Daily Archives: December 27, 2019

Blumenthal: Five to 10 Republicans have ‘severe misgivings’ about McConnell strategy | TheHill – The Hill

Posted: December 27, 2019 at 6:22 pm

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said Thursday that several of his Republican colleagues in the Senate have severe misgivings about Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellHealth care, spending bills fuel busy year for K Street Trump goes after Pelosi in early morning tweets complaining about impeachment GOP predicts bipartisan acquittal at Trump impeachment trial MOREs (R-Ky.) impeachment strategy to coordinate with the White House.

During a Capitol News Briefing on the Connecticut Network, Blumenthal spoke on the subject of impeachment, stating that there will be pressure on McConnell from other Republican lawmakers to employ a fair strategy for the impending impeachment trial in the upper chamber of Congress.

"I've talked to anywhere from five to 10 of my colleagues who have very severe misgivings about the direction that Mitch McConnell is going in denying a full, fair proceeding with witnesses and documents. My hope is that they will say publicly what Sen. Murkowski did, and really hold Mitch McConnell accountable," he said.

Earlier this month, McConnell told the press that he is not an impartial juror. This is a political process, when it came to impeachment proceedings.

He also told Fox News host Sean HannitySean Patrick HannityTrump blasts 'unfair' impeachment, 'extreme leftists' in speech to young conservatives Democrats hope to focus public's attention on McConnell in impeachment battle The Hill's 12:30 Report Presented by UANI Pelosi looks to play hardball on timing of impeachment trial MORE that he planned to coordinate with the White House counsel during the trial in the Senate.

However, McConnells admission has garnered criticism from both the left and the right. Notably, moderate GOP Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiMurkowski 'disturbed' by McConnell's pledge for 'total coordination' with White House on impeachment Republican group to run ads in target states demanding testimony from White House officials in Trump impeachment trial Susan Collins set to play pivotal role in impeachment drama MORE (Alaska) said that she does not agree with McConnell about his impeachment strategy, adding that she was disturbed by the comments he made about his coordination with the White House.

Blumenthal said he hoped that if some of his Republican colleagues had the same worries, they would come forward like Murkowski did.

"I believe Sen. Murkowski is saying what a lot of my Republican colleagues are thinking, in fact, saying privately," he said.

The senator concluded his remarks by stating that McConnell is sabotaging this proceeding by saying he won't be impartial, echoing other Democratic criticisms.

The House voted to impeach President TrumpDonald John TrumpGermans think Trump is more dangerous to world peace than Kim Jong Un and Putin: survey Trump jokes removal of 'Home Alone 2' cameo from Canadian broadcast is retaliation from 'Justin T' Trump pushed drug cartel policy despite Cabinet objections: report MORE this month on two counts: abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

Impeachment proceedings began when a whistleblower filed an anonymous complaint to Congress, alleging that the president withheld aid from Ukraine in exchange for an investigation into former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenPrimary debates threaten to leave people of color behind Longtime campaign aide vows Sanders will continue to combat political establishment as president 2019 in Photos: 35 pictures in politics MORE on a July 25 call with the countrys President, Volodymyr Zelensky.

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Blumenthal: Five to 10 Republicans have 'severe misgivings' about McConnell strategy | TheHill - The Hill

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Fear and Loyalty: How Donald Trump Took Over the Republican Party – The New York Times

Posted: at 6:22 pm

Trump is emotionally, intellectually and psychologically unfit for office, and Im sure a lot of Republicans feel the same way, Mr. Trott said. But if they say that, the social media barrage will be overwhelming. He added that he would be open to the presidential candidacy of former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York.

On the other hand, Mr. Trump dangles rewards to those who show loyalty a favorable tweet, or a presidential visit to their state and his heavy hand has assured victory for a number of Republican candidates in their primaries. That includes Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, who did as many Fox News appearances as possible to draw the presidents attention.

The greatest fear any member of Congress has these days is losing a primary, said former Representative Carlos Curbelo, Republican of Florida, who lost his general election last year in a heavily Hispanic Miami-area district. Thats the foremost motivator.

The larger challenge with Mr. Trump is that all politics is personal with him, and he carefully tracks who on television is praising him or denouncing his latest rhetorical excess. He is the White House political director, Scott Reed, a longtime Republican consultant, said.

More conventional presidents may be more understanding of lawmakers who are pulled in a different direction by the political demands of their districts but Mr. Trump has shown little tolerance for such dissent. Mr. Curbelo, for instance, occasionally spoke out against Mr. Trump, particularly over immigration policy, and the president took notice.

Riding with Mr. Trump in his limousine on Key West last year, Mr. Curbelo recalled in an interview that the president had noted that people were lining the streets to show their support for him, and asked Mr. Curbelo if they were in his district.

He said they were, prompting the president to turn to others in the car and say: Maybe Carlos will stop saying such nasty things about me, Mr. Curbelo recalled.


Fear and Loyalty: How Donald Trump Took Over the Republican Party - The New York Times

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Republicans Are Fiscally Reckless and Irresponsible – Washington Monthly

Posted: at 6:22 pm

Their priorities are all about more money for the wealthy elite and an obvious power grab for those in office.

| 2:04 PM

One of the ways that Republicans demonstrate that they are the post-truth party is that, when Democrats are in office, they prioritize federal deficit reduction, but when theyre in charge, the deficit soars. Right on cue, the Wall Street Journal reported back in October that the federal deficit was about to reach $1 trillion.

