Trump’s presidency really is in jeopardy

The conventional wisdom has coalesced quite rapidly that, impeachment or not, there’s no way you get to 67 votes in the Senate to remove Trump.  And, yet, I’m not so sure at all of that.

Based on what we know for certain right now, that’s true, you really don’t get to 67 votes to remove.  Here’s the thing, though.  To be Rumsfeldian, the known unknowns are the issue.  We know there’s a server that has damaging political information on it, but not exactly what.  We know that Trump’s lackeys have broken many a law and are in criminal jeopardy– which may very well affect their likelihood of trying to save their own skin.  We know that Trump is fantasticially corrupt and with the enhanced oversight powers that come with an official impeachment investigation, more highly-damning information may well turn up.

In short, it is quite plausible that sufficient, additional information comes out that truly dooms Trump’s presidency.  While the Jim Jordans and Mark Meadows and Lindsey Grahams of the world will clearly say any nonsense in defense of the president, a substantial number of Republican Senators have been eerily quiet on the matter.  There really is a line too far.  And it would very much seem there’s a non-trivial chance that Trump has blown past that line and that such information will come out.

Right now, Predictit has Trump at 71% to finish his term (down from 85% a month ago) and that strikes me as about right.  I do think he is more likely than not to finish his term, but will not be remotely surprised if the political situation changes sufficiently (primarily from the revelations of additional damning information) that he really is run out of office.

Quick hits (part II)

1) Interesting NYT feature on the growth of the anti-vaccine movement in America.

Though the situation may seem improbable to some, anti-vaccine sentiment has been building for decades, a byproduct of an internet humming with rumor and misinformation; the backlash against Big Pharma; an infatuation with celebrities that gives special credence to the anti-immunization statements from actors like Jenny McCarthy, Jim Carrey and Alicia Silverstone, the rapper Kevin Gates and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. And now, the Trump administration’s anti-science rhetoric.

“Science has become just another voice in the room,” said Dr. Paul A. Offit, an infectious disease expert at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. “It has lost its platform. Now, you simply declare your own truth.”

The constituents who make up the so-called vaccine resistant come from disparate groups, and include anti-government libertarians, apostles of the all-natural and parents who believe that doctors should not dictate medical decisions about children. Labeling resisters with one dismissive stereotype would be wrongheaded.

“To just say that these parents are ignorant or selfish is an easy trope,” said Jennifer Reich, a sociologist at the University of Colorado Denver, who studies vaccine-resistant families.

Easy trope or not… these parents are ignorant (by definition!) and selfish.

2) Dahlia Lithwick, “Did the White House Hide a Bombshell Memo From Mueller?”  Ummm, yes, almost surely.

3) On the same theme, Benjamin Wittes on “collusion after the fact.”

It seems obvious, in the context of these concerns, that information that the president informed Russian officials that he did not care about Russian election interference would have been key to this analysis on the FBI’s part—and, later, on the part of Robert Mueller.

But it seems preponderantly likely that Mueller never learned of this information. His report includes plenty of material on Trump’s Oval Office meeting with Lavrov and Kislyak the day after Comey’s firing, including Trump’s comments that, “I just fired the head of the FBI. He was crazy, a real nut job. I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.” And it includes detail about Trump’s exchange with an apparently concerned White House Counsel Don McGahn following the meeting. But there is nothing in the report about any comment by Trump informing the Russian delegation that he did not care about election interference. And there are no redactions in this section whatsoever where such information might be hiding…

I actually doubt that this fact would have fundamentally changed the criminal analysis in the Mueller report on “collusion.” The fundamental finding that there, after all, was that there was no evidence of any agreement between the Trump campaign, or Trump himself, and the Russians to violate U.S. law. I’m not sure I see how this would have changed that, it not being evidence of an agreement, just a kind of mutual aid without one. It also takes place after the fact, which would complicate things.

But it rather dramatically affects the “no collusion” narrative. And had Mueller been aware of it, I feel certain that it would have warranted investigation and discussion. The fact that nobody privy to the fact of its having happened came forward even though Comey had publicly announced that the bureau was investigating possible collusion represents—as my correspondent indicated—a triumph of omertà over patriotism.

4) You know what I truly want out of all this– other than saving our democracy, of course– is William Barr in prison.  Seriously.  What an absolute despicable human.

5) So, this was a really interesting take on the 737 Max and quite different from Langeweishe’s I recently shared.  Basically, the failure of this jet is a failure of late-stage capitalism (and how that corrupted Boeing’s corporate culture).  My guess- both this and Langeweishe’s pilot focus are appropriate.

So no more than a handful of people in the world knew MCAS even existed before it became infamous. Here, a generation after Boeing’s initial lurch into financialization, was the entirely predictable outcome of the byzantine process by which investment capital becomes completely abstracted from basic protocols of production and oversight: a flight-correction system that was essentially jerry-built to crash a plane. “If you’re looking for an example of late stage capitalism or whatever you want to call it,” said longtime aerospace consultant Richard Aboulafia, “it’s a pretty good one.”

The 737 MAX sailed through its FAA certification flight tests in just over a year. The plane was actually early, which was a good thing from an investor’s standpoint, since Boeing’s last new plane, the 787, had been three years late. Of course, the MAX wasn’t really a new plane, just an “upgrade” of the old 737 that had the benefit of carrying roughly two and a half times as many passengers about three times as far as the original 737.

6) Never really thought about my clothes being “sustainable,” but enjoyed this guide on buying clothes that are built to last.

7) If you haven’t seen anything about the appalling outburst from the former head of ICE, read the whole thing.  If you have, there’s this…

These incidents demonstrate how ICE operated under Homan’s watch. Agents felt free to illegally detain immigrants, then deceive courts to secure their deportation. They treated their targets as legal nonpersons, in a crusade to detain and deport as many as possible. ICE has gone after lawful immigrants, too, attempting to revoke their green cards for no good reason. Homan claimed he simply sought to enforce the laws on the books. But when state legislators began to limit local law enforcement’s ability to cooperate with ICE, Homan announced on Fox News that those lawmakers should be charged with crimes.

The first wave of coverage of Homan’s outburst Thursday came from right-wing media, praising his defiance. It was pure Trumpism, the elevation of culture war over the basic constitutional order. Thomas Homan does not recognize the authority of Pramila Jayapal or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. He does not think he has to follow their rules. He does not believe that two women of color have any right to hold power over him. “You work for me!” the former government employee screamed at an elected member of the government. He is a man who is used to wielding power against people who look like Jayapal and Ocasio-Cortez. He is the embodiment of ICE under Trump, certain—as so many ICE officers are—that he answers to no one.

8) Pete Wehner, “Trump Is Not Well: Accepting the reality about the president’s disordered personality is important—even essential.”  This is from a few weeks ago, but seriously, even just that liddle‘ tweet was insanely embarrassing.

