Saturday, October 5, 2019


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QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
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Q. What are the most ominous words published in the last 24 hours for the Trump administration?
 
A. “The direct participation of State Department officials sworn to serve the country in events that increasingly bear the markings of a multipronged political conspiracy.”
 
That extraordinary turn of phrase appears in the most essential of essential readings, this Washington Post story filled with details about the behavior of Gordon Sondland, that will make you realize (if you didn’t already) that Sondland is one of the keys to the impeachment investigation, and how he handles himself over the next two months might end up telling the tale.  He is supposed to meet with congressional investigators on Tuesday.
 
****
 
Q. Besides Sondland, what else does the White House have to be concerned about?
 
A. This New York Times story about the possibility of a second whistleblower with more direct knowledge of the Trump-Ukraine events than Whistleblower #1 had.  The implications of a second whistleblower are too obvious and too vast to chronicle here.
 
****
 
Q. Besides Sondland and a potential second whistleblower, what else does the White House have to be concerned about?
 
A. Promiscuous leaks about the president’s behavior from former and current government officials, such as in this breathtaking Washington Post story about Trump’s conduct on calls with foreign leaders.
 
****
 
Q. What is the significance of David Ignatius’ column today?
 
A. The highly respected, non-partisan Ignatius is as great a reporter as he is a columnist.  He lays out some new facts related to Rudy Giuliani and weaves together the known history in a way that makes it clear that a lot of esteemed national voices are likely to join the call for impeachment in a way that will make it seem to be – and make it actually be – less partisan.
 
****
 
Q. How will the White House’s refusal to comply with subpoenas get resolved?
 
A. Only time will tell.  But this is where much of the action and much of the White House-congressional Republican strategy sits at the moment.
 
****
 
Q. Will congressional Republicans hang together with the president?
 
A. It will take many more revelations for House Republicans to break with Trump. But Mitt Romney and a few other Senators are pretty much ready to go. They are going to pick their moments, but if they continue their running commentary while the House proceeds to impeachment, that will add a bipartisan flavoring to the process, even if no House GOPers flip.
 
****
 
 
Q. What is the significance of the report that the CIA’s general counsel made a criminal referral to the Justice Department after reviewing the whistleblower’s charges weeks before the allegations became public?
 
A. Sorry to state the obvious, but this would almost certainly strengthen the Democrats’ hand.
 
****
 
Q. Could the Ukrainian government turn against Donald Trump?
 
A. Probably not, but breeze through this essential reading Wall Street Journal story about how the Ukrainians have experienced all these events and you can see the seeds of a problem for the White House.
 
****
 
Q. What’s the one thing Democratic members of the House should read today?
 
A. Peggy Noonan’s column on the right way for Team Pelosi to approach the impeachment process for the good of the nation and for their own political good.
 
****
 
Q. Will Bernie Sanders pay a price for not promptly revealing he had a heart attack?
 
A. The sample space of candidates whose campaigns were harmed by their failure to be forthcoming about a medical incident is not large, but it is informative.  The press for sure, and I think voters too, draw bigger lessons when people running for president aren’t straight about their health. See Bill Bradley 2000 and Hillary Clinton 2016. 
 
Ominous sign for Sanders: the New York Times story on his heart attack includes contributions from Lawrence K. Altman, the greatest force for holding candidates accountable for disclosing their medical history and personal health in the modern history of American journalism.  So, Sanders would be paying a very big price for this failure to communicate now if it weren’t for impeachment, and it is very likely that this bill will still come due.
 
****
 
Q. Should Biden supporters be concerned about his third-quarter fundraising figures as compared to those of Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and Pete Buttigieg?
 
A. They should be shaking in their Nikes.  The symbolism is horrible and the practical reality about the likely shortage of cash come January are both very bad for the former VP. But worst of all is that his failure to keep pace on the money chase teases out the greatest vulnerability and weakness of his candidacy: a lack of enthusiasm among voters, donors, and the press.
 
 
****
 
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Top business story: Dow rallies more than 350 points after ‘Goldilocks’ jobs report
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Top entertainment story: Joker’ Heads for October Record Opening of $90 Million in North America
Variety

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Friday, October 4, 2019


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TRADITIONAL FRIDAY WIDE WORLD OF NEWS QUIZ


1. While still a bit in flux, the emerging Team Trump strategy to fight impeachment and Senate conviction is based on:

A. Turning Mike Pence into Spiro Agnew to defend the president at all costs.

B. Relying on House Republicans to gum up the works as much as possible to delay the process for long enough to push the investigation into 2020, effectively daring Democrats to continue their efforts in the election year.

C. Trying to demonize and discredit Adam Schiff.

D. Counting on the right-wing media machine to intimidate Republicans, especially Senators, who step out of line and criticize the president.

E. All of the above.

****

2. The witness who most threatens the president is:

A. Marie Yovanovitch.

B. Kurt Volker.

C. Bill Taylor.

D. Rudy Giuliani.

E. All of the above.

****

3. The quote the president will be reading aloud to anyone in the West Wing who will listen Friday morning is:

A. “Schiff earns Four Pinocchios.”

B. “The facts we learned today undercut the salacious narrative that Adam Schiff is using to sell his impeachment ambitions.”

C. “The President has been crystal clear: no quid pro quo’s of any kind.”

D. “The President is trying to evaluate whether Ukraine is truly going to adopt the transparency and reforms that President Zelensky promised during his campaign.”

