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Political Wire logo FBI Urges Police Chiefs to Be on High Alert
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TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  Ghosts of Republicans Past
      •  Sheldon Adelson Dies
      •  Biden Likely to Pick Gary Gensler to Chair the SEC
      •  SCOTUS Issues First Abortion Decision of the Barrett Era
      •  And Now It Is Three
      •  YouTube Joins Facebook, Twitter in Banning Donald Trump
      •  Michael Madigan Is Out as Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives

Ghosts of Republicans Past

The march toward a second impeachment of Donald Trump continued on Tuesday, as the President's position noticeably deteriorated, seemingly getting worse by the hour. The day's events brought to mind two different prominent Republicans of previous generations.

The first of those is Abraham Lincoln. On December 1, 1862, Lincoln's State of the Union address was read to the members of Congress (presidents did not deliver the speech in person in that era). In the speech, Lincoln called for the legislature to once again consider colonization—government purchase of enslaved people, followed by repatriation to Africa—as a solution to the slavery problem. Colonization had already failed spectacularly, its non-viability quite clear 20 years before Lincoln made the suggestion. He had no expectation that Congress would actually listen; Lincoln's purpose was to give himself political cover so that he could say "Hey! I tried every other option!" before issuing the Emancipation Proclamation. Congress did ignore him, of course, and he issued the Proclamation precisely one month later.

On Tuesday, following the same basic playbook, the House of Representatives voted on a resolution calling for Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment and to assume the presidency. The vote was almost entirely along party lines, with one Republican (Adam Kinzinger of Illinois) joining with the Democrats and another five Republicans not voting. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) & Co. know full well that Pence is not going to follow their suggestion; he made that clear in a letter sent to the Speaker before the vote. But Pelosi is a shrewd operator who wants things to be as airtight as possible. And now she can say "We tried to find a better solution; impeachment was the only option left."

As a sidebar, incidentally, Pence is trying to walk a fine line and to keep from taking sides. Apparently he has forgotten John F. Kennedy's favorite quote, a paraphrase of Dante: "The hottest places in Hell are reserved for those who in time of moral crisis preserve their neutrality." The Lincoln Project has already produced an ad slamming Pence as a spineless worm who stands for nothing and does nothing:

The Lincoln Project doesn't speak for all Republicans, but it does reflect the views of the Never Trump wing of the Party fairly well. Meanwhile, the Trump wing wants Pence hanged. In short, the VP has no real political base left. Good luck with that 2024 presidential run, Mike!

Anyhow, with the 25th Amendment off the table, Pelosi has scheduled a vote on the article of impeachment today. She knows it's going to pass, of course. Indeed, she's already moved on to the next step in the process, and has named the nine members of her caucus who will serve as impeachment managers. They are:

Member Home Qualifications
Jamie Raskin Maryland Lawyer with expertise in constitutional law, member of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform
Diana DeGette Colorado Civil rights lawyer, longtime member of House leadership, chair of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce's Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations
David Cicilline Rhode Island Former public defender, current member of the House Judiciary Committee
Joaquin Castro Texas General practice lawyer, chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee's Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations
Eric Swalwell California Former prosecutor, current member of the House Judiciary Committee
Ted Lieu California Former member of the JAG Corps, current member of the House Judiciary Committee
Stacey Plaskett Virgin Islands Former DA and Justice Dept. official, former member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform
Joe Neguse Colorado General practice lawyer, vice-chair of the House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law
Madeleine Dean Pennsylvania General practice lawyer, member of the House Judiciary Committee

Raskin will be the lead manager, the same role that Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) played during the first impeachment. None of the managers from that impeachment are making a return; Pelosi wants to spread the wealth.

When the House formally votes today, there is little doubt that every Democrat will support impeachment. After all, they all supported the resolution calling for the 25th Amendment to be invoked. Considerably more interesting will be what happens on the other side of the aisle. At least five GOP members have already announced that they will vote for impeachment: Kinzinger, Fred Upton (MI), John Katko (NY), Jaime Herrera Beutler (WA), and Liz Cheney (WY), with the latter calling it a "vote of conscience." Reportedly, numerous other Republicans are thinking about joining the movement. Especially the ones who can think ahead and realize that if Republicans win the House in 2022, Cheney is potentially the new speaker and will undoubtedly remember who was with her and who wasn't in this moment of crisis.

More interesting still will be what happens when the matter finally gets before the Senate, a place where Trump's life just got a lot more complicated. That leads us to the second Republican of generations past that Tuesday's events brought to mind: Barry Goldwater. Most readers will know, because we've mentioned it many times, that Richard Nixon knew his goose was cooked when then-senator Goldwater visited the White House to tell Tricky Dick that there were enough votes in the Senate to convict him. Well, we may have had our Goldwater moment on Tuesday, as Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) let it be known that he's pleased about the impeachment.