“I don’t oppose Mr. Trump because I think he’s going to lose to Hillary Clinton,” I told Ben from Purcellville, Virginia. “I think he will, but as I said, he may well win. My opposition to him is based on something completely different, which is, first, I think he is temperamentally unfit to be president. I think he’s erratic, I think he’s unprincipled, I think he’s unstable, and I think that he has a personality disorder; I think he’s obsessive. And at the end of the day, having served in the White House for seven years in three administrations and worked for three presidents, one closely, and read a lot of history, I think the main requirement for president of the United States … is temperament, and disposition … whether you have wisdom and judgment and prudence.”

That statement has been validated.

Donald Trump’s disordered personality—his unhealthy patterns of thinking, functioning, and behaving—has become the defining characteristic of his presidency. It manifests itself in multiple ways: his extreme narcissism; his addiction to lying about things large and small, including his finances and bullying and silencing those who could expose them; his detachment from reality, including denying things he said even when there is video evidence to the contrary; his affinity for conspiracy theories; his demand for total loyalty from others while showing none to others; and his self-aggrandizement and petty cheating.

It manifests itself in Trump’s impulsiveness and vindictiveness; his craving for adulation; his misogynypredatory sexual behavior, and sexualization of his daughters; his open admiration for brutal dictators; his remorselessness; and his lack of empathy and sympathy, including attacking a family whose son died while fighting for this countrymocking a reporter with a disability, and ridiculing a former POW. (When asked about Trump’s feelings for his fellow human beings, Trump’s mentor, the notorious lawyer Roy Cohn, reportedly said, “He pisses ice water.”)

9) I have less interest in country music than I have appreciation for Ken Burns documentaries, so I did not watch his latest.  Nonetheless, is it wrong that articles like this just bug me?  “Ken Burns’ ‘Country Music’ Does Little to Tell the Story of the Non-White, Non-Straight World of Country.”  Okay, I’m no expert, but pretty sure that the non-straight, non-white part of Country is a modest part of the story (and even the article sounds like Burns was pretty decent on the non-white part).

10) The tone of this kind of bugged me, “Cleaner Ships May Mean More Expensive Holidays
New rules designed to reduce sulfur pollution from ocean-going ships will increase demand for low-sulfur fuel, boosting the cost of some imported goods.”  Well, hell, yes, cleaner ships should lead to goods costing more.  Right now, the negative externalities of the sulfur pollution are borne by us all, much better to have less pollution and those costs captured in higher fuel costs.

11) Good stuff from Edsall on campaign finance, “The Changing Shape of the Parties Is Changing Where They Get Their Money: Trump leads among small donors. Democrats now get plenty of support from the wealthy, with predictable consequences.”

A pair of major developments give us a hint about how future trends will develop on the partisan battleground.

First: Heading into the 2020 election, President Trump is on track to far surpass President Barack Obama’s record in collecting small donor contributions — those under $200 — lending weight to his claim of populist legitimacy.

Second: Democratic candidates and their party committees are making inroads in gathering contributions from the wealthiest of the wealthy, the Forbes 400, a once solid Republican constituency. Democrats are also pulling ahead in contributions from highly educated professionals — doctors, lawyers, tech executives, software engineers, architects, scientists, teachers and so on.

12) Drum is pretty right about this, “Saudi Arabia Is the Worst Country in the World.”

I’m hardly a fan of Iran. They chant Death to America! and hold Americans hostage in their prisons. They support terrorist groups around the world that have killed scores of Americans. They bankroll Hezbollah and other extremist groups. There’s not much to like there.

But nothing Iran has done holds even a tiny candle to Saudi Arabia’s behavior. The theological terrorists who control religion in the Kingdom have been exporting their murderous anti-Americanism for decades. Their citizens were behind 9/11 and they bear a fair amount of responsibility for the rise of ISIS as well. They’ve been fighting Yemen forever and their current war has included endless atrocities—which Geraghty generously suggests were merely “botched” operations.¹ Internally they’re as repressive a regime as you can imagine, even more so than Iran. Just recently they murdered a critic and then carved him up with a bone saw to get rid of the evidence. They are forever trying to get America to lay down American lives in their endless proxy wars against Shiite Iran.

I could continue, but why bother? I would say that over the past few decades, Saudi Arabia has been America’s worst nightmare. Not Russia, not China, not Iran, not North Korea. All of them are frankly pipsqueaks compared to the damage Saudi Arabia has done to American interests.

And yet we continue to treat them as a friend and ally.² It is truly beyond belief.

Quick hits (part I)

1) Jennifer Rubin has been terrific all week.  This is good, “Seven important and awful signs for Trump”

Indeed, it is the muted reaction of Senate Republicans that leads the list of disastrous signs for the president. The assumption that there could never be a vote to remove him or that it would never get Republican votes needs to be rethought…

Fourth, when Trump’s remarks threatening a whistleblower immediately leaked one could see not only a new basis for impeachment but a willingness of all sorts of people to rat him out. There is virtually no meeting or document that will be shielded from view given the number of people involved and the incentive some may have to step forward and be seen as cooperating with Congress, not as conspirators acting in furtherance of crimes.

2) Honestly, this ended up getting way too scientifically complex for me, but I really enjoyed it before it did.  “Cosmologists Clash Over the Beginning of the Universe: What happened before the Big Bang? And what happened before that? Stephen Hawking’s answer—there was no beginning—is now the subject of intense debate.”

3) Drum is right, “We Should Integrate Schools Based on Class, Not Race:

Even after controlling for economic status, attendance at a school with a big racial attendance gap (i.e., heavily black or heavily white) leads to big differences in black-white achievement scores (0.610). However, once you control for differences in school poverty, the effect goes away (0.013).

What’s left is a big effect in exposure to poor schoolmates (0.924). In other words, this confirms what we’ve known for a long time about the effect of concentrated poverty. If a black student goes go to a school that’s heavily black but middle class, it’s no big deal. But if a black student goes to a school that’s heavily poor, he’s doomed.

If you want to take away any good news from this, here’s a glimmer of hope: If the problem really is class more than race, then we can make a case for desegregating our schools based on class. According to Reardon, this would actually be more effective, and it’s probably slightly less incendiary than desegregation plans based on race.

This is, to be clear, only the slightest glimmer of hope. Parents of middle-class kids will probably resist integration with poor kids just as much as parents of white kids resist integration with poor kids. But you never know. Anything that turns down the dial a bit could be helpful.

4) Political scientist David Hopkins on how the battle for the suburbs is complicated:

While city dwellers still serve as stereotypes of Democratic voters, they do not constitute an outright majority of the party. That distinction actually belongs to suburbanites. Indeed, the share of Democratic votes cast by residents of suburban counties — defined as counties within federal metropolitan areas in which a majority of residents live

But Democrats have hit a wall in one critical respect: They have not extended this success to the suburban communities surrounding smaller cities, which remain predominantly — even increasingly — Republican. The suburbs surrounding Jacksonville, Fla., Indianapolis and Grand Rapids, Mich., for example, provide Republican candidates with more than enough votes to compete in, and often win, statewide elections.