E. All of the above.

****

4. The quote that best captures the state of play of impeachment is:

A. “All, for the moment, is, in an absolute, metaphysical sense, unpredictable.” (Lance Morrow)

B. “It’s scary how quickly false information can spread.”  (Romney spokeswoman Liz Johnson)

C. “Someone should inform the president that impeachable offenses committed on national television still count.” (Hillary Clinton)

D. “The president is trying to hypnotize the American people into believing that it can’t be wrong if he says it out loud.” (Sally Yates)

E. All of the above.

****

5. Joe Biden’s biggest political problem now is:

A. His third-quarter fundraising total.

B. The Trump campaign’s pledge to run negative ads against him in the first-in-the-nation voting states.

C. The continued focus on Hunter Biden.

D. The renewed attention to his age in the wake of Bernie Sanders’ hospitalization, and the related problems of a lack of ability to generate excitement and a lack of a future-oriented message.

E. All of the above.

****

6. The non-Ukraine story that warrants watching is:

A. The IRS whistleblower.

B. Hong Kong.

C. Friday’s job numbers.

D. Everything about the U.S.-China relationship.

E. All of the above.

****

7. The reason that Democrats should not be lulled into thinking that impeachment means Trump will lose reelection is:

A. This essential reading David Brooks column on the mind and attitude of Trump supporters.

B. The failure of major organizations on the left – including the DNC – to protect the Democratic candidates against well-funded attacks from Team Trump.

C. As of today, many sharp Democratic strategists think that impeachment is more likely to strengthen Trump’s electoral prospects than harm them.

D. Even the best-funded Democratic presidential candidates aren’t really raising that much money.

E. All of the above.

****

8. The best news for Elizabeth Warren’s presidential campaign is:

A. She has gone yet another week without a single moment in the barrel.

B. She has a greater shot at Sanders backers after his health scare.

C. Trump’s suggesting now that she will be the nominee elevates her even higher.

D. Out of necessity and a sense of the inevitable, more and more of the establishment is warming to the idea (or, at least, accepting the idea) that she will be the nominee.

E. All of the above.

*****

Answers: E.

Note: For those readers who ask, “Where are the ‘My takes’?” – they are embedded in the quiz.

****

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Thursday, October 3, 2019


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KEEPING THE MAIN THINGS THE MAIN THINGS

For as far as the eye can see, impeachment will be the dominant politico-governmental story in the United States.

Every day, we must ask ourselves what really matters for sure, as opposed to what is interesting, or what might matter eventually.

There are five intertwined questions that matter right now.  Let’s review those, then we shall tick through the items that are still on simmer and could end up just being sideshows.

1. Will the White House comply with the House subpoenas?

The timing for when this showdown comes to a head is unclear, but it is coming.

My take: Democrats are skillfully messaging that a failure to comply would be evidence of a cover-up, trying to preempt any White House attempt to claim the invocation of executive privilege would be legitimate. 

The administration has three reasons to avoid compliance: it doesn’t want to suggest the investigation is worthy of cooperation; it doesn’t want to hand over incriminating information; and, perhaps most importantly, it wants to slow down the probe.  Which leads to the second question that currently matters….

****

2. Who will win the messaging and substantive battle between Democrats (who want to strike while the iron is hot on impeachment but know they can’t be seen as rushing) and Republicans (who want to drag out the process to make it seem too close to the election to go forward but who know they are on dangerous ground if they are seen as stonewalling)?

The Associated Press sums it up nicely, saying Republicans “are bent on ensuring the current probe is anything but the quick process desired by Democrats, who are wary of its impact on the 2020 presidential campaign.

“It is unclear if Democrats would wade into a lengthy legal fight with the administration over documents and testimony – or if they would just move straight to considering articles of impeachment.”

My take: Rahm Emanuel’s Washington Post op ed teases out the smartest adjustment either side has made since this battle began.  Democrats realize that no matter how quickly or slowly they proceed, they need to project that they are in fact-finding mode, not heck-bent on impeachment.

Writes Rahm: “Our posture needs to be about bringing sunlight to a murky reality, not convincing the public that it should support any given outcome.”

Fact finding is the key. The conventional wisdom is right: based on what is now known, the House majority will consider there to be enough evidence to impeach, but the Senate Republicans will not see enough evidence to convict. So what else might be found? That brings us to question #3….

****

3. What else is out there?

Behind close doors today, former special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker is expected to testify. How much will leak out how quickly is unknown, but Volker is widely expected by both parties to be a kickoff witness who on balance strengthens the case against the president.

And this essential reading Washington Post story casting doubt on the completeness and accuracy of the transcript of the July Trump phone call with his Ukrainian counterpart hints at the possibility that there could be a smoking gun hiding in plain sight that would freak out Republicans.

My take: Speaker Pelosi has given Chairman Schiff the resources, leeway, and staff he needs to conduct a serious investigation. Wednesday provided further evidence that Democrats are united in charging ahead on trying to impeach the president.  Unity of purpose and message gives the Democrats a huge advantage as they try to build a stronger case against Trump.  On the other hand, on the other side of the aisle, the situation is very different…

****

4. How nervous are DC Republicans about how the White House is handling this raging storm?

This essential reading New York Times story tells the tale:

“At a meeting on Wednesday morning with conservatives and Capitol Hill aides, White House officials were still taking the temperature on the potential political fallout of impeachment, rather than offering any instructions about their path going forward.

“Paul Teller, an aide in the White House Office of Legislative Affairs, quizzed the group about whether it thought a long or short impeachment process would play better with the president’s base. Mr. Teller also told the group that he believed Mr. Trump would want to see Mr. McConnell bring impeachment to a vote on the Senate floor, where Mr. Trump would be acquitted, rather than move to simply dismiss the charges.

“Mr. Kushner, who has been overseeing campaign messaging on impeachment, also personally signed off on a new round of campaign ads attacking Mr. Biden and his son Hunter Biden.”

