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Fri Jan 17, 2020, 08:57 PM

 

Friday Talking Points -- Republican Senators Prepare To Violate A Sworn Oath

{Program Note for DemocraticUnderground.com readers:
This is a weekly roundup column of what is going on in the political world. For the duration of the 2020 campaign, I've been instructed to post it under the "Democratic Primaries" category rather than the "General Discussion" category, whenever the primary race is discussed. This discussion may be a large part of the column, or a very small part. Just wanted to clarify this up front, to avoid any objections that most of the post is "off topic."}

This week, for the third time in American history, the Senate began the impeachment trial of a sitting United States president. As Nancy Pelosi helpfully pointed out, that is forever and will never be erased. Trump still bizarrely believes that somehow this is all just going to go away, but we've crossed that Rubicon now.

The most amusing thing (of a number of amusing things about the impeachapalooza circus) is how the Republicans have made "doublethink" their mantra. With this president, it's almost necessary, we suppose, but it's still hilarious to us to now hear Senate Republicans argue until they are blue in the face why they can't possibly hear from witnesses after listening to Trump and his minions argue for months on end why they should hear from witnesses. It's also doublethink of the purest order to hear them now state that those with personal first-hand knowledge of what was done and said cannot possibly testify -- after arguing for months and months and months that "this is hearsay -- it's only second-hand!" But then that's life in the GOP under Trump, one supposes. They've now moved on to arguing that the witnesses should have testified before the House committees, which conveniently ignores how Trump barred them all from doing so and all the same Republicans backed him up. Just another fun day in Trumpland.

This doublethink continued this week, as every sitting senator (except the one who was absent due to a family medical emergency) swore a solemn oath to be an impartial juror -- an oath that several Republicans have already publicly promised to utterly disregard. Because, you know, all that business about being for law and order and all that tut-tutting over the sins of "moral relativism" is so 1990s.

Meanwhile, Nancy Pelosi is being vindicated on a daily (sometimes hourly) basis, as more and more damning information comes out. Her delay in transimitting the articles of impeachment is paying off, in other words. Just this week, we had the Government Accountability Office report that the Trump administration broke the law in holding up the Ukraine aid, which totally eviscerates yet another of the GOP excuses and rationalizations ("But, but... no law was broken!" ).

Also, there was that Rachel Maddow interview with Lev Parnas. That was full of damning accusations against not only Donald Trump, but also his attorney general, his vice president, and his secretary of state. Nothing like a little icing on the impeachment cake, eh?

Today we got word that Trump will be represented by Ken Starr, Alan Dershowitz, and Pam Bondi. So we've all got that to look forward to. We must admit we're a little disappointed, because we really, really wanted to see Rudy Giuliani lead Team Trump. Now that would have livened things up!

Maybe this week was the ultimate "Infrastructure Week"? That laughable label is now defined as a week where Trump steps all over his efforts to get something done and therefore blows any good press he could have gotten out of it (the first was the "very fine people on both sides" post-Charlottesville comment, during an infrastructure presentation that went south fast). Trump's impeachment trial in the Senate absolutely dominated the news this week, which pushed off Trump's attempt to roll out his re-election "look, I actually got something done!" announcements. The Phase I trade agreement with China, the passage of the United States/Mexico/Canada Agreement (by 89-10 in the Senate!), and all of Trump's other attempts to change the subject all fell flatter than a pancake. And now we come to the close of Infrastructure-Impeachment Week with the media more focused on the threat given to the senators than anything else (for the record, the sergeant-at-arms read: "Hear ye! Hear ye! Here ye! All persons are commanded to keep silent, on pain of imprisonment while the House of Representatives is exhibiting to the Senate of the United States articles of impeachment against Donald John Trump, president of the United States" ).

Let's see, what else is going on? The Democratic presidential candidates held the seventh of their debates in Iowa this week, and Lara Trump (wife of Eric) then made fun of Joe Biden for stuttering. She joins Sarah Huckabee Sanders in doing so (which happened after an earlier debate), but at least the Huckasands had the grace to be embarrassed and apologize when informed that Biden actually does fight against stuttering, and has done so for his entire life. No word yet from Lara, but as of this writing she had not retracted nor apologized for her cruelty.

Virginia is tensely awaiting a planned rally next Monday (on Martin Luther King Day, no less, who was assassinated by a rifle) by pro-gun righties, and the governor has already instituted a state of emergency while three white supremacists have already been arrested by the F.B.I. Everyone (well, everyone sane) is hoping that we won't see a repeat of the Charlottesville white-power display, but you never know -- this rally is being hyped in the same circles as the Charlottesville one was, which is why things are so tense.