To achieve a durable national majority, Democratic candidates will need to expand their appeal to the less diverse and more culturally conservative electorates of the small-metro suburbs, which remain aligned with the Republican Party even in the era of Donald Trump.

outside the principal city or cities — climbed to 53 percent in 2016 from 41 percent in 1988.

Over the past 25 years, many suburban areas near the country’s biggest cities have gone from dependable Republican strongholds to competitive battlegrounds or even safe Democratic territory. Recent Democratic gains in suburban Houston and Dallas are threatening to turn Texas purple. Outside Los Angeles, the seven districts of Orange County, once the geographic epicenter of the modern conservative movement, were swept blue in the 2018 midterms.

Rising electoral support in the suburbs of the nation’s largest population centers has allowed the Democratic Party to remain nationally competitive in an era of suburban population growth and increasing Republican dominance of rural America.

5) Very good discussion of the evidence for (and problems with that evidence) of the role of processed foods and obesity.  And, yet, pretty sure… eat food, mostly plants, not too much… still does the trick.

6) The creator of the Labradoodle regrets it.  As with everything wrong with dogs, though, it’s all about unscrupulous and thoughtless humans.  Yes, the evil breeders, but damn if people would stop buying dogs from pet stores and puppy mills!!

7) It’s funny the Ukraine stuff got so bad so fast, we’re already quickly past false equivalence and ridiculous “but Joe Biden” stories from the mainstream media.  But, at the beginning of the week it was actually starting out that way.  James Fallows:

If you’ve paid any attention to press retrospectives on the 2016 election, you’ve seen the term false equivalence. It refers to the mismatch between a long-standing procedural instinct of the press and the current realities of the Era of Trump.

Under normal circumstances, the press’s strong preference is for procedural balance. The program’s supporters say this, its critics say that, so we’ll quote both sides and leave it to you, the public, to decide who is right.

This approach has the obvious virtue of seeming fair, as a judge is fair in letting the prosecution and defense each make its case. It has a less obvious but very important advantage for news organizations, that of sparing reporters the burden of having to say, “Actually, we think this particular side is right.” By definition, most reporters most of the time are covering subjects in which we’re not expert. Is the latest prime-rate move by the Fed a good idea? Or a bad one? I personally couldn’t tell you. So if I am covering the story, especially on a deadline, I’ll want to give you quotes from people “on both sides,” and leave it there.

For as long as the press has existed, people have pointed out the limits and loopholes of “let’s hear from both sides” thinking…

But there is a very specific application of these principles to the era of Donald Trump. The problem with Trump is that he is not like anyone else who has ever held the office. He lies with abandon; he uses public office for private gain on a scale never before witnessed; and he seems to have no respect for, or even interest in, the institutions of self-government to which all of his predecessors have at least paid lip service.

Thus any of the “normal” procedural rules, applied to such an abnormal figure, can lead to destructive results. To be “fair” in covering him is to be unfair—to the truth, to history, to the readers, to the national interest, to any concept of journalistic purpose. The stuffy way to put this problem is “false equivalence.” The casual way to put it is “But what about her emails?” [emphasis mine]

8) Adam Serwer:

But behind this unfailing submission to Trump also lie more troubling influences. As the parties have become more racially polarized, and the Republican Party has become more exclusively white and Christian, Republicans have begun to think of themselves as the only genuinely legitimate actors in the polity. This is why Republicans draw districts that hand them more offices even when they fail to win a majority of the votes; it is why Republican legislatures strip Democratic executives of their powers when the electorate foils their efforts to rig elections in their favor; it is why the Trump administration attempted a fraudulent scheme to use the census to diminish the influence of minority voters relative to white voters; it is why Republicans seek to pass laws intended to suppress minority votes; it is why every night on Fox News, viewers hear one host after another outline deranged conspiracies about how Democrats want to steal America from its rightful white owners through demographic change.

Attempts to strip minorities of their rightful place in the polity are a bipartisan American tradition. They emerge whenever one party becomes beholden to an ethnically diverse constituency, and the other answers almost exclusively to white Christians. The contest between the universalist principles espoused by the Founders and their sectarian application in practice has been the principal conflict of American democracy since the beginning.

The peaceful transition of power is fundamental to democracy, but many Republicans have concluded that it is not possible for that to occur legitimately. Without such transitions, democracy is a dead letter. But if your political enemies are inherently illegitimate, then depriving them of power by any means necessary is not effacing democracy; it is defending it. The southern Democrats who stripped black Americans of the franchise at the end of Reconstruction using a battery of literacy tests, property requirements, poll taxes, and grandfather clauses saw themselves not as crippling democracy but as strengthening it, by limiting the ballot to those who were worthy of participating.

The Republican belief that their opposition is inherently illegitimate is one reason it does not matter to many Republicans that Trump’s allegations that Biden sought to get a Ukrainian prosecutor fired to prevent his son from being investigated are baseless. As CNN’s Daniel Dale has documented, there is no public evidence that Hunter Biden was ever himself under investigation; the prosecutor whose firing Biden called for as vice president was widely considered corrupt; the investigation Biden supposedly shut down was “dormant” at the time Biden expressed the view of the Obama administration that the prosecutor should be fired; and the reason world leaders, including Barack Obama, were demanding his firing in the first place was that he was failing to investigate corruption in Ukraine, not that he was being prevented from doing so. As my colleague David Graham writes, “Biden’s pressure to install a tougher prosecutor probably made it more likely, not less, that Burisma would be in the cross hairs.”

9) Ezra on board with impeachment now and makes a strong case:

Impeachment was meant to be a political remedy for political offenses. But over time, it has mutated into something quite different: a partisan remedy for political offenses. And partisan remedies are subject to partisan considerations. If Trump falls before an impeachment trial, the Republican Party will be left in wreckage. The GOP’s leaders can’t permit the destruction of their own party. They will protect Trump at all costs.

I think we have seen the total collapse of this very basic obligation of Congress under the weight of partisan polarization — particularly on the right — and it is dramatic,” says Julian Zelizer, a presidential historian at Princeton University. “Trump has exposed it rather than triggered it.”

There have been only three serious presidential impeachment efforts in American history. Every single one of them came when Congress was controlled by the opposition party. “Impeachment has essentially never been effective, except maybe as a deterrent,” says Matt Glassman, who is a senior fellow at Georgetown University’s Government Affairs Institute.

But deterrents matter. Rather than focusing on what impeachment cannot do, it’s worth looking at what it can. The impeachment process, as it stands now, is broken. It almost certainly will not lead to Trump’s removal, no matter how damning the investigation’s findings. But that doesn’t make it useless. It can act as a sanction to Trump and his successors, unearth information voters will need when deciding whether to reelect Trump, and provide a warning to foreign countries that would seek influence over our politics.

That is not sufficient, but it will have to be enough.

10) This “when to trust your gut” from Spencer Greenberg is good.  Though, I’d still prefer it in a 2-minutes-to-read article instead of an 11 minutes Ted Talk.

