Saturday, September 28, 2019

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Where is Donald Trump?

The president has no public events scheduled on either Saturday or Sunday.

My take: The president will tweet a lot, I say in the safest prediction of all time.


Where is Nancy Pelosi?

The Speaker has two high-profile appearances.

Saturday, she does an 8:15pm ET hour-long interview in Austin at the Texas Tribune Festival.  Then on Sunday night, she is part of a “60 Minutes” segment. 

My take: Pelosi will continue to drive a message that aims to (1) keep the focus on the president and keep the president on the defensive; (2) keep her caucus unified; (3) project a sense that she approaches impeachment more in sadness than in glee; and (4) get the upper hand over the president on who is acting in the interest of the American people.  Those who think she can’t achieve those goals are foolishly underestimating her again.


Where is investigative reporting?

“President Trump told two senior Russian officials in a 2017 Oval Office meeting that he was unconcerned about Moscow’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election because the United States did the same in other countries, an assertion that prompted alarmed White House officials to limit access to the remarks to an unusually small number of people, according to three former officials with knowledge of the matter.” (Washington Post)

My take: Once upon a time, this story would have rocked all of DC and the media and much of the nation.  Did Bob Mueller know about this? This thread could be overwhelmed by impeachment or it could become something bigger. Only time will tell.


Where is the House investigation?

Firmly in the hands of Adam Schiff, with subpoenas for testimony and documents going out, a brisk schedule that will push ahead over the congressional recess, and a laser focus on the president’s actions regarding Ukraine, the apparent cover-up, and the alleged cover up of the cover up.

Here is a very good list from Yahoo of potential impeachment hearing witnesses.

My take: Watch the calendar like a hawk. Democrats can’t be seen as rushing things, but they know they are under tremendous pressure to impeach the president in time for a possible Senate trial before the presidential campaign voting gets underway in earnest, at which point the national consensus could be that the voters should decide all this in November of 2020.  So House Democrats are racing against the clock, but they have to be seen as moving like well-behaved five-year-olds on a swimming pool deck – no running.


Where is Rudy Giuliani?

No longer going to a Kremlin-backed conference, still talking way too much to the media, increasingly freaking out Trump allies on Capitol Hill and everywhere else, and almost universally seen as deleterious to the president’s interests.

My take: All members of the Gang of 500 think Rudy needs to go and 75% of them think Rudy will go soon. But ask yourself this: If Rudy exits the stage, who will take his place as Trump’s pit bull?


Where is Attorney General Barr?

Apparently in Italy for official meetings this weekend.

My take: Twitter is going crazy over this.  While there is a lot of focus, of course, on the president, Barr is one of many officials whose lives could be changed forever by this probe.  Some of them might decide to tell the truth to the House, even if it hurts the president’s chances of surviving politically.


Where is the White House’s strategy for dealing with impeachment?

“Acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney hopes to set up a war room, comprised of political, press and communications aides to help with the administration’s fight. The administration intends to model it after the Clinton White House’s impeachment strategy, which relied on both separate administration staffers and outside surrogates for the political battles.” (Politico)

Read this remarkable quote from the Los Angeles Times from former Trump White House lawyer Ty Cobb

“’They’ve got some very good lawyers,’ Cobb said. The question, he added, is whether Trump ‘will listen and the extent to which he will be helpful or harmful to his cause.’”

My take: The White House staffers can set up all the war rooms they want, bring in anyone they want, but this is going to come down to what all Donald Trump “situations” come down to – can the president get himself out of this mess himself or not?


Where is Team Trump’s head at?

“’Pelosi sacrificed Biden’s presidential campaign to get Trump, and now Elizabeth Warren is going to be the nominee, which I think every Trump person with a brain would prefer,’ said a person close to the campaign.” (Politico)

The reelect and the Republican National Committee claim they are going to spend $10 million on digital and TV ads defending the president and attacking Joe Biden. (Washington Post)

The Washington Post’s David Von Drehle, per usual, gets it right: the president has to keep the support of Fox News, in order to keep the support of grassroots Republicans, in order to keep the support of congressional Republicans.

My take: Your assignment is to get someone from the Trump inner circle to tell you honestly what they think the chances are of a Senate impeachment trial – and the chances that the Senate convicts the president.  Team Trump is bewildered and bothered by the events of the last week. They are still looking for a series of moves that can get them back to bewitched.


