Monday, December 2, 2019

Last Call For The Hunter Becomes The Hunted

Embattled California Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter is done being hunted by the feds and is taking a plea deal.

California Rep. Duncan Hunter said he plans to plead guilty to misusing campaign funds and is prepared to go to jail, a stunning turn of events for the six-term Republican who had steadfastly denied wrongdoing and claimed he was the victim of a political witch hunt by federal prosecutors.

Hunter had pleaded not guilty, but in an interview that aired Monday said he will change his plea at a federal court hearing Tuesday in San Diego. He said his motivation is protect his three children from going through a trial, which was set to begin Jan. 22.

His wife Margaret Hunter also was charged in the case and in June accepted a plea deal that called for her to testify against her husband.

“I think it would be really tough for them,” the 42-year-old Hunter said in an interview with San Diego TV station KUSI. “It’s hard enough being the kids of a public figure. I think it’s time for them to live life outside the spotlight.”

Hunter, who was re-elected last year and has been actively campaigning for a seventh term next year despite being under indictment, indicated he will leave office but didn’t say when.

The combat Marine veteran and an early supporter of President Donald Trump said he will plead guilty to one count of misuse of campaign funds. Federal prosecutors alleged he and his wife spent more than $250,000 in campaign money for golf outings, plane tickets and a family vacation to Italy, as well as household items from places like Costco.

The crime is a federal felony, so there's no way he can stay in office without being expelled.  The bad news is with Hunter out, Darrel Issa is completely ready to slime his way back into Congress.

Former Rep. Darrell Issa, former San Diego Councilman Carl DeMaio and state Sen. Brian Jones all announced they would run against Hunter, who barely survived his 2018 reelection campaign against Democratic challenger Ammar Campa-Najjar.

Campa-Najjar is once again vying for the now-open seat. He said Hunter’s change of plea will improve his chances of winning in the March primary and the November general election.

“We are all ready to move past this dark cloud of scandal,” Campa-Najjar said by telephone. “I look forward to restoring some integrity and dignity to this district.”

Issa, who represented the neighboring 49th District over 18 years before deciding not to seek reelection last year, said Hunter faced a difficult decision between defending himself in court and protecting his family from testimony that he cheated on his wife — and paid for affairs with donor funds.

“The reality is Duncan made a mistake,” Issa said by phone. “Reaching for the campaign credit card in what clearly is a personal expense is inappropriate. It was certainly bad judgment and not reimbursing it much earlier was a mistake.”

Issa said voters should remember there were “two Duncan Hunters” — one who joined the Marines after the Sept. 11 attacks and defended veterans in Congress for a decade-plus, and one who veered from his marriage and made improper campaign spending decisions.

DeMaio said Hunter did the right thing.

“While this must have been a difficult decision for him, Congressman Hunter’s decision to plead guilty is the right one for his family and his constituents and shows that no one should be above the law — especially members of Congress,” DeMaio said by phone.

While Hunter’s main political rivals did their best not to focus on how the guilty plea might improve their election chances, political experts were not so reluctant.

“This gives the Republicans a much stronger chance of holding on to a critical seat,” UC San Diego political scientist Thad Kousser said. “They lose the advantage of incumbency and name-brand, but getting away from the scandal and the soap opera this has become will allow the party to focus on issues that are popular to voters in this district.”

San Diego State political science professor Brian Adams also said Republicans are much more likely to retain the seat with Hunter off the ballot.

“I think the Democrats’ best chance was a Campa-Najjar/Hunter matchup,” he said. “I think DeMaio, Issa or Jones all match up well against Campa-Najjar.”

Unfortunately, I have to agree.  And it's very likely that Darrell Issa will once again be in the House starting in 2021.  It's an R+11 district and the biggest GOP stronghold left in SoCal, the hills above San Diego north of I-8.  The Hunter family ran this district for decades, and now Darrell Issa is going to make one last grand theft auto attempt to steal it for himself.

It's Still About Suppression, Con't

Donald Trump won Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin by fewer than 400,000 votes in 2016, but in every case the margin was dwarfed by registered voters who didn't cast a ballot for president at all in 2016 or voted third party, and that margin was dwarfed by those who stayed homeGetting those voters back onto the Democratic side as a way to remove Trump has to be the top priority.

One of the biggest surprises in 2016 was how many voters declined to even cast a ballot for president: More than 75,000 Michiganders who went to the polls didn’t vote for president at all — more than double the number in 2008.

“That’s an amazing number,” said Susy Heintz Avery, a former Michigan Republican Party chairwoman and co-director of the Michigan Political Leadership Program at Michigan State University.

