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Wednesday's Campaign Round-Up, 11.13.19

11/13/19 12:00PM

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

* The latest Monmouth poll out of Iowa shows Pete Buttigieg out in front with 22%, followed by Joe Biden at 19%, and Elizabeth Warren at 18%. Bernie Sanders was fourth in the poll with 13%.

* Though Georgia tends to be a pretty reliably red state, a new poll from the Atlanta Journal Constitution shows each of the top Democratic presidential hopefuls leading Donald Trump in hypothetical match-ups. Joe Biden, who led the president by eight points in the poll, did the best against Trump. [Update: Some legitimate questions have been raised about the quality of this poll.]

* Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), who recently ended his own presidential campaign, this morning announced his support for Biden. This is the first endorsement from a former 2020 contender.

* American Bridge, a prominent Democratic group, this week launched a $3 million advertising campaign, focusing on Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. Each of the ads feature individual voters who supported Trump in 2016, but who now regret it.

* Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg hasn't formally kicked off a presidential campaign, but he recently filed to participate in Alabama's primary, and yesterday, he flew to Arkansas to file the paperwork to run in its primary, too.

* Speaking of Arkansas, Josh Mahony was the Democratic candidate running against Sen. Tom Cotton (R) next year, but two hours after the filing deadline, Mahony ended his candidacy. It raises the prospect of the far-right Republican incumbent running unopposed in 2020.

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Could the government shut down during the impeachment process?

11/13/19 10:18AM

It's one of those nagging details that many would prefer not to think about, but policymakers in D.C. are facing an inflexible deadline: a week from tomorrow, current federal funding will run out. Failing to act would lead to yet another government shutdown.

The Associated Press reported yesterday that a deal appears to be in place to kick the can down the road for a month, preventing the fourth shutdown of Donald Trump's presidency.

A top House lawmaker announced Tuesday that Congress will pass a governmentwide temporary spending bill to keep the government running through Dec. 20, forestalling a government shutdown as the House turns its focus to impeachment hearings.

Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., made the announcement after meeting with Senate counterpart Richard Shelby, R-Ala., in hopes of kick-starting long-delayed efforts to find agreement on $1.4 trillion worth of agency spending bills.

The plan, at least for now, is for Congress to approve a stop-gap spending measure some time over the next week and send it to the White House for a presidential signature. It would delay the threat of another shutdown by a month.

At that point, lawmakers can return to the negotiating table, hoping to work out a larger spending package that would fund the government through the end of the fiscal year, which runs through the end of September.

In theory, this shouldn't be too difficult -- the parties are roughly on board with spending levels -- but in a familiar dynamic, congressional Republicans are pushing for billions of dollars in border barrier funds to make Donald Trump happy. As has long been the case, congressional Democrats aren't going along.

How this will be resolved is anyone's guess, but there are couple of angles worth watching as the process moves forward. The first is the likelihood that the fight over a spending package is likely to intersect with the fight over presidential impeachment. It's all but certain to create political conditions that are as volatile as they are unpredictable.

And speaking of volatility and unpredictability, the other angle of note is Donald Trump.

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A Ukrainian serviceman runs as he patrols the area in Vodyanoe village, near Mariupol, Ukraine on  Nov. 10, 2016. (Photo by Sergey Vaganov/EPA)

For some, Trump's Ukraine scheme carried a life-and-death cost

11/13/19 09:20AM

Many of the relevant details surrounding Donald Trump's Ukraine scandal may seem complex, but the core allegations of presidential wrongdoing are entirely straightforward. Former Solicitor General Neal Katyal told the Washington Post's Dana Milbank, "This is a really simple case.... A sitting president secretly tried to get a foreign government to announce an investigation into his chief political rival. In essence, Trump was using the awesome powers our Constitution gives presidents not to benefit the nation, but to benefit him personally."

Milbank added that the case against Trump can be reduced to just seven words: "He abused presidential powers for personal advantage."

Well, sure, when one puts it that way -- which is to say, accurately -- it doesn't sound great. In fact, literally everything we know suggests the president is quite guilty: there is little doubt he extorted a foreign ally to advance his interests above the nation's interests.

But David Ignatius looked at this from a slightly different angle in his latest column, noting the life-and-death cost for those on the other end of the Republican's scheme.

As the House opens public impeachment hearings into the Ukraine scandal, the bottom-line question is dead simple: Did President Trump, for political reasons, manipulate military aid to an ally in a war that has cost 13,000 lives?

