now, and has no particular need to make concessions. More importantly, there is almost universal agreement that the United States will need to keep some armed forces in the country to prevent a civil war, to stop a possible resurgence of ISIS, to engage in counter-terrorism operations, and to keep international aid flowing into the country. Among the folks who feel this way are..the Taliban.

Near the end of his presidency, Barack Obama considered withdrawing all of the 12,000 troops then stationed in Afghanistan. In view of the above considerations, however, he changed his mind, and instead authorized a reduction to 8,400 troops. That was countermanded by the Trump administration (naturally), before it could be carried out. Now, under the terms of the "peace deal," the number of U.S. troops will be reduced to...8,600. You may wish to check our math, but that appears to be 200 more soldiers than Obama planned for nearly 4 years ago.

So, given the timing and the lack of substance, it is hard to see this weekend's planned signing as anything more than political theater. That, of course, won't stop the President from bragging about his "inevitable" Nobel Prize at his rallies, which are themselves the purest expression of political theater that America has ever known. (Z)

A Candidate Like No Other, Part II: Bernie Sanders, Socialist

How is Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) like Hillary Clinton? We'll get back to that question later. For now, however, let's take a look at how the Vermont Senator is polling against Donald Trump in the likely 2020 swing states. We're going to limit this to polls taken in the last three months (excepting Maine, Minnesota, and North Carolina, where we have to extend it to six months to have some data). To keep things readable, we are going to provide the number of polls in total, the average result, and the number of electoral votes in play:

State Total Polls Avg. Result EVs
Arizona 2 Trump +7 11
Florida 3 Trump +6 29
Georgia 1 Trump +10 16
Iowa 3 Trump +6 6
Maine 2 Sanders +8 4
Michigan 4 Sanders +5 16
Minnesota 1 Sanders +9 10
New Hampshire 2 Sanders +4 4
North Carolina 4 Tied 15
Pennsylvania 3 Sanders +3 20
Texas 4 Trump +4 38
Wisconsin 6 Tied 10

Here is the map that produces, assuming that all four of Maine's EVs go for Sanders and all five of Nebraska's go for Trump:

The west coast, New England,
the coastal mid-Atlantic, Colorado/New Mexico, and the upper midwest except for Wisconsin are blue. Wisconsin and North Carolina are
brown. The rest of the country is red.

As you can see, anyone who is predicting a blowout in one direction or the other if these two men are the candidates is, at least based on current data, full of it. By all evidences, if the election were held today, it would be very close indeed. If you tally up the EVs on the map above, you end up with 269 for Sanders, 244 for Trump, and 25 toss-up votes in North Carolina and Wisconsin. Obviously, if both of the toss-up states went for Trump, you'd have a tie, with the House making the call (and, with one vote per state, thus making the 37 million people in California equal in importance to the 600,000 people in Wyoming, Trump would undoubtedly be reelected). It does not get much closer than that.

For comparison purposes, Sabato's Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia just released their first attempt at a Trump-Sanders map, and here's how they see it:

Sabato has California, 
Oregon, Washington, Illinois, New York, Massachusetts, Vermont, Maryland, Hawaii, and DC as Democratic locks; Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico,
Minnesota, Michigan, Maine, New Hampshire, and Virginia as likely Democratic, Wisconsin and Pennsylavania as toss-ups, 
North Carolina, Georgia, Florida, and Texas as likely Republican, and everywhere else as Republican locks.

Sabato is using more and varied data than we did for our "back of the envelope" map above, and sees Pennsylvania as more a toss-up than North Carolina, but obviously ended up with pretty similar numbers, with Sanders at 248 EVs, Trump at 260, and 30 toss-ups. That is a situation that could also produce a tie: If Sanders takes Pennsylvania, Trump takes Wisconsin, and one of the Nebraska EVs goes Democratic, then we're at 269-269.

Obviously, it is very early for this kind of analysis. The Democrats are only in the first mile or two of the marathon, and Sanders is far from a lock to be the Party's nominee. Further, there are nine months until the election, and plenty of time for October (and September, and August, and July) surprises. Already, there are things bubbling to the surface that could really hurt Trump at the polls, like the coronavirus and the volatile stock market (see above).

Still, our purpose in this two-parter is to look at a pair of unusual-to-unique elements of Sanders' campaign that could hurt the Vermont Senator at the polls. On Tuesday, we focused on his base, and the possibility that the aggression/acidity of some supporters could be keeping Sanders from being properly battle-tested and developing general-election armor, and could also alienate some otherwise winnable voters. Today, we are going to focus on something that was only a minor theme of Tuesday's piece: Sanders' identity as a socialist.