A strong economy typically leads to narrower deficits, as rising household income and corporate profits help boost tax collections, while spending on safety-net programs such as unemployment insurance tends to decline.

The U.S. economy has been growing for 10 years as of July, the longest economic expansion on record. Yet annual U.S. deficits are on track to exceed $1 trillion starting this year, due in part to the 2017 tax law, which constrained federal revenue collection last year, and a 2018 budget deal that busted spending caps enacted in 2011.

When even Rupert Murdochs paper credits the Republican tax cuts as a contributor, you can take that one to the bank. Steve Benen put together a helpful chart to demonstrate what has happened to the deficit over time.

The blue bars during the Obama years were a result of the Great Recession when federal revenues plummeted, the demand for safety net programs like unemployment insurance rose, and one-time stimulus spending was required to kick-start the economy. But as the Wall Street Journal pointed out, we are now in the midst of the longest economic expansion on record, which means that the deficit should be shrinking. Instead, it is ballooning. In a world where truth mattered, that would mean the end of the Republican line about how tax cuts pay for themselves.

When Republicans were negotiating among themselves over their tax cut plan in 2017, they made it clear that their main goal was to reduce corporate tax rates. At the time, they complained that, at 39 percent, corporate tax rates in the U.S. were among the highest in the world. What they didnt want you to know is that the effective corporate tax rate (what was actually paid after all of the loopholes were incorporated) was around around 29 percent, right in the middle of the pack for industrialized countries.

After a full year of implementation, the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy documented the effects of the Republican tax cuts, which lowered the corporate tax rate to 21 percent. Here are their key findings.

* The 379 profitable corporations identified in this study paid an effective federal income tax rate of 11.3 percent on their 2018 income, slightly more than half the statutory 21 percent tax.

* 91 corporations did not pay federal income taxes on their 2018 U.S. income. These corporations include Amazon, Chevron, Halliburton and IBM

* Another 56 companies paid effective tax rates between 0 percent and 5 percent on their 2018 income. Their average effective tax rate was 2.2 percent.

The richest corporations are now paying an effective tax rate of 11.3 percent, while most of the huge monopolies are paying nothing at all. Rather than trickling down, those reductions are causing the federal deficit to soar.

Meanwhile, Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell went on a spending spreeliterally bragging about his efforts to buy off Kentucky voters with what Mitt Romney once referred to as free stuff (emphasis mine).

Senate Majority LeaderMitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is delivering more than $1 billion worth of federal spending and tax breaks to his Kentucky constituents, just in time for Christmas and ahead of a potentially tough reelection campaign

McConnells wins in the spending legislation included coal miners pension benefits; $410 million for the construction of the new Robley Rex Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Louisville; $314 million for cleanup of Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant, a $40 million increase over last years funding level; a tax break for spirits distillers worth an estimated $426 million in 2020 alone; and $65 million for the construction of the Forage Animal Production Lab at the University of Kentucky.

I was directly responsible directly responsible for these items, McConnell declared at the press conference.

He also secured a tax break for Kentuckys thoroughbred horse racing industry, $16.5 million for the Department of Agriculture to implement the pro-hemp provisions McConnell got into the 2018 farm bill and $61.3 million for new military construction projects at Fort Campbell.

We can have reasoned debates about federal deficits, taxes, and spending programs. But the naked lies from Republicans demonstrate that their approach has nothing to do with what is best for the American people. They have made it abundantly clear that their priorities are all about more money for the wealthy elite and an obvious power grab for those in office. It is beyond time to bust the myth that the GOP is the party of fiscal responsibility. They are nothing if not reckless and irresponsible.

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Decade in review: Justice Antonin Scalias death and the Republican delay in filling the seat – SCOTUSblog

Posted: at 6:22 pm

Posted Fri, December 27th, 2019 10:00 am by Amy Howe

On February 13, 2016, 79-year-old Justice Antonin Scalia died at a ranch in Marfa, Texas. That night, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, who was then the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., both declared that the Senate should not act on any new nomination for a Supreme Court justice until after the presidential election in November 2016. It has been standard practice, Grassley said, over the last nearly 80 years that Supreme Court nominees are not nominated and confirmed during a presidential election year. Given the huge divide in this country, Grassley continued, and the fact that then-President Barack Obama, above all others, has made no bones about his goal to use the courts to circumvent Congress and push through his own agenda, it only makes sense that we defer to the American people who will elect a new President to select the next Supreme Court Justice.

Despite Grassleys and McConnells pronouncements, on March 16, 2016, Obama nominated Chief Judge Merrick Garland of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to fill the vacancy left by Scalias death. The then-63-year-old Garland is a former prosecutor and a moderate who is widely respected on both sides of the aisle, but that wasnt enough to get him a hearing, and his nomination expired in January 2017 without a vote.

