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Monday's Mini-Report, 1.27.20

01/27/20 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* An important 5-4 ruling: "The Supreme Court issued an order Monday allowing the Trump administration to begin enforcing new limits on immigrants who are considered likely to become overly dependent on government benefit programs."

* To date, there are five people in the U.S. who've been hospitalized with confirmed cases of the coronavirus: "As the coronavirus outbreak rages on in China, at least 110 people in the United States are undergoing testing for the new respiratory illness, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Monday."

* Related jitters on Wall Street: "Just as the world economy appeared to emerge from the uncertainty of the trade war, the spread of the dangerous coronavirus in China has pierced the calm that had settled over financial markets."

* Joe Biden has an op-ed in USA Today on the virus, arguing, "Trump's demonstrated failures of judgment and his repeated rejection of science make him the worst possible person to lead our country through a global health challenge."

* I'll look forward to Team Trump arguing that the president barely knows Giuliani: "Jane Raskin, one of Trump's defense lawyers, opened her argument by accusing the House impeachment managers of resorting to using Giuliani as a 'colorful distraction' to take away from the idea that 'both the law and the facts' were not on their side."

* The team of impeachment managers will soon be one person short: "Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) said on Sunday that he would miss part of the Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump to be with his wife, Joyce Miller, who has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer."

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In this file photo taken on November 28, 2019 US President Donald Trump speaks to the troops during a surprise Thanksgiving day visit at Bagram Air Field, in Afghanistan.

Trump faces pushback from veterans for minimizing troop head injuries

01/27/20 04:29PM

Following the recent Iranian missile strike, which targeted U.S. forces in Iraq, Donald Trump assured the public that "no Americans were harmed" in the attack. Weeks later, we learned that 34 U.S. servicemembers were diagnosed with concussions and traumatic brain injuries following the Iranian strike, and many of them were transported to out-of-theater hospitals for treatment.

Pressed for some kind of explanation, the president -- who has an unfortunate history in this area, despite his own controversial record avoiding military service -- told reporters that he'd heard that some of the servicemen and women had experienced "headaches," but he didn't "consider them very serious injuries."

The comments were not well received by some in the veterans' community. The Washington Post reported over the weekend:

The Veterans of Foreign Wars, the oldest major U.S. veterans group, appears to be the first large veterans organization to publicly chastise the president for dismissing the injuries as "headaches" and "not very serious."

Trump "minimized these troops' injuries," VFW National Commander-in-Chief William "Doc" Schmitz said in a statement Friday, after a Pentagon announcement that the number of injured troops had risen to 34.

Schmitz added that the VFW "expects an apology from the president to our servicemen and women for his misguided remarks."

The Post also spoke to Jeremy Butler, chief executive of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, who said traumatic brain injury is "the signature injury coming out of" those two conflicts. Butler added, "We were definitely troubled and disappointed to read and hear about the president's comments. I think an apology is the first step that's needed here."

There's no reason to assume we'll ever hear any expressions of presidential regret -- Trump hasn't apologized for other offensive rhetoric targeting American prisoners of war or Gold Star families -- and the Republican can take some comfort in the fact that his partisan allies remain eager to cover for him.

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The dome of the U.S. Capitol Building is seen as the sun sets on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, March 7, 2013. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

On impeachment, polling points to some 'national consensus'

01/27/20 04:03PM

During his opening statement this afternoon, Ken Starr complained that there's "no national consensus" when it comes to Donald Trump's impeachment. If memory serves, Starr had no similar concerns during his impeachment effort in the late 1990s -- a sizable majority of Americans had no use for Starr's crusade -- but perhaps he's changed his mind about the importance of public attitudes.

Whatever the explanation, there's some truth to the assertion. A majority of Americans support Trump's impeachment, conviction, and removal from office -- a point bolstered by three major national polls released just over the last several days -- but it'd be a stretch to characterize a narrow national majority as a "consensus."

There is one area, however, in which a consensus emerges. Consider this tidbit from the latest Washington Post/ABC News poll:

Despite divisions over the preferred outcome, 66 percent of Americans overall say the Senate should call new witnesses to testify at the impeachment trial, a question that has been fiercely fought among senators. [...]

Nearly 9 in 10 Democrats and over 6 in 10 independents support calling new witnesses, while Republicans are split about evenly, with 45 percent saying new witnesses should be called and 43 percent saying they should not.

There's more data along these lines. In the latest national Associated Press poll, 68% supported calls for new witnesses during the Senate proceedings. A CNN poll put the figure at 69%.

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In this photo taken May, 25, 2016, Baylor President Ken Starr leaves a terminal at Waco airport in Waco, Texas. (Photo by Rod Aydelotte/Waco Tribune Herald/AP)

Indifferent to irony, Ken Starr laments the 'age of impeachment'

01/27/20 03:03PM

About a year and a half ago, before Donald Trump launched an illegal extortion scheme, Ken Starr was promoting a book and sat down with CNN's Jake Tapper. The host asked whether he believed the current president would ever be impeached.