The Wall Street Journal adds this coda:

“A former White House official put it more bluntly, saying the response was ‘a disorganized mess, and it seems that’s what Trump wants.’”

My take: The administration has about a week to get things together. If the chaotic “Donald and Rudy Show” is the sum total of how the White House is fighting back by the time congressional Republicans return from recess, panic will ensue. Republicans will not find this level of disorganization and lack of a structure and message any match for what the Democrats have going on.  The weak links will start speaking to reporters about their concerns, first on background and then on the record, and that dynamic will make the president’s position even more perilous.  Hill Republicans will worry about the prospect of impeachment most of all because of the impact it will have on GOP candidates up and down the 2020 ballot, which brings us to the final question that matters…

****

5. Can the president fight back against impeachment while still running an effective campaign for reelection?

Heather Higgins writes in a Wall Street Journal op ed about how the president has issues right before his eyes that could help him appeal to the women, especially in the suburbs, whose votes he will need for reelection.

My take: Polls showing rising support for the prospect of impeachment notwithstanding, we still don’t fully know how all this is playing out in America.  And/but as Bill Clinton showed, it takes a world-class political athlete to compartmentalize the two tracks – an effective defense against the opposition’s attempt to remove the incumbent from office and an effective offense on issues that matter most to voters. 

Speaker Pelosi did a masterful job Wednesday talking about how House Democrats still want to work with the president on the new NAFTA, lowering the cost of prescription drugs, and infrastructure. As much as Trump needs to fix his impeachment messaging to give his own party confidence, he also has to solve his issues messaging.  And the plan for the latter is no more clear right now than the plan for the former.

****

What matters less right now (but could rise up!), mostly because of the dog-bites-man quality of all this:

The president was angry, profane, and unhinged on Twitter and in answering reporters’ questions, but cool as a cucumber in a New York Post interview.

Trump involved Pence in Ukraine gambit.

Giuliani involved Paul Manafort in Ukraine gambit.

The Wall Street Journal editorial board, Daniel Henninger, Karl Rove, and Rich Lowry all see Democratic overreach on impeachment.

Joe Biden and Pelosi think Trump is scared.

Adam Schiff’s operation had early contact with the whistleblower.

Vladimir Putin said scrutiny over the July phone call showed that Trump’s rivals are using “every excuse” to go after him.

My take: Only time will tell on all of this.

****

The media’s broad and deep focus on impeachment means that Bernie Sanders going into the hospital and off the campaign trail because of what his team says was blockage of an artery did not get the kind of coverage it would have gotten once upon a time.

My take: The press has been trying to declare Sanders politically dead for a while. His strong third-quarter fundraising is now overwhelmed by this health scare. 

We all wish Senator Sanders a speedy recovery.

In the crudest political terms, if Sanders is sidelined, it is yet another good moment for Elizabeth Warren, although Joe Biden will fight like heck for some Sanders’ backers. 

Until we see if Bernie can come back at full force, what was effectively a two-person race as the week started is still a two-person race – until and unless someone besides Biden and Warren can emerge after New Hampshire as surprisingly strong and in the hunt.

****

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Deadline

****

Big Four

Iowa

Harris faces questions about whether Iowa focus is too late.


New Hampshire

Gabbard says she’s open to meeting with NRA leader LaPierre.

Nevada

2020 Democrats put focus on guns amid impeachment fever.

Biden campaigning in northern Nevada first time this year.

South Carolina

Republican wins special election to SC House in Aiken County.


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Wednesday, October 2, 2019


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———————
THE WAITING GAME
 
As dawn breaks there are three marquee events on the impeachment docket:
 
Speaker Pelosi holds her weekly press conference at 10:45am ET.
 
At 2:00pm ET, President Trump has a joint press conference with the president of Finland.
 
And at some point today “State Department Inspector General Steve Linick, whose office is responsible for investigating abuse and mismanagement in the department and operates largely independently from its control,” will be on Capitol Hill to brief House and Senate committee staffers on documents “obtained…from the acting legal advisor of the Department of State.”
 
“It is unclear exactly what Linick will provide the committees. But the demand for any credible information related to Ukraine and the State Department is at a fever pitch as Democrats seek to build a case for Trump’s ouster out of his newly revealed dealings with the government of Ukraine.” (Washington Post)
 
My take: That meeting could define the day or be nothing at all. Only time will tell. (Note to some readers: that’s a joke.)
 
****
 
There is a lot of other impeachment-related news that is at once cosmic and meaningless in the scheme of things: the president is using Twitter to say senseless, base-rallying, and otherwise counterproductive things (talk of a coup, talk of finding the whistleblower, talk of jailing Adam Schiff); Secretary Pompeo, Attorney General Barr, and Energy Secretary Perry are all more involved in the impeachment saga than they were 24 hours ago; Iowa Republican Senator Grassley, long a whistleblower advocate, is pushing back against the president.
 
My take: Watch all of those developments, but no need to jump to any conclusions about them today.
 
****
Here is a Wall Street Journal nugget you need:
 
“The whistleblower is expected to testify before the House Intelligence Committee as soon as early next week, though his attorneys and the committee continue to negotiate logistics, including a time and place.”
 
My take: No single factor will be more determinative of the contours and results of the impeachment process than the degree to which the whistleblower survives scrutiny and tells a compelling story in a compelling manner.  That’s why Team Trump is doing a lot of spade work and opposition research on what is now still a shadowy target.
 
****
 
Most of the palace intrigue reporting on the White House and the president’s behavior and attitudes is neither surprising nor actually new. 
 
But until the president actually has a spokesperson and strategist on impeachment who is a match for the Pelosi-Schiff machine, the status of Trump’s relationship with Rudy Giuliani matters bigly.
 
