• Troops at Border Are Headed Home
• Acosta Wins
• Trump Causes General Irritation
• Pelosi Opposition Comes into Focus
• Another Whitaker Lawsuit
• Everybody Is Waiting to See What Beto Will Do
Bonus Quote of the Day
Hyde-Smith Apologizes for ‘Public Hanging’ Remark
Fudge Endorses Pelosi’s Bid for Speaker
Trump Sought to Prosecute Clinton and Comey
Democrats Lead In House Popular Vote by Nearly 8 Points
Trump Submits His Answers to Mueller
Yesterday, we used the word "mind-boggling" to describe the thought process of the Trump administration, specifically the President's willingness to keep whining how much better he would have done than Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush if he had been in their shoes. Since Trump can't even solve the problems that are on his desk, it's pretty wild that he's willing to talk so fast and loose about the problems that were on the desks of other presidents. In any event, it's often tempting to use "mind-boggling" to describe what happens in the White House these days, so we try to keep that instinct under control as best we can. Still, yet another mind-boggling situation presented itself on Monday, so we're going to have to call it as we see it. We will have thus exhausted our two-mind-bogglings-a-week quota, and will have to keep our fingers crossed that nothing else mind-boggling happens for the rest of the week.
The new case of mind-boggling behavior comes from the desk of First Daughter Ivanka Trump. The Washington Post has discovered, and is reporting, that she used a personal e-mail account to conduct much government business, including conversations with Cabinet officials, White House aides, and various assistants. This, of course, would be the same Ivanka Trump whose father campaigned long and loudly on "Crooked" Hillary Clinton's use of a private e-mail server, and who still leads crowds in chants of "Lock her up," for (assumed) violations of the Presidential Records Act.
Monday's news brings to mind all sorts of questions. Among them:
- Did Ivanka honestly believe this would remain a secret, and that nobody would find out?
- Did none of her correspondents notice she was using a private e-mail?
- Did those correspondents, if and when they did notice, say anything?
- Did Ivanka think this was substantively different than what Hillary Clinton did?
- If so, how?
When her e-mail controversy unfolded, Hillary Clinton insisted that she did not use her private e-mail account to send classified e-mails, that the e-mail account had nothing to do with the Clinton Foundation, that no e-mails involving government business were deleted, and that all e-mails that needed to be preserved to remain in compliance with the law were preserved. Ivanka Trump, by contrast, insisted (through her lawyer) that she did not use her private e-mail account to send classified e-mails, that the e-mail account had nothing to do with the Trump Organization, that no e-mails involving government business were deleted, and that all e-mails that needed to be preserved to remain in compliance with the law were preserved. So, you can see how different the situations are.
Ivanka isn't the only Trump administration insider to be guilty of this particular sin, incidentally. Her husband also did it, as did Former Chief White House Strategist Steve Bannon, former Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, former Chief White House economic advisor Gary Cohn, and Senior Policy Adviser Stephen Miller. However, Monday's reporting makes clear that her usage was far and away the most extensive and most egregious. "She was the worst offender in the White House," said one former White House official.
It is probably not wise to hold one's breath waiting for a full investigation from the Justice Dept., particularly as long as it's under the command of Matthew Whitaker. Maybe House Democrats will add this to their to-do lists, although there's so much for them to look into, and only 24 hours in the day. They should really check and see if Julian Assange is available. (Z)
The caravan of immigrants making their way north to the United States from Central America, with the goal of requesting asylum, is still en route. When they finally arrive, the 5,800 or so troops that were sent to "protect" Americans from them won't be there to see it. That is because, as of Monday, those folks are being sent home. It is expected that all 5,800 will be withdrawn by December 15.
It was not a terribly big secret that this whole incidence of muscle-flexing was not really for the protection of Americans, but instead was to inspire anti-immigrant voters to get out and vote. The choice to dial down the troop strength now simply serves to underscore that with a bright, red line. And the heck of it is that Trump took some significant political damage, and blew through an estimated $220 million in taxpayer dollars, for no real benefit. The GOP took a pretty big shellacking on November 6, and exit polls reveal no clear cases where anti-immigrant votes powered a Republican to a narrow victory. Well, maybe Rep. Steve King (R-IA), but is he really worth $220 million?
