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Washington Report November 8, 2019
09 Nov 2019

Washington Report November 8, 2019

Quid Pro D’oh-oh … $2 Million Fine … Total Recall: Gordon Sundland Got His Memory Back … Hear(ing) Ye, Hear(ing) Ye … Be Careful What You Wish For … 6th Amendment and Whistleblowers and Failure to Appear … Mayor Mike Bloomberg … Democrats Huge Night … Anonymous Is Back … and other news of the week.
Just think … We are officially just shy of ONE YEAR away from Election Day 2020.
Joyce Rubenstein
Capstone National Partners


Shutdown Watch
Politico “The House will pass a stopgap spending measure the week of Nov. 18, hoping to thwart a government shutdown later that week, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said this morning. The leader did not say how long that next patch would last.”
Update USMCA
Politico … an update on the progress of USMCA, the tweaked NAFTA, which the White House has told us is President Trump’s single biggest legislative priority this Congress.

Timetable: a deal announcement before Thanksgiving, and a vote before the end of the year. Democrats don’t necessarily disagree with this timetable, but caution that it could change. Substance will determine timeframe, they say. Dems do say they are down to figuring out a handful of issues, as Ways and Means Chairman Richie Neal (D-Mass.) said on a caucus call earlier this week. Both sides are working well together, and, despite the din of impeachment-fueled madness, this process is moving along in a very non-Trump-like normal fashion.

OF COURSE, all sides caution there are many ways this process can go off the rails. Republicans are privately frustrated that Democrats still seem to have some issues with labor. Some in the Trump administration are at their wits’ end with the Dems and want them to schedule a vote soon. Senate Republicans are quite bearish and think the calendar is working against the whole process, given the oxygen impeachment and government funding will take up in the next six weeks.


In Normal Times This Would Be A Huge Story
Hive “… Back in June 2018, the New York attorney general’s office sued the president, all three of his adult children, and the Donald J. Trump Foundation, accusing the charity of “functioning as little more than a checkbook to serve Mr. Trump’s business and political interests,” and of engaging in “a shocking pattern of illegality.” The allegations in the suit included claims that: $10,000 was spent on a portrait of the president, later found on display at a sports bar at the Trump Doral; $100,000 was used to settle a legal dispute with the city of Palm Beach, which Trump resolved by contributing the amount to the Fisher House Foundation; $258,000 was used to settle lawsuits against Trump and his businesses, $5,000 was used to advertise Trump Hotels.
Anyway, last December the A.G.’s office announced that Trump would shut down the charity, and now he’s being forced by a judge to [pay] $2 million to a group of charities to settle the suit.
In The “Get Make This Up” Department: “Trump, who had denied any wrongdoing, has attempted to spin this development as an act of charity on the foundation’s behalf. In a statement the Trump Foundation said it was “pleased to donate an additional $2 million” to “worthy organizations.”


Gordon Sundland Got His Memory Back
“I now recall”
A $1 million donor to Trump’s inauguration committee who later became the EU ambassador is now on record saying he told a Ukrainian official that the country wouldn’t get military aid unless they caved to President Trump’s demands.

Quid Pro D’oh-oh!
Why it matters: President Trump keeps denying the existence of a quid pro quo.
The big picture: Gordon Sondland’s additions to his House testimony are the “first admission by a senior figure who had direct contact with Mr. Trump that the military aid for Ukraine was being held hostage to the president’s demands for investigations into his political rivals,” the NY Times reports.

“A wealthy Oregon hotelier who donated to the president’s campaign and was rewarded with the plum diplomatic post, Mr. Sondland can hardly be dismissed as a ‘Never Trumper.'”
Sondland was a critic of the president during the campaign, publicly denouncing him in August 2016 over differences in values and Trump’s attacks on Gold Star father Khizr Khan.
Sondland’s testimony is the fourth transcript to be released this week: Also: Sondland and former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker, former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch and Michael McKinley, a former aide to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
The bottom line: The question isn’t whether Senate Republicans believe there to have been a quid pro quo. It’s whether they believe it’s worthy of conviction.