11) More good stuff from Jennifer Rubin:

The reason Trump makes idiotic arguments (such as “Look, there’s nothing in the transcript!”) is that he knows there are people intellectually and politically corrupt enough to repeat them. [emphasis mine] In this case, that includes Vice President Pence, who declared in an interview on Wednesday that the transcript entirely vindicates Trump. By contrast, Trump suggests that the media start investigating Pence’s conversations with Ukraine.

In essence, Trump has to give Fox News, talk radio hosts, right-wing activists and lackeys in Congress something to say while the legitimate media is pointing out that Trump has committed impeachable offenses and was too dense to understand the import of his own words. (Did Trump even read the rough transcript? It’s a few pages long, so it is quite possible he did not.)

If you keep waiting for that moment when Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) or the comical Fox News hosts and panelists throw up their hands and say, “I can’t do this anymore! Trump is indefensible!,” do not hold your breath. Graham and McCarthy, as well as most of their Republican colleagues, have either lost the capacity or the will to think rationally and independently; they feel compelled to act like cornered animals facing the snarling teeth of the presidential monster they created. Trump’s media boosters, some of whom know better, are so dependent on their Trump-cult audience that they dare not betray any hint of independent and rational thinking. (Pretending to be as dense as the Trump cult must be demoralizing at some level.)

12) I had no idea “greasing the groove” was a thing when it comes to weightlifting, but, apparently, that’s pretty much what I’ve been doing.  And, obviously, I do love this formulation, “Lift Weight, Not Too Much, Most of the Days.”

13) Alexandra Petri with a guide to quid pro quo:

What is quid pro quo?

Quid pro quo is a term that comes from the Latin and means “thing for WHAT??” It is when someone asks someone else to do something for something in a bad way. Quid pro quo is bad, if it happens, but as you will see from the following examples, it rarely does.

Here are some examples that are commonly mistaken for quid pro quo.

1. Person A to Person B

A: That is a nice baby you have there.

A: Look at my beautiful new chainsaw!

A: Please give me $20.

Is this quid pro quo?

No. In this example, Person A is trying to engage Person B by making a series of friendly statements. In the first statement, A compliments B’s baby, a friendly, neighborly thing to do. In the second, A shows off A’s new lawn-care purchase. A takes pride in his lawn. In the third statement, A makes an unrelated request. There is no quid pro quo here.

2. Lord A to Lord B

A: Wow, what a lovely castle!

A: Look at my new catapult!

A: I hope you will apologize for your remarks about my mother.

A: It would be a shame if anything happened to your castle.

In this situation, Lord A immediately demonstrates he is a good friend. A wants B to know that A admires B’s new castle. A also has purchased a catapult, which is the sort of life milestone that anyone would naturally want to share with a neighbor immediately. Also, it seems B maybe owes A an apology!

5. Individual 1 to the president of Ukraine

1: We have done a lot of nice things for you in the past.

1: We hope to do a lot of nice things for you in the future.

1: Please be sure to look into Joe Biden.

Individual 1, once again, is not engaging in even a hint of quid pro quo! He is expressing two positive wishes for his friend’s well-being, past and future, and then making an unrelated request.

Glad we were able to clear this up!

14) Despite not being a particularly common cancer, pancreatic cancer is the third most deadly.  Good article on why and the (so far failed) efforts to do something about that.  There may be some prospects for a blood test in the future, which would be awesome.

Pancreatic cancer, which will be diagnosed in about 56,770 people in the United States this year, is the only cancer with a rising mortality rate through 2014, although five-year survival has begun to inch up, from 8 percent to 9 percent by 2016. It remains the nation’s third leading cause of cancer deaths, after cancers of the lung and colon, and it is on track to overtake colon cancer within a decade. Three-fourths of people who develop pancreatic cancer die within a year of diagnosis, and only about one in 10 live five years or longer.

Perhaps like me you’ve wondered why modern medicine has thus far failed to gain the upper hand against pancreatic cancer despite having achieved major survival advances for more common cancers like breast and colon. What follows is a large part of the answer.

15) My colleagues on the Republicans in the NC government, “Corruption is undermining NC government.”

16) Paul Waldman on the amazingly pervasive corruption within the Trump administration:

Again, there are reasons to criticize Maguire’s decisions. But it seems clear that he was operating in good faith, trying to follow procedures and the law at least insofar as he understood it. Yet everywhere he turned, he faced offices and people who were partners in Trump’s degradation of the system’s integrity. It appears that, without any intent to be corrupt, Maguire was swallowed by Trump’s corruption.

In the end, some combination of public pressure and Trump’s own hubristic foolishness in thinking he can get way with anything led to the public release of both a rough transcript of Trump’s phone call and the whistleblower complaint itself. The substance of those two documents is devastating.

Watching Maguire testify, one got the sense that he knows it and is trying to somehow emerge from his service with his integrity and reputation intact. Perhaps he should have known that, when you agree to work for Donald Trump, that’s going to be next to impossible.

17) I usually find myself persuaded by Garrett Epps, but not with his argument that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act should protect people not just on “sex” but must necessarily also protect for “sexual orientation” which cannot be understood outside the concept of sex.  I’m all for protecting LGBT rights, but we should have a law for that, instead of sophistry to suggest that “sex” and “sexual orientation” should be equivalent in law.

18) Cass Sunstein on how the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence both provide a handy guide to impeachment.

19) Chait, “The Ukraine Scandal Is Not One Phone Call. It’s a Massive Plot.”

The quid pro quo in the call, though perfectly apparent, is mostly implicit. But the real trick in Trump’s defense is framing the call as the entire scandal. The scandal is much more than that. The call is a snapshot, a moment in time in a months-long campaign that put American policy toward Ukraine at the disposal of Trump’s personal interests and reelection campaign.

Last spring, Rudy Giuliani was openly pressuring Kiev to investigate Joe Biden. Giuliani told the New York Times, “We’re meddling in an investigation … because that information will be very, very helpful to my client.” The key word there was “we’re.” The first-person plural indicated Giuliani was not carrying out this mission alone. A series of reports have revealed how many other government officials were involved in the scheme.

When Trump ordered military aid to Ukraine to be frozen, he went through his chief of staff and budget director Mick Mulvaney. Congress had passed the aid, and Ukraine was under military attack from Russia, a fact that made the halting of the assistance worrisome to numerous officials in two branches of government. As the Times reported, lawmakers and State Department staffers were asking why the money hadn’t gone through.

They were given cover stories: Lawmakers “were first told the assistance was being reviewed to determine whether it was in the best interest of foreign policy,” the Times reported this week. “Other administration officials said, without detail, there was a review on corruption in Ukraine, according to current and former officials. Then, as August drew to a close, other officials told lawmakers they were trying to gauge the effectiveness of the aid, a claim that struck congressional aides as odd.”