Let us begin this part of the discussion with three propositions that we would say are indisputable:

  • Once the Democratic nominee is known, Donald Trump is going to attack them 24-7, using whatever weakness seems to work best. If Joe Biden, it will be Burisma. If Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), it will be "Pocahontas." If Pete Buttigieg, it will be his sexual orientation. And so forth.

  • If the nominee is Sanders, then "he's a socialist" will be Trump's line of attack.

  • Americans, on the whole, really hate socialists. In 2016, Gallup asked respondents about the qualities that would make a candidate unacceptable. 53% said that they would not even consider voting for a socialist. Last year, Gallup asked again, and this time the fraction who said they would not vote for a socialist was...53%. So, it's not changing. That means that socialist was the single biggest "deal breaker" among the categories Gallup asked about, trailing—among other possibilities—an atheist candidate (40% said "no way"), a Muslim (34%), an LGBTQ candidate (24%), or an evangelical Christian (20%).

It is at this point that we will answer the question at the beginning of this piece. As we note above, each of the Democrats has an "angle of attack" that Trump is going to use. However, when the Donald handled Hillary Clinton in this way, he was tapping into more than three decades of anti-Clinton propaganda and hatred that was just waiting to be channeled. Similarly, Americans have been subjected to anti-socialist/anti-Communist propaganda and hatred for, well, considerably more than 30 years. Put another way, the pump was primed for Trump's anti-Clinton campaign, and is primed for Trump's anti-Sanders campaign in a way that's not true for other candidates. More so, in fact. As the Gallup data shows, there is probably no other identifier that a presidential candidate might actually adopt that is more toxic than "socialist." Nobody runs for the White House on the ax murderer or child molester ticket.

Presumably, by this point in the item, readers are wondering why we haven't pointed out that Sanders is not actually a socialist, he's a democratic socialist. This, of course, is true. In fact, in the absence of some externality (a stock market crash, another Sanders heart attack), and assuming that Sanders is indeed the Democrats' nominee, we think the distinction between "socialist" and "democratic socialist" will be the crux of the election, even more important than the good or bad behavior of the Senator's base. Trump is going to try to lump Sanders in with the bad/evil socialists of the past and present, from Joseph Stalin to Fidel Castro to Hugo Chávez. And Sanders will need to make sure that voters are very clear that he may be a democratic socialist, but he's not that other type of socialist.

Thus far, to be blunt, Sanders has done a pretty lousy job of this. One of the most common questions we get is: "Can you explain the difference between a socialist and a democratic socialist?" Surely it is fair to say that regular readers of this site are in the 90th percentile in terms of how well informed they are about politics. Maybe 95th percentile. And if people who are regularly checking in with us (and other politically oriented sites) don't understand the distinction, then it's fair to conclude that most Americans don't understand.

Sanders has not helped himself with some of the statements he's made during the campaign. When someone suggests that his ideas are radical, as Pete Buttigieg did during Tuesday's debate, the Senator behaves as if such talk is crazy, and points out that things like universal healthcare and strict environmental regulations are not radical in other countries. Fair enough, though it could be pointed out that "radical" is not a one-size-fits-all concept, and that there are things commonplace in the U.S. that would be deemed radical in some other places (like, say, legalized gay marriage or women driving). More importantly, you don't win over undecided voters by acting like they're nuts and telling them how misguided they are.

Similarly, it does not help when Sanders says positive things about folks like Fidel Castro and Nicolás Maduro. This past Sunday, for example, the Senator went on "60 Minutes" and said, in effect, that Castro was not all bad. We had an item about it the next day, and that produced the predictable wave of angry e-mails from Sanders supporters, accusing us of not properly explaining the context for what he said (he was answering a question), or of misrepresenting his tone. Maybe those critiques are fair, and maybe they are not. That is a matter of opinion. What is certain, however, is that when the GOP is making campaign ads later this year, and when Donald Trump is deciding what things to cherry-pick for use at his rallies, they are not going to be extra-careful to explain the context or the tone of the Senator's words. They are just going to beat him over the head with them.

So, what is Sanders to do? Well, when he first adopted the whole socialist label roughly half a century ago, that was the best available way to identify his philosophy in terms of that era's political milieu: vigorous opposition to the Vietnam War, skepticism about the Cold War and the arms race, concern about the military industrial complex, and the like. Things like taking high-profile trips to Russia just emphasized where he was coming from. There is some irony, given how many Americans dislike "socialists," that Sanders and his ilk were basically proven right on all counts. There is now near-universal agreement that Vietnam was a mistake, that the U.S. was over-the-top in its prosecution of the Cold War, that the arms race was a bad thing, and that the military-industrial complex was (and is) a bad thing.