McConnell did not say this directly, of course, but his feelings would not have been shared with the world unless he wanted them to be (especially since the person who broke the story was Maggie Haberman, whom McConnell often uses to publicly communicate "off the record" thoughts). Like Pelosi, McConnell is a shrewd operator. He knows that, given how badly Trump is damaged right now, not to mention the President's consistently putting his own needs ahead of those of the party, the GOP would be much better off pulling the band-aid off, and getting rid of Trump quickly and cleanly while they have the chance. Further, the Majority Leader will not appear on a ballot for six years, assuming he doesn't just retire (he'd be 84 in 2026). So, if he takes the lead in supporting impeachment, McConnell will give cover to other Republicans to vote for impeachment (in the House) or conviction (in the Senate). In fact, if things continue to deteriorate for Trump, McConnell might even urge all the Republicans not up in 2022 to vote for conviction on the grounds that while Trump can pick off one or two, he can't pick off 20 or 30.

Another important dynamic here, one that is undoubtedly on the mind of McConnell and other Republicans who are thinking about how to play this, is money. Many corporate donors, which historically have preferred to invest in GOP candidates, have turned off the money spigot right now as they evaluate the situation. It's clear that they don't want the bad PR of supporting politicians who aided the insurrection. On top of that, the #1 financial supporter of Trump and of Trump-loving candidates died yesterday (more below). Meanwhile, lots of money is flowing in the direction of members who support impeachment, most notably the $50 million that Defending Democracy Together has pledged to defend Republicans who vote for impeachment/conviction. Add it up, and some Republicans could decide to back impeachment simply because it's better for their next campaign's financial bottom line. And given that Sens. McConnell, Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Ben Sasse (R-NE), and Pat Toomey (R-PA) have all publicly expressed support for convicting Trump, it's not impossible that the Democrats will eventually find the 17 Republican votes they need to seal the deal in the Senate.

It's not just the Republican members of Congress who are now standing up to Trump, incidentally. Normally, military leadership stays out of politics, because that is what they are expected and required to do. However, in an unprecedented development, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark A. Milley and his fellow members of the Joint Chiefs issued a joint statement (a joint Joint statement?) denouncing "sedition and insurrection" and making clear that "On January 20, 2021, in accordance with the Constitution, confirmed by the states and the courts, and certified by Congress, President-elect Biden will be inaugurated and will become our 46th Commander in Chief."

Trump, for his part, seems to be developing an awareness that he's dug a big hole for himself, and that he's not just exposed impeachment-wise, but that he could face criminal liability for inciting the riot, and perhaps even for inciting the murder of Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick. On Tuesday, the President delivered an address in which he: (1) disclaimed any responsibility for the insurrection, and (2) called for his followers to reject violence. One cannot take this as sincere; quite clearly Trump got some very good advice about exactly what he needed to say in order to reduce his legal exposure.

The vote on the article of impeachment is scheduled for sometime after 7:00 p.m. ET today, so House Republicans are going to have all day long to agonize about their vote. Or, in the case of Louie Gohmert (R-TX), to practice walking and chewing gum at the same time. And then, on Thursday morning, the ball will be in the U.S. Senate's court for when they reconvene on Jan 19. Hopefully their two week recess will afford them enough time to rest up from the three days they were in session before adjourning. (Z)

Sheldon Adelson Dies

Sheldon Adelson, casino magnate and the most mega (and the most MAGA) of Republican mega-donors, died on Tuesday at the age of 87. He succumbed to non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma, a diagnosis he made public last year.

Adelson gave more support to Republican candidates in general, and to Donald Trump in particular, than any other donor in the country—an average of well over $100 million a year for the last decade. The primary issues he promoted with his spending were a hawkishness on Israel and hostility to labor unions. He could probably have gotten the latter out of the GOP for free, but perhaps he felt it was better safe than sorry. The money that flowed from Adelson (and from the Kochs, one who died in 2019, and the other who is 85) served as something of a crutch for the Republican Party, and caused them to focus less than they should have on small, grassroots donations. They tried to play catch-up in 2020, but still lag the Democrats in that area by quite a bit.

Adelson's other pet cause, which is much less known than his support for Israel and his opposition to unions, was his crusade to keep marijuana illegal. His son Mitchell died after taking a speedball (heroin mixed with cocaine), and Adelson felt that pot was the gateway drug that led Mitchell down the road to the hard stuff. With Adelson's passing, it would not be terribly surprising to see marijuana legalized nationally within the year.