“If it were today I don’t think there’s any question — it would not lead to a removal,” Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said today.


Hear(ing) Ye, Hear(ing) Ye

Reuters “U.S. Democrats launch the public phase of their impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump next week, with open, televised hearings set for Wednesday and Friday in the House of Representatives. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., announced two days of hearings. All three witnesses have testified in closed-door sessions. Yovanovitch’s deposition transcript was released on Monday; Taylor’s was released on Wednesday.

Schiff said the public hearings “will be an opportunity for the American people to evaluate the witnesses for themselves…”


Be Careful What You Wish For
Newsweek “Despite President Donald Trump’s and his Republican allies’ continued demands to bring the House’s impeachment inquiry out from behind closed doors, the president Friday called next week’s public hearings a “hoax” and said that they should not be held.
Politico “House Republican leadership is looking to load up the House Intelligence Committee with some of President Donald Trump’s top defenders, including Rep. Jim Jordan, as the panel has become ground zero for impeachment. [House Minority Leader Kevin] McCarthy is going to have to kick people off this committee to get this done. We don’t know who he is kicking off yet.”


Republican Impeachment Strategy
Politico “House Republican leadership is looking to load up the House Intelligence Committee with some of President Donald Trump’s top defenders, including Rep. Jim Jordan, as the panel has become ground zero for impeachment. [House Minority Leader Kevin] McCarthy is going to have to kick people off this committee to get this done. We don’t know who he is kicking off yet.”
FLOOD THE PHONES The Republican National Committee paid to generate thousands of calls to the congressional offices of nearly three dozen House Democrats in recent weeks, an effort that was aimed at both shaping opinion around the impeachment inquiry and tying up the phone lines of the elected officials, according to two people briefed on the effort.”
Rand Paul NOW: Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) said Trump’s right to confront his accuser (i.e., the whistleblower) under the Sixth Amendment supersede any laws Congress has passed to protect whistleblowers. But the two things aren’t really in conflict, and the Sixth Amendment doesn’t apply to impeachment in any case.
The Sixth Amendment includes bedrock constitutional protections: the rights to counsel, to call witnesses, to confront accusers and to a speedy public trial with an impartial jury. The text of the amendment starts by limiting those rights to defendants facing “criminal prosecutions.”
Impeachment is a different process that turns on congressional votes. The maximum penalty is removal from office. Under the Constitution, the House has the sole power of impeachment and the Senate the sole power to try impeachment charges, with a two-thirds majority required for conviction.TO REPEAT The Sixth Amendment doesn’t apply to impeachment.
Rand Paul THEN: @jaketapper: “2014 Rand Paul: thinking about ways to ‘expand the whistleblower statute to government contractors.’ ‘We’ve got so many millions of government contractors that when they see something wrong, they should be able to report it without repercussions.'”


Failure to Appear
Axios “House Democrats head into next week’s public stage of the impeachment inquiry armed with closed-door testimony from witnesses who mostly corroborated each other — and the whistleblower.
Why it matters: Democrats said this week they have no intention of pursuing subpoenas for former national security adviser John Bolton or his deputy, signaling they already believe they have enough evidence to proceed without hearing from White House witnesses who have refused to cooperate. In fact, instead of fighting that defiance in court, Democrats plan to use the refusals as evidence of obstruction for a likely article of impeachment.
Here are the common facts we learned from the six transcripts released this week:
– Career officials were disturbed by an irregular foreign policy channel toward Ukraine driven by Rudy Giuliani.
– They largely viewed the allegations that led to the ouster of Ukraine Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch as a baseless smear campaign promoted by Giuliani, his associates and members of the right-wing media.
– Witnesses acknowledge that there appeared to be a quid pro quo involving a White House visit for Ukraine’s president, conditioned on the announcement of investigations into President Trump’s political opponents.
– They differ on whether military aid was also used as leverage. But key diplomats intimately involved in discussions with Ukraine believe it was.