And finally, we have one other piece of news which was minor now but has the potential to become a major Supreme Court case. Here is what spurred this case: the T.S.A. confiscated over $80,000 from a woman in an airport who was flying on a domestic flight and who had done absolutely nothing wrong. She wasn't carrying drugs, she wasn't involved with any crime whatsoever, and she was never charged with a crime. She was just carrying a bunch of cash, that's all. Doing so is fully legal on flights within the country, mind you -- there is no law against it. However, the agents deemed it suspicious and so they just flat-out stole it. This legalized version of highway robbery is known as "asset forfeiture" (which we've written about previously) and was originally intended to seize the profits from drug kingpins or Mafia bosses, but has since evolved into nothing short of a shakedown -- by not only the T.S.A., but by plenty of other police agencies at the federal, state, and local levels. Think we are overstating the case? We don't -- in 2014, federal law enforcement officers (not even counting the local and state cops, in other words) seized more property from the public than burglars did that year. Remember the old bumpersticker? "Don't steal -- the government hates competition."

This lawsuit -- filed as a class action -- directly challenges the constitutionality of such an odious affront to the Constitution, and we are sincerely hoping it will win all the way up to SCOTUS, because this revolting practice needs to end permanently.

Just to review, real quick, here is the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.


And here's an excerpt from the Fifth Amendment, to boot:

No person shall... be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.


Pretty hard to square that with just flat-out stealing some woman's cash because you feel like it at the spur of the moment, isn't it? As we said, we will be paying close attention to this case because we think it is an important one that could set a Supreme Court precedent that desperately needs setting.





We have a few general kudos to hand out before the actual award, starting with all the Democratic candidates at the seventh presidential debate this week. Nobody really stood out, but then again nobody really fell flat on their face either. As I wrote afterwards, the debate was "Iowa-nice," much to the disappointment of the media in general, who love onstage fireworks far more than they are willing to admit. What everyone forgets, however, is that Iowa is a caucus state, which means that second choices are very important. If your candidate doesn't get 15 percent in your caucus, you have to choose someone else. Therefore there was no benefit to any of the candidates to trash each other right before the vote. This is why we had a fairly calm debate, with actual issues discussed in more depth than they have previously.

Nancy Pelosi deserves an Honorable Mention for using what little leverage she has to maximize both the pressure on Republican senators to at least vote to hear witnesses and on the media to continue paying attention over the holiday break. Now that the trial has moved to the Senate, as Pelosi put it, the fact that Trump is only the third U.S. president to be impeached will now be "forever."

A hat-tip, as always, to the Democrats out there who are striving to elect down-ballot Democrats to state offices, an effort we have long supported here. News just came in that the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee has amassed a $50 million campaign chest for this effort, which will be spent in "as many as 14 states." The first on the list: Arizona, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Texas. Later they may expand to: Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Montana, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. More power to them, since flipping state legislatures in 2020 will help avoid the massive GOP gerrymandering that took place 10 years ago.

But our winner of the Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week is a surprising one, because we're giving it to the most prominent Democratic presidential candidate who didn't appear on the debate stage this week: Michael Bloomberg. It was little-noticed among all the other impeachment and election news, but early in the week Bloomberg committed to continuing his campaign -- against Donald Trump -- even if he doesn't win the party's nomination. That is good news indeed, no matter who the nominee is.

Bloomberg is budgeting at least a billion dollars for his own campaign effort. Let that staggering sum sink in for a moment. Indeed, he's already spent over $200 million and will be dropping a cool $10 million on a single ad to run during the Super Bowl. The man is positively made of money, and he's not afraid to spend it like there's no tomorrow.

Bloomberg not only committed to continuing his spending, he also said he would essentially continue his campaign -- paying his staff of 500 their salaries all the way to November -- and just turn over the entire operation, together with all their voter data, to whomever does win the Democratic nomination. He is that determined to beat Trump.

This could be a game-changer. Oh, sure, let's all bemoan the influence of money in politics as we should, yadda yadda yadda, but the party having such bottomless pockets for the general election campaign could mean the path to a Democratic win -- or at the very least ensure a level playing field no matter how much campaign cash Trump stacks up. And that is indeed a good thing, given the rules we have to work with right now.

Bloomberg could easily have run as an independent (as the Starbucks guy threatened to). He ran as a Democrat instead. He might win the nomination, and then again he might not. In normal times a candidate who doesn't win might offer some nominal support to the nominee, but nothing like just continuing his entire campaign and turning it over (with a blank checkbook) lock, stock, and barrel. For committing to doing so -- a little-noticed news item that may prove to be the critical decision of the entire campaign for Democrats, one way or another -- Michael Bloomberg is our Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week.

[Michael Bloomberg is technically a private citizen, and as a rule we do not link to campaign websites, so you'll have to search his contact information for yourself if you'd like to let him know you appreciate his efforts.]