Trump has pivoted to demonstrating his border "strength" in other ways, like this tweet sent out on Monday:
The Fake News is showing old footage of people climbing over our Ocean Area Fence. This is what it really looks like - no climbers anymore under our Administration! pic.twitter.com/CD4ltRePML— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 19, 2018
Like pretty much everything the President says (or tweets), this is a bit misleading. It's true that barbed wire has been strung along about six miles of border fencing way at the end of the California portion of the border. But, of course, that's only a small segment of the overall fence along the 2000-mile-long border. Further, most folks trying to sneak past the border don't climb over fences, they tend to go under, using one of the 150-200 tunnels that have been dug. So, that barbed wire isn't doing much more to make Americans "safer" than the 5,800 troops were. (Z)
In the lawsuit between CNN and the Trump administration over the White House press pass issued to Jim Acosta (and then suspended by Team Trump), it was very clear that the law was strongly on CNN's side. And when the administration couldn't even get a favorable ruling from a judge appointed by the President, that apparently awakened them to that reality, as well. So, on Monday, the White House decided to stop tilting at windmills, and dropped their court case, thus fully and permanently (?) restoring Acosta's access. Thus ends Acostagate.
In a pretty transparent effort to save face, the administration announced that Acosta and other journalists will have to abide by the "new rules" that have been established for the White House press corps, namely that reporters can ask only one question, and that they must surrender the microphone immediately when ordered to do so. The White House Correspondents' Association said they are unaware of any new rules, however, and vets of the White House press pool say such rules would be very difficult to enforce. After all, follow-ups are sometimes necessary, and someone who gives up the microphone can still shout their question out. So, this would appear to be a return to the status quo. Though we are still left with the question, perhaps never to be answered, of why the administration picked this fight in the first place. Did they really think they would win? Did it please and impress the base? Such are the mysteries that future generations of historians will be left to grapple with. (Z)
As we, and just about everyone else, noted yesterday, Donald Trump has chosen a new military hero to target with his vitriol. That would be Adm. William S. McRaven (ret.), who is best known as the fellow who oversaw the successful raid on Osama bin Laden's compound, which ended with the death of the 9/11 architect. Just in case there were any doubts as to whether the President was serious about what he told Fox News on Sunday, he reiterated his criticism via Twitter on Monday:
Of course we should have captured Osama Bin Laden long before we did. I pointed him out in my book just BEFORE the attack on the World Trade Center. President Clinton famously missed his shot. We paid Pakistan Billions of Dollars & they never told us he was living there. Fools!..— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 19, 2018
Actually, this appears to be an attempt to massage things a bit. In the original interview, Trump quite clearly blamed McRaven himself for the amount of time it took to get bin Laden. Someone may well have pointed out that the Admiral was not in intelligence, and so bore no responsibility for anything until the raid was in its final planning stages.
In any case, a pair of prominent former generals are none too happy that Trump decided to besmirch their colleague. Gen. Barry McCaffrey (ret.) said Monday that McRaven is "widely respected," and that the Admiral's criticism of the President must have really stung, because "now [Trump's] acting like an 8th grader with this counterattack." Meanwhile, Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling (ret.) also sang McRaven's praises and declared that someone like Trump:
[who] holds an office that's supposed to represent all people and who says he supports the military, to just dismiss this great American hero as a guy who was a Hillary Clinton lover, which is patently not true, is just really disgusting.
Such verbiage is quite unusual. Since members of the military must necessarily be apolitical while on active duty, most of them carry the habit over to their retirement. For two flag officers (or three if you count McRaven) to slam the President on the same day is probably some kind of record.