Axios “62% of people who approve of the job Donald Trump is doing as president say they can’t think of anything he could do that would cause him to lose their support, according to a Monmouth University poll published Tuesday. The sample size for the question was 401.

Why it matters: The figures come in the midst of an impeachment inquiry that has highlighted fierce partisan divisions. Not a single House Republican voted in favor of a a resolution formalizing impeachment inquiry procedures last week.”


Mayor Mike Jumps In
Axios “Mike Bloomberg is jumping into the Democratic presidential race because he believes that Joe Biden is fading, opening the moderate lane next to Elizabeth Warren, [according to] sources close to the former New York mayor.

Why it matters: “Bloomberg, who according to Forbes is worth $52 billion, will self-fund, allowing him to run an essentially national campaign at a time when the rest of the field is raising money and focusing on early states. Bloomberg, who will make a final decision “soon,” isn’t expected to seek or accept campaign contributions, according to a second source.
Bloomberg had been focused on how he could best influence 2020 from the outside. But he increasingly became concerned that all the leading Democrats have weaknesses Trump could exploit in the general election. Bloomberg sees himself as an anti-Trump: practical and pragmatic, a self-made business leader, committed to issues such as climate and guns, and someone who recognizes the value of multilateralism and coalitions over isolationism.
What’s next: The Bloomberg buzz ignited yesterday with the news that he’ll file today to qualify for the primary in Alabama, which has an early filing deadline. I’m told he’ll quickly ramp up in other states with deadlines approaching, including Arkansas, New Hampshire, Florida, California and Texas.
Reality check: Given the progressive tides in the Democratic Party, there’s no sign that a 77-year-old billionaire is what primary voters are pining for.


Dems Huge Night

In an upset in the Kentucky governor’s race, Democratic challenger Andy Beshear declared victory over Republican incumbent Matt Bevin, who refused to concede but lagged, 49.2% to 48.8%, with 100% of the vote in.

The White House and Republican Party went all in to help Bevin: a Mike Pence bus tour, Trump trips, and major spending from national groups.
[I]f you lose, they’re going to say, Trump suffered the greatest defeat in the history of the world.”
– Trump said at a Kentucky rally on election eve
REFUSES TO CONCEDE “Matt Bevin isn’t going quietly. Kentucky’s Republican governor is broadly casting doubt on the results of Tuesday’s election, with the unofficial tally showing him trailing Democrat Andy Beshear by just over 5,000 votes, or about four-tenths of a percentage point. Speaking before reporters Wednesday night in Frankfort, the state capital, Bevin said his campaign would be seeking an official recanvass of the results…”
Hive “Given the pain of losing, doing it sorely has been surprisingly uncommon in American politics. The phrase “refuses to concede defeat” is a staple of news reports on races in developing countries—Romania, Indonesia, and Kenya in this past decade, to name a few. When it starts cropping up in a developed country that has long been a beacon of peaceful transfers of power, however, it’s more of a shock, one that bodes ill for upholding our traditions.
No politician ever believes they were beaten fair and square, but they’re supposed to act like it, because the alternative is chaos. That’s something our public figures, even at their worst, used to appreciate, almost without fail. You sucked it up and told your supporters to simmer down. But our elites aren’t what they used to be. It’s no wonder Bevin is holding on.”

Virginia: From Red to Purple to Officially Blue
“I’m here to officially declare today, November 5, 2019, that Virginia is officially blue.”
– Gov. Ralph Northam
Virginia, where Democrats will control both legislative chambers and the governor’s mansion for the first time in 26 years (since 1993), was a different story.

Dems’ sweep of the Commonwealth reflects not just blue momentum in the state, but also organizing efforts by gun control groups, and unease about Trump among suburban voters.
The big picture, from WashPost: “The sweep completed a dramatic political conversion, from red to blue, of a Southern state on Washington’s doorstep.”