Lots of officials were involved in disseminating these cover stories to hide the fact that Trump held back the aid to leverage Ukraine to investigate Biden. One of them was Mike Pence, who told some confused officials that the aid was being held up “based on concerns from the White House about ‘issues of corruption.’” Pence knew perfectly well what this really meant — asked point blank if the aid was being held up over Ukraine’s failure to investigate Biden, he replied “as President Trump had me make clear, we have great concerns about issues of corruption.” In other words, yes, Ukraine needed to investigate Biden if it wanted the money…

There may be many others. Last night on Fox News, Giuliani held up a phone he said included messages with official authorization for his activities. “You know who I did it at the request of? The State Department,” he said. The scheme to shake down Ukraine was a massive plot, spreading through the government and corrupting multiple officials. Trump had a lot of accomplices.

20) Scott Lemieux with the appropriate response to the NYT running an Op-Ed by torture architect and war criminal, John Yoo.  ““WHY ARE WE PUBLISHING THIS MAN, DID WE RUN OUT OF HUMAN BEINGS?”

21) Derek Thompson, “American Migration Patterns Should Terrify the GOP.”

This drip-drip-drip of young residents trickling down into red-state suburbs is helping to turn southern metros into Democratic strongholds. (Of course, migration isn’t the only factor pushing these metros leftward, but more on that later.) In Texas, Democrats’ advantage in the five counties representing Houston, Dallas–Fort Worth, San Antonio, and Austin (the “Texas Five” in the graph below) grew from 130,000 in the 2012 presidential election to nearly 800,000 in the 2018 Senate election.

In Arizona, from 2012 to 2016, Democrats narrowed their deficit in Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix, by 100,000 votes. Two years later, in the 2018 Senate election, the county swung Democratic, with Democrats gaining another 100,000 net votes.

In Georgia, from the 2012 presidential election to the 2018 gubernatorial elections, the four counties constituting most of Atlanta and its suburbs—Fulton, DeKalb, Cobb, and Gwinnett—increased their Democratic margin by more than 250,000.

What’s remarkable about these changes isn’t just their size, but their resemblance to Trump’s 2016 margins. Trump won Texas in 2016 by 800,000 votes. He won Arizona by 90,000 votes. He won Georgia by 170,000 votes. If these states’ biggest metros continue to move left at the same rate, there is every reason to believe that Texas, Arizona, and Georgia could be toss-ups quite soon.

As noted above, migration isn’t the only reason southern metros might be shifting to the Democratic Party: Young southerners are surely pulling their region left, while older residents could be switching parties in response to Trump. Republicans have likely hurt themselves by moving further to the right to galvanize their white exurban and rural base, even as their support has thinned in the suburbs and among working-class white women.

But domestic migration is key.

22) This is really good.  Just because what Hunter Biden did was not actually illegal or “corrupt” it is a great example of how what is so scandalous is what is actually legal.  Sarah Chayes: “Hunter Biden’s Perfectly Legal, Socially Acceptable Corruption: Donald Trump committed an impeachable offense, but prominent Americans also shouldn’t be leveraging their names for payoffs from shady clients abroad.”

How did this get to be standard practice?

The whistle-blower scandal that has prompted the fourth presidential impeachment process in American history has put a spectacle from earlier this decade back on display: the jaw-smacking feast of scavengers who circled around Ukraine as Viktor Yanukovych, a Moscow-linked kleptocrat, was driven from power. Ukraine’s crisis was the latest to energize a club whose culture has come to be treated as normal—a culture in which top-tier lawyers, former U.S. public officials, and policy experts (and their progeny) cash in by trading on their connections and their access to insider policy information—usually by providing services to kleptocrats like Yanukovych. The renewed focus on Ukraine raises jangling questions: How did dealing in influence to burnish the fortunes of repugnant world leaders for large payoffs become a business model? How could America’s leading lights convince themselves—and us—that this is acceptable? …

But the egregiousness of these acts must not blind us to the culture of influence-peddling that surrounds and enables them. That culture is fundamental to the cynical state we are in, and it needs examining. All too often, the scandal isn’t that the conduct in question is forbidden by federal law, but rather, how much scandalous conduct is perfectly legal—and broadly accepted.

How impeachment will hurt Democrats

It won’t.

Oh, my, that is so tired based on mis-readings of 1998 history.  Short version is Jamelle Bouie in two tweets:

Okay, now to Ron Brownstein for the longer case:

But there’s considerable evidence—both in contemporary polling and the experience of former President Bill Clinton’s impeachment—that impeaching Trump might not be nearly as risky as it’s been portrayed for them…

“If voters see this as being about significant abuses of power and serious attempts to undermine the rule of law, then I don’t worry particularly about a backlash against Democrats who vote for impeachment,” says the longtime Democratic pollster Geoff Garin. “If it is seen purely as a partisan exercise, the answer may be different. But I have a good level of confidence that it will not be seen that way, that the moderates in the Trump districts who eventually support impeachment will be seen as having done so for serious and sober reasons.”

Much of the Democratic concern about the impact on more vulnerable members is rooted in misperceptions about what happened after the House Republicans impeached Bill Clinton on two counts. [emphases mine] As I’ve written before, the GOP did pay a price for that decision. In the November 1998 election, a month after the GOP majority first voted to authorize the impeachment inquiry, Democrats gained five seats in the House. That was the first time a president’s party had won House seats in the sixth year of his term since Andrew Jackson’s administration in 1834…

But those gains weren’t enough to cost Republicans control of the House. The GOP won a majority of the nationwide popular vote that year. Just 17 seats changed hands between the parties, at the time the smallest shift ever in a midterm election…

Even more relevant to today’s political calculations than these overall results may be the experience of House Republicans who represented districts that voted for Clinton in 1996, the equivalent of today’s Trump-district Democrats. In an era when voters split their ballots more often, there were many more of these split-district members: Ninety-one of the House Republicans in office in 1998 represented seats that backed Clinton two years earlier. In a three-way race involving GOP nominee Bob Dole and the independent Ross Perot, Clinton had won a majority of the vote in 30 of those seats and a plurality in 61 more.

In the march to impeachment in the 1990s, many analysts (myself included) questioned whether enough of those Republicans would vote to, in effect, nullify the decision their constituents had made two years earlier in electing Clinton. But when the House considered impeachment in December 1998, almost all of them voted for at least one of the two articles of impeachment that the chamber approved. (Just four House Republicans, each of them representing districts that voted for Clinton, opposed both articles.)

And then, after effectively voting to cancel out their constituents’ presidential votes, almost all of the Clinton-district Republicans who sought reelection won it in both 1998 and 2000…

But, taken together, that means that over two election cycles, voters ousted just seven of the 91 Republicans from Clinton-supporting districts who had voted on impeachment. (A few others retired over those two cycles.) Jacobson says Clinton’s impeachment, while unpopular, still probably hurt Democrats somewhat more than Republicans in 2000, though it didn’t have a big impact either way. You can argue at the presidential level it was an issue, in the sense there was some Clinton baggage—Clinton fatigue, as people talked about it,” he says. “But it did not reverberate down the ticket at all.”

I did a local news interview yesterday where a question was, essentially, “but, really… really, it won’t hurt the Democrats?”  This is a strong view out there and it needs to be forcefully rebutted.  Now, of course, we don’t know what exactly is going to happen and politics can be strange, but I summed it up thusly, and very much stand by it… the impeachment presents far more downside risk for Republicans than Democrats.

