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TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  Romney Chickens Out
      •  More Detail in Georgia RICO Case Revealed
      •  House Rejects Motion to Impeach Mayorkas
      •  Sinema Left the Democrats and Her Donors Left Her
      •  More Republicans in Safe Districts Are Throwing in the Towel

Romney Chickens Out

We all know that Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) has a backbone of rubber. Turns out his niece, RNC Chair Ronna Romney McDaniel does, too. Must be a family trait. She wants the remaining Republican candidates all to herself. In particular, she doesn't want them "debating" for anyone else, just for her. Selfish woman. Specifically, Bob Vander Plaats, CEO of the Family Leader, an Iowa evangelical group, is planning a "forum," at which all the candidates could salute Jesus and say that their favorite Bible passage is the (nonexistent) one where He condemns abortion. Or something.

When she got wind of this invitation, McDaniel sent all the candidates a letter with this text about the forum: "Accordingly, please be advised that any Republican presidential candidate who participates in this or other similar events will be deemed to have violated this pledge and will be disqualified from taking part in any future RNC-sanctioned presidential primary debates."

Brave words: You cross me and you're toast. Problem is, Vander Plaats really wants to hold his forum and Iowa evangelicals see him as their real leader. So who are they going to listen to, him or McDaniel?

Well, it took about a week to figure this out. Word got back to McDaniel that some or all of them had promised Vander Plaats that they were going to be there, come hell or high water. After all, nobody is going to watch the fourth and probably final debate, but every evangelical in Iowa is going to watch the Vander Plaats show. So she put her tail between her legs and backed off. After all, Vander Plaats calls his event, where all the candidates will be on stage talking about Jesus and politics a "forum," not a "debate." Presto! It is fine to participate. Problem solved. True grit on display here. (V)

More Detail in Georgia RICO Case Revealed

Part of the arrangement for the conspirators who took a plea deal in the Georgia RICO case was that they would sit for a recorded video interview under oath with prosecutors. There they told their stories. These recordings were made to ensure that in court they would tell the same stories. Telling conflicting versions of the same story under oath is one of those silly no-no's the courts have. Making up new stories in court that contradicted the earlier recordings would get them nailed for perjury. The recordings are a kind of insurance policy for the prosecutors to make sure the witnesses don't get cold feet after a few rounds of intimidation by Donald Trump.

Somehow, the recordings leaked out and The Washington Post got ahold of them and ran an article describing some new facts not previously public. The audio quality was poor on some of them, suggesting that they were not the original recordings, but that someone had a recording app going on a cell phone while the originals were being played. The interviews were from Jenna Ellis, Kenneth "The Cheese" Chesebro, Sidney Powell, and Scott Hall. None of the interviews are wildly incriminating, but every piece of evidence that Trump knew he was trying to overturn an election could help the case.

Here are a few of the new revelations.

  • Ellis: Late in 2020, when Ellis told Trump's deputy chief of staff Dan Scavino that they were running out of options, Scavino told her: "And he [Trump] said to me, you know, in a kind of excited tone, 'Well we don't care and we're not going to leave.'" This indicates that Trump probably knew he lost and was determined to stay on anyway. One problem with this testimony is that Trump's lawyers will tell the judge it is inadmissible because it is hearsay. Ellis didn't hear Trump say that and testifying "Somebody told me X" could be ruled inadmissible. Of course, now that the cat is out of the bag, the prosecution could call Scavino to testify, and his testimony would be as an eyewitness and definitely admissible.

  • Chesebro: In a previously unreported meeting, Chesebro told Trump about the scheme for fake electors. He is an eyewitness and his testimony will kill off any defense from Trump that he didn't know about the fake electors scheme. He also played a role in transporting the fake certificates from Wisconsin to the Capitol (he is from Wisconsin).

  • Powell: When prosecutors pressed Powell about why Trump was listening to her and not the White House counsel and other official lawyers she said: "Because we were the only ones willing to support his effort to sustain the White House. I mean, everybody else was telling him to pack up and go." In other words, Powell can testify that Trump knew from the White House counsel's office and others that he lost and it was over. With his own official lawyers telling him it was over, it will be much harder for him to claim: "I really thought I won."