Meanwhile, in May of 2016 then-presidential candidate Donald Trump released a list of potential nominees that he said he planned to use as a guide to nominate our next United States Supreme Court justices. The list, which was the product of close collaboration with the Federalist Society and Heritage Foundation, helped to reassure conservative voters about Trumps candidacy, and after his election Trump went on to choose from the expanded version of the list to fill the Scalia vacancy: On January 31, 2017, Trump nominated 49-year-old Neil Gorsuch, then a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, to succeed Scalia. Gorsuch was confirmed a little over two months later, retaining the seat as a conservative one; had Garland been nominated and confirmed instead, the court would have had five justices nominated by Democratic presidents, at least for the foreseeable future.

Posted in 2010-2019 Decade in review, Featured

Recommended Citation: Amy Howe, Decade in review: Justice Antonin Scalias death and the Republican delay in filling the seat, SCOTUSblog (Dec. 27, 2019, 10:00 AM), https://www.scotusblog.com/2019/12/decade-in-review-justice-antonin-scalias-death-and-the-republican-delay-to-fill-the-seat/

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Decade in review: Justice Antonin Scalias death and the Republican delay in filling the seat - SCOTUSblog

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Republican group to run ads in target states demanding testimony from White House officials in Trump impeachment trial | TheHill – The Hill

Posted: at 6:22 pm

An anti-Trump Republican group announced new advertisements demanding testimony from White House officials in President TrumpDonald John TrumpGermans think Trump is more dangerous to world peace than Kim Jong Un and Putin: survey Trump jokes removal of 'Home Alone 2' cameo from Canadian broadcast is retaliation from 'Justin T' Trump pushed drug cartel policy despite Cabinet objections: report MORE's impeachment trial.

The Republicans for the Rule of Law's ad campaign features 11 new billboards and five new video ads, including one national ad that will air during Fox & Friends and Lou DobbsLouis (Lou) Carl DobbsRepublican group to run ads in target states demanding testimony from White House officials in Trump impeachment trial On The Money: Trump rules out total rollback of Chinese tariffs | Buttigieg unveils T child care, college, housing plan | Global billionaires' wealth falls for first time since 2015 Trump rules out total rollback of Chinese tariffs MORE Tonight.

Four other advertisements will be targeted at constituents ofSens. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyRepublican group to run ads in target states demanding testimony from White House officials in Trump impeachment trial Independent voters will make Donald Trump a one-term president Susan Collins set to play pivotal role in impeachment drama MORE (R-Utah), Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiMurkowski 'disturbed' by McConnell's pledge for 'total coordination' with White House on impeachment Republican group to run ads in target states demanding testimony from White House officials in Trump impeachment trial Susan Collins set to play pivotal role in impeachment drama MORE (R-Alaska), Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsTrump expresses support for Susan Collins in competitive Senate race Republican group to run ads in target states demanding testimony from White House officials in Trump impeachment trial Susan Collins set to play pivotal role in impeachment drama MORE (R-Maine) and Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderRepublican group to run ads in target states demanding testimony from White House officials in Trump impeachment trial Susan Collins set to play pivotal role in impeachment drama Trump scramble to rack up accomplishments gives conservatives heartburn MORE (R-Tenn.)and will air during Fox & Friends and Hannity.

The video ads demand Trumps personal lawyer Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiLawyer for Giuliani associate to step down, citing client's financial 'hardship' Former pro golfer advanced business interests of indicted Giuliani associates: report Republican group to run ads in target states demanding testimony from White House officials in Trump impeachment trial MORE, acting White House chief of staff Mick MulvaneyJohn (Mick) Michael MulvaneyTrump goes after Pelosi in early morning tweets complaining about impeachment GOP predicts bipartisan acquittal at Trump impeachment trial Trump attacks Democrats over impeachment following call with military members MORE, Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoGod did not elect Trump, people did Republican group to run ads in target states demanding testimony from White House officials in Trump impeachment trial Iran: US sanctions 'reckless' MORE and former national security adviser John BoltonJohn BoltonGOP predicts bipartisan acquittal at Trump impeachment trial Senators seek to weaponize Clinton trial in Trump impeachment Republican group to run ads in target states demanding testimony from White House officials in Trump impeachment trial MORE be allowed to testify in front of the Senate.

These witnesses must testify, the national ad says. Call your senators now.

The digital billboards feature the four of them with duct tape over their mouthsas well as the text What is Trump hiding? and a call to specific senators to push for testimony from them.

Chris Truax, the Republicans for Rule of Law spokesman, said the Senate needs to have a fair and open trial that includes testimony from these witnesses.

Proper trials are seldom comfortable for the accused, but thats no reason not to hold one, even if the accused is President Trump, he said. Impeachment is the ultimate check on abuse of power by the president, and future generations wont thank us if we weaken it by treating it as just an exercise in partisan politics.

The group also launched a billboard in Times Square earlier this month with the textWhat is Trump hiding? ahead of the House vote to impeach the president.

The House impeached Trump on two articles of impeachment last week. The Senate is largely expected to acquit the president.

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Republican group to run ads in target states demanding testimony from White House officials in Trump impeachment trial | TheHill - The Hill

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How a ‘legislative terrorist’ conquered the Republican Party – The Week

Posted: at 6:22 pm

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In the wake of every House Republican voting against impeaching Donald Trump, it's reasonable to see the GOP as the president's party, remade in his image. But to truly understand the transformation of the Republican Party during the Trump years, we actually should focus on someone else: Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio). Jordan's journey from gadfly loathed by party leadership to ranking committee member, presidential confidant, and party leader exemplifies how the GOP has changed in the Trump Era and how Trumpism won't be easily undone after the 45th president leaves office.