Not a very stable genius, but a malovelent one

Okay, obviously, Trump is no genius, but in certain respects he obviously is a very skilled politician.  I’ve been writing about this “in plain sight” stuff this week, but Senator Chris Murphy perfectly captures it in this terrific interview with Dahlia Lithwick (which you should read in its entirety):

One of the challenges with this president is that so much of the bad acts happen openly and flagrantly, ranging from attacks on judges or the free press, to self-enrichment via Trump properties. It leads me to wonder why we seem to be more mobilized by the things he does behind closed doors than that which he does, almost daily, out in the open?

I think there is some malevolent genius in the president’s habit of brazenly advertising his corruption. As a nation, we are conditioned to believe that bad actions will be concealed, so when the president’s corrupt actions are out in the open, it throws us all off a bit.

Exactly.  And it’s worked so damn well until now that he thought he could get away with the notes of the Ukrainian phone call he can’t.  I’ve been having fun imagining this monologue.  “Of course I shot somebody in the middle of 5th Avenue in broad daylight.  I wouldn’t have done it if it were not okay.  I have nothing to hide; if I did, why would I do the shooting on 5th Avenue.”  The thing is, this really has worked so damn well.  You can have a completely obvious quid pro quo and have his delusional/moronic supporters somehow saying, “well, there’s no explicit quid pro quo” as if the bad guys ever actually spell it out letter-by-letter.

Public opinion and impeachment follow-up

That was fast.  Just read the thread from Ariel Edwards-Levy:

Impeachment and public opinion

Summary of the latest from USAToday:

A new Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday shows a majority of Americans do not think President Donald Trump should be impeached and removed from office.

In a clear partisan divide, 4% of Republicans and 73% of Democrats surveyed support impeachment. Those who responded against impeachment include 95% of Republicans surveyed and 21% of Democrats.

The poll was conducted between Sept. 19 and 23, just as Trump was in the thick of a controversy after news of a whistleblower complaint from within the intelligence community surfaced about a phone call with Ukraine’s president asking for an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden, a 2020 candidate.

This will change.  Not clear how many Republicans who have stuck with Trump this far will actually change (heck, they voted for Mr. “Grab ’em by the pussy”), but the overall numbers will go up as Democratic numbers go up.  Once this is the clear, unambiguous position of the Democratic party (unlike the mixed signals, ordinary Democrats have been receiving), more than 73% will get on board.  Ultimately, I would expect that, presuming things continue on their current course, we’ll end up having roughly the 90%+ of Democrats that disapprove of Trump also favoring impeachment.  Not to mention, I think the pattern so far suggests that the more you dig on Trump, the more bad stuff you find.

Nate Cohn has a nice piece, “What Polling Can Tell Us About Impeachment (and What It Can’t)”  Short version: based on polling so far it’s really hard to know the future:

The facts of the president’s conduct, of course, will not be the only factor shaping public opinion. The behavior of congressional Republicans will be crucial, perhaps especially if a modest number either support impeachment or signal the seriousness of the allegations. A strongly unified Republican Party might be able to damage Democrats for pursuing impeachment, but a divided party might not be able to do so.

Of course, the conduct of Republicans and public opinion are not independent of each other. Mr. Trump’s standing could encourage or dissuade Republicans from taking his side, which would in turn help or hurt the president at the polls.

The clearest indicator of the politics of the impeachment proceedings might be the president’s approval rating. Today, it stands at around 44 percent of registered voters, according to the FiveThirtyEight tracker.

In the past, the rating has been somewhat responsive to events: President Trump’s decision to fire the F.B.I. director James Comey quickly knocked about three points off his approval rating, for example. His lows have tended to come during periods when the news was focused on unpopular initiatives that yielded intra-Republican fights, as when the Senate rejected the health care bill or in the run-up to the passage of the tax law.

Attitudes about the president are so entrenched that it is not realistic to expect an enormous swing in his approval rating. But if it is largely unmoved over the next few months, it will suggest that Republicans could be positioned to exact apolitical cost against the Democrats.

If his ratings slump, the question will be whether an eventual acquittal in the Senate would be enough to undo the damage, or more. That is very difficult to predict, which can be said for the whole impeachment process as it gets underway.\

And, lastly, the course of public opinion on Nixon truly is important historical context.  Pew with a great feature on this.  The key chart:

How Watergate Changed Public Opinion of Richard Nixon

Yet, despite the increasingly negative views of Nixon at that time, most Americans continued to reject the notion that Nixon should leave office, according to Gallup. Just 26% thought he should be impeached and forced to resign, while 61% did not.

A lot of key scandal events were to follow that year and into 1974, but public opinion about Watergate was slow to change further, despite the high drama of what was taking place. For example, October 1973 was a crucial month as the courts ruled that the president had to turn over his taped conversations to special prosecutor Archibald Cox, and subsequently Nixon ordered for the dismissal of Cox in what came to be known as the Saturday Night Massacre. The public reacted, but in a measured way. In November, Gallup showed the percentage of Americans thinking that the president should leave office jumping from 19% in June to 38%, but still, 51% did not support impeachment and an end to Nixon’s presidency.

In the spring of 1974, despite the indictment of top former White House aides, and Nixon’s release of what were seen as “heavily edited” transcripts of tapes of his aides plotting to get White House enemies, the public was still divided over what to do about the president. For example, by June, 44% in the Gallup Poll thought he should be removed from office, while 41% disagreed.

Only in early August, following the House Judiciary Committee’s recommendation in July that Nixon be impeached and the Supreme Court’s decision that he surrender his audio tapes, did a clear majority – 57% – come to the view that the president should be removed from office.

Short version: A majority of Americans may oppose impeaching (and removing) Trump for a long time, but these things can shift fast.  Not to say they will at all, but to make confident predictions based on current polls on impeachment is pure folly.

We’ll see!

The pointless pursuit of “moderate” voters

Based on lots of great data analysis (trust me, or click through and read the whole thing), Lee Drutman makes a strong case for the futility of chasing after “moderate” voters:

But unlike independents, moderates are more likely to be Democrats. The average moderate in the Voter Study Group data is solidly center-left on both economic and immigration issues. This, I think, has mostly to do with linguistic history: Republicans have long embraced the “conservative” label, but for decades Democrats ran away from the “liberal” label, leaving “moderate” as the only self-identification refuge for many Democrats. (Only recently has “liberal” again become a fashionable identification for the left.)

Consider the typical ideology survey question, which gives respondents three options: liberal, moderate or conservative. A voter who identifies as neither liberal nor conservative has only one other option: moderate. And moderate sounds like a good thing. Isn’t moderation a virtue?

As the political scientists Donald Kinder and Nathan Kalmoe put it, after looking at five decades of public opinion research, “the moderate category seems less an ideological destination than a refuge for the innocent and the confused.”8 Similarly, political scientist David Broockman has also written about the meaninglessness of the “moderate” label, particularly as a predictor of centrism.

