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TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  Deja Vu All Over Again
      •  Parscale Suggests Trump Run as Martyr in 2024
      •  Raffensperger's Office Launches Investigation into Trump Phone Call
      •  No DeJoy in Mudville (at Least, Not Yet)
      •  Red-colored Sharks Are Circling Newsom
      •  Fetterman Throws His (Sizable) Hat into the Ring
      •  Rep. Ron Wright Succumbs to COVID-19

Deja Vu All Over Again

Just 1 year and 4 days ago, Donald Trump was acquitted in his first impeachment trial. Today, his second impeachment trial will commence. At this rate, politics-watchers might want to keep their calendar for the third week of February 2022 open, just in case.

On Monday, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) agreed on a schedule for the trial. Here's the five-act playbill:

  1. 4 hours of debate on the constitutionality of the trial, followed by a vote (Tuesday)
  2. Up to 16 hours for the impeachment managers to present their case (Wednesday/Thursday)
  3. Up to 16 hours for the defense to present their case (Friday/Saturday)
  4. 4 hours of written questions from the senators (Sunday)
  5. 2 hours of discussion of the possibility of subpoenaing witnesses and/or documents, followed by a vote (Sunday)

The days in parentheses reflect the current consensus for when each portion will take place, though the timeline is not set in stone. Trump lawyer David Schoen had previously asked for the trial to be suspended while he observes the Sabbath this week (Friday evening to Saturday evening), but he has now withdrawn the request, and the trial will proceed without him during that time.

The impeachment managers have, for some reason, neglected to ask our advice for how they should conduct the trial. If they had asked, however, our suggestion would be to put together a video of no more than 10 minutes. And 5 minutes would be even better, while 3 would be even better than that. The video should show three things, in this order: (1) incendiary remarks from Trump on the day of the insurrection, (2) footage of people storming the Capitol, and (3) clips of insurrectionists explaining that they did it because Trump told them to (these clips are already easily found on YouTube, since these folks are now busily trying to save their own necks by shifting blame to the former president).

Anyhow, if it were up to us, that 10-minute or 5-minute or 3-minute video would be the entire prosecution case. This approach would have three benefits:

  1. It would make a statement that the case against Trump is so clear and so simple that it does not require hours (or days) to lay out.

  2. It would be an effective approach for the Internet Age. In the end, the whole trial—barring the unexpected—is just going to be a giant PR exercise in anticipation of the 2022 midterms and the 2024 presidential election. The Democrats want to paint the Republicans as a party that now tolerates sedition and treason, and the Republicans want to sustain as little damage to their brand as is possible. A brief video, also posted to YouTube, Facebook, etc., would be watched by millions of people (and rebroadcast by most news stations). The impeachment managers could expose a vast number of people to the meatiest meat of their case. By contrast, a 16-hour prosecution will be distilled down to sound bites for various websites and news broadcasts. Those sound bites might not be the most politically advantageous sound bites, and they are not likely to reach anyone other than politics junkies.

  3. It would leave plenty of low-hanging fruit for future prosecutors. Trump is at serious risk of criminal prosecution here, even if (when) he's acquitted by the Senate. If the Democrats play too many cards here, it will take some of the oomph out of a future criminal case. If the Democrats keep it short and sweet, on the other hand, they'll leave lots of goodies behind for the next group of attorneys to take a crack at the Trump piñata.

Of course, the impeachment managers are both attorneys and politicians, putting them into two different groups of people who love to bloviate. So, they will undoubtedly go in a direction very different from the one we propose, and will use most or all of their 16 hours.

Now let's talk about the three biggest wild cards in the trial:

  1. Witnesses. At the moment, the discussion of witnesses/documents, currently planned for Sunday, is expected to result in a consensus of "Pass!" Democrats want to move on to implementing Joe Biden's agenda, and Republicans just want to move on. However, a week is a lifetime in politics, and so four days of impeachment proceedings are approximately 57.1% of a lifetime. It's possible that by Sunday, one side or the other will be seeing things in a new light. In particular, if the impeachment managers sense that some Republican senators are wavering and might become votes to convict, the managers just might push for witnesses.