The ideological transformation of the Republican Party has been ongoing for more than a half century. What was once the party of moderates like Dwight Eisenhower and liberals like Nelson Rockefeller, dominated by figures from the two coasts and stalwarts in the Midwest, slowly became a staunchly conservative party centered in the South.

By the time Jordan was first elected to Congress in 2006, the highly conservative Texan George W. Bush was president. But Bush had a pragmatic streak. He cut bipartisan deals on education and immigration reform (which failed thanks to a revolt led by conservative talk radio), added a prescription drug benefit to Medicare, and preached compassionate conservatism.

The story of the party's move towards total war politics and Trumpism is the story of how Jordan's breed of politics eclipsed Bush's brand of conservatism.

Jordan was one of the most conservative members of the House during his first two terms. But he was also insignificant with Republicans in the minority. Once the Tea Party wave swept his party to power, however, Jordan was flush with new hardline allies. He was elected to lead the Republican Study Committee, a large conservative group within the new Republican majority.

Within months, he had become a thorn in the side of House Speaker John Boehner, insisting that failing to raise the debt ceiling would not result in the United States defaulting, and opposing a leadership proposal for addressing the matter. His staff even conspired with outside groups to pressure Republicans to vote against Boehner's proposal. Two years later, Jordan was a key player in forcing a government shutdown because President Obama would not agree to delaying and defunding his signature health-care legislation for a year a tactic Boehner had warned would leave leading Democrats grinning because they "can't believe we're this f---ing stupid." Though Republicans were widely perceived to have lost the shutdown battle, Jordan was unrepentant.

He believed that Democrats could be compelled to capitulate through the use of hardline tactics, brinkmanship, and a total unwillingness to compromise.

In 2015, Jordan became the founding chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, a smaller, even more hardline group that would come to fight against numerous leadership initiatives. By that fall, Freedom Caucus members against Jordan's counsel pushed Boehner into early retirement and helped scuttle the candidacy of Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy to succeed him.

While 70 percent of Freedom Caucus endorsed Paul Ryan to succeed Boehner, it was only after he made them numerous promises to secure their support. Even so, Jordan and his allies would make Ryan's life difficult as they had Boehner's. So much did leadership worry about Jordan that when House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz announced he would resign from Congress in 2017, leadership helped recruit Rep. Trey Gowdy to run for the position to ensure that it wouldn't fall to Jordan.

In an interview after retiring, Boehner called Jordan a "legislative terrorist" and an "asshole."

In an earlier era, a figure like Jordan who constantly picked fights with his own party's leadership would have faced serious repercussions. Banishment to the most insignificant and unpleasant committees, an inability to get things done for his home district, perhaps even a primary challenge.

But in an era with a proliferation of conservative media talk radio, cable news, and digital outlets someone like Jordan could instead become a star by picking the same fights. Conservative media is a business and the best radio and television comes from black and white content strongly voiced opinions, clear convictions, exhortations to principles, things that stir emotion and keep the audience tuned in. That meant that someone like Jordan preached what viewers and listeners the Republican base heard every day. Further, his style of politics made for far more compelling radio or television than a committee chairman or Republican leader explaining why divided government or Senate rules necessitated compromises.

This fit between the business interests of conservative media and his politics made Jordan one of the heroes on the conservative airwaves and a frequent guest. Stardom gave him too much of an independent power base by the mid-2010s for leadership to punish him meaningfully. He didn't need them for fundraising, and any attempt at discipline would've sent him scurrying to the airwaves to fight back. In the end, it might've been leadership who lost the fight because conservative media had the ear of exactly the sorts of voters who showed up in low turnout Republican primaries, the most critical elections in most Republican districts in an era of geographic polarization.

But while conservative media helped to make Jordan impervious to leadership criticism, it didn't make him part of that leadership. His elevation came thanks to Trump. Jordan caught the ear of Trump, and became a confidant and one of the president's fiercest defenders.

When Republicans lost control of the House in 2018 and Ryan and Gowdy retired, new House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and the Republican Steering Committee installed Jordan, with encouragement from Trump, as the ranking member of the Oversight Committee. This was a significant change from 2017, when there was doubt the Steering Committee would choose Jordan given the animosity from many Republicans towards him. And then as impeachment hearings were about to begin in front of the House Intelligence Committee, McCarthy made the unusual move of temporarily removing another Republican to add Jordan to the committee. McCarthy saw great benefit in Jordan's trademark aggressive questioning and vigorous defense of Trump.

During those hearings, Elise Stefanik, long seen as the anti-Jim Jordan, a leadership ally, one of the most moderate Republicans in the House, and someone previously focused on solutions and bipartisanship, became an instant sensation with Jordan-like questioning and charges against Democrats, and even joined him for press conferences. Reporting indicates that this was a savvy move for Stefanik both in her Republican-leaning district and within the House GOP.

