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Tuesday's Campaign Round-Up, 4.23.19

04/23/19 12:00PM

Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.

* MJ Hegar (D), who ran an impressive-but-unsuccessful U.S. House race in Texas last year, announced this morning that she's running for the U.S. Senate in 2020, hoping to take on incumbent Sen. John Cornyn (R). Hegar may have an intra-party rival: Rep. Joaquin Castro (D) is also eyeing the race.

* The latest University of New Hampshire of Granite State Republicans found Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) leading the pack with 30%, while former Vice President Joe Biden (D) is second 18%, and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D) is third with 15%. No other candidate reached double digits.

* For what it's worth, the same poll found Donald Trump with 76% support among New Hampshire Republicans, while former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld was left with just 5%.

* In national 2020 polling, the latest Monmouth poll of Democrats found Biden leading his party's field with 27%, followed by Sanders with 20%. Buttigieg and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) were tied for third with 8% each, followed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) at 6%. Every other candidate was below 5% in this survey.

* Kamala Harris made a little news last night, announcing her support for an impeachment inquiry into the president, and arguing that she believes new gun measures can be implemented through executive actions.

* Another presidential hopeful, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) also broke new ground, vowing not to use stolen and/or hacked materials from foreign adversaries in her 2020 campaign.

* Yesterday, the Democratic National Committee made the same commitment, and pressed the Republican National Committee to follow suit.

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Barack Obama, George W. Bush

One of Trump's favorite economists blames Great Recession on Obama

04/23/19 11:20AM

Last week, Republican economist Art Laffer told Fox News that Barack Obama "was the reason why we had the Great Recession." As Laffer argued, there was a global economic crisis because investors were panicked by the prospect of an Obama presidency.

This morning, the Republican economist returned to Fox News, where he peddled the same ridiculous line.

"[I]f you'll remember, coming into the election in 2008, when Obama started rising in the polls and doing well in the polls, the stock market crashed. And the stock market tells you what will be, not what has been. The stock market looks forward.

"And if they see an Obama coming into office, they'll crash, and that's what led to the Great Recession."

Laffer added that if he thinks Donald Trump is likely to lose, he'll start moving his investments away from the market.

I have so many, many questions.

If the Great Recession started in December 2007, and Barack Obama was widely seen as an underdog for the Democratic nomination at the time, how exactly would any sensible observer think he caused the downturn?

Is Art Laffer familiar with the word "causation"?

Does Laffer understand the actual causes behind the 2008 crash?

Does he recognize the differences between stock-market indexes and the economy at large?

Following the reasoning he shared with a national television audience, does Laffer look at stock-market growth from 2009 and 2010 -- in percentage terms, Wall Street gains were faster in Obama's first two years than in Trump's first two years -- as proof of the Democratic president's economic genius?

Why in the world do Republicans still listen to Laffer?

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Donald Trump, Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, Mike Pence

Despite Trump's threats, Dems proceed with investigations

04/23/19 10:40AM

There's a meaningful difference of opinion among many congressional Democrats about how best to investigate Donald Trump now that the Mueller report has been released. For some, a formal impeachment inquiry, initiated through the Judiciary Committee, is the only responsible course in light of the alleged crimes uncovered by the special counsel.

For others, including the House Democratic leadership, the fact-finding process must continue, but it can and should be done through existing oversight mechanisms.

This is not a disagreement over whether to investigate the president and his alleged misdeeds, but rather, how. Either way, as Roll Call noted, there's no denying the fact that the process is moving forward.

House Democrats are starting to follow leads laid out in special counsel Robert S. Mueller III's report as their own investigations into President Donald Trump continue.

The caucus held a conference call Monday evening in which the six committee chairs who are investigating various matters involving Trump updated members on their next steps now that Mueller has concluded his investigation.

According to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a close White House ally, House Dems will move forward with a "stampede" to impeach the president. If that's true, it's the slowest moving stampede anyone's ever seen.

