Wednesday, October 9, 2019


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ONLY TIME WILL TELL
The media is right: the White House is at war with the House over impeachment.
 
The ball is now in Nancy Pelosi’s court to decide how to respond to the declaration by the president’s counsel that the administration is no longer going to cooperate with the inquiry.
 
My take:
 
On Pelosi’s side:
 
* Polling indicates a rising (albeit not decisive) rise in the public’s support for the probe.
 
* The media’s support for impeachment was amped up by the letter from the White House counsel announcing the cessation of cooperation, which was widely described as less a legal argument and more of a political ploy.
 
* The media and the experts they quote largely support Pelosi’s contention that she doesn’t need a vote of the full House to proceed.
 
* The revelations by leak this new cycle about the alarm among some government officials after the president’s July call with his Ukrainian counterpart reinforces the reality that the impeachment story will continue to be fueled by new, damaging facts.
 
* Congressional Democrats remain largely united about pursuing the investigation and how to message their mission.
 
* Congressional Republicans are still not fully on the same page as the White House on tactics (although they are more coordinated on strategy).
 
* Rudy Giuliani and, perhaps, Trey Gowdy.
 
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Working against Pelosi:
 
* “In submitting his complaint, the whistle-blower identified three facts that could be used to accuse him of potential bias against Mr. Trump, the documents showed. Two were redacted. The third indicated that the whistle-blower is a registered Democrat, a fact first reported by CNN last week that has widely circulated since.” (New York Times)
 
* “Trump’s anti-impeachment offensive — a mix of legal, political and personal attacks, some logical and some simply bombastic — poses a real challenge for Democrats. Nearly three years into Trump’s presidency, lawmakers are still trying to figure out how to respond to a president who knows few, if any, limits on his behavior or rhetoric.” (Politico)
 
* “Congress has a few options to enforce its subpoenas on reluctant witnesses. It could go to court and try to get a federal judge to issue an order for Mr. Sondland to testify. However, Congress is engaged in similar litigation with other current and former Trump administration officials over testimony or documents, and such lawsuits often takes months or years to wind through the courts.” (Wall Street Journal)
 
* MOST OF ALL: All the reasons that Pelosi fought off impeachment for so long – it is largely obscuring Democratic efforts to talk about health care, drug prices, etc; it risks helping Trump be reelected; it doesn’t have significant support from Republicans (yet), including and especially Senate Republicans, leaving Pelosi open to the charge that she is wasting the nation’s time pursuing an impeachment that will end with no trial or acquittal in the Senate; and it will be from hard-to-impossible to keep Donald Trump from running out the clock and pushing the impeachment effort so far into the election season that it has to be aborted.
 
That last point is the most key. As I said, the ball is in Pelosi’s court.  Right now, it is most in her court on this key question: What is her best option currently to balance speed with the reality and perception of completeness and fairness?

That is not at all clear.
 
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At this writing, the president’s one public event is a 3:15pm ET photo op at which he “signs Executive Orders on transparency in Federal guidance and enforcement” in the Roosevelt Room.
 
****
 
As for the three leading Democratic presidential candidates:
 
* Bernie Sanders is doing his first post-heart attack TV interview with Harry Smith of NBC News.
 
My take: First impressions will be very important here. Although Sanders talked to the press on Tuesday (saying he will cut back on his campaign schedule), this interview will get a lot of attention. Will Sanders look and sound energetic and ready for the arena?  Jane Sanders will do everything possible to make that so.
 
Sad news: The Sanders’ daughter-in-law passed away.  What a difficult tragedy for the family to deal with. They have the sympathy and concern of the nation.
 
****
 
* Elizabeth Warren is finally enjoying some time in the barrel over questions about her account of losing a teaching job years ago.
 
My take: This is not Reverend Wright; Warren has a toe (or maybe a foot) in the barrel, not her whole self. She seems to be handling it okay so far, the press is not in full hair-on-fire mode, and she is helped by more polling cementing her status as perceived frontrunner.
 
Reality: The press is never going to cast a campaign flap as an existential crisis if the candidate’s poll standing is improving!
 
****
 
Polling and fundraising suggest the Ukraine focus is not hurting Joe Biden’s standing with Democrats, and might be helping in some ways.
 
My take: It is way too soon to draw any definitive conclusions here, but one can imagine a universe in which Biden’s numbers would have already taken a big hit (which many in the Gang of 500 predicted). Team Biden still has a lot of challenges, but they can breathe a bit easier for today.
 
****
 
Eye on the ball: Bloomberg chronicles the very rocky state of U.S.-Chinese relations. As they say down at the pool hall, this one is essential reading.
 
****
 
Top sports story: Rays chase Astros’ Justin Verlander early en route to evening ALDS
4-1 Rays
ESPN
 
Top business story: UAW’s strike against GM sidelines 12,000 auto supplier workers, says trade group
CNBC
 
Top entertainment story: Suspect Enters Plea In 1985 Killing Of TV Director Barry Crane
Deadline
 

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