While it's unquestionably easier for leadership to be aligned with Jordan in the minority, when they have no responsibility for governing, it's also true that the onetime leadership antagonist is now the top Republican on a key committee and a major spokesman for the House GOP. Stefanik's move exposes how Jordan's tactics are what Republican voters want from their elected officials. Far from an outsider, Jordan is now part of the Republican establishment one that sees politics much more like he does than George W. Bush. And that's not likely to change even when Trump leaves office, be it in 2021 or 2025.

For better or worse, it's Jim Jordan's GOP now.

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In the Time of Trump, Are Republicans Crazies or Cowards? – The Daily Beast

Posted: at 6:21 pm

Jeff Flake is at it again. The former Arizona GOP senator, famous for criticizing Donald Trump and then blowing town rather than staying and fighting, had an oped in The Washington Post over the weekend challenging his former colleagues: My simple test for all of us: What if President Barack Obama had engaged in precisely the same behavior? I know the answer to that question with certainty, and so do you. You would have understood with striking clarity the threat it posed, and you would have known exactly what to do.

Though my admiration for Flake has its limits because he threw in the towel, hes dead right about his former colleagues. Of course theyd be howling at the moon if Obama had done the same thing.

But about his most widely quoted assertion, made not in this column but earlier, that if the vote to convict were private he thinks 30 GOP senators would choose to remove Trump, I think hes dead wrong. These people are crazies or cowards or both, and theyre as locked into Trump at this point as those brainwashed soldiers in The Manchurian Candidate were to Raymond Shaw. Except these senator-soldiers werent brainwashed by the North Koreans. Theyve brainwashed themselves.

It now appears there may not even be a trial, or therell be one and it will last about an hour before every single Republican votes to acquit Trump. Some will do so proudly and stand there and lecture us about the Constitution even as they take a piss on it (Lindsey Graham); some will run for the elevators (Susan Collins). And most will just hop on the Senate subway back to their office and relative obscurity. Hows Jim Risch going to vote? John Barrasso? Mike Braun? John Hoeven? Who cares?

Nobody knows what these peopleagain, the vast majority of Republican senatorsthink. I could go to their websites and look, but I dont care enough even to do that. I know all I need to know. Theyre from deep-red states where their rank and file is consumed with MAGAism, and theyre not about to take any chances. Some of them may be true believers, some just invertebrates, but it amounts to the same thing.

Meanwhile, the evidence against Trump just keeps piling up, not that it matters. Last Friday evening, the Center for Public Integrity got a bunch of documents from the Pentagon that it sought through the Freedom of Information Act and that a judge ordered released. (Side note: Its in times like these that we see the immense value of an organization like the Center for Public Integrity and a law like the FOIA law, which are both in their way products of the post-Nixon push for reform and transparency; lets hope theres a similar post-Trump flood of foundation money into such projects.)

The documents show that some administration officials worried that holding up the aid to Ukraine wasnt just a bad idea, but an illegal one: a violation of a federal law that prohibited presidents from refusing to carry out the will of Congress (in this case, foreign aid passed by both houses). The law dates to the 1970s and was passed because Congress will was continually being thwarted by, you guessed it, Richard Nixon.

The documents also show that barely an hour-and-a-half after Trump hung up from the infamous phone call with Vlodomyr Zelensky, a White House aide was ordering the Pentagon to put a hold on the Ukraine money. Ninety minutes. This aide, Michael Duffey, was one of many Trump officials who was subpoenaed to testify before the House last month and just blew it off. His boss at OMB, Russell Vought, tweeted at the time that neither he nor Duffey would testify. Hashtag #shamprocess. Dear Leader must be so proud.

Flakes assertion about the secret ballot assumes the existence of a conscience and principle among these people that just is not there. They have an obvious duty under the Constitution to defend the prerogatives of their branch of government. The chief executive thwarted their will with respect to Ukraine aid, to the point of breaking the law to do it. As members of the Article I branch, the legislature, theyre supposed to give a shit about this. But they dont. All they care about is polishing Trumps, uh, shoes.

Christmas approaches, the day of the birth of (one often hears it said) the only perfect man who ever walked the face of the earth. They didnt have telephones in his day, but if they had, maybe he could have made a perfect phone call. Donald Trump sure couldnt, and didnt, and all these sycophants acting like he did are humiliating themselves and the nation.

Meanwhile, speaking of Jesus Christ, what do we suppose hed make of a quick tour of the U.S.-Mexico border, where the temperatures dipped below freezing last week and familieschildren, babiesare sleeping in tents with no heat? (This is on the Mexican side, but theyre being held there because of the massive and intentional backup on the U.S. side.) Or of the white supremacist who sits in the White House (Stephen Miller, not Trump, but him too) orchestrating this cruelty?

And Republicans on Capitol Hill, men and women who purport to worship and love this Jesus, are able to ignore it all. Crazies or cowards? It hardly matters.

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In the Time of Trump, Are Republicans Crazies or Cowards? - The Daily Beast

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Iowa swung fiercely to Trump. Will it swing back in 2020? – Minneapolis Star Tribune

Posted: at 6:21 pm

DES MOINES, Iowa Few states have changed politically with the head-snapping speed of Iowa. Heading into 2020, the question is whether it's going to change again.