When you think about the Ukrainian soldiers on the front lines of this nasty proxy battle against Russia, the debate becomes more visceral and perhaps less confusing. As Ukrainians were struggling with near-daily shellfire, Trump appeared to treat military aid appropriated by Congress as a personal political tool.

Quite right. Ukraine has been the target of Russian aggression, up to and including Russia taking a chunk of Ukraine by force. It is not an exaggeration to say Ukrainians were desperate to receive American support.

The United States committed military aid to our ally; Congress approved the aid; Ukraine was waiting for the aid; and officials throughout the U.S. government were eager to deliver the aid, knowing lives depended on it.

And then there was Donald Trump -- who saw political value in delaying the aid, indifferent to the real-world effects of his abuse.

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Trump weighs punishments for intel community's inspector general

11/13/19 08:40AM

It was three months ago yesterday when a whistleblower from the intelligence community filed a written complaint about alleged misconduct committed by Donald Trump and his team. Soon after, Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson reviewed the complaint, found it to be credible, and concluded that it was a matter of "urgent concern."

Or put another way, Atkinson, by and large, did his job. He had a responsibility to evaluate a whistleblower's complaint objectively, gauge its seriousness, and as needed, alert the House and Senate Intelligence committees. That's what Atkinson did.

It's against this backdrop that Donald Trump has reportedly discussed firing Michael Atkinson for having had the audacity to report the whistleblower's complaint, which is what the inspector general was supposed to do. The New York Times reported:

Mr. Trump first expressed his dismay about Mr. Atkinson around the time the whistle-blower's complaint became public in September. In recent weeks, he has continued to raise with aides the possibility of firing him, one of the people said.

The president has said he does not understand why Mr. Atkinson shared the complaint, which outlined how Mr. Trump asked the Ukrainian president to investigate Mr. Trump's political rivals at the same time he was withholding military aid from the country. He has said he believes Mr. Atkinson, whom he appointed in 2017, has been disloyal, one of the people said.

Mr. Trump's private complaints about Mr. Atkinson have come as he has publicly questioned his integrity and accused him of working with the Democrats to sabotage his presidency.

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), the vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, wrote on Twitter yesterday, "It's hard to imagine a clearer abuse of power than firing the Inspector General simply because he did his job and followed the law, instead of covering up accusations of wrongdoing against the President."

It's a timely reminder that in Trump's vision, public service is an amorphous concept. What matters, from the president's perspective, is service to him. Loyalty to the nation and the rule of law are nice ideas, but Trump expects and demands fealty to him and his interests -- above all other considerations.

Atkinson went largely by the book, which, naturally, the president sees as a betrayal. If the rules cut against Trump's interests, then the rules must be ignored.

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Why Dems see 'bribery' among Trump's potential offenses

11/13/19 08:00AM

Ask the typical American what the Constitution says about impeachment, and you'll likely hear a familiar phrase: "high crimes and misdemeanors." But Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution actually says a little more than that.

It reads, "The President, Vice President and all civil officers of the United States, shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors."

With this in mind, note the phrasing House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) used yesterday during an interview with NPR's Steve Inskeep, as the Democratic leader described Donald Trump's scheme to trade military aid to Ukraine for investigations into his political rivals.

"Bribery, first of all, as the founders understood bribery, it was not as we understand it in law today. It was much broader," Schiff said. "It connoted the breach of the public trust in a way where you're offering official acts for some personal or political reason, not in the nation's interest."

To prove bribery, Schiff said, you have to show that the president was "soliciting something of value," which Schiff thinks multiple witnesses before his committee have testified to in private.

Similarly the New York Times reported overnight that a top Democratic official said today's witnesses -- William Taylor, the top diplomat in Ukraine, and George Kent, a senior State Department official -- "would lay out a timeline of serious misconduct by Mr. Trump and describe how the president sought to 'bribe, extort, condition or coerce' the leader of another country."

At some level, this may seem like a debate over semantics, but don't be too quick to dismiss the significance of the nomenclature.

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Tuesday's Mini-Report, 11.12.19

11/12/19 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* Mulvaney: "[I]n a court filing Tuesday, a lawyer for acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said he no longer plans to seek a judge's ruling on whether he should testify in the impeachment inquiry and will instead follow Trump's order not to cooperate."