The disposition of Adelson's wealth—how much will go to his wife, to his four remaining children, to foundations and trusts, etc.—is not known. Nor are the political priorities of those folks, beyond the fact that Miriam Adelson (who was born, raised, and got her M.D. in Tel Aviv) is also hawkish on Israel. In any event, the GOP should probably not plan on any further $100 million years. (Z)

Biden Likely to Pick Gary Gensler to Chair the SEC

There aren't too many headline-making appointments left for Joe Biden to announce. Unless he does something like pick Arnold Schwarzenegger as ambassador to Austria, or appoint Hillary Clinton to the Federal Election Commission, there just aren't too many people who care about, say, the Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs. However, there are a few biggies left, and on Tuesday Biden signaled his likely pick for one of them: Gary Gensler to lead the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The nomination of Gensler, should it come to pass, will presumably gladden the hearts of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party. While he was once a partner at Goldman Sachs, he has spent most of the last three decades in public service, including stints with the Bill Clinton Treasury Department and the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign. However, his most notable service came under Barack Obama, when Gensler led the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), and slapped banks with a bunch of rules designed to rein in the bad behavior that led to the Great Recession. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) initially opposed Gensler's appointment to the CFTC, but became a staunch supporter after seeing how Gensler wielded his power.

Presumably, Biden trial ballooned Gensler's name because of the risk that the would-be SEC chair might be a little too lefty to collect all 50 Democratic votes in the Senate. So, there will now be a window for Blue Dogs to air any potential concerns. That said, the good news for Biden/Gensler is that the Blue Doggiest Democrats in the Senate (Joe Manchin, WV, and Kyrsten Sinema, AZ) are from states not known for having powerful banking/financial interests. So, Gensler's chances are pretty good, even if it takes a tiebreaking vote from Kamala Harris to get him past the finish line. (Z)

SCOTUS Issues First Abortion Decision of the Barrett Era

Mifepristone is a drug that women can take to end a pregnancy that is less than 10 weeks along (it can also be used by diabetics to control blood sugar, interestingly enough). For many years, FDA rules required a doctor's visit in order to get the drug. Then, during the COVID-19 pandemic, several federal judges suspended that requirement, finding it to be an undue burden on patients. The Trump administration wanted to resume enforcement of the rule, and asked for permission from the Supreme Court. On Tuesday evening, SCOTUS granted that permission by a vote of...wait for it...6-3.

The specific decision is actually pretty irrelevant, as the FDA rule in question is likely to be eliminated at, oh, 12:10 p.m. on Jan. 20. However, this is the first time that SCOTUS has dipped its toes into the abortion-rights pond since Amy Coney Barrett was seated. Given that the announcement came after the close of business, and the night before a second impeachment vote in the House, it certainly appears that Chief Justice John Roberts was trying to sneak it in under the radar, as if to establish an anti-abortion beachhead. We shall see what the GOP and the Court do with the king of wedge issues in the next four years, though it is worth keeping in mind that only 20% of Americans want to see abortions outlawed completely. (Z)

And Now It Is Three

Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ) appears to be the first member of Congress to have contracted COVID-19 after hiding in a closed space with maskless Republican colleagues during the invasion of the Capitol. Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) appears to be the second and, on Tuesday, Rep. Brad Schneider (D-IL) said that he is the third. It is not yet known which member, if any, was the source of the germs that infected the three representatives. And because revealing a diagnosis is voluntary for members, we may never know. On the other hand, it's not an easy thing to hide.

This has the potential to become a major scandal, depending on how things unfold. The maskless Republicans were specifically offered masks to wear, and warned that some of their colleagues (including Coleman) are immunocompromised, and yet they still declined. At least one of them (Markwayne Mullin, R-OK) was caught on video refusing, declaring "I'm not trying to get political here."

If any members become seriously ill, or if one of them succumbs, there could be a reckoning here. In fact, it's not impossible that someone like Mullin could face criminal charges if he's found to be the point of origin for the infection. For now, the House is going to crack down on members who go maskless, with a $500 fine for the first offense and a $2500 fine for subsequent offenses. The anti-maskers and the pro-Trumpers are also the same faction, so this could also play a role in possible censures or expulsions. (Z)

YouTube Joins Facebook, Twitter in Banning Donald Trump

These days, all the cool kids are dropping Donald Trump like a bad habit. Facebook was first to make an aggressive move, cutting the President off until, at very least, the end of this term. Then, Twitter did them one better and cut him off for life. Now, YouTube has joined the party, following Facebook's lead, and shutting down Trump's channel until "at least" the end of his term.

