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E.g., 6/18/2019
E.g., 6/18/2019

Ahead of rollout, the White House's Middle East peace plan flounders

06/18/19 09:20AM

Donald Trump, irrationally confident that he can help negotiate a Middle East peace agreement, put the entire process in the hands of his young son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who has no background in diplomacy or foreign policy.

In fact, the American president has expressed great confidence that Kushner is uniquely well suited to reach an agreement between Palestinians and Israelis, saying of his son-in-law, "If you can't produce peace in the Middle East, nobody can. OK. All my life I've been hearing that's the toughest deal in the world to make. And I've seen it, but I have a feeling that Jared is going to do a great job."

With this in mind, Kushner announced plans to unveil key elements of his plan at a conference next week in Bahrain. Politico recently reported, "A number of leading Arab countries, as well as Israel, plan to attend the conference."

At least, that was the idea. Axios reported yesterday that the plan to bring peace to Israelis and Palestinians will be unveiled at an event without Israelis or Palestinians.

The White House has decided not to invite the Israeli Minister of Finance Moshe Kahlon or other Israeli government officials to the Bahrain conference in Manama on June 25, where it plans to launch the economic part of the Trump administration's Israeli-Palestinian peace plan, U.S. officials told me.

The decision follows a Palestinian boycott of the conference, which has put pressure on other Arab and Muslim nations not to attend.... The Bahrain conference will now take place without Israeli or Palestinian officials.

This comes three weeks after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo privately expressed great skepticism about the prospects of the White House strategy -- Trump himself conceded that Pompeo "may be right" -- and two weeks after Politico reported that even Trump allies are "intensifying calls to scrap the rollout" of Kushner's blueprint.

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Public attitudes on impeachment are not what Trump thinks they are

06/18/19 08:40AM

Late yesterday, Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.) announced her support for launching an impeachment inquiry into Donald Trump, and while she was hardly the first congressional Democrat to reach this conclusion, her decision raised a few eyebrows because of her electoral circumstances.

Porter, just six months into her first term, represents Orange County, California -- traditionally a Republican bastion. If Porter, who won a close race against a Republican incumbent last year, believes she can (and must) endorse such a position, it's very likely to get her party's leaders' attention.

On the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, however, the president facing the prospect of impeachment believes he has the electorate in his corner. This was Trump's most recent tweet on the subject:

"Almost 70% in new Poll say don't impeach. So ridiculous to even be talking about this subject when all of the crimes were committed by the other side. They can't win the election fairly!"

There's quite a bit of nonsense packed into this tweet, including the bogus assertion that his unnamed detractors are guilty of unspecified "crimes." It's also more than a little ironic to see Donald Trump, of all people, talk about the importance of winning elections "fairly."

But perhaps the most important word in his tweet was "almost" -- because given the latest polling data on presidential impeachment, it's a word doing a whole lot of work in Trump's missive.

Take the latest Fox News poll, for example:

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Image: U.S. ICE officers conduct a targeted enforcement operation in Atlanta

Why Trump's new vow to use ICE to deport 'millions' matters

06/18/19 08:00AM

Donald Trump appeared to make some important news via Twitter last night, announcing a dramatic new plan to use Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents to remove "millions" of people from American soil.

"Next week ICE will begin the process of removing the millions of illegal aliens who have illicitly found their way into the United States. They will be removed as fast as they come in."

It was a striking announcement for a variety of reasons, not the last of which is the fact that we can't say with certainty whether the plan exists outside of the president's imagination. After all, Trump has made related vows -- on immigration and other issues -- with no real intention of following through. It's unsettling, but in 2019, Americans have a president who occasionally announces major policy developments that he has no intention of actually implementing.

What's more, this appears to be the latest in a series of incidents in which Trump blindsided his own team by making an announcement without alerting the relevant officials first. The Washington Post reported, "U.S. officials with knowledge of the preparations have said in recent days that the operation was not imminent, and ICE officials said late Monday night that they were not aware that the president planned to divulge their enforcement plans on Twitter."

It's not even clear if Trump's declaration could be true. While the Justice Department has expedited deportation orders, the Post's report added, "The president's claim that ICE would be deporting 'millions' also was at odds with the reality of the agency's staffing and budgetary challenges. ICE arrests in the U.S. interior have been declining in recent months because so many agents are busy managing the record surge of migrant families across the southern border with Mexico."

The logistical challenges associated with removing "millions" of immigrants -- a plan that would require extensive planning and personnel -- are significant, and there's little to suggest the Department of Homeland Security is prepared to execute such a scheme. (Trump tapped Mark Morgan to lead ICE only a few weeks ago.)

But then there's that other nagging problem: if ICE was actually planning to launch such a plan next week, wouldn't that be the sort of thing a president keeps under wraps?

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Monday's Mini-Report, 6.17.19

06/17/19 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* A scary scene in Dallas: "A rifle-toting gunman wearing tactical gear and carrying multiple magazines was fatally shot Monday after exchanging fire with federal officers outside a downtown Dallas court building, police said."

* A scary scene in Toronto: "Two people were shot at a rally celebrating the Toronto Raptors' first NBA championship on Monday afternoon, according to police, amid a celebration that saw thousands of fans crowd into the city's downtown core. Police also said that two firearms were recovered and two people were in custody."