  • Hall: He claimed that his visit to Coffee County, where the election equipment was breached, was merely that of a "political tourist." He was expecting to be reimbursed for $10,000 for the private jet travel there and wasn't. He's angry about that. His testimony may not be terribly useful, except that he can finger whoever sent him there (maybe Rudy Giuliani?). That part could be useful to the prosecutors. He also said that codefendant Robert Cheeley asked him to find Ruby Freeman after she went into hiding after Giuliani attacked her and accused her of stuffing the ballot box. He is a bail bondsman by trade and they are used to trying to catch people who jump bail and are hiding somewhere. His testimony could put Cheeley under pressure to flip and tell who put him up to asking Hall to find Freeman (again, maybe Giuliani?).

There's more and parts of the recordings were inaudible. No doubt Fulton County DA has long had the originals transcribed and has the transcripts. Also, all the guilty parties know there were multiple witnesses in the room when they told their stories, so it is very unlikely any one of them will reflip in court. (V)

House Rejects Motion to Impeach Mayorkas

Some House Republicans are just itching to impeach somebody in the administration. They don't really care who. After all, the Democrats impeached their guy twice, so they are entitled to two impeachments. First on the list was Joe Biden, since that is tit-for-tat. The problem there is that some older and wiser Republicans pointed out what happened when they made plans to impeach Bill Clinton in 1998. The plan backfired spectacularly and the usual big win by the opposition party in the midterm elections didn't happen. Instead, the Democrats picked up five House seats—precisely the number they need now to gain the majority. So Plan A went nowhere.

Plan B was to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas for not stopping people from crossing the border illegally (even though Congress has been unable to get a bill through providing him the funding he would need to beef up border security). Claiming that Mayorkas has committed a high crime or misdemeanor because some Republicans don't like what is going on at the border is stretching it, and other Republicans fear the same kind of blowback that they got in 1998. Anyway, yesterday there was a vote in the House to send the resolution to the Homeland Security Committee, thus preventing a floor vote on it. It passed 209-201. Most likely, the resolution will die in the Committee.

The big loser here is Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), the Georgia firebrand who forced the vote. All the Democrats present and eight Republicans voted to send the resolution to the Committee and skip the vote for now. Greene was not a happy camper. After the vote, she said: "I cannot believe this, I'm outraged. I can assure you that Republican voters will be extremely angry that they've done this." Sure, a year from now voters in 435 districts will base their votes on an obscure procedural vote in the House a year earlier about impeaching an official most voters have never heard of. She threatened a new motion. Boy is she angry.

If nothing else, it shows that Greene doesn't actually run the House, much as she thinks she does. It is possible that the Committee will recommend that the resolution be approved, but the eight Republicans who didn't like it yesterday probably still won't like it because they are afraid of the blowback as a conviction in the Senate is unthinkable and a trial would give Mayorkas a big platform to make the same case he already made to the House. He told the House that he has 24,000 agents on the border and they are using every method possible, human and electronic, to stem the flow of illegal immigrants. If only Congress would appropriate more money for his department, he could hire even more. So Congress, please get moving here. To the average voter, will such testimony sound like he has committed a high crime or misdemeanor? Eight Republicans don't want to chance it. (V)

Sinema Left the Democrats and Her Donors Left Her

We've never understood what kind of game Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ) is playing. If she voted with the Democrats or at least with Sen. Mark Kelly (D-AZ), who sometimes bucks the party line, she would not have drawn a primary opponent and could probably have beaten pretend-governor Kari Lake (R) easily next year. But for her own (unknown) reasons, she blocked Joe Biden at every turn. She was actually worse than Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), who was opposing Biden because that's what his constituents wanted.

Now she appears to be reaping what she sowed. She hasn't announced whether she will run for reelection, but if she does, she is likely to have a money problem and maybe a voter problem. The Democratic candidate is all but certain to be Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), a telegenic former Marine, a Latino, and Harvard graduate. Sinema raised $4.6 million through Q3 of this year, compared to Gallego's $10 million, and her fundraising keeps dropping quarter by quarter, as shown here.

Kyrsten Sinema's fundraising for Q1, Q2, and Q3 2023

She has more in the bank ($10 million) than he does, but most of it is from the time before she became an independent.

Politico has made a study of what Sinema's former donors are doing. So far this year her former big donors (those giving at least $200) have given her $277,000, but have given Gallego $691,000. That's not a good sign. Gallego has also raised $1.7 million from Kelly's big donors. In short, the Democratic donors see Gallego as their candidate, not Sinema. In short, her donor base has dried up and she is going to have to make it on her charm alone.