Facebook, for its part, said its suspension is "indefinite," so they've given themselves some leeway while they wait to see which direction the political winds blow. YouTube, for their part, said that Trump has only accrued one "strike," for inciting violence. In theory, he should be back in a week, until such point that he gets a second strike (two-week suspension) and then a third (lifetime). However, YouTube is not even saying which video it was that earned the first strike. So, it would not be too surprising for them to find a second and third strike next week, if they decide they want to be done with the Donald. (Z)

Michael Madigan Is Out as Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives

If you're not from Illinois, then you might not be familiar with Michael Madigan. On the other hand, if you are from the Land of Lincoln, you know exactly who he is—member of the Illinois House since 1970, speaker of the Illinois House for all but 2 years since 1983, chair of the Illinois Democratic Party since 1998, probably the most powerful person in the state for the last 2-3 decades, and very possibly the last true "machine" politician in America.

This week, Madigan conceded that he does not have the votes to secure another term as Speaker, which means his grip on power is about to be substantially weakened, if not broken entirely. His downfall came for a number of reasons, including that he's been too powerful for too long, he's had some staffers who were guilty of sexual misconduct, he is personally implicated in an influence-peddling scandal, and he's been on the wrong side of some high profile political fights (most obviously backing a failed initiative to switch Illinois from a flat income tax to a graduated one).

On the whole, Madigan's decline is probably good news for the Democratic Party. While he was very good at finding Democratic candidates who could win in purple districts, and while he's a ninja-master-level gerrymanderer, he also consistently put his own needs ahead those of the national Party, and he's become toxic enough that association with him was dragging Democratic candidates down. In any event, you can't remain king of the hill forever, and a nearly four-decade run as puppetmaster is a heck of a thing to pull off. (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Jan12 Insurrection, the Next Chapter: The Impeachment
Jan12 Insurrection, the Next Chapter: The Rioters
Jan12 Insurrection, the Next Chapter: COVID-19
Jan12 Conventional Republicans Push Back Against Trump...
Jan12 ...So Does the Sports World
Jan12 Wolf Is Out at DHS
Jan12 Biden Completes His Cabinet
Jan12 Trump Administration Tries to Stymie Biden, but Success May Be Elusive
Jan12 Trump Was Warned Not to Self-Pardon
Jan12 Parler Sues Amazon
Jan11 Poll: Trump Must Go Now
Jan11 To Impeach or Not to Impeach, That Is the Question
Jan11 Will Big Tech Save Democracy?
Jan11 Will Trump Start His Own Media Empire?
Jan11 Second Republican Senator Says Trump Must Go
Jan11 Dominion Voting Systems Sues Trump Lawyer for $1.3 Billion
Jan11 Biden Can Raise More Revenue without Raising Taxes
Jan11 Reforms That Would Improve Democracy
Jan11 Pennsylvania Senate Race Gets Going
Jan11 Eight Senate Races Could Be Competitive in 2022
Jan10 Sunday Mailbag
Jan09 Impeachment, Part Deux
Jan09 Twitter to Trump: "Bye!"
Jan09 Saturday Q&A
Jan08 Calls for Trump's Removal Are Now Out in the Open
Jan08 Facing Potential Removal, Trump Reads Speech from Teleprompter
Jan08 Electoral College Challenge Could Backfire
Jan08 Is There a Double Standard on Police Response to Protests?
Jan08 Other Fallout from Wednesday's Events
Jan08 Trump Is Working on His Pardon List
Jan08 Pence Will Attend the Inauguration
Jan08 Who Will Run the Senate?
Jan08 How Stable Is Control of the Senate?
Jan08 Bowser Is Hopeful that D.C. Will Become a State
Jan08 Liberals Are Already Pressuring Stephen Breyer to Retire
Jan08 Biden Fills the Last Two Cabinet Positions
Jan08 A Way to Stimulate the Economy and Bypass Congress
Jan07 The Insurrection WILL Be Televised
Jan07 Ossoff Wins
Jan07 It's Garland for AG
Jan07 Reader Predictions
Jan06 Georgia on Everyone's Mind
Jan06 Republicans Plot Their Electoral Vote Challenge Strategy
Jan06 Thanks, Lindsey
Jan06 EPA Administrator Creates Roadblock for Biden
Jan06 Bush Will Attend Biden's Inauguration
Jan06 In the Year 2021, Part II: Our Predictions
Jan05 The GOP Is a House Divided
Jan05 Trump May Have Crossed the Line This Time
Jan05 Trump Is the X Factor in Today's Senate Runoffs