* Terrorism in Nigeria: "At least 30 people were killed in a triple suicide bombing in northeastern Nigeria, emergency services reported on Monday, in an attack bearing the hallmarks of the Boko Haram jihadist group."

* A 7-2 ruling: "The Supreme Court declined on Monday to change the longstanding rule that says putting someone on trial more than once for the same crime does not violate the Constitution's protection against double jeopardy -- a case that drew attention because of its possible implications for President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort."

* More from SCOTUS: "The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday dealt a partial victory to the owners of an Oregon bakery who were fined for refusing to provide a cake for a lesbian commitment ceremony. The justices wiped out lower court rulings against the bakers and sent the case back for another round of hearings."

* Unexpected news out of Cairo: "Egypt's former president, Mohammed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood leader who rose to office in the country's first free elections in 2012 and was ousted a year later by the military, collapsed in court during a trial and died Monday, state TV and his family said."

* A discouraging record: "Lawmakers set a new record Sunday by leaving the federal minimum wage untouched since July 24, 2009, the first year of former President Barack Obama's first term. The rate hasn't been increased from $7.25 in a whopping 3,615 days, making it the longest dry spell since the federal minimum wage was enacted under President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1938."

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) listens to a question during a press conference following the weekly policy meeting at the U.S. Capitol Dec. 1, 2015 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty)

Mitch McConnell's curious definition of 'full-bore socialism'

06/17/19 02:23PM

In March, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) condemned the House Democrats' voting-rights legislation -- the "For the People Act" (H.R. 1) -- as a "half-baked socialist proposal." That didn't make any sense, since there's nothing socialistic about ideas such as ending partisan gerrymandering and creating a system of automatic voter registration, but the GOP leader didn't much care.

A few days ago, McConnell appeared on Fox News and made a similar pitch on a similar issue to Laura Ingraham.

"They plan to make the District of Columbia a state, that'd give them two new Democratic senators. Puerto Rico a state, that'd give them two more new Democratic senators. And as a former Supreme Court clerk yourself, you've surely noticed that they plan to expand the Supreme Court.

"So this is full-bore socialism on the march in the House."

Look, I realize some on the right have gotten a little lazy when it comes to crafting political insults. In much the same as "judicial activism" has become a conservative shorthand for "court rulings we don't like," the word "socialism" is starting to become synonymous with "policy reforms Republicans oppose."

But the laziness isn't helping anyone. For one thing, if giving Americans a voice in the U.S. Senate is "socialism," McConnell is necessarily going to make socialism more popular.

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Image: President Trump Signs Executive Order In Oval Office

Trump cryptically refers to release of his 'financial statement'

06/17/19 12:48PM

One of the parts of Donald Trump's interview with George Stephanopoulos that's generated some chatter was the president's willingness to scold acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney for coughing during part of the interview. It was, to be sure, odd: Trump went on and on about how unacceptable he considered Mulvaney's coughing, before asking for another take.

But what I found even more notable was what the president was saying before he interrupted the interview to chastise his aide.

TRUMP: When you will see my financial statement, at some point I assume it's going to be released, you'll be very impressed by the job I've done. Much, much bigger, much, much better than anybody.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Which financial statement?

TRUMP: Uh, they're after my financial statement. The Senate, they'd like to get my financial statement. At some point I hope they get it.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You're going to turn it over?

TRUMP: No, at some point I might, but at some point, I hope they get it because it's a fantastic financial statement. It's a fantastic financial statement.

At that point, the president interrupted the interview, said, "Let's do that over," and admonished Mulvaney.

When they returned, the ABC News anchor reminded Trump that it's up to him when people see the materials. "No, it's not up to me," the Republican responded. "It's up to lawyers, it's up to everything else. But they're asking for things that they should never be asking for, that they've never asked another president for." Trump added that people are trying to "demean" him.

The president's response to coughing was weird, but his comments about his "financial statement" weren't any better -- because it wasn't at all clear what in the world he was referring to.

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Monday's Campaign Round-Up, 6.17.19

06/17/19 12:00PM

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

* In an unexpected 5-4 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court this morning rejected a challenge to a lower court ruling on Virginia's racially gerrymandered legislative districts. The outcome increases the odds of Democrats winning a majority in Richmond this fall.

* The latest national Fox News poll found former Vice President Joe Biden (D) maintaining his position atop the Democratic presidential primary field, leading Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), 32% to 13%. In March, the same poll found Biden leading Sanders by just eight points. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) was third in the new results with 9%, followed by Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D) with 8% each.

* That same poll found each of the top five Democratic contenders leading Donald Trump in hypothetical match-ups, though Biden, who led the president by 10 points, enjoyed the largest advantage.

* The latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll was also released over the weekend, and it found just 37% of registered voters are enthusiastic or comfortable about voting for Trump. In contrast, the poll found 52% said they're "very uncomfortable" backing the president.

* In South Carolina, a Post and Courier-Change Research Poll found Biden leading Warren, 37% to 17%, followed by Buttigieg with 11%. Harris and Sanders are tied in this poll for fourth with 9% each.

* Speaking of the Palmetto State, several Democratic contenders appeared at the Black Economic Alliance Presidential Forum in South Carolina on Saturday. The candidates -- Warren, Buttigieg, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), and former Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-Texas) -- spoke at the event, which was specifically focused on economic problems affecting African-American communities.

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