This now presents the President with quite a dilemma. On one hand, he does not like to let high-profile criticisms go unanswered. On the other hand, the optics of squabbling with three different highly-respected military officers are not good, even with the base. If Trump does go after them, McCaffrey, Hertling, and McRaven are at least fortunate that it's not possible to "misspell" their names into a scatological reference:
So funny to see little Adam Schitt (D-CA) talking about the fact that Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker was not approved by the Senate, but not mentioning the fact that Bob Mueller (who is highly conflicted) was not approved by the Senate!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 18, 2018
One would think that someone with a last name like Trump, which has oh-so-many unpleasant rhymes available, would have learned to avoid such jokes long ago. Apparently not, though. (Z)
This weekend, it was reported that "15 to 17" Democratic members of Congress had signed a letter pledging not to vote for Nancy Pelosi to resume her previous post as Speaker. On Monday, the names were revealed, as the group declared, "The time has come for new leadership." The signatories to the letter include 11 incumbent members (all of them well-known Pelosi foes), 4 incoming members, and Ben McAdams of Utah, who has not yet won his race, and who spent time on Monday both ahead and behind Rep. Mia Love (R) in the vote count (he's currently 419 votes behind, with 96% reporting). There are also a handful of incumbents (like Marcia Fudge) and a few freshman members (like Abigail Spanberger) who did not sign the letter, but who are considered likely anti-Pelosi votes as well.
The issue, as we have noted many times, including in relation to Pelosi, is that you can't beat somebody with nobody. The NeverPelosi faction has yet to put forward a candidate of any sort, much less one who could plausibly knock the (current) Minority Leader off her throne. Until they do so, we are compelled to conclude that either (1) They are just posturing for political purposes, or (2) They don't actually have the strength to mount a serious challenge. (Z)
The Trump administration was sued by the AG of Maryland over their possibly illegal elevation of Matthew Whitaker to the post of acting AG, in contravention of statutes that say the "honor" should fall to Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein. Then, it was sued again by a private citizen in Missouri who is about to square off against the administration in a criminal lawsuit. And now, there is a third suit, this one filed in D.C. by a trio of Senate Democrats: Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Mazie Hirono (D-HI).
The first issue, as always, is whether or not these folks have standing to sue. All three are members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and for that reason they think they do, indeed, have standing. Since the Judiciary Committee oversees the Justice Dept., they are probably right about that. As with the other two lawsuits, the Senators want a judge to issue an injunction forbidding Whitaker from exercising the powers of his temporary office until he is confirmed by the Senate. Since Senate confirmation is about as likely as Trump and Mike Pence simultaneously resigning on January 4th to allow Nancy Pelosi to become president, that would be tantamount to a permanent disqualification.
We are not lawyers around here, but the folks who are generally agree that the law is on the side of the plaintiffs, and not the administration. And even if it's a 50/50 call, that would still leave us with a 7/8 chance that at least one of the three judges (Maryland, Missouri, D.C.) will grant the injunction that is sought. If we add in the fact that D.C. and Maryland are left-leaning circuits, as well as the likelihood that other such lawsuits are likely coming down the pike, then that odds likely jump to 95% or more. So, it's probably time for the administration to pull an Acosta, admit defeat, and nominate an AG candidate who could be confirmed. Alternatively, Trump could move someone who has already been confirmed for a different position (calling Mick Mulvaney) into the AG's office, and then wage a legal battle about whether the Federal Vacancies Reform Act applies to people who were browbeaten into resigning, like Jeff Sessions. (Z)
Whenever a party loses a presidential election, there is something of a temptation for members of that party to claim the sky is falling, and to lament the lack of quality candidates the party has. After all, by definition, their standard-bearer has just been beaten, and the immediate prospect appears to be running that person again, or else to try to rally behind one of the primary season runners-up.
When folks bellyache in this way, we are fond of pointing out that four years is an eternity in politics, and that stars often arise quickly out of nowhere. To a greater or lesser extent, the list of candidates (since 1900) who really weren't even on the radar (or were barely on the radar) two years before claiming the presidency includes Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Warren Harding, Herbert Hoover, Harry S. Truman, John F. Kennedy, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump. Some of those snuck into the Oval Office through the back door (i.e., being elected VP and then succeeding the president when he died), but most did it the old-fashioned way.
