• House Republicans Attack Adam Schiff and Schiff Fights Back
• Trump Lied on His Financial Statements
• Trump "Saves" the Special Olympics
• NY-11 House Race Heats Up
• First Democratic Primary Debate Will Be June 26-27 in Miami
• Klobuchar Announces Her Top Priority: Infrastructure
• Michael Bennet Is Very Inclined to Run for President
• Stephen Moore's Nomination to the Fed May Be in Trouble
• Democratic Presidential Candidate of the Week: Marianne Williamson
The report that special counsel Robert Mueller submitted to his boss, Attorney General William Barr, is over 300 pages. The AG summarized the report to Congress in 4 pages. House Democrats are curious about what is in the other 296+ pages, and whether Barr is trying to hide information from Congress.
Long reports on hot topics are the norm, actually. Kenneth Starr's report on Bill Clinton weighed in at 445 pages. The report on how the FBI handled Hillary Clinton's emails was 568 pages. The report on the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks was 567 pages. The Warren Report was a hefty 888 pages.
It is not surprising that Mueller's report is fairly long. His team issued over 2,800 subpoenas, executed almost 500 search warrants, and interviewed over 500 witnesses. The total volume of the evidence Mueller collected runs in the millions of pages. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) wants to get it all. It will be up to Barr to determine how much of it to release, but if Schiff is not satisfied with what he gets, he will go to court to get the rest. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) also got a few choice words in yesterday on the subject of Barr's summary, calling it "condescending" and "arrogant."
Very likely, Donald Trump will claim Schiff can't have the report due to executive privilege. That may not be a popular position, since a new Economist/YouGov poll shows that 84% of Democrats and 56% of Republicans want the entire report released.
House Republicans understand very well that Adam Schiff is not going to slink off quietly with his tail between his legs on account of William Barr's mini-summary of the Mueller report. Fortunately, they have a plan. All nine Republicans on the Intelligence Committee went after Schiff yesterday. Rep. Mike Conaway (R-TX) was pretty blunt: "We have no faith in your ability to discharge your duties" as he called for Schiff to resign. In fairness, though, the idea didn't just pop into Conaway's head yesterday. He was merely following the script laid out by Donald Trump yesterday morning:
Congressman Adam Schiff, who spent two years knowingly and unlawfully lying and leaking, should be forced to resign from Congress!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 28, 2019
Schiff, who is normally a pretty mild-mannered guy, hit back, and hard. He noted Donald Trump Jr.'s Trump Tower meeting where he expected to get dirt on Hillary Clinton. He pointed out that Trump Sr. later dictated a fake story about the meeting. He reminded the Republicans that Trump's campaign manager gave polling data to a member of the Russian GRU. Then he bellowed: "You might think that's OK. I don't."
House Democrats backed Schiff completely. Nancy Pelosi gave him a promotion to national frontline finance chair. She also said: "What is the president afraid of? Is he afraid of the truth?" House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) praised Schiff. Needless to say, Schiff is not going anywhere and the Republicans all know this very well. They just made their remarks yesterday to show Trump that they are on his team.
The Committee's Republicans may not be able to play 3D chess, but they can see what Schiff's next move is. He is going to call Barr to testify before his committee. Barr will likely be evasive. Then the real action starts. Schiff will call Mueller to testify and ask questions like:
- Is there any evidence that Donald Trump's inaugural committee got foreign money?
- Did you find any evidence that Trump committed any crimes?
- If you were working for Jerry Nadler, would you recommend impeaching Trump?
It could be a long list of questions. If they are phrased carefully, Mueller won't be able to evade them easily, especially questions that begin with "Did you find any evidence at all ..." If the answer is yes, that alone will generate headlines. And Mueller isn't the only guy Schiff could question. He could subpoena over a dozen of Mueller's prosecutors, some of whom might be more willing to spill the beans than the ever-careful Mueller. (V)
During his hearings before Congress, Donald Trump's former fixer Michael Cohen said that Trump often lied on his financial statements, inflating his net worth to impress people and business partners or deflating it for tax purposes. That got two reporters at the Washington Post to perk up their ears and channel their inner gumshoes to find out more. They have now written an article disclosing some of their findings.