  2. McConnell. The Minority Leader has had an unusual year so far, sometimes backing Trump (e.g., with a vote in support of Rand Paul's motion that the trial is unconstitutional), sometimes striking out against Trumpism (e.g., lambasting Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-GA), and sometimes remaining silent. There is no doubt that he would like to lead the Republican Party into the post-Trump era, knowing full well that pro-Trump vs. anti-Trump forces in 2022 and 2024 could make Clinton forces vs. Sanders forces in 2016 look like a game of patty-cake. However, is this the time to strike? McConnell could decide the answer is "yes," and if so, he could bring a dozen or so of his colleagues along with him.

  3. Trump. The former president's instincts are to defend himself, and not to let others do it for him. Further, he's got to be itching to have a high-profile public platform again, having spent three weeks in Mar-a-Lago exile, and with his social media accounts taken away from him to boot. On the other hand, he would be courting disaster if he did decide to show up, as he's not shrewd enough to do verbal battle with a dozen lawyers without shooting himself in the foot. Odds are that The Donald stays in Florida and cools his jets, but you never know.

Meanwhile, Trump's successor will be the polar opposite of a wild card (the two of hearts?). There is zero benefit to Biden weighing in on the proceedings. Some would accuse him of trying to influence the proceedings. Others would wonder why he's spending time on the dog and pony show at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, and not on things like the ongoing pandemic. And this White House, unlike the previous one, has actual discipline when it comes to messaging. So, if there is something that Biden feels just has to be said, he will relay it to the impeachment managers or one of the Democratic senators, and will let them say it. But even that is improbable.

In any event, the party begins at 1:00 p.m. ET today, so make sure you've got your popcorn and circus peanuts ready. And of course, if possible, put on side one of Led Zeppelin IV. (Z)

Parscale Suggests Trump Run as Martyr in 2024

Brad Parscale, who saw his career as a political operative go up in flames after being demoted from his top spot on the Trump campaign, is back. He was all over Twitter this weekend, sharing his views on Donald Trump's political future. "If they only impeached you twice, you need to run again. Because to change the system you have to kick it in the a#$," he wrote. "I would love to be [sic] the only President to be impeached three times. Because history remembers those that didn't conform." Parscale further opined: "They are about to give him super powers. They are about to make him a martyr."

Now, it is true that Parscale is a professional. But, "a professional what?" is the question. Recall that he was a digital guy who rose through the ranks primarily because he was willing to kiss the ring. He's got limited experience as a political strategist, and it shows. To start, Parscale apparently hasn't been paying attention, since Trump already ran on being a martyr in 2020, and it didn't work. And as The Donald did so, he blamed that martyrdom on many sources, from the deep state to the fake news. But what he did not do was run on the first impeachment. Trump is not too sharp in some ways, but his political instincts are often very good, and he realized (or someone else realized and persuaded him) that running on impeachment would also serve to remind voters of the original misdeed, to Trump's detriment. That's even more true here; he cannot run on "I was impeached twice" martyrdom without reminding everyone that he encouraged insurrection, and likely doing himself more harm than good.

That's not just a guess; there's already data to back this up. As CNN's Harry Enten points out, every reputable poll on impeachment reveals that at least 56% of Americans want Trump convicted and barred from future officeholding. Joe Biden took 51% of the vote and third-party candidates took another 2% in last year's presidential election, for a total of 53%. That means there must be some meaningful number of folks who voted for Trump but now want him barred from officeholding again. If The Donald runs again, and if he hopes to win those folks back, reminding them of the insurrection by spending his whole campaign kvetching about the second impeachment is not the way to do it.

Indeed, running a martyr campaign might prove ineffective even with the hardcore MAGA types. In a very interesting piece for Politico, Tina Nguyen points out that the base is not especially interested in impeachment, and instead has turned its attention to other outrages, like the COVID-19 relief bill, the GameStop fiasco, and, in particular, "cancel culture," as being visited upon "MyPillow Guy" Mike Lindell and Marjorie Taylor Greene. The careful reader might note that none of those things really involves Trump directly, tentatively suggesting that now that he's no longer available to feed their anger, they don't have all that much use for him. Perhaps that is premature, and he'll be front and center once again. But in any event, it's clear that impeachment is basically a non-starter with these folks, too.

Ultimately, our point here is not to take potshots at Parscale, who is a pretty easy target. It's to anticipate that Trump allies will try to spin the impeachment as being beneficial to him, politically. For our part, we just don't see it. (Z)

Raffensperger's Office Launches Investigation into Trump Phone Call

Speaking of criminal investigations against Donald Trump, there is now one underway in Georgia. The office of Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) announced that it is looking into the now-infamous phone call from Trump to Raffensperger on Jan. 2, when the former president suggested to the Secretary that he "find" enough votes to flip the state into the red column.