So, this:
 
“Trump has long measured allies’ loyalty by their willingness to fight for him on TV, and he complained bitterly this week that few had done so. And those who did, including House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy on CBS’ ‘60 Minutes,’ he believed had flubbed their appearance, according to a person not authorized to publicly discuss private conversations.
 
“Though there has been growing discontent with Giuliani in the West Wing and State Department, where some officials blame him for leading Trump into the Ukraine mess, the president continued to stand by his personal lawyer.” (Associated Press)
 
And this:
 
“’The only person that likes Rudy on TV right now is Trump,’ said another person close to the president, adding that Mr. Trump ‘likes people who get on TV and fight for him.’” (Wall Street Journal)
 
My take: Now that Rudy is a lawyered-up witness in the impeachment probe, what was true a week ago is more true now. Trump might HEART Rudy, but the president will not win this fight if Rudy’s role is as big, controversial, and off-key as it has been.  There is currently no one who appears to be stepping in to run the virtual war room for the president and the presidency. And Rudy keeps returning the calls and texts of reporters, bookers, anchors, and, pretty much everyone else.
 
****
 
Two essential reading New York Times opinion pieces:
 
Tom Friedman:
 
“Democrats have to be so disciplined in how they prosecute this case. They need to have a single spokesman, Representative Adam Schiff, and everyone else needs to keep quiet. They need to have professional prosecutors, not uninformed legislators, question witnesses; they need to keep the focus on the nonpolitical witnesses; and they need to have their presidential candidates stay out of this impeachment story and concentrate on their ideas for reviving and reuniting America.”
 
Susan Rice makes one of the clearest cases yet for why Trump’s Ukraine actions are a strong basis for articles of impeachment, as well as unorthodox and indefensible.
 
My take: Republicans are before too long going to have to live or die on the following hill – concede Trump’s behavior was unorthodox and indefensible, but argue that it was not impeachable.  When that day comes, it would seem that not all Republicans are going to make the same choice on that matter.
 
****
Two pieces of real world news outside the impeachment bubble that impact both the real lives of real people and the 2020 election:
 
* “Not all business was halted between the White House and Congress. Even as the impeachment confrontation boiled, House Democrats briefed White House staffers on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s prescription drug legislation. Lowering drug costs is a top policy priority for both the speaker and the president. Joe Grogan, a top Trump domestic policy adviser, called it a ‘very productive start.’” (Associated Press)
 
* “US manufacturing survey shows worst reading in a decade.” (CNBC)
 
My take: With impeachment news on a slow boil (that is going to change soon), it is a good time to go back to our mantra.  Unless the House impeaches and the Senate convicts, other factors will determine if Trump is reelected or not. The state of his legislative agenda and the state of the economy are two pretty big ones.
 
****
 
Here are some other factors that will impact the president’s reelection effort:
 
* Trump’s campaign and the Republican National Committee raised a combined $125 million in the third quarter.
 
My take: Politico gets it right, calling that sum “a massive total that disturbed some Democrats who believe their party should be more focused on countering Trump’s head start in the 2020 presidential election.”
 
* The RNC continues to rejigger party rules to reduce even further the chances of a serious nomination challenge to Trump. (New York Times)
 
My take: Incumbent presidents almost never lose; every modern incumbent who has lost had to fight off a competitor to win the nomination.
 
****
 
* In the third quarter, Bernie Sanders raised a ton, Pete Buttigieg raised nearly a ton, Kamala Harris raised far less than a ton (but enough to avoid bad press).  We are waiting to see what Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden raised.   Read all about it in the New York Times.
 
My take: Sanders continues to be an undervalued stock. A lot of the short-term analysis of the Democratic nomination battle will depend on the size of the gap between what Warren raised and what Biden raised.

****
 
* Three pieces of good news for Warren (naturally): she is tied with Biden in a new New Hampshire poll; she is in a public spat with Mark Zuckerberg; and there is another story, by CNBC, about how plutocrats are worried about her being the nominee.
 
My take: It is too facile to say Biden is being hurt by the Ukraine stuff. His slipping poll numbers are a function of the lack of enthusiasm for his candidacy, his failure to drive a future-oriented message, Warren’s strength, and the process-obsessed media coverage he gets. Also, most profoundly, his slipping poll numbers are a function of ….his slipping poll numbers.
 
One can never quote Haley Barbour too often: In politics, good gets better and bad gets worse.  That is the problem Team Biden needs to solve now.  And it is the wave Warren continues to surf.
 
****
 
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Top entertainment story: Twitter Hit by Outages Around the World
Variety

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Tuesday, October 1, 2019


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TRUMP’S DECISION POINTS

These five things are still true:

* House Democrats are organized and on offense on impeachment.

* Congressional Republicans are disorganized and on defense on impeachment.

* Most of the media coverage implicitly assumes impeachment is inevitable and desirable.

* The public is more open to an impeachment inquiry and impeachment than it was just a fortnight ago.

* The identity of the whistleblower, the pace and scope of the House investigation, the contours of the White House’s strategy, and the likelihood of new, damaging disclosures all remain unknown.

With Mitch McConnell’s Monday pledge that the Senate would take up any House impeachment vote (although taking it up, despite what some news organizations are reporting, is not necessarily the same as holding a full-blow trial), some are turning to what they see as the ultimate question: is it possible that 20 Republican Senators would join all the Democrats in convicting Trump and removing him from office?