In 2008, its voters propelled Barack Obama to the White House, as an overwhelmingly white state validated the candidacy of the first black president. A year later, Iowa's Supreme Court sanctioned same-sex marriage, adding a voice of Midwestern sensibility to a national shift in public sentiment. In 2012, Iowa backed Obama again.

All that change proved too much, too fast, and it came as the Great Recession punished agricultural areas, shook the foundations of rural life and stoked a roiling sense of grievance.

By 2016, Donald Trump easily defeated Hillary Clinton in Iowa. Republicans were in control of the governors mansion and state legislature and held all but one U.S. House seat. For the first time since 1980, both U.S. Senate seats were in GOP hands.

What happened? Voters were slow to embrace Obamas signature health care law. The recession depleted college-educated voters as a share of the rural population, and Republicans successfully painted Democrats as the party of coastal elites.

Those forces combined for a swift Republican resurgence and helped create a wide lane for Trump.

The self-proclaimed billionaire populist ended up carrying Iowa by a larger percentage of the vote than in Texas, winning 93 of Iowa's 99 counties, including places like working-class Dubuque and Wapello counties, where no Republican since Dwight D. Eisenhower had won.

But now, as Democrats turn their focus to Iowas kickoff caucuses that begin the process of selecting Trumps challenger, could the state be showing furtive signs of swinging back? Caucus turnout will provide some early measures of Democratic enthusiasm, and of what kind of candidate Iowas Democratic voters who have a good record of picking the Democratic nominee believe has the best chance against Trump.

If Iowas rightward swing has stalled, it could be a foreboding sign for Trump in other upper Midwestern states he carried by much smaller margins and would need to win again.

Theyve gone too far to the right and there is the slow movement back, Tom Vilsack, the only two-term Democratic governor in the past 50 years, said of Republicans. This is an actual correction."

Iowans unseated two Republican U.S. House members and nearly a third in 2018 during midterm elections where more Iowa voters in the aggregate chose a Democrat for federal office for the first time in a decade.

In doing so, Iowans sent the states first Democratic women to Congress: Cindy Axne, who dominated Des Moines and its suburbs, and Abby Finkenauer, who won in several working-class counties Trump carried.

Democrats won 14 of the 31 Iowa counties that Trump won in 2016 but Obama won in 2008, though Trump's return to the ballot in 2020 could change all that.

We won a number of legislative challenge races against incumbent Republicans, veteran Iowa Democratic campaign consultant Jeff Link said. I think that leaves little question Iowa is up for grabs next year.

Theres more going on in Iowa that simply a merely cyclical swing.

Iowas metropolitan areas, some of the fastest growing in the country over the past two decades, have given birth to a new political front where Democrats saw gains in 2018.

The once-GOP-leaning suburbs and exurbs, especially to the north and west of Des Moines and the corridor linking Cedar Rapids and the University of Iowa in Iowa City, swelled with college-educated adults in the past decade, giving rise to a new class of rising Democratic leaders.

I dont believe it was temporary, Iowa State University economist David Swenson said of Democrats' 2018 gains in suburban Des Moines and Cedar Rapids. I think it is the inexorable outcome of demographic and educational shifts that have been going on.

The Democratic caucuses will provide a test of how broad the change may be.

I think it would be folly to say Iowa is not a competitive state," said John Stineman, a veteran Iowa GOP campaign operative and political data analyst who is unaffiliated with the Trump campaign but has advised presidential and congressional campaigns over the past 25 years. I believe Iowa is a swing state in 2020.

For now, that is not a widely held view, as Iowa has shown signs of losing its swing state status.

In the 1980s, it gave rise to a populist movement in rural areas from the left, the ascent of the religious right as a political force and the start of an enduring rural-urban balance embodied by Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley and Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin.

Now, after a decade-long Republican trend, there are signs of shifting alliances in people like Jenny OToole.

The 48-year-old insurance industry employee from suburban Cedar Rapids stood on the edge of the scrum surrounding former Vice President Joe Biden last spring, trying to get a glimpse as he shook hands and posed for pictures.

I was a Republican. Not anymore, OToole said. Im socially liberal, but economically conservative. Thats what Im looking for.

OToole is among those current and new former Republicans who dot Democratic presidential events, from Iowa farm hubs to working-class river towns to booming suburbs.

Janet Cosgrove, a 75-year-old Episcopal minister from Atlantic, in western Iowa, and Judy Hoakison, a 65-year-old farmer from rural southwest Iowa, are Republicans who caught Mayor Pete Buttigiegs recent trip.

If such voters are a quiet warning to Trump in Iowa, similar symptoms in Wisconsin and Michigan, where Democrats also made 2018 gains, could be even more problematic.

Vilsack has seen the stage change dramatically. After 30 years of Republican dominance in Iowas governors mansion, he was elected in 1998 as a former small-city mayor and pragmatic state senator.

An era of partisan balance in Iowa took hold, punctuated by Democratic presidential nominee Al Gores 4,144-vote victory in Iowa in 2000, and George W. Bushs 10,059-vote re-election in 2004.

After the 2006 national wave swept Democrats into total Statehouse control for the first time in 50 years, the stage was set for Obamas combination of generational change, his appeal to anti-Iraq War sentiment and the historic opportunity to elect the first black president.