What Cohen said is apparently true. When Trump wanted to make a good impression on someone, he would send them an official-looking "Statements of Financial Condition" that were as long as 20 pages. They were also full of lies.
Key numbers were often wrong. For example in a 2011 statement, Trump said that he had 55 home lots to sell at a golf course in Southern California and that they would go for $3 million each. In fact, he had only 31 lots, meaning he was claiming $72 million in nonexistent assets (or more, if the $3 million figure was also an exaggeration). He also claimed his Virginia vineyard had 2,000 acres; it really has 1,200. He even said that Trump Tower has 68 stories; it actually has 58. In addition, Trump frequently omitted properties in which he had little equity but large debts. This could mislead someone into thinking he was more solvent than he really was.
Whether these misrepresentations are harmless exaggerations or fraud is an interesting question and one that House Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-MD) is curious about. To satisfy his curiosity, Cummings has requested 10 years' worth of these statements from Trump's accounting firm. If they don't comply, a subpoena is sure to follow.
Whether Trump committed fraud depends on the context. There are specific laws that make submitting false information to insurance companies, banks, lenders, and others a crime. Cummings isn't the only one who is interested in this matter. So is the New York State Dept. of Financial Services, as well as NY AG Letitia James. For Trump, these are more serious threats than Cummings because they could bring charges. While the Justice Dept. has a policy of not indicting a sitting president, New York State has no such policy.
Nevertheless, Trump may have a way out. His financial statements often began with a disclaimer saying that they weren't audited—in effect, "reader beware." Still, some of the statements did not have a disclaimer, so if any of those were used to mislead financial companies, they could form the basis of an indictment for fraud. (V)
Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, whose lack of empathy is so profound that she could star in a sequel to Dickens' A Christmas Carol, decided that her department needed to stop funding the Special Olympics. After all, the $17 million or so it costs each year is just not viable when every penny is needed for the border wall. So, she announced plans to cut the program.
There was, of course, a huge backlash, and DeVos has been getting savaged all week long. She stuck to her guns, but on Friday Donald Trump stepped in and announced that, "I have overridden my people. We're funding the Special Olympics." Later in the day, DeVos released a statement congratulating Trump on his decision:
I am pleased and grateful the President and I see eye-to-eye on this issue and that he has decided to fund our Special Olympics grant. This is funding I have fought for behind the scenes over the last several years.
Who knew that when the Secretary said she wanted to cut the program, she really meant that she loves it dearly and wants to see it continue forever and ever?
We are skeptical that all of this unfolded as it appears. Specifically, it is very hard to believe that DeVos (and anyone else who was involved in the decision) did not realize how bad the optics would be here. It is also hard to believe they were willing to risk such a big black eye over such a small amount of money. And finally, it is hard to believe that DeVos & Co. would actually think that Congress would sign off on killing the Special Olympics. DeVos' political instincts are clunky, but they are not that clunky.
To us, then, this looks like some carefully staged political theater. The purpose may have been to give the President an opportunity to ride to the rescue, and score some free "white knight" points. Or, it may have been to create a distraction, so that people paid less attention to the more aggressive cuts DeVos wants to make to student loan programs and other forms of aid. Or, it could be both of these things. But we're not buying that it was just a silly misstep. (Z)
Every member of the House from New York City is a Democrat, but one of the districts, NY-11, leans Republican, with a PVI of R+3. The district, which voted for Trump in 2016, covers Staten Island and a piece of South Brooklyn. It used to be represented by Michael Grimm, whose incumbency was interrupted by his guilty plea on charges of tax fraud and hiring undocumented immigrants at his restaurant. He resigned from Congress on Jan. 5, 2015 and went to prison shortly thereafter. Now, he is out of the big house and wants his old job back at the other House.
The Republican Party sees the handwriting on the wall, and it reads: "People of NY-11, do you want to be represented by a convicted criminal?" So they are working hard to get state Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis (R) to challenge the incumbent congressman, Rep. Max Rose (D-NY). If Grimm indeed runs, there is going to be an extremely nasty GOP primary that will feature many sound bites Rose will play back ad nauseam if Grimm gets the nomination. He is already egging Grimm on, saying: "God bless him. He's just the gift that keeps on giving." Rose would clearly prefer running against a convicted criminal than the local Assemblywoman and will no doubt do his best to help Grimm get the nomination.