Ramesh Ponnuru deftly illustrates how unlikely that appears currently:

“To illustrate the challenge, assume that the senators line up based on their ideological records, with the most moderate Republicans abandoning Trump and the most conservative ones sticking by him. In that case, the 67th vote would likely have to come from Jerry Moran of Kansas. Trump would have already had to lose not only critics such as Susan Collins and Mitt Romney, but also Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and some-time defenders Lindsey Graham and Roger Wicker.”

Elizabeth Drew makes the case that Democrats are making two errors in their core strategy in the effort to win over Republican senators.  Go more slowly and widen the scope of the articles of impeachment beyond Ukraine, she argues

Looking at the inside game is important, but runs the risk of missing the bigger picture. As the president well knows, public opinion will almost certainly determine the outcome of this process. 

On that measure, things have gotten worse for the president, but as the Associated Press points out, the polls differ on why that is:

“[Polls show that] dramatic partisan polarization remains on impeachment: most Democrats expressing support, the vast majority of Republicans opposed. The polls disagreed over whose opinions are changing — Quinnipiac showing increased impeachment support coming more from Democrats, CNN from Republicans.”

My take: Everything chronicled above is part of the tapestry of what is going on with impeachment. But what matters most now (besides the facts!) is how the improviser-in-chief plans to fight back. 

As he always does in the face of a mortal threat (the “Access Hollywood” tape being the most obvious and illustrative example), Trump is consulting widely, testing out theories, tweeting wildly to see what sticks, focusing on his base above all else, and complaining privately about those who he feels are letting him down.

As David Frum writes in the most essential reading of you day, Trump right now is for the most part doing the opposite of what Bill Clinton did in successfully fighting from being removed from office. 

According to Republican strategists both close to and not close to the White House, here are the six central decisions that Trump – and only Trump – can and must make if he is going to get his presidency back on track:

1. What can he do to shape public opinion, which is turning against him?

2. Should he have his administration cooperate fully with the investigation?

3. How should he organize the machinery to respond to the minute-by-minute demand for responses to the media on impeachment?

4. Should he continue to try to demonize Adam Schiff, the whistleblower, and others who he feels threaten him?

5. What can he do to get Mitch McConnell back on Team Trump?

6. How can he tamp down breathless press coverage of developments that don’t necessarily warrant it?

That last point was put in sharp relief in the last 24 hours.

The clearest evidence that Trump is losing bigly now is that there were really no developments on Monday that were particularly damaging to him and yet the press coverage Monday into Tuesday largely suggested it was another completely horrible news cycle for the administration.

In the weeks ahead, there will be days that are truly gruesome for the White House.  On those days, the message the country will get out of Washington via the media will damage the president with the public.

But if the president can’t find a way to avoid negative press coverage on days that are not particularly gruesome, his chances for survival will decrease, perhaps dramatically.

****

In other news:

John Bolton’s critical public comments on the president and North Korea provide another reminder, as if one were needed, that Bolton represents a clear and future danger to Donald Trump.

Politico chronicles Kamala Harris’ efforts to revive her campaign with a staff shakeup, a story that would have been monumental two weeks ago.

The latest on China’s celebration of 70 years of Communist Party rule and the Hong Kong protests here.

****

Top sports story: Raiders’ Vontaze Burfict suspended for rest of season
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Top business story: Walgreens joins CVS in suspending sales of heartburn medicine Zantac during safety review
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Top entertainment story: Jerry Seinfeld Beats ‘Comedians in Cars’ Copyright Suit
Variety


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Monday, September 30, 2019


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THE CURRENT IMPEACHMENT SCORECARD

Working for the Democrats:

House Democrats are united around both their message and their impeachment tactics, realizing just in time that for optics reasons they needed to pull back from looking like they have already decided to impeach the president.

House Democrats know they need to be cognizant of voters who are skeptical or worried about impeachment – and cognizant of giving their own vulnerable members the room they need to survive in their pro-Trump districts.

Nancy Pelosi is revered by the media, is unafraid of the president, and has found firm footing for this phase of the investigation.

A CBS News poll finds majority support for an impeachment probe, and Democratic voters are overwhelmingly on board.

The polling on Trump’s actions hasn’t totally collapsed against the president for now, but it isn’t super supportive either.

Trump’s former homeland security advisor Tom Bossert was critical of the president on ABC, including suggesting Trump is too prone to believe debunked conspiracy theories.

The White House is allegedly dealing with finger pointing and disarray, amid a CNN report that acting chief of staff Mulvaney is being blamed for not preparing for the onslaught.

Illinois Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger called a Trump tweet “repugnant.”

The questions being raised about former part-time envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker could put him in quite a vise.

A Washington Post story framed skeptically around the question of how Joe Biden is handling the Ukraine controversy is actually relatively bullish on Team Biden.

The mainstream media is fully on board with the impeachment effort.


Working for the Republicans:

The president has Steve Scalise, Kevin McCarthy, Rudy Giuliani, Stephen Miller, Jim Jordan, and Lindsey Graham on his side.

****

My take: The White House is losing this fight right now. Team Trump seems to be betting a lot on

(a) Discrediting the whistleblower.  This might eventually work politically, but it is too soon for anyone to have any idea if it will bear fruit for the president.

(b) Discrediting Adam Schiff. This might eventually work politically, but it is too soon for anyone to have any idea if it will bear fruit for the president.

(c) Trying to get the media to focus on Hunter Biden.  This might eventually work politically, but it is too soon for anyone to have any idea if it will bear fruit for the president.

(d) Throwing out all manner of distractions, red herrings, and base-riling accusations.  This might eventually work politically, but it is too soon for anyone to have any idea if it will bear fruit for the president.

(e) Assuming they can slow the process down just enough to avoid being accused of slowing down the process while still making things take so long that House Democrats run out of time.  This might eventually work politically, but it is too soon for anyone to have any idea if it will bear fruit for the president.