Of those, nearly half — more than 35,000 voters — were from counties won by Hillary Clinton. The state hadn’t backed a Republican nominee since 1988.

Voter apathy may explain part of it, with people turned off by either Trump or Clinton, who did little outreach in the state. Democratic consultant Joe DiSano also said, “It was a question of people thinking it was a foregone conclusion (that Clinton would win). They thought it was taken care of … There’s no question she should have done more on the ground (to get out the vote).”

In 2020, expect both sides to take nothing for granted, regardless of what the polls say.

“The get-out-the-vote effort is going to be huge in 2020 … Bigger than we’ve seen in a long time,” said Heintz Avery. The question is how many of those missing voters are ready to support the Democratic nominee against the president, or if, in the end, they decide to sit it out again.

Clinton did almost as well in Detroit as President Barack Obama did in 2012, winning 95% of the vote in the majority black city. But Clinton got about 47,000 fewer votes in the city than Obama did.

“Obviously African American votes in the cities … were a key loss for Clinton,” said Matt Grossmann, director of Michigan State University’s Institute for Public Policy and Social Research.

Amid criticism that Clinton took those predominantly Democratic votes for granted, party officials say that’s unlikely to happen again.

Democrats have more than a dozen organizers on the ground in Detroit and are training even more, pointing out that health care protections remain as uncertain as ever and that Trump has tried to gut programs that help pay for development efforts in urban centers. The Trump campaign, meanwhile, is running ads in newspapers and on radio in Detroit touting the administration's record and launching “Black Voices for Trump.” The campaign says Trump's presidency has greatly helped minority voters by lowering the unemployment rate and notes the president has also enacted criminal justice reforms,

In the 2018 midterm elections, Detroit’s turnout was up 10 points from the previous midterm, a trend that could greatly help Democrats if it holds. But Grossman says the party needs to motivate black voters, not simply expect them to turn out.

“Hillary Clinton managed to convince white voters she cared a lot about racial minorities and their concerns, but it was not enough to mobilize African American voters,” he noted.

Black voters in Philly, Detroit, and Milwaukee are going to make the difference in those three critical swing states, and they will make the difference in Florida and NC too.  That's why voter suppression efforts in those five states have been specifically targeted at black voters.  That's how Republicans were able to win huge state legislature majorities in all of those states.

It's the black vote, guys.  Stop pretending "working-class white voters" are the key to anything.

The Reach To Impeach, Con't

Back to the business at hand, and that business is the House Intelligence Committee's report on Ukraine out today and expected to be approved tomorrow as the action now shifts from Schiff and Intel to Jerry Nadler and the House Judiciary.

Members of the House Intelligence Committee will begin reviewing a report Monday on the panel's investigation of President Donald Trump's efforts to press Ukraine to investigate his Democratic adversaries, a crucial step in the House's fast-moving impeachment inquiry.

Lawmakers on the panel will get a 24-hour review period, according to internal guidance sent to committee members and obtained by POLITICO. On Tuesday, the panel is expected to approve the findings — likely on a party-line vote — teeing it up for consideration by the Judiciary Committee, which is in turn expected to draft and consider articles of impeachment in the coming weeks.

Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff had indicated in a letter to colleagues earlier this week that a report would be coming "soon" from his committee but had not provided a specific timeframe.

Schiff had also indicated that his committee was still open to receiving new witnesses or testimony as it began to draft the report, but it’s unclear if any new information has become available since lawmakers departed for a one-week Thanksgiving recess.

The Ukraine report is expected to make up the core of Democrats’ likely articles of impeachment against Trump. Lawmakers leading the inquiry have suggested Trump could face an article alleging abuse of power for withholding military aid and a White House meeting from Ukraine while Trump and his allies pressured the country’s new president to investigate Democrats.

The House has been moving quickly to investigate Trump since Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the impeachment inquiry on Sept. 24. Democratic leaders, including Pelosi, have refused to assign a public end date to their investigation but many lawmakers have said privately they hope to wrap up by the end of the year.

The House Judiciary Committee is slated to hold its first impeachment hearing on Wednesday, with a panel of constitutional experts explaining exactly what constitutes an impeachable offense, including defining the nebulous “high crime and misdemeanor” term specified in the Constitution

It's Nadler and the Judiciary who will decide on exactly what the articles of impeachment against Donald Trump will be, and Republicans on the Judiciary will be there every step of the way to derail the process, their first move being to call Adam Schiff himself as a witness.

It's gonna get hairy this week, I guarantee.


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