But as the process advances, I have a separate question: whatever happened to those threats Trump made in the hopes of scaring Democrats away from conducting oversight?

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Trump's odd expectations: he'd like to be 'immune from criticism'

04/23/19 10:04AM

When Donald Trump reflects on his understanding of history, trouble soon follows. After all, the president has talked about Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Jackson, and the U.S. civil war, and in each instance, Trump ended up embarrassing himself.

And yet, the Republican continues to think he knows enough about history to make astute observations. Take this morning, for example, when Trump published this to Twitter:

"In the 'old days' if you were President and you had a good economy, you were basically immune from criticism. Remember, 'It's the economy stupid.'

"Today I have, as President, perhaps the greatest economy in history...and to the Mainstream Media, it means NOTHING. But it will!"

Let's not dwell on the minor factual errors, including the fact that the current economy isn't even close to being the "greatest" in history. In fact, it's not quite as strong as it was in 2015.

What's more important is the fact that Trump is offering an interesting peek into his expectations. In his mind, a healthy economy should necessarily immunize a president from criticism. After all, the president argued, that's the way it worked in the "old days."

In case this isn't obvious, no American president has ever been "immune from criticism," regardless of the economic conditions of the day. Bill Clinton was president when the economy boomed, and he not only faced criticism, he was also impeached (for misdeeds that pale in comparison to Trump's misdeeds).

More recently, Barack Obama rescued the economy from the Great Recession, but that didn't stop some clown from running around peddling a racist conspiracy theory about his birth certificate.

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Trump loves 'transparency,' except when it comes to his own actions

04/23/19 09:20AM

Early last year, then-House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), a sycophantic ally of the White House, prepared a "memo" with classified information he wanted to release in order to help Donald Trump. The president, ignoring the concerns of his own FBI director, cleared the way for the document's release.

Pressed for an explanation, Team Trump insisted at the time that it was part of the administration's commitment to "transparency."

In May 2018, when Trump ordered a highly sensitive intelligence briefing for some members of Congress, in which law enforcement officials were instructed to share information on a confidential human source, the president defended the move by saying, "What I want is I want total transparency.... You have to have transparency."

In September 2018, Trump ordered the release of classified materials related to the Russia investigation. "All I want to do is be transparent," he said at the time.

What the president meant, of course, was that he wanted to be transparent with information he thought might be able to help him politically. When it comes to disclosing information related to his work and background, Trump doesn't much care for transparency at all.

Just yesterday, the president sued the chairman of the House Oversight Committee as part of a desperate attempt to keep his financial records secret, and soon after, as the Washington Post reported, Team Trump directed a White House official to ignore a subpoena as part of an investigation into security-clearance abuses.

A former White House personnel security director has been instructed by the White House not to show up Tuesday for questioning by the House Oversight Committee.

The move appears to be the latest effort by the Trump administration to push back against congressional inquiries targeting the White House, which have proliferated since Democrats took control of the House in January.

White House deputy counsel Michael M. Purpura wrote a letter Monday asking the former security director, Carl Kline, not to show up as the committee had requested.

Whatever happened to, "You have to have transparency"?

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Federal Reserve To Announce Policy Decisions After One-Day Meeting

One of Trump's Fed picks quits, the other faces new controversy

04/23/19 08:40AM

Herman Cain no doubt saw the writing on the wall. Last week, the White House opened the door to him ending his bid for the Federal Reserve's Board of Governors, and quietly leaked word that officials had begun searching for his replacement. But last Wednesday, Cain said he didn't care about the political pushback -- he was "very committed" to sticking with the process.

Five days later, Cain quit. The Georgia Republican explained in an online statement that he withdrew from consideration for a variety of reasons, including concerns that he "could not advocate on behalf of capitalism" if he were confirmed to the post.

I'm not altogether sure what that means, but given the fact that Cain is exiting the stage, it's probably not worth investing too much energy trying to figure it out.

Instead, let's focus attention on Donald Trump's other choice for the Fed's board.