(f) Showing that Trump is hard at work on his legislative agenda on behalf of the American people, even as he tries to discredit the investigation against him.  This might eventually work politically, but it is too soon for anyone to have any idea if it will bear fruit for the president.

(g) Eventually saving the presidency by arguing that what the president did was potentially ill-advised, but it doesn’t warrant removal from office.  This might eventually work politically with Senate Republicans, but it is not too soon to say that without some dramatic revelation in the president’s favor, it will not stop the House from impeaching him.

****
Top sports story: Cleveland Browns coach Freddie Kitchens irked Marlon Humphrey not ejected for choking Odell Beckham Jr.
ESPN

Top business story: Fiat Chrysler to pay $40 million over claims it misled investors
CNBC

Top entertainment story: Brad Pitt’s ‘Ad Astra’ Maintains International Box Office Lead With $18 Million
Variety

****

BIG FOUR

New Hampshire

State’s marijuana legalization supporters set to pare back approach in 2020.

New Hampshire state budget raises smoking age to 19.

Nevada

In Las Vegas, Biden says he’s confident he can beat Trump, unify nation.

What will the candidates do about gun violence?

Housing woes push into 2020 debate from Nevada and beyond.

South Carolina

Analysis: Few 2020 presidential candidates pitch new policies when campaigning in SC.

How the US government wasted $8 billion and stranded tons of plutonium in South Carolina.


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Sunday, September 29, 2019


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WEEKEND UPDATE

Stipulate that no one really knows how impeachment is going to play out in the House, in the Senate, and in the 2020 presidential election. 

Even the conventional wisdom that is most widely accepted by elites – that Joe Biden’s presidential campaign will be doomed by the focus on Ukraine – is more conventional than wisdom at this point, actually.

Of course, Team Trump was going to study the Bill-Clinton-survives-impeachment playbook and cherry-pick the most effective parts.

Am I surprised that Trump so quickly went right to the core of 42’s stayin’-alive messge?

I am not.

“They’re trying to stop me because I’m fighting for you, and I’ll never let that happen,” Donald J. Trump said in a tweeted video shot at the White House, in which he also flaunted the general election issues on which he will run and which his pollsters tell him will both rev up the base and appeal to enough of the center to beat Elizabeth Warren (or whoever).

My take: Expect to hear this message a lot over the coming months. It doesn’t come as naturally to Donald Trump as it does to Bill Clinton to talk about how the voters are more important than he is, but he already knows this is his strongest hand.

****

The biggest questions, then.

1. Is impeachment in the House a sure thing?

In Austin Saturday night: “Pelosi indicated that there were no foregone conclusions that the House would deliver an impeachment for trial in the U.S. Senate.” (Texas Tribune)

Despite what the Speaker said, it is hard to see how this train stops – for the very same reasons it started in motion and went from 0 to 120 in less than a week.

2. Assuming the House impeaches, what are the chances of a Senate conviction?

The Associated Press: “Trump’s hold on the Republican Party makes it nearly impossible to foresee a scenario in which the GOP-controlled Senate convicts Trump if he were impeached by the Democratic-run House.” 

Ross Douthat calls a Senate conviction “a political near-impossibility.”

And Politico correctly points out that Mitch McConnell might not even hold a trial.

3. If the House impeaches and there is no Senate conviction, what does that do to Trump’s reelection chances?

Christopher Buskirk, in his New York Times op ed, agrees that conviction is not in the cards and says this is a major political problem for the Democrats.

This piece will cause Team Trump to breathe a sigh of relief. Pro-impeachment Americans should read it and explain to themselves where it is wrong.

John Cassidy in the New Yorker: “It is hard to say how televised impeachment proceedings—limited in duration and narrowly focussed on the Ukraine scandal and perhaps a couple of other Trump misdeeds, as some Democrats have proposed—would play with the American public. One possible outcome that hasn’t received much attention is that they wouldn’t have much impact at all on the President’s reëlection prospects. Voters who detest Trump or support him will probably interpret the proceedings as supportive of their preëxisting views. Less committed and less informed voters may write the hearings off as just another partisan battle in Washington.”

My take: Here is the order of likelihood now (remembering, please, that there is a difference between what is and what ought to be):

1. House impeaches, Senate does not convict, Trump reelection is helped (because the right is riled up, the left is deflated, and the eventual Democratic presidential nominee never truly prepares to win a general election).

2. House impeaches, Senate does not convict, Trump’s reelection is hurt (because independents are angered by the evidence revealed in the House and the failure of either McConnell to hold a trial or Republicans to vote on the up-and-up in the Senate).

3. House fails to impeach (because the evidence fizzles, the whistleblower fizzles, or some other thing happens).

4. House impeaches, Senate convicts.

That’s the order today. But by noon on Monday, I might have a different point of view. In fact, I could change my mind today based on what happens on the Sunday morning public affairs programs.

****

Three essential reading pieces to start your post-Wide World of News Sunday:

1. The New York Times with the most meticulous and brilliant journalism of the last week, explaining “The Donald and Rudy Show” and how we got where we are.

2. The Washington Post with a sober and fair accounting of Hunter Biden’s Ukraine involvement. Note the many questions that Team Biden refuses to answer, which doesn’t mean crimes were committed, or anything improper was done, but does suggest that there is more digging ahead.

3. The Washington Post, again, with a piece as compelling as it is bizarre, on the on-going investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email server.  Harmless tying up of loose ends, Trump administration abuse of power, or ticking time bomb? You make the call.

****

The season premiere of “Saturday Night Live” featured an Alec Baldwin cold open on Trump and impeachment and a sketch about many of the Democratic presidential candidates.