Sanders is also basically right today. That is to say, his ideas are not that radical, even by American standards (which are much more conservative than European standards, on the whole). The formal meaning of the word "socialist" is exceedingly fungible, and is debated endlessly in the halls of the academy, but is more or less equivalent to "communist," and connotes a belief that the government should own and control the means of production (farms, factories, etc.). In modern parlance, however, "socialist" and "Democratic socialist" actually refer to something considerably less aggressive: increased (but not total) involvement of the government in the economy and in securing the well-being of its citizenry. The vast majority of industrialized democracies have concluded that things like fire departments, libraries, schools, old age insurance, unemployment insurance, and so forth should be socialized. And they've also concluded that things like automobile and most other manufacturing, food service, and merchandise sales don't socialize well, and are better left to the private sector. That leaves relatively few areas of disagreement across industrial democracies, like petroleum production, airline operation and, most obviously, healthcare.

What we're getting at, here, is that Sanders might well be able to stick with some form of ideas, which aren't that far out there (particularly if scaled back a little, so we're not tossing around "trillions" like they are "billions"). However, his branding is a real Achilles heel for him, particularly running against an attack dog like Donald Trump. The Senator is so thoroughly identified with the term "democratic socialist" that it's too late for him to leave that behind. However, he could be doing much more to make that label less likely to trigger a visceral and negative reaction from voters. Avoiding saying things that could be read as pro-[X], where X is the name of a scary socialist dictator, would be a start.

Beyond that, however, he might consider what could be called the "thesaurus plan." As we have noted, Americans have been programmed for the better part of a century to dislike "socialists." However, we can think of two terms that have an equally long history, that have much more positive associations, and that mean something very similar to "Democratic Socialist." The first is "Progressive," a movement that has a long and proud history and that is identified with many American leaders who are remembered fondly, from Theodore Roosevelt to Robert M. La Follette. Obviously, political commentators regularly describe Sanders as a progressive, but he doesn't say it about himself all that much. The second term is "New Dealer." This is an almost exact equivalent to "democratic socialist," which is why, for example, Rep. (and democratic socialist) Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) called her climate plan the Green New Deal.

Trump is obviously very, very good at tearing his opponents down, and it's possible that there is no viable way to counter that. But our guess is that it would go a long way if Sanders got in the habit of saying things like, "Donald Trump would like you to believe that I am the American Joseph Stalin. In truth, he's the one who likes to consult with the Russians on major policy decisions. What I am, on the other hand, is a fellow who is trying to be a 21st century Franklin Roosevelt, and to deliver a New Deal v2.0." That gets at the same thing that Sanders is trying to say when he says "my ideas aren't that radical," but frames the matter in a way that is much more salable to U.S. voters.

We will see if Sanders takes clear steps to make himself more palatable to the general electorate, should he become the Democrats' nominee. Maybe he will, or maybe he'll decide that being 100% authentic, sticking to his guns at all costs, and shooting from the hip is what got him this far, and that he's not going to change now. Either way, if it's Sanders vs. Trump, there's an excellent chance that the election will be close (see the maps above), and that the extent to which the Senator is or is not tarred as a dangerous, wild-eyed socialist will be critical to the outcome. (Z)

Polls Have South Carolina Results All Over the Map

We have four new polls of South Carolina's voters in advance of Saturday's primary. One of them, from Emerson, was conducted entirely after the South Carolina Democratic debate. A second, from the Charleston Post and Courier, includes responses collected both before and after the debate. Two others, from Monmouth and East Carolina University include only respondents queried before the debate. Here are the numbers:

Candidate Emerson Cha. P&C Monmouth East Car. Average
Joe Biden 41% 28% 36% 31% 34.0%
Bernie Sanders 25% 24% 16% 23% 22.0%
Tom Steyer 11% 16% 15% 20% 15.5%
Pete Buttigieg 11% 11% 6% 6% 8.5%
Elizabeth Warren 5% 12% 8% 8% 8.3%
Amy Klobuchar 6% - 4% 2% 4.0%
Tulsi Gabbard 2% - 1% 2% 1.7%

Clearly, the polls are all over the place. And we would suggest that there are at least four X-factors in South Carolina that cannot really be accounted for until the ballots are cast and counted:

  • Black Turnout: This is the biggie. As you can see above, there are two polls on the list that have Joe Biden winning by 16 points or more (a.k.a., a blowout) and two that have him winning by 8 points or less (a.k.a., a close election, or a very close one). There have been a grand total of 15 polls of the South Carolina Democratic electorate since Jan. 1 of this year. How many had Biden up 16 or more? Six of them. How many had Biden winning by 8 points or less? Nine. How many had it between 8 and 16 points? Well, if you added it up in your head already, you know that the answer is: zero. Every poll has it either as close/very close or as a Biden blowout. The probable explanation is that different pollsters have slightly different projections when it comes to turnout among black voters, who make up 60% of the state's Democrats. If such turnout is normal or a little above average, it is likely that the very good numbers for Biden come to pass. If such turnout is below average, it is likely that the "not the blowout he needs" numbers for Biden come to pass.

  • Tom Steyer: Tom Steyer's ideas are actually pretty lefty, but he's been making his most aggressive play for black voters, who tend to be centrist. Since he's pretty clearly running out of steam, it's hard to know how much support he will get on Saturday, despite having campaigned his heart out in the Palmetto State over the last six weeks. Quite commonly, such candidates underperform their poll numbers, as voters decide, when it's time to pull the lever/push the button/fill in the circle, that they just can't bear to waste their vote on a sure loser. And whatever amount of votes the billionaire gets, it's not entirely clear which candidates he will be siphoning support from.

  • Ratfu**ing: The GOP already canceled its primary. There is a movement afoot to convince Republican voters to vote for Bernie Sanders, so as to create chaos, and to propel the candidate that they, at least, think is least electable. There has even been talk that Donald Trump will get involved, perhaps using Twitter to encourage his followers to vote Sanders. Undoubtedly, whether or not the President decides to lend his support to the scheme, some Republicans are going to cast Democratic (and so, probable pro-Sanders) ballots. The extent of this, and the effect it might have on the final totals, is something that pollsters cannot possibly predict.

  • Delegate Allocation: South Carolina's blue districts tend to be pretty blue (and pretty black, given the demographics of the state's Democratic electorate), and the red districts tend to be pretty red. By South Carolina Democratic Party rules, the blue districts get more delegates than the red ones do. It is at least possible this could cause Joe Biden to claim a disproportionate number of delegates, by virtue of performing well among black voters, and thus overperforming in the districts that have more delegates to award. That said, the district that is most likely to witness this effect is Rep. Jim Clyburn's (D-SC) SC-06, which—with 8 delegates—has at least two more than any other district (and as many as five more than some very red districts, like SC-03). As chance would have it, though, the state's largest university (University of South Carolina, Columbia) is also in SC-06, and college towns tend to be Bernie towns. So, this is likely to be the least impactful X-factor.

In any event, polls are open from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. tomorrow, at which point we'll have actual information as opposed to educated guesses. (Z)

Today's Ratfu**ing News

Speaking of South Carolina Republicans who are ratfu**ing the Democrats in an effort to help Bernie Sanders and/or hurt Joe Biden, a group of them is running this ad in South Carolina:

This is about as sleazy as it gets; the spot uses photos of Biden, some text, a female narrator, and clips lifted from Barack Obama's reading of his audiobook Dreams from My Father to create the impression that the 44th president thinks his former Veep is a racist.

Obama's attorneys have sent a cease-and-desist letter to the TV stations airing the ad, and to the Trump-aligned Committee to Defend the President super PAC. However, with 24 hours left until the primary, any damage that is going to be done has already been done. We doubt that many Democratic voters are going to fall for such a clumsy hack job of an ad, but it certainly does serve as a reminder that this is going to be an ugly campaign. (Z)

Buttigieg Is Still Your Winner in Iowa

The Iowa Democratic Party has finished its latest recount of the results there, and has come up with the same result: Pete Buttigieg won by the narrowest of margins (less than .01%). This is the fourth time they've declared him the victor, and the third time they've confirmed that it was a very narrow win.

The Bernie Sanders campaign badly wants that win, even though it would be irrelevant in terms of delegates, and all-but-irrelevant in terms of the math. So, they have asked the DNC to step in and conduct recount #5. We thought the Sanders campaign did not trust the DNC, but perhaps we were misinformed. It is not clear whether the DNC will comply, but if they do, they will have to act quickly, since state party rules dictate that the final results have to be certified by Saturday. So, whatever happens, the book on this fiasco will finally be closed by this weekend. (Z)

Trump May Not Be Able to Pardon Stone

Ever since Roger Stone became a convicted felon, the near-universal assumption has been that a pardon is imminent, and the only question is whether it will come before the election or after. Not so fast, says Brown political science/Fordham law professor Corey Brettschneider, who argues that the President doesn't actually have the authority to pardon his once and future crony.