One of President Donald Trump's picks to serve on the Federal Reserve Board has written that women should be banned from refereeing, announcing or beer vending at men's college basketball games, asking if there was any area in life "where men can take vacation from women."

Stephen Moore, an economic commentator and former Trump campaign adviser, made those and similar comments in several columns reviewed by CNN's KFile that were published on the website of the conservative National Review magazine in 2001, twice in 2002 and 2003.

CNN's report found a missive Moore wrote in March 2002 on the March Madness college-basketball tournament, in which the Republican pundit presented his case for removing "un-American" aspects of it. The first proposed "rule" was banning women.

"Here's the rule change I propose: No more women refs, no women announcers, no women beer venders, no women anything," he wrote at the time. "There is, of course, an exception to this rule. Women are permitted to participate, if and only if, they look like Bonnie Bernstein. The fact that Bonnie knows nothing about basketball is entirely irrelevant." CNN also found a later missive in which Moore wrote that Bernstein, a CBS sports journalist at the time, should wear halter tops.

It's worth clarifying that if Moore were an otherwise qualified nominee for the Federal Reserve's Board of Governors, revelations like these would raise serious doubts about his judgment and character.

But he's not an otherwise qualified nominee.

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Trump lawsuit hopes to limit the scope of congressional oversight

04/23/19 08:00AM

Last week, House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) issued a subpoena to Mazars USA, directing the firm to turn over Donald Trump's financial records. The president's new lawyers -- hired to keep the Republican's finances secret -- initially sent a letter to Mazars USA, insisting that the firm ignore that federal subpoena.

Yesterday, Trump's attorneys kicked things up a notch, suing Cummings, asking a federal court to block the congressman's oversight efforts. As Rachel noted on the show last night, the lawsuit will almost certainly fail.

But the Washington Post highlighted an interesting tidbit from the lawsuit, which I'd overlooked after initially reading the filing.

In Trump's lawsuit, his attorneys cited a Supreme Court decision called Kilbourn v. Thompson, which found "no express power" in the Constitution for Congress to investigate individuals without pending legislation.

The problem with that argument, said University of Baltimore law professor Charles Tiefer, is that Kilbourn v. Thompson is a case from 1880.

And it was overruled by a decision in 1927, Tiefer said.

"By reaching back to precedent to the 1880s, they're seeking ... to overturn the entire modern case law that the courts have put together to respect Congress's investigative power," Tiefer added, referring to Trump's lawyers. "It's a very long shot.... These suits look like an act of desperation by the Trump lawyers."

It's obviously embarrassing that the president's new legal team didn't realize it was citing a Supreme Court case that was overturned nearly a century ago, but let's not brush past too quickly the absurdity of the underlying argument.

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Monday's Mini-Report, 4.22.19

04/22/19 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* Sri Lanka: "At least 290 people were killed and 500 others injured after a series of blasts shook Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday. A wave of near-simultaneous explosions rocked three churches and three luxury hotels, officials said. Police later reported two further explosions. Police said Monday that 24 suspects had been arrested."

* The results weren't close: "Comedian Volodymyr Zelenskiy won Sunday's runoff election in Ukraine, ousting incumbent President Petro Poroshenko in a landslide. With over 90 percent of the ballots counted, Zelenskiy had 73 percent of the vote with Poroshenko at just under 25 percent."

* At the border: "The FBI on Saturday arrested a man described as a commander of an armed group that has been detaining migrants in New Mexico, the state attorney general's office said."

* The end of a strike: "Stop & Shop and its striking workers reached a tentative agreement Sunday night, bringing an end to a 10-day work stoppage that crippled New England's largest grocery chain -- closing dozens of stores, delaying food from reaching others, and keeping away loyal shoppers in large numbers."

* This seems unlikely to go well: "The Trump administration said Monday it will scrap all waivers that allowed eight governments to buy Iranian oil without facing U.S. sanctions -- a move designed to choke off Tehran's oil revenue."