****

Top sports story: No. 1 Clemson stops North Carolina go-ahead 2-point try, barely survives upset bid
Yahoo Sports

Top business story: China Trade Negotiator Liu He Headed to U.S. After Oct. Holidays
Bloomberg

Top entertainment story: Kanye West, IMAX Reveal Exclusive Movie Collaboration
Hollywood Reporter


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Saturday, September 28, 2019


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WHERE IS EVERYONE AND EVERYTHING?

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
ESPN

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

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.
Variety


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Friday, September 27, 2019


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TRADITIONAL FRIDAY WILD WORLD OF NEWS QUIZ: IMPEACHMENT EDITION

1. The Republican Senator who currently represents the biggest threat to Donald Trump’s presidency is

a. Mitt Romney.
b. Susan Collins.
c. Richard Burr.
d. Ben Sasse.

2. The adult who is most likely to warn Trump that he must reorient his White House towards saving his presidency is

a. Kellyanne Conway.
b. Mike Pence.
c. Steven Mnuchin.
d. Jared Kushner.

3. The Democrat who will play the biggest role in determining if the party can convince the country (especially independents) that impeachment is warranted is

a. Nancy Pelosi.
b. Adam Schiff.
c. Phil Schiliro.
d. Jerry Nadler.

4. The biggest impact the media’s nonstop focus on the prospect of impeachment will have on the Democratic presidential nomination battle is

a. It will hurt Joe Biden’s campaign.
b. It will help Joe Biden’s campaign.
c. It will allow candidates such as Kamala Harris who are expected to have underwhelming third-quarter fundraising numbers to stay in the race.
d. It will winnow the field down to three or four candidates by Halloween.

5. The biggest miscalculation of the week was

a. The White House releasing the partial transcript of the president’s phone call.
b. The Democrats staking their case on the whistleblower without knowing all the facts around him or his account.
c. The president thinking Mitch McConnell has his back.
d. Nancy Pelosi abandoning her long-held belief that impeachment shouldn’t happen without broad-based and bipartisan support.

6. The piece that should most unsettle the president’s supporters is

a. “’Total panic’ as ‘shell-shocked’ White House struggles to find impeachment footing” (NBC News)
b. “Rudy Giuliani: ‘You Should Be Happy for Your Country That I Uncovered This’” (The Atlantic)
c. “Democrats Set a Bear Trap” (Peggy Noonan)
d. “Support for impeachment jumps in new poll” (Politico)

7. The person most enjoying the march towards impeachment is

a. Nancy Pelosi.
b. Bill Kristol.
c. Rachel Maddow.
d. Vladimir Putin.

8. Team Trump sees the whistleblower’s biggest vulnerability as

a. Partisan affiliation.
b. Lack of first-hand insight into what transpired.
c. Deep-state status.
d. They haven’t figured it out yet.

9. The biggest reason to think Trump can survive this — or even thrive — is

a. He survived “Access Hollywood.”
b. He survived Mueller.
c. Democrats haven’t shown they know how to run a high-stakes hearing yet.
d. Once the man finds his footing, he knows how to orchestrate the world’s biggest fog machine.

10. Grassroots Trump supporters are least likely to blame the president’s predicament on

a. Nancy Pelosi.
b. The liberal media.
c. Donald Trump.
d. The deep state. 


Answers: 1-c; 2-a; 3-c; 4-a and b; 5-c; 6-a,b,c,d; 7-d; 8-d; 9-I have no idea; 10-c.

****

Friday

As of now, the president has no public events until 6:30pm ET, when he delivers remarks at an Hispanic Heritage Month reception in the East Room.
.
Speaker Pelosi holds a press conference with some of her House colleagues at 9:30am ET, ostensibly to criticize Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans for a failure to act on bills passed by the House.

****

The Most Important Quotes and Reporting of the Last 24 Hours


1. “To transfer a call from the normal storage system to the National Security Council’s code-word-protected network, a senior White House official — someone as high as the chief of staff or the national security adviser — must make a formal written request to do so, according to two people who worked with memos of calls with foreign leaders.” – Washington Post

****

2. “But while the White House disparaged the whistle-blower’s complaint as full of secondhand information and media-reported events, it did not directly deny the sequence of events as outlined. Moreover, other officials amplified the narrative on Thursday with details that were not in the complaint. For instance, they said, at one point an order was given to not distribute the reconstructed transcript of Mr. Trump’s call electronically, as would be typical. Instead, copies were printed out and hand delivered to a select group.” – New York Times

****

3. “Aboard Air Force One on the way back to Washington on Thursday afternoon, Mr. Trump grew angry after watching televised news coverage about the whistle-blower, staff members said.” – New York Times

****

4.  “Trump’s advisers said they envision a ‘split screen’ strategy in the coming weeks. The president is considering stepping up his fall schedule of campaign rallies at arenas across the country to galvanize his supporters outside of Washington and portray House Democrats as liberal insiders who are focused on impeachment instead of governing.” – Washington Post

****

5. “House Democratic leaders are eyeing a fast-paced investigation into the possible impeachment of President Trump, instructing the committees handling the probe to wrap up their findings within weeks in hopes of concluding before the holiday season….Some Democratic lawmakers and aides said Thursday that they believed impeachment articles could be ready for a House vote around Thanksgiving.” – Washington Post

****

6. “The stakes are extraordinarily high politically, and if we do this wrong and we get ahead of the majority of Americans, this could actually lead to a much worse fate, which is Trump getting reelected, Democrats lose in the House and lose in the Senate. This process is going to take time. Nobody knows how long it will take to shift public opinion.”
Democratic Capitol Hill aide