Given the lean of his district, Rose is also working on resisting the leftward lurch of the House Democrats, led by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), whose district is only a few miles from his. He opposes her Green New Deal and Medicare for all, which are not popular in his conservative district. Instead, he pushes less controversial plans like an Apollo project for battery technology so that solar energy gathered during the daytime can be stored and used at night. Like Ocasio-Cortez, he wants to get the U.S. off carbon-based fuels, but he says that 2050 is realistic whereas her plan for doing it by 2030 is not.
No matter how the Republican nomination plays out here, this district and moderately red suburban districts all over the country like it will determine which party controls the House in 2021. (V)
Yesterday, the DNC announced that the first of 12 presidential debates would be in Miami on June 26 and 27. Two dates are needed due to the vast number of hopefuls. It is expected that candidates for the first night will be selected by lottery to avoid the appearance of a "grown-ups' table" and a "kiddies' table.
The qualifications to get on stage one of the two nights have also been announced. To make the cut, a candidate must either: (1) score 1% or more in three qualifying polls, or (2) get campaign contributions from at least 65,000 donors. To say the bar has been placed low would be generous. In fact, it is basically lying on the ground. Polling at 1% does not make you a giant killer. Nor does having 65,000 donors; depending on how big the donations are, that might only be $65,000 in contributions. That might get you a few dozen radio ads in Des Moines, but not much more. Nevertheless, DNC Chairman Tom Perez has taken to heart the complaints from the 2016 supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who say he was given short shrift by the DNC. Perez wants to make certain no candidate's supporters are upset by the rules this time.
A new Quinnipiac University poll released yesterday gives a snapshot of which candidates might qualify based on their polling score. There are 10 of them so far who look likely to make the cut based on polling, but of course that could easily change before June. Many of those 10 have also cleared the 65,000-donor hurdle, as has Andrew Yang. Here are the current standings.
|Candidate||Total||Very liberal||Somewhat liberal||Conservative||Men||Women||White||Black|
A key number here is "44." That's the percentage of black voters who prefer Joe Biden, five times the number who prefer Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) and 44x the number who prefer Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ). In the South, close to half of Democratic primary voters are black and if Biden crushes Harris and Booker there, it is hard to see them surviving very long, although Harris gets another chance to redeem herself after a defeat in South Carolina by sweeping California on March 3, 2020.
The choice of Miami to start things off is no accident. The DNC recently chose Milwaukee over Miami for the 2020 national convention, so hosting the first debate is a (very small) consolation prize. (V)
With such a large Democratic presidential field, each of the candidates is going to have to find some way to stand out. Some of the candidates already have their pitch ready, including Gov. Jay Inslee (D-WA) ("save the planet"), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) ("Republicans are corrupt"), Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) ("pay teachers more"), Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) ("stop sexual assault"), and Beto O'Rourke ("I'm awesome"). Now Sen. Amy Klobuchar (DFL-MN) has found her pitch: Infrastructure.
She wants to roll back much of the GOP's tax cut and spend the money rebuilding America's crumbling infrastructure and create millions of jobs in the process. It is not entirely surprising that the Minnesota senator has chosen infrastructure as her theme. It hit home 10 years ago when an elderly bridge over the Mississippi River in downtown Minneapolis collapsed, killing 13 people and seriously injuring 145. Besides fixing unsafe bridges, another item in her wish list is bringing broadband Internet to rural areas, something that could appeal to many Trump voters who are still stuck with 56 kbps dial-up telephone lines. Klobuchar also wants to invest in clean energy projects, although she isn't backing the Green New Deal as currently formulated. (V)
Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) apparently feels that having only one Coloradan (John Hickenlooper) in the presidential race isn't enough, so yesterday he announced that he is "very inclined" to throw his cowboy hat in the ring. When asked if Joe Biden's decision will affect his, Bennet said it wouldn't. However, realistically, they would be going after the same voters (and also the same voters who might support Hickenlooper).