The upshot of all this is that if you’re a campaign trying to appeal to independents, moderates or undecided voters — or a concerned citizen trying to make sense of these groups in the context of an election — policy and ideology aren’t good frames of reference. There just isn’t much in terms of policy or ideology that unites these groups.11

Anybody who claims to have the winning formula for winning moderate, independent or undecided voters is making things up. Perhaps more centrist policies will appeal to some voters in each of these categories — but so will more extreme policies.12

And come election day, these potential swing voters may not ultimately care all that much about policy. They don’t tend to identify themselves based on ideology, and they don’t follow politics all that closely. They’re more likely to decide based on whatever random events happen at the last minute (like, say, a letter from the FBI director). These are even harder to measure and generalize about. (The good news for pundits and campaigns is that they leave even more room for open speculation and political fortune-telling.) [emphasis mine]

This doesn’t mean that there’s absolutely zero ideological penalty for a more extreme candidate, but it sure does mean we should not be listening to pundits talking about Democratic candidates need to capture some large group of moderate, undecided voters.

Why impeachment is actually sticking this time

Vox’s Zack Beauchamp on why he’s now persuaded:

Since the Democrats took control of the House, I’ve been deeply conflicted about the debate over impeaching President Donald Trump. There were very strong arguments on both sides, and it seemed genuinely difficult for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to chart the right course.

That ambivalence ended this weekend. After worrying press reports about the president’s phone calls with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Trump all but openly admitted that he had pushed Zelensky to investigate Joe Biden and his son Hunter.

This changes everything. Impeaching Trump over Robert Mueller’s findings in the Russia investigation would have been an attempt to address past offenses; impeaching Trump over these calls would be an attempt to halt what sure looks like an ongoing attempt to hijack American foreign policy in service of the president’s reelection. Democrats have an obligation to try to stop this before it gets any further.

There is now no question: It’s time to impeach Donald Trump…

The aim would be to prevent the president from making some kind of shady, behind-the-scenes agreement with Ukrainian authorities and make him think twice about any other similar scheme for using his powers for electoral gain.

This level of attention seems like the best available tool for preventing Trump from continuing his efforts to undermine the 2020 election. Moreover, such high levels of press coverage and partisan furor would also make it harder to imagine that the Ukrainian government, which might have to deal with a Democratic president in 2021, would come to any kind of corrupt deal with Trump. Democratic posturing would serve as a counterweight to Trump’s pressure on Ukraine, signaling to the country’s leadership that any cooperation with the president’s inappropriate demands could seriously fray relations with the US in the next administration.

Under this logic, it doesn’t actually matter so much that impeachment will invariably fail in the Senate. The very act of shining a light on Trump’s misbehavior would limit his freedom of action.

If you have a president who is actively trying to abuse his power in order to invite foreign meddling in the next presidential election, you need to do what you can to stop him. And impeachment is the biggest and most powerful tool in Democrats’ toolbox.

And EJ Dionne sums up the new dynamics nicely via tweet:


Impeachment for Slovaks (and Americans)

As I am wont to do when when giving email interviews for Slovakian media, I also like to share that here.  So, my interview for Pravda:

1. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi announced the establishment of a formal impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump after reports Trump pressured the President of Ukraine to investigate activities of Joe Biden’s son. Is this Ukraine affair the biggest problem for Trump regarding impeachment, or there are other (maybe even more) important issues?

Yes, I think you’d have to say that Ukraine is is Trump’s biggest problem in that, this, of all things, has finally actually led to an official impeachment inquiry. For many wavering Democrats and impeachment-skeptical Trump doubters/opponents, this has moved them into new territory of clearly supporting impeachment. Since impeachment is ultimately a political decision, safe to say that the politics of impeaching on Ukraine are the most appealing politically to follow-through on. That said, now that the impeachment genie is out of the bottle, there are other areas where President Trump is quite vulnerable. I think there’s a good case to be made that the administration’s general refusal to accept congressional oversight is ripe for impeachment charges. And, now that the impeachment inquiry is actually happening, it is quite possible the President’s behavior outlined in the Mueller report could be the basis of impeachment charges.

2. On one hand Trump criticizes Democrats for their impeachment move, on the other hand it seems that he perhaps believes it will help him to be reelected. What does the impeachment process mean for the US politics and upcoming presidential elections in the hyperpartisan atmosphere? Could it be good for Trump?
For the record, my thoughts here rely heavily on Jonathan Bernstein as I agree 100% with this analysis:

I think the greatest likelihood is that there is actually pretty minimal impact on the election from where we stand here. To a (sometimes stunning) degree, Republicans seem to have already “priced in” bad, if not, egregious behavior from the President, or, alternatively, convince themselves of a reality where his behavior is actually appropriate. If you’ve been with the president so far, it’s hard to see too many people actually changing their minds against him. Nonetheless, I do believe there’s a non-trivial chance that truly damning evidence comes out that causes him to lose some elite Republican support. If that happens, things could get very bad for Trump.

On the other hand, it’s hard to see the case where this helps him. Who are the voters that are going to turn towards Trump because they see him as unfairly attacked who were not already supporting him? Especially, when one considers the strong case that Democrats have along multiple lines of inquiry and the cautiousness and judiciousness with which Nancy Pelosi has approached the matter, the kind of gross overreach that mind actually turn opinion towards Trump seems quite unlikely.

And, as to what happens from all of this, anybody who says with any confidence is really just making stuff up. We are very much in uncharted territory.

So, go and read that Bernstein link.  It’s really good. Or, okay, here’s some excerpts:

So far, President Donald Trump is unpopular – and, polls say, so is impeachment. I expect the latter to change. The more that highly visible Democrats are united in favor of impeachment, the more that Democratic voters and independents who dislike Trump will likely shift toward their position. I wouldn’t be surprised if that shift happens rapidly, at least if the news media gives saturation coverage to the story and voters start to learn more about it.

I think it’s a lot less likely that Trump’s popularity will change. Yes, President Richard Nixon’s approval ratings dropped dramatically over the course of the Watergate scandal. But there are a lot of differences, starting with the fact that Trump has a lot less ground to lose. It’s possible that new facts could push mild Trump supporters into being mild Trump opponents (and so on for other levels of support), but I wouldn’t count on a lot of that. What really could hurt Trump would be if numerous high-profile Republicans turned against him. That’s unlikely, because those Republicans know that the less popular Trump is, the worse off all party candidates will be in the next election. But if Trump’s approval ratings are going be harmed, that’s how it’ll happen.

Could impeachment actually make Trump more popular? That, too, is possible but unlikely. President Bill Clinton was probably helped by a partisan impeachment that most neutral opinion leaders, and even some Republicans, thought was a bad idea. I don’t think that’s where elite opinion will be this time. If, however, this winds up uniting congressional Republicans, and some Democrats go along in opposition, it could conceivably help Trump. But I wouldn’t count on it. One reason: He’s going to keep doing things that people who have turned against him don’t like.