****

7. “One of the first credible polls to test the Democratic impeachment push following Pelosi’s Tuesday announcement found the public almost evenly split. An NPR-PBS NewsHour-Marist Poll conducted Wednesday found Americans approving 49 percent to 46 percent of the House inquiry, with independents disapproving 50 percent to 44 percent.” – Washington Post

****

8. “Among the public, interviews with more than 60 voters across four of the most important counties in the 2020 election showed Republicans largely confident the impeachment process will backfire and Trump will win re-election. Democrats, on the other hand, are worried they may be right.” — Reuters

****

9. “I get the need to remove this unfit man from office. But this process will not produce that outcome. An election can save the country. An inside-the-Beltway political brawl will not.” — David Brooks

****

10. “Speaker Pelosi was dealing with pressure from her caucus and, when you talk about pressure from the left, there is a highly leftist component to the Democratic Party that she was feeling pressure [from].” – Andrew Cuomo

****

11. “The whistleblower is a son of a bitch who lied about me.” – Rudy Giuliani


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Thursday, September 26, 2019


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FACTS AND TRENDS

Scheduled for Thursday:

*At 9am acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire testifies publicly in front of the House Intelligence Committee.

*Maguire and Michael Atkinson, the U.S. government’s intelligence inspector general, speak in closed session to the Senate Intelligence Committee.

*The president has no public events scheduled, but he could gab to the press pool as he moves around Gotham City for a meeting with U.S. U.N. staffers and for a fundraiser — or on the way back from New York to DC.

*Speaker Pelosi and Leader McCarthy hold their regular Thursday press availabilities.

Could happen Thursday:

*The whistleblower report is released publicly.

*The date for the whistleblower’s public testimony is announced.

****

In this fast-moving story, developments happen quickly, but the implications of those developments come into focus more slowly.

Fact: Impeachment is more likely today than it was yesterday.

Fact: The central question today is the same as it was yesterday – will the whistleblower’s story and presentation skills be more or less powerful than Team Trump’s efforts to paint him (it seems to be a him) as a partisan, anti-Trump member of the Deep State.

Fact: This nugget about the whistleblower is going to get more attention today than it did yesterday: “The complaint also alleges a pattern of obfuscation at the White House, in which officials moved the records of some of Trump’s communications with foreign officials onto a separate computer network from where they are normally stored.”

Fact: So will this nugget: “The whistle-blower identified multiple White House officials as witnesses to potential presidential misconduct who could corroborate the complaint.”

Fact: So will this one: “The second concern Mr. Atkinson identified, according to the Justice Department memo, was that Mr. Trump’s potential misconduct might expose him ‘to serious national security and counterintelligence risks.’”

Fact: Democrats are slightly more united about the political implications of impeachment today than they were yesterday.

Fact: House Democrats are less divided today than they were yesterday on whether to focus their impeachment efforts just on Ukraine or to expand them to other areas – with a significant move towards the only-Ukraine approach.

Fact: Adam Schiff is more the face of the Democratic investigation today (at the expense of Judiciary Chair Jerry Nadler) than he was yesterday – to the liking of the media and the Speaker, and to the annoyance of the president.

Fact: The exact timing of the move towards impeachment is no more clear today than it was yesterday – but Team Pelosi believes faster is better.

Fact:Neal Katyal‘s New York Times op ed makes today’s strongest case for impeachment and against the actions of the Justice Department.

Fact: From different perspectives about Donald Trump’s presidency, Bret Stephens and Karl Rove argue that Speaker Pelosi might well be making a major political error that helps Trump in 2020.

Fact: Members of Team Trump are no longer as confident today that impeachment would be good for the boss’s reelection chances as they were yesterday. (The Wall Street Journal on reactions to the account of the July phone call: “’Pretty damning,’ said one Republican close to the White House. ‘Not great,’ another Trump political adviser said.”)

Fact: The president himself is more concerned about the wildfire today than he was yesterday.

Fact: Leaking out of the Trump White House is (even) more rampant today than it was yesterday – including this beauty from the Washington Post: “Morale inside the White House is low, current and former officials said. There is a growing sense that this new controversy will echo the Mueller probe, consuming all of the White House’s bandwidth for the coming months and dashing hopes of pushing through even Trump’s modest legislative agenda.  With the president already acting as his own adviser, it was difficult to attract new talent to join the White House, several current and former senior administration officials said. And now, there is concern that some staffers may leave, eager to avoid the morass of impeachment proceedings.”

Fact: The roles of Vice President Pence, Attorney General Barr, Secretary of State Pompeo, and presidential lawyer Rudy Giuliani are all under more scrutiny today than they were yesterday.

Fact: More Republican Senators today are on the record expressing concern about what the president did than were yesterday – Romney joined by Sasse, Roberts, Portman, and a few others.

Fact: Whether Senate Republicans would possibly vote to remove Trump from office is equally likely today as it was yesterday.

Fact: What Mitch McConnell really thinks of all this is no more clear today than it was yesterday. (Politico)

Fact: More members of the Gang of 500 today believe Elizabeth Warren is the political winner of this galloping swirl than believed that yesterday.

Fact: Democratic presidential candidates will have a harder time today than they did yesterday getting media attention on any topic besides impeachment.

Opinion: Trade honcho Bob Lighthizer claims to be just as certain now that the new North American trade deal will pass as he was before the launch of the impeachment probe.  His boss, Donald Trump, seems to disagree.

****
Top sports story: Saban, Parcells … car sales? Inside Freddie Kitchens’ road map to Cleveland
ESPN

Top business story: UAW and GM close in on tentative deal to end strike
CNBC

Top entertainment story: Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige Will Develop A ‘Star Wars’ Movie
Deadline


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