We were like a conquering army, prepared to negotiate terms of surrender, said Cedar Rapids Democrat Dale Todd, an early Obama supporter and adviser.

Todd was one of a collection of Iowa Democratic activists who gathered at a downtown Des Moines sports bar last year to commemorate the 10-year anniversary of Obama's historic caucus campaign.

Just across the Des Moines River in the state Capitol, there was a reminder of how much the ground had shifted since those heady days.

Republicans control all of state government for the first time in 20 years. Part of their wholesale conservative agenda has included stripping public employee unions of nearly all bargaining rights, establishing new voter restrictions and outlawing abortion six weeks into a pregnancy.

It was in line with Republican takeovers in states such as Wisconsin that were completed earlier, but traced their beginnings to the same turbulent summer of 2009.

On a Wednesday in August that year, throngs flocked to Grassleys typically quiet annual county visits to protest his work with Democrats on health care legislation.

Thousands representing the emerging Tea Party forced Grassleys last event from a community center in the small town of Adel to the town park, where some booed the typically popular senator and held signs stating, Grassley, you're fired.

The events became a national symbol for uneasiness about the new president's signature policy goal.

The previous April, Iowa's nine-member Supreme Court Democratic and Republican appointees had unanimously declared same-sex marriage legal in the state. A year later, Christian conservatives successfully campaigned to oust the three Supreme Court justices facing retention, waving the marriage decision as their cause.

Four years later, Democrats had high expectations of holding the retiring Harkin's Senate seat. But Democratic U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley lacked Harkin's populist appeal, and was beaten by state Sen. Joni Ernst, an Iraq War veteran from rural Iowa who painted Braley as an elitist lawyer.

By 2016, Republicans had completed their long-sought statehouse takeover, in part by beating longtime Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal.

We tried in many cases to win suburbia, but we just couldn't lay a glove on it," Gronstal said. We just could not figure out how to crack it in Iowa."

The answer for Democrats in Iowa is much the same as the rest of the country: growing, vote-rich suburbs.

Dallas County, west of Des Moines, has grown by 121% since 2000, converting from a checkerboard of farms into miles of car dealerships, strip malls, megachurches and waves of similarly styled housing developments.

It had been a Republican county. However, last year, long-held Republican Iowa House districts in Des Moines western suburbs fell to Democrats.

It was the culmination of two decades of shifting educational attainment with political implications.

Since 2000, the number of Iowans with at least a college degree in urban and suburban areas grew by twice the rate of rural areas, according to U.S. Census data and an Iowa State University study.

Last year, a third of urban and suburban Iowans had a college diploma, up from 25% at the dawn of the metropolitan boom in 2000. Rural Iowans had inched up to just 20% from 16% during that period.

The more that occurs, the more you get voter participation leaning toward Democratic outcomes than has historically been in the past, Swenson said, noting the higher likelihood of college-educated voters to lean Democratic.

Since 2016 alone, registered Democrats in Dallas County have increased 15%, to Republicans 2%. Republicans still outnumber Democrats in the county, but independent voters have leaped by 20% and for the first time outnumber Republicans.

There is now a third front, Gronstal said. We can fight in those toss-up rural areas, hold our urban base, but now compete in those quintessentially suburban districts.

Though Trumps return to the ballot in 2020 shakes up the calculus, his approval in Iowa has remained around 45% or lower. A sub-50 rating is typically problematic for an incumbent.

Another warning for Trump, GOP operative Stineman noted, is The Des Moines Register/CNN/Mediacom Iowa Polls November finding that only 76% of self-identified Republicans said they would definitely vote to re-elect him next year.

With no challenger and 10 months until the election, a lot can change.

Still, thats one in four of your family thats not locked down, Stineman said.

There are also signs Iowa Democrats have shaken some of the apathy that helped Trump and hobbled Clinton in Iowa in 2016.

Democratic turnout in 2018 leaped from the previous midterm in 2014 from 57% to 68%, according to the Iowa Secretary of State. Republican turnout, which is typically higher, also rose, but by a smaller margin.

Overall turnout in Iowa, as in more reliably Democratic-voting presidential states of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, was down in 2016, due mostly to a downturn in Democratic participation.

The trend was down, across the board," said Ann Selzer, who has conducted The Des Moines Register's Iowa Poll for more than 25 years. "So it doesnt take much to create a Democratic victory in these upper Midwestern states.

I think the success in the midterms kind of made people on the Democratic side believe that we can do it, Selzer said.

Perhaps, but Trump has his believers, too.

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Iowa swung fiercely to Trump. Will it swing back in 2020? - Minneapolis Star Tribune

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‘A rocky road’: Wisconsin Republicans recap the first year of split control under Gov. Tony Evers – Madison.com

Posted: at 6:21 pm

The top Republican in the Wisconsin Senate says the first year of divided government under Gov. Tony Evers has been a rocky road. The head of the Assembly Republicans says the last 12 months have probably gone better than I expected.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos have together served as the respective heads of their caucuses over the last three legislative sessions. But this is the first time the two are concurrently doing so under a Democratic governor.

Both have said the arrangement has brought them closer together, particularly during the state budget process earlier this year. Still, each have their own take on the new governor and how to navigate that office.

