Thursday, July 26, 2018

Last Call For The Blue Wave Rises, Con't

Democrats are going for broke to try to retake the Senate, and while it won't be impossible, they will have to run the table on no less than twelve Trump state races.  It's looking better for them in eight of those twelve: Sherrod Brown, Tammy Baldwin, Debbie Stabenow and Bob Casey are all looking like safe bets, and Jon Tester, Heidi Heitkamp, Joe Manchin, and Bill Nelson are in tighter contests but are ahead.

But that leaves four races: defending Claire McCaskill in Missouri and Joe Donnelly in Indiana, and earning the two pickups Dems need to get to 51, Kyrsten Sinema in Arizona and Jackie Rosen in Nevada.

Surprisingly enough though, Dems are betting that Rosen has Republican Dean Heller's seat in a place where she too can win, so Dems are moving on pure offense and are going after Bob Corker's seat in Tennessee with former Democratic Gov. Phil Breseden in a position to pull a Doug Jones.

A heavily funded Democratic group will spend tens of millions of dollars to mobilize voters in the Republican-leaning states where control of the Senate is likely to be decided this November, stepping in to fill a void left by years of decay in Democratic infrastructure at the state and local level. 
Senate Majority PAC, the principal “super PAC” supporting Democratic efforts to capture the chamber, intends to steer at least $20 million into the voter-mobilization campaign ahead of the midterm elections, officials with the group confirmed. The program, which follows a similar — successful — Democratic effort in Alabama last year, underscores the degree to which outside groups that can take massive donations have supplanted the traditional role of political parties. 
The initiative by Senate Majority PAC — which will run through an affiliated nonprofit group, Majority Forward — will span more than a dozen states where Senate seats are at stake. But it is to focus on four states above all: Missouri and Indiana, where endangered Democrats are seeking re-election, and Arizona and Tennessee, where strong Democratic challengers are running for open seats currently held by Republicans. 
Those four races are among the country’s most competitive. And for Democrats to take control of the Senate, they would likely have to win at least three of them, or perhaps all four, depending on the outcome of races in other states.

Republicans currently hold the Senate by a slim majority, with 51 seats, but Democrats are largely on defense this year because so many of their senators in red states are running for new terms. 
Paul Dunn, a strategist for Senate Majority PAC, said that in those four states, Democrats need both to drive up turnout among left-leaning voters and to make inroads in more conservative communities.

“These are states that you need to do everything to win,” Mr. Dunn said. “You have to have close margins in areas that are harder for Democrats, but we also need to increase participation in areas where we are strong.” 
The turnout program, officials said, would mimic a narrower effort mounted by Senate Majority PAC in Alabama last year, during a special election for the seat Jeff Sessions vacated to become attorney general. Senator Doug Jones, a Democrat, won the seat with the help of $6 million from Senate Majority PAC, which funded both heavy advertising and get-out-the-vote operations.

That's right folks, Democrats are actually going to concentrate on turning out black and Hispanic voters as well as reaching out to disaffected Trump voters.

I may have a heart attack.  Somebody actually listened to my advice and realized you can do both without one coming at the expense of the other, especially in states like Arizona and Nevada.

Good on the Dems for remembering who brought them to the dance to begin with.

The White House Press Gets A Shine Job

We live in a country where the leader rails against the press as enemies of the people and reporters are shot and killed on newsroom floors.  This isn't some distant communist regime or fictional banana republic, this is the current reality of America today, and Trump just upped the ante on his way with a free press.

The White House took retaliatory action against Kaitlan Collins, a White House reporter for CNN, after Collins asked President Trump questions at an Oval Office photo op on Wednesday
CNN, rival networks, and the White House Correspondents Association all spoke out against the administration's action. 
On Wednesday afternoon Collins was representing all the television networks as the "pool reporter" in the room during a meeting between Trump and Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission. 
As is customary, Collins lobbed a few questions at the president. She asked about Vladimir Putin and Michael Cohen. Trump did not answer the questions. 
Later in the afternoon, the White House surprised the press corps by announcing a press availability with Trump and Juncker in the Rose Garden. It was said to be open to all press, not just the small pool. 
A few minutes later, Collins was asked to come to Bill Shine's office. Shine, a former co-president of Fox News, is the new deputy chief of staff for communications. Shine and press secretary Sarah Sanders met Collins there. 
"They said 'You are dis-invited from the press availability in the Rose Garden today,'" Collins said in an interview. "They said that the questions I asked were inappropriate for that venue. And they said I was shouting." 
A video clip of the exchange shows that Collins was speaking the same way journalists in the press pool usually speak. 
Collins said she reacted by saying, "You're banning me from an event because you didn't like the questions I asked." 
Collins said Shine and Sanders asserted that "we're not banning your network. Your photographers can still come. Your producers can still come. But you are not invited to the Rose Garden today."

This is definitely the work of disgraced former FOX News chief Bill Shine as the White House's new communications head, a move so blatantly obvious and shocking that even White House State Media took notice.

The White House Correspondents’ Association, which represents reporters seeking access to the White House, also issued a statement protesting the action. 
We strongly condemn the White House’s misguided and inappropriate decision today to bar one of our members from an open press event after she asked questions they did not like,” wrote WHCA president Olivier Knox. “This type of retaliation is wholly inappropriate, wrong-headed, and weak. It cannot stand. Reporters asking questions of powerful government officials, up to and including the President, helps hold those people accountable.” 
Collins, who referred questions to CNN representatives, detailed the episode on CNN, prompting anchor Wolf Blitzer to say the White House should issue a formal apology. “This is outrageous,” said Blitzer, a former White House correspondent. “It doesn’t happen and shouldn’t happen in the United States.” 
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), who was on CNN when the news was announced, said, “This kind of, really, violation of a reporter’s rights is an offense against the First Amendment interests of all of us.”