The current exemplar, of course, is Rep. Beto O'Rourke. There is not a person in America who saw him as a potential presidential candidate in 2016 (except maybe O'Rourke himself). Now, the sports books are giving him odds as good as any candidate in the field (tied with Sen. Kamala Harris, D-CA). And, more importantly, some very important Democratic movers and shakers are waiting to see what his plans are. That includes the donor class, as well as the party activists (particularly the progressives). "The [donors are] not wanting to sign on to other presidential campaigns until they know whether Beto is going," said one Democratic operative. "And if Beto is running, what good progressive Democrat wouldn't want to work for Beto O'Rourke?"
Ever since election night 2016, the conventional wisdom has been that the 2020 Democratic field will be massive, and that the debates—in particular—will have to have a grown-up table, and a kiddie table, and maybe a kiddies' kiddie table. That thought makes many members of the blue team cringe, not only because the candidates would bloody one another, but also because they saw what happened to the GOP under similar circumstances two years ago. And so, the potential size of the field may actually play to O'Rourke's advantage, by causing lots and lots of Democrats to glom on to him when and if he declares, specifically because they would like to avoid a big, messy primary season. In other words, it is now possible that choosing a Democratic nominee in 2020 could be much simpler and tidier than anyone imagined. Of course, that all depends on whether or not Beto runs, though he surely knows that in politics, it's best to strike while the iron is hot. (Z)
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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Nov19 Republicans Are Concerned about the Mississippi Runoff
Nov19 Trump Slams McRaven
Nov19 It Wasn't All about College-Educated Suburban Women
Nov19 Texas May Be in Play Sooner than Expected
Nov19 Ohio and Colorado May Not Be Swing States Anymore
Nov19 A Battle Looms among Aspiring Ranking Members of the House Judiciary Committee
Nov19 An Early Look at the 2020 Senate Races
Nov19 Monday Q&A
Nov18 Election Updates: Gillum Concedes, Cisneros Wins
Nov18 Progressives Back Pelosi
Nov18 Trump Wonders about Pence's Loyalty
Nov18 Trump Threatens Shutdown...Again
Nov18 Trump May Take His Ball and Go Home
Nov18 Another Facebook Scandal
Nov18 Democratic Presidential Candidate of the Week: Eric Holder
Nov17 Election Updates: Abrams Concedes, Love Leads, Nelson Bleeds
Nov17 Senate Republicans Want to Get Rid of Whitaker
Nov17 Texas Businessman Sues, Challenges Whitaker's Legality
Nov17 Trump's Lawyers Have Finished Answering Mueller's Written Questions
Nov17 Federal Judge Orders Trump to Restore Jim Acosta's Press Pass
Nov17 CIA: Khashoggi Killed on Mohammed's Orders
Nov17 Lindsey Graham Will Chair the Senate Judiciary Committee
Nov17 If Not Pelosi, then Who?
Nov16 Latest Election Updates
Nov16 Trump Growing (More) Unhinged
Nov16 Pelosi Faces Resistance
Nov16 Trump Nominates Lana Marks as Ambassador to South Africa
Nov16 U.S. Sanctions 17 Saudis for Khashoggi Murder
Nov16 No Ruling in Acosta Case
Nov16 U.S. Wants to Prosecute Assange
Nov15 Updates on House Races
Nov15 There Must Be Something in the Water
Nov15 Trump Intervenes in House Leadership Fight
Nov15 Cornyn Steps Down from Whip Role
Nov15 House Democrats Are Writing Their First Bill
Nov15 Outgoing Republican Legislatures Could Thwart Incoming Democratic Governors
Nov15 Fox News Backs CNN
Nov15 Flake Threatens to Block Judges if Mueller is Not Protected
Nov15 Avenatti Booked for Domestic Violence
Nov15 Thursday Q&A
Nov14 Maryland Sues Trump over Attorney General Pick
Nov14 CNN Sues Trump
Nov14 Trump Gets Deputy NSA Mira Ricardel Fired
Nov14 Judge Orders Georgia to Review Provisional Ballots
Nov14 Gerrymandering + Trump = Disaster for the GOP
Nov14 Election Turnout Was Awful, Compared to Other Countries
Nov14 How Good Were the Senate Polls?
Nov14 Democrats Knock Off Denham
Nov13 Kyrsten Sinema Wins