* Bolton: "Former national security adviser John Bolton derided President Donald Trump's daughter and son-in-law during a private speech last week and suggested his former boss' approach to U.S. policy on Turkey is motivated by personal or financial interests, several people who were present for the remarks told NBC News."

* Prisoner swap: "The Afghan government and the Taliban agreed on a prisoner exchange that would free American and Australian professors who were abducted by the insurgents more than three years ago, officials on both sides said Tuesday."

* SCOTUS: "A bare majority of the U.S. Supreme Court appeared likely Tuesday to let the Trump administration follow through on its plan to shut down DACA, the federal program that has allowed nearly 800,000 young people, known as 'dreamers,' to avoid deportation and remain in the U.S."

* Turkey in Syria: "Footage captured by U.S. surveillance aircraft over northern Syria has documented several incidents that military officials say may constitute war crimes on the part of Turkish-backed forces there, a U.S. official said."

* Google's doing what? "Google is engaged with one of the U.S.'s largest health-care systems on a project to collect and crunch the detailed personal-health information of millions of people across 21 states."

* The Mina Chang story is amazing: "A senior Trump administration official has embellished her résumé with misleading claims about her professional background -- even creating a fake Time magazine cover with her face on it -- raising questions about her qualifications to hold a top position at the State Department."

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In this file photo taken on June 29, 2019 (front L-R) Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, advisor to the US President Ivanka Trump, US President Donald Trump and Indonesia's President Joko Widodo attend an event on women's empowerment during the G20 Summit

Despite reality, Trump credits Ivanka with creating 14 million jobs

11/12/19 04:00PM

Donald Trump said more than a few ridiculous things in his remarks today to the Economic Club of New York, but the president's claim about one of his adult children was especially jarring.

President Trump claimed Tuesday that his daughter Ivanka Trump -- who is also a White House senior adviser -- has created 14 million jobs, according to Mediaite. "My daughter Ivanka, that's all she wants to talk about... she wants to make these people have great lives. And when she started this, two and half years ago, her goal was 500,000 jobs," the president said at the Economic Club of New York while discussing the administration's "Pledge to America's Workers."

"She has now created 14 million jobs and they are being trained by these great companies, the greatest companies in the world, because the government cannot train them. It's a great thing."

If you watch the video clip, note that the president repeated the line more than once -- and then promoted it on Twitter.

If true, this would be quite an accomplishment for the president's adult daughter, wouldn't it? Donald Trump has already tasked Ivanka Trump for playing key roles in international diplomacy, and he's considered her for powerful positions, including posts at the World Bank and the United Nations.

What we didn't know is that, in addition to these other areas of her portfolio, the young White House official also managed "create 14 million jobs," apparently very quickly.

If true, that would be quite an accomplishment. In reality, however, the claim is not to be taken seriously.

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Roger Stone Addresses Women's Republican Club Of Miami

Stone trial testimony sheds new light on Trump, WikiLeaks connections

11/12/19 12:53PM

Just hours after Julian Assange's arrest in April, Donald Trump fielded a question from reporters about the developments. "I know nothing about WikiLeaks," the president replied. "It's not my thing."

Even by Trump standards, this was ridiculously untrue, and the lie led to ample coverage of the Republican's enthusiastic embrace of WikiLeaks when it was disseminating materials stolen by Russia in order to help Trump gain power. The White House tried to spin away the president's obvious falsehood, but it did not go well.

Of course, Trump's dubious claims on the subject weren't limited to his public rhetoric. The president also submitted written responses as part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into the Russia scandal, and Trump claimed he didn't remember receiving advance word on WikiLeaks disclosures or discussing WikiLeaks with longtime associate Roger Stone.

It's against this backdrop that Stone is now on trial, accused of, among other things, obstructing justice and lying as part of the investigation into Russia's attack on our 2016 elections. And while time will tell what happens to the longtime Republican operative, of greater national significance is what we're learning by way of the trial about Donald Trump. Reuters reported this morning:

The 2016 Trump election campaign was keen to keep abreast of the release of emails potentially damaging to Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, reaching all the way to Trump, the Republican's former deputy campaign chairman testified in court on Tuesday.

Rick Gates, testifying in the criminal trial of President Donald Trump's longtime political adviser Roger Stone, said he witnessed a call with Trump and Stone related to WikiLeaks website in July 2016.

Gates, you'll recall, agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors while awaiting sentencing in his own criminal case, and as we were reminded this morning, Trump's former deputy campaign chairman has quite a few pertinent details to share on what transpired behind the scenes.

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