Where are House Democrats?

“House Democrats’ campaign arm also sent lawmakers an internal poll conducted Thursday and Friday that showed likely voters more supportive of impeachment investigation than ever before. Fifty percent of likely voters said they would support ‘impeaching Donald Trump and removing him from office’ and forty-nine percent of those surveyed said they were more likely to vote for a Democrat who backed an impeachment investigation versus thirty-eight percent who said they’d support a Republican opposed to the inquiry.” (Politico)

My take: Right now, with momentum, message, and media backing, House Democrats are going full speed ahead, believing that they are doing the right thing in impeaching the president, and believing that they can do it without paying a political price in 2020.  Right now.


Where is Mitch McConnell?

“Two people familiar with the conversation said McConnell told the White House earlier this week that Trump needed to release the transcript of his call to bolster the claim that the conversation was not improper because the speculation about what happened was becoming politically untenable.” (Washington Post)

My take: I will say it again – if the White House thinks it can rely on McConnell to save the president regardless of what the facts turn out to be, well, then, the White House better think again.


Where are Senate Republicans?

Read this Page Six item about Lindsey Graham talking loudly on his mobile phone on a flight in advance of his Sunday “Face the Nation” appearance.  No summary I do of this narrative could do it justice.

“We owe people to take it seriously. Right now, I have more questions than answers.  The complaint raises serious allegations, and we need to determine whether they’re credible or not.” – Marco Rubio (Associated Press)

“’At this point, [Trump] could be caught walking out of a Federal Reserve bank with two giant sacks of money in his hands and no Republican would vote to impeach him for grand larceny,’ said a senior Senate GOP aide, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

“’Our voters want two things from their congressmen: [dumping] on the media and blindly defending the president,’ the aide added. ‘That’s what being a Republican has come to.’” (Los Angeles Times)

My take: That last point is true now, and true for the foreseeable future. But there is no doubt that deep inside the recesses of the brains of almost every Senate Republican, including Mitch McConnell, is the realization that this could change, depending on the facts. Rubio is the latest canary in the coal mine.


Where are House Republicans?

Nevada’s Republican congressman, Mark Amodei, supports the impeachment process.

And another, via the Wall Street Journal: “’It’s important to talk to people with direct knowledge to get to the bottom of it,’ said Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York. She also declined to give a pass to White House officials who, according to the whistleblower complaint, had diverted politically sensitive records of Mr. Trump’s call with Mr. Zelensky into a computer system reserved for classified materials. ‘They’re going to have to answer questions.’”

My take: These two might be outliers right now, but there are likely to be more, and it won’t take too many for Democrats and the media to declare that impeachment is a bipartisan effort, which would change the framing and politics quite dramatically.


Where is public opinion?

“I have no doubt that this issue will play incredibly well with the [Democratic] base. You know what’s not clear? How it plays with everybody else.” — Chris Kofinis, a Democratic pollster and strategist. (Wall Street Journal)

“In swing districts across the country, the idea of impeaching the president has brought some Americans together: They’re wary of deploying the Constitution’s ultimate weapon — one that takes the decision about who is president out of voters’ hands.” (Washington Post)

My take: There is no one in the world who knows how big the gap is between what political elites think of all this and what the voters who will decide next year’s election think about all this.  There is definitely a gap of some sort and size. As the galloping events in Washington over the next few months move at warp speed, measuring the gap will be done irregularly and imperfectly, even though that is the most important thing. News organizations for the most part find it cheaper and more interesting to concern themselves with the inside game.


Where are the issues that also matter – and we all used to discuss a million years ago (a/k/a ten days ago)?

“Consumers slowed spending and businesses cut back on investment in August, signs that a wobbling global economy and rising tariffs are sapping U.S. economic momentum.” (Wall Street Journal)

My take: We have crossed over into a world where what happens with impeachment will impact the 2020 election. But let’s not lose sight of the reality that other factors will be important too.  Do not forget that, as hard as that task will be for a long while.

Top sports story: The 12 teams that can make the College Football Playoff

Top business story: White House deliberates block on all US investments in China

Top entertainment story: New York Film Review: Martin Scorsese’s ‘The Irishman’ — Scorsese’s Mob epic, starring Robert De Niro as a veteran hitman and Al Pacino as an ego-drenched Jimmy Hoffa, is a coldly enthralling triumph.

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