Since Raffensperger himself was the recipient of the phone call, we're not sure exactly what it will look like as he investigates the phone call. Perhaps he will interview himself, like William Hurt in "The Big Chill." In any event, Georgia law makes clear that anyone who "solicits, requests, commands, importunes, or otherwise attempts to cause [an]other person to engage in" election fraud is guilty of a crime, and it does not matter one whit whether or not the attempt was successful. Further, Trump was foolish enough to allow himself to be caught on tape (and in Georgia, only one party has to consent to a tape recording for it to be legal). Raffensperger's office does not prosecute—they will hand their findings over to the DA (or possibly the Georgia AG). However, when that day comes, it sure seems like the lucky DA (Fani Willis) is going to have a slam dunk of a case on her hands. However, if the case ends up with the Georgia AG, Christopher Carr (R), he might decide not to prosecute. (Z)

No DeJoy in Mudville (at Least, Not Yet)

Louis DeJoy's tenure as postmaster general has been disastrous. When he took office in mid-2020, roughly 90% of two-day mail and roughly 80% of 3-to-5-day mail were being delivered on time. Now, those numbers are down to 71% and 38%, respectively.

In part, the fault for the decline of USPS service lies with DeJoy. He mucked around in an effort to influence the election, and also to implement a standard Republican "let's run government like a business" philosophy. Part of the blame lies with the pandemic. And a big part of it lies with constraints that have been imposed upon the USPS by Congress. To take one example, the postal service is required to pre-pay retiree benefits far in advance of when they will be needed. To take a second, they are required to deliver all the mail at the same price, even when doing so means taking a huge loss.

In any event, many Democrats blame DeJoy for the USPS' failures (which is partly fair) and would really like to see him gone. And Joe Biden would love to accommodate them. However, he can't do it. By the terms of a law passed by Congress—ironically, to keep the postmaster generalship from becoming politicized—a president cannot fire the PG. Only the nine-member board of governors can do that. By (yet another) law, the board may have no more than 5 members from any given political party at a time. Right now, it has 4 Republicans, 2 Democrats (one whose term has expired and is waiting to be replaced), and 3 open seats.

At this point, you might be saying: "Easy-peasy. Biden can appoint 3-4 more Democrats and then send DeJoy packing." Not so fast, though. First of all, the one Democrat on the board whose term has not expired, Donald Lee Moak, is a Trump appointee who voted to hire DeJoy in the first place. Moak is not likely to vote for termination. Second, the new appointees would have to be approved by the Senate, and can be filibustered. It won't be easy to get 3-4 people approved, especially since Senate Republicans already blocked most of Barack Obama's USPS board appointees.

This leaves the President with four options:

  1. Change the law: It's pretty clear that Congress needs to take action as regards the USPS, in order to keep the service viable as an ongoing concern. And those discussions are already underway. The bill that results could easily get rid of the "the president cannot fire the PG" rule, since it didn't work to keep the job apolitical anyhow. However, getting both chambers to agree on a bill, and then getting that bill past filibuster-happy Senate Republicans, is no small feat.

  2. Fire 'em all: It is legal for the president to fire USPS board members, but only if they are guilty of malfeasance. Biden could argue that by allowing DeJoy to take a hammer to the postal service and doing nothing to stop him, the board members were guilty of malfeasance and are thus fireable. But they would sue, and would probably win, because that would be a definition of malfeasance out of line with standard practice (you have to actually do something bad yourself, not sit by while someone else does something bad).

  3. File suit: Biden could challenge any of the laws that tie his hands, like the one that makes the PG unfireable. He might even win...three years from now.

  4. Be patient: One of Trump's appointees to the USPS board, John McLeod Barger, reaches the end of his term in December. So, Biden could wait until then, and try to seat another anti-DeJoy member. If the President's first four picks have been approved, then this would be enough to tip the scales.

In short, this particular problem is not going to be easy to solve, short-term. Unfortunately for Biden, the problem also can't wait. Beyond the political dimensions, a properly functioning USPS is important in a whole bunch of ways, from driving economic activity to facilitating legal proceedings to delivering medicine. Maybe the President can call the Jewish folks in California and arrange to borrow the space laser. We're not suggesting he vaporize DeJoy, mind you; it should be enough to merely fill the PG's house with popcorn. (Z)

Red-colored Sharks Are Circling Newsom

In 2018, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-CA) won election by 24 points. His predecessor, Jerry Brown (D), won election by 20 points in 2014 and by 13 points in 2010. Perhaps you notice a trend here. If not, we'll point it out to you: It is really hard for a Republican to take over the California governor's mansion these days. The last time someone did it without benefit of a recall election was in 1990, when Pete Wilson was elected on an anti-immigrant platform. Our staff mathematicians tell us that was more than 30 years ago.