"I hope not, because one of the lessons in the book is, impeachment is hell," Starr replied. "The country should not be taken through that.... Unless there is a growing national consensus that impeachment is proper, it's doomed to fail and it's just the wrong way to go.

The irony was staggering: Starr led an impeachment crusade against Bill Clinton 22 years ago, and there was no "national consensus" about the propriety of the special prosecutor's pursuit. On the contrary, most Americans opposed Clinton's impeachment, a detail Starr was comfortable ignoring.

The Republican lawyer's indifference toward irony apparently hasn't changed.

Ken Starr, a member of Trump's legal team who served as the independent counsel investigating former President Bill Clinton, lamented that the U.S. is now in the "age of impeachment."

"In this particular juncture in America's history, the Senate is being called to sit as the high court of impeachment all too frequently," Starr said. "Indeed, we are living in what I think can aptly be described as the 'age of impeachment.'"

"How did we get here, with presidential impeachment invoked frequently in its inherently destabilizing as well as acrimonious way?" he asked.

Starr went on to call for a "return to our country's traditions," when presidential impeachment was truly "a measure of last resort."

The hypocrisy, of course, is breathtaking. When Starr was hunting Clinton, he had none of these concerns. It was only when a Republican president started abusing his power in the hopes of cheating an election that Starr decided that he'd like to see the process used far less frequently.

But that's not the only problem with his pitch.

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Bolton news creates straightforward test for GOP in impeachment trial

01/27/20 12:48PM

At the heart of Donald Trump's legal defense in his impeachment trial is a straightforward claim: the president did not withhold military aid to Ukraine in order to coerce officials in Kyiv into targeting his domestic rivals. Former White House National Security Advisor John Bolton appears to have a first-hand account that exposes the defense as a lie.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), who's leading the House impeachment effort, said this morning that the news has left senators in a difficult position. "They've just learned there's a key witness going to the heart of the allegations," the impeachment manager told CNN. "The question they have to answer is: Do they want to hear the truth? ... I think all the senators are now really hard-pressed to turn him away."

A handful of Senate Republicans appear to be thinking along these lines.

A pair of moderate Republican senators said Monday that the major revelations from a soon-to-be released book from former national security adviser John Bolton have strengthened the case for calling witnesses in President Donald Trump's impeachment trial.

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, said it's "increasingly likely" there will be enough Republican senators to vote in favor of calling witnesses in the president's ongoing trial.... Another moderate Republican senator, Susan Collins of Maine, tweeted out a statement saying the "reports about John Bolton's book strengthen the case for witnesses and have prompted a number of conversations among my colleagues."

In all likelihood, it would only take four GOP senators to break party ranks and bring Bolton to the Senate to testify. There now appears to be two Republicans on board, which means the search is on for two more.

It's worth noting for context that as the first week of the Senate trial came to a close, the conventional wisdom was that the fight over possible witnesses was moving in a direction the White House liked. By most accounts, the votes for new testimony simply weren't there and Democratic demands were likely to be ignored by the chamber's GOP majority.

The news about Bolton appears to have maybe -- maybe -- changed the direction of the prevailing winds. A senior Republican official told the Washington Post overnight that the odds of depositions for new testimony are "certainly rising dramatically."

That said, they're far from 100%.

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Monday's Campaign Round-Up, 1.27.20

01/27/20 12:00PM

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

* With a week remaining before Iowa's presidential caucuses, the latest New York Times/Siena poll found Bernie Sanders in the lead with 25%, followed by Pete Buttigieg at 18%, Joe Biden at 17%, and Elizabeth Warren at 15%. The latest USA Today/Suffolk poll, however, found Biden leading Sanders in Iowa, 25% to 19%, followed by Buttigieg at 18%, and Warren at 13%.

* Sanders also continues to be well positioned in New Hampshire, which holds its primary two weeks from tomorrow. In the NBC News/Marist poll, the Vermont senator leads with 22%, followed by Buttigieg at 17%, Biden at 15%, and Warren at 13%. A CNN poll conducted by the University of New Hampshire found Sanders ahead with 25%, followed by Biden at 16%, Buttigieg at 15%, and Warren at 12%.

* In national polling, the latest Washington Post/ABC poll found Biden leading Sanders among registered voters, 32% to 23%. Warren, with 12%, was the only other candidate in double digits. Fox News' national poll, meanwhile, found Biden leading Sanders, 26% to 23%, followed by Warren at 14%. These results, however, also show Michael Bloomberg cracking double digits with 10%.

* Andrew Yang, a Democratic presidential candidate, did well enough in some of the aforementioned polls to qualify for the next primary debate, joining six other contenders who'd already qualified to be on the stage in New Hampshire next month. Tulsi Gabbard, meanwhile, is inching closer to meeting the participation thresholds, needing two more qualifying polls and an increased number of donors.

* It was a busy weekend for newspaper endorsements, with the editorial board of the Des Moines Register touting Warren as the Dems' best choice, while Iowa's Sioux City Register endorsed Biden. In New Hampshire, the Union Leader endorsed Amy Klobuchar.

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