The key here is the wording of Art. II, Sec. 2 of the Constitution, which grants pardon power to the president and also specifies its limitations, declaring that the chief executive has the "power to grant reprieves and pardons for offences against the United States, except in cases of impeachment." Most folks have read that as saying that the president cannot save those who have been impeached, or who are about to be impeached. Brettschneider argues, quite persuasively, that the constraints imposed on a president go beyond that, and that it is not legal to pardon anyone whose crime was connected to an impeachable offense (even if the impeachment trial resulted in an acquittal). The basic logic here is that the Founding Parents did not want a president to be able to use his underlings, with impunity, to aid in the commission of high crimes and misdemeanors. So, they removed this particular "insurance policy" by explicitly limiting the pardon power.

It was very possible that Stone would have to cool his jets until after the election, since the optics of a pardon are not good. Now, we also have the bad optics of a possible embarrassing defeat in court. It certainly appears, at this point, that Stone will have to wait at least until Nov. 4 for his pardon, and will have to try and use all the tricks in the book to try to keep himself from being sent to the slammer before that. What happens once the actual pardon is issued, presumably in November or December, will be very interesting, indeed, and could be yet another mess that ends up before the Supreme Court. (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Feb27 Takeaways from the South Carolina Debate
Feb27 Clyburn Endorses Biden
Feb27 Poll: Biden Has a Huge Lead over Sanders in South Carolina
Feb27 Schumer and Pelosi Would Be Comfortable with Sanders as Nominee
Feb27 Five Thirty Eight's Super Tuesday Predictions
Feb27 He Hasn't Been Here
Feb27 Are Primaries Being Done Wrong?
Feb27 Schumer Meets with Bullock
Feb27 Trump Asks for the Wrong Recusals
Feb27 Court Rules that Trump Can Withhold Money from "Sanctuary Cities"
Feb27 Trump Campaign Sues the New York Times
Feb26 Democrats Do the Charleston
Feb26 A Candidate Like No Other, Part I: Bernie Sanders' Base
Feb25 Trump Administration Fears Coronavirus
Feb25 Nevada Results Are Final...
Feb25 ...And Now It's South Carolina's Turn
Feb25 But First, a Debate
Feb25 Sanders Gives Florida Democrats Conniptions
Feb25 The Hill Closes the Henhouse After the Fox Already Had His Way
Feb24 Takeaways from the Nevada Caucuses
Feb24 How Did Sanders Do It?
Feb24 Never-Trump Republicans Are in Full-Blown Panic Mode
Feb24 New National Poll Has Sanders on Top
Feb24 Downballot Democrats Move to Distance Themselves from Sanders
Feb24 How Democrats Can Manage a Brokered Convention
Feb24 Caucus States Aren't the Only Ones with Complicated Rules
Feb24 National Security Adviser: Russians Aren't Trying to Help Trump
Feb24 Steyer Will Be on Stage Tomorrow
Feb23 Nevada Has Spoken
Feb23 Sunday Mailbag
Feb22 It's the Silver State's Time to Shine
Feb22 Russians Are Trying to Help Sanders, Too
Feb22 Saturday Q&A
Feb21 Russians Are Back for Another Go-Round
Feb21 Takeaways from the Debate
Feb21 Bloomberg Isn't the Anti-Trump Juggernaut He Seems to Be
Feb21 Warren Raises Almost $3 Million on Debate Night
Feb21 Wisconsin May Be the Democrats' Toughest Hill to Climb
Feb21 What about Arizona and North Carolina?
Feb21 Unicorn Sighted Far in the Distance
Feb21 Stone Wins
Feb21 Republicans Will Spend Millions to Fight Democrats' Lawsuits about Voting
Feb20 It May Have Been Paris, But Nobody Surrendered
Feb20 Is High Turnout Actually Bad for the Democrats?
Feb20 Florida Republicans Lose In Court, Again
Feb20 Assange Claims Trump Administration Tried to Bribe Him with a Pardon
Feb20 The Stone Pardon is Coming
Feb20 Obama Will Keep His Cards Close to the Vest
Feb20 Another Election, Another Challenger for Lipinski
Feb19 Scales of Justice Grow Even More Unbalanced