In response to the incident, Fox News anchor Bret Baier tweeted his support: “As a member of the White House Press pool- @FoxNews stands firmly with @CNN on this issue and the issue of access.”

For the WHCA to actually develop a spinal column and for anyone from FOX News to make a peep over this makes this huge.  Steve M. points out over at his place that Collins was a former Daily Caller reporter before joining CNN, and that's why FOX's Bret Baier is clearly worried.

Still though, keep an eye on Bill Shine, and keep in mind his culture of constant sexual harassment when running FOX News.  It's no wonder then that his first two notable acts upon joining the White House was to punish two conservative media women for not being sufficiently deferential to Trump: to hang Sarah Huckabee Sanders out to dry earlier in the week and to punish Kaitlan Collins yesterday.

Shine is sending out a message to his own staff and now to the WH press corps.  The question now is if anyone will choose to do anything about it.

That Whole Saturday Night Massacre Thing, Con't

Two weeks ago I talked about how House GOP Freedom Caucus leaders Rep. Mark Meadows and Rep. Jim Jordan were considering articles of impeachment against Deputy Attorney General (and Mueller probe boss) Rod Rosenstein, a doomed effort that could nevertheless provide the political cover Trump needed to start mass firings in the DoJ.

Last week I noted that GOP House Speaker Paul Ryan and House GOP Oversight Committee Chair Rep. Trey Gowdy were blocking that effort in the wake of the double-barreled blast of Trump's disastrous trip to Finland to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin, and the indictment of suspected Russian agent and NRA enthusiast Maria Butina.

That brings us to this week, where Trump, battered by economic news by US corporations blaming his trade war for lost profits and former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen unleashing recordings of his conversations with Trump about buying off mistresses, needs something to rally his base, and that something is Meadows and Jordan making their move against Rosenstein official.

A group of Republican lawmakers on Wednesday introduced articles of impeachment to remove Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, escalating a fight over Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Representatives Jim Jordan and Mark Meadows, who belong to the conservative House Freedom Caucus, joined nine other House members in accusing Rosenstein of hiding investigative information from Congress, failure to comply with congressional subpoenas and other alleged misconduct.

Rosenstein, the No. 2 official at the Justice Department, has become a frequent punching bag for supporters of President Donald Trump for appointing Mueller to investigate whether Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia in his race against Democrat Hillary Clinton. The president has denied such collusion took place.

“The DOJ is keeping information from Congress,” Jordan said, referring to the Department of Justice. “Enough is enough. It’s time to hold Mr. Rosenstein accountable for blocking Congress’s constitutional oversight role.”

A Justice Department official said the agency had no comment.

So we're in a for a long summer fight, right?

Not really.

Representative Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, said on Twitter the articles of impeachment “were filed in bad faith and show extraordinary lengths to which House Republicans will go to protect Trump.”

The House is scheduled to leave on Thursday on a recess that extends until the first week of September.

A House Republican aide said the two lawmakers were not attempting to force quick action on the articles of impeachment.

Oh yeah, the August recess where lawmakers give themselves a six-week vacation to go campaign.  So no, this isn't going anywhere until after Labor Day.  And even then, it's not going anywhere.

But it sure gives House Republicans something to talk about when they campaign and fundraise for the next month and change back home, huh.  Yes, this is a stupid publicity stunt on the part of the House GOP, only 11 House Republicans signed on and there's no real way Paul Ryan is even going to let this come up for a vote, much less Mitch McConnell holding a trial in the final month or two of the midterm campaign.

Ahhh but what about the fact that House members can force an impeachment vote if they truly want to?

A Meadows spokesman said the North Carolina Republican was leaving open the option of making the resolution privileged to force a vote. But such a move isn't likely to occur until after the House returns in September
"Information has been hidden, efforts have been stonewalled," Meadows said during an appearance on Fox News Wednesday night. "I guess for us, it's all about transparency so the American people can judge for themselves. They may be able to ignore Congress but they can't ignore the American people." 
Later in the Fox News interview, Meadows hinted he may try to force a vote on the House floor about the articles of impeachment against Rosenstein as soon as Thursday. Meadows said he doesn't want to bring the motion to the floor without Ryan's permission but that it's possible it can happen. 
"But starting tomorrow, we can bring it up as a privileged motion," he said. 
He added, "It really means it would require a vote on the House floor within two days and that's something that any member of Congress, Jim or I, can do. And quite frankly, it's either we hold him in contempt or we get the documents or we impeach him, and the only thing we have control over is the ability to bring impeachment straight to the floor."

So this is really just a threat they are leaving open for at least six weeks, and probably forever.  Meadows could have made this a privileged motion and to call on a vote, but specifically chose not to do so.  In other words, as I said above, this is a campaign publicity stunt and nothing more, something Jim Jordan desperately needs back home in Ohio as he faces voters on his past assistant coaching role in the Ohio State wrestling abuse scandal.

That doesn't mean however that Trump isn't going to use the impeachment articles as cover to fire Rosenstein outright while Congress is out campaigning.  And Mitch has already said that while the House will be in recess, the Senate has the Kavanaugh confirmation to deal with, not to mention Mitch wanting to keep Senate Democrats in DC and from being able to campaign at all, so Dems will be on hand if it looks like Trump gets an itchy trigger finger.

Anyway, we'll see.  My gut tells me Trump will try to fire some people, he has in the past and was only talked down because WH lawyer Don McGahn threatened to quit if he did.   I think as Mueller keeps making his life worse, Trump will be more and more incensed until he finally loses his temper.

Stay tuned.


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