Bennet is a fairly low-key and low-profile senator. If he were to run, he would not only have to go head-to-head with Biden and Hickenlooper, but also with Amy Klobuchar. It would be a hugely uphill battle for him, but any senator worth his or her salt really wants to be president, so he might well pull the trigger and work his tail off to get to 1% in the polls in order to qualify for the first debate. For a senator unknown outside his state with no major legislative achievements, 1% might well be his ceiling as well.
Our profile of him is here. (V)
Donald Trump has announced that he will soon nominate Stephen Moore, a senior fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation and a strong Trump supporter, to a seat on the Federal Reserve Board. Normally, nominations to the Fed sail through the Senate, but Moore may have some rough waters now that it has been revealed the IRS claims he owes them $75,000 in back taxes and penalties. At the very least, the subject of whether he is or isn't a tax cheat should enliven his Senate confirmation hearing.
As if that were not enough, Moore had a hand in the huge tax cuts that former Kansas governor Sam Brownback pushed through. The tax cuts were supposed to pay for themselves through enhanced growth. Instead, they led to budget shortfalls of hundreds of millions of dollars, forcing the state to slash spending on schools, roads, and much more. The state's credit rating was downgraded multiple times as a result of the Kansas experiment, and it lags neighboring states in nearly every economic indicator. No doubt some of the senators will bring this up during his confirmation hearing. (V)
She's an ultra-longshot to make a dent in the primaries, much less win the Democratic nomination. However, of the candidates we have not profiled yet, she is the likeliest to clear the 65,000-donor barrier needed to earn a debate ticket. So, here goes.
- Full Name: Marianne Deborah Williamson
- Age on January 20, 2021: 68
- Background: A native Texan and the daughter of an immigration lawyer,
Williamson traveled the world with her parents as a child. She came of age during the flower power
years, and jumped in with both feet, participating in sit-ins and marches and other hippie-type
activities. She tried her hand at college, majoring in theater and philosophy at Pomona College for
a couple of years, but found it wasn't to her liking and dropped out. After a brief career as a
cabaret singer in New York City, Williamson returned home to Houston and opened a metaphysical
bookstore. She's spent the 40 years since making a (lucrative) career out of spirituality.
Specifically, she organizes seminars, writes books and articles, gives motivational speeches, and
sells online courses via her website. She gained national prominence thanks to her
relationship with several A-list stars, like Elizabeth Taylor (who asked Williamson to officiate at
her eighth and final wedding), Oprah Winfrey (who had Williamson as a frequent guest on her show),
and a certain senator from Vermont (who regards Williamson as a spiritual advisor). Williamson also
remains an activist, most notably founding Project Angel Food, a meals-on-wheels-type program for
people suffering from AIDS and other debilitating diseases.
If this is not the biography of a latter-day flower child, we don't know what is.
- Political Experience: Williamson's only political experience is a 2014
run for the House of Representatives in CA-33. She finished fourth out of 18 candidates, doing as well as
she did primarily because she ran as an independent. The winner was Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA).
- Signature Issue(s): Williams has a long list of position
statements on various political issues. However, her "signature issue" is, in essence, that
"signature issues" are beside the point. She believes, not unreasonably, that American politics is
badly broken. Until that is fixed, she argues, not much else will get done. So, her core issue is
American spirituality. Which, given her line of work, is apropos.
- Instructive Quote: "Our task is to generate a massive wave of energy,
fueled and navigated by we the people, so powerful as to override all threats to our democracy.
Where fear has been harnessed for political purposes, our task is to harness love."
- Completely Trivial Fact: If Williamson were to win the presidency, she
would be the first president without a college degree since Harry S. Truman.
- Recent News: Williamson is campaigning like a pro, supported by a staff of
ten people. This week, she is
the early-primary state of South Carolina.
- Three Biggest Pros: (1) Consistent with how she makes her living, Williamson is an excellent
public speaker; (2) Her core message, which is basically apolitical, could resonate with a lot of voters; and (3)
It's nice to have beloved celebrity friends, like Oprah, who can campaign on your behalf.