* Kansas: "Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly's power to fill vacancies in some top state posts would be stripped and given to party leadership under new legislation introduced in the House."

* He's off to a great start, isn't he? "Interior Secretary David Bernhardt began working on policies that would aid one of his former lobbying clients within weeks of joining the Trump administration, according to a POLITICO analysis of agency documents -- a revelation that adds to the ethics questions dogging his leadership of the agency."

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Image: US President Donald J. Trump and President Sauli Niinisto of Finland joint news conference

Despite evidence, Trump claims 'nobody disobeys' his orders

04/22/19 12:38PM

Donald Trump likes to be seen as a strong president who commands respect, which has long been a tough image to maintain given his often ridiculous antics. But the Republican's reputation suffered irreparable harm last week, when the public saw Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report, which documented a series of incidents in which Trump's aides ignored some of his most outlandish directions.

This morning, as the Associated Press reported, the president pushed back.

President Donald Trump says that "nobody" disobeys his orders, a reference to the Mueller report, which paints a deeply unflattering picture of his presidency.

Trump made the comments Monday during the annual Easter Egg roll when asked by reporters about special counsel Robert Mueller's portrayal of a White House in which staffers often ignore the president's orders.

The report suggested that some of those refusals helped protect the president from himself.

But Trump insisted Monday that: "Nobody disobeys my orders."

Before the Mueller report's release, we already knew that Trump's team routinely ignored the president's instructions. Bob Woodward's latest book, for example, highlighted an incident in which Trump directed then-Defense Secretary James Mattis to prepare a plan to kill Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Mattis listened, told Trump he'd get right on that, hung up the phone, and told a senior aide, "We're not going to do any of that."

There was also a separate incident in which Trump asked Mattis to provide him with military options for Iran. The Pentagon chief reportedly “refused.”

As we discussed several months ago, this comes up with alarming regularity. For example, Trump announced in June 2018 that he had “instructed” U.S. officials “not to endorse” an official G-7 communique negotiated by diplomats from member nations. Officials didn’t much care about the tweet and they proceeded to ignore Trump’s online instructions.

A few months earlier, the president announced via Twitter that Russia should “get ready” because he was poised to launch a military offensive in Syria. White House officials found Trump’s declaration “distracting,” and proceeded “as if nothing had happened.”

“What is most remarkable is the extent to which his senior officials act as if Trump were not the chief executive,” Jack Goldsmith, a top Justice Department official under President George W. Bush, wrote a while back. “Never has a president been so regularly ignored or contradicted by his own officials…. The president is a figurehead who barks out positions and desires, but his senior subordinates carry on with different commitments.”

But the Mueller report took this dynamic to an even more embarrassing level.

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Monday's Campaign Round-Up, 4.22.19

04/22/19 12:00PM

Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.

* Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) announced this morning that he, too, is running for the Democratic presidential nomination. By my count, he's the 17th elected official to enter the contest, the sixth current or former member of the U.S. House, and the third military veteran.

* On a related note, there's some question about whether Moulton, who'll be on with Rachel tonight, is holding open the possibility of running for re-election to Congress. His FEC filing suggests the Massachusetts Democrat is giving up his House seat, but a campaign spokesperson said the opposite.

* Sen. Elizabeth Warren's (D-Mass.) presidential campaign continues to roll out major policy proposals on a nearly daily basis, and today, Team Warren unveiled an impressive "$1.25 trillion plan to reshape higher education by canceling most student loan debt and eliminating tuition at every public college."

* The Trump campaign is reportedly shifting its business away from Jones Day, a prominent law firm, as a way to punish Don McGahn, a Jones Day partner, who shared some damaging information with Special Counsel Robert Mueller about his time as Trump's White House counsel.

* Former Rep. Beto O'Rourke's (D-Texas) presidential campaign is experiencing a bit of a staff shake-up, with Becky Bond and her deputy, Zack Malitz, both parting ways with the congressman's team.

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