The two spoke with reporters separately in year-end interviews in recent weeks; Fitzgerald addressed reporters in a news conference, while Vos held one-on-one conversations.

In his comments, Fitzgerald noted hes met with Evers three times over the course of the year and most of that was early on. Still, the Juneau Republican added hes working to set up another meeting in the new year, to map out some stuff that we've got some common ground on.

He also touted Republicans work in the state budget process, saying the plan Evers presented to the Legislature in early spring fell far short of where it needed to be to win legislative support, forcing lawmakers to kind of start from scratch.

Vos, R-Rochester, called the two-year spending plan generally a conservative budget that (Evers) tried to make more liberal. And he credited Republicans for opting to focus on topics that were not controversial in my mind.

If you look at this tone of their statements, they're almost always snarky and negative, Vos said of Democrats. And while we all have our fair share of snark, so I'm not going to say it's just them, they have a disproportionate amount that certainly is not helpful in the process.

But he also said hes looking to put forth a property tax cut proposal that would come after homeowners received bills this month showing potentially the largest property tax increase in a decade, according to a nonpartisan Wisconsin Policy Forum report that found the increases were driven by state budget changes and local referendums.

Fitzgerald didnt give a target figure for the reduction, but said hed like it to be significant enough to attract lawmakers support. Any final amount would depend on the states tax revenue forecast, he added.

"People are concerned about a bump in their property tax bill," he said.

A Vos spokeswoman said the speaker is open to the idea, but it all depends on how successful the economy is next year.

Meanwhile, Vos in his interview said hes less interested in a bill Evers previously endorsed seeking to reimburse local clerks for the cost of holding special elections, though the caucus has yet to discuss it. That bill cleared the Senate with unanimous support in October. But Vos argued when someone decides to run for Congress, its not necessarily the states responsibility to pay for it.

In the Senate, Fitzgerald said hes expecting action every month that the chamber is on the floor this winter, the calendar will include some of Evers yet-unconfirmed Cabinet picks. Still, he said its a possibility the Senate wont act on all of them -- meaning some could be serving as secretaries without being officially signed off on by the chamber.

I don't know that anybody is necessarily going to make the case to vote down a secretary at this point, but I know there's still concerns with some, he said. But there are others that have garnered enough support and so I think we'll definitely have a couple more on the calendar in January.

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'A rocky road': Wisconsin Republicans recap the first year of split control under Gov. Tony Evers - Madison.com

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In leaked audio, a top Trump adviser said the Republican party has ‘traditionally’ relied on voter suppression – Business Insider

Posted: at 6:21 pm

One of President Donald Trump's top re-election advisers told a group of influential Wisconsin Republicans that voter suppression is "traditionally" part of the party's election strategy in battleground states, the Associated Press reports.

Now, Justin Clark, an attorney and one of Trump's senior political advisers, says he was referring to the historic, false accusations that the Republican Party suppresses votes to win elections.

At a November 21 event meeting of the Republican National Lawyers Association's Wisconsin chapter, Clark spoke for about 20 minutes, and the speech was recorded by a liberal advocacy group and provided to the AP.

"Traditionally it's always been Republicans suppressing votes in places," Clark told the group, which included Wisconsin State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and the executive director of the state's Republican party.

"Let's start protecting our voters," he continued, partly referring to Election Day monitoring of polling places. "We know where they are [...] Let's start playing offense a little bit. That's what you're going to see in 2020. It's going to be a much bigger program, a much more aggressive program, a much better-funded program."

Attorneys Harmeet Dhillon, left, and Justin Clark, right, who represented the state and national Republican parties, discuss the tentative ruling by a federal judge to halt a California law that's aimed at forcing the president to release his tax returns, in Sacramento, Calif., Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019. AP Photo/Rich Pedroncell

The recording was taken at the country club where the event was held in Wisconsin by the liberal group American Bridge and provided to the AP by One Wisconsin Now, a liberal advocacy group based in Madison.

In addition to his comments on voter suppression, Clark expanded on the re-election strategy for the "blue wall" of Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, which Trump won in 2016. The states are presumed to be critical for the 2020 election, and both parties have spent millions campaigning in the region.

The renewed interest in Election Day monitoring comes after a judge lifted a 1982 decree that barred the Republican National Convention from "ballot security" efforts that Democrats characterized as voter intimidation, particularly of black voters, in that year's New Jersey gubernatorial election. The federal lawsuit claimed the GOP stationed off-duty police in urban polling places with "National Ballot Security Task Force" wristbands, some carrying visible guns.

Clark told the AP that his point was "Republicans have historically been falsely accused of voter suppression and that it is time we stood up to defend our own voters." He said he did not condone anyone's vote being "diluted" and that "our efforts will be focused on preventing just that."

He also made remarks that accused Democrats of "cheating" in rural areas of Wisconsin around mid-size cities like Green Bay, but did not elaborate on how the party cheats, and there is no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the state. Clark said the campaign would "focus on these places" if they could recruit enough staffers, which is part of Trump's re-election strategy.

The Trump 2020 campaign didn't immediately respond to Business Insider's request for comment.

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In leaked audio, a top Trump adviser said the Republican party has 'traditionally' relied on voter suppression - Business Insider

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