So, winning a normal gubernatorial election is a tough hill for the GOP to climb. A recall, by contrast, is much less so. All it takes for a recall is for a majority of voters to give the thumbs down to the incumbent, and they are tossed out on their ear. Then, the job goes to the top finisher in a jungle-style election, held concurrently with the recall. If the Republicans unify behind a single candidate, and the Democrats split their votes, then the Republican can come out on top.

This is precisely what happened in 2003. Then-governor Gray Davis (D) was once a popular fellow, winning his first gubernatorial election by 20 points in 1998. His reelection went less well, in part because of the presence of a serious third-party challenge, but at least he won. Then, with California hit hard by fluctuations in the energy market, and electric bills skyrocketing, a majority soured on Davis. So, they told him "hasta la vista, baby" (with 55% voting that way) and then replaced him with The Terminator, who claimed 48.6% of the vote in the jungle election.

Now, California Republicans think they might be able to run the same playbook, and their efforts are gaining some steam. Like Davis before him, the once-popular Newsom has been weakened by events that took place on his watch. This time, it's not fluctuations in the energy market, it's COVID-19. The Governor has vacillated back and forth between strong and weak measures, and was photographed partying at the state's fanciest restaurant without a mask. Not easy to squeeze "elitist" and "hypocritical" into a single picture, but Newsom did it.

However, the GOP still faces an uphill battle. First, the math is daunting—the red team would have to unify behind a candidate (doable), but would also have to peel off a pretty big chunk of the folks who voted for Newsom in the first place—about 20% of them (much, much harder). Second, it is plain as day that this whole thing is being funded by Trumpy Republicans, many of them from out of state. Californians don't like carpetbaggers any more than anyone else does, and they like Cartrumpetbaggers even less. If there is a runoff, the Democrats will point out over and over who is funding it. Third, the GOP doesn't exactly have another popular international action star waiting in the wings to run. Their current preferred candidate is former ambassador to Germany and former acting DNI Richard Grenell, in part on the theory that Democrats will cross over to vote for him because he's gay. The Republicans will have to do better than that; the chance to elect a gay governor might win a few left-leaning voters over, but nothing close to the numbers they'll need. (Z)

Fetterman Throws His (Sizable) Hat into the Ring

John Fetterman, formerly the mayor of the small steel town of Braddock, and currently the lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania, is the kind of politician who causes people to sit up and take notice. In part, that is because he is 6'8" and tattooed, two facts that are mentioned in approximately 99.99% of stories written about him. In part, that is because he is outspoken and is generously endowed with charisma, such that the people who like him tend to really like him.

A few weeks ago, Fetterman said that he was seriously considering a run for the Senate seat that Pat Toomey (R-PA) has decided to vacate on Jan. 4, 2023. Yesterday, the Lieutenant Governor made it official with a launch video in which he promised to pull a Chuck Grassley and campaign in every county in Pennsylvania. "Every county, every vote," were his exact words. He also revealed that he raised $1.4 million during his "maybe a candidate" period. That's a nice start, though if he goes the distance, it will prove a drop in the bucket. Staging a U.S. Senate campaign in a large, competitive state these days comes with a price tag of $100 million to $150 million. Thanks, Citizens United! Anyhow, if Fetterman hasn't figured it out already, he will soon learn that greed is good when it comes to running for the Senate.

Fetterman is not the DSCC's ideal candidate. They don't like outside-the-box folks, first of all. Beyond that, Fetterman is an outspoken progressive who supports a $15 minimum wage, marijuana legalization and LGBTQ+ rights. That might not play too well in the Alabama portion of Pennsylvania. So, the pooh-bahs would prefer a more by-the-book, centrist blue-collar type, like Rep. Conor Lamb (D-PA). They will undoubtedly line up behind the Representative if (when?) he enters the race.