We were conflicted about the most obvious choice for Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week this week, after the lineup of Trump's defense team for his Senate impeachment trial was announced. But in the end we decided that Alan Dershowitz is not really an official Democrat (not being a politician or spokesman for the party or anything) and therefore is not really eligible for this award.

So we're going to put the MDDOTW award back on the shelf until next week (unless anyone has a disappointing Democrat to suggest in the comments).




Volume 557 (1/17/20)

A mixed bunch this week. We do have to warn that we saved one issue for the last talking point that we have not mentioned elsewhere today, rather than ending with the most humorous item of the week. If we had stuck to our regular format this week, we doubtlessly would have ended by poking fun at the official White House Twitter feed that tweeted out a photo of snow falling on the White House, to celebrate "the first snow!" of the year, when it was actually 68 degrees outside. Man, the punchlines for that one just write themselves, don't they? HuffPost in reporting on the glee, couldn't resist the urge and included the phrase "a blizzard of criticism" in their subhead. Heh.

But instead, we've got a much more serious end to our talking points this week. Just to warn everyone in advance.



Only the third impeached president

You just know this one gets under Trump's skin in a big way, so why not rub it in?

"Donald Trump is now the third president ever to be impeached. On his obituary, that'll be in the first line: 'Donald Trump, third impeached president....' Even worse for him, his name will forever be linked to that of Bill Clinton, because nobody living remembers the Andrew Johnson impeachment. Given Trump's feelings towards the Clintons, that one's gotta sting: 'Donald Trump, the third president ever impeached and together with Bill Clinton the second president impeached in the modern era....' Get used to that phrase, Mr. Trump, because you now own it forever. Or should I call you Mister Third-Impeached-President Trump?"



More sand!

Heh. Just threw this one in there for laughs.

"I heard Mitch McConnell ordered several truckloads of sand shipped in from Ocean City, Maryland, because there was a shortage of good spots to stick heads into over in the Republican Senate caucus. According to Mitch, if there's enough sand available, then they won't even hear the warnings that a vote for Donald Trump not to be removed from office is a vote for any future Democratic president to do the same things that Trump has been doing. Although there's not enough sand in the world to block out the electoral consequences for Republican senators from blue states who are up for re-election. Republicans from Maine to Colorado are going to have to seriously annoy a large portion of their constituents no matter how they vote in the trial. In fact, no matter which way they vote they may be sealing their upcoming election loss to a Democrat. And coincidentally enough, this group is large enough on its own to flip control of the chamber."



Michael Steele remembers denouncing moral relativism

This is a throwback to the 1990s, really -- the age of sanctimonious holier-than-thou-ism that dominated the Republicans who impeached Bill Clinton. This comes from Michael Steele, who used to run the Republican Party (he was Republican National Committee chair), in a recent interview on MSNBC, speaking directly to Republican senators who were taking the impeachment trial oath -- while obviously intending to break that oath. He also used the words "disgusting" and "un-American" to describe his fellow Republicans. Here was his advice for Republican senators this week:

Don't stand in the chamber today and take the oath. Take your behind out of the chamber when it's time to swear in, because you will be lying to the American people. Because you've already told us you plan not to be an honest juror. So, this is almost a joke in the sense that you have some of these senators walking into this room, standing in front of the country, standing in front of the chief justice of the United States, raising their damn hand to swear an oath that they know they're not going to defend nor uphold.... Don't try that when you get called for jury duty the next time. Don't try that when you're sitting in front of a judge under indictment because the rules, when applied to you, will come crashing down around your head. That's the responsibility at this moment that I think a lot of these members are going to let slip by.... They should be embarrassed to stand there and take the oath when they've already told us they plan to lie when they do so.




How the mighty have fallen!

Twist this particular knife as hard as possible, because they so resoundingly deserve it.

"Unlike Michael Steele -- a Republican who still remembers what the difference between right and wrong is -- I heard another former R.N.C. chair, Reince Priebus, this week tell Sean Hannity, and I quote: 'Sometimes the best defense is the "so what" defense.' That's what Trump's defenders have come to, folks. That's their defense for breaking the law in such blatant fashion: 'So what?' Priebus went on to exhibit what Republicans used to denounce as 'moral relativism': 'If everything the Democrats said is true, it's still not impeachable. If everything Lev Parnas said is true, it's still not impeachable.' Lo, how the mighty have fallen! Remember back in Bill Clinton's time when Republicans stood foursquare for law and order? Remember when they derided Democrats for having squishy morals? Remember when they instructed us all on the supreme importance of right and wrong? Boy, those were the days, weren't they! Now they can't even make up excuses anymore -- they are reduced to 'So what?' It's kind of pathetic to see how far they have fallen off their high horse."