- Three Biggest Cons: (1) Someone with zero experience in elective office, and fairly little
experience of the other sorts that voters like (military, major business, law, etc.) will be a hard sell;
(2) She does not seem likely to win the Midwest back for the Democrats, or to rebuild the Obama coalition;
and (3) Like Amy Klobuchar, she's got a not-so-spiritual reputation for abusing staffers. Williamson has
apologized for this, explaining that sometimes she's the "bitch for God."
- Is She Actually Running?: Yes. She formally announced in January. She has also
repurposed one of her earlier books as a campaign biography, entitled
A Politics of Love: A Handbook for a New American Revolution.
- Betting Odds: She's at 100-to-1 at most books. It took some advanced differential
calculus to figure this out, but our staff mathematicians say that equates to a 1% chance of winning the nomination.
- The Bottom Line: If she does make it to the debate stage, she will certainly add an interesting dimension to the proceedings. But eventually the requirements for qualifying will be tightened, and that will be that.
You can access the list of candidate profiles by clicking on the 2020 Dem candidates link in the menu to the left of the map. (Z)
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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Mar28 Trump Wants to Run on an Anti-Green New Deal Platform
Mar28 Today's Mueller Report News
Mar28 McAuliffe Preparing to Enter the Presidential Race
Mar28 Should the DNC Start the Debates Now?
Mar28 Brexit Gets Messier, with May's Premiership as the Latest Victim
Mar28 Thursday Q&A
Mar27 Snatching Defeat from the Jaws of Victory, Part I: Obamacare
Mar27 Snatching Defeat from the Jaws of Victory, Part II: Obstruction of Justice
Mar27 Senate, House Each Hold Show Votes
Mar27 Tom Udall to Retire in 2020
Mar27 2018 Election Was Apparently a Mess in Texas
Mar27 SCOTUS to Look at the Gerrymander Again
Mar27 Pete Buttigieg Channels His Inner Viking
Mar26 Trump & Co. Taking Victory Laps
Mar26 Trump Administration Moves Forward on Agenda Items
Mar26 Pundits Don't Care Much for Early VP Plan
Mar26 O'Rourke Picks Campaign Manager
Mar26 Democrats Avoid Ugly Primary in Arizona
Mar26 Avenatti Arrested
Mar26 Tuesday Q&A
Mar25 Barr: Trump Didn't Conspire with the Russians
Mar25 Takeaways from the Mueller Report Summary
Mar25 Trump's Problems Aren't Over
Mar25 Harris and O'Rourke Zero in on Each Other
Mar25 Gillibrand Savages Trump in Her First Major Campaign Speech
Mar25 Sanders and Biden Are Leading in Iowa
Mar25 Manafort May Be Trying to Salvage Some of his Forfeited Money
Mar25 Kentucky Legislature to Strip Alison Lundergan Grimes of Election Authority
Mar25 Florida Ex-Felons Aren't Home Free Yet
Mar23 Mueller Report Is Complete
Mar23 Trump Kills Sanctions on North Korea
Mar23 Kushner Used Private E-mail, WhatsApp for Official Business
Mar23 Trump Picks Stephen Moore for the Fed
Mar23 Does Trump Encourage Violence?
Mar23 Jimmy Carter Enters the Record Books, Again
Mar23 Steve King Goes All-in on Old, White Voters
Mar22 Trump's Fought the Law and, So Far, the Law Has Won
Mar22 Trump Wants U.S. To Recognize Israeli Ownership of Golan Heights
Mar22 Trump-McCain Feud Continues
Mar22 New Zealand Bans Assault Rifles
Mar22 Times, They May Be A Changin' at Fox News
Mar22 Today's Skeleton-in-the-closet News: Amy Klobuchar's Prosecutorial Record
Mar22 "Fredo" Trump Lectures the British on How Things Are
Mar22 Democratic Presidential Candidate of the Week: Andrew Yang
Mar21 Trump: Let the Public See Mueller's Report
Mar21 Hicks May Sing Like a Canary
Mar21 Trump Escalates Feuds with Conway, Ghost of McCain
Mar21 "Mick the Knife" about to Lose "Acting" Tag
Mar21 Germans Not Enthused about Trump's Ambassador