That said, Fetterman is great on TV, and will attract plenty of voters who would otherwise not vote, or would vote Republican. Further, one cannot help but notice that the progressive positions he's staked out are the ones most likely to resonate with Obama-Trump voters. He's also the first candidate to get going, and he's already won statewide election in Pennsylvania (unlike Lamb). So, he's certainly intriguing, and it would not be at all surprising if he wins the nomination and then the election. (Z)

Rep. Ron Wright Succumbs to COVID-19

In December, representative-elect Luke Letlow passed away from COVID-19. And now, a sitting member of the House has fallen victim to the disease, as the family of Rep. Ron Wright (R-TX) announced Monday that he died from complications of COVID-19. The Representative, who was already battling cancer, developed symptoms on or about Jan. 18 and tested positive for COVID shortly thereafter. Jan. 18 is 12 days after the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection, and the gestation period for SARS-CoV-2 is 2-14 days. Readers may reach their own conclusions as to whether or not Wright should be counted as the sixth victim of that day.

Wright's seat will be filled via a special election to be held in roughly 50 days. If no candidate claims a majority of the votes, there will be a runoff roughly 25 days later. The district, TX-06, includes much of the area to the southwest and south of Dallas. It is R+9 and it hasn't been represented by a Democrat since 1983, when Phil Gramm (D) was, in effect, knocked off by...Phil Gramm (R). Gramm decided to switch parties, but wanted the approval of his constituents, and so resigned and then won the special election prompted by his resignation. In any case, the Texas Democratic Party will try to find a candidate who can make things competitive in the special election, but they don't quite know who that might be. (Z)

This was not planned in advance, but today's post ended up with references to six 1980s movies, one each from 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, and 1987. One in every item, except for the last item (where it seemed inappropriate). Did you catch them all? We'll list them in this space tomorrow.

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Feb08 Key Questions about Trump's Trial
Feb08 The Trial Could Be a Public Relations Disaster for the Republicans
Feb08 No More Dog Whistles
Feb08 Biden Doesn't Think the $15/hr Minimum Wage Will Be Allowed in the COVID Bill
Feb08 Trump Won't Get Intelligence Briefings
Feb08 Fox Is Worried
Feb08 "You Probably Haven't Heard of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson"
Feb08 Report: Shelby Won't Run in 2022
Feb08 Boebert Has Three Democratic Opponents Already
Feb08 Judge Says Tenney Won
Feb08 What Is the Defense Production Act?
Feb07 Sunday Mailbag
Feb06 Saturday Q&A
Feb05 America First Couldn't Last
Feb05 Greene's New Deal
Feb05 Trump Refuses to Testify
Feb05 The Day AFTRA
Feb05 Double Trouble for Fox News
Feb05 Pence Makes His Move
Feb05 Judy, Judy, Judy...
Feb04 Schumer and McConnell Have a Deal
Feb04 Biden Is Willing to Compromise a Little on the Stimulus Checks
Feb04 The Future of the Republican Party Is Here Now
Feb04 Warren Will Join the Senate Finance Committee
Feb04 Ocasio-Cortez Is Threatening to Primary Schumer
Feb04 Senate Won't Vote on Merrick Garland's Nomination
Feb04 Bills about Voting Are All the Rage in State Legislatures
Feb04 You, Too, Can Gerrymander
Feb04 Could Ivanka Trump Beat Marco Rubio in a Primary?
Feb03 The Case of the Two Impeachment Cases
Feb03 Buttigieg and Mayorkas Confirmed
Feb03 Sanders Takes His Best Shot at $15/Hour
Feb03 Schiff Wants to be California AG
Feb03 Biden Has a Mini-Scandal
Feb03 Newsmax Boots Mike Lindell
Feb03 Lin Wood Under Investigation for Illegal Voting
Feb02 Senate Republicans Unveil COVID-19 Relief Plan, Meet with Biden
Feb02 Graham Refuses to Schedule Garland Hearing
Feb02 The GOP Civil War Is Out in the Open
Feb02 Trump Has a New Defense Team
Feb02 Why Trump Lost, According to His Own Pollster
Feb02 Donald Trump, Russian Asset
Feb02 Jockeying for the 2022 Senate Elections Is Well Underway
Feb01 Biden's First Actions Are Popular
Feb01 Republican Senators Offer Biden a "Compromise" on COVID-19 Relief
Feb01 Trump's Impeachment Lawyers Quit
Feb01 Why Did Democrats Win in Georgia and Lose in North Carolina?
Feb01 Trump Raised $255 Million after the Election
Feb01 Democrats Also Have Some Cash in the Bank
Feb01 Beware of the Gerrymander