Yes, Trump broke the law

This one is the key excerpt from the Government Accountability Office's report on the Trump administration withholding aid to Ukraine for political purposes. Up until now, Republicans have defended Trump by saying "no law was broken," but that defense, as they used to say back in Nixon's day, is now inoperable. Here's exactly what the G.A.O. concluded:

Faithful execution of the law does not permit the President to substitute his own policy priorities for those that Congress has enacted into law. [The Office of Management and Budget] withheld funds for a policy reason, which is not permitted under the Impoundment Control Act (I.C.A.). The withholding was not a programmatic delay. Therefore, we conclude that O.M.B. violated the I.C.A. ... The President is not vested with the power to ignore or amend any such duly enacted law.




Trump not surging among black voters

The Trump campaign is desperately seeking votes in some unlikely places. They're doing "outreach" to women and African-Americans. As for the latter, they've got a long way to go.

"A new poll just out this week showed the how dismal Donald Trump's numbers are with African-American voters. Nine out of ten black voters disapprove of Trump's job performance, just for starters, and a whopping 75 percent out of that 90 strongly disapprove. Then you've got equally-high numbers agreeing with statements like 'Trump is a racist' (83 percent), 'Trump deserves some or hardly any credit for black unemployment rates being low' (77 percent), 'things Trump is doing as president are bad for African-Americans' (76 percent). That's pretty grim for Team Trump, but the worst news came from some of the responses to the question of how Trump's presidency had personally affected them. One responded flatly that: 'Donald Trump has not done anything for African-American people.' That was actually less scathing than some of the other responses, such as: 'He has created an atmosphere of division and overt racism and fear of immigrants unseen in many years,' and: 'He has taken hatred against people of color, in general, from the closet to the front porch.' In other words, good luck with that outreach to get black people to vote for him, because they've got a long way to go."



A call for unity

I have intentionally left this to the end, mostly because it is getting far too much breathless press attention already. The so-called "feud" between Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders is a lot smaller issue than just about everyone is making it, but the media loves the whole thing because it feeds into their disdain for progressives in general. So the leaders of six progressive organizations -- Democracy For America, Our Revolution, RootsAction.org, Sunrise Movement, Working Families Party, and Justice Democrats -- released a joint statement decrying the whole tempest in a teapot. Some of these organizations have endorsed either Sanders or Warren, and some have not endorsed anyone. But it is an admirable attempt to move beyond the media circus and get back to serious campaigning. In fact, if Bernie and Elizabeth are smart, they would put out some sort of joint statement themselves, to defuse the media fireworks. In any case, here's what the unity statement had to say (the full text can be read in Salon).

Our best chance of defeating Trump does not lie with an establishment or corporate Democrat. The anti-establishment, anti-corporate awareness and anger that characterize American society today are justified, and it would be a huge mistake to once again yield that ground to a phony like Trump. We can do better, and will work to persuade Democrats to choose a strong, progressive nominee.

[Senators Bernie] Sanders and [Elizabeth] Warren, as well as their campaigns and supporters, will need to find ways to cooperate. The crossfire amplified by the media is unhelpful and does not reflect the relationship between two Senate colleagues who broadly worked well together for most of the last year. We hope to build solidarity between delegates affiliated with these two candidates prior to the convention and will encourage the campaigns to work towards a unified convention strategy after the final primaries on June 2nd.





Chris Weigant blogs at: ChrisWeigant.com
Follow Chris on Twitter: ChrisWeigant
Full archives of FTP columns: FridayTalkingPoints.com
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If I were to vote in a presidential
primary today, I would vote for:
Undecided

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Reply Friday Talking Points -- Republican Senators Prepare To Violate A Sworn Oath (Original post)
ChrisWeigant Jan 17 OP
left-of-center2012 Jan 17 #1
flying rabbit Jan 17 #3
left-of-center2012 Jan 17 #4
flying rabbit Jan 17 #5
flying rabbit Jan 17 #2

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Response to left-of-center2012 (Reply #1)

Fri Jan 17, 2020, 10:00 PM

3. It's an excellent post altogether

 

Why would it be necessary to separate it?
If I were to vote in a presidential
primary today, I would vote for:
Undecided

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Response to left-of-center2012 (Reply #4)

Fri Jan 17, 2020, 10:16 PM

5. Well he discusses a lot of things in his post

 

The Admins figured this was the place to put it. It spans a lot of real estate. Makes sense to me.
If I were to vote in a presidential
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Undecided

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Response to ChrisWeigant (Original post)

Fri Jan 17, 2020, 09:58 PM

2. K&R nt

 

If I were to vote in a presidential
primary today, I would vote for:
Undecided

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