One thing she does have going for her that most Senate candidates do not is that she is getting some donations from both Democrats and Republicans. Of her donors this year, 640 have a donation history only on ActBlue while 200 have a donation history only on WinRed. Another 370 have donated on both platforms.

She is also losing in a three-way race with Gallego and Lake. The NRSC recently revealed a poll showing Gallego beating Lake by 4 points, with Sinema getting only a miserable 17%. Democrats hate her and Republicans have their own candidate in Lake. Her support is probably mostly from sane Republicans who can't stand Lake, but that may not be enough to carry the day. Arizona doesn't have runoffs, so if Gallego gets 40% of the vote and it's more than either Lake or Sinema gets, then he wins.

So far, the DSCC hasn't given Gallego any money. Normally it supports incumbents. But if Gallego continues to show that he is a good fundraiser and is doing well in the polls, the DSCC could abandon Sinema altogether and just pump money into Gallego's campaign. Of course, with things looking down for her, she could decide not to run and go find something else to do, maybe a gig on Fox News. She wouldn't be an effective lobbyist because a lobbyist's power is cajoling former colleagues into helping her clients. Her former Democratic colleagues hate her and Republicans aren't wild about her either because on judges, nominations, and some other issues, she did vote with the Democrats. (V)

More Republicans in Safe Districts Are Throwing in the Towel

When large numbers of members in the majority party who are in absolutely safe districts decide not to run for reelection, there is something in the wind. Now two more are calling it quits.

Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX), in TX-26, a badly gerrymandered R+13 district north and south of Denton, TX, but not including Denton, has had enough. Denton is north of Dallas/Fort Worth. Burgess beat the son of then-House Majority Leader Dick Armey in 2002 with the slogan "My dad is NOT Dick Armey." He's been in the House ever since. He is 72 and in an R+13 district and could easily serve another 10-20 years if he wanted to. But he said: "There's still an enormous capacity to do good, but for me it was just the right time. I'm older than dirt." And Texas dirt is really old.

Fellow Texan Pat Fallon has also had it with the House. He is in TX-04, an R+16 district that gives gerrymandering a bad name. Here it is:

House district TX-04

TX-04 is a white, middle-class district some 90 miles northeast of Dallas. This will be the fourth Dallas-area House vacancy.

Fallon is only 55. He could serve another 30 years, easily. Why is he leaving a cushy job that requires no actual work and pays $174,000/year? He plans to run for the Texas Senate seat he once held. Get this: The members' own regard for the House is so low that at least one member regards serving in a state legislature as a promotion. This is not only man bites dog, but man repeatedly bites fleeing dog and chases it to bite some more until the dog screams for mercy and the man keeps biting. And when the dog catcher grabs him, he starts biting the dog catcher until the dog catcher runs away so the man can continue biting the dog.

So far, ten House Republicans are retiring. Here is the list.

Representative Party District PVI Reason for retirement
Brad Wenstrup Republican OH-02 R+25 No clear reason; at 65 he apparently just had enough
Alex Mooney Republican WV-02 R+22 He is running for Joe Manchin's Senate seat in West Virginia
Dan Bishop Republican NC-08 R+20 He is running for the open AG seat in North Carolina
Jim Banks Republican IN-03 R+18 He is running for the open Indiana Senate seat
Pat Fallon Republican TX-04 R+16 He is running for the Texas state Senate!
Ken Buck Republican CO-04 R+13 He keeps bucking his party and getting nowhere; he's sick of it
Michael Burgess Republican TX-26 R+13 He thinks he is older than dirt at 72
Kay Granger Republican TX-12 R+12 She is 80 and tired of being pushed around by the Freedom Caucus
Victoria Spartz Republican IN-05 R+11 Possibly due to some run-ins with Kevin McCarthy
Debbie Lesko Republican AZ-08 R+10 She is tired of Washington

Ten Republicans in absolutely safe districts are quitting. Four are running for some other office, but six are just fed up with the House. That's too much to be chance. Only one is old (Kay Granger) and she has an enormously powerful position as chair of the Appropriations Committee. People normally don't give up that kind of power, but she's just fed up with the whole thing. Something is going on here. By February, we'll know how many more people have had it. So far there are 28 (including Brian Higgins, who will quit in February and will be replaced in a special election). (V)

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