Assuming Trump survives and becomes the Republican nominee next year, the effects of impeachment per se on the presidential election will probably be small and possibly nonexistent. We don’t know how long any impeachment and trial would last, but voters tend to have shockingly short memories.

And, lastly, this is a terrific piece on what should be the basis of impeachment from the Lawfare team:

If the House is no longer considering whether to impeach Trump and has really decided to move forward, it needs to think about what articles of impeachment should—and should not—contain.

This is actually a difficult question. Trump’s misconduct presents what the military calls a target-rich environment. There’s a huge range of activity that a reasonable member of Congress could in good conscience regard as impeachable. That said, it would be a very bad idea for the House to take the approach of throwing a lot of spaghetti at the wall and seeing what, if anything, sticks. That approach could potentially trigger political blowback, giving the president’s allies more material with which to portray congressional Democrats as just a bunch of crazed and partisan attack dogs. And it could also risk doing real institutional damage. When Congress passes an article of impeachment, it makes a statement about the nature of offenses that justify removal from office. It is important to be careful when making such statements so as not to create ill-considered precedents that will justify future mischief.

This is why it is critically important to be disciplined at this juncture—to base articles of impeachment only on that activity which is not merely a plausible basis for removal but is unambiguously justified as a basis for removal. That means that anything that is a matter of policy—no matter how much one might disagree with the policy or how abhorrent one might find it—should not be included. For example, Congress should strongly resist the temptation to include disputes over border security—including both spending on the wall and the grotesque policy of family separation—in any articles it might draw up.

It also means that Congress should avoid issues that implicate Trump’s conduct before he became president. Whether pre-presidential conduct can ever be impeachable is an interesting question; the answer is probably that it can under certain extraordinary circumstances. (One of us has argued as much regarding payments made to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal during the campaign.) But, here, there is not a good reason for Congress to force that difficult question. For impeachment purposes, Trump should get a mulligan on misconduct that took place while he was a candidate. That means not including wrongdoing associated with Russia’s intervention in the 2016 election—most of which does not overtly implicate Trump’s personal conduct anyway. It also means ignoring for impeachment purposes Trump’s likely criminality with respect to the Daniels and McDougal payments. While this activity spilled over into his presidency, it is predominantly pre-presidential.

There’s another reason to leave this particular material out, independent of its merits as a potentially impeachable offense: During the Clinton impeachment, Democrats presented themselves as taking the principled view that a president shouldn’t be removed for modest criminality to cover up sexual indiscretion. Unless they want the impeachment debate to focus on their flip-flop, they would do well not to flip-flop on that…

In short, Congress should focus for impeachment purposes only on matters of unacceptable presidential conduct that are provable on the basis of currently available evidence and that are thus easily presentable to the Senate for judgment.

This does not mean that Trump’s conduct outside this category is wise, moral, acceptable or even, in some cases, legal. But the House must rigorously focus on the worst provable offenses undertaken as president in part because there are so many possible charges to begin with. Some of these are very bad but not impeachable; some might conceivably justify impeachment in and of themselves. But incorporating everything will ensure that nothing receives the full attention that it warrants. The House thus needs to focus on those offenses that make the strongest case of misuse of presidential power, rather than wading into difficult questions concerning the impeachability of pre-presidential conduct, sexual misconduct, racism or other moral failures.

What does that leave in terms of impeachable conduct? A lot. [emphasis mine]

How to get away with in in politics

I think we’ve learned something from Trump’s history of escaping scandal that would bring down pretty much any other politician and Drum is right on top of it:

So here’s where we are:

Phase 1: Nothing happened.

Phase 2: It doesn’t matter what I said.

Phase 3: I may have mentioned Biden.

Phase 4: It’s possible the president threatened to cut off aid to Ukraine.

The goal here is to admit to an impeachable act, but to do it slowly enough that each revelation isn’t quite enough to cause Trump’s supporters to bolt. Then, by the time the whole story is out, they’ve already defended pretty much every detail and have no choice but to stay on his side. And with that, Trump has successfully shot someone on Fifth Avenue and gotten away with it.

And just for laughs, here’s how Fox News is covering Ukrainegate this morning. This is their entire coverage with nothing left out, screencapped for posterity:

How do we know this works?  It worked on Russia, which started out as “no contact whatsoever” went to “no collusion” and then basically, “what’s your problem with collusion anyway?”  And, honesty, I’m pretty sure something similar would happen if he did shoot someone on 5th Avenue.

Red Economy vs. Blue Economy

Really interesting piece from Brookings filled cool maps, charts, and statistical info…

Not only are red and blue America experiencing two different economies, but those economies are diverging fast. In fact, radical change is transforming the two parties’ economies in real time. Which is a key takeaway of a new data analysis—published today—that we developed with the Wall Street Journal’s Aaron Zitner and Dante Chinni.

What do the new numbers show exactly? Based on standard economic data linked to recent congressional district outcomes that we have tracked over time, the Journal/Brookings analysis depicts above all the extreme pace in which the economies of the two parties’ districts are changing in this decade.

Some of the change is already familiar based on how the map of congressional vote outcomes has evolved in the last decade:

Map 1

In the 111th Congress in 2008, Democratic-voting, often-urban districts encompassed 39% of U.S. land area compared with the 61% expanse of Republican districts. By the 116th Congress, just ten years later, the Democratic share had fallen to 20% of the map, with Republicans’ expanse rising to 80% of the nation’s land area. [emphases mine] Certainly, those numbers point to economic change, although they also reflect gerrymandering and the low population density of rural areas…


With their output surging as a result of the big-city tilt of the decade’s “winner-take-most” economy, Democratic districts have seen their median household income soar in a decade—from $54,000 in 2008 to $61,000 in 2018. By contrast, the income level in Republican districts began slightly higher in 2008, but then declined from $55,000 to $53,000…

Looking deeper, it’s clear that big shifts in industry geography and composition are driving the parties’ changes of identity. Look at the matrix of 10-year trends depicted here:

Figure 2

Democratic districts, for example, have grown significantly more dynamic in the last decade. Overall, “blue” territories have seen their productivity climb from $118,000 per worker in 2008 to $139,000 in 2018 as recent demographic changes and electoral sorting ensured they became better educated and more urban. Republican-district productivity, by contrast, remains stuck at about $110,000, reflecting only slight improvements of bachelor’s degree attainment and Republicans’ increasingly non-metro domain.

Relatedly, and equally striking, Democratic districts are rapidly increasing their dominance of the nation’s urban-tilting professional and digital services employment while ceding their historical, more rural shares of manufacturing and agriculture-mining activity…

It could be, instead, that the nation is only heading deeper into a period of continued stand-off, where economic change reinforces cultural backlash, and both gerrymandered districts and the Constitution’s allocation of two senators for every state prop up the political power of a declining fraction of the economy. If that’s how the politics of the decade’s changing economy are going to play out, then political analyst Ron Brownstein may be right that the nation may be heading deeper into an era of sustained turbulence that “pits what America has been against what it is becoming.”


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