Sessions’ Run
Vox “Jeff Sessions is running to reclaim his old US Senate seat. On Thursday night, the longtime former Republican senator from Alabama and President Donald Trump’s former attorney general announced he would run in 2020. He joins an already crowded Republican field that includes Rep. Bradley Byrne and former Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court Roy Moore, who lost a 2017 special election after being accused of sexually molesting and assaulting teenage girls — at least one under the age of consent.

These men are all vying to run against the winner of that 2017 special election: Democrat Doug Jones. Jones is widely seen as the most vulnerable Democratic senator of the 2020 cycle, if only for the fact he is a Democrat in a deeply red state that loves Trump.

The conventional wisdom among Alabama political experts is Sessions could beat Jones; he’s a known and well-liked quantity in the state. But first he has to get through what could be a tough and nasty Republican primary — and there’s already a lot of speculation about what the rocky relationship between Trump and Sessions could mean for the race.”


Dems2020 Clean Car Agenda
Axios “While President Trump is moving to ease Obama-era tailpipe emissions rules by weakening efficiency and emissions rules … Democrats running to unseat him want to accelerate the shift to electric cars, trucks and buses.”

Why it matters: The 2020 presidential race could produce two vastly different outcomes for the auto industry, and that regulatory whiplash is hampering carmakers’ long-term investment decisions.
Worth noting: Major pieces of the Democrats’ plans, such as expanded electric vehicle tax credits and major new spending on charging infrastructure, would require congressional action.”


Ad Analytics For 2020
Axios “The 2020 presidential race is being fought online at a level we’ve never seen before, eclipsing the airwaves’ traditional dominance.

Advertising Analytics says ad spending on the race so far breaks down as
Digital, 57.5%
Broadcast TV, 34%
Cable TV, 8%
Radio, 0.4%
Satellite, 0.1%.
Why it matters: TV is still one of the candidates’ most important vehicles, especially during the general election. But its dominance is quickly being eaten by digital, including TV alternatives like ads on Hulu.

The split so far between Facebook and Google leans heavily to Facebook — $56 million vs. $31 million.

Candidates typically begin to ramp up their spends on Google’s YouTube later in the race, according to data from progressive technology firm Tech for Campaigns. TV’s share will increase in the general election, when candidates pour more money into local broadcast get-out-the-vote ads.The context: Well over half of ad spending in 2016, including House and Senate races, went to TV.


On The Edge
In his Élysée Palace office, French President Emmanuel Macron spoke to The Economist in apocalyptic terms:

The instability of our American partner and rising tensions have meant that the idea of European defense is gradually taking hold. It’s the aggiornamento [updating] for a powerful and strategic Europe. I would add that we will at some stage have to take stock of NATO. To my mind, what we are currently experiencing is the brain death of NATO. We have to be lucid.
Why it matters, from The Economist’s lead editorial: “[I]n a dramatic plea to all Europeans,” Macron is warning “that America is cutting Europe loose.”


Anonymous … THAT Anonymous Is back
The WashPost’s Phil Rucker obtained “A Warning,” the book coming Nov. 19 from the author of the N.Y. Times’ “anonymous” op-ed. Rucker’s lead:

Senior Trump administration officials considered resigning en masse last year in a “midnight self-massacre” to sound a public alarm about President Trump’s conduct, but rejected the idea because they believed it would further destabilize an already teetering government.
In a review, NYT nonfiction book critic Jennifer Szalai writes that everything in the text suggests “Anonymous” is “a dyed-in-the-wool establishment Republican”:
‘[T]o judge by the parade of bland, methodical arguments (Anonymous loves to qualify criticisms with a lawyerly “in fairness”), the ideal reader would seem to be an undecided voter who has lived in a cave for the past three years, and is irresistibly moved by quotations from Teddy Roosevelt and solemn invocations of Cicero.’

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