Jun. 09

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New Senate: DEM 48             GOP 52

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Will No One Rid Me of This Meddlesome Cop?

James Comey came, he saw, and he conquered. It was the day everyone in Washington was waiting for, and it did not disappoint, drama-wise. It was billed as the capital's "Super Bowl," in fact, up to and including pubs holding viewing parties and giving discounts on beer and appetizers. This being the case, it does not seem out of order to think of Thursday's events in terms of winners and losers:



So, there we have it. The fallout from this one is going to linger a long while, but of particular interest will be how long Donald Trump manages to keep his tweeting under control, and what other secrets Comey may have shared in his afternoon closed-door meeting with the senators. (Z)

While Washington Watches Comey, Trump Addresses the Faithful

While the rest of the country was riveted to James Comey's testimony, Donald Trump was speaking to the Faith & Freedom Coalition in Washington. Among other things, he said he would never let the evangelical community down, adding: "we are under siege." The use of "we" seems to imply that Trump considers himself an evangelical, which would probably come as a surprise to most of the people in attendance, since he never goes to church and has no interest in religion.

One of his biggest applause lines was when he highlighted his decision to leave the Paris climate agreement, although the relationship between environmental policy and evangelism is not at all clear. Another thing he mentioned that was popular was his push to allow the clergy to openly advocate for and against political candidates from the pulpit. His reception should give him a mood boost, given the rest of the day's news. In fact, the meeting was an oasis from the withering criticism he was facing in the rest of the capital, where Comey's testimony was not only topic A, but also topic B, C, D, down to Z. (V)

Sanders: Trump Absolutely Has Confidence in Sessions

No, not that Sanders. The other one. Yesterday, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders finally answered a question reporters have been asking for weeks: Whether Donald Trump has confidence in Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The answer is "yes." Trump has clearly been frustrated with Sessions, and has humiliated him in public, but he is not planning to replace him. In the end, Sessions has displayed the one characteristic that Trump values most: loyalty, and that may be what saved him.

Besides, if Sessions were forced out, Trump would have to pick a new attorney general and get the Senate to confirm him or her. Assuming that person were not compromised by "the Russia thing," he would presumably take over the investigation of Russiagate and become the boss of special counsel Robert Mueller. Finding someone willing to be in the hot seat wouldn't be easy and getting that person through the Senate could be a difficult project. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein would probably take the job if it were offered and could probably be confirmed easily, but Rosenstein is far too independent for Trump's taste. Under the current circumstances, Trump would have no control of Rosenstein at all, so he's probably better off with Sessions, who is a big fan of Trump's and has shown little independence so far.

Sanders was also asked if Trump has any tapes of his meetings in the Oval Office. She replied that she had "no idea" if any tapes existed. (V)

Gowdy Will Chair House Oversight Committee

Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) has been selected to be chairman of the House Oversight Committee, a position being vacated by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), who is leaving Congress. Gowdy is best known for his role as chairman of the House select committee on Benghazi, a position he used to hound Hillary Clinton with a tenacity that would put Inspector Javert to shame. Gowdy leapfrogged over seven other Republicans on the committee with more seniority than he has.

What Gowdy plans to do as chairman of one of the most powerful committees in the House remains to be seen. Normally, the committee investigates the administration, but with a Republican in the White House, the ever-partisan Gowdy may not have so much interest in doing that. He could continue to examine Hillary Clinton's email server, of course, but that is not likely to get him a lot of headlines. (V)

Ossoff Sets Another Fundraising Record

The Democratic candidate in the GA-06 special election to replace former representative Tom Price, Jon Ossoff, has set yet another fundraising record. He raised $8 million in the primary and another $23 million in the runoff, which will take place on June 20. His opponent, Karen Handel, has not released her fundraising totals. This is already the most expensive House race in history.

On Tuesday, Handel said that she did not support a livable wage, which is likely to hurt her. Polls taken before her remark about the livable wage show the race to be close.

While all the money Ossoff has will allow him to flood the airwaves during the last weeks of the campaign, in a certain sense it might be counterproductive for the donors. The Democrats want to show everyone, especially House Republicans, that they are all vulnerable, even in traditionally Republican districts. But if Ossoff wins this one, Republican are going to be saying: "Sure, any Democrat who can raise $23 million can win a House race, but how many Democrats can do that?" That is certainly true. Since this is the only truly competitive House seat up this Spring, most of the Democratic activists are sending their donations to Ossoff. In the 2018 midterms, there will be 30 or more competitive races, so the money will be greatly diluted. (V)

Tories Fail to Get a Majority

When British Prime Minister Theresa May's decision to call a Snap election has officially backfired. While her Conservative Party will be the largest in parliament, it will no longer have a majority. With two constituencies still in doubt, the Tories have 317 seats, which is 9 short of a majority, and represents a loss of 12 seats. Labour will have at least 261 seats, a gain of 31 (and counting).

The news does not get much better from there for May. Many members of her party are furious that she squandered a majority by calling for elections three years earlier than necessary, and some of them are demanding that she step down. Even if she does not heed their calls, she's going to have a tough time forming a majority government. Labour, the Scottish National Party (35 seats), and the other assorted members (13 seats) are on the opposite side of the aisle, so they are all non-starters. The Conservatives have joined with the Liberal Democrats (12 seats) before, during David Cameron's premiership, but the Lib Dems are categorically opposed to the Brexit. The Democratic Unionists (10 seats) are pro-Brexit, but are also very right-wing, and working with them would hurt the Tories with moderate voters. Labour and Jeremy Corbin may also try to form a "progressive" government, with the Lib Dems, SNP, and minor parties, but would run into the same problem of having not quite enough support to make a majority. A minority government is possible; so too is another snap election later in the year. If that happened, it would be the first time the UK had two elections in a calendar year since 1974.

There is little question that Thursday's results will "soften" the Brexit; the only question (which can be answered only once we know what the government looks like) is how much. At very least, May won't have the leverage she was trying to acquire by calling this election. She may also be beholden to one or more small parties that insist on maintaining some aspects of the UK's relationship with the EU. If Labour somehow takes control, then the Brexit will still happen, but it would be considerably softened, to the point of being only a semi-Brexit. In any event, May could possibly be the only world leader who had a worse day that Donald Trump. (Z)

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